March 31, 2017 by Filipa Faria
The Waterworld of Lisboa
Lisbon has a special connection with water. Fountains are splashed through the city, while the seven hills, bisected by a grand aqueduct, slope gracefully down to the Tejo. In Belém, you can see where the river ends and the Atlantic begins.
Perhaps that’s why the navigators were drawn to it during the Age of Discovery and why now fishermen, swimmers, beachgoers, and surfers are carrying on the tradition. In fact, surfing has become one of the main reasons why pinguins (the local word for surfers) are visiting Portugal during the summer (and even the fall), when the water isn’t that cold. Whether in a swimming pool or in the ocean, this is a city that invites us to get more deeply in touch with its favorite of the four elements.
If you’re someone who enjoys swimming year-round and not turning blue, in Lisbon you can visit one of the many pools in sports halls, gyms, and rooftops if you know where to go. Want to brave the ocean waters? Here’s a list of the best 11 beaches in Portugal.
Two Olympic-sized swimming pool complexes are the Jamor Sports Complex, near Algés, and the EUL – Estádio Universitário de Lisboa. There, you can take part in different activities like swimming lessons, water polo, synchronized swimming, water aerobics, and mommy-and-me swimming classes. Both structures have been the stages of national and international competitions, so they know what they’re doing, and the price tag reflects it (37€ entry fee!).
You can find smaller pools all around the city for less of a hit to your bank account, however. For instance, on Rua de São Bento, going down from Rato towards the Parliament, you can find one of the oldest swimming clubs in Lisbon, the Clube Nacional de Natação, where Atlas maintains two memberships for 5€ a month, which gets you access to the lanes for 2€ to 3€ for an hour.
Nearby, on Rua das Amoreiras, there is the Ginásio Club Português, another of the older clubs where a membership will cost you anywhere from 30€ to 112€ monthly depending on you age. If you head east toward Marques de Pombal, you’ll find the Clube VII complex at the west side of Parque Eduardo VII where, you can get a packet of four entries to the 25m pool for just 20 bucks if you’re a Portuguese resident, or 35€ for a day pass to the complex if you aren’t. Oh, and they have a spa. (Thanks for the tip, Michel!)
If you are looking for a more modern place to practice your freestyle, two of the newest swimming pools in town are the Municipal Sports Complex of Areeiro, on Avenida de Roma (it also has a spa!), but it’ll set you back at least 30€ a month or more. Then there’s Piscina de Arroios at the Mercado do Forno do Tijolo, in Anjos, where they also offer hydrotherapy.
In terms of payments and memberships, it depends on the swimming pool you want to attend and what kind of activity you want to take part in. What you have to consider is that most all swimming complexes ask for an admission fee plus a monthly membership fee of around 5€ – 50€. The rest is up to you. Typically, you’ll need an ID card and an updated photograph. Some complexes may ask you to download the admission application, fill it out, and return it, and some may also ask for a doctor’s health certificate, so be prepared.
Hotels With Pools
There are some hotels with pools as well. Most are not open to the public, but hey, you can give it a shot or put your visiting friend up in one so you can sneak in. Try the Epic Sana Hotel’s large rooftop pool or the Lisbon Marriott’s garden pool if you’re looking to do a few laps, or the VIP Hotel Eden’s tiny rooftop pool for a more relaxed dip with a drink.
It’s usual to pay a daily fee to enter the pools if you aren’t a guest (Eden insists they won’t let us do it, but maybe you’ll have better luck). You can also book a massage or spa treatment at some of these hotels and then get the pool for free. Except it’s not free, of course.
Gyms With Pools
More and more gyms are diving into the pool craze, although these are generally smaller and are better for group water activities than for actual swimming practice. Most gyms, like Holmes Place and Virgin Active, are betting on water aerobics, hydro-bike lessons, or whatever is in line with the gym’s workout philosophy. A lot of these are closed in August.
If you want to enjoy the ocean without the waves, try one of the ocean pools barricaded off to keep them calm, tranquil, and a few degrees warmer than the big soup. Take the Cais do Sodré CP Comboio train towards Cascais and get out at Oeiras station to get to the Piscina Oceânica de Oeiras. Continuing by train some stops ahead is the Piscina Oceânica Alberto Romano. Exit the train at Estoril and walk for about 10 minutes to get there. This one is a bit smaller, but you can expect amazing views and smooth waters.
A bit off-road but definitely worth checking out is the Piscina Oceânica das Azenhas do Mar, in Colares, Sintra. This swimming pool is completely surrounded by a rocky landscape and only during the low tide gets a little piece of sandy beach.
Whatever you choose, bring your own towel, unless it’s a hotel, and always ask if it’s necessary to use a swimming cap at all sites other than oceanic pools. They like to keep things clean around here, you know?