Santa Justa Lift, Goes Up, Up, Up!!!

The Elevador de Santa Justa (Santa Justa Lift) is a beautifully crafted elevator that transports passengers from the Baixa district up to the ruins of the Igreja do Carmo church. The Elevador de Santa Justa is an industrial-age marvel, with the outer ironwork structure forming glorious neo-gothic arches, while inside two sumptuous polished wood carriages whisk passengers up in style.

Functionally, the Elevador de Santa Justa provides an invaluable service to tourists by eliminating the slog up Carmo Hill, but the vision of the designer transformed a grand functional machine into a wondrous piece of art that is adored by Lisbon’s residents. The Elevador de Santa Justa is one of Lisbon’s most unique tourist attractions, and from the top viewing platform, there are great views over central Lisbon.

The Elevador de Santa Justa is open every day between 7:00 and 23:00h. A single ticket costs €2.80 and tickets can be purchased from the ticket office below the main lift shaft. This single ticket price is highly inflated and purely priced for tourists.

Locals and savvy tourists can ride the elevator almost for free, as the elevator is part of the public transport network of Lisbon and one-day metro/bus tickets are valid for use. The Viva Viagem, unlimited 24h pass, cost €6.00 and includes all trams, buses and metro. These tickets are purchased from the metro station, and it is suggested to combine a ride on the Elevador de Santa Justa with an extended tram ride; click here for a list of the tram routes.

The Elevador de Santa Justa is located to the south-east of Praça Dom Pedro IV (Rossio Square) in the Baixa district and the closest metro station is Rossio, on the green metro line. The upper entrance is to the right of the ruinous Igreja do Carmo on the Largo do Carmo square. During the summer season, there can be long queues so plan you ride early or late in the day.

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 Rua do Carmo. The elevator’s iron struts and cross support 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. At the top of the elevator, there is a viewing platform and cafe which provides great views over central Lisbon; this viewing platform is an excellent location to view Lisbon by night.

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.

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, construction began in 1900 and was finished in 1902. On 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.

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