Much like the yellow taxi cabs of New York City, the yellow trams of Lisbon are iconic. Chances are, if you’re visiting Portugal’s capital, you’ll end up taking at least one or two pictures of these lovable vehicles. But are they just for show? Or still a legitimate mode of transportation?
The trams made their first appearance in Lisbon in 1873. Back then, they were called carros americanos, American cars, because the first ones were developed in the United States. They were horse-drawn cars on metal rails. In 1901, the first electric trams were installed, which is why we still call them eléctricos.
Although it’s commonly agreed that their heyday was in 1959 (when the network reached 76 km and it had a fleet of 405 trams), you may be surprised to know that the trams are still a popular way for locals to get around the city. The network expands to various parts of Lisbon, all the way past scenic Belém to Algés. But the fact that it goes through much of the downtown, appeals to both residents and commuters because navigating in a car in that part of town can be tricky. And if driving around weren’t bad enough, I will only allude to the brave/desperate souls who try to park there…
So whilst the design of the trams and the backdrop of beautiful Lisbon is appealing to visitors from all over the world, only the green and red trams are exclusively for tourists. The green ones are a recent addition to the system and have only been around since May 2015. It takes you from the Largo de Camões to Príncipe Real, one of the most stylish neighborhoods in Lisbon at the moment.
I, for one, hope these trams never go away. They’ve become a symbol of Lisbon and a fun experience for those who want to discover it.