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The easy way up
In the middle of the city centre of Lisbon, you’ll discover a very unique structure. It’s the 45-meter-tall Santa Justa Elevator from the 19th century! As you might know, Lisbon is built on seven hills. Walking up and down those hills all day can be challenging, and there are several shortcuts to find. The Santa Justa Lift is one of them!
The Santa Justa Lift, or Elevador de Santa Justa, became a must needed structure as part of the public transport system in Lisbon. Nowadays, it’s more like a tourist attraction, and you won’t spot many locals taking the lift up. The Santa Justa Elevator rides between Rua do Ouro in the Baixa (low) district and Largo do Carmo. It’s a ride well worth taking!
The elevator is cast iron and perhaps reminds you of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. You’ll spot gorgeous neo-gothic details and arches, and the wooden lift brings you up in glamorous fashion! Inside the elevator, you’ll notice the elegantly decorated interior with brass and wood. The construction of the Santa Justa Elevator started in 1900 and was designed by designer Raoul Mesnier du Ponsard. He was inspired by Gustave Eiffel, therefore it’s easy to see the resemblance with the Eiffel Tower, and the builders used some of the same techniques. Other structures designed by Mesnier de Ponsard are Elevador de Glória, Elevador da Nazaré, Elevador do Bom Jesus in Braga, and Funicular dos Guindais in Porto.
On July 10th 1902, the elevator opened to the public, but King Carlos I had already inaugurated the tower and the walkway in August 1901. That first day, 3000 tickets were sold already! After only six months, the lift was used by 500.000 people. Back in those days, a steam engine powered the Santa Justa Lift. In 1907 the steam engine was replaced by an electric engine. The Santa Justa Elevator has been a national monument since 2002.
Long queues at the Santa Justa Lift
Due to the popularity, the queue, unfortunately, can be long! You’re better off trying to arrive here early or later in the day to avoid a long waiting time. The Santa Justa Lift runs from 7:30 am until 11 pm and until 9 pm in the winter. Every 10 minutes or so, a full lift will go up to Largo do Carmo. The elevator has space for 29 people at a time, which can cause delays. You can take the Santa Justa Lift back down or visit some sights on this Lisbon hill.
Maybe you want to skip the elevator but still go up to the Bairro Alto district? Then the easiest way is to take the free escalators in the Baixa-Chiado station.
What does it cost to take the Santa Justa Elevator
The price is also not for the faint-hearted as the price is currently €5.30 for a return ticket, and the entrance price also includes the ticket price to the viewing platform. If you want to skip a ride on the Santa Justa Elevator, you can access the viewpoint for €1.50. On the positive side there is also a better alternative.
Your ride is free with the Lisboa Card and the 24-hour public transport ticket! As the elevator is part of the public transport system, it’s included in this ticket. You can’t buy a 24-hour ticket at the elevator, but they’ll be available at every metro station. The closest station is Baixa-Chiado, around the corner, or at Rossio. The price for a day ticket is currently € 6,45.
Get the Lisboa Card
Nearby sightseeing spots
Around the Santa Justa Elevator are several other beautiful places to visit. Rossio Square is only 200 meters down the street, and once you make it up to Largo do Carmo, you can see the ruins of the Carmo Convent.
You might also like to stop at the terrace to order a pastel de bacalhau and a drink. The codfish cake is filled with Queijo da Serra DOP from Serra da Estrela! This is the highest mountain range in mainland Portugal and adds to the authentic flavour. It goes very well with a refreshing glass of Port Wine.
While the queue might be long, a visit to the Santa Justa Lift is well worth it. Even if you just walk around the structure to admire the beautiful designs and arches. If you want to ride the elevator, the queue might be shorter before 11 am and after 4 pm. Enjoy!