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The Alfama

Start: Praça do Comércio.

Finish: Castelo de São Jorge.

Time: 2 hours, more if you add sightseeing time.

Best Times: Any sunny day.

Worst Times: Twilight or after dark.

The streets of the Alfama are best traversed on foot; but at times you must walk up steep stone stairs. Once aristocratic, this fabled section has fallen into decay. (Be aware that the Alfama can be dangerous at night.) Parts of it still allow the visitor a rare opportunity to wander back in time, though.

From Praça do Comércio, opening onto the water at the foot of Rua Augusta, which splits the center of midtown Lisbon, head east along Rua da Alfândega, which links Lower Baixa to the southern tier of the Alfama. When you reach the intersection with Rua de Madalena, head north, or left, to the Largo da Madalena. The square is dominated by:

1. Igreja de Madalena

This church dates from 1783 and incorporates the Manueline portico of a previous church that was built on this site.

Take Rua de Santa António da Sé, following the tram tracks to the small:

2. Igreja de Santo António

Opening onto Largo de Santo António de Sé, this church is from 1812, and was built over the beloved saint's alleged birthplace. For a full description,

A few steps higher, and to the immediate southeast, stands:

3. Sé de Lisboa

This is the cathedral of Lisbon, opening onto the tiny Largo da Sé. One would think that the cathedral of a major European capital would be graced with a more impressive edifice, but what you see is what you get. For a complete description,

Continuing east into the Alfama, go along Rua Augusto Rosa which becomes Rua do Limoeiro. You'll soon be at:

4. Miradouro de Santa Luzia

This belvedere is the most famous in the Alfama. From this viewpoint, you can look down over the jumble of antique houses as they seemingly pile into the Tagus River. The once impressive church, Igreja de Santa Luzia, that opens onto this square has seen better days. The fine glazed tiles that once adorned the exterior have been carted off, leaving the church a rather sorry sight and the victim of graffiti.

Continue northeast into the:

5. Largo das Portas do Sol

On this square stands the Fundação Ricardo do Espírito Santo Silva, a museum of decorative art.

Take a Break -- At the Miradouro de Santa Luzia are several tiny cafes and bars with outside seating. Visitors from all over the world come here to order coffee and refreshments and take in the view of the shipping activity on the Tagus. These establishments are virtually all the same, but we recommend Cerca Moura, Largo das Portas do Sol 4 (tel. 21/887-48-59), which offers the finest menu of snacks and drinks in the area and affords a breathtaking view.

A short but steep climb from Largo das Portas do Sol via Travessa de Santa Luzia brings you to:

6. Castelo de São Jorge

The remains of this once grand fortification have been gussied up for tourists, but it's still the reason most visitors trek through the Alfama. The views alone are worth the effort to reach it, as they offer the greatest panoramas over Lisbon and the Tagus.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.