When arriving in Lisbon, either as a resident or as a tourist, one of the things that people will tell you that you simply HAVE to do is to find and climb the many ‘Miradouros’. There are 7 in all in the city centre, each of them offering a spectacular view over the city from a great height. Usually they are complimented by one or more snack bars or cafés, so you can easily perch yourself on a seat with friends, or alone with a book and soak up the view of the city or the Tejo river, sprawling out in front of you while you drink a bica of strong local coffee, or perhaps a wine or a beer. While you might expect that this feeling would get “old” after you’ve been here a while, such is the beauty of this – in many ways rundown and neglected – overwhelmingly charming and dazzling city, that in fact, the longer you’re here, the more you search for new ways to get “on top” and to find a new viewing angle on to the streets below.
Naturally, the turrets of the Castle of St George are a great way to look down on to Alfama and downtown, with its hustle and bustle below. Equally amazing is the St Justa lift. An elevator in the heart of Baixa, which offers views not just of the city, but also of the ruined monastery behind it.
But, last week, I happened upon what I think is my favourite. One of the most famous views of Lisbon is looking back up the central shopping street – Rua Augusta, from the huge river fronted square, Praça de Comercio. It’s a spectacular view and one that I have scene many many times in my short stay here thus far. What I didn’t know is that you can climb it and see yet another spectacular vista of the city, from the closest point to the very city centre that you can imagine.
So walking through the town towards the main square last week, with nowhere particular in mind to visit, I noticed an open gate on the left. Curious, I poked my head around the corner and asked the man at the desk if we could climb the arch. Not only could we climb it, but it would only set us back €2.50. I could hardly believe my luck and quickly coughed up a fiver and worked my way through the electric gates with my ticket. After climbing 2 floors in the elevator, I wound my way up the narrow staircase to the clock floor. The clock’s workings were open for tourists to view, this model being from early in the 20th century; a heavy pendulum swinging back and forth and keeping time. At the other side of the room, a history of the arch and the immediate surroundings is spelt out in pictures and textual plaques.
Up one more set of stairs and you are on the roof, behind the collossal angels, keeping watch over central Lisbon. The views out over the river, towards the 25th April bridge, to the castle and up Rua Augusta, toward Avenida de Liberdade and Rossio are remarkable. You can even get a photo with a giant, divine foot plastered over the view.
Far from the winter making such jaunts less appealing, the lack of the summer’s haze means that your view is augmented by clear winter skies, visibility ranges stretching miles in front of you. It’s a great time – especially while the sun is still shining – to go and see this gem of a city from above. So if you find yourself in Lisbon, at a loose end this weekend, go and stand at the feet of the angels, above the people below and see what you can see.