The Streetcar Named Pleasures…

Comfortably seated on its seven hills (one steeper than the other), proud of its countless ruas and narrow travessas leading to even narrower and steeper becos or calçadas, so inclined that they can only be climbed by stairs, Lisbon is not your average, flat city. No wonder, then, that it needs less than average means of transport to let both locals and tourists reach its many wonders, hidden in the most unexpected and hard-to-get places. The emblematic, yellow-colored, single-car trams or ele(c)tricos, as they are called in the city, perfectly fit the width of Lisbon’s streets and add to their vintage charm. They circulate on five different routes, helping attraction-hungry tourists reach numerous historical monuments dispersed in the westernmost and sunniest European capital and they are national monuments themselves....

 

 

Those allegedly German trams were manufactured mainly in the 1930s (how refreshing it is to learn that not only bad things come from the Germany of those times) and have preserved their original, beautiful wooden interiors, so often photographed by tourists. But don’t let their vintage looks deceive you! They can speed up to 50 km/h, all the more so that the engines of most of them were replaced or enhanced in the 1990s. A trip in one of those pre-war marvels can be an unforgettable experience: the old tram will purr, moan, groan and utter some of the most unexpected noises but it will be inevitably following its picturesque route through the mysterious, labyrinth-like streets of the medieval Alfama, old, multicultural, chaotic Mouraria, classy, and orderly Baixa Pombalina, Chiado which looks just like Paris from “Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amelie Poulain” or bohemian, Naples-like center of Lisbon’s night life – Bairro Alto. The most attractive of those routes is, undeniably, number 28 with the destination “Prazeres”, or, in English “Pleasures” (which is, by the way, the name of a cemetery). The pleasure will certainly be bigger if you manage to take a seat (and you’d better hurry, as there are only 24 of them), cause the motorist will use the brakes a lot as the tram will take the most abrupt and unexpected of turns and go through the streets so narrow you’ll be able to pick announcements hung on the walls of tiled houses. There can be some obstacles on your road as the tram may encounter some double-park cars in one of the narrow streets, which will prolong your journey a bit, but don’t worry! Nobody will complain or curse, the motorist will patiently wait for a driver to run their daily errands or for a gas supplier to provide the local community of pensioners with their bottled gas.  In the meantime, you can admire beautiful tiled facades of the historical houses, white churches, tiny cafes or antique shops, a dog or a cat which looks at you from a balcony or, if you happen to get stuck near one of the numerous Lisbon belvederes – a breath-taking view over the old town, Tagus river and one of the city’s monumental bridges.

 

It can happen, however, that you want to reach one of those places which go beyond the possibilities of brave, old electricos. That’s when historical Lisbon funiculars, or ascensores, will give you a helping hand. Three eco-friendly cable cars – Ascensor da Lavra, Ascensor da Gloria and Ascensor da Bica – have been transporting exhausted and desperate Lisboners and tourists through the city’s steepest streets since 19th century. At first, they ran on water, but nowadays they are powered with electricity. The Ascensor da Bica is certainly the most photographed of them all, as it follows the picturesque route along the steep-as-hell Rua da Bica de Duarte de Belo filled with bars and restaurants which wake up in the evening. At one point the road is so inclined that the funicular seems to be falling into the abyss and completely disappears from view. The Ascensor da Gloria can also be recommended as it will take you to one of the most romantic places in Lisbon – the Sao Pedro de Alcantara Belvedere where young clubbers and party lovers rush after a fun-filled night to contemplate a spectacular Lisbon sunrise with a glass of wine in their hand.

 

If you love breath-taking views you will also enjoy a ride on the Santa Justa Elevator – a beautiful lift conceived in 1902 by Gustav Eiffel’s designing office. After a few seconds of going up, you will be offered a unique chance of admiring 360-degree, bird’s eye views over the luminous city.

 

Still, all those who crave for novelty can give a try to the means of transport introduced to Lisbon as late as in 2012 – auto rickshaws or tuk tuks. Those peculiar three-wheeled vehicles are very popular in crowded South-Asian cities known for their crazy traffic. No wonder that the owner of Tuk Tuk Lisboa – company which offers auto rickshaw tours around Lisbon – immediately thought on his trip to Bangkok that tuk tuks could suit perfectly his city’s narrow streets.  They make a particularly harmonious combination with the classic electricos, adding to the exoticism of the local transport, as you can see in the picture…

 


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