I am fortunate enough to have been many times to Lisbon over the years and I really love the city.
Having been there more than 50 times over the past 15 years I have gotten to know the city quite well and I thought I would tell you guys what is my favorite thing to do if I have a day off in Lisbon when I am there for work.
Rent a bike and go along the Tejo river.
I am a very keen cyclist and love urban cycling as well as long distance cycling.
Normally I stay away from bicycle rentals around the world cause the bikes are simply not good enough for me to enjoy riding them.
But in Lisbon it’s different:
You have a bicycle rental there called Bike Iberia that has some of the best rental bikes I have comes across anywhere on the globe.
They are often not very fancy looking as the company tried to avoid getting them stolen but they are of high quality and it’s the kinds bikes I am happy to cycle 100 kilometers per day on.
The company is located at Cais do Sodre which is perfect if you plan to cycle along the river which is what I like to do.
The city center of Lisbon is not really that bicycle friendly but along the River Tejo you have nice bicycle paths and it’s at the same time one of the most attractive parts of Lisbon with lot’s of sights.
Along the Tejo you have lot’s and lot’s of museums that has been build in recent years in a attempt to turn the banks of the Tejo River in to a nice recreational area.
There are museums of cars, soldiers, electricity, asian civilizations, portuguese tiles and a few dozen other things.
I personally like the maritime museum a lot.
The river bank is dotted with nice cafes and restaurants too and it is like that most of the way all the way to Cascais which is 32 kilometers from Cais do Sodre.
Belem is the place where Vasco da Gama set sails for India and this is a place you will soon hit when cycling down along the river on the bike path.
When the old explorer returned having found the sea passage around Africa to India he was rewarded by the king of Portugal with a giant monastery in Belem where he could live with his mates while they send other captains out to the new world who had better diplomatic skills than Vasco Da Game who was a great navigator but a diplomatic disaster who acted more like terrorist in the new world, killing many civilians along his path.
Vasco Da Gama also has his grave on the church floor at the monastery and so does the great portuguese writer Luis de Camoes who also traveled the world but spend more time having sex with foreigners than killing them.
I am not a religious person myself but I always like to pop by the church to see the final resting place of these two famous portuguese when I cycle by the home even if they were maybe not the most exemplary citizens of their country.
The name of the church and the monastery is Jeronimos by the way.
Across the road from Jeronimos you have the discoveries monument that honers the portuguese sailors who went out to explore the new world in the 15th and 16th century.
Personally I don’t think the monument is that pretty but the little square by it is very fascinating as the pavement has been turned in to a giant world map with the years written when Portugal discovered the many countries they did in The Americas, Africa and Asia.
A little further out you have the Belem Tower and a lesser known, but very nice, monument to Gago Countinho and Sacadura Cabral who were the two first two persons to cross the Southern Atlantic ocean by plane back in 1922.
After Belem you can continue all the way to Estoril and Cascais which I often do and you can even go as far as Guincho Beach where the opening scene of the James Bond movie “On her majesty’s secret service” was filmed.
Cascais is an upper class neighbourhood but it has retained it’s charm and is still also an active fishing village with a lovely little beach and a very nice social scene.
Be ware that some parts of the journey to Cascais has no bicycle lane but it’s still good to ride and I highly recommend it.
If you make it out to Cascais then take your lunch there before returning to Lisbon and if you feel like coffee and cake then make a stop at the world famous cake place called “Pasteis de Belem” next to the Jeronimos monastery.
Pasteis de Belem is probably the world biggest pastry shop with space for hundreds of people and even if it’s a very touristy place it still retains it’s original charm and it’s also very popular with the portuguese who come to try the famous cakes.
By the time you get back to Lisbon then you should head to Barrio Alto by foot from Cais Do Sodre.
This is just a few minutes walk up a steep hill and up there you have one of the oldest parts of Lisbon which has been taken over by the young people these days and is buzzing with nightlife 7 nights a week and the places has some excellent small restaurants too where you can stuff yourself with fish while drinking some nice portuguese wine before heading the roaring nightlife of Barrio Alto which is very much about small bars and clubs with various types of music.
The Lisbon night life generally reflects the cites very international and multi ethnic scene and that is super cool in my view.
After a day and night like that I am usually quite satisfied.