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GoWithGuideFind your perfect tour guide at GoWithGuide. Relax and cherish unforgettable tours with loved ones. Create personalized tours for a truly memorable trip!

Your In-Depth Guide To The Alfama District

Ajitsa Ashihundu

by GoWithGuide travel specialist:Ajitsa Ashihundu

Last updated : Jun 04, 20249 min read

Things To Do

Lisbon Tour Guide

 

Welcome to Alfama, the district of Lisbon where time stands still. Filled with old-world treasures, 15th-century parlors, graffiti-decorated housing, and winding, narrow walkways. The blend of traditional Portuguese music, medieval architecture, and modern cuisine creates a playfulness worth highlighting.

 

For an unforgettable adventure through the enchanting Alfama district, get in touch with our experienced local guides and organize a personalized private tour. Now let’s take a closer look at the spirit of Alfama. 

 

History 

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Alfama is a small district situated between the enormous Tagus river and the Sao Jorge Castle. Named by the Moors, Alfama means "fountains" or "baths". A crowning monument of Moorish rule, the Castelo de São Jorge was built as a fortifying structure that doubled as a residence during Arab rule. The same castle would serve as an entertainment hub for Portuguese royalty during the Age of Discovery. 

 

The Moorish leaders used Alfama as a central ruling point from the 8th to the 12th century. Their reign ended when Portuguese King Afonso Henriques reconquered the city during the Reconquista with the aid of soldiers on their way to take part in the Second Crusade. The legacy of that victory was recorded in a collection of parishes, including the Santa Maria Maior de Lisboa, the city's oldest cathedral. The cathedral was built in 1147 and drew worshipers who set up homes, schools, and workplaces. 

 

The whitewashed buildings serve as a reminder of Alfama's roots as a home of the wealthy, most of whom moved away after the Moors were driven out. The steep inclines of the district then became a home to the poorer citizens of Lisbon, including dockworkers and fishermen. Due to the economic fluctuations and evolution of the district, it is said that the now popular genre of Fado music was born here.

 

The town is also known for its cluster of parishes that attract worshipers during Easter. Thanks to its strong bedrock, Alfama survived the devastating earthquake of 1755 with minimal damage, the only district to do so.

 

As you walk the streets today, you'll be met with vibrant residents speaking to one another from balconies lined with hanging clothes. The atmosphere is warm, inviting, and intimate. Generations of Portuguese families have lived here, often passing their homes to their grandchildren. It's a picturesque setting, so bring a camera, but remember to respect people's homes and daily lives. 

 

Things To See 

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There’s no shortage of adventure in Alfama, so here are some of the many highlights our guides can take you through as you savor the sights and sounds of the old town. 

 

Tram 28 

We can't get enough of Lisbon's yellow tram. It's the perfect blend of old-time whimsy and modern convenience. Connecting Martim Moniz with Campo Ourique, Tram 28 rattles through the narrowest alleyways, defying physics to reveal even the most secret corners of Alfama. You'll wonder how you're traveling through such a winding maze, but the tram was built with Alfama's steep and winding hills in mind.

 

In fact, it would be nearly impossible for a modern system to navigate the town as these yellow trams do, which is why it’s perfect for those looking to step back into the 1930s. To get the best experience, opt for an early morning or late evening ride, as the system gets crowded around midday.  

The Fado Museum 

If Fado is meant to be felt and not explained, there's no better place to start than the official Fado Museum. Opened in 1998 to document the fascinating, haunting history of Alfama's unique sound, the Fado Museum is a collection of donations made by lovers of the urban phenomenon. Fado further gained recognition all over the world when it was named a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage.

 

From composers and singers to interpreters, authors, and guitarists, you'll find a rich log of stories and several immersive experiences that walk you through Fado’s journey from then to now. Learn about the great pioneers of Fado, like Amalia Rodrigues. She was so influential to Portugal’s music scene that her resting place is at our next location, the National Pantheon. 

National Pantheon 

Hop off the tram at Voz do Operário, and you'll be footsteps away from the National Pantheon. Originally known as the church of Santa Engracia, the National Pantheon is a landmark that scrapes the Alfama skyline with its Greek and Baroque architectural domes. This church took over 300 years to complete due to vandalism of the original grounds in 1630, and continuous structural issues that some locals attribute to a curse brought on by the execution of an innocent man. 

 

The interior is reminiscent of St Peter's Basilica in Rome, with colored marble and a grand, ornate organ. It also hosts the resting places of Lisbon's key political, religious, and cultural figures. 

 

Near the dome is a grand outdoor terrace that offers the perfect view of the town and River Tagus. If you visit the Pantheon on Saturday or Tuesday, head to the Feira Da Ladra open-air market where you'll find thousands of souvenirs, antiques, odd items, and locally made goods. 

 

Things To Know 

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As you plan your Alfama tour, here are a few things to consider. 

When Should You Go?

Lisbon is known as the White City for a reason. The sunny skies and cool, reflective waters make it an ideal destination for most of the year. With that in mind, Lisbon is best enjoyed from the end of March to May, or September to October. Why? You get the best weather and minimal crowds. There's an air of both intimacy and extroverted adventure that's unbeatable. It's also the ideal time for those who want to take on Alfama's cobblestone streets through slow evening strolls.  

 

If you don't mind the heat and prefer large social gatherings, plan your trip for the summer. There's no shortage of festivals, open-air markets, concerts, and daily events to keep you moving through the narrow corridors of the old district. Fado music will be in full supply, so expect large crowds of fellow tourists immersing themselves in the local cuisine and culture. 

 

For those seeking a laid-back atmosphere, Lisbon's wintertime is quite relaxing, with most locals at work and children in school. The weather is still fantastic, and the warm winds from the Atlantic carry in a salty, calming aroma. The days are shorter, and the mornings are bright, so it's a great time for early birds to travel through the district without much interference. 

 

Pro Tip: If you're looking to go during the Easter season, book your accommodation ahead of time, as the holiday draws large crowds of tourists. Lisbon has several five-star options both within the city and near the coast. 

 

How Do You Get There? 

If you're staying in the city center, the old town can be accessed via tram or road in minutes. However, we recommend getting to Alfama the old-fashioned way, by foot. A walking tour is how you truly encounter all there is to see along the way, and after 10 to 15 minutes, you'll be in Alfama. If you're staying along the Tagus river, a boat ride is a great way to get as close to the town as possible before walking or taking the tram into Alfama. 

 

Pro Tip: Depending on when you visit, public transport can get a bit crowded as locals zip back and forth from work and school. To avoid delays, ask your guide about transport options and prioritize walking through the city. 

 

Conclusion 

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Fallen in love with Alfama? It's time to make things official with a personalized and private tour experience of your own. Our knowledgeable local guides are ready and waiting! 

Written by Ajitsa Ashihundu

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Ajitsa Ashihundu is an editor, blog writer and Marketing team member at GoWithGuide, helping readers understand travel, one post at a time. She fell head over heels for writing back in high school, thanks to Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and countless poetry analyses that extended way beyond English Literature class. This led her to study journalism and Communications in university, where she discovered a greater passion for fictional tales. Born in Kenya, raised in the U.S., and now back in Kenya, she balances life bilingually in Swahili and English. Her three-year stint as a professional outdoor instructor and guide, leading hikes and outdoor adventures across Kenya, taught her the magic of nature in bringing people together. In 2021, she began freelancing, weaving words into blog content and video scripts while juggling personal writing projects. When not writing, Ajitsa can be found watching TV shows, reading, sipping coffee, or dreaming about her ultimate destination—Monteverde, Costa Rica. Her current goal? Writing her very own novel.

Lisbon Tour Guide - Marisa F.

Marisa F.

5.00 / 5
(9 reviews)
Portugal

Hello. My name is Marisa and I am a tour guide in the ancient, mysterious and beautiful city of Lisbon. Lisbon is an ancient city and Phoenicians, Romans, Muslims, Catholics passed through this city all left their mark in heritage, words and food. Lisbon was also a city of spies. Even the real James Bond ( yes, it was a real James Bond) lived here and worked here. So, if you want to join me in this journey, I offer you, in Lisbon, 2 tours: a tour to discover the old town of Lisbon and a spy tour, focusing on world war II. But if you want to experience a magical place, I'll take you to Pena Palace. Pena Palace is a must-see, in the beautiful, romantic and world heritage, Sintra Village. And in the end, before you leave Portugal, I promise you will understand the true meaning of the Portuguese word Saudade. See you soon. Goodbye or Adeus!                                                                                                                                  

Lisbon Tour Guide - Gonçalo C.

Gonçalo C.

Portugal

I have been a tour guide for 7 years, working for some of the biggest tour operators in Lisbon. I have started from zero, and during these years, exploring, studying and showing others from north to south our paradise, brought me the experience to become a full time private guide. Studying history for the past 6 years while working as a tour guide has provided me with extensive knowledge of Portugal, and piqued my interest in learning about different cultures and traditions which makes me be always looking for unique, off the beaten track experiences. I strive to develope tours all over the country at the most beautiful and unique sites, providing local and authentic experiences for my customers. My job as I like to describe, it's give you the perfect day, tailor made to suit your own preferences, at the region or regions that you are interesting to visit in our small paradise.                                                                                                                                 

Lisbon Tour Guide - Luis P.

Luis P.

5.00 / 5
(2 reviews)
Portugal

Hello My name is Luis and I'm your local guide from Lisbon. Welcome to my city and I will very happy to be your next GPS on your journey to Portugal. My curiosity for traveling and getting to know new cultures in the world was always evident. My life in tourism has already taken me to travel and get to know different realities, I started by going to the Highlands, where I worked in the various departments of Marriot Dalmahoy in Edinburgh, I also had the possibility to check out the madness of the Balearic Islands as a hotel animator for some seasons. But it was my country that I fell in love with, its history, traditions, gastronomy, the relaxed way we always find solutions to problems. I think the main feature on my tours is the enthusiasm. I am a local guide in the city of Lisbon, but I know Portugal and islands well and for this reason, if you need a guide and want to get to know Portugal in a more exciting, curious and historical way. Getting to know Lisbon in a relaxed way and telling you travel story. Storytellers, is one of the main objectives was Tour Guide. I make the difference because of my experience and knowledge of 11 years in this market of tour guiding. Unfortunately, the profession of official guide is not accredited in Portugal, making anyone who has historical knowledge, tour guides. There are only two entities accredited in Portugal Snatti and Agic. I am a member of Snatti. My business is due to 3 big sections: Walk Tours, Daytrips and multi days tours. I have a variety of themes in my tours: Cultural, gastronomic, historical, street art, nature, wineries, etc.                                                                                                                                  

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