Like the amazing Águas Livres Aqueduct and the beautiful Mãe d’Água das Amoreiras this reservoir is not on the usual itinerary for visitors to Lisboa. Even those who are fortunate enough to find the tiny but lovely garden of Príncipe Real may not notice it is here. We though knew exactly where we were going.
When it was in use the waters would have spouted from a lake above its roof in the middle of the garden; airing the water before it was returned to the reservoir chamber below. These days there is no water spouting above, which may be a shame for those above ground but is a life saver for us water adventurers. As if the water was still spouting we would not be able to explore this glorious Lisboa secret.
You enter by the way of these stairs, and immediately find yourself in what feels like a cavernous space, especially if, like us, you arrive at at time when no-one apart from the guard is there. This Lisbon secret though is a significantly smaller construction than the Mãe d’Água das Amoreiras reservoir.
There are 31 pillars in total, and each is more than nine metres tall. The space, like the lake above, is octagonal, not that I realised at the time. I was too busy appreciating its overall beauty rather than the some of the architectural details! I was though fascinated by how it worked. Unfortunately there are not that many information points inside. It is more a photographers dream than information resource for a would-be water engineer. Thank goodness I was with MrB who was able to answer many of my questions.
I did however pick up that this 19th century reservoir was designed by a Frenchman and was once fed by Águas Livres Aqueduct. It was in operational use up until 1949, and has been a museum since the mid 1990s. There are also water galleries here, which lead from the reservoir to fountains and other water collection points in Lisboa. One of which, the Loreto Gallery, is open to the public.
Guided tours of the Loreto Gallery must be booked in advance, and there is limited availability. We had decided even before we arrived we were not too worried about exploring a water tunnel, and having seen the entrance were pleased we hadn’t. Not only are hard hats with torches essential (and provided) but suitable footwear is vital too. We spotted there was at least a few inches of water in the tunnel and the ground was uneven. Far better we think to watch this video instead. If though you are more adventurous than us (Jo?!), do let me know how you get on.