Alfama, the oldest neighborhood in Europe after El Pópulo in Cadiz. It’s like a small village, standing as a time capsule to the years before Lisbon was destroyed by the 1755 earthquake, as it remained standing thanks to its rock-solid foundations. Put away your map and wander aimlessly through its “becos” (alleys) and “largos” (small squares), allowing your senses to be the guides. You’ll see magnificent river views and laundry out to dry from balconies, smell fish being grilled in a corner, hear the sounds of Fado coming out of a restaurant, taste authentic traditional meals, and touch some dazzling tilework. Set in a visually stunning hill that extends to the neighborhood of Graça, this is Lisbon at its most picturesque and the very soul of the city. The apartment it’s located near “Casa dos Bicos”, the spikes house, this unusual building was inspired by the palaces of Venice. It was built in 1523 as the home of the Portuguese viceroy of India, Afonso de Albuquerque, and is one of the few survivors of the 1755 earthquake. Its curious façade features over 1000 spikes, while the two upper floors have Manueline-style windows. It’s been turned into the home of the José Saramago Foundation to hold the Nobel Prize-winning author’s library and to host special literary events. It includes exhibition spaces and a small auditorium used for sociocultural debates. There’s also an archaeological site on the ground floor, showing finds from Roman times, as well as parts of Lisbon’s medieval wall.
From 3 minutes walking distance you can find Lisbon’s grandest square faces the river and was originally used to welcome those arriving in the city by boat. This is the 18th century version of the original square which was named “Terreiro do Paço” and home to the royal palace. It was all destroyed by the 1755 earthquake and rebuilt with a triumphal arch facing the river. The arcaded buildings that surround it hold government offices while in the center is a monument to King José I. It is also home to one of the city’s most historic cafés (“Martinho da Arcada”) which stands under one of the arcaded buildings. On another side of the square is a tourist office and shop, while opposite those is the Lisboa Story Center which presents the history of the city. Next to it are cafés and restaurants with tables on the terrace outside.