No idea why, but Jonathan and I both seem to be fascinated by aqueducts. So, we were really excited the first time we drove into the heart of Lisbon and passed under a huge aqueduct. ‘Wow, didn’t expect to see that,” we both exclaimed. (We don’t get out much, lol!) Ok, so it’s not Roman, but it’s a great example of 18th-century architecture and engineering, plus the Lisbon Aqueduct survived the devastating earthquake of 1755. The only damage being three skylights breaking off.
Work on the Águas Livres Aqueduct (Aqueduct of the free waters) began in 1731 until 1799 but the impressive section of arches that made us go ‘Wow!’ was completed in 1744. This part of the Aqueduct is now part of the Museu da Água, and it’s possible to walk along the top of the Aqueduct over the Alcântara Valley from the entrance at Campolide to Monsanto Forest Park. Unfortunately, the gates to the park seem to be permanently locked so a visit to that park will have to wait for another day. The distance along this section of the aqueduct is only 941 metres, and it’s 65 metres tall at its highest point. From on top, you have an interesting view of the local neighbourhoods and road networks. Walking back from the closed park gate, you get a good view of the April 25 Bridge and the Cristo Rei statue.
When this section was built, these were the tallest stone arches in the world.
Money to fund the building of the Águas Livres Aqueduct came from taxes on olive oil, meat, and wine.
Where To Get The Best Views Of The Lisbon Aqueduct
For best views of the Aqueduct, it’s actually better not to be up on the Aqueduct at all but to walk down the road that runs alongside. You’ll find some great photo spots along this stretch. Another place to get a great photo is from nearby Campolide Station.
The Aqueduct Serial Killer
But there is a dark side to the Aquas Livres Aqueduct – cue dramatic music. A Spanish man named Diogo Alves who lived in Lisbon committed many terrible crimes between 1836 to 1839 before being arrested and sentenced to death.
In the past, the Aqueduct also served as a bridge from one side of the Alcântara Valley to the other. (Umm, I wonder if that’s why the park end is locked!) Anyway, Diogo managed to get hold of a key to the Aqueduct and would lie in wait for his victims. He would rob them and then hurl their bodies off the top of the Aqueduct to The Valley below. For a while, the police believed it was just a lot of suicides, but after 76 victims in the summer of 1837, they began to get a little suspicious!
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In 1841, he was condemned to death, and his head removed as scientists wanted to study his brain to understand how this man was so evil. His head remains in a glass jar in the University of Lisbon’s Faculty of Medicine.
Jonathan says that he’s not taking me to the University of Lisbon to look at a serial killer’s head!
Anyway to learn more about the Aqueduct and its history, visit the Museu de Agua. The museum itself is actually spread over five different parts of Lisbon and include the Amoreiras Reservoir, Príncipe Real Garden and the Barbadinhos Steam Pumping Station. The Aqueduct is just part one of the Lisbon Aqueduct museum tour. For more information, pick up a free map and guide from the ticket office at the Aqueduct or visit their website https://www.epal.pt.
Opening Hours of the Lisbon Aqueduct
Open Tuesdays to Sundays 10:00 to 17:30 (Aqueduct only)
Entrance fee €3 but was free the day we went as celebrating its 150th birthday.
How To Get To The Lisbon Aqueduct
The nearest train station is Campolide Station.
Nearest subways Marques de Pompal or Rato.