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Elevador de Santa Justa, Lisbon Guide
The Elevador de Santa Justa is a 19th century lift that transports passengers up the steep hill from the Baixa district to the Largo do Carmo and the ruins of the Carmo church. The lift dates from an era when wrought-iron was both a construction material and art form, and the structure is adorned with glorious neo-gothic arches and geometric patterns, while inside two sumptuous polished wood carriages whisk passengers up in style.
Historically the Elevador de Santa Justa provided an invaluable service by eliminating the steep slog up Carmo Hill, but today it is primarily a tourist attraction and one of the most unique sights of the city. At the top of lift is a newly opened viewing platform which provides wonderful panoramic views over the historic centre of Lisbon.
Elevador de Santa Justa Tourist Guide
The Elevador de Santa Justa is open every day between 7:30 and 23:00h (7:30-21:00 winter). A return ride cost €5.15 and included in the fare is the entrance to the viewing platform, which costs €1.50.
Insider Tip: The Santa Justa elevator is technically part of the public transport network of Lisbon, and is managed by Carris, the public transport operator of Lisbon. This means that a ride on the lift is included in the 24-hour public transport ticket that cost €6.30 and can be purchased from any metro station. This 24-hour ticket cannot be purchased from the Santa Justa, or on-board buses or trams. The 24-hour ticket includes the Elevador de Santa Justa, the Gloria Funicular, the number 28 tram and tram to Belem, so is a good purchase for tourists exploring the city.
The Elevador de Santa Justa is high above the Baixa district
During the summer season, there can be very long queues to purchase tickets from the ticket office at the base of the elevator and the carriages can feel very crowded and claustrophobic. It is always a much more pleasurable experience earlier in the day or later in the evening. The viewing platform can only have a maximum of 29 visitors so this can again involve a long wait during the middle of the day.
The Elevador de Santa Justa Viewing Platform
At the top of the elevator is a flat roofed viewing platform and this location may not be the highest of Lisbon but it provides unrivalled views over the Baixa district and up to the castle. The viewing platform is an excellent location to view Lisbon by night and is one of the most romantic locations of the city.
The view from the Santa Justa viewpoint (miradouro) over Baixa and the Tejo Estuary
The platform is accessed from the top leave of the lift and is reached via a narrow spiral staircase at the top deck of the lift. The view is worthy of the €1.50 admission fee, but the viewing platform is not included in the 24-hour public transport ticket. For a guide to the best view points of Lisbon please click here.
Insider tip: The castle and the Se Cathedral are best illuminated by the early evening, westerly sun. For that perfect holiday photo or selfie visit the viewing platform in the late afternoon or evening.
The view over Rossio square
Money saving tip: The top floor of the lift provides great views over central Lisbon but there is no need to either pay for the viewing platform or lift admission. The top deck can be accessed from the Largo do Carmo, by following the path to the right of Carmo ruins and then going into the Bellalisa Elevador restaurant.
Details of the Elevador de Santa Justa Lisbon
The Elevador de Santa Justa can transport up to 29 passengers in each of the two cabins for the 45-meter journey from Baixa to the walkway that connects to Largo do Carmo. The elevator’s wrought-iron struts and cross supports that form the shafts have been expertly fashioned into neo-gothic arches while the elevator cabins, which date from the 1900s, are lined with polished wood and large mirrors. The dials and instrumentation are decorated with polished brass, and the quaintness includes the driver, who is typically an old stern-faced Portuguese man.
History Elevador de Santa Justa Lisbon
The Elevador de Santa Justa was designed by Raul Mesnier de Ponsard, a student of the great iron craftsman Gustave Eiffel, whose crowning glory was the magnificent Eiffel Tower. Ponsard, after studying under Eiffel, returned to his home city of Lisbon to design his iron masterpiece: the Elevador de Santa Justa.
The Elevador Santa Justa high above all the other buildings of Baixa
Unlike the Eiffel Tower, the Elevador de Santa Justa actually solves a problem within Lisbon: how to ascend the steep hills in the heat of summer. Funding was provided by the royal house, and construction began in 1900 and was finished in 1902. On the opening day, more than 3,000 tickets were sold, and by the end of the first year, more than half a million passengers had ridden in the lift, making it nearly as popular as the Eiffel’s tower.
The original elevator was powered by a giant steam engine, but it was converted to a much safer and cleaner electrical motor in 1907, which still powers the lift today. In 1973, the Elevador de Santa Justa came under public ownership and was amalgamated into the government run Carris Corporation, which also manages the tram network. In 2002, the Elevador de Santa Justa and the three remaining cable railways of Lavra, Glória and Bica, were classified as National Monuments.