Why Lisbon is a Leading Destination for Sustainable Travel

With its extensive public transportation system, wealth of green spaces and abundance of eco-friendly accommodation options, Lisbon has emerged as one of Europe's leading sustainable travel destinations. 

Annie Button

The Portuguese capital has set impressive goals to reduce its carbon footprint, including a pledge to be completely carbon neutral by 2050. Lisbon aims to curb emissions by promoting public transit over personal vehicles, reducing waste as well as increasing energy efficiency and renewable power. 

For environmentally-conscious travellers, Lisbon exemplifies sustainable urban tourism done right. Here, we’ll highlight everything this inviting city has to offer eco-friendly globe-trotters.

Eco-friendly transport systems

Getting around Lisbon is a breeze thanks to the city's extensive, affordable and convenient public transit system. While it’s a very walkable city, the Lisbon Metro is quick, clean and easy to navigate for destinations further afield, with four lines that serve the city centre and key neighbourhoods. Buses and trams span out across the rest of the city, reaching just about every major site and district. 

Lisbon's iconic trams, many still with wooden carriages dating back to the 1930s, make getting around part of the city's old-world charm.The famous Tram 28 loop takes passengers through historic quarters like Alfama, Graça and Estrela. Urban photographers will love capturing snapshots of the bright yellow trams winding through hilly neighbourhoods and narrow cobblestone streets. There are also electric scooters available for hire around the city for an affordable price. With so many sustainable transportation choices, tourists have no need to rely on cars during their eco holiday.

Green and varied accommodation options

Lisbon offers an array of eco-friendly lodging options to meet every budget and sustainability focus. Green-certified hotels like Altis Grand Hotel use renewable energy, implement aggressive recycling programmes, and maintain excellent energy and water efficiency. Many of Lisbon’s hotels have earned sustainability credentials through initiatives like sourcing local and organic ingredients, prioritising pedestrian access, and preserving historic architecture. Many establishments also participate in carbon offset schemes to mitigate emissions from travel and energy use. 

Additionally, Lisbon has hundreds of Airbnb options in green apartment buildings or located near public transit. With solar panels prevalent throughout the city, visitors can easily find an energy-efficient home rental through Airbnb. Whether you seek upscale sustainable accommodations or an affordable shared room when travelling on a budget, Lisbon offers green lodging for every style and budget.

Local cuisine and ethically-sourced eateries

Dining in Lisbon satisfies taste buds while also nurturing the environment thanks to the abundance of restaurants focused on fresh, local ingredients. Portuguese cuisine highlights the country's regional produce, fish, and meats flavoured with olive oil, wine, garlic and oceanic salt.

Seafood-centred eateries serve sustainably-caught fish straight from Portugal's coast, while organic, vegetarian and farm-to-table restaurants use produce from Lisbon's greenmarkets and herbs from their rooftop garden. As a vegan-friendly city, it’s a fantastic destination for those adopting a plant-based diet for ethical and environmental reasons. 

Foodies seeking the ultimate local flavour should browse menus at street food kiosks, cafes and pop-up markets to sample traditional petiscos (Portuguese tapas) made with locally-sourced fixings. With its emphasis on fresh, seasonal ingredients and proximity between farm, market and table, Lisbon's culinary scene provides a delicious and sustainable taste of place.

Countless green spaces

Lisbon offers many lush green spaces for visitors to enjoy the outdoors and serenity of nature. Sprawling parks like Eduardo VII Park, with its lovely ponds and sloping lawns, provide urban oases for strolling or picnicking. The Botanical Garden blooms with diverse exotic flora across its numerous acres, while city skyline views, travellers can hike the wooded hills along Tapada das Necessidades or stroll through the gardens of Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara.

Near Belém, the expansive Monsanto Forest Park has walking and biking trails through pine and eucalyptus trees. Parque Florestal de Monsanto is considered the ‘lungs’ of Lisbon with its fresh air and wildlife. Lisbon's plentiful parks, gardens and woods offer many options for eco-friendly recreation amid beautiful natural settings. Wandering these green spaces helps balance Lisbon's exciting urban attractions with opportunities to reconnect with nature.

Sustainable tours and interesting attractions

Lisbon has a wealth of fun and interesting attractions for visitors to explore in an eco-conscious way. In the city and the surrounding areas, there are walking and bike tours to help reduce emissions while allowing travellers to cover more ground. Likewise, e-tuk rides and segway hire allow car-free transportation with personal commentary so you don’t miss the sights. 

To explore the water, try kayaking on the Tejo or sailing along the coast. Day trips to nearby areas like Sintra and Cascais can be made via bus or train instead of private taxis. Whale watching, birding and nature hikes allow travellers to appreciate Portugal's wildlife and natural beauty. Visitors can also get involved with conservation projects to protect and preserve the natural habitats and wildlife here, from wolves and bats to local flora. 

Carbon neutral efforts

Lisbon has implemented impressive initiatives to reduce its environmental impact and work towards carbon neutrality by 2030. The city has added over 750,000 square feet of green spaces and pedestrian-only zones to lower emissions. Extensive renewal of public transportation aims to make metro, tram, train, and bus the default transit choices. The introduction of electric buses, tuk-tuks and taxis accelerates the shift to emission-free mobility. 

Lisbon's green business certification programme encourages sustainable practices in hospitality, retail and other sectors, and ongoing expansion of bike lanes and adoption of electric shared scooters promotes clean individual transportation. Lisbon is also making leaps in terms of food waste collections to divert waste away from incineration plants. With its multi-pronged strategy targeting urban mobility, green space and alternative energy, Lisbon provides a model for how travel destinations can boost sustainability.

With its extensive public transit, eco-friendly accommodations, focus on local cuisine, abundance of green space, and sustainability initiatives, Lisbon offers the perfect destination for eco-conscious travellers. For holiday-makers who want to tread gently and minimise their environmental impact, Lisbon delivers sustainability in numerous ways. With its commitment to green practices, it’s a city that both provides a memorable European getaway and sets an example for responsible tourism.

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