Viewed from the north bank and the city of Lisbon, the other side of the Tagus River (its left bank) is often regarded as unknown territory. Cacilhas, the small location where the ferryboats dock directly across from Lisbon, features some of the best restaurants specialised in fresh fish and seafood in the region. It is also a great place to sit in one of its several pavement cafés along the promenade while enjoying one of the best views of Lisbon, lying across the river.
If you are in your Lisbon hotel at this very moment and you are fortunate (or wealthy) enough to have a room with a view of the Tagus, you may wonder what it’s like over there on the other bank. Well, you are right in being curious: the south bank is very different to what you’ve seen during your holiday in Lisbon.
To satisfy your curiosity, catch the Metro and head to Cais do Sodré (on the green line) and then walk across to the Ferry Terminal in Cais do Sodré. People from Lisbon view the small ferries that connect both banks as nothing more than a mode of public transport, as common as a bus (like a floating bus, that is).
These white and orange boats, called cacilheiros – because they connect Lisbon to Cacilhas, on the other bank – recall the olden days, when the only way to get across the river was by boat, before the construction of our very own Golden Gate, the 25th April Bridge. A one-way ticket on the Transtejo cacilheiros, costs €1.05.
While planning your trip to Cacilhas, try making it by ferry. Even if you do have a car – the crossing on the toll bridge will cost you €2.70 – the ferry is the best way to enjoy great views of Lisbon while being right out there in the elements.
Cacilhas is a picturesque, small district of the larger city of Almada. As the ferry approaches its final destination, you can take in the ambience of the place. On one side stand the massive cranes and structures of the historic Lisnave shipyard, once the backbone of the south bank economy. The old site has now been closed down, but its once very active trade unions connected to left-wing political parties and full of revolutionary zeal helped shape the local society and held sway in the political spectrum in the aftermath of the 1974 revolution.
Cacilhas has some sites worth visiting: the Church of Our Lady of Bom Sucesso, near the passenger ferry terminal, sets the tone, with its blue walls and naïf architecture: this is a typical Portuguese coastal village despite being located right in front of Lisbon.
Once in Cacilhas, if you’re a lover of all things that come out of the sea, you will probably already have a list with all the restaurants you want to visit. O Farol (Largo Alfredo Dinis, nº1) is one of the most well-known. A typical Portuguese marisqueira (seafood restaurant), O Farol – named after the small red lighthouse which once lit the way for cacilheiros – offers all sorts of fresh fish and seafood, catering to all tastes. A Cacilheira (Largo Alfredo Dinis, 20) and Solar Beirão (Rua Cândido dos Reis, 17), are popular places as well, especially for those who want to try one of the many cataplanas – seafood and fish dishes named after the copper vessel which is used to cook them in. These restaurants have a huge array of dishes on offer, which will go well with a refreshing pint any time of the day.
A short walk along the old riverside promenade will take you to Cais do Ginjal, a small deactivated quay bordering the hill close to Cristo-Rei, the twin statue of Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer. Don’t be put off by the graffiti-covered walls and derelict warehouses and try focussing on the peaceful fishermen who frequently settle along the bank to try their luck in the high tide. At the very end of the promenade, Atira-te ao Rio (Cais do Ginjal, 69, meaning ‘throw yourself into the river’) is one of the restaurants with the most beautiful views of Lisbon, stretching from Belém in the west all the way to Parque das Nações in the east. This Brazilian-run restaurant, has a variety of choices on its menu from freshly caught fish to traditional Portuguese fare. Enjoy your meal while listening to the sound of the small waves lapping against the small sandbank in front of the restaurant.
If you can’t resist a spot of history and culture, try visiting Quinta do Almaraz, one of the most important Phoenician archaeological sites in Portugal, or just go to Casa da Cerca (in Rua da Cerca), a small contemporary art museum with a lovely botanic garden.
At the end of the day, catch the ferry back to Lisbon – you might start feeling that the left bank is actually the right side of the river after all.