AFAR Ambassador and Passion Passport founder Zach Houghton is just back from a whirlwind European adventure, engineered by Lufthansa. The airline made his experience seamless from one capital city to the next. Zach’s first dispatch focuses on photographing Lisbon’s Alfama district.
Whether you’re an aspiring Instagrammer or a seasoned professional behind the lens, the Alfama district offers up a treasure trove of opportunities to hone your craft. Its Moorish influences, sloping maze-like streets, and spectacular vistas lend themselves perfectly to visual capture.
I found there’s no shortage of photogenic subjects vying for your attention and that wandering is half the fun. But if you’re looking for inspiration to get those creative juices flowing, here’s my shoot list for Lisbon’s oldest quarter.
Start Your Morning at Portas do Sol
Wake up early, pack your camera, and lace up your walking shoes. You want to make it to Miradouro das Portas do Sol—an expansive balcony overlooking the Tagus River—and the neighboring Elevador de Santa Luzia for first light. You’ll be rewarded by arguably the most sweeping views of Lisbon at sunrise, a time when these sites are nearly deserted. Wander underneath the covered walkway, stop by the reflecting pool, and sit under the bougainvilleas of Igreja de Santa Luzia. Once you’ve finished, consider nearby Pois Café for your morning bica (espresso) or café.
The sloping streets and tight turns of the Alfama district are laced with streetcar tracks. In operation since 1873, these celebrated streetcars in vivid hues of yellow and red are the perfect focal point for any photograph. They stand out against the decaying tones of centuries-old buildings, and you can use a slower shutter speed to blur the movement of the streetcar both during the day and at night (just make sure to use a tripod or another steady item to balance your camera).
The Castelo de São Jorge was occupied by a whole cast of characters dating back to first-century Romans, who built the first fortification here. In keeping with its strategic position, the castle delivers a mesmerizing bird’s eye vantage point of Lisbon, including views of Rossio Square and the 25 de Abril Bridge. Time your visit to the late afternoon so that you can explore every nook and cranny and learn about the castle’s abundant history. Stick around for golden hour so that you can capture the light as it dances on the castle walls—and then watch the sun dip behind the horizon.
Owners Frederic and Maria Coustols lovingly oversaw renovations of the Palacio Bemonte, returning this monument (est. 1449) to glory. The result is a masterpiece said to be “mumbling beauty” in each of its storied corners. The 10-suite hotel combines ancient tapestries and thousands of Portuguese blue-and-white tiles with contemporary art and striking marble baths. Every piece of material used to restore it, as well as every piece of furniture inside of it, was produced in Portugal. After a sweet night’s sleep and some interior shots, wake up to breakfast with an inspiring view—and refuel for a new day of exploring.