Daydreaming lazily out of wooden windows in the quiet of a vintage yellow carriage with retro Coca-Cola adverts painted on the doors—the Lisbon tram traveller’s dream. Grabbing the coat of your fellow tourist as the tram races up hill and you find yourself three inches shy of a grab-rail, amidst the other thirty passengers all doing their best impression of Portuguese sardines… the reality of riding the much-hailed tram 28. But good news, fellow Lisboa lovers! You can escape the crowds and live the luxury of truly exploring Lisbon by tram by following the route the local’s love best: tram 24E.
Having been suspended for 23 years, the 24E route (‘E’ here standing for eléctrico, simply meaning ‘tram’), was reopened in 2018 and locals have been using it to go about their daily commutes ever since. However, thus far the inconspicuous, historic tram has been overlooked by tourists due to the widely accepted aspersion that tram 28 is the route on which to be. Though tram 28’s route takes in the Baixa and Alfama regions of the city, and undoubtedly these areas should be explored, the tram itself has been held hostage to an explosion in tourism in recent years and as such is no longer the best way to enjoy the visual treats of the city.
Running from Campolide to the Chiado, and with tickets available either on board or paid for via a pre-purchased travel card, tram 24 is where the discerning traveller should head if they wish to avoid the overdone route of tram 28.
Your journey aboard tram 24 starts in style at the beginning of the line in Campolide, where there is a food and drink kiosk waiting for you to sit undisturbed by other tourists and enjoy uma bica (an espresso) whilst you wait for your tram. The kiosk sits beside restaurant A Valenciana, which is known by locals to be the best place in Lisbon to enjoy Portuguese piri-piri chicken—one to enjoy should you choose to ride the tram back along its route at the end of the day.
Once the tram arrives, you step up into the perfectly preserved carriage and take a seat on one of the many available leather seats, enjoying the breeze through the open window as it trundles along to Avenida Engenheiro Duarte Pacheco. Here you can hop off and amble up the road to Amoreiras Shopping Centre—home to not only a peaceful shopping experience of big and small brands alike—but also the building in which you will find the highest miradouro (look out point) in Lisbon. For €5 per person, you can ride the lift to the centre’s rooftop for the Amorieiras 360˚ experience where you can take in views that stretch across the postcard rooftops, down to the River Tagus, and out towards the monumental statue of Christ the King across the river’s shores.
The next stop to descend at once you re-board tram 24, is the stop for the Mãe d’Água. Located within Amoreiras gardens, beneath the sweeping arches of the old city aqueduct, the Mãe d’Água was the main reservoir for Lisbon citizens during the 19th century. A cavern of marble and stone arches grandly cover the bright blue of a 7.5 metres deep reservoir within. This quiet step outside of the main tourist trail offers a feeling of serenity and inferiority most akin to the experience of star gazing in the wilderness. In this cavernous space, you will see the internal waterfall cascading down from the end point of the city’s historic aqueduct system.
Afterwards, be sure to stroll around the gardens adjacent to the Mãe d’Água, in which you will find an irresistibly photogenic, crumbling hermitage and some of the most jaw-dropping displays of azulejos (Portuguese blue tiles) in Lisbon, set on walls beneath the soaring aqueducts. If taking in all of this awe-striking scenery has helped you work up an appetite, then nobody would blame you for nipping across the road to Pastelaria 1800 for a pastel de nata (Portuguese custard tart) at this point.
Hopping back on tram 24 by the pastelaria in Rato, you will next be transported along to the stop at Rua Escola Politécnica. From here you can explore Lisbon’s botanic gardens and the National Museum of Natural History and Science. You will have earnt your lunch in Principe Real after these cultural stops, so take your pick from one of the enticing selection of eateries catering to all dietary needs in the area. Top choices include Lebanese oasis Sumaya where the service is dallying but the food and the tranquil setting more than compensate for it.
Ambling around the area of Principe Real after lunch, you may stumble upon a market in the gardens, boutique gift shops near the tram stop, or if you happen to be visiting of an evening, then be sure to check out the listing on Real Fado’s website to book tickets for a performance of fado (traditional Portuguese song) in the underground reservoir in Principe Real garden.
A stop further along on the tram 24 route and you find yourself at São Pedro de Alcântara. You will alight at a miradouro with pleasant views best enjoyed from the other side of the street, as you climb the steps of the 17th century Convento de São Pedro and are greeted by the convent’s awe-striking, baroque beauty on your right, and the terracotta tiled rooftops of Lisbon to your left. The convent is free to enter and a visit is highly recommended. It is one of the best hidden architectural gems of Lisbon, away from the usual tourist hotspots and boasting a programme of live, cross-genre music which runs throughout the year.
Once you’ve contemplated the beauty of both the convent’s chapel and church, you can walk to the next tram stop at Ascensor da Glória, where you will spy another of Lisbon’s characterful transport methods—the Glória funicular. Hop on if you fancy another bucket-list-transport ride down to the Baixa, where you can visit the National Museum of Sport in Praça dos Restauradores. Then head back up on the funicular to jump back on tram 24 as it heads to its next stop at the gateway to the Bairro Alto.
The Bairro Alto is best enjoyed of an evening when revellers, fadistas (singers of traditional fado), and Lisbon’s dance crowd fill the streets and tumble out of intimate, eclectic bars along the areas cobbled warrens. By day the area enjoys a bohemian feel, the charm of which spills out of its historic, hilly roads and into our final tram 24 destination—the Chiado.
Between the Bairro Alto and the Chiado you will find the artistic soul of Portugal’s capital city. The Chiado is famously home to Café A Brasileira, the ornate meeting place and bica stop for writers, artists, and intellectuals since it opened its doors in 1905. A statue of the famous Portuguese literary master, Fernando Pessoa, now sits outside Café A Brasileira, a testament to the café’s claim as the writer’s favourite haunt.
Across the road, you will find Livraria Bertrand—the world’s oldest bookshop—nestled on a street strewn with vintage booksellers offering paperbacks in every language.
But now to our final stop on the beloved 24; Luís de Camões Square (Camões himself being another of Portugal’s literary greats). Once you have descended the petite metal steps and thanked the driver at the end of your leisurely tram ride through Lisbon, you will find the perfect delectable treat with which to commemorate the day—an indescribably delicious, vegan, pastel de nata from Pastelaria Batalha. Sprinkled with cinnamon; biting into this lactose-free, egg-free, plant based Portuguese custard tart, you find you have entered a transcendent state of living like the Lisboetas do. Perfeição!