Walking route in Lisbon: from Belém to Praça do Comércio
Lisbon isn’t famous for being walking-friendly, but this 8km route alongside the River Tagus allows you to discover three of the city’s cultural layers.
The route is described here from Belém to Praça do Comércio (west to east), but you can do it in reverse order. I would say the difficulty level is relatively easy, but keep in mind that the path leads to inevitable detours around marinas and the Lisbon harbor in some sections.
It will look like you’ve left the city. The Tagus becomes so vast here that most people think they’ve reached the ocean. And, in fact, at its mouth after Torre de Belém, both river and sea start to blend.
I confess Belém isn’t my favorite part of the city. However, you can’t miss these places here: the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, the Berardo Collection Museum at CCB, the Pastéis, the Palace and the Museum (the official President of the Portuguese Republic residence), the Museu dos Coches, the Vasco da Gama gardens.
But as you come up the stairs of the underground passage on the other side of Avenida Brasilia, everything changes. Your pace changes. You breathe deeply. You slow down. And the river pulls you in to walk along its side.
You’ll notice the Portuguese connection to the sea and sailing. There are private boats and yachts at the small marinas along the walk. Monuments to the age of “Discoveries,” like Padrão dos Descobrimentos, are everywhere. Torre de Belém stands as a welcoming gate to Lisbon.
The changes in scenery aren’t subtle either. Belém is all wide sidewalks of Portuguese calçada and large gardens. Alcântara and Cais do Sodré feel gloomy and industrial with their old warehouses turned into restaurants, bars, and nightclubs.
I got lost in time in this walk. I couldn’t care less about the time and how long until I reached the ferry station at Terreiro do Paço.
It’s hard not to feel mesmerized by the river and the boat traffic: the ferries to the south bank, the cruise ships, the sailboats (some private, some for guided tours).
As the sun slowly set behind me, I loved the change in colors. The orange bricks of the Museu da Electricidade. The fiery red Ponte 25 de Abril with the painted dolphins on its pillars and the cars rushing on the metallic grid above our heads. The rusty black of the warehouses.
Daytime vs. nightlife
The cafes, the bars, the restaurants, and the nightclubs face the river in Alcântara. The view is as important as the company as you chat over a pint of beer, a glass of red wine, an espresso, or a starter of octopus salad.
No matter the time of the year, the restaurants and cafes will make the most of the location and welcome you to sit outside. They either shield the outdoor sitting areas with plexiglass walls or offer warmth with blankets and heaters.
As night falls, approximately between 8 and 11, the Alcântara Docks’ warehouses light up with music, dancing, and karaoke.
It’s a different side of Lisbon, one I’m not crazy in love with at this point in my life but one that tells a different story nevertheless.