Walking across the ‘tallest’ stone arch in the world

If you are looking for a stroll in Lisboa away from the tourists but with views of the 25 de Abril Bridge and Cristo-Rei then the Águas Livres Aqueduct might just be what you are after. In fact if you arrived in Lisboa by plane or train then you are probably already pondering if you can walk across this remarkable example of 18th century engineering. Well the answer is a resounding yes!

The Águas Livres Aqueduct has 35 arches and stands high above the Alcântara Valley in the south west of Lisboa. It was once part of an 58kmile water network, and amazingly was in operational use for over 200 years from 1748 until 1967. It also survived the great earthquake of 1755.

It has one of the tallest stone arches in the world. Surprisingly it is very difficult to determine which is the tallest stone arch. There are lots of articles and posts about the longest spans, and much also to be found on ancient aqueducts and natural arches but very little on heights of man-made stone arches, and even less on this incredible piece of Portuguese engineering. However the research MrB and I have done to date would suggest that its own website is correct at describing it as having the ‘largest stone arch of this type in the world at 65.29 m high and 28.86 m wide.

The views from its two walkways are stupendous even on grey cloudy days but it was the view inside that really caught my imagination. It felt like an infinity mirror except this endless view is real.

The walkways were used as a point of entry to Lisboa until the mid 19th century by washerwomen, market traders and others from rural areas in the south and west of Lisboa. The reason given for their closure is that they had become the haunt of one of Europe’s worst serial killers Diogo Alves. However I’m not sure how true that is as they closed in 1853 and the Diogo Alves was caught in 1840. What is true though is the horror of Diogo Alves crimes. Over a period of at least three years he threw his victims off the highest point of the aqueduct after robbing them as they crossed the walkways at night. Many of his early victims were thought at the time of their death to have died by suicide rather than murder, however when he was finally caught it was realised they were murdered. It is believed he murdered at least 70 people. The exact number is unknown, and it is also unclear when he was part of a gang who committed these murders. He was finally caught in 1840 after murdering a doctor and his family, and was sentenced to the gallows in 1841. Bizarrely his head was preserved as the Medical School in Lisboa wished to study it to try and determine what lead him to do what he did! Don’t think it helped them, but his head still exists and can be found in a jar of formalin at University of Lisbon.

If you want to walk it yourself then it is quite safe these days! It is open Tuesdays thru Saturdays from 10 am to 5:30 pm. The entrance on Calçada da Quintinha is about a 20minute walk from the upper end of Parque Eduardo VII. Alternatively you can take a short walk from Amoreiras bus-stop after catching the 711  bus from Restauradores.

The Aqueduct is managed by Lisboa’s water company and as well as the aqueduct they also manage four other museum sites including underground reservoirs, tunnels and a pumping station. Perfect day out for those who enjoy engineering and for those who prefer to discover something rather different in Lisboa.  If however you are more of an armchair explorer then you may prefer to visit the lovely Jo and her Monday walkers for less gruesome walks around the world.

Author: BeckyB

It had been a good life walking, cooking, photographing, volunteering, blogging, and best of all spending time with MrB, family, & friends. Sadly it no longer is. Suddenly and unexpectedly I have become a widow.

20 thoughts

  1. Sorry I didn’t link to this. I used the search and it didn’t come up 🙁 I definitely should have read it before we went, but it was a bit spur of the moment. We’d barely just found our lodgings. 🙂 🙂

    1. Thank you so much for the link. Sorry not been in touch – crazy few days. Hope to catch up on posts tomorrow xx
      PS hope sun is out for you now. Wasn’t that thunderstorm on Sunday enormous. Fortunately we didn’t get caught in it.

  2. non so se intendevi dire il più alto arco del mondo a campata unica…. perché c’l’acquedotto di Nimes ( costruito dal romani, che rsono stati i pià geniali costruttori di acquedotti) che in triplice arcata è molto più alto, poi c’è lcquedotto di Istambul, impressionannte, ma,,conme dici tu è difficile stabilirlo….resta il fatto che è bellissimo e impressionante la sequela di immagini
    felice sera

    1. ahha you’ve picked up on exactly the problem I was having when I first read it in the museum guide! It is really difficult to determine what they meant exactly, but I think you have described it perfectly as ‘alto arco del mondo a campata unica’
      Your arches sound wonderful, and even more so as they were true ancient wonders.
      A very lovely evening to you too
      Becky x

  3. Those infinity views from inside are fantastic 🙂 I don’t think I’d like to be a student at that university though with that head in a jar 🙁

    1. It’s extraordinary isn’t it….my favourite part of the walk. I took so many shots inside I’m going to have to do an infinity post some day!

  4. Amazing you walked across the bridge, I noticed it on our way back to the airport last time. Great photos of Lisbon as well, makes me want to go back…

  5. The barrier isn’t very high, so that’s great for a clear view and I’m not afraid of heights either so it sounds perfect!

    1. Oh you have to do it then. It is wonderful and on a sunny day be glorious…..the wall actually came up to my waist but somehow in the photos it looks much lower?!

  6. You’ll have all my vertigo-suffering followers hiding their head under a pillow, Becky! 🙂 🙂 Looks great fun but I’m glad that head’s not still hanging about. This is probably one of the more unusual walks I’ve had. Thank you! I’m trying to get one scheduled for Monday but the weekend includes a 100th birthday party and I’ve got to ‘point and click’ at the family on a fancy camera I’ve never used before. I’ll just keep smiling. 🙂

    1. Hee hee, the walkway is quite wide and the wall came above my waist so hopefully they’ll be ok . . .but happy to provide pillows if needed!!

      Was a great stroll but I’m glad he’d no longer around either. What a gruesome end it would be to your evening walking back, and if that head was hanging around here . . ugh sends shivers down my spine just thinking about it.

      Crikey you do know how to fill your time don’t you. Hope your first few days back here are relaxing and give you a chance to catch your breath. And no worries about when you share the link as you’ll see from my emails I never intended this all to go live today anyway!!

Comments are closed.