lisbon: around & about bairro alto & alfama

We shrugged off the gloom on our first full day in Lisbon and walked all over Bairro Alto and Alfama. I had been to Lisbon before, but Mike hadn’t, so I wanted to show him the neighborhoods I’d loved my first time in the city.

We started in the neighborhood where our hotel was situated, Bairro Alto, looking for a place to hear fado that evening. They all seemed too touristy, so, sadly, we ended up skipping fado altogether. Mike’s experience would thus differ from mine, as I did hear fado in 2013 in the touristy Café LUSO, a Fado House established in 1927. Bairro Alto is the party-loving side of Lisbon, a nightlife mecca, so our morning-after stroll revealed a hung-over sort of atmosphere.  It was, after all, a Sunday morning, following on the heels of Saturday night revelry.

We walked downhill, passing the famous trams along the way.  I was in search of my favorite Lisbon ceiling at Basilica of the Martyrs. We made it through the theater district and slowly down to sea level, to the huge gate and plaza on the Rio Teja: Praça do Comércio, with its grand 18th century arcades and mosaic cobblestones. In 1908, anarchists assassinated Dom Carlos I and his son, and the square witnessed the fall of the monarchy.  In today’s square, a Web Summit was advertised in bold letters.


Lisbon’s trams


theater district


Basilica of the Martyrs


Basilica of the Martyrs


Praça do Comércio


Praça do Comércio


Praça do Comércio

After hitting the bottom, we began to climb our way up into Alfama.  Lisbon, with its seven hills, is nothing but climbs and descents.

Though we’d walked up to Castelo de São Jorge the previous evening, it had been too late to go inside, so we went inside to explore.  The castle’s hilltop fortifications tower dramatically above Lisbon, and offer splendid views of the red rooftops of the city and the Rio Teja. Human occupation of the castle hill dates to at least the 8th century B.C., while the first fortifications date from the 1st century B.C. Visigoths were here in the 5th century, Moors in the 9th, and Christians in the 12th. Since the 12th century, the castle has variously served as a royal palace, a military barracks, and now as a national monument and museum. It has held convicts in nearly every century.


view of the Rio Teja from Castelo de São Jorge


cannon at Castelo de São Jorge


view of Lisbon from Castelo de São Jorge


view of the Rio Teja from Castelo de São Jorge


view of Lisbon from Castelo de São Jorge


view of Lisbon from Castelo de São Jorge


Castelo de São Jorge


Castelo de São Jorge


me at Castelo de São Jorge


Castelo de São Jorge


Castelo de São Jorge


Castelo de São Jorge

After thoroughly exploring the castle, we walked back downhill through Alfama, through alleys of gritty street art to the Miradouro de Santa Luzia, where we absorbed the sweeping views over Alfama’s coral-red rooftops to the river.


The eyes have Mike in Alfama


view from Miradouro de Santa Luzia


view from Miradouro de Santa Luzia

We decided we had to take Tram 28, which took us up and down hills through several neighborhoods, dumping us at an unfamiliar spot at the bottom of a busy commercial area.  I had remembered the tram dropping me at the top of a hill when I rode it in 2013. We didn’t have a clue where we were.


tuk-tuks at the ready near the Tram 28 stop

Mike did what he does best, navigating us through the Baixa district, with its colorful and tiled façades, and past the Elevador de Santa Justa.  This 19th century industrial age elevator whisks passengers up 45 meters from the Baixa district to the Largo do Carmo. This masterpiece is adorned with wrought iron neo-Gothic arches and geometric patterns; it was designed by Gustave Eiffel’s apprentice, Raul Mésnier.  We moseyed our way through the theater district in Chiado.


tiled building in Baixa


colorful purple building in Baixa


Elevador de Santa Justa


beautiful tiled building in theater district


Teatro da Trindade


theater district

The sky was threatening rain, so we ducked into the Roman Catholic Igreja & Museu São Roque, with its dazzling interior of gold, marble and Florentine azulejos.  It was the earliest Jesuit church in the Portuguese world, and one of the first Jesuit churches anywhere. After the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, the church was given to the Lisbon Holy House of Mercy to replace their church and headquarters, which had been destroyed. It remains a part of the Holy House of Mercy today. The adjoining museum displays elaborate sacred art and holy relics.

Finally, we made our way back to our hotel through Bairro Alto as it started to rain, and, as it was too early for dinner, we took a seat at a cozy bar across the street, where some wine and spirits lit our dark moods.  While Mike watched sports on the bar TV, I ran next door and did some shopping at my favorite store, LostIn. 🙂


Adega Machado in Bairro Alto


Bairro Alto


cozy Lisbon bar across from our hotel


self-portrait in the bar mirror

We ate dinner at a sushi buffet restaurant near our hotel.  As it was pouring rain, we simply didn’t have the heart to go further afield.  The meal was decidedly mediocre.

*Sunday, November 4, 2018*

*14,781 steps, or 6.26 miles*


“PROSE” INVITATION: I invite you to write up to a post on your own blog about a recently visited particular destination (not journeys in general). Concentrate on any intention you set for your prose.  One of my intentions was to use five random verbs in my travel essay each day: 1) dump, 2) shrug, 3) differ, 4) light, and 5) absorb. √

It doesn’t matter whether you write fiction or non-fiction for this invitation.  You can either set your own writing intentions, or use one of the prompts I’ve listed on this page: writing prompts: prose. (This page is a work in process.) You can also include photos, of course.

Include the link in the comments below by Monday, October 21 at 1:00 p.m. EST.  When I write my post in response to this invitation on Tuesday, October 22, I’ll include your links in that post.

This will be an ongoing invitation. Feel free to jump in at any time. 🙂

I hope you’ll join in our community. I look forward to reading your posts!