Lisbon – Adventures by Tuk Tuk & Amphibious Bus!

“You’ll never see the locals walking” our guide Margarida informed us, as we departed our hotel for a foodie tour of Lisbon… by electric Tuk Tuk! Lisboetas are apparently lazy when it comes to climbing the city’s many hills… I’d call them wise!

All aboard the Tuk Tuk!

Being from the Welsh Valleys, I’m used to undulating countryside, but this had not prepared me for how hilly (and cobbled!) Lisbon was. Thank goodness our two main activities involved quaint modes of transport, the aforementioned Tuk Tuk and the HIPPObus! This is definitely a city where you require transport!

My travels always revolve around the local cuisine, and so with just two full days in the Portuguese capital I opted for a food tasting tour by electric Tuk Tuk. The experience promised a tour of the picturesque Alfama, Graça, São Vicente and Baixa quarters with food tasting stops along the way. It was so much more than this, thanks mainly to our charming guide Margarida. Much to the delight of my kids, the Tuk Tuk journey was, on occasion, reminiscent of a roller coaster!

Our first stop was a point high above the city, with views of many of the landmarks of Lisbon including The 25 de Abril Bridge, The Sanctuary of Christ the King monument and Castelo de S. Jorge. Here we enjoyed Pastéis de Bacalhau (salt cod fritters), washed down with Ginja (sour cherry liqueur).

Pastéis de Bacalhau with a view.
Ginja – a cherry liqueur that originated in Lisbon.

Lunch followed at ‘A Muralha Tapas e Vinhos’, a rustic Portuguese Tapas bar in Alfama. Here we sampled local cheese, octopus salad and Flambé Chorizo along with Vinho Verde from the extensive wine cellar.

Tapas at A Muralha Tapas e Vinhos – local cheese melted with olive oil & oregano and Octopus Salad.
Flaming Chorizo at A Muralha Tapas e Vinhos.
A selection of the 150 wines at A Muralha Tapas e Vinhos.

Next was a short walking tour of the maze of cobbled streets of the Alfama district. This area is famed for the haunting, melancholic Fado music, which can be heard wafting from the bars in the evenings.

A typical, narrow Alfama street.

Exploring with a local definitely has it’s advantages. We saved ourselves the queue and cost of ‘The Elevador de Santa Justa’, a 19th century elevator designed by a student of Gustave Eiffel, that transports passengers form the Baixa district to the Largo do Carmo. We accessed the viewing platform from the Largo do Carmo and were treated to some of the finest views in central Lisbon.

The view from the top of The Elevador de Santa Justa.

The final stop on our tour was at ‘Castro – Atelier de Pastéis de Nata’ to sample the iconic Portuguese egg custard tart! Here you can see the tarts being made by hand, although the recipe is top secret!

Pastéis de Nata – an icon of Lisbon!

And that concluded our Tuk Tuk Tour. I would highly recommend this as both a mode of transport and a way to learn about Lisbon. Margarida’s commentary was both informative and interesting. As well as showing us the main sights, she also shared a snapshot of Lisbon’s history. Prior to this trip I hadn’t realised what a devastating effect the 1755 earthquake had on the city, but modern Lisbon has literally risen from the old.

Azulejos – traditional Portuguese tiles.

I booked our Tuk Tuk tour with ‘Live Portugal – Tours & Tales’ via ‘Get Your Guide’. Highly recommended.

Our second unique mode of transport was via HIPPOtrip’s amphibious bus! This explores Lisbon by land and river… without leaving the comfort of your own seat! Our ‘animator’ Anna shared myths, legends and curiosities during the 90 minute show. We departed from Doca de Santo Amaro (near the 25th April Bridge) and travelled by road past Praça do Comércio, Praça Marquês de Pombal, Jardim da Estrela and Mosteiro dos Jerónimos… before plunging into the Tagus River! From the water we saw Padrão dos Descobrimentos, Torre de Belém and Torre VTS.

HIPPOtrip – part bus trip, part boat trip!
Ponte 25 de Abril – the suspension bridge connecting Lisbon to Almada on the left bank of the River Tagus.
The imposing Padrão dos Descobrimentos monument that celebrates the 15th & 16th century explorers, who established Portugal as the most powerful seafaring nation of the era.
The Belém Tower – a UNESCO World Heritage Site & one of Lisbon’s most striking monuments.

I booked HIPPOtrip via their website. A fun way to explore Lisbon by land and water. Hippo, Hippo, Hurra!

My youngest Son Morgan enjoying the view from the water on the HIPPOtrip.

So in just 48 hours we sampled the main sights and flavours of Lisbon via our two unique tours. We were blessed with two fantastic guides in Margarida and Anna, and we even glimpsed some Winter sun!

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