Stop 5: Baixa-Chiado
A jolly ride on Lisbon’s iconic Tram 28
London may have it’s centuries-old red buses and Venice it’s gondolias. Lisbon has Tram 28, which was birthed in 1873 and plies most of the must see districts of Lisbon. Taking a ride on Tram 28, remodelled and electrified in the 1930s, was a must do for me in Lisbon.
I set off early in the morning from my hotel to catch the tram at its starting destination in the hope of beating the hordes of tourists who ride Tram 28 to some of the main tourist sites such as São Jorge Castle and to avoid climbing some of Lisbon’s steep hills. I took a 15 minute walk to Praça do Martim Moniz (north of Baixa) only to find a long queue of folks waiting to get on. An hour later about 5 Tram 28s, which take about 30 passengers had stopped, taken folks on and whizzed by and I was still in the queue. The wait was frustrating, even to a Londoner, pretty adept and used to queuing. A 15 minutes chat about travel with a Canadian couple, recently retired and married for 43 years took the edge off a little. There is nothing like camaraderie in a difficult situation in what was fast turning out to be a frustrating experience. I watched as other folks who had had enough left the queue for tuk-tuks parked at Praça do Martim Moniz.
Another 20 to 30 minutes later I got onto Tram 28 and waved Praça do Martim Moniz goodbye as we departed.
Stop 1: Graça
The first stop was Graça known for its restaurants and food. The views from Graça which is located on the highest of Lisbon’s 7 hills, at the Miradouro de Santa Graca, is pretty spectacular.
Stop 2: Escolas Gerais
Alfama the former sinner’s nest and now the oldest district in Lisbon is the main attraction here. I revisited Alfama twice. It is that good a place. It’s narrow streets, restaurants, traditional cultural ways and certainly its gossiping womenfolks who crane their necks out of windows chatting to their neighbours is a must experience for any tourist or traveller.
Stop 3: Portas do Sol
This area seems to be popular with travellers with a preference for staying in apartments. There are lots here some with great views of downtown Lisbon. It is also the nearest stop to the São Jorge Castle (Castelo de São Jorge)
Stop 4: Rua da Conceição
This stop is closest to the Rua Augusta Arch a stone, triumphal arch-like in Lisbon, on Commerce Square, built to commemorate the city’s reconstruction after the 1755 earthquake. The century-old Elevador de sta justa where you could see Lisbon in all its glory high up is also close by.
The temptation to get off here will be huge. Chiado is home to Café A Brasileira (The Brazilian Lady Cafe). This is Lisbon’s most famous and one of the oldest cafés. It was the hanging out place for artists and writers. Now in the afternoon well heeled tourists and Portuguese chill out here drinking coffee and in the evening as I experienced on my last night in Lisbon, a mini music gig takes place right in front of the café. The Carmo ruins and Bairro alto, one of my favourite districts in Lisbon, are all within walking distance from here.
Stop 6: Estrella Basilica
This was the last stop of Tram 28. I waltzed up the street and was in Estrela Gardens within a couple of minutes where I hurriedly had roasted chestnuts, a Portuguese favourite, before entering the gardens for a 30 minute tour which included time for refreshments at the local restaurant situated in he middle of the gardens.
Overall the Tram 28 experience had been exhilarating. The constant rattling of the tram as it struggled up the various hills in Lisbon and how close (within inches) it came to parked cars and building had been fun to experience. The frustration on the faces of locals who struggled to find space as the tram buzzed with tourists taking up all the seats and standing spaces was palpable. I took buses, trains but with the exception of good old fashion walking no other mode of transportation beat Tram 28. I felt I had finally conquered Lisbon and could mentally tell which part of the city I was in, in relation to others. An absolute must do if you can garner the patience to queue to get on.
Guest Post: Princess Pappoe