The wait is over, each city has taken its place in their respective corners of the ring, and this month’s edition of Cycle City Showdown is ready to begin!
Each month we’re going to be pitting two cities that we have a Cycle Cities partner operating in against each other, putting them eye to eye and looking at their similarities and differences in a closer light to examine why they are both amazing places to take your next bike tour!
So pack your beach towel (or your American flag), and get ready to welcome this week’s participants!
Population: Approximately 550,000
Founded: c. 8th century
Language(s) spoken: Portuguese – although English is spoken fairly widely in Lisbon, Porto, and most of Algarve.
Cycle Cities partner: Lisbon Bike Tour
SAN FRANCISCO, UNITED STATES
Population: Approximately 870,000
Language(s) spoken: English (American)
Cycle Cities partner: Currently looking!
Aside from the wine, the coffee shop culture, the colourful and politically motivated street art, and the climate (sort of), these two cities have a lot more in common than you’d at first think – let’s have a look!
The Hills and the Bays
There is a strong correlation between hilly cities and beautiful cities; especially if you love getting out of the city centre and taking a bike up to the highest points a city’s outer geography can provide for the coolest air and best views.
A hilly city has more viewpoints, more lookouts, more panoramas (and more fodder for a brag on Facebook or Instagram). Take the Portuguese coastal capital, Lisbon; it’s built on the side of a hill, with many beautiful viewpoints overlooking the bay, as is San Francisco, which overlooks a large natural harbour.
We all know the national cultural icon that is San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge – the giant orange structure has featured in many classic movie moments, such as the climax of the James Bond adventure A View to a Kill. But the lesser known fact is that Lisbon too has its very own ‘Golden Gate Bridge’!
Real name ‘25 de Abril Bridge’, it’s orange complexion and highly similar structure commonly draws comparisons to San Francisco’s own – although it’s fair to say it gets far fewer of the plaudits.
Can you spot the difference?
The Bike Tours
Whereas commonly, bicycle tours in hilly cities start in the city centre (or at the bottom of the hill) and gradually work their way up to the top to conclude with a panoramic view of the city, Filipe and the team at Lisbon Bike Tour do things a little differently. Their tour starts at the top of of Parque Eduardo VII near El Corte Inglês and finishes by the river Tagus in Torre de Belém, the spot where the ancient mariners sailed off to discover the New World. By designing a route that descends through the city rather than being (literally) an uphill struggle, Lisbon Bike Tour have designed an experience that negates the impact of cycling in a very hilly city, and created a relaxed and enjoyable ride through Lisbon’s history and present.
The Cable Cars/Trams
The yellow cable cars of San Francisco, like the Golden Gate Bridge, are an icon within the city and will certainly resonate with anyone who has grown up or travelled there. Lisbon also has these cable cars, as well as street cars, which cover both the level and hilly terrain of each city – and they are also yellow!
Lisbon is built on the North side of the bay; San Francisco the South. What else do these two cities have to separate them?
With an area of approximately 121km2, San Francisco edges out its Portuguese counterpart here, despite the latter being a capital city. The American giant also beats Lisbon in the population measures, with a total number of inhabitants that dwarfs Lisbon’s by around 300,000 people.
Lisbon, built around an historic Old Town, contrasts sharply with the modern, metropolitan look and feel of San Francisco’s city centre and skyline. Portugal’s older, Mediterranean vibes – in terms of street layout, architecture, and Southern European culture as a whole – render it firmly opposite the more secular, corporate look of San Francisco’s downtown central area.
With around one thousand years on San Francisco, Lisbon stands as a relative ancient in contrast to the American city, which, like its fellow American cities, was not founded until the 1700s. While the technologically advanced influences of the ‘Silicon Valley’ mentality have defined San Francisco, Lisbon’s foundations are based on the legacy of the Portuguese Empire and are rooted in the old, rich history of Southern Europe.
There it is! Two cities, on opposite sides of the globe, duked it out and found an incredible amount of things in common, despite their obvious and inherent differences. Have you been to Lisbon and/or to San Francisco? What do you think of the comparisons and similarities we’ve drawn here between these two cities? We think it’s too tight to call a winner but… if you disagree, let us know in the comments section or email firstname.lastname@example.org to share your views and we will publish them on our website if we like them. That’s it for now – see you next month! Thanks for reading, and never stop riding!