An exceptional sight in Portugal is the Elevador de Santa Justa, an elevator located in the middle of the old town of Lisbon, on Rua Santa Justa near Rossio Square. The elevator connects here the lower city Baixa with the upper city called Chiado and Bairro Alto.
History of the elevator
The elevator was built from 1898 to 1902 under the direction of the Portuguese engineer Raoul Mesnier de Ponsard. He was a long-time student of Gustave Eiffel and had already designed other funiculars in Lisbon.
The construction demonstrated the technical progress that was also taking place in Portugal at the end of the 19th century. The steep hills of the city could finally be overcome in a more pleasant and comfortable way.
In the first five years of its operation, the Elevador de Santa Justa was still powered by steam engines until 1907, when the current electric drive was installed.
Long lasting construction works at the exit to the upper city prevented the use as a passenger elevator until 2005. Since then it is in operation again.
What is there to see?
The Elevador de Santa Justa is mainly made of iron and steel and towers over the lower town with its height of 45 metres. Some parallels to the Eiffel Tower can be seen in the elevator, but unlike the famous structure in Paris, the Elevador was built in the neo-Gothic style. The two interior cabins of the elevator are paneled with wood, have brass fittings and have windows from which one can see the scaffolding during the ascent or descent.
Within just a few minutes you are in the upper city and can enjoy the spectacular view over the old town Baixa with the Rossio Square and the former fortress Castelo de São Jorge. Via a spiral staircase you can reach the observation deck with café two floors higher.
If there is still time, you can discover the upper town with the ruins of the Convento do Carmo, which gave the elevator its second name Elevador do Carmo.