With its beautiful winding streets, hilly alleys and diverse cycle paths, Lisbon is not only a culturally-rich city to visit, it’s also an eco-friendly one.
Portugal’s capital, Lisbon, has been named European Green Capital for 2020, taking over from last year’s recipient, Nijmegen in the Netherlands. For the past few years, Lisbon has been taking impressive strides in lowering its CO2 emissions, reducing water and energy consumption and making urban sustainability a priority. Take in the miles of tiles, pick up a pastéis de nata and marvel at how history and modern cool come seamlessly together as one. As well as taking the train to Lisbon, here are some of the best ways to celebrate its well deserved status as European Green Capital.
Travel by tram
One of Lisbon’s most charming transport features is its network of trams. The historic yellow Remodelado trams glide through the streets, undaunted by hills, tight corners or cobblestone alleys. Tram 28 is the most popular route for tourists wanting to explore the steep streets of Lisbon’s historic Alfama district, but there are plenty of other, less packed and equally scenic tram rides. Take the E15 route, for example, to Jerónimos Monastery, the birthplace of Portugal’s famous pastéis de nata, or to LX Factory, the hip, repurposed industrial complex that has been turned into a hub of cool cafés and art spaces.
Cycle along the Tagus River
In 2017, Lisbon introduced a bike-sharing scheme which includes a large fleet of electric bicycles in order to encourage cycling, even in the city’s hillier neighbourhoods. Take the 7km route along the Tagus River connecting Cais do Sodré with Belém to see Lisbon’s iconic Torre (tower). For those wanting a longer journey, cycle out to Belém and catch the ferry (25 mins) across the Tagus River to the seaside town Trafaria. From there, take the 6km bike path to the beach of Costa da Caparica, part of a 24km sandy shoreline.
Lisbon is a green capital in all ways, with an abundance of parks and natural spaces. Parque Eduardo VII is known for its estufas, or greenhouses bursting with tropical plants and cacti of all sorts. Culture and nature go hand in hand in the Gulbenkian Gardens, where beautiful botanics sit alongside the Centre of Modern Art. Or to see Lisbon’s green heart, head over to the Parque Florestral de Montsanto.
To truly get the most out of your Lisbon visit, lace up your walking shoes and take to the cobblestone streets of the Alfama. Many of the city’s most historic sights are located here, including the Castelo São Jorge, Lisbon Cathedral and the National Pantheon. Not only is this part of the city exceptionally beautiful, it’s also a joy to just get lost in its labyrinthine streets where, around every corner there is a café, a shop or just a beautiful tiled facade waiting to be enjoyed. Be sure to bring along your reusable water bottle to rehydrate on your long walks. Portugal’s tap water is safe to drink, so there’s no need to buy unnecessary plastic bottles of água.
Feira da Ladra
Lisbon’s Feira da Ladra, or “Thieves Market,” is the city’s most famous flea market. In operation since the 13th century, this second-hand haven is not, as its name would suggest, a hotbed of criminal activity, but is instead the best place in town to bag a bargain. From antiques and art to clothes and hand-crafted jewellery, there are treasures to be found for those patient enough to sift them out. Soak up some local colour and partake in sustainable consumption at this must-see market.
Mercado de Alvalade Norte
Help to support Lisbon’s green status by shopping locally at the city’s many markets and by bringing along your own shopping bags. Although the real Lisboans’ Mercado de Alvalade Norte was thrust into the limelight by Anthony Bourdain’s show No Reservations, this fresh produce market has been overshadowed slightly by the newer, Time Out Market, Mercado da Ribeira. While Ribeira offers the luxury of curated, lifestyle-magazine food stalls, the Mercado de Alvalade Norte is where local people shop, and buy real, fresh produce straight from local farmers.
Take the local train to the pastel-coloured resort town Sintra, just 25km away (or 40 mins by train, tickets bought locally). A UNESCO site, soak up Sintra’s dreamy gardens and picturesque palaces, or wander through mist-soaked forests down to sandy beaches. Sintra is also the gateway town for Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, which includes Cabo da Roca, Europe’s most westernmost point. For cyclists, a quick train ride from Lisbon to the resort town of Cascais leads onto a 10km pathway to the popular surf beach at Guincho.
Image credits top to bottom: Lisbon tram iStock ©SeanPavonePhoto, Belem Tower iStock ©j-wildman, Cityscape of Alfama from Miradouro de Santa Luzia iStock ©hsvrs, Lake near Pena Castle in Sintra iStock ©Daniel Lange
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