My first day in Lisbon was spent with one mission alone, that is to take the classic Lisbon’s Tram 28E early morning, before it gets too crowded and in a way to avoid the synonymously famous pick pocketing activities on-board this popular tram journey.
To board the quaint yellow tram screeching and rattling its way to the mostly hilly, narrow streets of Lisbon’s most atmospheric neighborhood is indeed an essential experience for anyone who visited Portugal capital.
To describe Lisbon’s classic tram appearance is to imagine an old model tram that anyone can expect to see only in museums these days, but in Portugal, these Remodelado trams which began operating in the 1930s are not only an integral mode of transportation, but remains as a lifeline that reaches the historic district of Graca, Alfama, Baixa and Estrela.
The tram driver expertise in navigating the numerous tight turns and steep inclines at very narrow roads sometimes even shared with cars are admirable, and if you are standing make sure to hang on tight, because guaranteed that you will feel every sharp brakes.
I boarded the tram at Rua da Conceição, the stop nearest to my hostel (Yes! Lisbon Hostel). I paid for a one-way journey of 2.90 Euro, my plan is to take the tram all the way up to Martim Moniz, and walk my way back to Praça do Comércio later on.
My decision to start as early as 8am was rewarded not only by an almost empty Tram 28E, where I managed to grab a window side seat , but the joy of admiring the quiet charming landscape before the whole city wakes up and begin its day.
Graça is the first neighborhood I wanted to explore and I arrived a bit overwhelmed with everything I have seen on board the tram all the way up to the hilly suburban district. There are just so many cobbled stones nooks and corners that I wanted to see up close, but, before discovering the details, at Graça, it is mandatory to first see Lisbon as a whole, at the viewpoint of Miradouro de Santa Graca.
As much as taking Tram 28E is a fun experience, there is nothing comparable to the feeling of seeing the labyrinth of maze like streets of Alfama up-close.
To hum a melody while slowly wandering around the calm streets, to smile at a local resident and receive a smile in return, to admire rustic building facade decorated with colorful azulejo, and to let every small detail of these streets made you build one big conclusion, that Lisbon is indeed one of Europe’s most underrated and beautiful capital.
A few minute walk from Portas do Sol is the historically important Castelo de São Jorge (São Jorge Castle), occupying a commanding hilltop position overlooking Lisbon and Rio Tejo (Tagus River).
The Castelo de São Jorge, is mainly divided into two sections -the Moorish Castle and the Royal Palace, where all that is left today are some wall ruins.
With an excellent vantage point over the river, surrounded by fortified high walls citadel dating back to medieval Portuguese times, the Castelo de São Jorge is an example of a castle primarily built for defense.
Discover the strength of the Moorish castle of Castelo de São Jorge by entering the main gate via a stone bridge across the moat, then once inside roam around freely into the shaded courtyards, climb the towering ramparts and peek into the small opening of the turrets and see Lisbon once again.