10 Lisbon Outdoor Sightseeing Activities for the Summer

It’s now June which means that from now until October, Lisbon will be sunny about 90% of the time. When visiting the city at this time, touring museums feels less appealing and you’ll likely be drawn to the great outdoors. Lisbon is perfect for that, with a marvelous setting: It has a river that many mistaken for the ocean, hills creating an amphitheater-like landscape best admired from the top of its castle, and terraces scattered around offering panoramic vistas. In between you’ll discover charming gardens, monuments offering views, and the approaching breeze of the Atlantic. Here are 10 ideas for what to do in the open air this summer in Lisbon:

Principe Real, Lisbon

1. RELAX IN PRINCIPE REAL’S GARDENS
The Principe Real neighborhood is one of Lisbon’s most charming residential areas, and its main square has just reopened last week after months of renovation. That square is actually a garden and you can sit under a gigantic “umbrella tree,” try one of the city’s traditional drinks at a kiosk café, and admire the architectural details of the colorful buildings of the surroundings. Go down the hill and you reach Praça das Flores, perhaps Lisbon’s most romantic corner. It’s never mentioned in guidebooks, but this small, shaded square has a couple of the city’s most inviting cafés with outdoor tables, including the new “Novamesa Snack Bar,” an extention of the recent Nova Mesa restaurant. Back up the hill is the enchanting Botanical Garden.

Avenida da Liberdade, Lisbon

2. STROLL DOWN THE BOULEVARD
Avenida da Liberdade is Lisbon’s mile-long “Champs Elysées,” a boulevard know for its luxury shops, theaters, and cafés. A new Prada store is opening this week in one of its most beautiful buildings, and you can do some window-shopping as you go down the avenue admiring the city’s trademark mosaic pavements and stop to take a look at the many scattered statues, all the way to the city’s biggest park. Edward VII Park goes up a hill and once you reach the top you’re rewarded with a postcard-view of the city.

Praca do Comercio, Lisbon

3. STAND IN THE RENOVATED RIVERFRONT COMÉRCIO SQUARE
As GoLisbon reported, Lisbon’s biggest and most monumental square has just been renovated. The planned cafés will only be open in September or October, but you can sit by the river, at Cais das Colunas, a quayside area with two large columns marking the entrance to the city from the Tagus. From here you can admire the square and its triumphal arch, and sit as you watch the ferries cross the river, and see the landmark 25 de Abril Bridge and the Monument to Christ in the distance.

Panteao Nacional, Lisboa

4. CATCH SOME SUN FROM THE ROOFTOPS OF ALFAMA’S MAIN MONUMENTS
The National Pantheon and St. Vincent’s Monastery are both located in Alfama just steps from each other, and besides both being painted in shining white, they both offer rooftop terraces for city views. You can stop to check your guidebook or simply stay admiring the city as you work on your tan.

Portas do Sol, Lisbon

5. GO MIRADOURO-HOPPING IN ALFAMA
Alfama is Lisbon’s most picturesque neighborhood and it’s always best enjoyed outdoors. It forces even the laziest walkers to go up and down its cobbled streets, and the reward are its terrace viewpoints. Three of the most beautiful viewpoints in the city are located within walking distance from each other, and they allow you to do some sightseeing as you enjoy your sunny summer days. Start in Miradouro de Santa Luzia, go up to Miradouro das Portas do Sol (stop for a drink at its fantastic terrace café), and continue up the hill to Miradouro da Graça where you won’t be able to put your camera down.

Belém, Lisbon

6. STAND BY THE LAUNCH PAD OF THE DISCOVERIES
Florida’s Cape Canaveral is the launch pad for the exploration of space today, but five centuries ago the launch pad for the exploration of planet Earth was Lisbon’s Belém district. That’s where you’ll find the city’s three biggest landmarks, the Discoveries Monument, the Belém Tower, and Jerónimos Monastery. Starting at the monastery, walk west along the waterfront to admire the architecture and stone work of the other two monuments, and picture Vasco da Gama departing on his way to discovering the maritime route to the East or Pedro Alvares Cabral on his way to discoverig South America.

Parque das Nações, Lisbon

7. GO BACK TO THE FUTURE IN PARQUE DAS NAÇÕES
Lisbon’s waterfront is not just about the voyages of the past. At the former site of 1998’s World Fair you now find a modern residential and business district with futuristic architecture. You may see all of it from a bird’s-eye perspective on a cable car ride, or walking along the riverfront from one of the world’s biggest aquariums all the way to a Dubai-like tower, Torre Vasco da Gama. In between you’ll see lawns and gardens inviting you for a picnic.

8. CRUISE DOWN THE TAGUS
With so many walks by the river you’ll probably end up wishing you were in it. You may do that by taking a sightseeing cruise which departs every afternoon from the center of the city and goes all the way to Belém and Parque das Nações. Be sure to take your camera, especially when you pass under 25 de Abril Bridge and see Vasco da Gama Bridge at the end of the journey. Get complete cruise details here: Tagus River Cruise

9. GO ON A PHOTOGRAPHY WALKING TOUR
By now you probably already know that Lisbon is one of Europe’s most picturesque cities which is why it’s so loved by photographers. Even if you have very little talent and don’t aspire to become one, you’ll enjoy a walking tour where photographing the city is the theme. Your attention will be guided to all the details that make Lisbon so special, from the tiled façaded to the cobbled mosaics, to the surprising views along the way.
Complete tour details here: Lisbon Photography Walking Tour

Estoril

10. TAKE THE CASCAIS-ESTORIL BOARDWALK
Lisbon may have a Mediterranean look and feel, but this is actually a very Atlantic city. Its river opens to the ocean from the Belém district to the seaside towns of Cascais and Estoril. Known as “the Portuguese Riviera,” these are two chic resorts which are connected by a beachfront boardwalk. You’ll find pretty villas, marinas, small coves, and Europe’s largest casino but on a sunny day nothing will make you leave the boardwalk with occasional stops for a drink at a beachfront café or some sunbathing on the sand.

New Year’s Celebrations in Lisbon (They’re Free!)

New Year's Eve in LisbonLisbon’s biggest New Year’s Eve party usually takes place in Praça do Comércio, the large square that opens to the river. That’s where most go to see the fireworks at midnight, and stay for the music concerts. This year however, the party must be moved elsewhere, as that square is undergoing renovation until at least next April. So the chosen location was Jardim Vieira Portuense, the lawns by Jerónimos Monastery in the Belém district. Before the fireworks at midnight there will be a Beatles tribute concert (don’t ask), while in the first minutes of 2010 there will be a concert by Xutos & Pontapés which is one of Portugal’s biggest rock bands.
On the opposite side of the city, in the Eastern district of Parque das Nações there will also be a fireworks show, this time cascading down Vasco da Gama Tower. As GoLisbon previously told you about, that tower is being turned into a hotel, but despite all the works around it, it will still be able to continue its annual fireworks tradition for the sixth consecutive year.
If you’re not recovering from a champagne hangover on January 1st, head to the city’s cathedral in the afternoon. A free concert by the New Zealand Choir & Orchestra will take place at 5PM, with 50 performers who have offered concerts at most of the great cathedrals of the world since their first international tour in 1990 (check out their website at www.cathedral.org.nz).

Lisbon’s Metro Has Expanded

Lisbon MetroLisbon’s Metro has expanded. Its four lines are now all connected, allowing better access to the city’s eastern districts. Until last week you often had to hop off and on at a couple of stations in order to connect to the red line that leads to Parque das Nações, but now that red line also connects with the yellow and blue lines at stations uptown. It is therefore much faster and easier to go from the Gulbenkian Museum to the Oceanarium for example, by getting on the train at the São Sebastião station around the corner from the museum, and ending at Oriente Station without having to reconnect to another line anywhere. We’ve updated the metro diagram on our Transport section, and it is a good idea to become familiar with it before you arrive in Lisbon, as it saves you some time in between sightseeing, allowing you to know exactly how you can reach your favorite attractions.

Lisbon’s Future Museum of the Discoveries

Pavilhao de Portugal, Lisbon

Of the many striking structures built for Lisbon’s World Fair in 1998, the Portugal Pavillion is perhaps the one that remains the most talked about today. It was designed by Pritzker Award-winning architect Siza Vieira, and has a huge undulating roof that instantly catches the eye of everyone passing by. Yet it remains surprisingly empty inside, although there have been numerous ideas about what to do with it over the past decade. Many of those ideas were for museums, but they have never gone beyond the planning stages. That is until now, with the government announcing it is turning it into a contemporary museum relating to the world discoveries. The tentative name is the Museum of Voyages, and it is hoped to be able to open its doors in 2011.
The idea is for it to mix culture and science, showcasing pieces that are currently found in different museums around the country, while also incorporating multimedia displays. It won’t therefore be a traditional museum, but essentially a cultural center that will also include temporary attractions. A restaurant is also being planned, although everything that has been reported is still in the pre-planning stage, and the official project will only be revealed later this year.  Of course GoLisbon.com will tell you about it as soon as that happens.

Lisbon’s New Multi-Million Euro Marina

Lisbon marina

Lisbon has a couple of marinas along its riverfront, with the most central found under 25 de Abril Bridge in Docas de Santo Amaro, and the other next to the Discoveries Monument. Now there is a new one in the Parque das Nações district, opened last Saturday after a 14 million-euro investment. This is not exactly a new marina, since there had been one on this spot during Expo 98, but it closed soon after that and had been boat-free for eight years. It now has space for 602 boats, allowing visitors to do some sailing, jet-skiing, or some recreational fishing on the Tagus, and a special nautical club is being planned for water and boat fans to get together.
Overlooking the marina is an apartment building shaped like a ship, which also includes space for businesses. That is where you’ll find a couple of cafes where you can get a refreshing drink as you look out to the river and the boats.
If you have a boat and think this is a marina to check out, note that it is closed between 8:30PM and 8:30AM, and any activity between those hours requires a special permission from the staff a day before.

Lisbon marina