Lisbon Funiculars: Making the 7 Hills Climbing Easy


Lisbon is known for being built on seven hills. This means that to walk around the old neighbourhoods one must be prepared to climb up and step down all the time. It can be demanding, especially during summer when the heat invades the city and discourages all physical efforts. Luckily for us, 19th Century Lisbon inhabitants knew better. They thought of a way to make life easier, helping with all the climbing around the city. The funiculars were born.

The idea was so good that is still working today: these funiculars (or elevators, as locals call it) help us access the highest and most unique neighbourhoods. There are currently four of them fully operating, all classified as national monuments. No visit to Lisbon is complete without trying if not all, at least one of them:

Ascensor do Lavra
The oldest of them all, this funicular opened in 1884. In the old days it worked with an ingenious water balance system. Later it worked with steam power. Today all the old characteristics were maintained but electricity is what helps it go up and down. Arriving at the top, the Torel garden offers a great view over the city and the river Tagus.

Ascensor da Glória
Climbing Calçada da Glória since 1885, this funicular connects Praça dos Restauradores with S. Pedro de Alcantara, a garden at the gates of Bairro Alto (the most famous district for partying all night long). From there you can enjoy one of the most astonishing views over the city and its castle. It also started as a water balance system, later upgrading to steam power. Today electricity does the work.

Ascensor da Bica
This funicular, working since 1892 operates through Calçada da Bica, a street filled with 18th century well preserved buildings on both sides. At the bottom, it arrives at a very discreet old facade. Only the most attentive will discover it. But for that, one needs to look up and see the letters around the arch with the name of the funicular.

Elevador de Santa Justa
The only one that is actually an elevator opened in 1902. It connects Rua do Ouro, in Rossio (downtown) to the famous Largo do Carmo, in the heart of Chiado, one of the trendiest Lisbon's districts. Upon arriving you can circulate around the veranda and enjoy another breathing Lisbon perspective.

Silvia is a writer and a traveller born and and raised in Lisbon. Although her journeys have been taking her a bit everywhere in the world, Lisbon is the city where she always return to unveil and write about its never ending wonders.

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