Hills, (some ridiculously steep!); narrow streets; steps, (hundreds of them); stone tile pavements, that turn into skating rinks when they are wet; castles, mosques, cathedrals, palaces and monasteries; beautiful beaches; buses, trains, trams, the metro, funiculars and lifts, (to aid getting up the steep hills); countless museums and places of interest; situated on the River Tagus; a mild winter climate; Fado; a mix of Gothic, Romanesque, Renaissance, Baroque, Neoclassicism and modern architecture; and decorated with millions of azulejos, (ceramic tiles); welcome to Lisbon, Europe’s second oldest capital city, only Athens is older.
It’s easy to get around this city, if one doesn’t want to walk, there is an excellent transport system. Perhaps the mode of transport Lisbon is most famous for is the old Remodelado trams that clatter around the streets. Trams were first used here in 1873 when they were pulled by horses, the first electric tram appeared 1901, with the whole system converting to electricity a year later. Today a cobweb of electric cable hovers over the remaining operational tram routes.
There are practical reasons Lisbon is the only city in Europe that uses old trams like the Remodelado trams, which originally date from the 1930s. It’s because of the tight corners and narrow streets of historic sections of Lisbon, particularly in an area called Alfama, where the tram tracks are the world’s steepest, and the turning circle of the carriage is centimetres from the edges of buildings.
The Elevador de Santa Justa, is also part of the transport system of Lisbon and moves people from the Baixa district to the Largo do Carmo, a steep climb on foot, although more popular now for the viewing platform at the top of the lift, providing panoramic views of the city.
The Glória Funicular, also known as the Elevador da Glória, is a funicular that takes one up a very steep hill. The tram operators were on a break when I was here, so I walked up!
The reward for getting to the top is a view of the sunset lighting up São Jorge Castle (Castelo de São Jorge).
While I’m writing about transportation, access to Rossio Train Station, in the city centre, is through horseshoe shaped, arched doorways of a Neo-Manueline building, built by the architect José Luís Monteiro and completed in 1888. Topped with small turrets and a clock tower, it looks more like a palace rather than specifically built as a train station.
Dotted around the city streets, are roasted chestnut sellers, like the one pictured outside the station, and one is never far from nut scented smoke wafting up from the burners, at this time of year, the signature smell of the city.