There are a few ways to see the sights and beat the queues in Lisbon.
Lisbon is a fascinating city and makes a great choice for a city break at any time of year. It offers especially good value in the winter months from November to March when the weather is milder than much of mainland Europe and the city is fairly tourist-free. However, even during the off-peak season it’s worth knowing a few tips to help avoid the queues and get the most out of your visit.
One of Lisbon’s main sights is the Sao Jorge Castle which is situated on a hillside overlooking the city centre. There are spectacular views of the city and of the River Tagus from the battlements and from the castle walls. The castle can be reached on foot if you don’t mind a bit of a climb. The walk cut be cut short by taking a lift (free) which cuts out quite a section of the cobble- covered climb. Another option is to take the quaint old number 28 tram from the centre, although this will require a bit of a walk at the end of the ride. Finally, there is a minibus no. 37 which goes directly to the castle entrance – but that would be cheating wouldn’t it!
A lesser known attraction but one which is well worth a visit is the ruined Carmo Convent. The ruins of this Gothic church are evocative reminders of the devastation left by the 1755 earthquake. At the time of the earthquake it was the largest church in Lisbon. Today the church is just a shell with its nave open to the sky. When standing in the middle of the magnificent arches which are all that remains of the once glorious building, you can almost feel the earthquake which led to the roof caving in on the congregation as they were attending mass.
The Carmo convent can be reached on foot but you can also make use of the Elevador de Santa Justa (Santa Justa Lift) which is a beautifully crafted elevator that transports passengers from the Baixa district up to the area near the convent. The Elevador which is over 100 years old is a marvel of the early 20th Century, with the outer ironwork structure forming wonderful neo-gothic arches, while inside two glorious polished wood carriages whisk passengers up in style. Numbers of passengers are limited to 15 in each lift, and long queues quickly form. If you want to enjoy the experience of travelling in the lift but want to avoid the long queues, it’s worth considering walking uphill to the convent and taking the lift downhill – you’ll almost certainly find the queues much shorter.
The yellow trams are very much a feature of Lisbon and the old trams on routes 28 and 12, although mainly still in service for tourism purposes, are also used by locals as well as tourists. If you have plenty of time, a ride on tram 28 is very worthwhile as it takes in much of the Baixa, Graça and Alfama areas. However, if time is a bit short, the circular route 12 tends to be quite a bit quieter but will still give you a flavour of a Lisbon tram ride, following narrow roads with steep inclines in the city’s Graça and Alfama districts which have to be seen to be believed. Catch it at Praça da Figueira or Martim Moniz.