LISBON • Standing with arms outstretched under an endless blue sky, the sun on their faces, a small group of women take a yoga class, looking out at Lisbon's skyline from the rooftop of a city centre hostel.
Often referred to as the "City of Seven Hills", Lisbon is full of red-tiled buildings with spectacular views over the undulating Portuguese capital as it slips down towards the Tagus River.
Long the domain of satellite dishes and washing lines, Lisbon's rooftops are undergoing a design makeover to host swanky bars, yoga classes, film screenings and concerts.
"It's all about the views in Lisbon," said Ms Katrin Heuser, 39, who started rooftop yoga classes at the This Is Lisbon Hostel when she came from London two years ago. She now holds classes at four other locations with sweeping views of the city too.
One regular student, Greek IT consultant Maria Anastasiadou, 30, said the classes were "completely different" to those held indoors.
"Your body and mind connect with the environment around you," she said. "You start feeling the sun and air touching your skin. Your mind gets clearer, in a strange mix with the noise of the city. All your senses are awake."
Lisbon's climate is especially well-suited for rooftop activities. It is one of Europe's sunniest capitals, with 290 days of sunshine a year.
You start feeling the sun and air touching your skin. Your mind gets clearer, in a strange mix with the noise of the city. All your senses are awake.
MS MARIA ANASTASIADOU, who joins a rooftop yoga class in Lisbon, on how they are different from those held indoors
"It's the perfect place for doing activities on rooftops because of the weather," said Mr Phil Llic, who since June has been showing movies on Thursday nights on the rooftop of the Topo Chiado restaurant-bar.
The venue, which opened last year on the back of the ruins of a convent, affords views of the mediaeval Sao Jorge Castle.
Under the stars, customers can admire the view at the same time as watching a cult film on a large screen while sipping drinks and lounging on one of the 90 deck chairs. It regularly sells out.
"It is about the experience, it's not even really about the movie," said Mr Llic, 31, who moved to Lisbon from London two years ago, drawn by the warmer climate and slower pace of life. He and his business partner Chris Wood, a 34-year-old from the British city of Manchester, plan to expand their movie screenings to more rooftops.
The 10-storey Four Seasons Hotel Ritz, at the end of last year, refurbished a 400m outdoor running track on its roof and set up gym equipment to let guests work out outdoors.
The boom in upgrading and redesigning rooftop space for leisure comes as Lisbon is experiencing a surge in visitors that has sparked a drive to renovate buildings in the picturesque old town. It had 3.9 million foreign visitors last year, a 9.7 per cent jump over the previous year.
Its rooftop activities are popular among locals. But Ms Heuser, who is from Germany, said many of her yoga students were foreigners, especially in August. "They like the idea. They think it is a fun thing to do and a good way to enjoy the view."
Ze dos Bois, a trendy concert venue, art gallery and bar in an 18th-century palace in the lively Bairro Alto district, opened a popular rooftop terrace last year that regularly hosts concerts. The non-profit venue's terrace features a bamboo canopy made by bamboo "masters" from Macau, said its communications director Catarina Monteiro.
"At the time, we decided not to promote the space, to avoid the 'hype' about rooftops, but we still managed to build a regular customer base," she said.