We got up this morning at about 8:30, showered and went down to breakfast in the hotel’s dining room.
A Tuk Tuk Kind of Day
After breakfast we returned to our room, grabbed our day bags and headed out to Praça da Figueira in search of a city tour aboard a Tuk Tuk (pronounced took-took or tuck-tuck, take your pick). Praça da Figueira was a gathering place for the Tuk Tuks, so when we decided to do a tour on one of them, we knew where to head for a huge selection of Tuk Tuks and guides.
From 2017 forward, all Tuk-Tuks in Lisbon must be motorized electrically, and a recent law also bans them from the streets after 9:00PM. They are particularly unpopular with the city’s taxi drivers who see them as a threat to their livelihood. Be that as it may, my opinion is that a Tuk Tuk was absolutely the best way to see Lisbon, hands down. Basically you get a one-on-one tour with the driver/host of the Tuk Tuk, and the drivers are incredibly well versed on their city. In fact, many of them hold accredited tour guide status. The Tuk Tuks are small and can get to things and go places that the big, awkward, polluting tour buses cannot.
Prior to starting a tour on a Tuk Tuk, you negotiate the price with the driver/host. Usually they have many fixed tours (i.e. the Alfama, Belém, Lisbon Castle, the Sé (Lisbon Cathedral), Graça Viewpoint at the Igreja e Convento da Graça, São Vicente de Fora, Casa dos Bicos, Praça do Comercio, etc.). The prices can be slightly flexible, depending on the Tuk Tuk company, which tour is chosen and the number of passengers on the tour. Tours can run anywhere from €50-€400, depending greatly on the factors just mentioned. I think Tuk Tuks are absolutely fantastic! It’s a great way to get a custom tour of the city with a professional one-on-one guide. This is the only way to go! 😊
Here’s a good intro video on the Lisbon Tuk Tuks:
A word of warning before proceeding, though – be sure to book an advance appointment with your Chiropractor to have your body put back into alignment after you return home – these things are rough riding! I have to draw on one of my Dad’s favourite expressions for something like this: This thing rides like an old lumber wagon!!!
Here’s a few of the Tuk Tuks we encountered in Lisbon:
Similar to the three or five-wheeled Tuk Tuks, there were also four-wheeled electric miniature cars, many looking like traditional or old-style vehicles. We found their rates to be slightly higher than the traditional Tuk Tuks:
On With The Tour
Arriving in Praça da Figueira, we found an abundance of Tuk Tuks to choose from; in fact the variety was almost overwhelming. As soon as you move close to their vehicles the drivers begin negotiating tours with you. We were approached by the amazing, friendly, knowledgeable – and ever-handsome – Mario Pereira. With Mario, we negotiated a three-hour tour around the Alfama, Mouraria, Bairro Alto and Baixa, and were off!. Here are a few of the sights we experienced:
An Ancient Roman Theatre
This site is part of the Museum of Lisbon, located in the historic quarter of the city. It reveals one of the most important monuments of the Roman era – the city’s theatre, with visible structures dating from the 1st century AD:
Viewpoint: Miradouro das Portas do Sol (Gate of the Sun)
We spent some time at this viewpoint to take in the incredible views above the ancient Alfama neighbourhood. Its panoramic view looks like a colourful Mediterranean village cascading down to the waterfront and the cruise ships below.
Here’s a short panorama video I made of the area (please forgive the lousy camerawork!):
Santa Justa Lift:
On the Santa Justa Lift, about 150 feet up:
After several hours, Mario returned us to our place of departure, the Praça da Figueira (although the Tuk Tuk drivers will drop you anywhere you request). We took a few shots of each other, paid Mario for the tour and said goodbye to one of the best, most personable, well-versed and enjoyable tour guides we’d ever had:
If you’re looking for a Tuk Tuk host/driver while in Lisbon I cannot recommend Mario Pereira highly enough. If you want a Tuk Tuk tour with one of the city’s best hosts/drivers, please look him up. As of this writing (September 2023), Mario is a freelance driver and guide. He will soon have a wider social media presence, but for now you can get in touch with him via Instagram, where he is known as mario.pereira.tours:
Mario is also on Facebook and WhatsApp, but I have no idea what his profile name is on those social media outlets as I don’t have accounts there.
It was about 1:15PM when we said so-long to Mario. Our bellies were now talking to us as we hadn’t eaten since our earlier breakfast. We walked to Rua Augusta to find a restaurant, settling on a fantastic little place called Cozinha d`Avó Celeste at Rua Augusta 282. I ordered Fish & Chips (can’t go wrong with seafood while in Portugal) and a Coke Zero, and Vince ordered a Vegetarian Paella and a glass of white wine. We also ordered our usual waters: Still for me and Sparking for Vince. Fantastic meal!
After our delicious lunch we wandered a bit, winding up on the street behind the Santa Justa Lift:
Convento da Ordem do Carmo
(Convent of Our Lady of Mount Carmel) & Museum
Next, we happened upon the Convento da Ordem do Carmo (Convent of Our Lady of Mount Carmel) & Museum, and went in for a tour. The ruined Carmo Convent is one of Lisbon’s most hauntingly beautiful sights. It was Lisbon’s greatest medieval building, but stands as a reminder of the devastating earthquake of 1755 that destroyed most of the city. Its roof collapsed on the congregation as it was attending Mass on that All saints’ Day, and was never rebuilt, but the Gothic arches still stand. Most of the architecture dates back to the 1300s, but Manueline (Portuguese Gothic) windows and other details were added later, in the 16th and 18th centuries:
After exploring the ruins we checked out the Carmo’s Museum:
The Santa Justa Lift, Redux
From the Carmo Convento we again went out onto the Santa Justa viewing platform – I mean, really, why stop at one vertigo attack a day when I can have two.
We had previously paid a short visit earlier in the day with Mario as our guide, but we decided to visit it again on our own. The Santa Justa is one of the best places in Lisbon to get a near-360 degree view of the city. The Santa Justa viewing platform is about 147 feet/45 metres high – enough to give me the weak knees that come about when I’m subjected to heights or air turbulence on a flight these days:
Leaving the Santa Justa we ventured further into the Bairro Alto, climbed more stairs, then stopped for a drink/rest break at a little place called Oficina Do Duque, located at 54 Da Oliveira Ao Carmo. Great cocktails here – Vince had an excellent (or so he says) Aperol Spritz, while I stuck with a Pepsi and some Still water. We were both incredibly thirsty as it had been another extremely hot day touring Lisbon.
After our break in the Bairro Alto we returned to our hotel for a little rest and regrouping.
Finding A Restaurant in The Chiado
At about 7:00PM we set out for the Chiado district in search of an evening restaurant experience outside the Baxia. You guessed it, there was more hill climbing involved!:
The sun was slowly setting as we happened across the Largo Trindade Coelho square:
On the other side of the square was the Igreja de São Roque (Church of Saint Roch). It was late in the evening so the church was not open:
After much more wandering – and a lot of hill climbing – we would up at a place called Restaurante Solar Do Duque, located at Rua do Duque, 67 Chiado. We sat outside (which was the norm for us since we arrived in Lisbon), but it was not the usual enjoyable experience that it should have been. The food we ate definitely belonged in the “so-so” category and the restaurant was severely overcrowded and uncomfortable; no privacy given the congested seating arrangement.
I had the Grilled Chicken with a Coke Zero, and Vince had rump steak with a glass of red wine. All in all it was a bland, pedestrian meal – unusual for a food experience in Portugal.
Back To Home Base
Finishing up at the restaurant around 9:00PM, we slowly wended our way in the general direction of our hotel. On our way back we stopped for a shot of Ginjinha, then some ice cream (of course!), with a final stop at the Manteigaria at Rua Augusta 195 to replenish our depleted Pastéis De Nata stock. Love those Portugal custard treats!
Returning to our hotel, we rested for the remainder of the evening and discussed our plans for the next day’s activities. Off to bed at 10:30.
Another great day in Lisbon! 😊