Alfama: Once a sinner’s nest; now the oldest district in Lisbon

Alfama: The oldest district of Lisbon

The Panteao Nacional Lisbon

Alfama stands apart from other districts in the Portuguese capital Lisbon. It is a district that deserves at least a couple of hours’ leisurely exploration before plunging into other notable Lisbon districts such as Baixa, Chiado and Barrio Alto. It is impossible to walk on it’s steep streets without noticing its Moorish influences. Not surprising, perhaps, given that Portugal for a few centuries was under Moorish rule.

Every city has its “dodgy” bits and in Lisbon, Alfama, the red light district inhabited by the under world was that dodgy bit. God as they say does love sinners, so when in In 1755, Alfama was the only district left standing in Lisbon after a devastating earthquake it became rather obvious that this indeed was a place saved for a reason.

Perhaps the beautifully designed narrow alleyways, the windows adorned with colourful plants and flower pots, the delightful cobblestone streets and churches or simply the intensely proud folks of this gem of a place was enough to make God himself smile.

Alfama isn’t stuck in the past. It is now home to bars, restaurants and is the place to relax listening to fado songs.

My first sight of Alfama was on Lisbon’s iconic Tram 28. I did get off near the Sao Jorge castle and walked down into Alfama proper. This was during the day time and  ended up getting lost a few times. As if  to make up for that, I ended up having one of the best meals in Lisbon in Alfama. Naturally what I really looked forward to was an evening out in Alfama.

Meal in Alfama restaurant for two

Alfama: Once a sinner's nest; now the oldest district in Lisbon

Alfama: Once a sinner's nest; now the oldest district in Lisbon

Grilled sardines and potatoes

Alfama: Once a sinner's nest; now the oldest district in Lisbon

Bacalhau with chips

Alfama: Once a sinner's nest; now the oldest district in Lisbon

Alfama at night

A night out in Alfama eventually did happened on my last evening in Lisbon. I had noticed a wine bar and a small restaurant next to each other during the day and had purposed in my heart to check both out. The restaurant experience was mixed. The food was good and the service was excellent but my partner and I felt a little cheated by the price. Note to self: Always ask how much your meal will cost before ordering especially in this part of town. Next door was superb and will always serve as an indelible reminder of what Alfama is all about. Even though we had gone in for a quick glass of wine each, the wine bar owner treated us to an unexpected show in wine tasting. I never ever have to read a book on Portuguese wine – ever.

Alfama lived up to expectations. It is an enchanting district that should be a must visit when in Lisbon. I intentionally neglected to recommend any restaurants or places to see in this district as it is a place where you wander. It is a place where you intentionally get lost and by so doing you end up crafting your own unique Alfama experience.

Alfama: Oldest district in Lisbon

Alfama: Oldest district in Lisbon

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