Saturday, 9 June 2012

Lisbon Bairro Alto Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 3.4 km (2.1 miles), terrain contains one hill

Lisbon Running Routes:
Ancient Alfama  
Elegant Lisbon Downtown  
Belem World Cultural Site  
Cool Bairro Alto
   

For other running routes, see the Route List

Here's a short route that will take you through Lisbon's coolest spot for nightlife: the Bairro Alto (High Town), on the hill just west of the Baixa downtown. If you haven't been up there yet, now is the time to get to know this lively little neighborhood. There is a lot of creative energy in the air up there. That's one thing that I really like about Portugal and Spain: the people aren't usually very rich, but they have a very creative touch, and they exercise it in low-budget ways, like you'll find in Bairro Alto.

There are actually several small neighborhoods up there, each with its own style: Chiaro with its elegant cafés and lively plazas, Bairro Alto with its bohemian restaurants and boutiques, and Principe Real with its wonderful green plaza and the botanical garden.

Let's start the run in the heart of downtown, right at the Praça Dom Pedro IV (Rossio Square). Here at the base of Dom Pedro's column, on the wavy black and white mosaics, you can see where you are going when you turn towards the west: the hill with the ruins of the Carmo monastery just a few blocks away.
Dom Pedro V
Face the south and then run towards the southwest corner of the plaza, and start running uphill on Rua do Carmo. You'll pass the Santa Justa lift on the left side (people pay to take the lift and avoid what you're doing right now! It was built by Gustave Eiffel, who built the Eiffel Tower). When the street gets to its highest point, turn right and continue up Rua Garrett until the first side-street to the right. This is the Chiaro neighborhood.
Santa Justa lift to Chiaro
Turn right on Calçada do Sacramento to continue uphill for two blocks until you get to the little plaza in front of the Carmo monastery ruins. The monastery, like most of Lisbon was destroyed in the earthquake of 1755. During the day, you can go inside the courtyard and see the ruins close-up, well worth doing. The jacarandas in the plaza are beautiful when blooming.
At Carmo monastery
Now turn around and run the same way back to Rua Garrett, where you turn right and continue past the expensive shops and cafés for the next few blocks. "A Brasileira", on the right side, is Lisbon's most famous café, and its most elegant, if maybe overrun by tourists. 
The café A Brasileira
You will soon come to an open square, Praça Luís de Camões, named after Portugal's most famous poet. This is also one of the most important tram stops in the city, and the ancient, creaking trams come clanking by every few minutes.

Bairro Alto begins right here, to the right. Bairro Alto is actually quite small, just a rectangle four blocks wide and eight blocks long. But it's a fascinating place: an old, working-class quarter that has become home for a variety of alternative shops, bars and restaurants. Most of the streets are pedestrian streets, or at least have very few cars.

Turn up Rua do Norte, and you'll pass some of the cooler shops. The neighborhood seems to be moving towards more tourist restaurants and fewer cool shops, though.
Bairro Alto street scene
After two blocks, turn left to go up a side street, then turn right to continue northwards up Rua do Diário de Notícias (Newspaper Street), which is full of restaurants and outdoor seating. This is definitely one place to come back and spend an evening during your visit. Several restaurants host live fado music, others have street musicians standing out front.

Run until the street ends, where you turn right and come out at the Miradouro (scenic outlook). Take a loop through this pleasant, shaded plaza. There is a second level below with a formal gardens full of statues. The views to the castle and the river are worth a quick stop. There is also a café there where you can eat sandwiches and drink a glass of wine or beer later, if you come back.
At the Miradouro
Now continue northwards up Rua Dom Pedro V. On your right, you'll pass the Lost In bar. Out back they also have one of the best views in Lisbon from their little patio.

You are now in the Principe Real neighborhood, full of students from the university up the street. There are some interesting bars, and amazing antique stores along this street.

In a few blocks, you'll come to Praça do Principe Real on the left, one of my favorite plazas anywhere. Cross the street into the plaza, and you'll go by one of the widest trees anywhere (I mean the branches of this amazing cedar are held out wide on top of a metal support structure).

Principe Real cedar
Behind it is a fountain with more jacaranda trees, and a café next to some massive banyans.
Café among banyans
If you go through the plaza to the north side, you'll have a view out over the steep west side of the hill.

NOTE: If you are running during the daytime, before about 6 p.m., you might want to add a small but beautiful loop through the botanical garden, the Jardim Botanico. It is just a few blocks further northwest past the plaza, behind the Museu National de Historia Natural, on the right. You have to pay a couple of Euros to get in, but it's a tropical paradise within, one of my favorite places anywhere.
In the Jardim Botanico
Now head back through the plaza again to the corner where the wide tree is. Cross the street again at the zebra stripes and turn down the little side-street, Rua Mãe de Água. Rua Mãe de Água ends after a few meters, and a stairway continues on down the hill. The way crosses a street and continues as a stairway down to the next plaza. Just keep heading straight downhill on Rua Mãe de Água, passing the Hotel Botanico.

In two more blocks, you'll pass Praça da Alegria on the right. This beautiful little plaza is full of exotic tropical trees (seems like every plaza around here answers that description). Run across this half-circular plaza then turn left to continue downhill.
Strange tree in Praça da Alegria
A few meters further, and the street comes out at Avenida da Liberdade, Lisbon's great boulevard.

Now, you turn right and run the last few blocks past the Rossio train station back to Rossio plaza.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Lisbon Belém Running Route

Click here for route map 
Length 8 km (5 miles), terrain flat

Lisbon Running Routes:
Ancient Alfama  
Elegant Lisbon Downtown  
Belem World Cultural Site  
Cool Bairro Alto
   

For other running routes, see the Route List

One of my favorite Lisbon neighborhoods is Belém. It's home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites (Hey, how many of your running routes can claim that?) as well as the presidential palace, a tropical botanical garden, monuments, forts, and has a great, flat running trail right next to the Tejo River.

Most of the Tejo riverfront is fairly industrial, lined with loud streets, railway lines, warehouses and factories. But the city has reclaimed some fairly long stretches of riverside land in recent years, converting it into parks with marinas, cafés and museums. And the Tejo around Belém makes up one of the best stretches of nice riverfront. It has become one of the city's most popular jogging trails, full of runners, bikers and sight-seers.
The Tejo riverfront, with Belém lighthouse and Torre de Belém in distance
Belém was once a separate town, west of Lisbon, a royal district where the first Portuguese explorers sailed off to find a sea route around Africa. And the treasures that were brought back from around the world were used to build the two UNESCO sites: the Torre de Belém, and Jeronimo monastery.

Today Belém is just one of Lisbon's western suburbs. Getting there will be your logistical problem for this run: it's located a few kilometers west of the downtown, the Baixa. I would recommend taking the 15E tram line. You can get on at Rossio square, or at Praça do Comércio or at the Cais do Sodré train station right at the river. Riding the tram is a must-do thing anyway in Lisbon, with those ancient wooden cars screeching down the tracks. It costs about €3 a trip.
One of the older Lisbon trams: gotta take a ride!
Ride the tram westwards (towards Algés) until it passes under the giant suspension bridge over the Tejo, the Ponte 25 Abril. Get out at the second stop after the bridge, at Junqueira, a stop after the big tram depot and the Carris (public transport) Museum.

After exiting the tram, turn south (left from the tram) and run down Travessa de Guarda past the Congress Center. After a block, it runs into the wall of Avenida da India, a loud highway divided by a train line. It's impossible to cross at ground level. But no problem, just take the metal pedestrian bridge to the promised land -- the Tejo River -- on the other side.
Ponte 25 Abril
And suddenly, you're in a nice riverside park along the water, with a great view of the suspension bridge and the gigantic Jesus statue behind it. Now just turn right to head westwards among the many other runners, bikers and fishermen out there. The river is really wide here, more like a bay than a river.

After the Belem ferry station, you have to turn inland to run around a small marina harbor before turning back to the riverside.

Now, you suddenly notice that you've arrived in Belém: you can see the exquisite stonework of Jeronimo monastery across the busy road, to the right, behind a beautiful park. We'll get over there later, don't worry.

But now, to the left, you'll come to the impressive Discoverers' monument at the water's edge.

The Portuguese Discoverers
Keep running westwards past the monument and you'll see Belém's other UNESCO site down the river, the Torre (tower) de Belém. This beautiful little fort was built to protect Lisbon from naval attacks, but it looks way too decorative to be used in actual warfare, and is thankfully still standing, intact.

Before reaching the tower, you have to run around another marina basin, then go by the yacht club. There is a wider park around the tower, and an aviation monument marking the first Southern Atlantic flight in 1922, which took off from here and ended in Brasil.
Aviation monument
When the gateway into the tower is open, it's definitely worth taking a quick look inside. Sometimes, during high-tide and strong winds, you have to dodge the crashing waves to cross the walkway dry.
The Torre de Belém
Just past the tower, there's another, more functional old fort, now a museum with a memorial to the soldiers who died in Portugal's many colonial wars.
The fort and war memorial
You could continue running westwards along the river for a short ways, but this route will turn around here, and head back to the aviation monument, where you turn left through the park to the Avenida da India again.

Take the pedestrian bridge to the north side of the road and keep running north the two blocks to Rua Bartolomeu Dias, with its tram tracks. 

Turn right here, running eastwards, and pass the modern Centro Cultural de Belém, which has some free art exhibits.
Cultural Center
On the left side, you are approaching the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos monastery. At its west end, you can run into the courtyard towards the planetarium, surrounded by the Maritime Museum, with lots of old anchors, traditional boats and other curiosities, not the least of which is a drinking fountain, a life-saver on hot days!
Jeronimo doorway
Now run eastwards along the south façade of the monastery, now an antiquities museum. The small circular windows all have different stone designs. The two doorways into the church are truly amazing, and the stone façade is one great piece of artwork.
St. Jeronimo detailing work: amazing craftsmanship
Now cross the street to the south into the park, the Praça do Imperio, with its giant fountain. Then turn east to run through the beautiful gardens lined by olives and cypresses.
Praça do Imperio fountain
When you come to the line of old restaurants on the left, turn left to get back to the elegant, little shopping street, the Rua de Belém.

Turn left here, before the line of restaurants
Right across the street, you'll see Portugal's most famous bakery, the Pasteis de Belém. They invented those wonderful "natas" (custard tarts), and there is always a line of people waiting to take them home by the boxful. I've sometimes ordered a box of six to eat as dinner in the park (OK, it's not exactly healthfood).
Pasteis de Belém
NOTE: To the left, behind the tram turn-around station, is the entrance to the 6-hectare tropical botanical gardens, the Jardim do Ultramar. You have to pay for admittance, so I didn't include a loop through it, but you might want to add it to this run. It costs just €1.50, and is open until 5- or 6-p.m. depending on the season.
Jardim Ultramar, a tropical paradise
Now turn eastwards and run past the shops, which end after just one block. You are now at the next beautiful square, the Praça Alfonso, with the pink presidential palace on the left, with the palace guards out on the sidewalk.
The presidential palace entrance
Cross the square diagonally to the right to get back to the Avenida da India.

Here, again, is a pedestrian bridge back to the other side, where you'll come to the Belém ferry station again.

Now, just turn left and follow your trail back to the starting point at the Junquiera tram stop again, and take the 15E tram back home.