There’s nothing I enjoy more than jumping on a bike when I’m in a new town. Some places I’ve been lend themselves to travelling round by bike. For others however it can be a bad option. How does Lisbon shape up, and what’s my my view on cycling in Lisbon for visitors?
In this post I’ll provide an overview of cycling in Lisbon. I will also link to specific routes in and around Lisbon that I’ve personally tested and reviewed!
Cycling in Lisbon and the region for Visitors – Wonderful, with a few caveats!
Although Portugal and Lisbon are a bit late to the cycling party, they’re playing catch-up at lightning speed! Cycling in the city and region will let you see more than on a coach tour, and also let you enjoy the amazing Lisbon weather. Stopping to take pictures of the view or at a cafe to grab an espresso is also much easier by bike!
Cycling in Lisbon city centre
There is now a limited network of marked cycle paths (“Ciclovias”), and Lisbon is generally becoming more cycle friendly. The paths vary from excellent segregated stretches painted red, to routes shared with road or pedestrian traffic. The Cicloviaslx map is excellent for checking routes and spots to lock your bike, and for central Lisbon you can use Lisbon Bike Map
However, the cycle network is small in comparison to northern european cities, and it doesn’t cover all districts. The city has many cobbled streets with uneven tram tracks – mix in the steep hills and it can be challenging if you’re not sure where to go.
As a result, for a first-timer in Lisbon I would recommend taking a guided tour of the city by e-bike rather than going it alone. This will ensure you avoid the tricky areas and stick to the best and most scenic routes (of which there are many). There are many providers (see below) who offer interesting and varied tours of the city. These are great fun, and in any case much better than a bus tour in my opinion!
Cycling in Lisbon – the suburbsCycling to the suburbs of Lisbon that lie on the River Tagus is easy. From the city core by Cais Sodre Station there is an excellent cycle path taking you to Belem in the West and Parc das Nacoes in the North. Heading up toward the university in the northwest of the city is also straightforward on the wide boulevards (Liberdade and Republica). From there you can reach the large Monsanto Park. However, going further afield the routes soon disappear, with the hilly terrain and freeways making progress difficult.
Cycling in Lisbon – the wider region
It’s easy to use public-transport to get out of Lisbon with your bike. Across the Tagus river lies excellent cycling terrain and countryside. Likewise, for road cyclists the hills in the Sintra-Cascais national park offer great challenges. Cascais and the Costa da Caparica are great for family cycling, offering flat and safe cycle routes.
Here’s where Lisbon really scores well – taking a bike on local transportation (where permitted) is FREE! This encompasses local commuter trains, the metro, ferries, and some bus routes. Taking your bike out of town is therefore really simple, space allowing (trains to Cascais will be busy on the weekend).
Bike Rental in Lisbon, Belem or Cascais
As of November 2017, the Gira City Cycle scheme is in the initial roll-out phases. The scheme is currently very limited so I’ll add more here as and when it expands.
I’ve rented bikes from, or stopped by to have a nose-around the following rental operations. Many of these also offer guided tours (check their websites to see what they offer). Expect to pay 10-20€ per day for a basic city bike, and 30€ or so for e-bikes or higher-end models. Make sure you have ID to rent!
- Belem Bike – Right on the cycle path along the Tagus River you’ll find this rental outlet. It’s about a 10 minute walk East from Belem train station. They have a wide variety of bikes and many for kids too (the wide promenade lends itself to family outings)
In Lisbon right opposite Cais do Sodre station):
- Lisbon Bike Rentals is a great operator, specialising in a mid-upper end range of bikes to hire. You can rent Pinarello road bikes here, fat-tyre e-bikes, and decent MTB’s. The prices are good for the quality of what’s on offer. Go hire if you’re a seasoned cyclist looking for a cool bike!
- BikeIberia – the Bikeiberia Lisbon Hub is a long-established operator. They offer a wide range of bikes for hire, from basic city models to higher-end. They also offer a comprehensive range of tours in the city, mountains and coastal areas
- Portugal Rent Bike – close to the station and with various types of bike available including road, mountain and city. They have many family specific bikes/accessories too
- Tomorrow’s Adventure – right in the station, they have dozens of mainly mountain bikes for rental
- The MobiCascais scheme offers FREE rental of basic if sturdy city bikes (think similar to those in London etc). There are several pick-up points around the town including right opposite the station
Other operators I haven’t used but which offer interesting tours include Cycling Lisbon and Lisbon Cycle Tours
Recommended Routes for Cycling in Lisbon
The route network for cycling in Lisbon is best along the coastal strip where it’s flat. I have four recomendations for you that you should consider for cycling in Lisbon. Of course, in addition you can book a guided tour in the city-centre.
- The coastal route from the Torre de Belem, to Cais do Sodre station in the city centre. This is 7km and is traffic-free since it shares the wide riverside promenade with pedestrians. Some parts are now demarcated for cycling
- The coastal route from Santa Apolonia Station in the city centre, to Parque das Nacoes to the north-east. This is 8km, and for the most part a segregated route for cyclists. It’s newly developed and quite good, albeit not so picturesque as the route to Belem
- Take the ferry across the river from Belem to Trafaria. From here you can cycle on a segregated cycle-path a few kilometres to the beaches of Costa da Caparica. (NB, trip report in the works!)
- Jump on the train to Cascais. From here, you can take a wonderful 10km cycle path to Guincho Beach. The scenery is stunning, and the cycle track of excellent quality
In Conclusion – cycling in Lisbon
I’ve had great fun cycling in Lisbon. You see more, smell more and breathe more of Portugal than when sitting on a coach or walking. You’re a stone’s throw from amazing coastal scenery and green hills easily reached with public transport. The weather here is great for cycling – it’s pleasant, but not normally too hot! I’ll be spending a lot of time in Lisbon over the next 18 months so will be adding to the route guides steadily.
Sure, there are things that need working on to make cycling in Lisbon better. Safer and more frequent crossing points for busy roads and railway lines need improving. The network of cycle routes and making space on roads for cyclists more generally also demands investment. These challenges are not insurmountable though. Plan around them, and you’ll have a wonderful time in the saddle in and around Lisbon!