The Tram 28 Lisbon
There’s often a long line for the Tram 28 in Lisbon – but I’ve got a suggestion to make the experience much more enjoyable. I’ve also got a map below with the Tram 28 route and starting point!
We often make an effort, as travellers, to seek out art galleries. We pay an entrance fee, spend our time, walk around, and look at the art.
If somebody was to design the perfect sightseeing path through Lisbon, it would look a lot like the route that the public number tram 28 takes. The problem is, it’s a little too perfect!
Lisbon used to be full of tram lines but they’ve slowly disappeared over the years as the city’s underground metro system was built and expanded. Trams have mainly been kept in areas where the metro can’t be built – up hills, for example. So there are only five lines left across the city.
One of these, the tram 28 Lisbon line, was developed in 1914 and was designed to take residents from the central Baixa district to neighbourhoods like Graca and Estrela. Unfortunately, these trams have become effectively useless for locals in the past few years for one simple reason – tourists!
Because the tram goes past so many sights and charming neighbourhoods, it’s now used by international visitors as a way to see the city. If you’ve ever read a guide on the things you must do in Lisbon, I bet that “catch the tram 28” was on there. And it does sound good – a tour of the city for just €2.90 if you buy onboard or €1.45 with a prepaid transport card.
Here’s the problem, though. Because every tourist thinks it’s the thing to do, there are usually large queues to get on at the starting point of the tram 28. And I mean LARGE queues. The trams come on average every 10 minutes and can only seat about 20 people with maybe another 30 standing.
You will often have to wait more than an hour to get on a tram. During busy tourist periods, you could easily be waiting for two hours or more. And then, once you’re on board, you’ll probably be uncomfortably squeezed-in like sardines for much of the trip.
Is this really how you want to spend your short time in Lisbon?
Still… the trams are an essential part of Lisbon’s character, a little slice of everyday life with historical context and photogenic allure. It is nice to be able to find a connection with them – without dealing with all the hassle.
So, I would like to offer you an alternative that I think is much better. I would suggest that you instead WALK the tram 28 route. This way you don’t just rush past the sights, you’ll also get to pop in and have a look, or spend a moment taking a photo.
The route is about seven kilometres long. You’ll be able to walk the whole thing before you would even have reached the start of the queue on a busy day, you’ll see more, and you won’t feel crushed in the crowded carriage.
How to walk the route of the Tram 28 Lisbon
Let me now give you some practicalities. You’ll see on the map below that the route can be divided into two sections either side of the central Baixa district. This means that you could either walk the entire length or you could choose to walk the tram 28 route in two parts.
The first is to the east of Baixa, a loop through Alfama and Graça that brings you almost back to where you started. This section is packed full of landmarks that are worth seeing.
The second is to the west of Baixa, going through Ciado and Estrela. In this section, the sights tend to be a bit more spaced out so you’ll be able to walk it a bit faster. Once you get to the end, you’ll find a much shorter queue to get on the tram 28 for the return journey – meaning you’ll get the bonus of still being able to experience a ride on the remodelado carriage!!
Tram 28 Lisbon route map
If you do decide to walk the route of the tram 28, I would suggest you load up this map in your phone. You won’t get lost if you just follow the tracks – but I’ve marked a bunch of sights you should see along the way.
To also help guide you on your walking tour of Lisbon, I’ve put together the list of these sights in relation to the different stops along the route, so you can keep track (pun intended) of where you are.
If you would prefer not to walk the route yourself, here are some other options:
What to see along the Tram 28 route
The tram 28 starting point is at Martim Moniz square, named after a 12th century knight who died after he lodged himself in the door of Lisbon’s St George’s Castle so his army would be able to get in and reclaim it from the Moors.
There is some public art here – including a representation of the city’s old wall – and some street food stalls. It’s not my favourite part of the city but it can be quite fun when the atmosphere is right.
Here, you’ll go past the Chafariz do Intendente monument, which is a limestone fountain built in 1823.
Also take note of the Cervejaria Ramiro restaurant. It’s famous for its seafood and there are often long lines to get in. I have eaten there and would recommend it for a special meal where you would like to splash out on shellfish.
After this stop, you’ll be able to see the church Igreja Dos Anjos (Parish of Our Lady of the Angels). The baroque interior is from the 1600s and has been well-preserved. Although it’s relatively small, it has some lovely details worth having a look at.
At the top of the hill, you’ll find yourself at a nice local square with a cafe that has outdoor seating, if you would like a break. Of particular note here are three large street art pieces. One of them, of a female soldier, is done by artist Shepard Fairey, who is famous for the Obama ‘Hope’ piece.
I would highly recommend you take a small detour here to walk up to the viewpoint Miradouro de Nossa Senhora do Monte. I think this is one of the best viewpoints in Lisbon and you get a great sense of the city from here.
Before you head down the hill after this stop, take a moment to walk over and have a look from the viewpoint Miradouro Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen. It’s also worth having a look at the Igreja e Convento da Graça (Church and Convent of Graça). The church has wonderful gilded woodwork while the convent has some rather gory depictions of Christian martyrs being killed around the world!
Graça overall is a really interesting neighbourhood that has a local atmosphere without yet being overrun by tourists. I’ll be publishing a guide on what to see and do there soon.
You won’t be able to miss the enormous Igreja da Sao Vicente de Fora (Church of St Vincent Outside the Walls) further down the hill. It was one of the most important religious sites in medieval Portugal. There is a fee to go into the museum here.
Behind the church, you’ll find the Feira da Ladra flea market that operates on Tuesdays and Saturdays. It has some long-established stalls but also some makeshift ones selling items that I suspect were not acquired legally.
More importantly, you’ll also find the National Pantheon here. The inside of the building is very impressive but the highlight is being able to climb up to the terrace at the top for amazing 360 degree views of this part of the Lisbon. There is a fee to get in.
R. Escolas Gerais
As you turn the corner after this stop, you’ll have the option of heading up to the Igreja do Menino Deus (Church of Baby Jesus). It’s a very important baroque church with beautiful paintings that survived the 1755 earthquake You will be lucky to see inside, though, because it’s only open on Wednesdays between 10:00 – 12:30.
It’s from this point of the tram 28 route that you would also take a detour to go up to St George’s Castle, one of the most prominent landmarks in the city (although it’s not as obvious when you come from this direction).
Lg. Portas Sol
You might like to take a moment to rest at the viewpoint Miradouro das Portas do Sol here. You get a good view back at the tops of the Igreja da Sao Vicente de Fora and National Pantheon from here. The little kiosk is a decent place to get a coffee or a cool drink.
Miradouro Sta. Luzia
As you come down the hill, with Alfama on your left, the area becomes packed with landmarks and there are lots of little things you may like to stop and look at.
Of particular note in this stretch, up a little side street, is the Roman Theatre (managed by the Museum of Lisbon). You can actually see the ruins of the theatre here with a bit of a description for free. If you want to find out more details or see the foundations, you can pay to go into the museum.
Along here, you’ll see the Museum of the Aljube. It takes you through the political story of the resistance to the dictatorship in Portugal in the 1900s. The building has been a prison for much of its life, including as a political prison during the period the exhibition covers. There is a fee for admission.
In front of you will be the most important church in the city, the Sè (Lisbon Cathedral). It has an impressive facade and the interior is very impressive in its scale. The first version of the cathedral was built in 1147 but has been changed many times over the years. You can clearly see the original Romanesque design in the lack of colourful decorations, for instance.
Just down the hill is the Igreja de Santo António (Church of St Anthony). He is one of the most important saints in Portugal and this is said to be the location where he was born in 1195. You can go down in the crypt to see that exact spot!
Next door is the Santo António Museum which has a small exhibition about St Anthony and the representations of his life in religious art and culture. There is a fee for admission.
This stop is in the centre of Baixa and it’s the point where I would recommend you start either the eastern or western sections of the tram 28 route, if you don’t want to do the whole thing.
From here, you can go off in any direction to explore different parts of Baixa, including the Rua Augusta Arch, Praça do Comércio, and the Museum of Design and Fashion.
Lg. Academia Nacional Belas Artes
As you come up into one of the artistic areas of Lisbon, you’ll see a few small galleries that may be of interest to you.
The main art hub here is the National Museum of Contemporary Art which always has a few interesting exhibitions of modern art related to Portugal. There is a fee for admission.
Now you’re in the centre of Ciado, there’s lots to see and do. From here you’ll see the main shopping street of Rua Garrett with famous brand stores. There are more small art galleries here. And there’s the beautiful A Brasileira cafe.
You’ll be able to see a couple of churches. I would suggest having a look inside the Church of Encarnação (Church of Our Lady of the Incarnation). The sculpture on the main altar is magnificent, as are the tiles and painted ceiling.
Pç. Luis Camões
Passing through the Praça Luis de Camões, take a moment to appreciate how beautiful it is. This square is a favourite with locals and you’ll often see people meeting here or just hanging out in groups. It’s also a meeting spot for a lot of the free walking tours that you’ll see advertised. The square is named after a famous Portuguese poet from the 16th century (the Shakespeare of Portugal, if you will).
This is the spot where you could make a detour in Bairro Alto, if you would like to explore that neighbourhood in a bit more detail.
The highlight here is the funicular that goes up and down the hill. It’s got a beautiful location that, as you’ll notice, if very popular with photographers. You can jump on and take a ride up or down, if you want. You can buy a ticket onboard but it will be half the price to use a prepaid transport card.
From here, rather than just continuing along the street here, I would suggest taking a little detour to the left to go and see viewpoint Miradouro de Santa Catarina. It’s not the best view in the city but it does give you a good vantage point of the Tagus River. It’s also a really relaxing spot to stop for a drink, if you need a rest.
The Igreja de Santa Catarina (Church of St Catherine) is one of the best examples of baroque style from the 16th century. It’s a large beautiful church, with particular features of note being the stucco ceiling in rococo style and the monumental organ in gilt carving.
If you’re doing the walk in the afternoon, you might also like to check out the Park rooftop bar in this stretch. It’s above a carpark and the entrance isn’t obvious. Look for the elevator just inside the parking station and head to the top level.
OK, just a personal side note here. If you’re craving an Australian-style coffee, there’s a fantastic little cafe here called The Mill that will make you a flat white just like you’re used to! (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, just continue on…)
R. Poiais S. Bento
The enormous building here seems to come out of nowhere and gave me a bit of a shock the first time I saw it. It’s the Palácio de São Bento, now home to the Parliament of Portugal. It became the government headquarters in 1834 and was a monastery from the 16th century before that. You can’t go inside but you can walk along the front.
Also take note of the great piece of street art here of a multicultural face, done by an artist called Drawing Jesus.
The neighbourhood of Estrela is not always on the radar of visitors to Lisbon but I think it has one of the best sights on the tram 28 route – the Estrela Basilica.
Construction started on the Estrela Basilica in 1779 and is enormous. The front of the church has two bell towers and then there’s the large dome. The interior is impressive enough but, if you wanted more, you can also have a look at the famous nativity scene with more than 500 different figures in it.
Across from the church is the Estrela Garden. There’s nothing particularly special about it but it’s a lovely peaceful spot where you might like to have a bit of a rest. There’s a kiosk in the park that serves food and drink.
Igreja Sto Condestável
If you’re not sick of churches by now, I would suggest you have a look at one last one – the Igreja de Santo Condestável (Church of Saint Constable). It’s a local church that was only opened in 1951. It has a lovely design with some impressive stained-glass windows.
Campo Ourique (Prazeres)
And finally, you’ve made it to the last stop!
The main sight to see here is the Prazeres Cemetery. It’s the largest cemetery in Lisbon and had a rather inauspicious start, being created in 1833 after a cholera epidemic. However, it has become the de facto national cemetery in recent years and there are many important Portuguese figures buried here.
The small chapel near the entrance has an exhibition space that could be worth having a look at. Otherwise, it’s quite nice to wander through the beautiful cemetery to the far end, where you’ll get spectacular views over the April the 25 Bridge and the Tagus River.
When you’re done with all of that, it’s time to head back. Hopefully you’ll find the queue much shorter here to get on the tram 28 and so you’ll be able to experience a ride on a piece of Lisbon’s history without wasting your time waiting.
And I hope you’ve also enjoyed wandering through the streets of the city and getting to know some of the sights a bit better.
If you need some suggestions for accommodation in Lisbon, I’ve also got some tips for that here:
For cheap private accommodation, there are some lovely guesthouses run by local families. I would recommend either City Lofts Lisbon or the more centrally-located Great Stay Fanqueiros.
If you're interested in something with a bit more style, I would recommend either the Portugal Boutique Hotel or the Lx Boutique Hotel, which has such beautiful design.
And for some real luxury, two of the best hotels in Lisbon are Pousada de Lisboa or the incredible Memmo Príncipe Real.