The Roofs of Lisbon

When you arrive at a fork in the road, take it.

Yogi Berra

One rainy night of March, a while ago, I arrived in Lisbon. This time, it was supposed to be a long-term destination for me, by then, so I took some days to see the city again.


And the best way to see the city is, from my point of view, from above – here in Lisbon from one of the many rooftops, platforms and miradouros that offer the scenic panorama that’s so unique and typical to the city. The most accessible rooftop platform is the one of Elevador de Santa Justa in central Lisbon or Baixa but there’s no need to queue lots of tourists to actually take the elevator. A back street, Rua do Carmo, gets at the same level as the upper platform of the lift. From up here, the view is is spectacular and the another distant platforms (miradouros) of Lisbon, Nossa Senhora do Monte, the gardens of the Old Castle and São Pedro de Alcântara. Climbing in an elevator is, like riding a tram, one of the Lisbon experiences that you should not miss.


With its 45 meters high, the Santa Justa Elevator and its upper platform like a suspended black balcony above the city was completed in 1902 and its design is the work of the engineer Raoul Mesnier de Ponsard (who also designed the Elevador do Lavra in Lisbon). The Lift was a huge success as, before it existed, it was very difficult to travel from upper to lower Lisbon and vice versa. The Lift was originally powered by steam until the 6 November 1907, when an electric motor was put in place.

Its iron structure is inspired by techniques already applied in other French constructions of great dimensions like the Eiffel, while the decoration is Neo-Gothic. Two lifts lined with wood transport travelers to a large terrace where we can get good views of the river and the entire Baixa, Rossio, Commerce Square and the Castle. On the terrace, in addition, there is a cafeteria for those who want to stop for a drink while enjoying the panoramic view. Then passing by the terraces of Alvaro Siza and the old Convent de Carmo there the small Praça do Carmo with other bistro terraces and shade.


For me that’s the one of the most Lisboense view ever. Whenever I think of Lisbon, whenever I travel back to Lisbon mentally and sentimentally, this scenic cast iron platform that sits elegantly above the roofs of the buildings is always a good starting point.


My plan, back then, on that rainy night of March when I arrived in the city, was to make Lisbon my destination point after a pretty long trip – a trip that took almost three years, five countries crossed and many cities chosen as temporary residence. And that’s exactly what I did, for almost two years, still it seems that the destination point was actually the starting place – for other travels, for other cities lived, and for a new way of living and seeing things, maybe less as a traveller and more like someone who needs constant move towards new horizons.


And now, even if I am far away, I have beautiful Lisbon in my mind and in my heart, just like I have vibrant Barcelona, or rainy Amsterdam, or elegant San Sebastian. I think that, the more we travel, the more we are able connect with places seen and with places we lived in, and the more we can use those invisible strings that can immediately take us back, on an imaginary journey, whenever we miss a certain place, like I am missing Lisbon now.

I think that, by travelling, we become our travels.


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