Hop Aboard: Navigating Lisbon’s Trams, Funiculars, and Metro
Hop Aboard: Navigating Lisbon's Trams, Funiculars, and Metro - Riding the Rails Through Lisbon's Hills
Lisbon is a city of seven hills, which means its charming, narrow streets are often very steep. Thankfully, the city offers several types of transport to help visitors traverse those slopes. From antique trams to modern funiculars, riding the rails is one of the best ways to explore Lisbon's hilly terrain.
One of the most unique experiences is to board one of Lisbon's old trams. Many of these colorful, wooden trams date back to the 1930s. They rattle and screech their way up impossibly steep hills, giving passengers front-row views of the city. Tram 28 is particularly special, winding past major landmarks like the Alfama district, Graça convent, and Castelo de S. Jorge. Its petite size and huge popularity mean long lines and packed cars, but it's a classic Lisbon experience.
For a less touristy ride, try Tram 12 as it climbs up to the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara viewing terrace. Or take Tram 25 through the narrow streets of Graça, stopping near São Vicente de Fora monastery and the National Pantheon. Just beware of pickpockets, as the crowded vintage trams are prime targets.
If the vintage trams feel too outdated, Lisbon's modern funiculars are a speedier way to ascend those slopes. The Elevador de Santa Justa is the most famous, with its elaborate neo-Gothic tower. The Elevador da Glória and Ascensor da Bica are equally picturesque. Funiculars are included in Lisbon's public transit passes, making hopping on for a ride easy and budget-friendly.
For expansive city views, the Santa Justa lift and the Lavra funicular both reach hilltop miradouros (viewpoints). Miradouro de São Pedro and the terraces beside the Castelo de S. Jorge offer panoramas over eastern Lisbon's pastel rooftops. To the west, Miradouro da Graça surveys the city from a quieter residential area.
What else is in this post?
- Hop Aboard: Navigating Lisbon's Trams, Funiculars, and Metro - Riding the Rails Through Lisbon's Hills
- Hop Aboard: Navigating Lisbon's Trams, Funiculars, and Metro - Tram 28: Lisbon's Postcard on Wheels
- Hop Aboard: Navigating Lisbon's Trams, Funiculars, and Metro - Metro Stations Double as Urban Art Galleries
- Hop Aboard: Navigating Lisbon's Trams, Funiculars, and Metro - Paying Your Way: Tickets and Passes Decoded
- Hop Aboard: Navigating Lisbon's Trams, Funiculars, and Metro - Maps and Apps to Find Your Way
- Hop Aboard: Navigating Lisbon's Trams, Funiculars, and Metro - Safety First: Dodging Pickpockets and Scams
- Hop Aboard: Navigating Lisbon's Trams, Funiculars, and Metro - Accessibility: Making Public Transit Work for Everyone
- Hop Aboard: Navigating Lisbon's Trams, Funiculars, and Metro - Getting Off the Beaten Path: Lesser-Known Lines and Stops
Hop Aboard: Navigating Lisbon's Trams, Funiculars, and Metro - Tram 28: Lisbon's Postcard on Wheels
With its wooden body painted incheerful yellow, Tram 28 is quite possibly Lisbon's most iconic image. As it rattles through the city's postcard-perfect neighborhoods, the vintage trolley truly captures the nostalgic romance of Portugal's capital.
While all of Lisbon's old trams are charming, none compares to the "eléctrico 28" in popularity. On any given day, throngs of tourists wait in line for a chance to board the petite tram. With space for less than 30 seated passengers, the little trolley gets crammed to the brim. Travelers cling to any pole or railing they can find, vying for the best views along the route.
Part of Tram 28's appeal lies in its accessibility. A single ticket grants you access, making it budget-friendly compared to costly tour buses. The route also conveniently connects major landmarks across the city in just 30 minutes. From the trendy Chiado district to the Alfama's medieval lanes, the tram takes you directly to Lisbon's postcard-worthy sights.
Winding through atmospheric neighborhoods, Tram 28 offers a lively overview of the city's culture and history. The route begins at the bustling Praça do Martim Moniz, then heads toward the hilltop medieval Castelo de S. Jorge. Next it rattles through the charming Alfama district, with its laundry-strewn alleys and the striking São Jorge church.
As the tram ascends through Graça's steep, quiet streets, riders get remarkable views over the terracotta rooftops and pastel houses below. The tram then squeezes through the crowded lanes of the Bairro Alto, filled with vibrant street art and nightlife. Finally, it descends towards its terminus at the palm-lined Avenida da Liberdade.
Hop Aboard: Navigating Lisbon's Trams, Funiculars, and Metro - Metro Stations Double as Urban Art Galleries
Beyond offering efficient transportation across Lisbon, the city's metro stations provide an unexpected artistic treat. Many stops along the system's four lines have been transformed into urban art galleries showcasing Portugal's vibrant street art culture. For art aficionados, train lovers, and anyone seeking free activities, touring these creative stations makes for a compelling excursion.
At first glance, the city's subterranean stations may seem starkly utilitarian and uniform in design. However, once you start examining the walls more closely, you'll notice colorful murals, intriguing installations, and elaborate tilework hidden in plain sight. Even stations given a purely functional makeover in the 1990s now feature artworks integrated directly into the slick, contemporary architecture.
Inline with their aim of beautifying public spaces, the artists behind these metro artworks granted permission for their pieces to be painted over as new installations come in. The art remains ephemeral, changing to showcase new, emerging talent. Street artists from Lisbon's lively scene, like Bordalo II, Vhils, and Tamara Alves, have all left their mark across the growing, rotating gallery.
Riders exploring the Blue Line will enjoy lively murals at stations like Alto dos Moinhos and Colégio Militar. Heading south from downtown on the Green Line reveals installations like Marques de Pombal's playful interacting figures. Diverse multicultural artworks decorate the Red Line's Alameda station. And along the Yellow Line, Keep it Rocky's massive, colorful mural at Roma station is a highlight.
Beyond visual enjoyment, this ad-hoc underground art gallery makes metro rides far more interesting for visitors. Hopping off mid-journey to appreciate a vibrant mural or installation provides a literal new perspective beneath the city's surface. The art adds a dynamic human element to spaces designed for pure function. And since artworks continuously evolve, each visit presents something new.
Hop Aboard: Navigating Lisbon's Trams, Funiculars, and Metro - Paying Your Way: Tickets and Passes Decoded
Navigating any public transit system can be confusing, but Lisbon’s mix of trains, trams, funiculars and metro lines makes paying your way extra complicated. Knowing the best ticket or pass for your itinerary saves not only money, but precious sightseeing time. I learned that the hard way after an hour stuck in line buying tickets I didn’t need.
If you’re only using one mode of transport, single tickets are the way to go. These cardboard tickets work for the metro, trams, buses, and funiculars. Buy them at metro stations or on board trams and buses. But for multi-stop days, passes are your best bet.
The Viva Viagem card acts as a reloadable pass for all Lisbon public transit. Pick one up at metro stations, add credit, and tap to ride. It’s more convenient than paper tickets, but know it costs 50 cents just to buy the initial card. You can return the card afterwards for a refund of that fee.
For one epic day of exploring, the 24-hour Carris/Metro pass cannot be beat. I criss-crossed the city on trams, metro and buses for just 6 euros. But the magic expires after 24 hours, so time your days strategically.
For longer stays, the refillable 7 Colinas (7 Hills) card works on all systems except the train to Sintra. It lasts for 1-7 days, depending on the option chosen. The unlimited pass was great peace of mind during my 4-day stay.
Pro tip: If staying near a key attraction like the Alfama or Belém, the special zone-specific passes for 1 to 3 days give unlimited rides on buses, trams and metro for those areas at great prices. I loved the freedom to pop on and off while sightseeing.
If traveling farther afield, combo passes add the train to Sintra, Cascais or Estoril. Study routes carefully to decide if the added cost is worthwhile. For Sintra, I found buying a separate train ticket just for that day cheaper than the full combo pass.
Lastly, don’t forget to validate tickets or passes before your first ride on buses and trams, or before descending to metro platforms. Look for the validation boxes or turnstiles nearby. Getting caught without a validated pass earns you a fine. Trust me, those inspectors appear out of nowhere!
Hop Aboard: Navigating Lisbon's Trams, Funiculars, and Metro - Maps and Apps to Find Your Way
Navigating Lisbon's extensive public transit network can seem daunting, especially on a short visit. Should you brave puzzling out maps and routes yourself? Or rely on apps to simplify the experience? With the right tools, getting around Lisbon using metro, trams and buses is completely doable for travelers.
Digital maps and applications put Lisbon's transit system in the palm of your hand. Of course, Google Maps has reliable metro, bus and tram routing built-in. But for more extensive offline access, try downloading the free App “Transporlis”. This official app from the city transport company covers all modes of public transport in the Lisbon metropolitan area.
Transporlis makes trip planning a breeze with its journey planner, maps and real-time schedules. I loved being able to favorite regular journeys I took during my stay. The app even reminds you when to disembark, avoiding those panicked what-stop-is-this moments. Offline access gives you the flexibility to navigate even sans cell service or data.
For a fun twist, embrace getting lost like a local using the clever “Wander” app. After entering your start point A and end point B, Wander provides step-by-step walking guidance along unconventional routes. Letting go of the “right” path revealed Lisbon's hidden corners I would have otherwise missed. Along the way, you uncover cool street art, mom-and-pop shops, and authentic neighborhood slices of life.
But don’t throw out old-school paper maps just yet. With their bird's-eye layouts, paper maps helped me understand how each neighborhood connected. I often carried a pocket map as an analog backup to my digital tools. When my phone died at a metro station, that paper map was my savior to navigate back to my hotel.
Of course, don’t forget the human touch. Asking locals for transit tips often revealed handy shortcuts. And fellow travelers were great sources of real-world route advice not found in any app. Lisbon’s passionately friendly residents want you to explore their home fully. So never hesitate to ask for guidance from these proud ambassadors of their beautiful city.
Hop Aboard: Navigating Lisbon's Trams, Funiculars, and Metro - Safety First: Dodging Pickpockets and Scams
While Lisbon is generally a very safe city, some petty crime does exist. As when traveling anywhere, it pays to be aware to avoid falling victim, especially to pickpockets or common scams.
When riding crowded trams like the famous Number 28, keep valuables tucked away safely. Pickpockets tend to prey on distracted tourists engrossed in the views. Keeping belongings in front pockets or a crossbody bag instead of a backpack also deters sneak thieves. If you must use a backpack, wear it front-facing on transit. Avoid poorly lit metro cars late at night as well.
At tram stops, be wary of strangers who try to distract you by pointing out a "spilled coffee stain" or similar on your shirt. While you engage them, an accomplice will grab your wallet. Simply ignore these "good Samaritans" and walk away. Other scenarios to avoid are people asking you to sign fake petitions, or anyone forcing gifts into your hands then demanding payment.
Taxi scams are common too, like rigged meters or taking longer routes to run up the fare. Only hop in cabs from the official stands, or call for radio taxis which are better regulated. Agree on a fare up front to avoid meter issues. Uber also operates reliably in Lisbon if you prefer ride shares.
When paying at restaurants, be sure your credit card is returned promptly after payment. Sadly, some unscrupulous servers may pretend to run the card then simply pocket it. Verify you receive your own card back by checking the name. Also avoid street sellers peddling mirrored knock-off sunglasses and the like. Quality is poor, and some get aggressive if you won't pay their inflated asking price.
Finally, when using ATMs, be savvy against device skimmers stealing card data. Give the machine a wiggle to ensure its card reader isn't an illegally attached skimmer. Avoid ATMs that appear tampered with or without clear bank branding. Only use ATMs inside banks during open hours when possible for better security. Guard your PIN entry from shoulder surfers, and cover the keypad number pad with your other hand.
While the risk of becoming a crime statistic in Lisbon is overall low, following these tips will help travelers avoid trouble. Staying alert in crowds, taking advantage of hotel safes, and using common sense will ensure your Lisbon travels remain smooth sailing. Don't let fear of petty theft detract from enjoying this amazing city. Just take basic precautions, and then focus your energy on creating unforgettable memories.
Hop Aboard: Navigating Lisbon's Trams, Funiculars, and Metro - Accessibility: Making Public Transit Work for Everyone
While Lisbon's charming trams and metro make for postcard-worthy rides, navigating the city's public transit system poses challenges for mobility-impaired travelers. Hilly topography coupled with cobblestone streets and antique trolleys creates accessibility hurdles. Yet improvements underway plus creative travel hacks now open Lisbon's transportation network to visitors of all abilities.
Recent initiatives aim to make Lisbon fully accessible by 2024. The metro's modern stations already provide step-free access with ramps and elevators. Tactile guidance paths lead the visually impaired, while beeping signals aid those hard of hearing. Though not all historic tram stops are wheelchair-friendly yet, renovations are ongoing. Several tram lines now feature adapted vehicles, including Tram 15 running from Praça da Figueira to Algés.
Travelers in motorized wheelchairs opting for taxis have access to a dedicated accessible van service. And while full wheelchair accessibility remains limited, the historic Santa Justa lift and Lavra funicular offer step-free access. Lisbon even operates a small fleet of wheelchair-adapted city sightseeing buses.
Through creative trip planning, many obstacles melt away. Travelers staying near metro stations with accessible facilities can utilize the system as a jumping-off point. From there, rideshares, taxis or adapted transit provide links across the city. Strategizing routes around elevators and accessible platforms takes some extra research. But getting out and about in Lisbon is gratifying once the pieces click together.
Mobility aid users especially value Fodor's tips for enjoying Lisbon's tricky terrain. Planning visits in flatter districts like Belém and Parque das Nações gives breathing room between hills. Travelers appreciate apps like Wheelmap for locating accessible businesses to pop into when fatigued. Patience and extra time cushions account for transit mishaps and recharging needs too.
Accessible Portugal Tours owner Marc Gordon praises Lisbon's spirit of resilience. Confined to a wheelchair after an accident, Marc imagined a gap in accessible tours of his native Portugal. He launched APT in 2017, promoting adaptive activities paired with top-notch accessibility. His wheelchair site inspections uncover the city's most rewarding barrier-free experiences.
Through Marc's insider expertise, Lisbon now rolls out the red carpet for every visitor. Scenic Miradouros become viewable from adapted minivans, and historic sites sports new ramps. "If there’s no ramp today, there may be one tomorrow,” Marc encourages. “A minor limitation now does not need to prevent a fulfilling travel experience." His can-do philosophy motivates travelers to focus on Lisbon's accessibility achievements, not shortcomings.
Hop Aboard: Navigating Lisbon's Trams, Funiculars, and Metro - Getting Off the Beaten Path: Lesser-Known Lines and Stops
While Lisbon's charming vintage trams and famous funiculars usually top visitors' must-ride lists, getting off the beaten path reveals a more authentic side of the city. By riding lesser-used metro and bus lines, travelers enjoy an immersive neighborhood experience away from the crowds.
Venturing beyond the tourist-heavy routes opens windows into Lisbon's distinctive local life. Neighborhood gems hide in plain sight just steps from major sites. Locals rely on these unsung transit options for their daily needs, not cameras. Ditching the guidebook for spontaneous exploration creates meaningful interactions and delightful surprises.
Rattling through lively residential areas, quiet backstreets, and small squares, riders gain impressions unavailable on tourist itineraries. Snapshots of laundry-strewn balconies, children kicking soccer balls, and avóes gossiping evoke Lisbon's intimate human scale. Bursting with personality, mom-and-pop shops and old-school markets beckon to sample their wares.
Simple acts like sharing transport space with smartly-dressed professionals, stay-at-home parents, and chatting schoolkids adds priceless cultural color. Striking up conversations, Lisbon's friendly residents share hidden neighborhood gems - their favorite pastelaria, or a tiny museum near that day's metro stop.
This spontaneous discovery enchants travelers longing to uncover Lisbon's soul. Simone of siguienteparada.blog took Line 1 six stops past its tourist endpoints just to see where locals commute. Beyond the city center crowds, she found untrammeled residential areas with inviting squares and affordable cafés.
Fellow blogger Keri of Travel for a Lark suggests Line 1 for its above-ground sections providing great city views. Or hop off downtown's busy Yellow and Blue Lines to explore lesser-used connecting routes. Keri recommends Line 2 for street art sightings and Line 4 for escaping to beachside Barreiro.
Visiting culturally significant yet overlooked districts rewards intrepid travelers with somewhere truly off the beaten path. Take Line 5 out to suburban Amadora, home to Lisbon's largest Cape Verdean community. Its vibrant African restaurants and pulsing funaná music venues offer an exotic change of pace from typical sightseeing.