The Lisbon Underworld

Today is the International Day for Monuments and Sites, which is usually an opportunity to get behind the scenes of history wherever you are. Although historical sites are not physically open this time, some can be visited virtually. Here is my contribution on Lisbon’s magical underground water tunnels and reservoirs, part of a grandiose 18th Century solution to the city’s water shortages.

Nomad Scribe

Below the picture-postcard Lisbon is another Lisbon. A Lisbon without trams, decorative tiles or salted cod, from where the cobbled streets and red roofs wrapped around the city’s seven hills cannot be glimpsed, a little-known underworld where only adventurous souls enter and only after donning hard hats. Their reward is a chance to rekindle their childhood curiosity as they wend in the ghostly half-light through damp limestone tunnels untouched by Google Maps, blissfully unaware of their location or destination, and try to fathom baroque columns and arches reflected at dizzying angles in underground reservoirs housed in cavernous chambers.

The construction of the Águas Livres Aqueduct system, which would transport water by gravity through a network of aqueducts, underground channels and reservoirs from the hills of Caneças to some 300,000 thirsty souls 18 km away in Lisbon, was launched in 1731 by decree of King João V. Although the Aqueduct itself…

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