One of the most iconic and popular tourist attractions in Lisbon, the Elevador de Santa Justa (Santa Justa Lift), was built to provide a way for residents to get from the lower Baixa district up to the much higher Chiado district without having to climb a steep hill or flights of steps and it continues to be part of the Lisbon public transport system to this day. The Neo-Gothic structure was designed by the engineer Raoul Mésnier du Ponsard and it opened in 1902. The cast-iron latticework tower with a delicately ornate filigree top section holds two large lifts that transport passengers between the Rua do Ouro in the Baixa district and the Largo do Chiado. The lifts, with their opulent wood-panelled and brass interiors, which even have benches and a lift operator, give a sense of what this journey would have been like in the past.
From the Baixa the lift took us 32 metres up to the walkway which runs over the shopping street of Rua do Carmo and comes out beside the ruins of the Convento do Carmo, with its gothic-style arches. The Convento do Carmo was partially destroyed in the famous earthquake of 1755 and it was decided that the ruins should remain as a reminder of the earthquake. It did cross my mind while walking along the walkway whether it was safe. Well, at the beginning of the twentieth century King Carlos (the penultimate king of Portugal) rode his horse across the walkway to prove it was strong enough to bear the weight of a horse and it is still standing today! Before crossing the walkway we climbed the narrow spiral staircase to the viewing platform at the top. From here we got wonderful views of Lisbon, including Rua do Ouro and Rua de Santa Justa directly below us, with Rossio square, Rossio station, the Restauradores obelisk and Praça da Figueira nearby, and a bit further away the Avenida da Liberdade, Eduardo VII park, Graça church, St George’s Castle, Lisbon Cathedral, the River Tejo and São Cristovão and São Lourenço church.
I have to confess to having one reservation about the lift and that is the exorbitant price of €5 to enter the lift. Despite that, there are always long queues at the Rua do Ouro entrance and it can take over 30 minutes to get into the lift, which means it is no longer a practical means of transport for local residents. A useful tip to remember is that if you have a Lisboa Card or a Viva Viagem (or similar) card you can enter the lift from the Chiado entrance, where there are no queues, and travel down in it for free. You can also cross the walkway and go up to the viewing platform from here without going in the lift. Even better, we discovered that late at night on the day we were there the spiral staircase was unmanned and we were able to climb up to the viewing platform for free and get fantastic views of Lisbon by night in virtual peace and quiet!
Elevador de Santa Justa, Rua do Oura/Rua de Santa Justa (Baixa) and Largo do Carmo (Chiado)
Lift: March to October 9am-11pm; November to February 9am-9pm
Viewing platform: March to October 7am-11pm; November to February 7am-9pm
Tickets can be bought at the Rua do Oura/Rua de Santa Justa entrance
Price for the lift and viewing platform: €5 (valid for 2 trips); €1.30 one-way with rechargeable 7Colinas or Viva Viagem card; free with Lisboa Card, Yellow Bus ticket, Lisboa Viva and 24-hour 7Colinas or Viva Viagem cards
Price for the viewing platform only: €1.50 or free with a lift ticket, Yellow Bus ticket or Lisboa Card