Arriving in Lisbon for a conference last month, I followed the usual arrivals channel checking for signs to the metro. I was staying in the suburb of Belem so Google had told me to take the metro to change for a mainline train at Cais do Sodré.
From Plane to Metro
After walking from the plane, through a rather chaotic passport control experience, I exited from the arrivals door to see a sea of signs and advertisements. I spotted the Metro logo and directions off above an exit door, which pointed to turn right. I followed these signs through the terminal to a large atrium area where there were signs to each transport mode but it was fairly obvious that the metro station was the lump in the background, outside the doors.
At this point I should say that most of the pictures I took in Lisbon were distorted by the brightness of the sun outside. I came to realise that this also meant it was virtually impossible to see any external digital screens during the daytime.
It was helpful that the station looked like a metro station as there wasn’t really a clear sign saying, Metro. It was only when I got up to the escalators that I saw the station name but it was side on so only seen from the street, not the pedestrian concourse.
Lisbon Metro seemed well organised. I liked the public art welcoming me onto the network and I thought the giant sign in Portuguese and English telling passengers how to buy tickets was helpful.
The lines are named but represented by little symbols, so whereas the linha Vermelha (the red line) serves the airport, passengers can also just look out for the red compass icon to follow through the station.
The metro map was difficult to see outside the station, due to the sun’s glare. Downstairs in the station, another map was slightly easier to read but, as is the case in most cities, suburban rail lines were not presented as clearly: No integrated transport system for Lisbon!
As a point of note, the journey from Terminal 2 would have involved taking a shuttle bus to reach the Metro station at Terminal 1.
Arriving at Belem
Taking the train to Belem was pretty uneventful. The station as Belem was quite basic and I had to climb a long staircase to exit towards the town. Looking back I think that a visitor would struggle to recognise the site as a station, or indeed work out how to board a train, as there are no signs pointing into the station, nor is the station identified, located as it is, between sandwiched between two highways, if there are passing vehicles, you simply wouldn’t see the platforms. The entrance to the station is on the footbridge but there is little indication of this unless you are already on the footbridge and spot the little archways leading to the platforms.
I didn’t linger long at the station obviously and I forgot quickly how poor a welcome it had been to Belem as I went immediately to get some Pasteis de Belém!
Author: Liam Henderson