You're visiting a European capital and you'd like to take in some of the sights. But you're not so keen on shelling out for an expensive tourist bus to be assailed by a loud commentary. So why not try public transport? It's cheap, it's fun to sit among the locals, and certain bus and tram routes are so scenic they could have been set specifically with sightseers in mind. Here's a roundup of the best routes:
Berlin: Journey through recent German history on the No. 100 double-decker bus as it crosses from the former West Berlin to what was once East Berlin. Catch it at the zoo, and look for the bomb-damaged Kaiser Wilhelm Church tower, left as a reminder of the horrors of war. After passing the House of World Cultures, known by locals as the Pregnant Oyster, the bus approaches the Reichstag. It sports a huge glass dome by British architect Norman Foster that sits over the plenary hall from the viewing deck inside you can look down and see parliamentarians at work. Just behind the Reichstag, look carefully for the cobblestone line marking where the Wall once stood. Passing the Brandenburg Gate, you travel on Unter den Linden boulevard with its elegant 18th century buildings, which contrast sharply with the stark East bloc architecture of Alexanderplatz, the final stop. Cost: single ticket $2.55, full-day ticket $7.00. Journey time: about 30 min.
Lisbon: Pick up the No. 28 tram at Largo da Graça, above the imposing São Jorge Castle, with the destination "Prazeres" on the front. After clattering around the hilly, twisting streets of medieval Alfama at sometimes breakneck speeds, you'll reach the calm of the [an error occurred while processing this directive]18th century Baixa Pombalina district on the banks of the Tagus River. Through the Rua Augusta arch you see Praça do Comercio, the colonnaded square built on the vast open space left by the 1755 earthquake and tsunami. Then, having climbed up the smart Chiado district with its old coffee shops, the tram clangs through the 17th century streets of the Bairro Alto. Before reaching the São Bento parliament building, you pass the Bica, a deep cleft in the hillside left by the earthquake. It now houses one of Lisbon's funiculars. End of the line is the Prazeres Cemetery, with tombs in every possible architectural style. Cost: $1.50 one-way, $1.80 round trip. Journey time: about 40 min.
London: Pick up a westbound No. 11 bus at the Bank of England in the City financial district and make for the top deck to enjoy a bird's eye view of St. Paul's Cathedral, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. Moving down Whitehall, after passing the two Queen's Household Cavalry sentries outside Horse Guards Parade, the bus approaches the iron gates that guard the entrance to 10 Downing Street you might catch a glimpse of the Prime Minister addressing the press pack outside his famous front door. Another bonus: a ride on Chelsea's trendy King's Road before reaching the last stop in Fulham. Cost: $2.60. Journey time: about 60 min.
Paris: The No. 69 bus takes you along the Seine from the Eiffel Tower to the historic Marais district. After sampling the sights of the Boulevard St. Germain, one of the world's most elegant shopping streets, enjoy the Marais' narrow streets and renovated mansions, much in vogue now among the Parisian in crowd. In the Rue des Rosiers, sample some of the capital's best Jewish food. Cost: $1.70. Journey time: about 30 min.
Rome: Take Linea 3 (normally a tram route but partially serviced by a bus until the fall) from Trastevere for a tour of ancient Rome and neighborhoods ranging from Testaccio, featuring some of the capital's hottest restaurants, to the wealthy oleander-treelined neighborhood of Parioli near the Villa Borghese Park, and the San Lorenzo quarter, where the streets hum with university student life. You'll cross the Tiber by the Sublicio Bridge. Before reaching the final stop near the National Gallery of Modern Art, the bus passes such landmarks as the Colosseum, the ancient church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, and the 1st century pyramid built as a tomb by a magistrate with dreams of grandeur. Cost: $1.20, expires after 75 min. Journey time: about 45 min