When you arrive in Lisbon one of the first things that makes you feel right at home is the clang of the trams as they roll around the city. On my first evening there I watched as the 28 went rolling past my window below and promised myself I would take a ride. Whilst some trams have been replaced by sleek up-to-date models, thankfully there are still a few of the yellow carriages that still trundle their way around the mosaic streets. The most famous of these is the Number 28 which follows a perfect route for sightseeing and a taste of ye olde world nostalgia.
I purchased my ticket from the little kiosk on Praça Rossio – it was an inclusive tram, furnicular, bus and some trains deal for 3 days. You can download a timetable which lists all the stops from Carris. The first journey is around 6am and it runs roughly every 10 minutes until around 11pm at night. It wasn’t too busy when we went but I can imagine that there are times when you will have to wait in a long queue.
The first time I caught the tram I had no idea what to do with my ticket. I showed it to the driver who seemed to wave me on and I went to sit down. However an elderly gentleman urgently notified me in rapid Portuguese that I needed to swipe the card on the little system that sits just behind the driver. He had to tell me several times how to do it before my brain managed to translate. Basically put the back of the card to the sensor and it will swipe it – not that difficult really!
Ticket validated, I found my seat on the carriage. The inside of the tram is beautiful. You’ll find wood polished to within an inch of its life – it really is like stepping back in time to the Victorian era. It even has a scent of the old about it. The tram lurches from side to side, trundles happily and sometimes speeds unexpectedly. Locals have an amazing psychic ability to get out of the way at just the right moment! Often it feels as though the tram cannot possibily make it down such twisting, narrow streets.
If you have a card that entitles you to a day or several days travel then you can hop on and hop off. Be aware that if you just purchased a single ride you will have to pay each time you want to take the tram. 1 – 3 day cards give you more freedom in the long run.
I didn’t stay on the tram for the full journey – something I regret and will definitely do next time I go over as it is a perfect way to get an overview of the city and also for the wonderful views on the way. I used it to make my way up to the Castle but there are plenty of other sites and areas this tram passes including The Sé and Thieves Market as well as the Castle. It also passes through many of the main districts of Lisbon: Graça quarter, Alfama, Baixa and Bairro Alto, Chiado and Estrela.
My recommendation would be to by a 3 day ticket. On your first journey just sit for the duration there and back to wherever you board and experience the streets of Lisboa in a traditional way. Once you have done this you will have a good idea of where everywhere is and will have seen some beautiful sites along the way. Then for the next couple of days you can simply use it as a hop-on when your legs are tired from all the hills.
Tomorrow I will find a video clip for you to have a taste of the journey.