This post is part of the series Lisbon
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This post is part of the series Portugal
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Travel Stories to Inspire Your Wanderlust
"Breathtaking views and a medieval maze; the village within a city; the historical soul of Lisbon"
Lisbon – the European twin brother of San Francisco: the cable cars, the hills, the same bridges (Ponte 25 de Abril and Golden Gate bridge), the seaside, the street art, the lovely people and a welcoming vibe. As I already had my love affair with Brother Francisco this year, it was not that hard to recognize his twin sibling abroad. Anyway, there is no doubt that the cities differ in culture and history and my feeling of Lisbon was something fairly new…
On the second day we were planning to visit Alfama – by far the oldest and most symbolic district in Lisbon which evokes a very strong medieval atmosphere. Alfama looks more like an old-fashioned guy who lives between the “new” walls of the city, remaining what Lisbon had looked like hundreds of years ago. This old guy has outlasted not only the years of war, but also the destructive earthquake in the year of 1755 and therefore it became the “city core”, from which the rest of Lisbon has evolved.
Alfama is a mirror of many cultures and religions: the Romans, the Visigoths, the Christians and the Moors – they all left their traces here. You can recognize easily the influence of Muslim culture: the narrow streets, the lack of public places, the tiny squares, and its meandering streets covered with small and slippery cobble stones, as well as the whitewashed houses with very simple facades. Alfama comes from “Al-hamma” which in Arabic means “bath” and “spring”, due to the many hot springs found in this district (back in the days Alfama was, so to say, the “spa” neighbourhood of Lisbon) …
Of course, you can recognize the Christian influence in Alfama too! Here you can visit some of the most beautiful and unique gothic churches of Lisbon e.g. the Monastery of São Vicente de For, the Church of Saint Anthony, the Cathedral Sé Catedral de Lisboa and the Church of Santa Engracia… But Alfama is not only well known about it cultural and religious variety, but also for its Fado bars and houses (Fado is a specific traditional type of music in Portugal), which offer to travellers and local people some of the best and most unique Portuguese “moments” to enjoy:
But I’m here to stare and to remain silent! Alfama offers by far the best breath-taking views of Lisbon! All photography lovers would thank God for being here…
But how to get here:
Tram No. 28E
The city route of Tram No. 28E, with its 100 year-old San Francisco trams, offers the longest and the most beautiful tour in Lisbon since it connects the iconic neighbourhoods Baixa, Graça, Alfama, Estrela and Campo de Ourique…
“Early in the morning, risin’ to the street” … or the early bird catches Tram No. 29E!
Get to the tram stop early if you are going to take a ride as it gets very busy! We stepped in at the very start of the route so we were able to catch one of the few window seats – the tour is amazing, make sure you won’t choose the rush hours! It can take hours to get from A to B… And don’t forget that the “Oldie but Goldie” tram tour is not about enjoying some comfort (the benches are wooden and the passengers are “seesawing” during the whole ride…) but it is more about the unrivalled Lisbon experience which you don’t want to pass! Also be prepared – there are no signs and the stops won’t be announced … But talk to the locals!!! There are the friendliest people in Europe I’ve already experienced and almost everybody speaks a very good English!
All in all – this tram experience was a highlight of my visit to Lisbon! And most important – it took me to the top of the city at “Barrio Alto”. You can see the unforgettable, breath-taking view from here. No words to describe, my photos are better story tellers than me:
From here we headed to Castelo de S. Jorge which took like 10-15 minutes of walk and again – we asked the locals for direction.
Castelo de S. Jorge
The São Jorge Castle is one of the most visited places in Lisbon. The Castle is located in Alfama, at the top of São Jorge hill, which is also the highest in the city. Sao Jorge monument keeps an eye of Lisbon since centuries and attends to be the symbol of Portugal’s power for over than 1500 years. The castle was built by the Visigoths in the 5th Century, but what we can see today is the final version of it – much bigger and majestic, as it was enlarged by the Moors during the 9th Century. 400 years later, between 13th and 16th century, the Castelo de S. Jorge was mainly occupied by the kings of Portugal.
The monument is open 7 days a week for visitors and not only – is it one of the favourite wedding places among the residents of Lisbon! I can only imagine the wedding photos … The Castelo de Sao Jorge provides you the best views from this side of Lisbon, Baixa and River Tagus (Rio Tejo) and of course Ponte 25 de Abril Bridge (again, San Francisco!)…
The visit can take between 1.5 h to 3 hours, depending on your preferences… From here you can easily walk down the hill , enjoy the architecture, have a coffee or ice cream and after a few minutes’ of walk, you will reach the Sé Catedral de Lisboa.
Sé Catedral de Lisboa
While talking about religious influences in Lisbon – here we are! In front of the oldest, most significant and religious building in Lisbon – Sé Catedral de Lisboa. Lisbon Cathedral was built in the year of 1147, when the King of Portugal, Dom Afonso Henriques, conquered back the city from the Muslims, and since then is the symbol of the Christian Reconquest in this region.
The Sé Cathedral is an incredible ancient monument with mediaeval aspect and a visit to Lisbon won’t be perfect without visiting this symbolical place. The cathedrals treasury has gathered numerous sacred objects during the hundred years of exciting, but the most important sacredness is the remains of St. Vincent, the official patron of Lisbon.
Next time we will visit Lisbon’s Oceanarium, Almada, Santa Justa Lift, Praca do Comercio and the Christmas Market!
Enjoy the day!
If you are curious about how beautiful San Francisco really is, you can find my posts here:
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