When in Lisbon, and you wish to capture great photos and rewarding walks that will take you back in time, then Alfama is your place to go. It is the oldest district in Lisbon, flanked by the city castle and the broad Tejo River. Its name comes from the Arabic word Al-hamma meaning springs or baths (most probably in reference to the number of hot springs found in the area).
Alfama is more like an old village within the busy and bustling city of Lisbon. Due to its dense bedrock foundation, it survived the destructive 1755 earthquake and has managed to restore its old-fashioned neighborhood, which allows visitors to take a step back in time. The narrow streets are reflective of the Muslim culture in which public spaces are not important. Facades are given little value but the house interiors are given greater importance. Aside from its narrow streets, the village is also known for its tiny squares, whitewashed houses, and beautiful churches.
Most of the old residents in this area have lived in the district for all their lives and they retain a very strong sense of community. They enjoy living in their houses and resting in wrought-iron balconies adorned with potted plants. Although there are houses weathered by time, some renovated buildings have mushroomed right below the castle as the city’s most unique and impressive hotels.
Alfama is also famous for its Fado bars. These are bars that play Fado. Literally meaning “fate”, Fado is a known music genre in Portugal. This type of music is famous for its mournful and nostalgic lyrics and tunes. The lyrics usually talk about the life of the poor or the sea. When in the area, you should visit one of these Fado houses and enjoy the district in its entirety.