To say that the Tagus River, known in Portuguese as the Tejo, has shaped Lisbon and the local way of life is an understatement. If it wasn’t for this river, and its close proximity to the sea, Lisbon would have never probably become the prominent city that it is today.
If back in the day the river was the main avenue for commerce and the distribution of goods, today it is still a channel for the transportation of people who work in Lisbon’s city center, but who very often live on the south bank of the river, where housing has historically been a little more affordable than downtown.
Walking by the riverside, when exploring the historical center of Lisbon, is a must when you visit our city. The views are broad and captivating, and the breeze one feels by the waterfront is often a welcome respite, particularly during the hot summer days.
When one thinks about enjoying the river in Lisbon, perhaps things like a simple stroll or even a boat ride come to mind. We also explore these fun activities below, but would also like to suggest other leisurely and even educational ways to make the most of the Tejo River when you are in Lisbon:
1. Do a sailing trip on the Tagus
No matter what type of boat trip you are most into, chances are you’ll find a ride on the Tagus that suits your mood. From straightforward sailing trips to themed adventures, revolving around food and drink, the Tagus welcomes sailing boats on a daily basis, particularly around sunset time when the vistas become even more special.
Not only is it pleasant to sail as you feel the cooling breeze, some of these sailing trips can also be very interesting from a historical and cultural point of view. Some of them include knowledgeable guides which will share relevant information about the city as you cruise past landmarks and, in fact, some of these monuments can be better seen from the water itself. We’re mostly talking about those located in Belém, particularly the Belém Tower (Av. Brasília) and the Monument to the Discoveries (also in Av. Brasília), which have two sides and, as such, whose architecture can never be fully appreciated from only land itself.
If you’re interested in food and drinks, and if you’re hanging out with us here at Taste of Lisboa chances are that is indeed the case, you’ll be happy to know that there are also boat trips on the Tagus with a keen focus on local cuisine and wines. Of course when you hire one of these sail boats privately you can ask the team to customize the trip but, generally speaking, this is a great opportunity to take in the sights of Lisbon from a perspective you’d simply not get to enjoy when you are in the city center itself.
⛵ We recommend browsing the many sailboat trips on offer on Airbnb Experiences or ask us for further recommendations
2. Chill at Ribeira das Naus
Between Cais das Colunas in Commerce Square and Cais do Sodré, right downtown, Ribeira das Naus is one of the most popular spots to hang out by the river in Lisbon. The large sidewalk and the stairs which go down to the river doubling as seats are inviting to tourists and locals who like coming here to hang out, soak up the sun and enjoy the expansive views towards the southbank. The view is particularly picturesque towards sunset, as the sun sets in the horizon, just behind the Golden Gate look-alike 25 de Abril bridge. For those who like to sip a drink while relaxing around here, there is a kiosk selling drinks and a few uncomplicated food options, but there are also mobile vendors selling from simple drinks to actual cocktails served inside real pineapples.
Across the street from the first row in front of the river, there’s a relatively large green area, where you shouldn’t be surprised to see folks in their swimsuits laying on the grass, just as if this was the beach. You should know that Portuguese people usually love the sun, so we sure make the most of every opportunity we get to up our vitamin D levels! If you don’t want to plan too much and want to enjoy some time by the riverside in the city center, Ribeira das Naus is always a good option.
📍Av. Ribeira das Naus
☀️ Soak up the sun, enjoy the view, sip a drink and let the good times roll
3. Go cycling parallel to the river
At a glance, Lisbon may not seem like the most bike-friendly place out there. Our city is known as “the city of the seven hills” and indeed you’d have to have plenty of stamina to be able to go up some of its steepest hills while cycling. But the same does not apply to the river side, which is welcomingly flat.
Even though there are several cycling paths across Lisbon, in busy areas as well as within parks, our favorite part of the city to get our two wheels rolling is by far in parallel to the river. You could get a bike in Cais do Sodré and go all the way to Belém, but the most pleasant stretch would perhaps be between Alcântara and Belém. This is a part of the city which lots of people come to relax at, and even families bring their children and pets along to play in the surrounding green areas. Cycling from Alcântara to Belém is a breeze – the path is well maintained, the terrain is absolutely flat, and there are actually nice things to see on the way. You can recharge energies grabbing a meal at one of the many restaurants at Docas, you could stop at the Electricity Museum or at the much raved about MAAT (Museum for Art, Architecture and Technology) and eventually reach Belém, where grandiose monuments concentrate and where the uber famous Portuguese custard tarts (only here officially referred to as Pastéis de Belém) were allegedly originally first created.
🚴 Alcântara – Belém. See more details about this route here.
4. Stroll along Parque Ribeirinho Oriente
You’ll see plenty of travelers hanging out by the riverside in Cais das Colunas, Ribeira das Naus or Cais do Sodré. But the same does not apply to Parque Ribeirinho Oriente. In fact, not even that many locals make it here… yet. And this is precisely why we like this riverside park so much.
Towards the east of the city, Parque Ribeirinho Oriente is a much more recently developed area, which many are yet to discover. There’s plenty of space so things never get too busy, plus the green spaces around are nicely maintained. There are a couple of coffee shops and restaurants in the area, if you feel like doing something more than just strolling. But if you come here to walk, or maybe even sit down in the grass having a picnic, know that all around you’ll be able to enjoy a sweeping view of a more contemporary Lisbon, and which stretches out to the other side of the Tagus river.
📍Rua Cintura do Porto 1950
5. Go birdwatching at the Tagus Estuary Nature Reserve
If you are willing to travel a little away from Lisbon’s city center, you can be rewarded by the spectacular sight that is the Tagus Estuary. This is a natural reserve which spans a particularly humid territory, favorable for certain species of fauna and flora to proliferate. If you didn’t think you’d, for example, see flamingos or even dolphins when coming to Lisbon, we’re about to surprise you!
The Tagus Estuary is one of Portugal’s largest wetlands and it encompasses distinct areas, including the estuary waters themselves, as well as mud flats, salt lakes and crop fields. This marshland is where some marine species such as sole and seabass nurse and, being a transition area between marine and river environments, it’s also a passing point for other species such as eel and lamprey – much beloved delicacies in Portuguese cuisine, but that are only available seasonally.
Perhaps the most eye-catching animal in the Estuary of the Tagus river is indeed the pink flamingo, even though we must point out that the numbers have been drastically decreasing in recent years because of the pressing urban development nearby and the overall pollution and climate situation. Pied avocet graze around here in larger numbers than flamingos, and so do greylag geese, stilts, spotted redshanks and common greenshanks, thus making the estuary of the Tagus river natural reserve a wonderland for birdwatching enthusiasts.
📍Av. Combatentes da Grande Guerra 1, 2890-015 Alcochete
🐦 You could visit independently, but joining a bird-watching excursion departing from Lisbon would be highly encouraged
6. See the river from up above at Telecabine Lisboa
Those with vertigo can skip to the next tip, but if you like appreciating a nice view from up high, we would strongly recommend hopping on the Telecabine Lisboa, a cableway overlooking Parque das Nações and the Tagus river.
To take a ride on Telecabine Lisboa you should make your way to one of the two stations, on opposite ends of the stretch of about 1.5km (a little less than 1 mile) which are covered by the cableway ride. From up there you can have a good overview of what the contemporary town of Parque das Nações, which was developed for the World Expo98, looks like. And you can also have a glance at the bridge crossing the river, Ponte Vasco da Gama, which being 13KM ( 8 miles) long is actually the longest bridge in Europe.
Telecabine Lisboa north station: Passeio das Tágides (next to the old Vasco da Gama tower, now the My Riad hotel)
Telecabine Lisboa south station: Passeio de Neptuno (next to the Oceanarium)
🎫 More info and tickets here
7. Take a commuter boat across the river and enjoy the south bank
For just under 1.5 euros, you can also do a boat trip on the Tagus river. Of course, this ride won’t take several hours like the tourist-dedicated boat trips we write about above, but it sure is a mighty fine way of not only enjoying the trip in itself, but also getting to the south bank of the river, where many off the beaten path but wonderful possibilities await. Taking a commuter boat to the south bank of the Tagus river sure is a way to experience local life too, as this is what thousands upon thousands of people do to get to and from work every day.
There are several ways to connect from Lisbon to the south bank by boat. Right from Commerce Square, you can take the boat to Barreiro, a city in the Setúbal region. We can’t say that Barreiro is touristic, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have some hidden gems which will pay off for those into exploring beyond the obvious. You can enjoy the river from a very different perspective, walking along the boardwalk known as Circuito Ribeirinho Barreiro, or you could hit up a river beach, such as Praia Fluvial de Alburrica. To eat amongst locals, you could go to Cooperativa Mula (Largo Santo André 3), a community center that hosts cultural events and has a kitchen with a keen focus on sustainability.
If you are traveling to the south bank of the Tagus from Cais do Sodré, you will connect to Cacilhas, literally aboard boats locally known as cacilheiros. We have previously written about the many wonders which can keep you entertained in Cacilhas, particularly when it comes to keeping busy and happy around the table (more on this below).
Another commuter boat from Lisbon to the south bank which can be enjoyed in a leisurely way too would be the one departing from Belém (the popular monument district of Lisbon), taking travelers to Trafaria. Trafaria is a typical fishing village, which stays in super close proximity to Costa da Caparica, a beach resort town with many places to chill, soak up the sun and, of course, eat and drink too.
No matter where you decide to go on the south bank, which we locally refer to as Margem Sul, you bet crossing and getting just a little away from Lisbon will present you with a very different perspective of our city. We mean this literally, of course, as the view of Lisbon is always best away from Lisbon, but also when it comes to social context and understanding a little more how Portuguese locals go about their daily lives.
Terreiro do Paço – Barreiro, timings here
Cais do Sodré – Cacilhas, more info here
Belém – Trafaria, schedule here
8. Dine & wine in Cacilhas as you take in the view
This may be one of the most cliche ways of enjoying the wonderful views of the Tagus river and beyond, but you bet it’s popular for a reason! The riverfront area of Cacilhas (a locality of Almada), the area of Cais do Ginjal, and particularly restaurant Ponto Final, has become one of the most in-demand spots from where to enjoy the sunset near Lisbon. Not only do you get to enjoy panoramic views of Lisbon itself, something you effectively have to get away from the city to be able to do, the large river in front of the city does add a touch of magic, even more so during the golden hour as the night draws closer and closer.
The position of Cacilhas and the area almost below Christ the Redeemer’s statue are privileged spots as they are facing west, thus setting the stage for some of the most dramatic sunsets you can enjoy near Lisbon. If you add hit-the-spot food and wine, then we think this is a winning evening plan for anyone looking to chill at the end of a day exploring our city. Even though Ponto Final is, by far, the most well-known restaurant in Cacilhas (reservations are a must), there are other establishments well worth your visit, for a delightful meal or just a drink – don’t miss our recommendations below or read here for many more suggestions!
Ponto Final: Rua do Ginjal 72, Almada
Atira-te ao Rio: Rua do Ginjal 69, Almada
Amarra Ò Tejo: Largo 1º de Maio 2, Almada
If sitting down at a restaurant and spending money doesn’t feel like an appealing plan for you on a given day, we suggest packing a picnic and grabbing a bottle of wine or some beers, and sitting down at Jardim do Rio, a lovely green area just below the Panoramic elevator of Boca do Vento. Even if you come alone, you’ll have Jesus Christ looking out for you from right up above.