A Streetcar Named Electrico

Tram 25 in Lisbon
Exactly 107 years ago today, Lisbon saw its first tram, previously known as a “streetcar” and locally called “electrico” go up and down its hilly streets.

They still do that today, although with the arrival of the subway system in the mid-20th century and the increased use of the automobile, many of the routes were discontinued leaving only four still operating at the moment.

In 2007 the city’s trams transported more than 16,4 million passengers. Of those the majority were locals, but tourists also made up a large number of riders.

These small machines are not the fastest way to get around in the city, but they don’t pollute, have a charming historical feel, and are not as noisy as the car. How fast they reach their final destination depends on whether or not they find their tracks free of obstacles, usually meaning no double-parked cars or a delivery truck blocking the way. When they do come across them, with no way of going around the tracks, passengers simply have to wait a minute or two, or five or more, until that is out of the way.

So why take the tram? Because in the steepest neighborhoods like in Alfama, with streets too narrow for buses, the tram is the only option. And on a bus you can’t stick your head out of the window and snap a picture of a tiled wall, of a colorful balcony and its potted plants, of a picturesque street down the hill, or of the eye-catching façade of a monument.

For all those reasons riding a tram in Lisbon is a must, especially tram 28 that goes through most of the city’s oldest quarters. To reach the city’s main sights in Belem, you have to take tram 15. Because of that, the 15 is the route with the biggest number of passengers, but that being a modern “super-tram” with closed windows, the tourist sightseeing needs are left to charming old 28.

The two other routes are numbers 12 and 25. Number 25 goes from Baixa, through Santos and Lapa, ending at Prazeres which is also the 28’s final stop. The 25 is your tram if you want to visit the Ancient Art Museum. As for number 12, it’s a circular journey that starts in Figueira Square, goes up the hill towards Portas do Sol Viewpoint, down to the cathedral, and back to Figueira Square.

In addition to these trams, the top of Lisbon’s hills can be reached with the help of four historic funiculars. Lavra is the oldest one (the world’s first and powered by water in 1884), then there’s Gloria that goes up from Restauradores Square to São Pedro de Alcantara Viewpoint in Bairro Alto, Bica by Chiado and Bairro Alto is the most photographed of all, and the Eiffel Tower-looking Santa Justa in the center of the city.

Ride one of these trams or funiculars and you’ll know why in Lisbon, getting there really is half the fun.

One Response to “A Streetcar Named Electrico”

  1. Paulo Dias Says:

    Hi. You forgot the 18, wich goes to Ajuda (past the Royal Palace), from Campo das Cebolas.