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January 18, 2016

Portugal: Lisbon, Trams and Elevators

Filed under: Architecture, Europe, Photography, Portugal, Travel, Travel, Writing — anotherheader @ 1:02 am

Elevador da Bica, a funicular in Lisbon

Elevador da Bica, a funicular in Lisbon

Lisbon lives up to its nickname, the City of Seven Hills. It is hilly. It seems that everywhere you want to go is directly up a steep hill. Fortunately there are ways that those on foot can avoid the endless climbing.

Popular with tourists, Lisbon’s trams and funiculars lift pedestrians up the hills at key locations. The electrified trams slowly snake their way up the hills making several stops on the way. It is often a deliberate but atmospheric ride.


The Santa Justa Lift

Like the trams, funiculars are on railroad tracks. Unlike trams, funiculars such as Elevador da Bica use a counterbalancing system that connects two cars together by a cable and pulley system. (Confusingly “elevador” in Lisbon means both a funicular and what we call an elevator.) Set in motion, the weight of the descending car offsets the weight of the climbing car. The counterbalancing set-up of the funiculars allows cars to ascend and descend hills with gradients greater than 20%.

Tram 28 and the tourist tram pass each other in Lisbon.

Tram 28 and the tourist tram pass each other in Lisbon.

There are also elevators available to help pedestrians in Lisbon climb hills. Most famous of these is the iconic 148 foot high Santa Justa Lift. Santa Justa is a seemingly top-heavy neo-Gothic structure built from iron, wood, glass, and cement. It rises from the lower streets of Baixa to the Largo do Carmo.

The Santa Justa Lift is very popular with tourists. Less popular are the public elevators hidden inside ordinary looking building fronts. Tourists might well walk by these elevators not knowing that they are there. But a Lisboeta wouldn’t make that mistake. The residents also take advantage of the extended set of escalators inside the Baixa-Chiado Metro station. You do what you can to get up the hills in Lisbon.


The humble Elevador Baixa is a popular with Lisbon's residents.

The humble Elevador Baixa is a popular with Lisbon’s residents.


  1. Beautiful photos of trams and elevators!

    Comment by saltofportugal — January 18, 2016 @ 1:32 am

  2. Very colorful! A little reminiscent of San Francisco, but more exotic to a Bay Area resident such as myself.

    Comment by dougstinson — January 18, 2016 @ 1:44 am

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