TRAVELING FREE OF COST
Before you leave Lisbon airport, request a LISBOA CARD at the ASK ME LISBOA (Turismo de Lisboa) booth in the arrivals hall – it will entitle you to free rides on public transport (buses, trams and metro), as well as offer discounted rates for a wide range of museums and attractions. Further details: www.visitlisboa.com/LisboaCard_UK.aspx
Alternatively, you will be able to obtain a 7 COLINAS, VIVA VIAGEM or a LISBOA VIVA CARD at newsagents/metro stations, a top-up system that gives you the option of choosing from a single ticket, a day pass or a larger credit amount (Zapping) that gets used as required. Using one of these travel cards is cheaper than paying for individual tickets, although you initially also have to pay for the card too, which is then valid for 1 year. When using suburban trains, your tickets are charged onto a similar card but as you cannot have more than one type of ticket on a card, you will need at least two separate cards, one for zapping (regular bus, tram and metro use), the other for suburban travel. Further details: www.carris.pt
FROM THE AIRPORT TO THE CITY CENTRE
Lisbon airport is approximately 20 minutes away from the city centre and our recommendation is to simply take a TAXI. Taxis are much cheaper in Lisbon than other European cities and there are always plenty of taxis waiting at the airport. But our advice is to not take the ones outside the arrivals area, as they might have been waiting for clients a long time and could try to charge you more to make up for it. Instead, go to the departures area of the airport, where there are also taxis just outside the building. Luggage and night or weekend journeys carry a small surcharge, but the journey into the city centre will cost you around €15. Do not pay more than it shows on the meter!
Several CARRISTUR AEROBUS services travel between the airport and Lisbon city centre and main transport hubs such as the Oriente train station, Praça do Comercio or Cais do Sodré (all of these areas also have metro stations). The €3.50 ticket can be purchased on board and used for 24 hours on other buses; children 4-10 years old travel free.
The AEROBUS LINE 1 route connects Lisbon Airport to the city centre, stopping at Entrecampos, Campo Pequeno, Avenida da Republica, Sadalnha, Picoas, Fontes Pereira de Melo, Marquês de Pombal, Avenida da Liberdade, Restauradores, Rossio, Praça do Comercio and Cais do Sodré. Departures from the airport run between 07:00-23:00 and departures from Cais do Sodré run between 07:45-22:30 (every 20 minutes during the day/every 30 minutes after 21:00).
The AEROBUS LINE 2 service runs between Lisbon Airport and the Oriente train station at Parque das Nações, on the east of the city. Departures from the airport run between 08:50 -21:50 and departures from Oriente run between 07:00-22:00 (every 30 minutes).
The AEROBUS LINE 3 route connects Lisbon Airport to the metro station/bus terminal (buses to the whole country) of Sete Rios stopping at Entrecampos, Sete Rios, Praça de Espanha and Avenida José Malhoa. Departures from the airport run between 07:40 -22:10 and departures from Avenida José Malhoa run between 08:15-21:15 (every 30 minutes).
The local CARRIS BUS SERVICES also provides commuter buses between the airport and downtown such as #44, #45 and #83. As for exploring Lisbon generally, here are some useful bus routes:
#727 – Passes by Marquês de Pombal Square and goes all the way to Belem, via Estrela and Lapa.
#37 – From Figueira Square to Saint George’s Castle via Alfama, if you don’t want to climb up to the castle. But walk back down to the centre, stopping at the viewpoints along the way.
#44 & #745 – From the airport via Saldanha, Avenida da Liberdade, to downtown.
Lisbon’s metro system is modern, efficient and the quickest way to travel around the capital. It runs from 06:30 – 01:00, and many of its stations are decorated with contemporary art, making it a tourist attraction in itself. There are four lines, conveniently colour coded: blue, yellow, green and red. The green line connects the tourist areas around Baixa and Cais do Sodré (also the train station to Cascais). The red line ends at Oriente/Parque da Nações (Expo Park) and is due soon to be extended to the airport. The older yellow and blue lines follow Lisbon’s grand avenues. While metro announcements are made only in Portuguese, signs and ticketing machines are generally bilingual in Portuguese and English. Further details: www.metrolisboa.pt
TRAMS #28 AND #25
Lisbon is a hilly city and cobblestone streets abound, thus “electricos” (trams) and “ascensores” (funiculars) help to get people around, especially up and down hills! They are an indisputable pictorial part of the city, and you can see ancient streetcars as well as modern ones, making the city so visually interesting.
But it is the vintage yellow ELECTRICO 28 that offers the most interesting route crossing the city centre, going through some of the oldest quarters and many tourist attractions. Starting in front of the Cemitério dos Prazeres (Pleasure Cemetery) and passing between the Jardim and the Basilica da Estrela (romantic gardens and one of the city’s oldest churches), you will go downhill on the Calçada da Estrela past the parliament building of São Bento, toward the Praça do Camões and Bairro Alto (an area of trendy shops and great night life). Then it’s downhill again through the Chiado and Baixa shopping districts – worth a stop to admire the city’s majestic riverside square of Praça do Comercio. When you start going uphill, you will pass the Igreja de Santo António (church of Lisbon’s patron saint) and the Sé (Lisbon’s main cathedral) on the way to the Castelo de São Jorge (another recommended stop). After strolling around this 16th century castle, we suggest relaxing with a beverage at a local café and admiring the views at Miradouro das Portas do Sol, a panoramic viewpoint. A bit farther up and just behind the Monastery of São Vicente de Fora, the Feira da Ladra is an open air flea market that runs from early morning till midafternoon on Tuesdays and Saturdays, making for great browsing – don’t be shy to join the locals and haggle for a bargain! Back on the tram you will go past Graça (another quaint old residential area of Lisbon) and then start going downhill again to Martin Moniz, the last stop near the Rossio square. This service runs every 7 minutes (although it often runs late due to route obstructions like badly parked cars), early till approximately 22:00 daily.
Another charming route is provided by the ELECTRICO 25, which runs between the Cemitério dos Prazeres, via de Jardim/Basilica da Estrela to Rua da Alfândega in the Cais do Sodré district, past numerous embassies in the Estrela/Lapa district, an area which is otherwise off the tourist track. This service runs approximately every 10 minutes, day hours and weekdays only.
THREE FUNICULARS AND AN ELEVATOR
Lisbon has three working “ascensores” (funiculars) and one street elevator which allows its citizens and visitors to move to and from the hilly districts more easily. All are operated by Carris, the city of Lisbon’s main transport network. The 3 funiculars date back to the 1800s and were originally operated by a water counter-weight system, but are now electrified. Sadly, many of these cars get regularly defaced by graffiti.
The ASCENSOR DA BICA is the only stepped street funicular in the city, climbing the Rua da Bica for 245 metres from the Rua de São Paulo to Largo de Calharis, thus connecting the Santos and Bairro Alto quarters. Its average gradient is 20% but is much steeper at the lower end. From Rua de São Paulo, the funicular is concealed by a building but this is clearly lettered ‘Ascensor da Bica’. It runs between 07:00-21:00 daily except Sundays and national holidays, when the opening time is 09:00. Tram #28 runs past the top end and tram #25 passes the bottom end of the Bica route.
The ASCENSOR DA GLORIA has an average gradient of 18% and its operating hours are approximately 07:00-00:55 daily. This is the busiest funicular in Lisbon as it is also the most accessible for visitors, since it lies next door to the main tourist information office in the Palácio Foz, on the west side of the Avenida da Liberdade, connecting the Restauradores (square) with the Bairro Alto district. Excellent views of the city and castle are to be had from the gardens which lie immediately to the right of the top of the route (São Pedro de Alcantara).
The ASCENSOR DA LAVRA runs from Rua da Anunciada on the eastern side of the Avenida da Liberdade (opposite side of the avenue to the Gloria Funicular) at a 25% gradient for 180 metres to Rua Câmara Pestana. The service operates the same hours as the Bica facility (see above).
Although planned for local residents to connect between the lower streets of the Baixa district (located just off Rua do Ouro) with the higher level at Largo do Carmo (square), the ELEVADOR DE SANTA JUSTA (elevator) also provides a unique view of the city from its top terraced level. This lattice work wrought iron structure was designed by Raul Mesnier de Ponsard, an engineer born in Porto to French parents and an apprentice of Gustave Eiffel, who returned to Lisbon with grand design ideas. The elevator was inaugurated in 1902 and you can ride on it daily between 07:00-22:00 in the winter, and till 23:00 in the summer. The sightseeing platform is open from 08:30-20:30 daily.
EXPLORING LISBON BY GO CAR
Take to the streets of Lisbon in a talking yellow GO CAR. This GPS-guided tour takes you to all the best sites and tells stories that bring this unique city to life. It’s a local on wheels and you can go where the tour buses can’t. Best of all, the adventure happens at your own pace (you can stop for photos, take detours, grab a coffee or break for lunch) and you’ll actually be able to park! Further details: www.gocartours.pt
LISBON’S SURROUNDINGS – CASCAIS AND SINTRA
The CAIS DO SODRÉ to CASCAIS RAILWAY LINE (26 km), provides a quick escape from city life to the beaches of Estoril or Cascais to the west, where the River Tagus meets the ocean; with excellent views along the way including the Tagus and the historical sights of Belém. Its convenient starting point at Cais do Sodré, also linked by metro (green line) and a number of bus routes, is only five minutes’ walk from the Praça do Comércio.
Once in Cascais, why not pick up a free bike from BICLAS – BICYCLES OF CASCAIS? There are 3 booths where you can pick one up from, using your passport or ID: one by the train station, one in front of the citadel and another near Casa da Guia along the coastal road. The municipality of Cascais lends bikes free of cost as part of an initiative to get people to use bicycles rather than cars. From the village you can cycle to beautiful Guincho Beach, past Boca do Inferno and Senhora da Guia (on a specially designated cycle path) – this stunning route runs alongside the sea and is ideal for morning or evening bike rides.
Hiring a SEGWAY is another fun way to explore the village of Cascais and enjoy the very scenic coastal road to Senhora da Guia and Guincho beach. They are equipped with a GPS to guide you around local places of interest, including monuments, squares and beaches. Further details: www.exploracaminhos.pt
The beautiful neo-Manueline (a Portuguese architecture art-form) of Rossio Station is located near the Rossio and Restauradores (squares) in central Lisbon and is a must-see sight of the city! It is also the station to use for the ROSSIO TO SINTRA RAILWAIL LINE, taking you to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Sintra within 45 minutes. Described by Lord Byron as “this glorious Eden”, the mountain range of Sintra is renowned for its outstanding natural beauty, romantic palaces and castles, and well worth the visit!
Trains to Cascais and Sintra are inexpensive (free if you use a Lisboa Card) and run by Refer. Further details: http://www.refer.pt/en/
A WORD ON SAFETY
As with all public transport in all busy cities, be aware of your surroundings and don’t offer would-be thieves the opportunity to remove items from your belongings, especially when trams, buses or trains are full. And whilst the safety level of travelling on sub-urban trains or the metro is no worse than any other transport system in Lisbon, stick to the central carriages when travelling at night.