Alfama! It is one of the oldest and most famous neighborhoods, or “bairros” in all of Lisbon. Alfama is where you will find narrow winding streets, tucked away restaurants, and Fado houses. I went on a photo tour of Alfama with a group from Couchsurfing.
This photo tour of the historic district of Alfama was organized quite nicely by Real Fatia on the CS website. If you don’t know about Couchsurfing, well, you just don’t know! It’s a community of like minded people who like to travel but don’t like to pay for a sanitized touristy cookie cutter experience traveling! It allows you to stay and meet up with locals so you have the local vibe. Anyway, this photo tour of Alfama was advertised on Couchsurfing so I decided to join in. We met up initially at Miradouro Portas do Sol, one of the best miradouros in all of Lisbon. It’s where Guents dy Rincon plays. (For pictures, check out older posts).
After meeting up we went to the ruins of the Roman theatre. Apparently, Lisbon is built upon many ruins of Roman and other empires that have settled on the land previously in the distant past. In fact, no one really knows when Lisbon was first established because they are still finding older and older stuff everyday. This Roman theatre is one of those “older stuffs”.
Today, we have a nicely excavated museum where you can stop by and take pictures between espressos and pasteis de nata.
I used to make pottery on the wheel, so I can appreciate just how difficult it would have been making a vessel like this. Back in the day, these potters didn’t have electric wheels with direct drive turntables, they didn’t have stainless steel ball bearings to smoothly rotate their wheel heads. They had to kick their wheel heads around a home made pivot. It’s unbelievable how they were able to make pieces such as these.
This quaint and free museum is tucked away on a side street near the Castelo de São Jorge. They have a small collection of recovered Roman artifacts and a poorly shot video about the Roman theatre, depicted below.
Maybe you should keep digging.
Alright, so we came to see Alfama and not some old Roman theater, so we will fast forward to the part of the photo tour where we start going down the hill from the Castle to Alfama. We narrowly avoid getting hit by a tram and we wander down a typical street in Alfama. More like an alleyway, or a donkey path.
For sure you are not bringing your Escalade on spinners or UPS truck down this street. This street is perfect for a game of laser tag though.
After wandering for a while we stumble upon the youth club in Alfama. This is where they keep the disaffected youth from fooling around and getting into trouble. Sort of. Also, this is where they plan the yearly neighborhood festival in Alfama.
We went inside and the place was pretty much in disrepair. There was garbage and whatnot all over the place but our tour guide said that when the festival nears this place is lively and much more well maintained.
So after the youth club we walked further downhill deeper into Alfama. Wow. These streets are narrow. It seems like the houses just grew out of the surroundings organically and people just built on top of whatever. Check out this door!
Unbelievable. How can you build a door like this? I think I’m in Hobbit land or something.
I guess Emel is some fish-headed granny sweater wearing monster that gives out traffic tickets in Lisbon. The graffiti says, “These streets belong to us Emel, get out!”
It says, “Smile when you turn the corner”.
We continued to wander through the narrow, winding streets of Alfama and we turned up in this spot. I saw this woman hanging out in her home with the Portuguese flag hanging above her door. I thought this was quintessential Alfama and such a good symbol of the neighborhood. I asked her in Portuguese if I could take a picture of her. She said yes and gave me a nice smile too.
There is some pretty random and funny street art in Alfama. Goha here stopped in front of a wall piece and I snapped this picture. It looks like she’s part of the art here. I promise this was not staged. Lucky timing I guess!
We continued walking downhill in Alfama and happened upon this pretty large grapevine.
We didn’t know who planted this grapevine or who it belonged to, but we thought it was pretty cool that someone decided to plant it in the middle of the street.
We continued to walk downhill in Alfama and we encountered many tile murals on the walls like this one of St. Antonio.
St. Antonio is the patron saint of Lisbon. Every year there is a huge festival in June celebrating St. Antonio. Every neighborhood or “bairro” has their own party. The one in Alfama is one of the largest.
This is one of they “typical” Portuguese restaurants that you will see in Alfama. They have some outdoor seating and a guy strumming the guitar. There was also a guy walking around outside, I guess he was kind of a “promoter”. He would basically yell at any passerby to come and eat.
So this is one of the Fado houses in Alfama. Here you can have a nice leisurely dinner and be serenaded by the Fadistas. If you don’t know what Fado is, check out Mariza.
After checking out the Fado houses we got back together with the larger group at the Miradouro de Sto Estevão. From here you can see the river and the cruise ships launching from the harbor.
So Real Fatia organized a bar and food stand complete with music and a microwave at the miradouro. Pretty impressive! What was on the menu? Some Bruschetta and Caipirinhas! Of course there was also waters and beers. And apparently some Brazilian dancing? But that comes later.
Ah, Lisbon. The light, the spirit! The city comes alive at night with a warm yellow incandescent glow. When will North America learn? Florescent lighting is garbage. Edison had it right. What’s the point of energy efficiency if everything looks like crap?
This picture was taken from inside an abandoned apartment near the miradouro. The inside was all rundown and trashed, but for some reason the apartment still got electricity! That’s how Real Fatia was able to power their speakers for music and microwave for making hot food.
Alright, so I forgot what kind of Brazilian dance this is, but it was very close to Salsa. This was after we had had a few drinks, Caipirinhas of course. After a few dances, I took the camera out again and started snapping photos. The night was clear and the city was all lit up. Afterwards, we went to Bairro Alto, of course. You already know what happens there. Have you been to Alfama? Share your experiences in the comments below!