There’s no doubt about it, Lisbon is one very hilly city. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to get around while giving your feet a rest. One of the best, and most popular, ways to see the city is via its historic tram network. Dating all the way back to 1873, these iconic carriages have become synonymous with Lisbon, and one of its most-photographed sights. While the city’s tram network has decreased in size over the years, it’s still an essential form of transport here, covering areas that are underserved by buses and without metro access.
One of the best things about the trams from a tourist point of view, though, is the sightseeing opportunities they offer. Not only is a ride on one of these historic wagons an experience in itself, but the routes they travel along pass many of the city’s top sights and attractions. So, which is the best Lisbon tram for views? What do you need to know before stepping on board? Here’s our guide to the city’s best tram routes, along with some helpful insider tips and hints.
Often hailed as the best Lisbon tram for views, the number 28 has become an obligatory addition to every tourist itinerary. Why? Well it’s route from Martim Moniz to Campo Ourique passes through some of the most popular tourist neighbourhoods, including Baixa, Chiado, Alfama, Estrela and Graca. If you’re planning on riding the whole route as a sightseeing tour it’s pretty much essential to get on at either of the first stops; the carriages often get really crowded and getting on anywhere else means you’re unlikely to get a seat.
So, what sightseeing ops does the tram 28 Lisbon route cover? Riding this route gives you prime views of the Basílica da Estrela and its pretty gardens, the Tagus River, and the narrow winding streets of charming Alfama. Honestly though, we think the best views on this route are those overlooking the city, as the tram climbs higher up the city’s steep hills. If you’re stopping off at places along the way, don’t miss the Graca neighbourhood for a taste of authentic everyday Lisbon life, and the legendary twice-weekly flea market of Feira Da Ladra (get off at the Calçada de São Vicente stop).
The number 15 is another great Lisbon sightseeing tram. It’s also the best way to get to Belem from the tourist district of Baixa, as the former has no metro access. The tram carriages on the 15 line aren’t the quaint yellow ones that trundle along the other routes. These are modern Articulado trams, and as the only line that travels along a flat route in the city, the 15 is the only one that is able to use them. Despite being able to hold more passengers, these are still some of the most crowded trams in Lisbon, so it’s a good idea to get on at one of the first stops; Praça Figueira or Algés.
As well as the historic sights and attractions in Belem, the 15 is one of the best Lisbon trams for interesting stops. Get off at Calvário to visit the hipster-esque LxFactory; a former glass factory converted into a trendy hub for arts, shopping and live music. The stop at Cais da Rocha is also a good choice if you’re into art – there’s a short (but steep !) climb to reach the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga (MNAA).
The number 12 is little known to tourists, but it’s a strong contender for the best tram ride. Lisbon trams are often uncomfortably crowded, yet this line remains something of a quiet, well–kept secret. It runs in a loop from, and to, Praça Figueira, and as it follows much of the tram 28 Lisbon route it’s a great alternative where you’re actually likely to get a seat. As the shortest of the city’s tram routes, travelling the whole length will only take around 20 minutes – a nice quick sightseeing tour if you’re short on time.
The number 12 passes through Alfama, Baixa and Graça, with the Baroque Church of Saint Anthony one of the particular highlights. The starting point of Praça de Figueira itself is a good place to fuel up; we recommend the open air market of Mercado da Baixa opposite the tram stop – a great spot for street food, or tapas at Figu’s next door.
If you want the experience of riding a Lisbon sightseeing tram without the hassle of fighting for a seat near a window, the number 24 is most likely the best choice. The quietest of all the Lisbon tram routes, it travels along a similar route to the Elevador da Glória. The line was brought back to life in 2018, as part of a drive to reduce traffic in the city, having been discontinued for over two decades.
Its route from Praça Luis Camões to Campolide connects the Chiado neighbourhood with Príncipe Real, though it’s the ascent above the city’s rooftops that makes it really special, with some terrific photo ops on offer.
Tips for riding the trams
While you can buy tickets onboard the trams, it’s not always an easy task. You’ll often have to fight through a sea of people to get to the driver (or ticket machine onboard the modern trams), and you’ll need change to hand. Instead, it’s a good idea to buy a 24-hour unlimited ticket, which covers all of the city’s trams, buses, and metro lines; you can even use it to ride the Elevadors. The 24-hour tickets can only be purchased from metro stations. Don’t forget to touch it on the reader each time you board the tram.
What to expect
While they look rather splendid, the truth is that riding the trams in Lisbon is not always the most comfortable option. They’re jittery, often crowded and can get hot in the summer months. While you’ll want to have at least one experience riding them, it’s good to consider the other ways of getting around the city, and thankfully, there are plenty. From the air conditioned buses to Uber, taxis, metros and tuk tuks, your legs don’t need to suffer all those steep hills.
If you’re boarding one of the older Remodelado trams, you should always get on at the front, and off at the rear – not doing so leaves you open to the scorn of busy locals. The modern trams used on the number 15 line can be entered and exited via both doors. You’ll often see older people using the trams in order to avoid the city’s steep hills. It’s usually expected for younger, more able people to give up their seats for them on crowded journeys.
Beware of pickpockets
Ok, this is kind of a downer, but it’s an important point to emphasise. With many of the trams in Lisbon often being crowded, they’ve become prime spots for pickpockets. You’ll see notices inside the trams reminding you to keep your valuables safe, and it’s worth stressing. Keep your wallet under your clothes, get a seat wherever possible and be mindful of anyone trying to distract you – they often work in pairs.
From quaint trams to bustling nightlife, Lisbon is a city filled with adventure. Up to the challenge? Download the Orbzii app today to dream, plan and book your ideal getaway.