Travel Destinations

Better than Uber: in praise of the yellow trams of Lisbon

It’s a functional system, and not just a throwback to the old days.
Mookie Katigbak-Lacuesta | Aug 29 2018
A remodelado tram on the E28 route. Photo by Mabille Adrianne Tamala

It’s mostly true that there’s no room in the modern age for old world inventions. In Lisbon, however, the old world rattles toward the future aboard their famous tram network. It takes you through tight, cobblestoned neighborhoods with more ease than modern trams, cabs, or the Renault Meganes most Uber drivers use. It’s a functional system, and not just a throwback to the old days—these trams don’t have the quaint romanticism of kalesas clipping through Intramuros or Vigan, or of hooves trotting on stony streets, “spared” as they are from such modern-day conveniences as, well, paved roads.

Tourists and locals queuing for the tram despite the early hour. Photo by Mabille Adrianne Tamala

These trams are, very simply, the best way to go through Lisbon’s narrow touristy areas, and are an important part of the transport network.

A tram’s wooden interiors. Photo by Mabille Adrianne Tamala
A tram passes through a street lined with postcards and other souvenirs. Photo by Mabille Adrianne Tamala

There are two types of trams in the famous Portuguese capital—the Remodelados and the modern Articulados. The Remodelado trams date back to the 1930s, and rattle though Lisbon’s streets with their signature yellow bodies. These are the brave trams that screech through the city’s hilly terrain and narrow turns. The Articulado trams are relegated to the flat sections of the city and follow the Tram 15 route that connects central Lisbon to Belem.

Parallel trams on the E28. Photo by Mabille Adrianne Tamala

The Remodelado trams follow the more scenic Tram 28 route, which passes through popular tourist destinations like Alfama, Baixa and Estrela. Here, trams squeeze into narrow streets designed for horses, and kiss stony sidewalks and pastel-colored houses.

Passengers boarding a tram. Photo by Mabille Adrianne Tamala
A tram all decked out for the holidays. Photo by Mabille Adrianne Tamala

These trams go with the quainter and softer side of Lisbon, along with the purple jacaranda trees lining the streets and parks, as well as the golden jacarandas shedding petals on the streets. They go with ruas punctuated exclusively with green window shutters, and the azulejos (tiles) that festoon the facades of houses with various swirls, shapes and patterns. They add to the old world charm of Lisbon but they’ll never be museum relics. Like modern conveniences, they’re very much here to stay.

Whizzing through Lisbon. Photo by Mabille Adrianne Tamala