We recently spent five days in Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, and during our stay we did two very different walking tours. The first, with Urban Adventures, was an evening tour focussed on tapas and fado; the second, with Pancho Tours, took place during the day and included more history and fewer local gems.

We took the first tour just hours after arriving, and the other on our third day in the city. Both gave us an insight into Lisbon that we wouldn’t have had if we’d just explored by ourselves.

Why a walking tour?

Walking tours give you a better idea of where you’re located in the city. Whenever I do a tour by bus or car, I lose track of where I am, but I seem to get my bearings quicker if I’m walking. One of our tour mates took a map with her, which she marked the route on — a great idea if you’re just getting to know a city.

Lisbon is steep.
Lisbon is steep.

Why in Lisbon?

Lisbon is famously hilly — the story goes that the hills were created by a snake woman after being abandoned by her lover Ulysses. However they were formed, you need to get up and down them, and the most direct option is often a staircase — difficult to navigate by car. The price of the Urban Adventures tour includes a trip up one of the iconic funiculars, which is an experience in itself.

Walking also allows you to get up close and personal with Lisbon’s architecture, rather than just seeing it from a vehicle. One of my favourite things about the city is the tilework on the front of many buildings — a legacy from the Moorish presence in the country a hundreds of years ago. Some of the tiles are incredibly intricate, and can only be appreciated up close.

Our guides on both tours talked about the 1755 earthquake that destroyed 80% of the city, but the Pancho Tour went into a bit more depth regarding the history of the country — which really gave us a better understanding of why Portugal is why it is today.

Hard-working Ginjinha delivery man
Local guides give you a better insight to your destination.
The Urban Adventures tour guide also talked about history: the history of food and fado (fair enough really, given the name of the tour). We tried ginjinha and cod cakes, drank beer and wine, then ate various tapas at the best table In a fado bar while listening to the soulful lyrics of Lisbon’s favourite folk music.

Local guides

Of course, you can create your own tour by doing some research and marking a route on a map — though I always intend to do this and never quite manage it. Sometimes the local tourist office will give you route suggestions, with explanations of what you’re seeing, like we had in Pontevedra. This is a great choice for smaller towns especially. But having a local guide can be worth the price of a tour — you’ll learn things that you’ll never find in the tourist brochures, and you can pick their brains for specific local knowledge as well.

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Your thoughts on "Why do a walking tour in Lisbon?"

  • I checked your tour links and didn't find one for the Pancho Tour. I'm interested in a daytime walking tour of Lisbon, mid-March. Would you recommend the Pancho Tour? BTW, I enjoy your podcast!

    on February 25, 2013 at 3:54 pm Reply
    • Hi Chuck, here it is: http://www.panchotours.com/ciudades/lisboa.php We'll add it into the post as well... I see our tour review is still needing an edit before publishing. For a free tour it was very good, but it seemed to drift a little bit at times. I think we went from 11am till 2-3pm although I see on their website it was meant to be a 2.5 hour tour. Lots of walking (even for us), but a great guide and good information. We did the food and fado tour instead of this daytime tour. It's run by the same company, Urban Adventures. At 3-4 hours it's a bit longer than Pancho. http://tours.indietravelpodcast.com/product/europe/lisbon-walking-tour-experience-lisbon/ The other tour we looked at doing was the "We hate tourism" range of trips outside the city, but we didn't have time. http://wehatetourismtours.com/lisbon-tours I hope that gives you some options! Let us know what you choose, and what you think.

      on February 26, 2013 at 5:57 am Reply
      • Thanks for the update. I'll be having just a two day stopover in Lisbon on the way to two weeks in Turkey, and since I'm coming from California, I'm guessing I'll be pretty jet-lagged. I'll be coming in on an afternoon and with only 48 hours, will really only have one full daytime in Lisbon. I was thinking a daytime walking tour might be good to help me adjust. On the other hand, maybe I'll be just waking up in time for an evening tour. Decisions! (I guess I should search your blog for jet lag advice.)

        on February 26, 2013 at 3:55 pm
      • You know, we've talked about it on the podcast on some random topic, but I don't think we've ever done any stories on how we cope with jetlag! Adding to the ideas list :) The free tour is a no-risk option for the day-time, for sure - and then you could maybe book into the food and fado tour or another night-time one to make the most of the second evening?

        on February 28, 2013 at 6:05 am
  • oh I love Lidson, and have to agree doing a walking tour is one of the best ways to see the city!!!

    on March 4, 2013 at 1:55 am Reply
    • Can't argue with that! It's a lovely place to wander :)

      on March 27, 2013 at 12:18 pm Reply

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