Lisbon is known as the “City of White Light” due to the bright sunshine reflected off of the numerous cobblestone sidewalks and plazas. In fact, Lisbon’s Terreiro do Paco, situated right over the Tejo River is the largest plaza in all of Europe. But for all its “white space,” the Portuguese capital also boasts a good amount of green space and, of course, beautiful beaches. But the trick is to find those spots where the locals flock to and the average tourist isn’t willing to seek out. Because of Lisbon’s extremely hilly cityscape, you’ve got to be prepared to sometimes make a steep climb up to be rewarded with the best views the city has to offer. Here are a few of the city’s most interesting outdoor spots that offer up pure relaxation and refreshment.
- The people of Lisbon, known affectionately as alfacinhas (literally translates as “little lettuces”), take great pride in their miradouros or lookout points. Of course, in order to have a lovely panoramic view of the city and the wide Tejo (or Tagus) River, you’ve first gotta earn it by trekking all the way to the top of one of the city’s seven hills. For those who’d rather save their exercise for the gym back home and maintain a relaxed vacation, there are cable cars (funicular) that conveniently run up and down the hills. Look out for the miradouro de Sao Pedro de Alcantara (uphill from Chiado), miradouro das Portas do Sol (up from Alfama) and miradouro da Graca for some of the most spectacular views—and for the charming little kiosks serving scrumptious pastries and refreshing drinks and coffees.
Estufa Fria near Parque Eduardo VII
As uncrowded as this place always is, this spot seems to be a well-kept city secret. Inside this lush green sanctuary of diverse flora and fauna (especially the feathered kind), you can entirely erase the chaos of the surrounding city. Enjoy a peaceful picnic lunch at one of the
rustic wooden tables with tree stump seats, and follow up with a stroll through the creatively and cleverly landscaped grounds. In the background, a nearby and gigantic Portuguese flag ripples in the wind as you peek in at a mother peacock and her babies; feed the fat, colorful fish in the Japanese garden-like pond; and climb up to the top for a perfect view of this enclosed paradise.
Jardim da Estrela
This widespread park has it all—duck ponds, playgrounds, secluded benches, exotic foliage, patio cafes and even a mini library! From May through September, the park features free musical performances on weekends.
Praia do Guincho
Although this beach is located just outside the neighboring suburb-town of Cascais (end of the line from Cais do Sodre in Lisbon), Praio do Guincho or Guincho Beach is an absolute must. From the soft white sands of this beautiful and sparsely populated beach, you can take in the breathtaking views of the westernmost point in continental Europe. Another excellent point worth noting is the free bike rental kiosks (Bicas) that can be found in Cascais, with one by the Cascais train station and another near the Centro Cultural Cascais. If you’re up for the exercise and adventure, hop on a bike (complete with Dorothy style basket!) and pedal the 8 km right along the coast to Guincho Beach. Nothing will prepare you for the savage and wide open Atlantic as you near the green cliffs and lovely beaches of Guincho. Lots of great seafood restaurants nearby as well.