Alfama Walking Tour, Lisbon (Self Guided)

Alfama is the oldest district in Lisbon, whose name derives from the Arabic “Al-hamma” and means "hot fountains" or "baths". The district is a home to numerous historic attractions, including former royal residence - the medieval São Jorge (Saint George) Castle, as well as numerous churches, of which the most prominent is Lisbon Cathedral, oldest in the city, and the Santa Engrácia Church, nowadays converted into a National Pantheon for important Portuguese personalities. There are just as many Fado bars and restaurants in Alfama, as well. Whether you're culturally-motivated, or simply looking for fun, there's plenty of entertainment awaiting you in this part of the Portuguese capital!
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Alfama Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Alfama Walking Tour
Guide Location: Portugal » Lisbon (See other walking tours in Lisbon)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 12
Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.4 km
Author: ann
1
Casa dos Bicos / House of Spikes

1) Casa dos Bicos / House of Spikes (must see)

The Casa dos Bicos (Portuguese for House of the Beaks/Spikes) is a historical house built in the early 16th century in the Alfama neighbourhood, with a curious façade of spikes, influenced by Italian Renaissance palaces and Portuguese Manueline styles. It survived the disastrous 1755 Lisbon earthquake that destroyed much of the city, but over time was abandoned as a residence and used as a warehouse. After a 20th-century renovation, it became the headquarters of the José Saramago Foundation.

The building is modeled after the Palazzos of Venice with Portuguese style Manueline arched windows, while its façade is covered with 1,125 diamond shaped stone spikes.

Why You Should Visit:
The ground floor, which is free to enter, is completely dedicated to an archaeological site, which is a must-see in this corner of Lisbon.
The upper floors are a paid area dedicated to Portuguese writer José Saramago and perhaps of lesser interest to most tourists.

Tip:
Take care to note the slight exterior differences between the older bottom two floors and the newer top two floors.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 10am-5:30pm
2
Igreja da Conceicao Velha

2) Igreja da Conceicao Velha

The Old Church of the Immaculate Conception is an ornate building that dates back to the 16th Century. It was declared a national monument in 1910 and is one of the oldest places of worship in Portugal.

The Igreja da Conceicao Velha was built on the site of a 15th century Synagogue. It was consecrated as the Church of Our Lady of Mercy. It was constructed under the orders of King Manuel I at the request of his sister Leonor of Viseu and her confessor Friar Miguel Contreiras. Leonor also founded the Order of Mercy and the church was dedicated to Our Lady of Mercy. At the time of consecration, it was the second largest church in Lisbon and the finest example of the Manueline style of architecture that combined Renaissance and Gothic designs. In 1755 the church was destroyed by the devastating earthquake and tsunami damaged many buildings in Lisbon and only the façade of the old structure was left. The present church was constructed again using the material from the ruins of the old church.

The present Igreja da Conceicao Velha has a magnificent portal with ornate figures of our Lady of Mercy and public figures like Pope Alexander VI, King Manuel I, his queen Eleanor and the figure of Leonor of Viseu at whose behest the church was built. Unlike other churches in the city, it has only one nave. The ceilings have a stucco pattern and the chancel is covered by a barrel vaulted ceiling.
3
Church of Saint Anthony

3) Church of Saint Anthony (must see)

Saint Anthony’s Church is dedicated to the man born into a wealthy Lisbon family and later canonized as Saint Anthony of Padua. It is located on the site where St. Anthony was born and spent his childhood.

Santo Antonio was born as Fernando de Bullhoes in 1195. He adopted the name Antonio and entered the Franciscan order. His family home was converted at first into a small chapel. The church was expanded and decorated in 1730 during the reign of King John V. Only the main chapel remained after the 1755 earthquake. The present structure was constructed in 1767 based on a Baroque Rococo design by architect, Mateus Vincente de Oliviera. The interiors have ornate neoclassical Ionic columns and the altar has a figure of the saint with Christ in his arms. 18th-century tiles decorate the walls of the sacristy.

Mass marriages are held in mid-June to commemorate St. Anthony’s Day. A religious brotherhood was constituted in honor of the saint and it takes out a procession on June the 13th every year. The Church attained the National Patrimony level after a visit by Pope John Paul II in 1982. The visit is depicted by a tiled panel. There is also a small museum that displays images and manuscripts about the life of St. Anthony and allows visitors to view the gold and silverware belonging to the church.

Tip:
As per all Catholic churches make sure you are properly attired – no bare shoulders or knees; men remove the hat.
Sight description based on wikipedia
4
Lisbon Cathedral

4) Lisbon Cathedral (must see)

The Lisbon Cathedral also called the Patriarchal Cathedral of St. Mary Major is the oldest church in the city and the seat of the Archbishop of Lisbon. The building has a mixture of architectural styles caused by several modifications to its structure through the ages.

The Lisbon Cathedral was first constructed in 1147. It was built on the site of a Moorish Mosque after the conquest of Lisbon by Christian forces under King Afonso Henriquez. The first structure was constructed in Romanesque style. The relics of St. Vincent of Saragossa, the patron saint of Lisbon were brought from Southern Portugal and placed in the Cathedral during this time. The building suffered extensive damage during the many devastating earthquakes that rocked Lisbon. The present cathedral was rebuilt in the 20th century giving the structure a predominantly medieval appearance. The façade has imposing towers like a fortress. This style is used in many Portuguese churches of the period of the Christian conquest when they were used as a military base from which attacks on enemies were launched.

Two noteworthy chapels within the church are the chapel of St. Ildefonso that has a carved sculpture of one of the first Portuguese Ambassadors, Lopo Fernandez Pacheco with a dog at his feet and the Chapel dedicated to San Antonio de Padua who was born in Lisbon. Archeological excavations in the courtyard have unearthed several objects from the Visigothic, Roman and Moorish periods.

Tip:
Free entry to the Cathedral and you can also enter the Treasury for a few € during the hours of 10am-5pm (note that it's closed on Sundays).

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-7pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
5
The Roman Theater Museum

5) The Roman Theater Museum

The Roman Theatre Museum has objects unearthed from a 1st century Roman Theatre built by the Emperor Augustus. The Roman Theatre Museum was first built as a small theater and was expanded in 57 AD. At this time it could seat 5000 spectators. During the middle ages it disappeared beneath the ground because of neglect and wind and soil erosion. After the 1755 earthquake, parts of the theater resurfaced resulting in renewed interest in the Roman past of Lisbon. Archeological excavations were undertaken and objects unearthed that form the permanent exhibits at the Museum.

The Museum has few exhibits including many columns, stone statues and a small collection of archeological finds. There is a statue of Silenus, the Greek God of wine making and drunkenness and an inscription probably created during its expansion in 57 AD about the dedication of the theater to the Roman Emperor Nero. The most interesting part for visitors is the installation of multilingual video and touch screens that tell the story of Lisbon under the Romans. Although the museum is small and the collection is minimal compared to many other Roman Archeological museums in Europe, it is well arranged and explained through multimedia displays.

Operation hours: Tue -Sun: 10:00 - 13:00 and 14:00 - 18:00
6
Decorative Arts Museum

6) Decorative Arts Museum

The Decorative Arts Museum housed in an aristocratic home showcases the life of wealthy citizens of Lisbon in the 18th and 19th centuries. The building is a 17th century palace that was the city residence of the Count of Azurara.

The Decorative Arts Museum was purchased by Portuguese Banker, Ricardo do Espirito Santo Silva whose family was one of the wealthiest in the country in 1947. He then converted it into a museum to house his vast collection. He donated the museum to the city in 1953. The interiors still have their original 17th century wooden floors, painted ceilings and mosaics of Azulejos, a typical Portuguese painted tin glazed form of tile work. Some Azulejos formed part of the palace while others were added while restoring the building to house the banker’s art and decorative objects collection.

The Decorative Arts Museum has tastefully arranged collections of Indo Portuguese, Portuguese, English and French furniture, a large collection of silver objects, faience tin glazed pottery, original Chinese porcelain, Flemish tapestry from the 16th and 18th centuries, an ancient grandfather clock and a horse drawn carriage. There are unique objects from almost every country ruled by the Portuguese when they were a colonial power.

Operation hours: Tue-Sun: 10:00-17:00
7
Fado Museum

7) Fado Museum

The Fado Museum is dedicated to the soulful songs called Fado that evolved in the City of Lisbon. It has a range of exhibits and displays that showcase a form of music that is unique to the city.

Fado evolved as a form of music unique to Lisbon in 1840. Although another form is sung in the city of Coimbra, the Lisbon version is the earliest and most popular. It evolved from songs sung by sailors that soon became a musical genre loved by the common man and sung by many famous Fado singers from Lisbon.

The Fado Museum is dedicated to the evolution of the form of music and the passion it evokes in Lisbon. It has audiovisual shows, multilingual information panels and a large archive of Fado music. The permanent collection is a journey through the history of the form of music including recordings of famous singers and instruments that accompany them. There is also a model Portuguese guitar workshop where a film shows visitors how a Portuguese guitar is made. A wax figure of a guitar maker and his tools is also found here. Visitors can also enjoy live performances at the small café at the museum or purchase a recording from the museum shop.

Operation hours: Tue-Sun: 10:00-18:00
8
Military Museum

8) Military Museum (must see)

One of the largest museums dedicated to military memorabilia in the world, Lisbon's Museu Militar tells the story of the exploits by the Portuguese armed forces. It has a large collection of artillery, arms, uniforms and military art.

The Military Museum is located on the site of a 16th century shipyard. It has the largest artillery collection in the world and was founded in 1851 by General Jose Baptista da Silva as an artillery museum. Other exhibits with military themes were added and from 1926, it got its present name. Until the early 20th century, the building was also a manufacturing unit for weaponry.

The Museu Militar has a large collection of guns, pistols and swords. Notable among them is a sword belonging to Vasco da Gama and a 14th century cannon. Many of the rooms have magnificent Baroque interiors, tiled mosaics portraying various exploits of the Portuguese military forces through the ages from the Christian defeat of the Moorish rulers till World War I and murals showing the historical voyage and discovery of the sea route to India. The first floor has many exhibits showing the services of the Portuguese armed forces as part of the allied forces in World War I.

Why You Should Visit:
Important not only for its military-themed exhibits, but also for the elaborately decorated rooms.
Surprises await you in each section, with numerous paintings, carvings and tapestry describing Portugal's history.
Ticket price is very reasonable and the route is quite easy to follow, with lots of exhibits you can touch along the way.

Tip:
From 10 to 12:30 on Saturday and Sunday mornings a martial arts club conducts training sessions for its members in European swordsmanship (two-handed swords, not fencing), in the museum's basement vaults. This is well-worth watching for people interested in martial arts, especially if one has any familiarity with fencing or kendo.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 10am-5pm
9
Church of Santa Engrácia

9) Church of Santa Engrácia

The Church of Santa Engracia has been declared the National Pantheon and many famous personalities are buried here. It is a 16th century church with a 20th century dome. Visitors can climb the steps or take the elevator to the roof top terrace for 360 degree views of Lisbon and the Tagus.

The site of the Church of Santa Engracia had many previous churches before the current structure was built. It was dedicated to a martyred saint from the city of Braga, Saint Engracia. Joao Antunes, the Royal architect in the court of Manuel I designed the church. The layout has the unusual shape of a Greek cross with arms of equal length. There is a square tower at each corner. The main façade has an ornate entrance hall with three niches containing statues. The elaborately carved portal depicts two angels holding the coat-of –arms of Portugal. The interior is decorated with multicolored slabs of marble. The dome was completed in 1966 during the rule of the dictator, Salazar and converted into the National Pantheon.

Famous people buried in the church are writers Joao de Deus and Aquilino Ribeiro and the famous Fado singer Amalia Rodriguez. It also has cenotaphs to Afonso de Albequerque, Vasco da Gama and Henry the Navigator.
Sight description based on wikipedia
10
Monastery of São Vicente de Fora

10) Monastery of São Vicente de Fora (must see)

The Monastery of Sao Vincente de Fora is an imposing church dedicated to Saint Vincent of Saragossa, the patron saint of Lisbon. It was also the last resting place of the Monarchs of the house of Braganza, the dynasty that ruled Portugal for over 250 years.

The monastery is one of the best examples of late renaissance architecture called the Mannerist style in Portugal. The floor plan is that of a Latin cross. The nave has one aisle and lateral chapels. The main altarpiece was crafted by one of the finest Portuguese sculptors, Joaquim Machado de Castro in Baroque style.

The highlights of the interiors are the cloisters that date back to the 18th century. The monastery is located around two cloisters with azulejo or tile-covered walls depicting a variety of beautiful historical and other scenes. The upper floors have restored azulejos depicting the fables of Jean de La Fontaine. The early refectory of the monks was converted into a pantheon for the monarchs of the House of Braganza in 1855. Most members of the dynasty are buried here including Catherine of Braganza who became Queen of England as consort of King Charles II.

Why You Should Visit:
Plenty of interesting things to see, including the cloisters, the sacristy, the Pantheon of the House of Braganza, the tile-work of 'Les Fables de La Fontaine', as well as the Patriarch's Gallery; however, the crowning glory of the monastery is the climb to the terraces of the towers, which afford one of the most beautiful views of Lisbon and the Tagus.

Tip:
With your ticket, you will also receive a leaflet, which includes a map and a short history of the monastery. It is highly recommended that you follow the map, so you don't miss anything.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 10am-6pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
11
Graça Church

11) Graça Church

The Graca Church is one of the oldest churches in Lisbon. It was built on the site where the forces of King Afonso Henriques camped when they laid siege of Lisbon to recapture the city from the Moors.

The Graca Church was built in 1271 and given to the hermits of Saint Augustine. The church was ruined in the 1755 earthquake and the present Baroque style structure was constructed in the 18th century. It has a simple façade with a bas relief dedicated to Saint Augustine. The interior is in the shape of a cross with a nave that has five spans. Tiles from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries decorate the walls and there are two ornate marble chairs placed in the sacristy. The chapels have gilded Rococo style sculptures, some of which date back to the 17th century.

The Senhor Dos Passos dressing room is located on the upper floor of the Graca Church. The Senhor Dos Passos or Steps Lord is a purple clad sculpture of Christ bearing the cross. It is taken out in procession during Easter and other local festivals. The building that was once the Graca convent is now used by the Portuguese military.
12
São Jorge Castle

12) São Jorge Castle (must see)

The São Jorge Castle occupies a commanding position overlooking the city of Lisbon and the broad Tagus River beyond. The strongly-fortified citadel, which, in its present configuration, dates from medieval times, is located atop the highest hill in the historic center of the city. The castle is one of the main historical and touristic sites of Lisbon. The castle's footprint is roughly square in shape, and it was originally encircled by a wall, to form a citadel.

The castle complex consists of the castle proper (the castelejo), some ancillary buildings (including the ruins of the royal palace), gardens, and a large terraced square from which impressive panoramas of Lisbon are afforded. The main entrance to the citadel is a 19th-century gate surmounted by the coat-of-arms of Portugal, the name of Queen Maria II, and the date, 1846.

Why You Should Visit:
By far the best views of Lisbon and can be a very peaceful place first thing in the morning.
There is also a permanent exhibition worth looking at, as well as a Camera Obscura in one of the Moorish towers (shows every 20min with languages rotating between English/Portuguese/Spanish).

Tip:
Do come early to not only avoid the crowds (the tour groups start pouring in around 10:30am) but also for the best light – the sun is behind you as you look over central Lisbon.
Wander the terrace of the lower fortifications, then enter the Moorish inner castle to walk the ramparts for even better views.
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in Lisbon, Portugal

Create Your Own Walk in Lisbon

Create Your Own Walk in Lisbon

Creating your own self-guided walk in Lisbon is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Central Lisbon Nightlife

Central Lisbon Nightlife

Lisbon is a great place for partying and is one of Europe's best clubbing cities. You can choose from the eighties hip-hop to hard rock, from dancing to house or to the tunes of a live band. The usual practice in Lisbon is to go pub hopping, have a fulfilling dinner and then move on to the dance floor. The club scene really starts around 2 am and continues until dawn. This guide introduces...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.7 km
Parque das Nacoes Walking Tour

Parque das Nacoes Walking Tour

Parque das Nações, often referred to by locals as “Expo”, is a commercial and residential area in Lisbon which gained popularity and underwent tremendous transformation in the late 1990s as a site of the World Expo 1998. Many attractions were built here during that time, including the Oceanarium (the world's biggest), Science Museum, Vasco da Gama Tower, Vasco da Gama Bridge and others....  view more

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.3 km
Alfama & Baixa Souvenir Shops

Alfama & Baixa Souvenir Shops

It would be a pity to leave Lisbon without having explored its specialty shops and bringing home something truly original. We've compiled a list of gifts and souvenirs, which are unique to Lisbon, that a visitor might like to purchase to reflect their visit. Take this tour to explore Alfama and Baixa districts souvenir shops.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.1 km
Madragoa Nightlife

Madragoa Nightlife

Lisbon is a great place for partying and is one of Europe's best clubbing cities. You can choose from the eighties hip-hop to hard rock, from dancing to house or to the tunes of a live band. The usual practice in Lisbon is to go pub hopping, have a fulfilling dinner and then move on to the dance floor. The club scene really starts around 2 am and continues until dawn. This guide introduces...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.7 km
Self-Guided Tour of Lisbon Museums

Self-Guided Tour of Lisbon Museums

As expected of any European capital city with a rich history, Lisbon has numerous museums. They offer excellent insight into the past and have a rich collection of art: sculpture and paintings. Among the many popular museums and galleries in Lisbon, some are quite unique and not to be missed. Take this tour to visit the most important museums in Lisbon.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.5 km
Belem Walking Tour

Belem Walking Tour

Known as Santa Maria de Belém, Belem is a district of Lisbon located not far from the city center. It became famous as the departure point for renowned Portuguese explorers. It was here that Vasco da Gama set off for India. This small district has a lot of fascinating historic and cultural landmarks. Some of them, such as Torre de Belém, are iconic. Take this tour and enjoy Belem at its best.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.9 km

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip


17 Uniquely Portuguese Things to Buy in Lisbon

17 Uniquely Portuguese Things to Buy in Lisbon

Formerly a major colonial power, Portugal has accumulated great knowledge in craftsmanship. While in Lisbon, you can treat yourself to a vast variety of quality things: wines, ceramics, jewellery, leather goods, books and many more. Most shops in Lisbon open at 9 or 10am, and close in the evening at...
Top 10 Cafes and Restaurants in Lisbon

Top 10 Cafes and Restaurants in Lisbon

Experience Lisbon as a local by enjoying typical Portuguese dishes at the best restaurants throughout the city at a price you can afford. Take away the overwhelming pressure of deciding where to eat in a city as dynamic and riveting as Lisbon by allowing this guide to suggest local restaurants with...

Tips for Exploring City on Foot at Your Own Pace

Whether you are in Lisbon for a quick stopover or have a few days to see the city in more detail, exploring it on foot, at your own pace, is definitely the way to go. Here are some tips for you to save money, see the best Lisbon has to offer, take good care of your feet while walking, and keep your mobile device – your ultimate "work horse" on this trip - well fed and safe.

Saving Money with City Passes


To save yourself time and money getting around Lisbon and visiting the city's multiple sights, you may want to resort to the Lisbon City Card.

Among other conveniences, this card allows bearer to explore all of Lisbon's top attractions (cathedrals, castles, palaces, museums, monuments and other places of interest), both in and around the city, either for free (28 sights) or with great (up to 50%) discounts. The card provides 24-, 48-, or 72-hour passes to all these locations, plus free ride on public transportation including trams, buses, and regional trains to Cascais and Sintra. Very convenient!

Staying at Walk-Friendly Hotels


Since you're keen on exploring cities on foot (we assume that you are, and this is why you're here), it is important that you stay at a hotel close to the city's major attractions. It saves you time and energy. Here are a few of Lisbon hotels that are conveniently located: Hotel O Artista, Rossio Boutique Hotel, Internacional Design Hotel.

Taking Care of Your Feet


To ensure ultimate satisfaction from a day of walking around the city as big as Lisbon, it is imperative to take good care of your feet so as to avoid unpleasant things like blisters, cold or overheated soles, itchy, irritated or otherwise damaged (cracked) skin, etc. Luckily, these days there is no shortage of remedies to address (and, ideally, to prevent) these and other potential problems with feet. Among them: Compression Socks, Rechargeable Battery-Powered Thermo Socks for Cold Weather, Foot Repair Cream, Deodorant Powder, Shoes UV Sterilizer, and many more that you may wish to find a place in your travel kit for.

Travel Gadgets for Your Mobile Device


Your mobile phone or tablet will be your work horse on a self-guided walk. They offer tour map, guide you from one attraction to another, and provide informative background for the sights you wish to visit. Therefore it is absolutely essential to plan against unexpected power outages in the wrong place at the wrong time, much as to ensure the safety of your device.

For these and other contingencies, here's the list of useful appliances: Portable Charger/External Battery Pack, Worldwide Travel Charger Adapter, Power Converter for International Travel Adapter, and Mobile Device Leash.

Exploring City on Guided Tours


We have a strong bias towards exploring a city on foot, at your own pace, because this is how you get to see things up close, with a maximum freedom. You decide how much time you wish to spend at each attraction and don't have to worry about following a crowd. That said, however, we also understand that some of you may want to go with a guided tour. If that is your case, here are some guided tours to consider. Be ready to fork out a bit of money, as a guided tour of Lisbon typically costs from around US$35 up to US$80 per person:

- Explore Lisbon Highlights on a walking tour revealing the unique side of the Portuguese capital, be it a gorgeous building, historic event, colorful street, picturesque square, or a quaint little shop or cafe serving delicious local food and wine, or perhaps a spot with a breathtaking panorama of the city.

- Embark on a self-balancing Segway tour – this usually lasts around 2 hours and allows you to get a real sense of the city. Most people (even those aged 70+) find it quite fun and convenient, enabling to cover much more ground than you otherwise would have done by walking.

- Pedal your way up and down Lisbon's 7 hills on an electrical bike tour visiting the city’s best historic landmarks and hidden spots, learning about its curiosities, and reaching the highest spots for the most scenic views of the Portuguese capital. Definitely more than “just another bike tour”!

- Treat yourself to the most delicious experience on a food tour exploring the top delicacies of Lisbon - authentic local must-try bites and traditional drinks - visiting memorable spots for a perfect tasting and insight into the Portuguese lifestyle and eating habits.

- Immerse yourself in Lisbon’s heritage on a 7-hour driven tour around the city’s oldest quarter, Alfama, exploring the famous local monuments and discovering the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Jerónimos Monastery and Belém Tower. On this tour you will also get a chance to see modern Lisbon complete with a scenic cable car ride, plus indulge in a delicious local meal (optional). If you have little time in the city, this tour will make you feel like you've seen a lot!

- Sail around Lisbon for a different perspective of the city that very few people actually get to see, on a boat tour. Apart from enjoying spectacular views of Lisbon's famous seaside monuments, you will get a chance to do a bit of yachting (steering the boat) or just laze around on the deck enjoying champagne, homemade snacks and other refreshments, while hearing interesting historical facts about this fascinating city.

Day Trips


If you have a day to spare whilst in Lisbon, why not use it to explore some of the out-of-town destinations, like Sintra, Évora, or a combo of Aveiro and Coimbra, or Mafra and Ericeira. For as little as US$100+ to US$250+ you will get a chance to visit some of the finest tourist attractions of Portugal including remarkable 19th century pieces of Romanticism architecture, one of Portugal’s most iconic villages (UNESCO World Heritage site), have a gondola ride in Portuguese “Venice”, and enjoy an authentic Portuguese lunch at restaurant (optional). All these trips start and end at your hotel and you'll be carried by a comfortable air-conditioned coach or minivan, accompanied by an English-speaking tour guide.