Lisbon is probably one of the easiest European cities to get around. The swiftness of movement already begins upon landing at Lisbon Airport thanks to its convenient location four miles from the city centre. It only takes 20 minutes by metro, shuttle bus or taxi! Lisbon itself is not a huge city but the traffic can become critical during rush hour and traffic jams frequently happen. However, once in the city and settled in typical Lisboeta accommodation, it is very easy to get around by foot, bike, tram, ferry, funicular, metro, bus or train, depending on the area where you will stay. Want to know just how easy it is to get around? Read on!
Walking the Seven Hills of Lisbon
Lisbon, the city of seven hills? Isn’t that Rome? The first literary reference to the seven hills of Lisbon appears in the 17th-century book of the magnitudes of Lisbon by Friar Nicolau de Oliveira. The seven hills are São Jorge, São Vicente, São Roque, Santo André, Santa Catarina, Chagas and Sant’Ana, which can be seen from the sea. The designation remains today and makes for interesting walks around the city albeit tiring. Discovering one of several miradouros (viewpoints) after a steep climb along Portuguese cobblestones is a deserved reward as the view the city and River Tagus is stunning. There are also plenty of nice cafes and bars in Lisbon, so plenty of opportunities to take a load off if walking becomes too tiring!
If you stay in a central area like Alfama (São Vicente hill), it is easy to walk to São Jorge Castle, Miradouro das Portas do Sol and Santa Luzia, beautiful spots boasting terraces covered in Bougainvillier and a pool.
Cycling in Lisbon
No, it’s not a joke; it is possible to cycle in the seven-hill city. In fact, this mode of transportation is becoming quite popular and you will see a number of Lisboetas cycling to work each morning. They use GIRA, a bike-sharing app that is quite cheap and accepts PayPal. GIRA offer classic bikes and some electric ones. The first 45 minutes are free and then it costs €2 for every 45 minutes afterwards. However, the service is quite new and not yet completely adapted to foreigners. For convenience sake, it might be worth spending a little more (€15 per day) to rent a folding Brompton bike from Bike.POP. The shop is located in the Intendent district.
If you don’t fancy climbing hills on your bike, the nicest flat cycle is from Parque das Nações to Belém, where you can visit Bélem Tower, the Monument to the Discoveries and the Hieronymite Monastery.
A Tram Ride, a Must-Do in Lisbon
If cycling is not your thing, travel to Belém by tram. Take tram 15 from Praça da Figueira or Praça do Comércio in downtown Lisbon. Another tram ride you should not miss is the iconic Eléctrico 28, starting at Praça dos Camões for a shorter route. Whereas tram 15 is a modern carriage, tram 28 is a tiny wagon, either red or yellow, with wooden benches that can take 20 seated passengers and 38 standing. If you buy your ticket on the tram, it will cost €2.90. It is better to buy a Viva Viagem Card from any metro station. It costs €0.50 and you can charge it with a single ticket or a one-day ticket that costs €6.30 and allows you to use several transportations means.
Ferry and Funiculars, Another Must-Do
To cross the River Tagus and visit the Cristo Rei statue, you must take the ferry. It is worthy of a trip! Simply go to Cais do Sodré metro and ferry terminal and get onboard a cacilheiro, an orange and white boat that travels to Cacilhas every 10 minutes. If you have a Viva Viagem Card, a one-way trip will cost €1.25.
If you want to cross hills rather than water, the quaint funiculars are a good way to travel. There are three funiculars and a lift in Lisbon: Ascensor da Bica from downtown Bica to Bairro Alto; Elevador da Glória from downtown Praça dos Restauradores to São Pedro de Alcântara, and Ascensor do Lavra from Calçada do Lavra to Largo da Anunciada. Finally, the iconic Elevador Santa Justa will take you from Baixa to Largo do Carmo where you can enjoy a magnificent panoramic view. A return ticket costs €3.70.
Classic Transport: Metro, Bus & Train
The Lisbon metro system is easy to use. There are four lines identified by four different colours. The yellow and green lines cross the city from north to south. The blue and red (although it looks a bit pink) lines serve the western and eastern parts of the city respectively. You can reach any train station and the airport by metro. Keep in mind though that the frequency of the metro is not that great. It is also recommended to try to avoid the metro during rush hour as it gets overcrowded; however, it is still safe. The fare is €1.45 per journey with the Viva Viagem Card.
Some of the metro stations are beautiful and it is worth getting off to take a look. The famous Portuguese azulejo (painted tile) is used in many of them. Campo Pequeno station is a beautiful example.
Carris provides Lisbon’s bus service and offers 73 routes, 57 of which are urban. There are many bus lanes throughout the city except on very narrow streets, so once onboard, it can be quick to reach your destination (outside rush hour). However, if you are not familiar with the city and language, you may need to ask a friendly local for help. A ticket bought onboard costs €1.85 per journey, while it is €1.30 per journey with the Viva Viagem Card. Avoid the articulated buses (except tram 15) as they usually travel outside the limits of Lisbon.
It is worth travelling to Cascais by train, even if just to enjoy the beautiful views along the River Tagus. Go to Cais do Sodré by metro to find the train station. The fare will cost you €1.90 each way with the Viva Viagem Card (€2.25 without) and you will be there in 40 minutes. You can also travel to Sintra by train using the same CP railway company. There are two routes: one from Rossio station in downtown Baixa and one from Oriente station at Parque das Nações. The fare is €2.25 one way (50% reduction for a child). Trains depart approximately every 30minutes and it takes around 40 minutes to get there.
So many means of travel yet still most public transportation options always seem to be overcrowded! You will notice many locals on buses, trams or ferries without a seat but still in a good mood, jollily conversing with each other as if they were best friends. We didn’t mention car rental because, as you might have guessed, it is not the best way to get around because of traffic and the design of the city (narrow streets, dead-ends and forbidden streets). If you really want to travel by car, take a taxi instead at a reasonable price or a tuk-tuk (not cheap at €45-80).
With that, there you have Lisbon! For more information, check out our articles on things to do in the city and where to stay. Then, the next step is to book your Wimdu accommodation and live like a Lisboeta!