Things to do in Lisbon: take a jeep tour of the city streets

updated 10/10/2021
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Searching for things to do in Lisbon? Matthew Hancock tries a city tour with a difference. The information in this article is taken from The Rough Guide to Portugal, your essential guide for visiting Portugal.

Things to do in Lisbon now include jeep tours

I don't like standard city tours. But an urban safari I can do. Particularly in a vintage Portuguese military Jeep.

Driving isn't one of the things to do in Lisbon. The city's built on hills. And its streets slope down to the Tagus.

Look at a map. The centre seems small and navigable. But there's no hint of its gradients. And nothing about the traffic chaos.

So it's good to climb into a solid 4WD. Even if it's open back, with no seat belts. And it's a misty Lisbon morning.

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A jeep tour's one of the intrepid things to do in Lisbon Image by Matthew Hancock

Hate touristy tours? This isn't that

Aptly we start on Praça Luís de Camões. Named for the poet who wrote about Portugal's Age of Discoveries.

The entire tour group numbers four. And we're filled with anticipation.

Then the Jeep revs up and we’re off. It easily handles Bairro Alto's cobbled streets. The 'high district' is Lisbon's night hub. So it's quiet this morning.

We veer past ruined Igreja do Carmo. Then on to the warehouses behind Cais do Sodré station.

Speeding along Rua do Arsenal we try not to breathe. Traditional shops here sell pungent dried cod. It's loved by locals. But it stinks.

Then it's up through Baixa. This is downtown Lisbon. Our driver points out his favourite restaurants. And notes expensive stores he likes on Avenida da Liberdade.

The Jeep easily negotiates nightmare Marquês de Pombal roundabout. And suddenly we're in leafy Estrela. Here we're left to explore pretty parks while our jeep's refuelled.

Try a jeep tour with beach in the mix. Go for Sintra and surf lessons by jeep from Lisbon.

Iconic street art by Lisbon's Banksy AKA Vhils Image by Matthew Hancock

Street art and local savvy from Baixa to Alfama

We head east next. To end up in a bleak area of demolished warehouse. I’m about to ask why. But the driver stops under some street art. And all is clear. It's a giant figure on the side of a building. And it's by Vhils AKA Farto. He's Portugal’s answer to Banksy. And his work's equally striking.

The Jeep comes into its own in Alfama. The streets are unimaginably narrow. And we're not surprised that our driver grow up here. He takes the bends and climbs like it's second nature.

Alfama's really a village within a city. Kids play football in cobbled alleys. Old women shell peas in doorways. And only drivers who know it, dare drive.

We flank Castelo de São Jorge. Then climb up to Miradouro da Senhora do Monte. The city's laid out below us. Now bathed in sunshine with the mist's gone.

Our driver gives us all a small bottle of Moscatel wine. And we sit and drink under a gnarled olive tree. Admiring the view. White doves wheel in the soft air. The castle's below us. Below that are Baixa's terracotta roofs. Then further still, the River Tagus.

It feels like we’ve come a long way. Turns out, from start to finish, we've barely crossed a mile of Lisbon.

Feel like staying in Alfama? Stay at Hotel Convento do Salvador close to the castle.

Ready for a trip to Portugal? Check out the snapshot Rough Guide to Portugal. Read more about the best time to go to Portugal, the best places to visit and best things to do in Portugal. For inspiration use the Portugal Itineraries from The Rough Guide to Portugal and our local travel experts. A bit more hands on, learn about getting there, getting around the country and where to stay once you are there. And don't forget to buy travel insurance before you go.

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updated 10/10/2021
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