Lisbon Guide: Graça, Alfama and Cathedral Districts

LISBON GUIDE

Graça, Alfama and Cathedral Districts

When visiting Lisbon, it’s always a challenge to decide what to see first, what to do and what districts to explore as this city is teeming with beautiful sights and fascinating neighbourhoods for you to discover. That’s why here at Cheese & Wine Suites and Apartments, we are always ready to provide you with local knowledge and handy tips around the city, recommending you far beyond the touristy spots, even the hidden little corners and the hitherto undiscovered gems.

 

As part of our “Handmade hospitality” credo, we’ve recently undertaken an exciting video project, a video series that provides our guests (and anyone who comes to explore our beloved Lisbon) brief tour guides around the city, including good tips and recommendations. Since we care about your stay in Lisboa, we offer you the benefit of showing you around, hopefully making things a lot easier for you to navigate these neighbourhoods we’ll cover.

 

Since it’s a family-owned hotel, the wonderful owners Sérgio and Filipa, along with their delightful boys Vicente and Lourenço, will be showing you around the city, sharing the places they love, and making you feel like a true local during your stay!

 

Take a few minutes, and watch the video guide below. We’re pretty sure you’ll fall in love with Lisbon, too.

 

 

 

Itinerary: Your First Day in Lisbon

We recommend taking you directly to the historic heart of the city, to the exquisite and unique neighbourhoods of Graça, Alfama and Cathedral districts. These parts of Lisbon have preserved so much of its enduring soul and character, standing alongside some of the city’s seven hills. The light reflected from Rio Tejo dazzles on these hills, shining against bright cathedrals and buildings covered with colourful azulejos, or ceramic tiles.

 

For those of you who love to walk, the hills are there for a reason – you get incredible views of the city once you get to the top.

 

But here’s a handy tip: once you’ve finished nourishing yourselves with our delightful breakfast in our suites and ready to embark of your first day of Lisbon adventure, the best way to get to the highest point of the city is by taking the historic tram.

 

Tram 28 | Photo credit: inthemoodforlife.one

Take trams number 25 and 28, in this order

 

From our hotel location in Santos (in Calçada Marquês Abrantes), walk towards Largo Santos and take the 25 tram, which will take you through the Lapa and Estrela neighbourhoods. Don’t miss the Basilica da Estrela, one of the most stunning churches in Lisbon, on the way.

 

Stop in Prazeres, and change to the number 28 tram. Hop aboard this iconic transport and try and get a window seat (which is quite likely as there aren’t too many tourists at this part of the city, compared to taking the same tram in the Martim Moniz location, which is impossible due to long tourists queues). This will take you through a real sightseeing tour across Lisbon’s major districts, crossing the city’s western trajectory towards the historic hills.

 

Portas do Sol | Photo credit: inthemoodforlife.one

Portas do Sol

 

You can alight in Portas do Sol, this bright open terrace have excellent views of the terracotta-roofed neighbourhood of Alfama, and the incredibly blue river Tagus beyond. You’ll recognise this in plenty of Lisbon postcards – this is a picture-perfect spot to see a romantic Lisbon panorama.

 

Miradouro da Graça | Photo credit: inthemoodforlife.one

Graça miradouros, or viewpoints

 

To save you from too much walking, you can carry on with the tram ride up to Largo da Graça and check out the two glorious miradouros, or viewpoints, that give you incredible views of Lisbon. These viewpoints have been both romanticised in many forms, from photography to poetry, and even music.

 

First off is Miradouro da Graça – this lookout terrace with an open-air café, Esplanada da Graça, where you can have coffee, wine or light snacks whilst enjoying the view of the city, admiring views of Castelo São Jorge, an aerial view of the downtown neigbourhoods, the blue Tagus river and the Ponte 25 Abril Bridge. There’s a sculpture bust here dedicated to the poet Sophia de Mello Breyner Andersen, who used to write poetry about Lisbon from this spot, overlooking the city. In fact, the official name of this miradouro is named after her.

 

This place is incredibly relaxing that often busking musicians come and play here, you can easily spend hours with a drink and listening to melodious tunes. Don’t forget to check out the 18th-century church beside the terrace, Igreja da Graça, with its beautifully baroque pink-marble interior.

 

Next up is Miradouro Senhora da Monte, the highest viewpoint of the city, with a truly spectacular 180-degree panorama of the city. Some people bring their own drinks and relax here, or you can easily get some ice cream and lemonades from a van stationed here, and then cool down under the pine trees. There’s a tiled panel here where you can identify the iconic landmarks of the city, it’ll be worth it spending time learning the structures and topography of Lisbon. You can also check out this viewpoint during sunset, a truly popular spot during that golden hour of the day, as it gives you a stunning colour palette of the city.

 

Just a few steps away from these incredible viewpoints are some of our apartments, do check them out. The views from our balconies are breathtaking.

 

Jardim da Cerca da Graca | Photo credit: timeout.pt

Jardim da Cerca da Graça

 

If you’d like to take a little detour and see a somewhat hidden local spot, head down to Calçada do Monte to this park called Jardim da Cerca da Graça, this wonderful green space with a quiosque café, an orange orchard, a playground and a view of olive trees alongside the Graça hill. It’s a very pretty spot, where locals hang out, sometimes with their dogs. You can even come here for a picnic.

 

Sao Vicente da Fora | Photo credit: inthemoodforlife.one

São Vicente da Fora

 

Further down Rua da Voz do Operário is one of the most iconic landmarks of Lisbon, the church and monastery of São Vicente da Fora. Dating back to the 12th century, it has its origins to Augustinian Order, named after the patron saint whose bones were brought from Algarve to this place. (source: Wikipedia). Do take some time and see the church gallery inside, which is free, or you can pay €5 and explore the monastery interior with a superb collection of azulejos, the mausoleum where the previous monarchs are laid to rest, and the incredible views of the tower above. (source: Lonely Planet)

 

Feira da Ladra

Feira da Ladra

 

Just around the corner is the oldest flea market in town called Feira da Ladra, which runs on both Tuesdays and Saturdays. So if you’re in the mood for vintage treasure hunting and antique spotting, this is the perfect place as this market is renowned to offer a huge variety, from bric-a-bracs to tiles to books to furniture, and everything else you can possibly imagine. This is actually one of Europe’s oldest market of its kind, dating back to the 12th century. Also check out the mural of tiles around Campo de Santa Clara, a colourful swathe depicting Lisbon in colourful painting. In the middle of this space is a green space where you can also breathe and relax, if you ever want to take a break from all that sightseeing and shopping. This park has a quiosque café, as well as adjacent restaurants to try.

 

Panteao Nacional | Photo credit: Wikipedia

Panteão Nacional

 

A short walk from the market is another national monument called Panteão Nacional, which used to be the Church of Santa Engrácia. Now it is the final resting place of some of the most important Portuguese luminaries, which includes the discoverer Vasco da Gama and Fado icon Amália Rodrigues. This building took nearly 300 years to finish (source: Lisboa Cool). But you can see it’s truly a masterpiece. Climb up to the dome above, and you’ll find this sublime terrace where Lisbon light shines like a dream.

 

Alfama | Photo credit: inthemoodforlife.one

Alfama neighbourhood

 

You’ve heard about this historic place – a medieval maze of cobblestoned alleyways and Moorish ramparts and stairs that’s one of the most preserved areas of Lisbon. A village steeped on one of Lisbon’s hills, and so well constructed that it survived the last great earthquake. Here, there are colourful façades and charming, ancient squares, with freshly washed laundry hang on tiled walls. Shops, little cafes and patio restaurants dot around the area. Yes, you’ll often bump into other tourists, but this in fact, a very residential area where true Lisboetas hold fort. And in June, the whole neighbourhood turns into a street party of singing, dancing, drinks and grilled sardines, celebrating the feast of Santo Antonio, or St. Anthony, a patron saint of Lisbon.

 

Miradouro de Santo Estevao | Photo credit: rotaslusitanas.blogspot.com

Miradouro de Santo Estêvão

 

Don’t forget to step into Miradouro de Santo Estêvão, a hidden viewpoint in Alfama next to the Santo Estêvão church. It’s remains a very quiet spot, nicely tucked up among the stairs of Alfama, covered by trees. It’s a cool spot to unwind, listen to the music being played by buskers, or just quietly gaze into the gorgeous view of Lisbon beyond.

We have an apartment at this viewpoint, so it’s worth checking out if you’d like to stay near this beautiful side of Alfama.

 

Restaurant recommendations

Pois Cafe | Photo credit: poiscafe.com

Pois Café

 

Just next to the Sé Catheral, this cosy café with high arched ceilings will give you a space of comfort as well reliable food, from breakfast to brunch, daily dishes and sumptuous cakes. The sofas are good to crash on after the amount of walking, and there are plenty of books and magazines to read.

R. de São João da Praça 93-95   //   12pm-11pm – Monday   // 10am-11pm – Tuesday-Saturday   //   Pois Café

 

Cruzes Credo | Photo credit: inthemoodforlife.one

Cruzes Credo

 

A delightful, unpretentious café that offers helpful service and selection of food to spare. It’s calm and has a vintage feel, extending to a great outdoor dining space, just next to the cathedral and a row of orange trees.

R, Cruzes da Sé 29   //   12pm-12am – Daily

 

Medrosa d’Alfama

Medrosa d’Alfama

 

Right at the heart of Alfama, this place gives a balance of excellent food and relaxed dining experience, especially outside where a handful of tables are set in a pretty square. Often music is played here, elevating the charm factor.

Largo São Rafael 6 //   1pm-12am – Wednesday-Monday   //   Closed Tuesdays   //   Medrosa d’Alfama

 

Agulha no Palheiro | Photo credit: paradeiros.com

Agulha no Palheiro

 

This in unassuming spot near the Museu Militar has no sign outside, but it’s worth going for the food alone. It has a laidback vibe and vintage furniture, and since it’s small, it’s almost always full so book in advance. Their dishes-for-sharing are dribble-worthy.

R. Jardim do Tabaco 3   //   7pm-12am – Wednesday-Sunday   //  Closed Monday & Tuesday   //   Agulha no Palheiro

 

Prado Restaurante | Photo credit: Janz Anton-Iago

Prado

 

A stylish affair at Sé neighbourhood. One of the newest and hottest restaurants in the city. It’s tastefully decorated, as well as offering a tastefully curated menu, with the acclaimed chef António Galapito overseeing the kitchen. Enjoy small plates packed with flavours, often cooked with fresh, seasonal ingredients.

Tv. Pedras Negras 2  //   12am-3.30pm, 7pm-11pm – Wednesday to Saturday   //  12pm-5pm – Sunday  //   Closed Monday & Tuesday  //  pradorestaurante.com

 

 

 

Shopping

Benamor 1925 | Photo credit: observador.pt

Benamôr 1925

 

A historic Lisbon brand that makes cosmetics and toiletries, featuring an Art Deco feel to its product design and space. From face creams to soaps to gels and toothpaste, this is an artisan beauty brand that has been sensitively looking after Portuguese skin since the early 20th century.

Rua dos Bacalhoeiros 20A  //   10am-9pm – Monday-Saturday   // 12pm-8pm – Sunday   //   Benamôr 1925

 

Prado Mercearia | Photo credit: timeout.pt

Prado Mercearia

 

A beautiful designed and organised grocery store, or mercearia, selling local products to both Lisboetas and tourists alike. It’s perhaps the most stylish grocery store you’ll ever step into in Lisbon, so take your time and look through the variety of offers they have inside. You can have a quiet time with a bica, or espresso, whilst looking out the window.

R. Pedras Negras 35   //   10am-8pm – Monday   //  10am-12pm – Tuesday-Saturday   //   Closed Tuesday   //   Prado Mercearia

 

 

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