The funiculars of Lisbon

1 Bica Funicular
Vista do Elevador da BicaThe Bica Funicular, opened in 1892, was the third of its kind built in Lisbon. It is one of the town's major tourist attractions, along with the Santa JustaLavra and Glória elevators. The Bica Lift consists of two carriages, each with three uneven compartments and independent access, capable of carrying 23 passengers (of which nine seated). Designed by the Portuguese engineer Raoul Mesnier du Ponsard, it operated initially by the effect of water balance (the coach who began the descent filled a water tank on its roof and the force of weight coupled with the gravitational force of the slope allowed the tow car to come up). In 1896, this funicular began using a steam engine and was later electrified in 1914, but then a serious accident has kept it stopped until 1923. Like its "brothers", Glória and Lavra elevators, it was classified as a National Monument in 2002. Entrada Ascensor da BicaThe Bica Funicular differs from its congeners by its proximity to the river and the scenic attributes of the area where operates. This lift journey begins in an eighteenth century building near the Cais do Sodré (at the point where the Rua de São Paulo meets Rua da Bica de Duarte Belo) facing a steep slope to Largo do Calhariz, at the entrance of Bairro Alto. The short ride provides a unique view over the river while passing through a popular and typical neighbourhood. The Bica Lift works every day of the week from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. On Sundays and public holidays, it only starts operating at 9 a.m.
2 Santa Justa Elevator
Elevador de Santa JustaSanta Justa Elevator, also known as Elevador do Carmo, was inaugurated in July 1902. The project is from Raoul Mesnier du Ponsard, a native of Oporto with French ancestry. This engineer studied in France and was a contemporary of Gustave Eiffel, the great master of the iron architecture characteristic of the Industrial Revolution. The Santa Justa Elevator, 148 feet (45 meters) high and built entirely in wrought iron, makes the connection between rua do Ouro and largo do Carmo. It is built in neo-Gothic style with decorative filigree and was classified as a National Monument in 2002. Interior do Elevador de Santa JustaThis is one of four public elevators in operation in Lisbon, with LavraGlória and Bica, but is the only operating vertically. Driven initially by steam, it is powered by electricity since 1907. Passenger’s transport is made in two elegant wooden cabins with brass accessories, each with a capacity for 20 people. The rise in these cabins allows access to a 82 feet (25 meters) walkway, which leads the passengers into largo do Carmo. This pedestrian bridge was closed after the great fire of Chiado in 1988, but was reopened in 2005. Besides being an unique monument in Lisbon, Santa Justa Elevator has also a fantastic view over the city. Café do elevador de Santa JustaThe terrace is reached via a narrow spiral staircase and offers a panoramic view of the São Jorge CastleRossio square and the Baixa area. This elevator is open every day from 7 am to 10 pm, extending its working hours until 11 pm in summer. The lower box office is located behind the iron tower, under the stairs in rua do Carmo. The ticket is valid for two trips and includes access to the belvedere. You can also just go to the belvedere, every day from 8:30 am to 8:30 pm (ticket costs 1.50 euros). Prepare for the queues of tourists who continually form in both entries of this elevator. There is an Italian restaurant on the walkway to largo do Carmo, the Bella Lisa Elevador.
3 Glória Funicular
Elevador da GlóriaElevador da Glória was inaugurated on October 24th 1885 and it is a National Monument since 2002. It was the second of its kind constructed in Lisbon, after elevador da Lavra and before elevador da Bica and elevador de Santa Justa. The Portuguese engineer of French origin Raoul Mesnier de Ponsard designed it to be moved through a combination of rack and cable, by the effect of water balance. It has been operating on electricity since 1915. Its two German-made carriages are identical and composed by two command posts, one in each of its extremes. The passengers’ space is composed of two benches, placed against the windows. The entrances and exits from the cars are made by two doors with flexible safety barriers, near the command post of the ascending carriage. By the late nineteenth century, the night lighting of the cabins was made with candles. Elevador da GlóriaThe Glória Funicular offers its passengers the opportunity to rise to the neighbourhoods of Bairro AltoChiado and Príncipe Real, starting from the Praça dos Restauradores. The 870 feet (265 meters) trip begins next to the Palácio Foz and ends a few steps from the miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara, one of the most beautiful views of Lisbon's historic center. Elevador da Glória remains the city's busiest, being used both by local residents and by visitors. The trip hours are from 7 am to midnight, but on Fridays and Saturdays it extends up to 12:30 am. On Sundays and public holidays, it begins operating only after 9 am.
4 Lavra Funicular
Ascensor do LavraThe Lavra is the oldest funicular or elevator in Lisbon and is still used (some of the city’s early elevators were deactivated long ago). It was inaugurated on 19th April 1884 and just like the Glória and Bica funiculars and the Santa Justa elevator, the Lavra was classified as a national monument (2002). It runs between largo da Anunciada and rua Câmara Pestana, rising 617 feet up the steep calçada do Lavra which joins the avenida da Liberdade to campo dos Mártires da Pátria. Like other elevators in Lisbon, it was designed by engineer Raoul Mesnier du Ponsard. Ascensor do LavraThe Lavra funicular has two carriages (each one with a capacity of 42 people) which are both composed of two command areas and a central space for passengers with benches along the windows. The entrance and exit of the carriages are the two doors placed at the end of the carriage where the active command area is located. Initially, the funicular worked by a rack system and water balance but since 1915 runs on electricity. This funicular is not as well known by the Lisbon locals, perhaps because of it being located in a less fashionable part of the city. However, its route does provide access to a beautiful stretch of Lisbon where the tranquil Torel garden is situated. Useful information The Lavra funicular is open every day of the year, working from 7 am until 9 pm. However, on Sundays and public holidays it opens at 9 am. The average departure is every 15 minutes. The ticket which can be bought on board is a round-trip ticket.

Elevador da GlóriaThe public elevators of Lisbon are one of its most well-known tourist attractions. Nowadays, there are four fully-functional elevators, operated by Carris. Ironically enough, they all have one thing in common: they were projected by Raoul Mesnier du Ponsard, a French heritage engineer, born in Porto and a Gustave Eiffel contemporary. In February 2002, these iconic iron structures were declared national monuments. They were built as a result of a public works program, launched during the late 19th century, aiming to ease up the day-to-day of the people living on the hills by helping them to surpass their natural slopes. Their impressiveness made them a famous spot amongst the tourists that daily visit the Santa Justa elevator, whereas the Glória, Bica and Lavra lifts are used by both locals and tourists. They are open every day of the year and they really are a traditional, yet one of a kind, touristic experience. Besides offering great chances for you to practice on your photographic skills.

Ascensores de Lisboa em 1908For decades though, there were other mechanical elevators working in Lisbon. The rua do Crucifixo elevator (also known as Chiado elevator), was a vertical structure relying on a water counterweight that connected rua do Crucifixo to rua nova do Carmo, through Hotel Universal. It first opened in 1892 and passengers had to go on board through a storefront located in Chiado. It had its own billboard, advertising it as the «rua do Crucifixo elevator in only 20 seconds». But even that proved to be insufficient, as the elevator closed in 1912 due to the lack of popular interest. It was eventually integrated on the department store in Chiado.

Elevador de São JuliãoThe Município elevator (or Biblioteca or São Julião elevator) was inaugurated in 1897 and made the connection from Município square to what we know today as Academia das Belas Artes square. It was the same kind of Santa Justa elevator and it had a platform which went as high as 95 feet. There, it met a 65 feet metallic walkway over the São Francisco walk. It was closed in 1915 and was replaced by the tram line between rua da Conceição and Luís de Camões square. The dismantled order came in 1920, but before meeting its final fate it was the stage for the republican conspiracy of 1908, that eventually led to murder of king D. Carlos, on the western side of praça do Comércio, in the 1st of February that year.

Elevador da Estrela

The Estrela elevator has a troubled story to tell. The granting for the elevator connecting Luís de Camões square to Estrela square was given to Mesnier du Ponsard in 1882. But it was soon transferred over to the Elevators Company who, in 1890, started the construction for Estrela elevator. The functioning was assured by a mechanical device working on rails, popularly called maximbombo (a corruption of the English expression machine pump). The journey was everything but comfortable and in 1913, the trail was integrated on the Steel Rails Company of Lisbon and the course started to being made by electric trams.

Elevador da GraçaAs for Graça elevator, it connected Graça square to rua da Palma. Its construction began in 1889 and opened to public five years later, in 1893. It worked through a system of endless cable and it design to cover a 730 meters trail, over a 246 feet slope. It was deactivated in the beginning of the 20th century and likewise its predecessors, absorbed by Carris tram lines. Finally, São Sebastião elevator was also a device working on the endless cable system. In 1899, it connected São Domingos square, on the northernmost point of Rossio, to São Sebastião da Pedreira square over the course of 1.8 miles. It ended up integrated in Carris and replaced by trams.


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