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From the ground, it is difficult to appreciate just how hilly Lisbon is. However, the best place to see its inclines is from the Santa Justa elevator tram.
It is a neo-classic iron construction with decorative filigrees, a spiralling stairway and a footbridge on the roof.
This vertical elevator tram is often associated with the magic of Paris because of its likeness to the famous work of Frenchman Gustave Eiffel, who many thought was its designer. This would surely not please his former student and engineer Raoul Mesnier de Ponsard who was the true creator of this tram, and had previously also built the Bica model.
Differentiating it from other elevator trams in the city that run through the streets at a shallow incline, the Santa Justa model rises vertically. It works like an elevator and connects the low-lying area of Baixa Pombalina with the Bairro Alto higher up.
Rising more than thirty metres, the upper section of the lift’s tower features a footbridge that connects the structure with the square known as the “Largo do Carmo”. That is why this practical and interesting model is also called the Carmo elevator tram.
It is said that this tram’s inauguration in 1901 was the subject of a great deal of expectation. Lisbon’s inhabitants took to the roofs of their homes to witness its first journey up to the highest part of the Chiado district. What’s more, to demonstrate the strength of the footbridge, the king crossed it on horse-back, leaving staff members bewildered.
However, many years have passed since then and today the footbridge is closed to the public while it undergoes building work. Because of this, those who use the Santa Justa elevator tram are more often than not tourists who do not want to miss the opportunity of taking such a strange form of transport, even though the journey is merely symbolic.
Its design is rather surprising: being made up of a neo-gothic tower in cast iron and embellished with filigrees.
Once it has reached the summit, the structure takes on another level from where you can gain access, using the spiralling stairway, to a terrace on yet another upper level.
The inside of the tower contains two elevator cabins that ensure the constant rising and falling of the construction. These elevators’ elegance can be seen in their bronze and wooden features. Each contraption holds up to twenty-four people and there are queues to board at certain times of the year.
You should make the effort to visit the tower’s terrace. After the lift has done all the hard work getting you up there, it only takes a few minutes to climb the steps of the stairway to reach the top.
Once there, a grand view of the Rossio and Baixa areas, the castle, river and the ruins close to the “Carmo” church awaits you.
Bairro Alto District (27)
Estrela Basilica (14)
Monument to the Discoveries (9)
Restauradores Square (22)
Santa Justa Elevator Tram (31)
Sé Cathedral (36)
Belém Tower (5)
Freedom Avenue (21)
Nations Park (44)
Rossio Square (30A)
Santa María Church (4B)
The Cloister (4D)
Nossa Senhora da Conceição Velha (34)
Rossio Train Station (30)
São Jorge Castle (38)
The Manuelin Portico (4C)
25th of April Bridge (10)
Bicos House (35)
Church do Carmo (24)
Glória Elevator Tram (1D)
Manuelin Style (5A)
Nossa Senhora do Monte viewing point (1I)
Santo António à Sé Church (50)
The Ajuda National Palace (2)
Águas Livres Aqueduct (12)
Cais do Sodré Area (28)
Eduardo VII Park (19)
Lavra Elevator Tram (1E)
Maria II Theatre (30B)
Praça da Figueira Square (48)
São Carlos National Theatre (26)
The House of Alentejo (17)
Belém Cake (8)
Campo de Santa Clara Esplanade and Feira da Ladra Market (41)
Estrela Garden (15)
Madre de Deus Convent-Church (42)
Marquês da Fronteira Palace (47)
Praça do Príncipe Real Square (49)
São Pedro de Alcântara viewing point (1G)
The National Pantheon - Santa Engrácia Church (39)