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Published: June 14th 2014
Alfama--the oldest neighborhood in Lisbon--was the living quarters during the Middle Ages for the working poor, which to this day remains true to its values. With poverty, however, comes a sense of humility and authenticity, illustrated by the lines of laundry dangling overhead in narrow alleys, shutter windows letting in the sea breeze due to lack of air conditioning, and kids playing with makeshift toys because it's all that's available. If you came here expecting modern amenities, Michelin-star restaurants, and an infinity pool with servers bringing you pina coladas, you are quite mistaken.
Instead, take pleasure in the residents' interpretation of modern amenities by renting a bike to venture the streets or hop on the famous Tram 28, a cable car that cranks its way up the steep hills to save the feet of travelers. Be aware that locals also utilize this transportation, giving way to pick-pocketing that will dampen your mood for the remainder of the trip, and for this reason, we elected to forego the Tram. As for Michelin-star restaurants, look instead to hole-in-the-wall eateries owned by locals, many of whom reside right above their restaurant. And the infinity pool...well what's better than meandering through a red-roofed city
View from Miradouro das Portas dol Sol
on a hill that blends seamlessly into the Tagus River...and trade in that pina colada for some ice-cold gelato.
To begin our tour of the neighborhood, we unloaded our luggage at the HF Fenix hotel located uptown next to Parque Eduardo VII. From there, we took the metro downtown to the Rossio Square stop. This is where our itinerary went out the window. Maps can't begin to direct you accurately; the winding roads, unexpected dead ends, and steps that lead to nowhere make it difficult to navigate efficiently. But that's the excitement of getting lost in a town stuck in time, so rather than depending on phone apps and tour guides, let the streets consume you and wander where ever it takes you. With this said, Kristina and I tried this for a bit before asking for help from a local because climbing these hills can get tiresome. Once we had our bearings straight, we continued around the neighborhood in search of one belvedere after another. These belvederes, called "miradouros" in Portuguese, are strategically placed viewpoints all over the city, giving visitors a breathtaking perspective of the town and the river. Several overlooks we visited included Miradouro da Senhora
Miradouro das Portas dol Sol
The most scenic belvedere in the city, and the sunniest, too, making this overlook deserving of its name.
do Monte, Miradouro da Santa Luzia, and Miradouro das Portas dol Sol, the latter being our favorite due to its location and layout. Nonetheless, you can find plenty of other belvederes to visit, each with its own beauty and half the fun is navigating your way there.
Since this was our last day in Europe, Kristina and I wanted to unwind from a hectic 3 cities in 4 days journey, so we decided to enjoy the scenery rather than hit up all the attractions. That's why we headed back uptown for some relaxation before dinner to Parque Eduardo VII, a well-manicured park high above the city. From here, you begin to appreciate how undulating the Lisbon terrain really is, especially because it feels as if you were standing on top of the world looking down at the City of 7 Hills. This park also has an operating greenhouse called Estafa Fria (free admission), but it was closed when we were there.
For dinner, we made reservations for Sessenta (Rua Tomas Ribeiro 60) . This chic restaurant with contemporary decor was our guilty pleasure for the trip. After days of eating on the go and trying local cuisine, we
Folhado de queijo com frutos vermelhos
This delicious cheesy yet fruity dessert found at Sessenta in uptown Lisbon.
wanted to splurge on a luxurious meal and that's exactly what we got. Our appetizer was a unique dish called Folhado de queijo com frutos vermelhos, a cheesy pastry soaked in an unknown fruit sauce. For the main course, I ordered the pork on apple risotto (the best I've ever had) while Kristina got the seared tuna with risotta and clams. For dessert, we got the mango crumble, a sweet and fitting end to the night.
We walked back to the hotel after dinner, reminiscing along the way about this trip that had yet to end. The last 5 days were undoubtedly the most invigorating and captivating we've ever had abroad. This trip had already became the benchmark for all our future travels and we were saddened to leave this lovely country. While Lisbon and Porto may not garner the same luster as Paris or Rome or even Barcelona, these cities will forever hold a special place in our hearts. So while we sit in class listening to lectures, we constantly daydream about the day when we return to the Iberian Peninsula or Europe in general. Until then, happy travels!
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