Sea, Sun & Sunsets – a guide to Lisbon’s beaches

By Mandy de Azevedo Coutinho

If you are visiting in the summer, or even spring or autumn, you may be tempted to have a city-and-beach holiday – Lisbon coast beaches are blessed with fine golden sand swept clean by Atlantic tides even if a little colder than the Mediterranean!

Cascais

The easiest and most picturesque way to get to the beaches near the Portuguese capital, is to get a train from Cais do Sodré Station in the city centre to Cascais on the west coast (26 kms away). This stretch of riverside ending where the river Tagus means the ocean is also known as the LINHA DE CASCAIS – the convenient starting point of Cais do Sodré is also linked by Metro, a number of bus routes and it’s only five minutes’ walk from the Praça do Comércio. Trains run daily, depart on a regular basis and take no more than ½ hour to reach their final destination, but there are quite a few rather charming beaches worth stopping at along the way, including:

Praia de Carcavelos

A very popular beach, CARCAVELOS has a huge fortification called Forte de São Julião da Barra to the east side of beach, used to protect the Tagus’ entrance from enemy ships once upon a time. As well as being  swim friendly,  it features several beginner surf schools, beach soccer and several surfer style bars and hangouts, making it especially popular with teens and twenty-something’s.  Carcavelos beach is located approximately 600 meters south of the train station.

Estoril Praia do Tamariz

PRAIA DO TAMARIZ is situated at ESTORIL just before you get to Cascais along the “paredão” – a scenic pedestrian walkway that runs along the seaside and is lined with cafes, restaurants and bars, as well as featuring public benches and exercise stations, showers and public wc’s. Walkers exercise along this seaside walkway at all times of the year and it is also illuminated at night, so a day at the beach day can easily stretch into an evening out. The beach here is very cosmopolitan and popular with tourists and locals alike in the summer, overlooked by palatial homes and high-end hotels as well as being located near the Casino do Estoril – the Linha de Cascais was colonised by Europe’s exiled royalty during the first half of the 20th Century and elegant Estoril, became one of the world’s chicest addresses during the inter-war years!

Estoril Sea Rock Pool

There is also an ancient and still used, tidal rock and sea water swimming pool at Estoril.

At the end of the rail line is CASCAIS, an old fishing village turned into holiday resort with an international marina well worth exploring by foot (or bicycle or Segway as per previous post). Tucked between the main square and the Atlantic Ocean, the tiny PRAIA DO PESCADOR or RIBEIRA is not considered good for swimming as it is still actively used by fishermen. But continue walking through the central square heading southeast through Cascais and you will pass PRAIA DA RAINHA, a minuscule pocket of sand sitting between rocky cliffs and multi-million dollar mansions. Then walking on a little further east,  you will come to PRAIA DA CONCEIÇÃO – this  much wider strip of golden sand is the most popular of Cascais beaches and where the “paredão” walkway also starts. The beach has good facilities including some beach wear shops and restaurants, making it the perfect place to spend a day lying in the sun, eating, and people watching.

All of the above mentioned can also be reached by driving along the “Marginal” road that links Lisbon to Cascais but if you have hired a car, you can avoid these smaller and therefore more crowded Linha de Cascais beaches, and go a little further out of the city:

Praia do Guincho Sunset

At times somewhat windswept but nevertheless stunning, GUINCHO (between Cascais   and Sintra) also has strong waves, making it perfect for surfing sports but not so great for swimming. Windsurfing, kite surfing and surfing types will love it however, and the sunsets from this wild coast are spectacular! There are few friendly beach bars serving food and beverages.

Praia do Guincho – getting there

GETTING THERE: Guincho is located 5 km away from Cascais station by bus.  Alternatively drive there from Lisbon along the A5 motorway, exiting at Cascais, following directions to Birre and then Guincho. After passing the village of Areia and a campsite on your left, you will see the coast in front of you. Turn left onto the coast road and park near Muxacho hotel and restaurant; or turn right and continue uphill for another 500 metres or so, turning left onto a dirt road signed posted Praia do Abano, which will take you to the Praia do Guincho car park and the main access to the more sheltered area of Guincho and a great beach restaurant.  Car parks in this area are charged.

Praia da Adraga

Considered among the most beautiful beaches in Europe, PRAIA DA ADRAGA, close to Sintra and 15kms north of Guincho is truly a nature lover’s beach – it is far from the maddening crowd and its secluded behind tall cliffs, with strong breaking waves and very clear blue water!

GETTING THERE: A car is essential and a map desirable! Drive there from Lisbon along the A5 motorway, exiting at Malveira da Serra, then follow the N9 road north passing Aldeia do Juso; and then the N247 passing Azoia, Ulgueira and Almoçagene. The beach is sign posted from here onwards.

COSTA DA CAPARICA immediately south of the river Tagus , is essentially a 30 km long stretch of sand but some patches can get crowded at weekends, with traffic jams to and from Lisbon making access  difficult. My trick is to leave Lisbon before noon (the Portuguese are late risers) and to return after watching the sunset!

Caparica Train

Caparica Fishermen

Although a continuous beach, Caparica is subdivided into different areas, offering something for everyone, from family restaurants and small cafes, to more club like beach bars with live music and summer parties galore hosted late into the night. At the end of the afternoon local fishermen sell the excess fish catch on the beach. Surrounded by dunes, my favourite spots in Caparica are surrounded by dunes and offer a little extra – PRAIA DO CASTELO has a small beach hut and blaring music more popular with the young-at-heart and surfers type; whilst PRAIA DA MORENA is more popular with families, with sun loungers/shade for hire and quite a sophisticated restaurant specializing in fresh fish and a delicious white wine sangria!

GETTING THERE: Buses depart from Lisbon’s Praça de Espanha bus terminal to Caparica town, only a  5-minute walk from the start of this long stretch of beach. In the summer season, a little open-air train connects Caparica to the various beach spots along the coast – ring the bell to stop at the beach of your choice (stops are numbered). If you are driving there yourself, cross the river Tagus on the Ponte 25 Abril and take the first exit to Costa da Caparica. As you approach Caparica town, turn left at the traffic lights and follow the signs to Praias and Fonte da Telha. Keep driving on along this road (similar to an African country with its shambolic urban planning) and you will soon see various beach signs to the right hand side including Praia do Castelo and then Praia da Morena, a bit further along.

Praia do Meco

PRAIA DO MECO, the nudist beach, is located 40 km south of Lisbon, adjacent to the Serra da Arrabida Natural park – it is secluded and one of Lisbon’s cleanest beaches, with high cliffs and lovely bay views.  It became popular in the 1970s as one of the first nudist beaches but this reputation continues today with evermore European nudists flocking to it, but there are also some traditional family beach sections. The beach is located by a traditional fishing village of the same name which is very popular with artists and media personalities, so it offers a good range of restaurants and bars, well worth hanging out at after the beach – plan a whole day way!

GETTING THERE:  A car is essential and a map desirable! Departing from Lisbon cross the river Tagus on the Ponte 25 Abril heading south towards Setubal, but exit the motorway where sign posted Sesimbra. Follow the N378 to Alfarim rather than Sesimbra; and from the village of Alfarim, follow directions to Praia do Meco.

Most beaches offer facilities such as beach bars, some water sports, shade and chairs for hire and a bathing attendant/life guard. Watch out for the flag system indicating bathing conditions:

RED for danger – do not bathe; YELLOW for be very careful; GREEN for safe, BLACK & WHITE for beach unattended.

Keep in mind too that all beaches in Portugal, however remote, get crowded in July & August!

Drinking Guide to Lisbon – from Vinho to Café Cheio

by Mandy de Azevedo Coutinho

Strolling around Lisbon you will find some little old fashioned kiosks (at Praça do Camões, Praça das Flores and Jardim do Príncipe Real amongst others), an ideal place to stop for refreshments.  These recently restored “quiosques” serve both sweet and savoury pastries, as well as coffee and quintessentially Portuguese cordial drinks such as “capilé” (extract of fern and caramel) and  “groselha” (red current).

There are two main brands of “cerveja” (beer) in Portugal – Sagres and Super Bock – and they range from a strong pale lager to dark beer and from stout to alcohol free. An “imperial” or “cerveja á pressão” is draft beer which gets served in a standard 300ml glass or as a “caneca” for 500ml; whilst “garrafa” is bottled beer.

As well as its music, “caipirinha” the national drink of Brazil has been adopted as one of Portugal favourites and it’s simply delicious in the summertime as it’s made with crushed ice, sugar cane rum and lime. But it is also super alcoholic, so be warned and drink more than one at your peril!

“Ginjinha”, a liqueur made by infusing sour cherry berries with “aguardente” (Portuguese fire water) and sugar, is served as a shot with a single cherry in the bottom of the cup. It’s a typical drink of Lisbon and “A Ginjinha do Rossio” – a tiny bar in the Rossio district in Lisbon –  is the city’s most famous “ginjinha” establishment. Locals and tourists alike queue up to sip this sweet, cheap and sticky concoction.  Older Portuguese men drink their shot in one gulp, and then suck on the cherry for awhile, before spitting the pit into the street!

WINE CULTURE IN PORTUGAL

Portugal is a wine drinking country, so “vinho” accompanies most meals. Table wines are generally of a good quality, reasonably priced and available as “tinto” (red);  “branco” (white); “rosé” ; “verde” (green); and “espumante” (semi-sparkling).

Celebrated as the oldest demarcated wine region in the world, the Douro (in the north of Portugal) is essentially famed for producing “Port” – a rich fortified wine unique to the region. Whist it’s mostly an after dinner drink, white port or “Porto Branco” is little known outside Portugal and is a popular and readily available aperitif – try it served like a gin & tonic but replace the gin for the port! In Lisbon you can taste Port wines within the very special environment of the “Solar do Vinho do Porto”, the port wine institute located inside an 18th century palace at #45 Rua de São Pedro de Alcantara.

There are also many delicious “Douro” red and white table wines ranging from lighter, Bordeaux style claret to rich Burgundian type wines aged in new oak.

From the lower Douro region, “Vinho Verde”  is a light, slightly sparkling white wine ideal for accompanying seafood dishes;  whilst a far cry from the world-famous sweet and fizzy “Mateus Rosé” exported with spectacular success throughout the world in the 60’s and 70’s,  Portugal now also produces some very drinkable dryer rosé wines.

Some of the country’s best known table wines come from the “Dão” demarcated region which produces full-bodied reds not unlike French burgundies, and a fresh white wine.

But mostly due to its quality/price ratio, “Alentejo” wines are the preferred choice for consumption within Portugal – the typical reds from this region are best described as fruity, rich and smooth; and the fruity, soft whites have a distinctive acidity.

“Moscatel” is a particularly aromatic grape variety, with flowery and citrus flavours, ripened to high sugar levels.  Two regions of Portugal are famous for this type of sweet fortified wines, drunk as either an aperitif or as a dessert wine: the Douro and the Peninsula of Setúbal, across the River Tagus from the city of Lisbon.

THE ART OF DRINKING COFFEE

Coffee drinkers are in for a treat, as this is freshly brewed even in the humblest of cafes and there are dozens of different varieties.  An “espresso” or “bica” (a small strong back coffee) is the most popular, and hen come the variations…

“Café cheio” or “bica cheia” is a full espresso cup.  An “italiano” is a small coffee with extra hot water, whilst a  “cortado” is a slightly shorter measure, so stronger and with less water. A double espresso is a “café duplo” or “bica dupla”. A “carioca” is a full small cup minus the strongest first two seconds of an espresso. For a long black, or a large black coffee, you would order an “abatanado”.

Going the milky way, an espresso with a drop of milk is a “café pingado”; whilst a “garoto” has more milk, about 50/50 coffee-to-milk ratio but still in a small cup; and a “galão” is served in a tall glass with approximately 3/4 milk. You can also choose a “galão escuro” (dark) or a “galão claro” (a lighter one). But ordering a “galão” after midday will  provoke funny looks unless you’re over 80, as it’s considered a breakfast drink – so you might want to save face by ordering a “meia de leite” (regular cup which is half milk) instead.

But these terms are only the most common ways of ordering coffee.  You will need to spend an extended time in Portugal to learn the others… Enjoy!

Eating Guide to Lisbon

by Mandy de Azevedo Coutinho

Portuguese gastronomy is generally unsophisticated but wholesome, reasonably priced and served in large quantities. Most dishes are prepared with olive oil and flavoured with aromatic herbs such as bay leaves and coriander, but there is also a certain influence from the ex-colonies, using spices like curry and chillies.

Soups are available in most restaurants and are mostly vegetable and potato based.  Fish and seafood are basic elements of Portuguese gastronomy but “bacalhau” (dried salted cod, prepared in a seemingly endless variety of ways once the salt has been washed off) is the national dish! A staple in the summer months are sardines, whose barbecuing smell is instantly associated with Portugal. In general, meat dishes are often very ordinary, but chicken, pork and game, somehow seem to be much tastier in Portugal – probably because it is mostly free-range. Rice and potatoes (boiled, roast or fried) plus a simple salad usually accompany meat or fish dishes, but green vegetables are rarely served! The Portuguese tend to eat their vegetables at home not when out dining, but do ask for them – they will be simply boiled but quite tasty.  It is worth pointing out for vegetarians, that chicken and ham is often not considered to be meat by the Portuguese and is sometimes added to a cheese omelettes or salads. Soups are also sometimes made with chicken or beef stock and served with lumps of meat. Cheese is mainly made from ewes and goats milk and restaurants often serve small fresh and dry cheeses with your bread and butter – cut a slice off and bite into it, they are delicious. Portuguese desserts and pastries are mostly egg based and very sweet, but restaurants also serve single pieces of fruit. Many of the rich and sticky sweet recipes originate from ancient convents. Pastries can be eaten at any time of the day with a coffee at any “pastelaria” (pastry shop).

WHILST IN NO WAY MEANING TO BE AN EXTENSIVE CULINARY GUIDE, HERE’S MY LIST OF FAVOURITE EATING EXPERIENCES AROUND LISBON:

A typical snack food of Portugal and very popular in the Lisbon area are “caracois” (snails), normally eaten between June and August. Portuguese snails have nothing to do with the French escargot and are quite small and simply boiled with garlic and herbs, but there is nothing better than an “imperial” (cold draft larger) and a plate of snails to snack on, at an outdoor cafe or bar, after a day at the beach. I dare you to try some too!

Alternatively go for the vegetarian version and try some “tremoços” (lupin beans). There is a certain art to eating these, first cut the outer skin with your teeth, then squeeze between two fingers and pop it into your mouth. They don’t have a strong flavour but they are salty and once you start to eat them it’s like popcorn – you just can’t stop!

Caldo Verde” (a thick cabbage and potato soup) is served with a slice of pork sausage and is another must have, especially as a winter warmer.

Eating “sardinhas” (sardines) in the summer is a national pastime but in Lisbon they are also the symbol of the June Santos Populares city festivities, as they are at their best at this time of the year.  In a restaurant they will be served with a salad and potatoes; on the streets they will be served in a bread roll.

Seafood reigns supreme in Lisbon, from simply boiled prawns to clams in a coriander and wine sauce, or “percebes” (gooseneck barnacles) – this true delicacy of Portugal is scraped from ocean rocks, looks like a carpenter’s thumb, feels like a rubber hose and tastes sweeter than lobster with a hint of the sea!  Considered one of the best seafood eateries in the city “Ramiro” at Avenida Almirante Reis #1 is always crowded with a rather loud and exciting atmosphere. However, you’ll never have to wait longer than 5-10 minutes for a table; the waiters are very friendly as well as being very good at making sure your beer never runs dry; and all at a good price.  And then there is the Cervejaria Trindade near the Chiado district - Portugal‘s oldest brewery has beautifully tiled walls as well as serving great seafood.  But if seafood if this is not your thing, either restaurant offers other dish alternatives, so go anyway, if just for the atmosphere!

Bifanas” (pork sandwiches) or “Prego no Pão” (steak sandwiches) are another Lisbon café staple – made with marinated and fried meat stuffed into a bread roll, they are delicious!

Frango no Churrasco” (barbecued chicken) with “Piri-Piri”  (added hot chili sauce) evolved from Portugal’s discoveries age, when sailors brought spices back from their travels. There are plenty of “churrascarias” around the city, selling freshly barbequed chicken take away at reasonable prices , as well as beverages, simple salads & puddings – ideal for when you have just come off the beach, and don’t feel like cooking.

In the Sintra Mountains near Lisbon, the “Queijada” (cheesecake) is the specialty. This small pie wrapped in pastry is made with fresh cheese and has a pronounced cinnamon flavor that reflects Portugal’s Moorish past. The recipe, which reportedly dates back to the 13th century, is a closely-guarded secret.

But  Lisbon’s most symbolic pastry is without doubt the “pastel de nata” (custard tart) or “pastel de Belém” , believed to have been created before the 18th century by Catholic monks at the  Mosteiro dos Jerónimos  in Belém on the Lisbon riverside. Although you can now find them in any of the city’s many cake shops, the Casa de Pastéis de Belem was the first place outside the monastery selling the creamy dessert after it closed in 1820s, hence the name.

This factory turned cafe still exists today, with dozens of people queuing daily to get them warm out of the oven, sprinkled with cinnamon or powdered sugar. But the stunning factory building alone, is lined with ancient blue and white tile and deserves a visit.

The unmistakable smell of “castanhas assadas” (roasted chestnuts) is a sign that autumn has arrived in Lisbon when chestnut roasting trolleys can be found in just about every street corner of the city –  €2 will get you a dozen roasted chestnuts wrapped in newspaper to eat on the go.

At Christmas time, trying some “bolo rei” (king’s cake) is a must.   The cake itself is round with a large hole in the centre, resembling a crown covered with crystallized and dried fruit. Also included is a”fava” (dried broad bean) and tradition dictates that whoever finds it will have to pay for next year’s cake. The original recipe was allegedly brought from Paris by the son of the owner of the Confeitaria Nacional bakery and it soon became a success. Founded in 1829, several generations later this charming patisserie is still owned by the same family and is located at Praça da Figueira in the city centre.

Guide to Getting Around Lisbon

TRAVELING FREE OF COST

Before you leave Lisbon airport, request a LISBOA CARD at the ASK ME LISBOA (Turismo de Lisboa) booth in the arrivals hall – it will entitle you to free rides on public transport (buses, trams and metro), as well as offer discounted rates for a wide range of museums and attractions.  Further details: www.visitlisboa.com/LisboaCard_UK.aspx

Alternatively, you will be able to obtain a 7 COLINAS, VIVA VIAGEM or a LISBOA VIVA CARD at newsagents/metro stations, a top-up system that gives you the option of choosing from a single ticket, a day pass or a larger credit amount (Zapping) that gets used as required. Using one of these travel cards is cheaper than paying for individual tickets, although you initially also have to pay for the card too, which is then valid for 1 year. When using suburban trains, your tickets are charged onto a similar card but as you cannot have more than one type of ticket on a card, you will need at least two separate cards, one for zapping (regular bus, tram and metro use), the other for suburban travel. Further details: www.carris.pt

FROM THE AIRPORT TO THE CITY CENTRE

Lisbon airport is approximately 20 minutes away from the city centre and our recommendation is to simply take a TAXI. Taxis are much cheaper in Lisbon than other European cities and there are always plenty of taxis waiting at the airport. But our advice is to not take the ones outside the arrivals area, as they might have been waiting for clients a long time and could try to charge you more to make up for it. Instead, go to the departures area of the airport, where there are also taxis just outside the building. Luggage and night or weekend journeys carry a small surcharge, but the journey into the city centre will cost you around €15. Do not pay more than it shows on the meter!

Several CARRISTUR AEROBUS services travel between the airport and Lisbon city centre and main transport hubs such as the Oriente train station, Praça do Comercio or Cais do Sodré (all of these areas also have metro stations). The €3.50 ticket can be purchased on board and used for 24 hours on other buses; children 4-10 years old travel free.

The AEROBUS LINE 1 route connects Lisbon Airport to the city centre, stopping at Entrecampos, Campo Pequeno, Avenida da Republica, Sadalnha, Picoas, Fontes Pereira de Melo, Marquês de Pombal, Avenida da Liberdade, Restauradores, Rossio, Praça do Comercio and Cais do Sodré. Departures from the airport run between 07:00-23:00 and departures from Cais do Sodré run between 07:45-22:30 (every 20 minutes during the day/every 30 minutes after 21:00).

The AEROBUS LINE 2 service runs between Lisbon Airport and the Oriente train station at Parque das Nações, on the east of the city. Departures from the airport run between 08:50 -21:50 and departures from Oriente run between 07:00-22:00 (every 30 minutes).

The AEROBUS LINE 3 route connects Lisbon Airport to the metro station/bus terminal (buses to the whole country) of Sete Rios stopping at Entrecampos, Sete Rios, Praça de Espanha and Avenida José Malhoa. Departures from the airport run between 07:40 -22:10 and departures from Avenida José Malhoa run between 08:15-21:15 (every 30 minutes).

OTHER BUSES

The local CARRIS BUS SERVICES also provides commuter buses between the airport and downtown such as #44, #45 and #83. As for exploring Lisbon generally, here are some useful bus routes:

#727 – Passes by Marquês de Pombal Square and goes all the way to Belem, via Estrela and Lapa.

#37 – From Figueira Square to Saint George’s Castle via Alfama, if you don’t want to climb up to the castle. But walk back down to the centre, stopping at the viewpoints along the way.

#44 & #745 – From the airport via Saldanha, Avenida da Liberdade, to downtown.

METRO

Lisbon’s metro system is modern, efficient and the quickest way to travel around the capital. It runs from 06:30 – 01:00, and many of its stations are decorated with contemporary art, making it a tourist attraction in itself. There are four lines, conveniently colour coded: blue, yellow, green and red. The green line connects the tourist areas around Baixa and Cais do Sodré (also the train station to Cascais). The red line ends at Oriente/Parque da Nações (Expo Park) and is due soon to be extended to the airport. The older yellow and blue lines follow Lisbon’s grand avenues. While metro announcements are made only in Portuguese, signs and ticketing machines are generally bilingual in Portuguese and English. Further details: www.metrolisboa.pt

TRAMS #28 AND #25

Lisbon is a hilly city and cobblestone streets abound, thus “electricos” (trams) and “ascensores” (funiculars) help to get people around, especially up and down hills!  They are an indisputable pictorial part of the city, and you can see ancient streetcars as well as modern ones, making the city so visually interesting.

But it is the vintage yellow ELECTRICO 28 that offers the most interesting route crossing the city centre, going through some of the oldest quarters and many tourist attractions. Starting in front of the Cemitério dos Prazeres (Pleasure Cemetery) and passing between the Jardim and the Basilica da Estrela (romantic gardens and one of the city’s oldest churches), you will go downhill on the Calçada da Estrela past the parliament building of São Bento, toward the Praça do Camões and Bairro Alto (an area of trendy shops and great night life). Then it’s downhill again through the Chiado and Baixa shopping districts – worth a stop to admire the city’s majestic riverside square of Praça do Comercio. When you start going uphill, you will pass the Igreja de Santo António  (church of Lisbon’s patron saint) and the Sé (Lisbon’s main cathedral) on the way to the Castelo de São Jorge (another recommended stop). After strolling around this 16th century castle, we suggest relaxing with a beverage at a local café and admiring the views at Miradouro das Portas do Sol, a panoramic viewpoint. A bit farther up and just behind the Monastery of São Vicente de Fora, the Feira da Ladra is an open air flea market that runs from early morning till midafternoon on Tuesdays and Saturdays, making for great browsing – don’t be shy to join the locals and haggle for a bargain! Back on the tram you will go past Graça (another quaint old residential area of Lisbon) and then start going downhill again to Martin Moniz, the last stop near the Rossio square. This service runs every 7 minutes (although it often runs late due to route obstructions like badly parked cars), early till approximately 22:00 daily.

Another charming route is provided by the ELECTRICO 25, which runs between the Cemitério dos Prazeres, via de Jardim/Basilica da Estrela to  Rua da Alfândega in the Cais do Sodré district, past numerous embassies in the Estrela/Lapa district, an area which is otherwise off the tourist track.  This service runs approximately every 10 minutes, day hours and weekdays only.

THREE FUNICULARS AND AN ELEVATOR

Lisbon has three working “ascensores” (funiculars) and one street elevator which allows its citizens and visitors to move to and from the hilly districts more easily. All are operated by Carris, the city of Lisbon’s main transport network. The 3 funiculars date back to the 1800s and were originally operated by a water counter-weight system, but are now electrified. Sadly, many of these cars get regularly defaced by graffiti.

The ASCENSOR DA BICA is the only stepped street funicular in the city, climbing the Rua da Bica for 245 metres from the Rua de São Paulo to Largo de Calharis, thus connecting the Santos and  Bairro Alto quarters. Its average gradient is 20% but is much steeper at the lower end. From Rua de São Paulo, the funicular is concealed by a building but this is clearly lettered ‘Ascensor da Bica’. It runs between 07:00-21:00 daily except Sundays and national holidays, when the opening time is 09:00. Tram #28 runs past the top end and tram #25 passes the bottom end of the Bica route.

The ASCENSOR DA GLORIA has an average gradient of 18% and its operating hours are approximately 07:00-00:55 daily. This is the busiest funicular in Lisbon as it is also the most accessible for visitors, since it lies next door to the main tourist information office in the Palácio Foz, on the west side of the Avenida da Liberdade, connecting the Restauradores (square) with the Bairro Alto district. Excellent views of the city and castle are to be had from the gardens which lie immediately to the right of the top of the route (São Pedro de Alcantara).

The ASCENSOR DA LAVRA runs from Rua da Anunciada on the eastern side of the Avenida da Liberdade (opposite side of the avenue to the Gloria Funicular) at a 25% gradient for 180 metres to Rua Câmara Pestana. The service operates the same hours as the Bica facility (see above).

Although planned for local residents to connect between the lower streets of the Baixa district (located just off Rua do Ouro) with the higher level at Largo do Carmo (square), the ELEVADOR DE SANTA JUSTA (elevator) also provides a unique view of the city from its top terraced level. This lattice work wrought iron structure was designed by Raul Mesnier de Ponsard, an engineer born in Porto to French parents and an apprentice of Gustave Eiffel, who returned to Lisbon with grand design ideas. The elevator was inaugurated in 1902 and you can ride on it daily between 07:00-22:00 in the winter, and till 23:00 in the summer. The sightseeing platform is open from 08:30-20:30 daily.

EXPLORING LISBON BY GO CAR

Take to the streets of Lisbon in a talking yellow GO CAR.  This GPS-guided tour takes you to all the best sites and tells stories that bring this unique city to life. It’s a local on wheels and you can go where the tour buses can’t. Best of all, the adventure happens at your own pace (you can stop for photos, take detours, grab a coffee or break for lunch) and you’ll actually be able to park! Further details: www.gocartours.pt

LISBON’S SURROUNDINGS – CASCAIS AND SINTRA

The CAIS DO SODRÉ to CASCAIS RAILWAY LINE (26 km), provides a quick escape from city life to the beaches of Estoril or Cascais to the west, where the River Tagus meets the ocean; with excellent views along the way including the Tagus and the historical sights of Belém. Its convenient starting point at Cais do Sodré, also linked by metro (green line) and a number of bus routes, is only five minutes’ walk from the Praça do Comércio.

Once in Cascais, why not pick up a free bike from BICLAS – BICYCLES OF CASCAIS? There are  3 booths where you can pick one up from, using your passport or ID: one by the train station, one in front of the citadel and another near Casa da Guia along the coastal road. The municipality of Cascais lends bikes free of cost as part of an initiative to get people to use bicycles rather than cars. From the village you can cycle to beautiful Guincho Beach, past Boca do Inferno and Senhora da Guia (on a specially designated cycle path) – this stunning route runs alongside the sea and is ideal for morning or evening bike rides.

Hiring a SEGWAY is another fun way to explore the village of Cascais and enjoy the very scenic coastal road to Senhora da Guia and Guincho beach. They are equipped with a GPS to guide you around local places of interest, including monuments, squares and beaches. Further details: www.exploracaminhos.pt

The beautiful neo-Manueline (a Portuguese architecture art-form) of Rossio Station is located near the Rossio and Restauradores (squares) in central Lisbon and is a must-see sight of the city! It is also the station to use for the ROSSIO TO SINTRA RAILWAIL LINE, taking you to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Sintra within 45 minutes. Described by Lord Byron as “this glorious Eden”, the mountain range of Sintra is renowned for its outstanding natural beauty, romantic palaces and castles, and well worth the visit!

Trains to Cascais and Sintra are inexpensive (free if you use a Lisboa Card) and run by Refer. Further details: http://www.refer.pt/en/

 A WORD ON SAFETY

As with all public transport in all busy cities, be aware of your surroundings and don’t offer would-be thieves the opportunity to remove items from your belongings, especially when trams, buses or trains are full. And whilst the safety level of travelling on sub-urban trains or the metro is no worse than any other transport system in Lisbon, stick to the central carriages when travelling at night.

Things I love about summer in Lisbon

by Mandy de Azevedo Coutinho

1.  The light

Anyone arriving in Lisbon for the first time is always surprised by the singular crystalline quality of the city’s light.  Similar to Paris, the capital of Portugal has many white buildings, but it also benefits from a silvery light reflecting off the Tagus River just like Venice and its lagoon. Particularly in the summer, and from dawn to dusk, Lisbon has a very special aura.

2.  Sunsets on the riverside

By Ricardo Liberato (Sunset behind Lisbon bridge Uploaded by tm) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

So with all the shimmers reflecting off the river, it is hardly surprising that I love sunsets by the riverside. There are many places to choose from, starting east of the city at Parque das Nações, to Cais do Sodré in the centre, or anywhere else along the riverside road that links Lisbon to the resort village of Cascais on the west, where the Tagus meets the ocean. The Marginal, as this road is called, passes some quaint and charming beaches along the way, that can also be reached by train from Cais do Sodré.

3.  Wearing flip-flops from May to October

Yes, the weather is that good! I have never quite mastered the art of wearing high heels and walking on the Portuguese “calçada” (cobblestone pavements) as glamorous Portuguese girls do; so a great Brazilian import comes to the rescue – it’s a huge hit in Portugal – “havaianas” (flip flops) come in an array of colours as well as in flat or platform styles, they can be found in shops all over the city and prices start at around €20 a pair, depending of course on the style one chooses.  Then I paint my toenails and I’m good to go!

4.  Free culture on Sundays

The Berardo Collection of Modern Art does not charge for entry and features a world-class collection of modern art. Many other museums in Lisbon are free on Sunday mornings including:

Chiado Museum - Portuguese contemporary art

City Museum - the history of the city

Ancient Art Museum - fascinating Oriental and European art and charming gardens over the river

Coach Museum - the world’s largest collection of royal coaches

The Tile Museum - an ancient art form in a lavish old convent

5.  June is a month-long party

As well as there being a wide choice of free and inexpensive live music concerts through the summer months, June in Lisbon is a month-long party! Throughout the month you’ll be able to participate in the annual “Festas de Lisboa” (Lisbon’s festivities) which involves much eating, drinking and dancing in just about every corner of the city’s historic neighbourhoods. It’s as if Lisbon becomes one big village with the main event being on the eve of the 13th June, Santo Antonio’s day (patron saint of Lisbon).  There is a yearly competition for the best sardine design (the symbol for these celebrations) with the winning entry becoming the official logo and Lisbon is then decorated accordingly.

6.  July Tall Ships 

The Tall Ship Races (promoting sailing for youngsters around the world) gather about 100 Tall Ships and a crew of more than 3,000 youngsters from every corner of the globe. In 1956, Lisbon welcomed the first edition these races and the Tall Ships will be back again in 2012, due to be docked between Santa Apolonia and Terreiro do Paço (Lisbon’s riverside) between 19-22 July for all to view, including the beautiful “Sagres”, a Portuguese tall ship built in 1937.

7.  August is OH so quiet!

Most locals go on vacation in August (many heading south to Algarve), so I do the opposite and stay in the city. And what do I do when I get hot under the collar? I spend a day at the beach or escape from the heat to the refreshing hills of Sintra to explore some its fairytale palaces – beaches and hills are both located within a short drive or train ride (20-30 minutes) from the city centre. Park life being another essential part of summer in the city, I also very much enjoy sitting under a shady tree, reading a book or listening to some music. Even better is an evening picnic with friends (tablecloth, glasses and tea lights included), as parks are open till late.

8.  Great value for money

Where else in Europe can you spend the summer with plenty of sun and nearby beaches, music and culture, a UNESCO World Heritage Site (Sintra) at your doorstep, plus all the urban attractions of a capital city without spending a fortune and without travelling huge distances?

Eating out in Lisbon is pretty reasonable too: my local “tasca” (cheap eating place) in the neighbourhood of Estrela serves lunch for just €6.50 (main course, drink and coffee) and it’s not the only one! A local delicacy in the summertime, and one of my favourite cheap and cheerful snacks as I come off the beach, is a nice cold “imperial” (draft beer) or two, with some “caracois” (snails) for approximately €15 shared between two.

But there are also world-class restaurants and Michelin-starred eateries to choose from, yet still at a fraction of the prices you pay in London, Paris or New York! You do the maths and work it out for yourself…