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  • Writer's pictureKristin

Lisbon | Let's Go for a Tram Ride

We spent the last few days exploring Lisbon and its various neighbourhoods. In many ways, Lisbon reminded us of a San Francisco - there were lots of hills and steps, a large bay, a bridge that looks exactly like the Golden Gate and trolleys.


St. George's Castle

We set out our first full day and visited St. George’s Castle atop the hill of the Alfama neighbourhood in Lisbon. We got there around mid-morning and didn’t have to wait in line too long. However, when we exited it was a completely different story - the line folded around the corner and down the way quite a bit. The castle offered some cool views of the city and the bay and River Targus below. I had read that were wasn’t much to do once you were in the castle other than the view, but I still found it quite interesting. You could actually see the ruins of some of the houses that resided within the castle walls and you could walk around the tops of the outer castle walls. The castle was built in the 6th century and has been occupied by Romans, Visigoths and finally, Moorish royalty. As we visited castles, Clara did lots of pretending of being a princess. She also liked the little stone tables and chairs that she could pretend to serve us dinner on.

She was also quite entertained by a group of peacocks that lived in the castle. One was quite noisy roaming in the area of the castle, but 4 of them we found lounging in one of the tall trees that grew amongst the ruins.


Mouraira

We headed down to Mouraira, which is the Moorish quarter. The Quarter survived the 1755 earthquake and still has a lot of the older charm to it and a lot of cultural presence to it. On the outer parts there were lots of Chinese, Asian and Indian restaurants and stores.

Eventually we ended in Moniz Plaza where had some lunch with a great view of the plaza and all the people lined up to take Tram 28.


Lisbon Trams

Tram 28 is a local trolley, but I would say that 95% on it are tourists. If I were a local I think I would do everything possible to avoid riding it as it would be pretty annoying to ride with tourists all the time. It’s hard to say how long people waited to get on a tram, but I would easily guess they were there for about 45-50 minutes before they got on a trolley. That fact alone solidified that we didn’t want to stand in line and wait for a trolley that long.

There were a variety of trolleys that you could take. There were a couple of tourist-only trams that offered commentary of the hills/sights or the history of Lisbon and that you could hop-on/hop-off throughout the day. The tickets were a little more than what we were looking to spend (about 20-ish Euro), so on our 2nd day when we did ride on the trolleys we got the 6 Euro all-day city transportation pass that would also give us access to the buses and subways. Then instead of going to Moniz Plaza to catch Tram 28, we caught Tram 28 in Graca and completed the rest of the route. However, when you reach Moniz Plaza you have to exit the tram, as that is the end of the route.

Since we missed going through the more scenic neighbourhoods like Alfama we caught Tram 12 instead, which does a shorter loop through the area. Once we went by certain attractions, large groups of people exited the tram, so by the end of the ride we all had our own seat along with some empty ones. This way we still got our fill of trolley rides without having to stand in crazy lines. It definitely makes a difference if you get there early or later to ride the trams. Clara enjoyed riding it as well, especially once we weren’t packed in like sardines, because she likes the trolley from Daniel Tiger’s Neighbourhood. Having the all-day pass was handy because we were able to catch a more modern Tram 15 to Belem as well, as it wasn't within walking distance of the other attractions.


Alfama

The other major neighbourhood we visited was Alfama. This is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Europe and was also maintained after the 1755 earthquake due to the rock foundation. To get down into the area you have to climb a lot of steps; so we ended up just locking up our stroller at the top. (We also decided not to bring the stroller with us the day we went on the trolley ride, as there wouldn’t be anywhere to put it.) There were quaint little streets and lots of little shops and cafes.


We also saw the Cathedral Se while visiting the Alfama Neighbourhood.


Belem

We also headed to Belem, which you could easily spend a full day exploring around there. There is a monastery and lots of museums, but we spent most of our time walking along the bay and checking out the Discovery Monument. The monument was built to honour the men who set out to discover the new world like Ferdinand Magellan; and Christopher Columbus even stopped at this point on his way back from the Americas.

There is also the Belem Tower, which is a castle built in the ocean. It was originally built as a monument and for some defense of the city. The line up was quite long to get in while we were there and the stairway is pretty narrow from what we read, so we just viewed it from the outside while Clara played along the steps in the water.

She was hot from playing at the playground earlier that day, so she also thought the large sprinklers in the field would be a good idea. The funniest part was she saw some guys playing with their shirts off, so she started to take off hers as well. We had to try to explain that only boys could do that, but she wasn’t too accepting of that.


Belem Palace & Pastel de Nata

My mom and I, along with Connor, also headed to the Belem Palace, which is the residence of the Portuguese president. Along the way we stopped for Pastel de Nata, which tasted like a custard with a flaky pie shell. This is a specialty of Portugal, and the Pasteis de Belem is the birthplace of these pastries. The line up was quite long when we walked by earlier; but we must have caught a good time, as it wasn’t too bad of a wait.

We then went to the palace and found out that you can only get tours of the palace on weekends and you have to reserve your space ahead of time. The reservations for the upcoming weekend were already full, although it we were out of Lisbon by that time. However, for some reason the cost to get in the museum was free at that time, so we decided to explore it. Still not sure how we got in free, but I’ll take free whenever offered! The museum mostly consisted of portraits of past presidents and a little information about how Portugal moved from a monarchy to a republic as well as some of the national gifts from other countries.


Ran Out of Diapers

On a baby related note, on our day out near Belem we ran out of diapers. We had a whole package back at home so I really didn’t want to buy a whole new package, so we asked some other tourists with a baby that looked around the same size as ours and they willingly gave us a diaper! We offered to pay them for it, but they didn’t accept anything. So our baby boy sported a Minnie Mouse diaper on our way back from Belem - thank goodness for other fellow parent travelers! :-)

There were several other sites in Lisbon that we ran out of time to see, but we decided to explore more and just visit what we could without over scheduling ourselves and wearing everyone out.


Nightlife in Lisbon

Alex and I actually got to enjoy some nightlife in Lisbon, we went to a little plaza in Intendente in Anjos just down from our Airbnb. By down, I mean literally ‘down’ -- there was a super steep incline and sets of stairs to get there! We enjoyed dinner at a fusion restaurant called Infante - it was really good! Then we went to this bar that was on the top floor of an office building in Moniz Plaza. It was open air and had a great view of the Graca and St. George Castle! Not only is wine cheap, but beer is pretty cheap (compared to Canadian beer) as well. Many of the places we went it was about 1.50 Euro for a glass of beer; the cheapest we saw was 1 Euro.

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