For an authentic and classic ride through the streets and tourist highlights of Lisbon, Tram 28 is a must for the travellers.
The tram has a certain nostalgic feeling to it. The small, narrow, and claustrophobic wagon, and, if you find the right one, driver will put a smile on your face,” recounts a traveller on TripAdvisor, a popular online portal that provides first hand reviews from the visitors. The trams are an integral part of the Lisbon public transport system and the number 28 tram, with its longest route through the small neighbourhoods of the capital, forms one of the highlights of the city. A ride on the yellow vintage hop-on-hopoff bus adds another layer of experience in the exploration of the old port city.
While the experience amidst enthusiastic crowd of tourists and locals is inexpressible, the wobbly ride on the narrow cobblestone streets through the Art Nouveau style architecture is a visual delight. Introduced in the middle of the 19th century, the wooden tram with its rickety seats moves on a fixed route that begins from Martin Moniz, named after a 12th century knight of noble birth, where the travellers wait in a long queue. The classic carrier that accommodates 30 passengers at once takes approximately 45 minutes to an hour to cover the complete route and runs at 15 minutes interval. A 24-hour valid ticket at modest price allows one to enjoy the ride, hop-off and explore the places at one’s own pace and interest.
While sitting through the drive allows a glimpse of the local lives and a chance to admire the Portuguese architecture and the beautiful tilework of the facades, a few places draw the travellers to hop-off for a quick tour. Castle of St George, located on the tallest of the Lisbon’s seven hills and 10 minutes walk away from the Se stop at Alfama, Lisbon’s historic quarter, is one such place. Although the exact date of its construction is unknown, the fortification of the fort is believed to date back to 6th century BC by the Romans. Its location provides excellent views of the Lisbon city and the Tagus River. Named after the patron saint of England, the castle was immensely damaged when Portugal was hit by a 8.7 richter scale earthquake in 1755. The contrast between the present and the past could be seen in a 16th century painting of Lisbon exhibited at the entrance of the adjoining museum. Apart from the palace, one could also visit the 12th century Lisbon cathedral, 30 seconds away from the Se stop. There is an evident contrast between the old architecture of Alfama and the Art Nouveau style that was born in response to the academic art of the 19th century that was inspired by the natural forms and structures to harmonise with the natural environment.
Besides the dose of art and history, Portas Sol at Alfama district comes with a coffee bar and restaurant, overlooking good views of the city and Tagus River. Portas do Sol, Portuguese for gate to the sun, also accommodates a statue of Lisbon’s patron Saint Vincent with a boat and two ravens, the symbols of the city. The tram also goes through the theatre district of Chiado, where one could stroll leisurely through its upscale bookstores, restaurants, boutiques and hotels. For the visitors looking out for nightlife, district of Barrio Alto falls enroute, while for a family district of Estrela may be a preferred stop. With its parks, gardens, exotic plants, duck-dotted lakes and playgrounds, it forms for an intimate picnic spot for the families. With Estrela Basilica as the last major tourist site along the route, and the tram service terminates at the nondescript Campo de Ourique station.
While it may be crowded, a ride through this vintage bus is an authentic experience and economic nonetheless. For additional convenience of the tourists, the tickets for the trams could be used for the metros and other buses as well and could be bought from the metro stations from morning 10 to evening 2100 hours.