Even if you are not staying at Hello Lisbon Castelo Apartments, which is right close, a visit to Portas do Sol is a must if you want to understand this neighbourhood in your own terms. Alfama sits on what is perhaps the most fecund of Lisbon's hills in historical associations. The Largo das Portas do Sol, or Sun Gates Square, was named after the Porta do Sol da Cerca Velha (Sun Gate of the Old Fence) or Cerca Moura (Moorish Fence), one of the gates to a medieval complex of towers and thick walls, built at the time of an already declining Roman empire and later reinforced by the moors (hence its name of Moorish Fence) as a defence against plunder in the 3rd century AD.

The wall that defended Al-Ušbuna (Lisbon’s name under the Arab domain) is thought to have been approximately 1,250 meters long and 2 meters thick, encircling an area of about 16 hectares. The total area of Al-Ušbuna, at its apogee in the late 11th century, would thus be approximately 30 hectares, as besides the area enclosed within it walls, it also spanned two suburbs covering a total of 15 hectares. Al-Ušbuna is reckoned to have had 20,000 to 30,000 thousand inhabitants, which is comparable to the population of the great ports of Málaga and Almeria.

After this brief introduction to the history of Lisbon, we propose that you plunge into the Middle Ages as if you were entering a time machine.

We invite you to walk along these 1,250 meters of history - about 50 minutes - from Rua do Chão da Feira (1) (next to the Castle of São Jorge, where the fence links up to the Alcáçova Wall) to Rua do Milagre de Santo António. Along this route, 16 totems provide information about Cerca Velha, the medieval defensive system that lasted until the construction of the Fernandina wall (by King D. Fernando I) in the 14th century, to defend the city against the Castilian invaders.

Along these 1,250 metres we will find six gates and more than two dozen towers. In the second stop of our walk, at Pátio D. Fradique, we will come upon the longest visible stretch of the old wall.

Further ahead, at Largo das Portas do Sol (3), a remnant tower of the Cerca Velha is still visible within the façade of the old Azurara Palace. At Rua Norberto de Araújo (4), leaning against the rocky escarpment, stands the only still visible section of the Islamic era's wall.

Before walking by the São Pedro Tower (6), which was once used as a prison, a narrow window of the same name, and several doors opened in the wall in different periods, we come across another point that deserves a stop: this is the Porta de Alfama (the Alfama Gate).

The Casa dos Bicos archaeological centre (12) is another highlight in our pedestrian route. Casa dos Bicos, which hosts the Saramago Foundation (José Saramago won the Nobel prize in Literature in 1998), also exhibits objects of daily use from the 16th to 18th centuries, namely Roman remains such as tanks from a factory of fish preserves, and sections of the late-Roman and medieval walls.

When you enter the time machine, select “3rd century! Have a good trip!

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