Saturday, 23 October 2010

Lisbon, Alfama, Portugal Running Route

Length: 5 km (3.1 miles), terrain hilly

Lisbon Running Routes:
Best Lisbon Running Routes: Overview
Park of Nations (Oriente) Ancient Alfama  
Elegant Lisbon Downtown  
Belem World Cultural Site  
Cool Bairro Alto
  

For more running routes, see the Route List

Lisbon is the only European city that I know that has an old town made of narrow alleyways running up and down a hillside, full of stairs, little plazas and life the way it was a hundred years ago: the Alfama. The neighborhood goes back at least to the Roman days. And although the streets are narrow, dark and rundown, I feel safe there. The Portugese might be poor, but they are honest and hard-working. The neighborhood has experienced an increase in tourism in recent years, but it's still a real, living neighborhood.
In the Alfama
And bordering the Alfama, on the same hill, are the stalwart cathedral (the Se) and the castle (Castelo de Sao Jorge). You can easily experience it all in one good jog, if you don't mind the climb. Even if you don't like hills, just walk the steep parts.

The Se
The Lisbon downtown, the Baixa, is situated in a valley between two hills, with the Bairro Alto to the south, and the Alfama to the north. So you can easily get to the Alfama from the city center. There is also a wonderful old streetcar line (the 12 and 28 lines) that goes right up the hill between the Alfama and the castle. The Alfama lies at the lowest part of the hillside, towards the river.
The streetcar line in the downtown
If you start at the Rossio plaza, jog down the Rua Augusta pedestrian street until you reach the intersection of Rua Conceicao, and turn left, following the streetcar line. You'll see the street rising up the hill ahead of you. Run uphill, pass the cathedral, till you get to the open viewpoint over the Alfama rooftops at the Miradouro de Santa Luzia. You can see the maze of alleyways winding through the neighborhood below you.

You can now go down the stairs, and wander up and down a few of the the alleyways to soak up the atmosphere: the clotheslines hanging overhead and the chirping canaries, the kids kicking soccer balls against the walls.

Then come back to the Miradouro, and cross the street, taking the side-street to the left of the decorative arts museum. There are signs guiding you up to the castelo. If you get there before the 6 p.m. closing time, you can buy a ticket and continue running in the wide-ranging castle compound.
View from the castelo
Otherwise, the little neighborhood in front of the castle gate is worth a little loop, running down Rua de Santa Cruz do Castelo.

From here, you head the same way back to the Miradouro, and follow the streetcar line back to the center (or buy a ticket and ride back, an experience similar to the San Francisco cable cars!).

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