This is not as rural a walk as mention of the river banks may make it sound. We are in the city of Lisbon, where this massive river sweeps alongside the urban centre giving us wonderful views and a maritime feel.
For this walk, we’ll take the metro out to Estação do Oriente, from where a short stroll through the shopping mall takes us into Parque das Nações (Nations Park).
This old industrial area was given a new life when turned into the site of the 1998 Lisbon World Exposition, an event that was timed to coincide with the 500th anniversary of da Gama’s discovery of the sea route from Europe to India. Since then, the neighbourhood has rejuvenated again, becoming a business, residential and leisure space.
Parque das Nações, Lisbon, March 2020
As we emerge from the shopping mall, we head straight forward, alongside the rows of international flags, and following the water feature down to the river, where a friendly creature is waiting to greet us.
Gil, the Expo mascot
And here, we’ll turn left, keeping the Tejo to our right and walking beneath the cable car that races us to the tower that we can see in the distance.
Vasco da Gama Tower and Myriad Hotel, Lisbon, March 2020
From my previous visits to Lisbon, I remember this as just the striking tower that was built for the Expo 98 site. In 2007, however, the base of the tower was removed and construction of the neighbouring hotel started. It opened in 2012, and it now has a restaurant in the former viewing platform of the tower. The design is very clever, with no hint, to my eyes at least, that the whole structure was not built as one.
We’re still heading to the tower, but it’s worth stepping away from the river every now and then to check out the garden areas, and maybe grab a drink or ice cream from the site’s bars and restaurants.
But whatever you do, make sure you get as far as the Tower. It is a fascinating structure, blessed with multiple lines and curves. Gazing upwards, as clouds waft overhead, you can imagine sailing off to explore the world with Vasco.
The parque was extended when the hotel was constructed and the path now continues towards the Vasco da Gama bridge, which was opened in time for Expo 98. It has a total length of 12.3 kilometres and was built to alleviate the congestion on Lisbon’s 25 de Abril Bridge. It is now the second longest bridge in Europe, after the Crimean Bridge.
When I was here about 2 months ago, I was sorely tempted to pop into the hotel to grab a drink and enjoy the river view, but the sun was low and I wanted to see the bridge in the golden light. It’s about another 1.5km walk to the gardens beneath the bridge (about the same as we’ve walked from the station) but the views are great, and seeing the bridge appear ever more impressive with each step you take is a great encouragement to keep moving.
En route, there are several jetties giving even better views of the bridge, and once we arrive we can actually walk beneath the road that now passes way above our heads.
Vasco da Gama Bridge, Lisbon, March 2020
Refreshed by this stunning sight, we now turn around and head back the way we came. Depending on our timing, we can catch the cable car back from the tower and enjoy views from a different angle, or we can head into the food and drink establishments just beyond the hotel. Personally, I vote for nipping straight back to the station and into central Lisbon, as the restaurants in the old quarter always beckon me more urgently than this area. Whatever we decide, we’ve walked 5-6 kilometres and a rest is much deserved.
Copyright Debbie Smyth, 4 May 2020
Posted as part of Jo’s Monday Walks