Despite all the hills and cobbles, Lisbon is an easy city to navigate.

Its impressive and intuitive system of buses, trams and suburban trains, and an efficient metro, make it easy to travel between major points of interest. To conquer the famous seven hills of Lisbon, you can rely on funiculars and elevators – the city's most iconic forms of transportation.

Obviously, you'll want to spend some time exploring the historic Portuguese capital on foot, but it would be bad form to leave Lisbon without taking a ride on Tram 28E, which winds through the historic center, providing a low-cost city tour. Here are the best ways to get around Lisbon.

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Tourist admiring the view from the Elevador de Santa Justa, Lisbon
Stellar views await when you exit the Santa Justa elevator © Marco Bottigelli / Getty Images

Walking is the best way to see individual neighborhoods

Lisboetas love their early morning and late afternoon riverside strolls, and plenty of visitors also slip on comfortable walking shoes to explore Lisbon's historic neighborhoods on foot. Navigating the maze of narrow and hilly streets, courtyards and staircases in Alfama, Mouraria and Madragoa can be a challenge in the summer heat, but the experience is at the top of most visitors’ must-do lists. Remember that flat, riverside neighborhoods such as Baixa, Cais do Sodré, Belém and Oriente are more manageable and just as picturesque!

The black-and-white patterns of the city's calçada portuguesa (Portuguese pavements) are one of Lisbon’s calling cards, but be aware this is not the most walking-friendly surface in wet weather. The slick cobblestones can become slippery and are especially treacherous when making steep, downhill strides.

Zap your way around with the Viva Viagem travel pass

The same travel card allows access to the metro and all buses, trains, boats and trams serving Lisbon and neighboring cities, saving money compared to fares paid on-board. The Viva Viagem green card costs €0.50 and is available at vending machines and ticket offices at metro, train and boat stations (there's also a white card, but it's not valid on Metro Transportes do Sul). Top up the card with credit and swipe the card over the sensor to pay on public transport – this is known locally as "zapping."

If you're planning on traveling a lot by public transit in one day, add a 24-hour ticket to your Viva Viagem card. You'll need to buy the right 24-hour ticket combination for all the types of transport you’re planning to use. The simplest combination – known as Carris/Metro – allows you to travel using the same ticket on buses, trams, elevators, funiculars and the metro for €6.60.

CityMapper is the best map and public transport app for travelers to Lisbon, and locals use it frequently. There are also other third-party and government apps, but they aren’t updated as often and don’t work as well.

The metro network is efficient

Lisbon's efficient metro network has four lines, serving the airport (Red Line), Baixa and Chiado (Blue Line), Mouraria and Alvalade (Green Line), and Saldanha and Campo Pequeno (Yellow Line). The Red Line intersects with the other three lines, so it's easy to interchange between lines.

Overall, the metro is easy to navigate, and plans are underway to expand the network to reach neighborhoods such as Belém and Campo de Ourique. However, the metro is not available 24/7; there's a break in services from 1am to 6am. Check your intended itinerary on a map before catching the metro; it’s often quicker to walk between stations, particularly on the Yellow, Blue and Green lines.

On the other hand, the metro is by far the easiest option for reaching points of interest farther from the city center such as Lisbon Zoo (Sete Rios), the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian (São Sebastião) and Parque das Nações (Oriente).

A woman with a bike rests on a riverside bench gazing out towards a huge bridge
Riverside paths in Lisbon are perfect for cyclists © Esther Pueyo / Getty Images

The city is becoming more bike-friendly

Determined to make the city more bicycle-friendly, Lisbon's city planners have put a lot of effort into increasing the number of cycle paths. Drivers, however, are still not used to sharing the road, so this is a transition that is still in progress. If you don't have experience of navigating rogue traffic on two wheels, it’s probably best to stay on riverside paths away from the cars.

To find a bike in the city, download Gira, Lisbon City Council’s official bike-sharing app. It's widely used by locals and tourists, with dozens of bike stations dotted around the center. Prices vary depending on the type of pass that you sign up for, but as a guideline, a visitor using the Daily Pass would get the first 45-minute ride for free, with a charge of €2 for the next 45 minutes. You can also rent e-bikes and scooters through Lime (from Uber) and Bolt.

Buses can get crowded

Lisbon’s bus routes are fairly intuitive, but as buses are one of the forms of public transportation used most frequently by locals, they can get crowded. If you can, avoid catching buses during rush hour, when passengers are bound to be packed in as tightly as the city’s famous sardines.

Buses 728 (Oriente–Belém), 714 (Praça da Figueira–Belém) and 737 (Praça da Figueira–Castelo) are all useful routes for visitors to Lisbon, serving the areas with the most attractions, particularly Belém, Parque das Nações and the historical neighborhoods of Mouraria and Alfama.

Tram 28E offers the perfect tourist route 

Everyone knows about Tram 28E, which weaves an atmospheric path through the historic neighborhoods of Mouraria, Alfama and Graça, but you can hop on any of the other old trams for a similarly rewarding experience. Recommended routes include the 12E (Martim Moniz), 18E (Cais do Sodré–Ajuda), 24E (Praça Luís de Camões–Campolide) and 25E (Praça da Figueira–Campo de Ourique). Bigger modern trams run on route 15E, connecting Praça da Figueira to Belém; this route is often used by tourists on their way to Mosteiro dos Jerónimos and Torre de Belém.

One thing to note: while the rickety, mustard-yellow trams are full of character, they're more of a travel experience than a practical way to get around in Lisbon. In addition to not being the most comfortable form of public transportation, they don't cover large areas of the city, and they often get stuck behind poorly parked cars during rush hour.

Looking up at the Santa Justa elevator
The Santa Justa elevator connects Baixa to Largo do Carmo in Chiado © Yasonya / Shutterstock

Funiculars and elevators help with the hills

Three funiculars (ascensores) and one historic elevator have been helping city-dwellers dodge the uphill climbs in Lisbon since the early 1900s. All four are numbered, but locals refer to them by the names of the streets they ride on. Glória (51E) connects Restauradores to Bairro Alto, Lavra (52E) links Baixa and Jardim do Torel, Bica (53E) connects Cais do Sodré to Bairro Alto, and the Santa Justa elevator (54E) connects Baixa to Largo do Carmo in Chiado.

Tickets bought on board are pricey, costing €3.80 for two rides on the funiculars and €5.30 to go there and back on the elevator. Instead, purchase a Viva Viagem transport card and spend only €1.35 per trip.

Trains are quicker for getting to Belém

Suburban trains on the Cascais Line depart from Cais do Sodré every 20 to 30 minutes; it’s often quicker to hop on one of these trains to get to Belém than it is to catch the tram, a bus or a taxi. The journey takes less than 10 minutes. To reach the eastern side of the city faster than by taking the metro or bus, catch the Azambuja Line train from Santa Apolónia to Oriente Station – a stress-free trip of eight minutes.

Five boat services cross the Tagus

Five boat routes connect the two sides of the Tagus River, and taking a boat is the fastest, cheapest and easiest way to get to the south bank. Boats to Barreiro depart from Terreiro do Paço, and from the Cais do Sodré boat station, you can catch boats to Montijo, Seixal and Cacilhas. From Belém, you can reach Trafaria and Porto Brandão by boat.

Lisbon's taxis are black with a green roof

Grabbing a cab is a good-value option for longer journeys, and for getting to and from the airport. That said, language can sometimes be a barrier, and service standards can be disappointing. Taxis in Lisbon are easy to identify: they're black vehicles with a green roof. They all run on meters, and these are immediately turned on once you get in. Taxi drivers are required to issue a receipt at the end of the ride, whether you ask for one or not. Some taxis take card payments, but not all, so it’s best to carry cash.

Rideshare services are cheaper than regular taxis

Ridesharing apps are used widely in Lisbon; Uber, Bolt and FREE NOW are all popular options. Using these app-based services is cheaper than taking a conventional cab and quicker than getting on a bus to reach the far eastern (Oriente) and western (Belém) sides of the city. However, note that drivers are not always that familiar with the layout of the city. By law, all ride-share vehicles are required to display a sticker on the windshield with the letters TVDE.

Two guitarists and a singer performing in the street in Alfama
Beware of Lisbon's slippery cobbled streets in wet weather © Sopotnicki / Shutterstock

Cars are best saved for those with reduced mobility

Only drive in Lisbon if you need to cover a lot of ground in a short time, or if you or those you are traveling with have reduced mobility. As in any densely packed city, there are traffic jams and road works to contend with, but the Portuguese penchant for double parking with blinkers on is even more of a patience test. The shortage of parking is also an issue, particularly on weekdays, when commuters take over every available spot in busy neighborhoods such as Baixa, Chiado and Mouraria.

Accessible transportation in Lisbon

Lisbon is not a very accessible city, and unfortunately, most challenges won’t be easily overcome in the near future. The historic calçada portuguesa sidewalks are uneven and poorly maintained, and trams squeeze their way along narrow streets, further reducing space for the mobility impaired. Travelers with disabilities may find it difficult to ride the narrow and rampless funiculars. Lisbon’s trams are also tricky for people with reduced mobility (tram 15E is the only service with accessible boarding). Most buses aren’t equipped to accommodate wheelchair users, and only some metro stations are equipped with elevators. Find more information in Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guide.

This article was first published October 2021 and updated July 2023

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