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Lisbon Trams - A Tourist’s Guide
Lisbon has a network of quaint, old-fashioned trams that lurch and screech around the narrow streets of the capital. No visit to Lisbon is complete without taking a ride on one of these classic, pre-war, Remodelado trams. In total there are five different tram routes, which either head east (towards Alfama) or west (towards Belem). This guide will provide an introduction to Lisbon's tram network and outlines each of the five routes.
Tourist Guide to Lisbon Trams
Of the five routes, there are two that are tourists should definitely consider taking. The E15 Tram provides a useful link from central Lisbon to the Belem District and the E28 cuts through the Alfama District. The number E12 also follows much of the E28 route through Alfama but has a very limited service.
The red tourist tram
The Lisbon tram routes are given a number with a preceding E which stands for “eléctrico”. The first tram of the day is at 6am and most services continue until 11pm. All routes have multiple services per hour and passengers do not have to wait long between services.
Lisbon Tram tickets
A single Lisbon tram ticket costs €2.85 can be purchased onboard from either the driver or the ticket machines. Note that the machines only accept coins. However, a much better option is to use the Viva Viagem pre-paid ticket, which makes a single tram journey cost only €1.40. The Viva Viagem ticket is a rechargeable ticket that can be used throughout the public transport network of Lisbon. The ticket must be initially purchased for €0.50 and the fares are charged to the card using the metro ticket machines.
A badly parked car blocking the Alfama tram, not an uncommon sight.....
An unlimited 24-hour ticket costs €6.00 and can be used for the metro, trams and buses; these tickets can be purchased from the metro station ticket machines. All tickets need to be validated on boarding the trams.
Further Information about Lisbon Tram
There are five tram lines with 58 trams operating across a combined distance of 48km. Tourists will notice that trams servicing Belem and Baixa have been modernised but the rest of the trains are pre-war Remodelado style and eight have been specially painted for the tourist tram routes. The following list outlines each of the tram routes, running from the most interesting for tourists to those that are used only for local commuters.
Tram Route E15
The E15 tram route extends west from the Baixa District towards the Algés District. This route is highly recommended to tourists as it connects central Lisbon to the pretty district of Belem, the location of the Torre Belem and the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos. The E15 Tram departs from the Praça da Figueira and can also be boarded in the Praça do Comércio.
The number 15 as it passes through Belem
The tram takes 22 minutes to travel from Praça do Comércio to Belem, and the route is quite scenic, as it passes beneath the suspension bridge and follows the estuary. E15 Tram runs a frequent service (waiting times are less than 9 minutes) and also runs late into the night, continuing until 1:00. The trams on this service are modern and air-conditioned but lack the charm of some of the classic trams serving other routes. For a guide to the E15 trams please click here.
The number 15 tram in Praça do Comercio
Lisbon tram Route E28
The E28 tram covers the classic tram route of Lisbon; depicted in countless images and tourist material. The route cuts through the heart of the Alfama District and passes directly in front of the ancient Se Cathedral, providing tourists with a perfect photo opportunity.
The number 28 tram
The actual E28 route is one of the longest in Lisbon, connecting Baixa to Graça and then heading west towards Campo Ourique, via Alfama and Estrela. The tight corners and steep gradients of the E28 route are unsuitable for modern trams and, as such, only classic 1930s single carriage trams can navigate this undulating track.
Most visitors simply catch the tram to head into Alfama, but the opposite direction also leads to the peaceful Estrela District, with the mighty Basilica. There are departures every 11 minutes and the Alfama District is also served by the E12 circular route. The E28 tram service continues until 21:00 and it is worth noting that the trams through Alfama can get very crowded, especially during the height of the tourist season and are unfortunately popular with pickpockets. For a guide to the number 28 tram please click here.
The number 28 tram as it passes through Alfama
E12 Tram Route
The E12 Tram has the shortest route of all of the trams, and performs a one directional circuit from Baixa (Praça da Figueira), up the hill to São Tomé and then through Alfama, before returning to Baixa. The short route is only served by two trams but, with departures every 20 minutes, it manages to take some of the strain off the E28 route. Tourists should expect lots of halts and stops on this route, which is only 4km long but takes around 20 minutes to complete. The E12 is recommended for those wishing a short tram tour of Lisbon.
The yellow trams are seen all round Lisbon
Lisbon Tram E25
The E25 Tram route connects the main ferry terminal just east of Praça do Comércio with Campo de Ourique, in the west. This provides an alternative service from downtown Lisbon to the Estrela District, which passes along the estuary. As this is more of a commuter than a tourist service, there are no departures at the weekends, and the timetable focuses on rush hour periods. This service finishes by 20:00.
Lisbon Tram Routes E18
This route is of little importance for tourists, as it connects the train station of Cais de Sodré to the residential area around Cemitério da Ajuda, to the north-west. There are departures every 20 minutes and the entire E18 route takes 30 minutes, with the last service around 19:30.
History of Lisbon Trams
The first tram tracks were laid in 1873 and the early trams used horse pulled carriages. The tram lines became electric in 1901 and this gave rise to the Portuguese name ‘Carro e létrico’ (carriage with electricity), which over time became Eléctrico. Between 1936 and 1947 there was massive investment in the tram network and remodelado trams were constructed. In 1950 at the height of the Lisbon tram network there was a maximum of 76 km of track (twice that of today) served by 24 tram routes.
The remodelado trams are based around the original trams but, thankfully, the engines, brakes and electronics were completely upgraded when the 500 series trams were purchased. The trams are operated by Carris (Companhia Carris de Ferro de Lisboa) a state-owned company that employs 163 tram drivers. The gauge of Lisbon tram network is 90cm and is classified as a narrow gauge.