The Aqueduct of Águas Livres
Built in the mid 1700s, the Aqueduct das Águas Livres soars 65 meters above the Alcantâra Valley. Today, the waters have stopped running, and the aqueduct has been opened to tourism. For a small fee, you can walk all the way across.
Despite being located at the mouth of the Iberian Peninsula’s longest river, the Tagus, a viable source of drinking water had always been a problem for Lisbon. The construction of this aqueduct, ordered by José I, the Reformer King, helped bring fresh spring water from the Caneças springs, fifteen kilometers into the city.
The aqueduct was only about a decade old when the earthquake of 1755 hit, but it survived intact, and today remains in marvelous condition… which is a good thing, since it towers over the main conduit of traffic coming into and out of Lisbon. A major highway and train tracks weave underneath the aqueduct, so it would be a pretty serious disaster should the arches ever come tumbling down.
In our absolutely non-expert opinion, though, there’s not much chance of this happening. The aqueduct feels pretty solid. In fact, walking atop it, the thing almost feels too well-built. When we clamber atop ancient monuments, we appreciate at least a pinch of danger! Regardless, the views from the aqueduct are tremendous, especially on the west-facing side, from which you can see the Pont 25 de Abril and the Tagus River.
Walking to the end of the aqueduct and back takes about a half hour. But you might also want to hike down toward the base of the structure, to appreciate its full scale.
Aqueduct of Águas Livres Photos and a Video