Lisbon stands proudly on the banks of the Rio Tejo (Tagus River) which makes it a very picturesque destination and ideal for anyone who enjoys photography. Like any destination that is situated on a river you will find a wealth of river cruises on offer but, as a budget traveller, I have never been on an official sightseeing river cruise.
One of the river cruises
Lisbon has so many great ferry routes for the commuters who live on one side of the river and work, or shop, on the other that really, unless you are very keen to have a guided tour, there is no need to part with large amounts of your hard earned cash. Also, by using the local ferries you have control over when you go and when you return and you can disembark and explore the towns and villages on the other side of the river. Tickets are incredibly inexpensive, stating at just €1.25 for the trip from Belem to Trafaria.
There are three ferry terminals in Lisbon and five ferry routes. The ones most commonly used by tourists are the route from Cais do Sodré to Cacilhas, where you can hop on a bus to visit the Cristo Rei Statue that stands tall overlooking Lisbon, and the route from Belem stopping at Porto Brandão and continuing on to Trafaria. From all of these you will have great views of the Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge and the Cristo Rei Statue.
View from the ferry
Cacilhas, Porto Brandão, and Trafaria are in Almada, a regenerated industrial area that is now home to many commuters who travel to Lisbon daily. If you are taking a ferry it is best to avoid the busy commuter times.
I have never disembarked in Porto Brandão but it looks like a very sleepy little port. I have, however been to both Cacilhas and Trafaria and both have great seafood restaurants but apart from that they are a world apart. Cachilhas took me by surprise, it is a really busy and bustling port, while Trafaria is somewhere that you just want to chill and enjoy the peace and quiet. I have a already written about my trip to Trafaria for lunch, if you missed it you can read it HERE. I was in Cachilhas just a couple of days ago so I’ll be doing a report on that very soon.
Three of the ports across the river
However, the first ferry trip I ever did in Lisbon was the one from Cais do Sodré to Montijo and it was one of those, ‘am I safe to be let out’ moments. I wanted to take a ferry so that I could take photographs of Lisbon looking back to the shoreline from the river. I had popped into the Terreiro do Paço terminal to see which ferries ran from there and had discovered that it is a fairly long route going to Barreiro and one had just departed so I headed off along the promenade to investigate the Cais do Sodré departures.
As I arrived at Cais do Sodré there was a ferry just about to leave and, as I had my Via Viagem card in my hand, I quickly scanned it and nipped through the turnstile with no idea of where I was going.
The ferries are fully enclosed with no outside deck area, which is a little disappointing if your main purpose it to take photographs, but there are windows that can be opened to get a clear view, just make sure you have either a wrist strap on your camera or a very firm grip on your phone.
One of the ferries
I was thrilled to have such wonderful views of the shoreline as the ferry pulled away and, still having no idea where I was going, I thoroughly enjoyed the voyage. I had heard that most of the ferries take approx 15 minutes but don’t believe everything you hear, this one takes approx 25 minutes. We arrived at our destination and I discovered that I was in Montijo, I could see the town in the distance and there was a bus waiting to transfer the commuters into town. I wasn’t in any particular hurry but at the same time I didn’t have enough time to head off into the sunset to explore so I just waited around at the ferry terminal and enjoyed the views and the peace and tranquillity.
From the ferry terminal looking across to Montijo
Eventually a ferry pulled in, the passengers disembarked and I hopped on. It was only after about 10 minutes that I began to get an uneasy feeling that I didn’t recognise anything and I actually had no idea where I was headed. I began to imagine all sorts of scenarios, maybe the ferry was heading up the river and wasn’t going to be docking for hours, maybe I was going to end up in some place so remote that I would have to max out my credit card to get a taxi back. I was flying home the next day so getting back to my hostel was rather imperative.
When I began to fear I was lost
I can remember thinking it would be an episode that I would keep to myself and would certainly never tell my daughter for fear that she would take my passport away! But, after what felt like hours, I began to see things that did look vaguely familiar and much to my relief Lisbon came in view. What could have been a disaster became a great dinner party story and I still have my passport!
As we approached Lisbon I captured the sort of photos I was hoping for. The sun was beginning to set, casting a lovely pinkish glow on the buildings and after the stress of the first part of the journey it was a great reward. As, is often said, “all’s well that ends well”!
The Lisbon Shoreline
For all the information regarding routes, prices and schedules check out the official website HERE.
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