The disabled cruiser visiting Lisbon will discover that Lisbon is a city spread over seven hills, it is accessible for the mobility impaired. But you will also notice the cobblestone pavements in Lisbon, making it hard for the wheelchair user; Alfama is worse, because the sidewalks are too narrow for a wheelchair and it’s also mainly stairs up and down.
There are two main cruise ports. One called Santa Apolónia, (or Alfama), is on the very edge of the city center, the other at Alcantara is a couple of miles out. There is no shuttle bus at Santa Apolónia as city buses stop outside the terminal and there is a metro (underground) station there also. There is a taxi rank across the road outside the station but possibly hardly worth it for a couple of hundred yards to the city.
Not all city buses are accessible, neither are some of the older metro stations in the city. Taxis are readily available at Alcantara as are city buses, but, no metro there. The antique trams used for city tours are not wheelchair accessible.
The central area (Baxia) is more or less flat as are the riverside zones, but Lisbon is known as the city of seven hills for good reason. Many of those have very steep inclines, there are often cobbled streets and no proper pavements. 99% of the pavements don’t have sloped curb. Some of the hills are so steep that there are funicular railways and even a lift to take people up and down. But much of the fun of the place lies in the hills, with fine views round many corners, and narrow winding streets. As well as steep gradients you would find many of the streets hard work as pavements can be just a couple of feet wide and often blocked by parked cars. One of the most picturesque parts of the town, Alfama, is all stairways, quite difficult for the Disabled Cruiser in a wheelchair.
Most buses are accessible, trams are not. A few of the older metro stations in the center have no step free access.
Lisbon is situated on the west coast of Portugal and is also it’s capital city.
The Baixa and Rossio districts are the main shopping and tourist area of the city.
Alfama is the ancient Moorish quarter, with its cafes, little shops and labyrinthine streets. The Castelo de Sao Jorge (Castle of St George) is located here.
Tram 28 with it’s ancient, tiny cars which begins near the Castle de Sao Jorge. As some streets are so narrow, steep and curvy, they are a popular and easy way of experiencing this area. Sadly, Tram 28 is not handicapped accessible.
Oceanario de Lisboa is located in the Parque das Nações, which was the exhibition grounds for the Expo ’98.
Museu Calouste Gulbenkian (Calouste Gulbenkian Museum) contains collections of ancient and modern art.
The viewpoint of Senhora do Monte is located in the parish of St Vincent and affords great views over the city.
Other attractions include Igreja de Sao Roque, the National Tile Museum, Lisbon Zoo and the Science Museum.
Belém is located 6km west of the city center and contains many tourist attractions including Belém Tower, on the rocky island along the northern margin of the Tagus River, Jerónimos Monastery, located along the Praça do Império, across from the Padrão dos Descobrimentos and the National Coach Museum (Museu Nacional dos Coches) which has one of the finest collections of historical carriages in the world.
Where You’re Docked
There are 3 Cruise Terminals in Lisbon all situated far from the city center (2 are an hour’s walk away). A handful of shops can be found in the terminals, however the main shopping can be found in Lisbon itself.
There are taxis, buses, trams and the underground at the dock.
Good to Know
Pickpockets are stealthy and omnipresent, especially on public transit or along busy sidewalks and pedestrian-only streets. Leave your valuables onboard, and secure any credit cards and money you take along.
Some cruise lines offer a shuttle service to Praca do Comercio, an elegant 18th-century square facing the riverfront near the Baixa (central business district in the lower town). From the square, many of the major tourist attractions are within walking distance as well as “Main Street,” Avenida da Liberdade, which lies to the northwest and is a broad boulevard with upmarket hotels and chic shops.
From Santa Apolonia, a Blue Line Metro stop is located across the street from the terminal entrance alongside the Santa Apolonia railroad station. It’s just two stops to the city center at Baixa-Chiado or three to Restauradores Square just north of the Rossio, the main plaza.
The metro, buses and trams are relatively easy to navigate, with unlimited-use daily passes available at ticket machines, however, not all are accessible. In addition, the Rossio train station offers frequent service to the out-of-town destination of Sintra (40 minutes). Cais do Sodre station, just downriver from the city center, runs frequent trains to the riverside towns of Estoril (30 minutes) and Cascais (35 minutes), stopping near the Alcantara cruise terminal en route. From Santa Apolonia, trains run to Fatima (1.5 to 2 hours).
The official currency in Lisbon is the euro. You’ll find plenty of ATMs and exchange bureaus in town. Be sure to change some money if you plan to pick up snacks or ride the buses, trams or metro.
The official language in Lisbon is Portuguese, though many people understand and can speak English.
Port, hand-painted tiles and embroidery are popular souvenirs.
Portuguese cuisine includes lots of fish (especially salted cod), crab, meat and rice dishes. A common Portuguese soup is Caldo verde is a common Portuguese soup, made with potato, shredded kale and chunks of spicy sausage. Desserts include ‘arroz doce’ (rice pudding with cinnamon) and caramel custard.
Points of Interest
Belem Tower – The unique four-story Belem Tower fortress sits directly on the banks of the Tagus, and was built in the 16th century to defend the harbor. Originally a lighthouse, it was also used as a prison. Unfortunately for the Disabled Cruiser it is not wheelchair or mobilty friendly as there is 30 steps to get inside and the stairs up the tower are narrow and winding. Outside of the tower there is nice path to walk, relaxing and cafe shop.
- Jeronimos Monastery – The breathtaking 16th-century Jeronimos Monastery was declared a World Heritage Site in 1983, and is considered to be Lisbon’s finest landmark. It boasts two-story cloisters and ornate arches. For the Disabled Cruiser the the monastery is wheelchair accessible and free for people with a disability. For wheelchair users there are fairly steep but negotiable ramps for the church. In the nave of the church your tour ends and you have to retrace your steps against the flow. Please be aware that only the lower story of the cloisters and the Herculano exhibition are wheelchair friendly, to access the upper floors you need to go up a stone staircase.
- Monument to the Discoveries – Situated on the banks of the Tagus, the modern Monument to the Discoveries is shaped like the prow of a sailing ship. It commemorates Portugal’s great seafarers, including Vasco de Gama.
- Alfama Quarter – The Alfama Quarter, the oldest part of Lisbon, survived the devastating earthquake of 1755 and features narrow streets, stunning Moorish architecture, and many cafes and restaurants. For the Disabled Cruiser, this part of Lisbon with the small alleys, cobblestone streets and beautiful houses is really difficult to access if you’re using a wheelchair.
- Maritime Museum – Located in a building at the Jeronimos Monastery, the museum focuses on Portugal’s pioneering role in sea exploration. It features original maps, models and nautical instruments from the Middle Ages. The Disabled Cruiser will enjoy that the museum is fully accessible. Located next to the monastery, the museum tells the story of Portugal’s rise as a maritime power from its voyages to India to its battles to protect its shipping routes. Well curated and interesting.
- Baixa – The city’s central business district. Located between Rossio and Praça do Comercio, this section is a shopper’s paradise with several pedestrian streets. Location within walking distance of many of the must-see in Lisbon center. The Disabled Cruiser will find the central area (Baxia) is more or less flat but the down side is the often cobbled streets and no proper pavements.
- Cascais & Sintra – Set in the Bay of Cascais, this delightful fishing village, is a popular beach resort boasting stunning, ocean views plus a fascinating mix of early 20th-century homes, and modern buildings. One of Portugal’s oldest cities, charming Sintra is home to an 8th-century Moorish fortress, palaces, and many imposing manor houses and castles that once belonged to feudal lords and monarchs. The Disabled Cruiser will find that the town is definitely not among the most accessible, but it is fairly easy to move around. Cascais is relatively flat, and several of the cobbled streets were of good quality, and thus, not that difficult for wheelchair users.
Our Lady of Fátima Basilica – The Our Lady of Fátima Basilica marks the site where the Virgin miraculously appeared to three shepherds in May 1917. To this day, the faithful continue to visit to pray and seek miraculous cures. For the Disabled Cruiser when you look at the many steps climbing high beautifully up to the front door, without a rail, it seems daunting but go to the left of the church and you can walk up a moderately gentle climb to the side door. Definitely a better option, it is still a bit of a push with a wheelchair, but there are willing helpers.
Lisbon Accessible Excursions
Lisbon is many cities, from the cobbled alleys of the Alfama district to the broad Parisian style avenues at its heart. View it all from the heights of St. George’s Castle. Belem’s Monument to the Discoveries recalls the seafaring past, while nearby Sintra’s storybook palaces, and the seaside resort of Caiscais, have different tales to tell.
There are no organized accessible shore excursions for Lisbon.