After our adventures on the Portuguese rail to trails in Dão and Évora, we moved on to Lisbon. The bike adventures in Portugal weren’t over yet though. We found another trail, one that would get us to the Atlantic Ocean.
No cycling on Google Maps Portugal (as per 2023)
Unfortunately Google doesn’t show bike infra options in Portugal yet, but Open Street Map does. Lisbon has a number of urban bike lanes and tracks. Totally coincidentally, there was a separate bike lane running right across from our apartment, near Oriente station, clearly designed to get people to this large bus, train and subway station.
Bike share in Lisbon
There was also a bike share station right in front of our apartment. We could admire it from our living room on the second floor. The first day I scoffed that there was only one bike sitting there on average, but soon I learned that it was actually well balanced as the rack of 20-25 bike stands was never empty. It was clearly better monitored than I thought: the bike station was just simply larger than needed. A rack of ten would have been sufficient.
We looked into the bike share system, but couldn’t really figure out how it worked with our cell phones. Instead, most of our time in Lisbon was spent walking and visting sites. Looking on a map back in Ottawa before we left for Portugal, I had found it difficult to grasp the distances but once we were there, it turned out to all be very walkable. We walked from the tile museum (recommended! – not as nerdy as it sounds) to downtown Baixa and it was much shorter than I had expected. Lisbon is -despite being quite hilly- a very walkable city.
There are some cool Roman ruins underneath a bank building in the Lisbon Baixa downtown area and I highly recommend you take the tour. At some point in the nineties the Millennium BCP bank needed renovation work. While digging, they found Roman ruins. The bank decided to save the ruins and open it to the public. I can honestly say we found it very cool and we have seen quite a bit of ancient stuff by now. There is top notch A/V equipment and we had an awesome guide. Best of all, it’s free. More here or search for NARC – ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITE OF RUA DOS CORREEIROS- LISBON. Be aware though if you suffer from claustrophobia, you might find it a bit daunting being underground in confined spaces. It is really low and quite dark.
Brits on beer bikes
You’ll find a long cycling trail along the waterfront running along the bay, starting just north of Oriente. The route follows areas with harbour activities (container storage etc) and older warehouses. Closer to the famous bridge across the Tagus river, the path runs past a marina, a more touristy and park like area with pedestrian boulevards (and Brits on beer bikes).
Further west, you’ll be encountering e-scooters, passing the MAAT (a modern museum), the ferry terminal, the Padrão dos Descobrimentos monument, the Belem Lighthouse and the Torre de Belem. There is a bicycle rental place about 800 meters west of the bridge on the waterfront.
We met a friendly woman from Germany on a bike in front of the MAAT, who was biking along the Atlantic coast after she quit her job in Germany earlier that year. The plan was to bike further along the coast, then find her way to Spain and Italy. How wonderful! We offered to take a few photos of her with her camera and she gladly accepted.
Try to make a short detour to LXFactory, at the big bridge, advertised as an art centre in an old factory setting, but while we were there, it felt more like a street with cafes and a few artsy shops, car free though. We did this by foot and it was actually quite hard to figure out how to get there from the boulevard along the river to LXFactory.
As it was overrun by people, we decided we should come back another time. It is in the Alcantara neighbourhood at the northeast side of the large red bridge (the “25th of April” bridge). BTW, I always pronounced Alcantara with the emphasis on TA, but it is on ‘CAN’ as in Al-CAN-tara). Practise that out loud a few times.
We had heard of a nice pathway running along the coast from Cascais towards a beach on the Atlantic Ocean. To get there you could bike all the way from Lisbon, but we opted for a 25 minute milk run train ride from Santos station in Lisbon to Cascais. It didn’t look like there is separate cycling infrastructure to Cascais and it would be too far for us by bike anyway. You can travel on the same card as your metrocard. Earlier we had bought reloadable metro passes at the airport as soon as we arrived, which worked great.
As we expected, Cascais was way too touristy for our liking. We rented bikes at the train station in Cascais, literally inside the station at the start of the platforms (you can’t miss it) and off we went.
Cascais to Estoril
A quick 3 km detour on the boulevard to the neighbouring town of Estoril, where very old men with very tanned skin and very white hair walk shirtless on the boulevard, allowed us to get familiar with the bikes. Then via the walk-your-bike core of Cascais to get to the start of the pathway and all of a sudden we were cycling virtually alone along the coast on a red bidirectional pathway, just like in the Netherlands.
The pathway looks quite new but unfortunately runs along the north side of the road, so we had to cross the road several times to enjoy the shores and the lighthouse. I assume that was a cost thing. Running the pathway along the shore would have been nicer but it would have meant moving the entire road a few meters up, which was probably not worth the cost considering it is -at least when we were there- a very quiet road.
Farol do Cabo Raso
The views from the pathway are spectacular. We were slowly cycling towards the Atlantic Ocean and made a few stops along the way to admire the rocky coastline. Eventually the pathway turns north at Farol do Cabo Raso, the iconic lighthouse. After another 3 kilometers we arrived at the Praia do Quincho, the beach known for its surfing and windsurfing.
Duna da Cresmina
We turned inland, hit a short climb and then stopped for coffee at a tiny interpretation centre about the moving dunes and the efforts to stabilise the sand of the Duna da Cresmina. There is a small café with a deck with awesome views over the dunes and the Atlantic Ocean. You’ll also find a long boardwalk but part of it was closed for repair. Too bad.
We could have continued on the road inland and find our way back through the wealthy looking outskirts, but we preferred to take the same way back along the ocean and enjoy the vistas of the mouth of the Tagus river.
Back in Cascais
Back in Cascais, we dropped off our bikes at the station and hopped on the train back to Lisbon. We really enjoyed this trip. It was not only nice to be out of the city for a day, it is also just really nice to bike along the Atlantic Ocean. We had gorgeous weather, but it can be rough there too.
Had that been the case we would have stayed in town with galão and pastel de nata. Getting the travel bug? I wrote two more posts on cycling the Ecopista in Évora and the Ecopista de Dão respectively.