At the edge of the large Praca do Comércio stands a triumphal arch that forms the entrance to the historic old town. On the Arco da Rua Augusta is one of the most beautiful viewing platforms in the city.
Arco da Rua Augusta
The Arco da Rua Augusta was planned only after the earthquake of 1755. In the course of the new planning of the Baixa Pombalina, a design for a gate was created in 1775. Whether the construction was ever completed, however, can no longer be accurately determined today. It is known, however, that Queen Maria I had a gate demolished in 1777.
In 1873 the idea of a Triumphal Gate was taken up again and under the direction of the architect da Costa the construction was completed in 1875. Since then, the beautiful gate has been a visible entrance to the city center.
Standing on the large open square in front of the gate, you can look at it more closely. In the upper area there is a large allegorical group of figures “The Genius and Value crowning Gloria”. Among them are some historical figures, such as Nuno Álvares Pereira, Viriato, Vasco da Gama and Marquês de Pombal. These have had a significant influence on Portuguese life.
An inscription indicates the time of the Portuguese discoveries: VIRTVTIBVS MAIORVM VT SIT OMNIBVS DOCVMENTO. P(ecunia) P(ublica) D(edicatus) (To the virtues of the ancestors, that it may serve as a testimony to all. Dedicated at public expense).
Way up Arco da Rua Augusta
It is only since 2013 that it has been possible to visit a viewing platform on the Arc de Triomphe. If you go through the gate from the Praca do Comércio square, there is a rather inconspicuous entrance door on the right. There you can also buy the entrance ticket. Behind a turnstile, you reach an elevator that transports you up part of the way. After that you have to climb very narrow and steep stairs. The stairs are so narrow that there is a traffic light circuit to prevent you from having oncoming traffic. To activate the circuit, you have to push a button. Strollers, wheelchairs, large bags cannot be taken to the observation deck. One should also be able to climb stairs well.
After the first flight of stairs, you reach an intermediate floor.
There you can take a closer look at the clockwork of the tower clock, a Portuguese make from 1941. A board with multilingual texts explains the mechanism.
A second set of traffic-light controlled stairs follows and then you step through a roof opening onto the observation deck.
View over Lisbon
Before I could even take a look over the rather high stone demarcation, the first thing that caught my eye was the bell. This is for the hour strike of the clock on the arch.
Today I realize why the hour strike can be heard so irregularly in the vicinity. Some visitors thought they had to pull the cable that connects the clock to the bell. Of course, the bell then struck. Apparently a lot of fun, because even for photos, which are known to be without sound, you had to ring the bell.
I was impressed by the large sculpture on the gate, which can be viewed from behind. If you then go to the edge of the viewing platform, you also have a great lateral view, which illustrates the skillful work of the stonemasons in all details.
My gaze first went in the direction of the city center. One can observe the countless tourists on the Rua Augusta, discover between the houses the most famous elevator of the city and the Castelo de São Jorge. The winding old town Baixa shows its charm from up here.
However, I was much more impressed by the view in the direction of the Tagus across the large square. There emerges behind the houses the silhouette of a cruise ship that anchors on the riverbank. You can see huge transport ships lying in the river waiting to unload their cargo, and in the distance you can see the bridge of April 25. Below one the visitors and Portuguese stream through the gate, it is a colorful and lively hustle and bustle.
Especially in winter, the visit to the Arco da Rua Augusta can be especially already. The observation deck is still open at sunset and the view is beautiful.
Opening hours of the viewing platform:
daily: 10-19 h
per person: 3,-€
Children under 5 years and holders of the LISBOA CARD have free admission.