The two-stroke engine fires into life and the tuk-tuk rattles across the pavement, its three wheels scudding like spinning sixpences to meet the polished cobblestone street that snakes up from Lisbon’s 12th-century cathedral to Miradouro Portas do Sol.
It’s the start of a one-hour sightseeing tour of Portugal’s vibrant capital, a circuit that’s designed to showcase the best panoramas of the city from its miradouros, the viewpoints crowning some of Lisbon’s steepest roads and lanes.
Tuk Tuk Lisboa, a new company that operates a fleet of these eccentric little vehicles, has designed several different excursions that take in the city’s liveliest neighbourhoods and greatest landmarks. Seasoned travellers will know that a tuk-tuk is the nickname given to the three-wheeled cabin cycle, a motorized version of the traditional cycle rickshaw popular in countries like in India and Thailand. But to spy one of these vehicles in Lisbon is unusual to say the least. And that’s just the point. This is a novel and totally different way to explore one of Western Europe’s most engaging destinations.
A tuk-tuk with passengers begins its tour from Lisbon's cathedral. — Photo courtesy of Paul Bernhardt
Miradouro Portas do Sol offers a romantic picture-postcard perspective over Alfama, the city’s oldest district. From above, its higgledy-piggledy collection of whitewashed houses and their terracotta roofs resembles a half-finished jigsaw.
Scootering on, the tuk-tuk trundles onwards and upwards towards Miradouro da Graca and its outstanding sweep of the Baixa (downtown) district. For good measure, the view includes the mighty Castelo de Sao Jorge. An even wider angle is enjoyed at the next stop, Miradouro Nossa Senhora do Monte, one of the loftiest points in town.
After negotiating Rossio and Chiado, the rickshaw halts in front of Miradouro de Santa Catarina, the last stop before the end of the tour, for a grand finale overlooking the docks and the river.