In the capital of Portugal, Lisbon’s hilly old town is wonderful to explore on its historic trams, the Eléctricos, a living museum that soon changed the travel routine of Lisbon’s population.
In August 1901 the Eléctricos were introduced and the first electric line was inaugurated. Little has changed since that time and the original rolling stock has been in use to the present day, the electric motors and magnetic brakes of the small twin-axel ‘carros’ providing amazing acceleration and excellent brakes.
The Sé Patriarcal Cathedral dates back to the 12th century when it was constructed on the site of a mosque at the command of Portugal’s first king, Alfonso Henriques. Within its inner courtyard there is a unique Roman iron balustrade and the remains of columns that contain ornate reliefs. Excavations in the courtyard reveal the remains of walls that date from Phoenician and Roman times.
The Moorish knights’ castle, the Castelo de Sáo Jorge, is located above the Baixa district. In 1300, the 110 metre high castle mound was transformed into a royal palace in which, up to 1511, the kings of Portugal resided.
As the journey continues, most of the carriages groan and rattle through the alleys, shake and clatter on the bends, and inch by inch stagger up the hills in streets so narrow that the houses appear to touch each other.
The Torre De Belem is regarded as Lisbon’s emblem. Its battlements and lighthouse, built in Manuelistic style, were for many years the state prison. Today it contains the King’s Hall and Governor’s Room. Originally, the Torre was located in the centre of the deep Tejo but changes in the flow of the river brought it closer to the land. The prison was housed in the lower sections and as the water level rose, prisoners were forced to stand waist-deep in water.