Lisbon Zoo is a guaranteed crowd pleaser and is a great day out for those visiting the city with children. The enticing collection of wildlife is impressive and features some truly magnificent beasts, including majestic mountain gorillas and rare white tigers. The reptile house is a fascinating draw, and there's a rich and colourful variety of free-flying birdlife on display in the Enchanted Forest. A marvelous way of getting to know the zoo's layout is by the cable car that flies through the canopy. There's also a "train" that chugs around the grounds. If you time it well you can then take the kids over the dolphin show, or perhaps to laugh at the sea lions being fed. Outside of the zoo's boundary is the free-to-enter Animax amusement park with various rides, restaurants and cafes providing further entertainment.
Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: The zoo champions various conservation awareness initiatives, and promotes the welfare and sustainability of the world's six species of great apes and 16 species of gibbons.
Paul's expert tip: There's a picnic area on-site so why not bring along a packed lunch?
Thrill seekers in Lisbon will be impressed with the outdoors activities choice offered by Guincho Adventours. Based in the village of Areia, about 15 km north of Cascais, the company takes advantage of its proximity to the fantastic Guincho beach to offer water sports options such as surfing and kite surfing, and the nearby Sintra hills where quad and buggy tours take place. They even have an off-road Segway circuit in place! Horse riding, jeep tours and mountain biking can be arranged and they'll take groups further afield to Arrábida and Sesimbra for example, for hill trekking and dolphin watching excursions, among lots of other destinations and activities. Many of the programmes are designed specifically for kids and families, but essentially this is an outfit geared towards anyone with an adventurous spirit who can't sit down for five minutes.
Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Endorsed by the Lisbon Tourism Association, this company offers one of the broadest outdoors activities programmes in the region.
Paul's expert tip: Those who are happy to stay in Lisbon should consider the company's 'Lisbon Night Tour'. Optional is dinner at a traditional fado restaurant or the upbeat Hard Rock Café.
Taking full advantage of Lisbon's broad River Tagus and proximity to the sea, Megaverde specialises in thrill-a-minute nautical activities. For an ocean-going adrenaline rush, you can take to the water in a speedboat, boosted by twin 300 horsepower engines. Excursion options include the popular Lisbon-Cascais run, the culturally themed Alhandra Tour and the romantic Sunset Experience. The company arranges trips to little known Mouse Island, a small islet on the opposite side of the river. A favourite with nature lovers is the Birdwatching trip where passengers are taken along the north shore of the Tagus towards the cluster of islands anchored in the estuary. Besides birdlife, the variety of rich fauna includes wild horses. Most of the programmes offer an optional stopover lunch.
Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Magaverde's diverse excursion programme makes it an appealing option for a broad range of clients with an affinity for the ocean.
Paul's expert tip: All tours are dependent on weather conditions.
Surely Lisbon's most unusual and original outdoors activity initiative, this tour takes visitors on a fascinating 4-hour journey through Lisbon's vibrant street art scene. Headed by Vasco T. Rodrigues, arguably Portugal's foremost graffiti and urban culture specialist, the programme focuses on some of the most striking works in the city, created on walls and facades in all sorts of different locations, some obvious others hidden and obscure. Travelling by mini-van between "canvases", Vasco provides his own unique interpretation of each artwork while shedding light on the artist or artists responsible. He also offers an historical and chronological explanation of the places visited.
Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Created and guided by a genuine expert in the field, The Real Lisbon Street Art Tour reveals a constantly evolving exhibition of inventive graffiti.
Paul's expert tip: Obvious perhaps, but bring a camera or use a decent mobile device to capture a unique record of the works on show.
The beaches along the Lisbon coast are excellent surfing destinations and the guys running this Portuguese surf tour company are all qualified and highly experienced instructors of this most exhilarating of water sports. Based on vibrant Carcavelos beach, the company offers instruction and lessons for all age groups and skill levels, in English, Portuguese, Spanish and French. The deal includes equipment hire (wetsuit, surfboard etc) and depending on the best weather conditions you could end up surfing on other beaches like Guincho or even at Costa de Caparica, across the river. There are also options of extending the surf tours further along the coast, from Lisbon to world-renowned Nazaré and Ericeira. Their Cultural Programme combines fun in the water with sightseeing trips to selected Lisbon monuments and other visitor attractions.
Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Trusted and well established, Lisbon Surf Tours is a member of the Lisbon Tourism Association, and their instructors members of the the Portuguese Surfing Federation.
Paul's expert tip: Look out for their Surf & Stay options, where exclusive accommodation can be provided on request â" great if you're travelling as a group or with kids.
Raquel Policarpo and Inês Ribeiro are two archaeologists who share a passion for history and a love for all things Lisbon. Indeed, their extraordinary knowledge of the city and its culture and heritage, combined with a canny entrepreneurial spirit, led them to devise "Time Travellers", one of the Portuguese capital's most innovative and accomplished guided walking tours and activities companies. Designed around different themes, each tour is effectively a journey through time. For example, visitors can explore Moorish Lisbon where Raquel and Inês will lead groups through the narrow streets and alleys of Alfama to point out remnants of Islamic rule. Then there's the fascinating Lisbon Legends and Myths excursion, an enigmatic foray into the city's fabled past. Increasingly popular is the Jewish Heritage Walk that explains the sometimes troubled relationship between Lisbon and its historic Jewish community – with one or two surprises along the way! And a recent addition to the programme is the thought-provoking Days of the Revolution tour that revisits the events of April 25, 1974 when a bloodless coup toppled the government and heralded freedom and democracy.
Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: With guided walks conducted throughout the year, Time Travellers is ideal for anyone of an active disposition with an interest in Lisbon's history.
Paul's expert tip: The walks average three hours and often involve navigating Lisbon's steep hills and zig-zagging alleys. Wear comfortable shoes and kit yourself according to the weather. Bottled water is always useful.
An action-packed way to see Lisbon is on two wheels, and Bike Iberia has designed 1 to 2-day off-road guided mountain bike rides that weave through the city's undulating Monsanto Park before descending into the Restelo district of the Portuguese capital and onwards to Belém, to pass monuments like the Mosteiro do Jerónimos. Whilst in the saddle you can also explore the Tagus riverfront. Alternatively there's a flat, traffic-free paved circuit that takes in Lisbon's waterfront zones. Other rides take in Sintra and Cascais. Several different rental options are available, and Bike Iberia staff can shuttle you and your bike to safe and picturesque locations. And it's not just Lisbon waiting to be discovered. The company can offer themed rides in the Algarve, Alentejo and even Spain.
Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Led by a dedicated team of native English-speaking cycling enthusiasts, Bike Iberia has been renting bikes and offering guided tours since 1999.
Paul's expert tip: The best introduction to Lisbon on two wheels is the guided tour option, that wheels off every day at 10am from their LisbonHub HQ near Cais do Sodré.
Based out of Doca de Santo Amaro, the marina located under the 25th of April Bridge, this sightseeing sailing operation has garnered rave reviews for its tour programs. Morning, afternoon, and sunset cruises are offered by skipper Nigel and his crew. There's also a full day cruise option. Passengers can enjoy champagne and snacks while soaking in the sights on the River Tegus which, depending on the cruise, includes the former Expo zone at Parques das Nações, Lisbon's historic waterfront, and the collection of monuments at Belém. Day trips also take in Alcochete on the far side of the estuary where the Octonia, a 45 ft luxury yacht, anchors off a beach to allow everybody a chance to swim. Couples, families, and small groups of friends will find the relaxing pace of the cruises an ideal way of discovering the city's waterfront. And Nigel also hosts hen and stag parties.
Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Sailing with Nigel is suitable for anyone looking to absorb the character of Lisbon from the river and at a more leisurely pace.
Paul's expert tip: If you're group of four, consider the full two-day cruise along the Lisbon coast to Cascais with an overnight on board.
Year-round guided bird watching tours to the Tagus Estuary Nature Reserve (about a 30-minute drive from Lisbon) afford outdoors enthusiasts fabulous opportunities to see a variety of resident and migratory bird species that call the wetlands and saltpans south of the river home. Depending on the season and the location, expect to spy black tern, spoonbill, and flamingo. Iberian magpie and bee-eater are regularly spotted. If you're lucky, the great reed warbler will put in an appearance. Tours are also arranged further afield, to the Sado Estuary Nature Reserve, about a 50-minute drive south. Led by local expert ornithologists, both these options introduce visitors to the incredible array of wildlife to be found in and around the Lisbon area. As well a ticking off a prized checklist of feathered friends, you'll learn more about the environment and a fascinating ecosystem of mudflats, marshes, river islands, and agricultural land.
Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: Besides its professionalism and the huge variety of birds regularly spotted, Birdwatching Lisbon offers access to one of the most important wetland sites in Europe.
Paul's expert tip: Full and half-day excursions are offered and include door-to-door transportation, and use of optical equipment.
Located west of the city along the Lisbon coast, Oeiras marina is the departure point for exciting sea kayaking guided tours. Suitable for beginners and advanced kayakers, the expedition route passes several historical landmarks, including the impressive 16th-century Forte São Julião da Barra. Paddlers also pass the pleasant Santo Amaro beach, popular with locals and out-of-towners. Further west, the journey takes in a number of other sea fortresses as well as the small harbour of Paço de Arcos and its collection of colourful fishing boats. Along the way a stop is usually made at one of the beaches where you can swim and relax. All equipment, including wet suit and life jacket, is included.
Recommended for Outdoor Activities because: A novel way of sightseeing the Lisbon coast, a kayak tour is also a fantastic way to exercise and meet like-minded adventurers.
Paul's expert tip: Bring comfortable clothes and spare clothes to dress after the trip. Don´t forget sun protection and a hat as sun can be pretty strong.