For our first stop in Lisbon, we stayed in Alfama – the oldest neighbourhood of the capital. A place full of charming alleyways, beautiful tiles and real people, which made an unforgettable experience. Over the four days we stayed in Alfama we met lots of amazing people and had a few memorable moments which I only hope we can re-live one day – but for now, I thought I’d share this absolute gem of Lisbon.
Where we stayed
While searching for a place to stay in Alfama, I knew we had a few options. We could either stay in an amazing hotel like Memmo Alfama or opt for an AirB&B. I chose the latter as I knew we would be staying in another pretty awesome hotel later in the trip and so we needed to save some pennies along the way!
As an AirB&B newbie, I was a little wary about how our experience would be – but I have to say we felt so comfortable and loved the location of it. From the moment we were picked up at the airport by Carlos – who made us laugh the entire journey with his brutal honesty and dry humour, we knew this trip would be special.
The apartment was located off one of the main streets where tram 48 passes by. It was fairly quiet and downstairs there were three local restaurants. I loved how every time we left the apartment, the old Portuguese ladies would wish us a good day as they sat around gossiping with the restaurant owners.
In terms of the decor of the apartment, it had such a cool, art deco vibe. With a colourful rug, a traditional, ceramic lampshade and leather chair – it was understated but I think that’s what made it quite special. Our favourite area was the living room which had amazing shutters leading to a juliet-style balcony which overlooked the mini square and old ladies.
As for the location, it was the perfect base for us to explore Alfama and most sites/areas we loved were about a twenty minute walk from the apartment. If we could go back, I wouldn’t hesitate in booking the apartment again – and not just because we enjoyed it, mainly because I’d want to go and eat in those local restaurants!
The sights, smiles and sounds
As we were moving around a bit during our week in Portugal, I wanted to make sure we saw the various sides of Lisbon. Alfama gave us such an insightful view into the local Lisbon life. Yes, there were tourists around and I can imagine in the summer the streets would have been heaving with them. But there was just something so romantic about Alfama.
The tiny, maze-like streets full of apartments which are home to families was one thing I loved about Alfama. It didn’t matter what time of the day – whether that’s 8am or 1am – we were sure to hear families laughing, talking or even passionately arguing. One evening a football game was on the television and it was so fun to hear the reactions to every goal and every near-goal.
Traditional buildings decorated with sky-blue, green and yellow patterned tiles were dotted all throughout Alfama. It was so charming and authentic – it literally took us away to what felt like a different world. Houses were painted in pastel colours which looked so beautiful against the sunset sky – no amount of photos could show how striking they were!
We were so happy to get chatting to locals or for them to even say “hola” to us. As I mentioned before, the old ladies were absolutely lovely and it seems that everyone who we spoke with throughout our trip were equally if not more so friendly. On one occasion a waiter actually took us down the road to the restaurant’s sister bar for a free drink of ginja – we were very surprised at this. Everyone seemed so open, friendly and honest with us which was so great to experience.
One of our favourite things to do whilst in Alfama was to go for a walk after we finished dinner. Most nights I promised myself we would go for a drink to one of the trendy rooftop bars (I’m looking at you PARK) or to go dancing. But instead, we ended up walking, ever so tipsily, through the little streets with the sound of Fado music as our soundtrack. Yes, some of the songs were slightly depressing – but the wine helped us to see the fun side. It seemed at most twists and turns we would stumble upon a traditional Fado bar where the singer would be singing to a small group of guests – as well as the passing-by gate crashers which just so happened to be us.
When we next travel back to Lisbon (which I hope will be one day soon!), I would certainly stay in Alfama again. Don’t get me wrong, we loved our stay at Torel Palace (which I’ll tell you about very soon) – but there was just something so special about the area in Alfama. It was romantic, authentic and weirdly familiar. And I would go back in a heartbeat.