Trail of the unexpected: Lisbon

Portugal's undulating capital can be tiring to explore – but not in a 4x4. Will Hawkes enjoys the ride

Rome is famous for being the city of seven hills – but it's got nothing on Lisbon. Visitors to this most beguiling of European capitals would be well-advised to work on their calf muscles before arriving, or at least bring extra cash for taxis. It's no joke: this place makes the Eternal City look as flat as an Opus Dei comedy night.

All in all, it is the sort of town where you could do with a 4x4 to get around. Lucky, then, that an enterprising local already has had that idea. Bruno Gomes, 31, started running his "King of the Hills" tours in a former Portuguese military vehicle this year, having spent the previous couple of years ferrying friends around this intricate city.

Gomes' motivation was simple: he wanted to make sure visitors experienced the authentic Lisbon. "People were leaving not having seen the best of the city," he says. "I want people to get a real feeling of the city."

Gomes' company is called We Hate Tourism Tours. Clearly, this is no ordinary tour. How could it be, when you see the city whilst bouncing around on the back seat of a 4x4? There are no seat belts here. Locals stand and stare as the boxy matte-green vehicle whizzes past. "I don't need a Playstation, this is the real deal," Gomes says. "It's like Grand Theft Auto, racing through the city."

The traffic in Lisbon is certainly chaotic. Most streets are narrow – the Portuguese capital's own Baron Haussmann, the Marques de Pombal, had only a limited impact on the city's geography. When we parked to take in the view at Largos das Portas de Sol, which overlooks Alfama (the old town and the spiritual home of Fado) the screech of brakes and a female scream from behind us suggested a near miss. "It's normal," Gomes, says.

The tour covers all of the central districts of Lisbon, but with the added benefit of the sort of juicy local information denied those sitting uncomfortably on sweaty coaches. Take the illegal pastry shop in Bairro Alto, the part of town where young natives go to drink away the weekend. "It's like you're buying drugs," Gomes says. "They pass the pastries through a hole in the wall. Sometimes the police turn up to bust them and a queue builds up because they refuse to serve. People are like, 'Go away! Someone is getting attacked at the bottom of the hill!'"

Or there's the Thieves' Market in the east of the city, where the tour stops on Tuesdays and Saturdays. "We say that if you have something stolen, it will turn up at the Thieves' Market the next time you go," Gomes says. Wandering through the market, you can't help thinking that some of this stuff must have been nicked in 1950. Still, it's like the best car-boot sale you've never been to. The Thieves' Market has been around since the 13th century.

Gomes' tour also takes you past any number of crumbling apartment blocks that would fetch millions in Paris or London.

Lisbon is a city of views, and perhaps the best can be experienced at Miradouro da Senhora do Monte (Our Lady of the Hill viewpoint), one of the last stops on the trip. Our Lady – trapped in a glass box, peering out over the city – has it made. A bit off the beaten tourist track and a distance from any public transport, this is a tranquil spot to soak in Lisbon's idiosyncratic splendour, as long as you can shake off the Goan man trying to sell you tiny paintings of trams.

And then, finally, there's A Ginjinha, the hole-in-the-wall cherry brandy bar in the Largo de Sao Domingos. The drink itself is sweet but not cloying – in that respect, it's not overly dissimilar to its English equivalent, Grants Morella. It's unlikely, though, that you would find groups of Englishmen standing outside a cubby hole on a Saturday morning drinking liqueur.

But this is not London. The pace of life is slower and, as Gomes has found to his advantage, laws are there to be broken – or at least bent. "I have a licence to park illegally," he says. "Sometimes I arrive somewhere, there's a cop there, he looks at me, I look at him. 'Five minutes,' I say. And it's cool."

It's no wonder he can take liberties with the law: Gomes is a natural with people. He thinks this has a lot to do with his background. "My father has a shoe shop," he says. "The way that he deals with the public, I think I have that in my genes."

And Gomes' engaging manner means the tour doesn't end when he races off. "Sometimes I don't know things, but if I can't answer someone's question, I email them when they're back home and I give them the answer."

This good nature is as unwavering as the city he so clearly loves. "Lisbon doesn't really change," he says. "We like to have the things that we have always had. It's bad in a way, but also nice."

Travel essentials: Lisbon

Getting there

* From the UK the widest choice of flights is offered by easyJet (0905 821 0905; easyjet.com), with services from Bristol, Edinburgh, Gatwick, Liverpool and Luton. Portugal's national airline TAP (0845 601 0932; flytap.com) flies from Gatwick and Heathrow; British Airways (0844 493 0787; ba.com) flies from Heathrow.

Visiting there

* We Hate Tourism Tours (00 351 911 501 720; wehatetourismtours.com). 'King of the Hills' costs €20 per person and lasts three hours.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Sport
Rio Ferdinand returns for QPR
sportRio Ferdinand returns from his three-game suspension today
News
The Speaker of the House will takes his turn as guest editor of the Today programme
arts + ents
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
News
people

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
Sport
Billy Twelvetrees will start for England against Australia tomorrow with Owen Farrell dropping to the bench
rugbyEngland need a victory against Australia today
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
books
Sport
Tyson Fury poses outside the Imperial War Museum in south London ahead of his fight against Dereck Chisora
boxingAll British heavyweight clash gets underway on Saturday night
News
i100 Charity collates series of videos that show acts of kindness to animals
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager - Bristol

    £31000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the UK, the major project fo...

    h2 Recruit Ltd: Sales Executive - Meetings & Events (MICE) - £40,000 OTE

    £30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits: h2 Recruit Ltd: Are you a high achieving...

    h2 Recruit Ltd: Account Executive - Hotel Reservation Software - £40,000 OTE

    £30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits: h2 Recruit Ltd: A rapidly growing Hotel ...

    Recruitment Genius: Tyre Technician / Mechanic

    £15000 - £16800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Tyre Technician / Mechanic is...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

    Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

    Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
    French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

    French chefs campaign against bullying

    A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

    Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
    Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

    Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

    Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

    Paul Scholes column

    I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
    Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game