Lisbon Lookouts

13/12/2017 10:20

Portuguese capital, as the Italian one, Rome, extends, in an almost mythical way, over seven hills, a fact that favours to find out high points, belvederes or miradouros, from where scrutinize its neighbourhoods from above.

One of the highest and probably the most preferred by Lisboners is the one at São Gens hill top. In Roman times São Gens was a bishop whom is said to have been martyred in this place, from where, on the other hand, in 1147, the first Portuguese monarch, Afonso Henriques, launched the final offensive that would snatch the city from a declining Al Andalus weakened kingdom. That year a hermitage dedicated to the saint was erected but soon would be known as Nossa Senhora do Monte, destroyed by the earthquake of 1755 it was rebuilt in the vicinity in 1796. Just in front of the chapel is the viewpoint, protected by the shade of some trees and delimited by a railing offering the one that is probably São Jorge Castle best perspective with the Tagus River in the background and a good view of the Baixa, with Martin Moniz Square and the ruins of the former convent of Carmo. A tile table reproduces the views indicating the main points of interest.

Not far away, in fact surrounding the former Convent of Graça, appears the Miradouro Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen. That is the official name that dedicates it to the Portuguese poetess who died in 2004, although popularly it is called by the name of the neighbourhood, so this is the viewpoint of Graça. It offers views that are not radically different from those of Nossa Senhora do Monte, slightly closer to the castle and also from the viewpoint mentioned. One of its attractions lies in the terrace of the bar that set up its tables on the square, a few steps from the railings.

On a map the distance can seem short, even ridiculously short, but the descents, ascents, curves and more curves make arriving to the Miradouro do Castelo de São Jorge, viewpoint of the castle, harder than it seems. Within the walled enclosure a wooded esplanade offers splendid views of the city with the Alfama district and Figueira Square at the foot and the Baixa and the Tagus in horizon, and also some nearby gardens. Several cannons, now merely decorative, point in the same direction. As in Nossa Senhora do Monte tiles in the same style, looking like Art Deco, indicate the most remarkable places.

Beyond the cathedral, in eastern direction and ascending along Largo São Martinho following the tramway rails, will be reached the two most renowned viewpoints of Alfama, both very close each other: Santa Luzia and Miradouro das Portas do Sol. The first is covered by a pergola decorated with bougainvillea and tiled with the typical Portuguese blue tiles depicting Praça do Comércio in its state previous to the earthquake and a scene of the Christian assault on São Jorge castle. The second one offers one of the best panoramas over the Alfama with São Vicente de Fora, São Miguel, São Estêvão churches, the Pantheon in the background and the labyrinth of alleys beneath. Next to a kiosk there is a St Anthony statue, the patron saint of the city, carrying its symbols: a caravel with two crows.

In the Baixa there are two more places with privileged views. One of them is on the roof of the well-known Santa Justa elevator connecting Baixa and Chiado neighbourhoods. In the top of the iron structure through which two elevators goes up and down, there is an aerial terrace of metal railings with vertiginous panoramas of the adjacent streets - Rossio, Santa Justa and Áurea Street -, the terrace that surrounds the convent of Carmo and the district of Alfama with the castle. The other is at the end of one of the routes that cross from north to south the Pombaline neighbourhood, next to Praça do Comércio. This one is the Miradouro del Arco de la Rua Augusta which despite its complex history, rebuilt twice after the earthquake, would not be completed until the nineteenth century. Anyway the access to the arch terrace would not be opened to the public until 2013. A lift leads to the second floor and the Sala do Relógio, the Clock Room, where an exhibition tells the history of the monument and the mechanical clock, assembled in 1941 by the Fábrica Nacional de Relógios Monumentais A Boa Constructora. The stairs lead out near to the statues by French sculptor Célestin Anatole Calmels representing the Courage, the Glory and the Genius personified. From the terrace the most outstanding views are the square itself open towards the Tagus and Augusta Street ascending by the Baixa towards the Rossio. To the east there’s one of the best views over the cathedral and, of course, the Alfama and the Castle.

Bairro Alto and Santa Caterina, on each side of the Chiado, north and south, both have lookouts. The one of São Pedro de Alcantara, is in the homonymous gardens, behind the railway station of the Rossio. It can be accessed from Restauradores Square by taking Elevador da Glória to reach the panorama offered towards the Castle, Graça and Monte. Miradouro de Santa Catarina is located right in front of the Pharmacy Museum and is accessible by the Elevador da Bica, in the vicinity. It is oriented parallel to the river and from it can be seen the harbour facilities, Cristo Rey trying to emulate, on the other shore, Rio de Janeiro’s Corcovado, the bridge of 25 of April and the neighbourhood of Lapa. Here there are a couple of terraces on different levels and a kiosk where to have a drink. In the centre there is a statue by the sculptor Julio Vaz Junior representing Adamastor, the marine giant that in the 5th song of the Camões epic Os Lusíadas faces Vasco de Gama trying to prevent the passage to the Indian Ocean by the Cape of Good Hope that at that time was still known as the Cape of Storms. A boca e os olhos negros retorcendo e dando um espantoso e grande brado me respondeu: Eu sou aquelle oculto e grande Cabo. (The black mouth and eyes twisting and giving an amazing and great shout answered me: I am that hidden and great Cape).

Inland, around Marques de Pombal Square, - who was responsible of the reconstruction of the city after the earthquake and now watch out from the top of its high pedestal -, there are other points from which to admire the city. One of them is the Miradouro do Parque Eduardo VII, in Alameda Cardeal Cerejeira, at one end of the green zone. From there can be appreciated the vegetal ornamentation of the park that projects towards Avenida de los Libertadores with the reflections of the Tagus, as a limit, in the background. Towards the west, rise the towers of Amoreiras shopping centre. On one of them has been enabled an access to enjoy the panoramic view of the city in any direction. The viewpoint is located on the 18th floor, 570 feet above sea level and from there can be seen Vasco de Gama Bridge, the Estrela basilica, the Mãe d'Água which gathers the water from the aqueduct of Águas Livres, Ajuda royal palace and the monuments of Belem, everything under the flight of the planes that start the landing manoeuvres to the airport.

There is, of course, more. More distant to downtown or not, on innumerable private terraces or other, simpler ones, as that of the terrace of the elevator that from Madalena Street goes up to the Castle, or the one on the third floor of the Rossio railway station, looking through the square towards the castle.

© J.L.Nicolas


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