In Lisbon’s Alfama district, the upwardly mobile residents take a tram to work. The district itself follows trails laid out by the Moors on a narrow 10-percent cobbled grade.
Alleyways are alive with the scent of barbeque and the sounds of a tightly knit community living in an overwhelming aura of history dating back to the the 12th century. A walk to Beco de Mexias will reveal the district’s last communal laundry.
But the No. 28 streetcar provides the most drama. On one of my journeys, an Australian fellow passenger suddenly lept up to chase a pickpocker who filched his passport from a shirt pocket! We never saw either of them again, but life went on.
From Santa Luzia you can see Lisbon’s port. When the sun’s rays slant just right, the water turns the color of golden wheat. Across the river stands Christo Rei, a statue of Christ patterned after the one in Rio de Janeiro.
A short uphill walk takes you to the panorama offered from Castle Sao Jorge. The best strategy, however, would be to remain with No. 28 to Chiado and Barrio Alto—where today’s cafe society congregates. I sent the tram on its rattling way from Praca (square) Luis Camoes, where black and white patterns in the cobblestones form a dizzying display of nonobjective art.
From the square I walked to the oldest coffeehouse in the city, Cafe de Brasilieria. In the ‘20s the nouveau hall was a gathering point for Lisbon’s intellectuals.