Breaking away from our routine of traveling to national parks in the United States, we decided to journey overseas with a noted tour company to see a part of the world in which we have been interested for a long time. So off it was to Portugal and Spain.
We arrived in Lisbon relatively early in the day. After we checked in at our hotel, we were anxious to get out and about to visit some of the sights we researched. High on the list was the Alfama district in Lisbon.
One of Alfama’s distinctions is that it is the oldest neighborhood in Lisbon. It is located along the Tejo river and is very picturesque. The concierge at the hotel explained that we needed to take a taxi to the tram stop and then take the number 28 to Alfama.
The #28 tram’s route traverses the city’s center thus making it a very busy mode of transportation as tourists use this to arrive at many of Lisbon’s popular attractions. It is less expensive than a tour bus, but there is no guide to point out the sights. We had to be careful as there were two different #28 trams. We determined we needed the one with the destination noted as Prazeres.
You can read more about it HERE
This popular tram usually operates from 7AM until 11PM daily. Check out the current schedules to be sure.
NOTE – Pickpockets often frequent this tram so be careful and keep your valuables close. We had no problems at all (besides the usual language barrier).
Little did we understand that the tram was going to drop us off quite a distance from the main section of Alfama and that we also needed to board a small van to take us to Alfama’s central location; no extra charge. Streets are so narrow in places that cars cannot navigate them. Bicycles and smaller motorized transports are plentiful on these narrow side streets.
As we were walking to board the jitney, we passed a trash can that was quite unique. We didn’t realize that this was customary in Portugal and Spain. Trash/recycle receptacles are sometimes painted and serve as a work of contemporary art. The city sponsors some to the container art. Apparently a number of other European cities have adopted this colorful method of camouflaging these streetside bins.
We managed to find our way to the small van and disembarked near the Miradouro das Portas do Sol (Viewpoint of the Doors of the Sun) which is a large terraced area with an elevated point of view looking over Alfama. The first thing visitors are going to notice is the famous red roofs. This is Alfama’s trademark!
In the picture above, the river is barely visible, but some of the prominent buildings can be clearly seen. The large building in the upper left (with the two towers) is the Church or Monastery of São Vicente de Fora which Wikipedia translates as “Monastery of St. Vincent .” Just off to the the right of the Monastery is the dome of the National Pantheon.
Saint Vincent is Lisbon’s patron saint and a statue to honor him stands as a sentinel at the Portas del Sol close to where most visitors will arrive at one point or another during their explorations. There are several vendors and street merchants at this location trying to capitalize on the crowds that often gather in this area.
Here is another photograph of Alfama taken from the Miradouro de Santa Luzia which is another great viewing area. The Tejo river is located along the horizon. More central with a single tower visible is the iglesia de Santo Estevao (Church of St. Stephen).
As we began to make our way through the old streets of Alfama on the way to the Thieve’s Market, we passed by ancient structures. Here is a crossover near the Campo de Santa Clara (market square).
The Thieves Market is similar to flea markets around the world. It is only open on Tuesday and Saturdays in the square near the Panteão Nacional and São Vicente de Fora dating back to the late 1880’s.
There was a large variety of goods for sale including books, crafts and other typical flea market wares.
More about our Alfama excursions will be posted soon!
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