We are fortunate to have the opportunity to visit some of the most
interesting cities in the world as journalists for CruiseReport.com.
Whenever we have the opportunity, we like to spend two or three extra
days prior to embarkation, or after disembarkation to more deeply
experience these incredible destinations. Certainly, Lisbon has to be
one of the most interesting port cities in Europe.
After disembarking our April 2012 transatlantic sailing on Silver Spirit, we spent two days and nights exploring Lisbon on our own. The first day, we did the usual "touristy" Hop-on, Hop-off bus to see some of the sights. But, on day two, we experienced the BEST way to see Lisbon, by motorcycle sidecar!
João and Filipe pick us up at The Ritz Four Seasons in Lisbon
Rickee smiles and waves from her sidecar
We came across Sidecar Touring Company through the Four Seasons Lisbon website. After some research, we knew this was something we had to try. Good choice. Sidecar Touring Company has been in business for ten years and operates 15 motorcycle sidecar rigs with 22 drivers. These "rigs" are basically WWII-era Russian military sidecar designs (some are Chinese replicas). The technology of these motorcycles has not changed much since the 1940s. Of course, these bikes have been built more recently and are routinely maintained. Mine was a Russian-built Ural model. Ural has been building motorcycle sidecars since before WWII. You can actually buy Urals now in the USA, and they are becoming pretty popular. Rickee's was a DNEPR bike, another Russian brand with a substituted BMW engine.
My sidecar rig was a Russian-built Ural model
We reserved two sidecars, one for me and another for Rickee. It is possible for a single rig to carry two passengers, but that requires one to ride on the motorcycle behind the rider and we wanted to have plenty of room to take photos and video.
My GoPro HD video camera attached to the sidecar
We arranged for Sidecar Touring to pick us up at The Ritz Four Seasons Lisbon at 1:30pm. The two sidecars pulled up right on time and fitted us with helmets. One of the sidecars was perfectly designed for attaching my GoPro HD video camera rig. The plan was for Rickee to ride in the front sidecar with the camera, while I followed with the video cameras (we often use two video cameras when shooting for CruiseReport.com). I should also mention that the sidecar rigs have "trunks" where you can stow small items, jackets, backpacks, etc. There is also a fair amount of space at your feet inside the sidecar where you can place small items.
In the sidecar, both hands are free to take pictures and video!
The sidecars themselves are surprisingly comfortable and roomy. I am 6' 2" tall with 34" inseam and had no trouble stretching my legs in front of me. Some of the roads in Lisbon are very bumpy, many using cobblestones, so the ride is not "smooth", but the bike's suspension absorbs the really bad stuff.
See all of Lisbon's historic sights with Sidecar Touring!
On the day of our scheduled tour, there was rain in the area which normally results in a cancellation. However, Sidecar Touring was very accommodating and we just spent most of the day riding away from the rain clouds. However, be aware than inclement weather could result in cancellation.
During a stop, Sidecar Touring's owner, João Soares takes time to describe an historic landmark
Rickee and I both ride motorcycles in our "normal" life back home, so we are used to being out in traffic. We find it much more exhilarating and exciting than sitting in a bus or even the backseat of a car. And, these sidecar rigs can get into places that a car or tour bus simply cannot fit. We rode down several narrow alleyways and roads that were only a little wider than the sidecar rig. We were able to ride all the way up to the castle because Sidecar Touring has permission and the ability to lower the hydraulic barriers that keep other vehicles out. You will get to see things in Lisbon with Sidecar Touring that you will not get to see any other way.
The sidecar rigs get a lot of attention from other tourists and locals
Another benefit of the sidecar is for shooting photos and videos. You don't have to shoot pictures through the window of a bus, or constantly get off and back on the bus for photo stops. You pull up, the driver will stop long enough for you to shoot a photo, and zoom zoom, you are back on your way!
Sidecar Touring offers a variety of half-day and full-day tours, even nighttime tours, all of which can be found on their website (http://sidecartouring.co.pt). And, if you are arriving by ship in Lisbon, they can pick you up and drop you off right at the terminal! Sidecar Touring has guides that can speak English, Italian, French, Spanish and Swedish.
I can honestly say that this was one of the most interesting and fun city tours we have done and one that even moderately adventurous cruise enthusiasts should consider when visiting Lisbon.