While exploring Lisbon and searching for the best things to do in Lisbon, visiting the beautiful yellow Bica Funicular (Ascensor da Bica) should definitely be on your list. Here is everything you need to know about how to view the Bica Funicular including where to find it, what to expect, best time of day to visit, and much more!
Different Names of the Famous Yellow Funicular in Lisbon
When researching your visit, don’t be surprised or confused if you have a difficult time finding information about this iconic yellow tram in Lisbon. When I was originally trying to figure out how to visit this loveable little streetcar, I had a tough time finding it and realized part of this was because it had several different names.
These names include:
The Bica Funicular, The Elevador da Bica, and The Ascensor da Bica
All names are widely used, however, The Bica Funicular is what it is most commonly referred to in English, and The Ascensor da Bica is what it is most commonly called in Portuguese.
History of the Bica Funicular
Sprawling up out of the Tagus riverbed, Lisbon is a notoriously hilly city. The Bica Funicular was built in 1892 to help residents of the neighborhood conquer one of the steeper hills in the city.
The Bica Funicular was originally built using a water counterbalance system. This worked by filling the top tramcar with extra water weight, so it would descend with extra weight while pulling up the car from the bottom.
Eventually, the Bica Funicular became steam powered in 1896 before finally becoming electric in 1924.
It is still used by some locals today, however due to widespread popularity with tourists it is definitely much more of a tourist attraction today than it was originally.
Where to find the Bica Funicular
There are two entry points to ride the Bica Funicular, at the top and at the bottom.
If you are tight on time when visiting, I’d suggest visiting the top as the views are better.
What to Expect When Visiting
As I mentioned in the historical section, there are actually two tramcars that make up the Bica funicular, running from both ends of the hill on an opposite schedule. As one tram starts heading down from the top, the other tram leaves from the bottom.
One funicular is painted the iconic yellow that has come to be associated with trams in Lisbon, and the other funicular is sadly completely covered in graffiti. No matter what time you go, I would highly recommend waiting to see the yellow one come by.
This is a very popular attraction for many tourists that visit Lisbon, so if you visit in the middle of the day the Bica Funicular itself and all of the surrounding streets will be very busy.
Best Time of Day to Visit
The Bica funiculars run from 7am to 9pm Monday through Saturday, and 9am to 9pm on Sundays. If you are interested in getting a picture of the iconic yellow Bica Funicular without a ton of other tourists around, I’d suggest heading there first thing in the morning as soon as it opens.
However, be aware that the graffiti covered tram is actually kept at the top of the hill overnight (probably why it’s covered in graffiti), while the beautiful and clean yellow tram is stored inside the building at the bottom of the hill. It is worth waiting for the yellow tram to arrive at the top of the hill at 7:15am.
Plus, you’ll have soft early morning light to take pictures of the yellow tramcar, and most days there is nobody around except the drivers who hang out on the steps until the tram fills up. Afterwards, you’ve gotten an early start to your morning, and are just down the street from Manteigaria. This is the best (and our favorite) spot to eat a Pastel de Nata, the famous custard tart you must try while in Lisbon. Or maybe you want to grab brunch somewhere? Here are all our favorite brunch spots in Lisbon.
How to Ride the Bica Funicular
Personally, I loved walking around Lisbon and found some fun in tackling the hills by foot so we never rode it. If you would really like to ride this famous yellow tram, I would suggest riding it from the bottom of the hill to the top, perhaps after visiting Time out Market.
As is to be expected, the line to ride it is much longer from the bottom, so be prepared to wait if you visit in the middle of the day or the evening. It is a short ride that lasts just a few minutes and is very crowded, so beware of pickpockets.
You can buy tickets for €2.90 from the driver, or likewise you can pay €1.45 if you use the Viva Viagem public transit card.
Where to Take the Best Pictures of the Bica Funicular
With a sight this beautiful and iconic in Lisbon, you’ll definitely want to take lots of pictures! Here are my best tips for where to take the best pictures of the Bica Funicular.
If you visit early in the morning, the best spot to take pictures from is right at the top where the tram stops at Rua de São Paulo. Here you will have a beautiful view of the yellow car, the tracks heading down the hill, and even a small view of the Lisbon harbor.
When the yellow tram arrives, you will have around 15 minutes to take as many pictures of the Bica funicular as you like before it starts heading back down the hill. As I mentioned earlier, the drivers actually exit the tram and step away from it while it waits.
You can go inside and around it as you please (even without a ticket), as long as you are respectful to the tram and do not damage it.
Once you’ve taken pictures at the top, walk down alongside the tram and you can get some very creative and beautiful shots from the side, and eventually it going into the tunnel at the bottom.