Visitors simply can’t go to Lisbon without a stop at the impressive Praça do Comércio. Surrounded on three sides by stunning yellow buildings and white colonnades, and on the fourth side by the Tagus river, this is one of Lisbon’s most iconic locations. But what you probably didn’t realize was that you can actually get a bird’s eye view of the square – and all of downtown Lisbon – from the top of the Arco da Rua Augusta (the Rua Augusta Arch).
You can find the entrance to the top of the arch via Rua Augusta, one of downtown Lisbon’s main streets, on the left side as you walk down towards the river. Once you’ve bought your tickets, you take the elevator up. From there, you’ll go up some narrow steps to a museum-like room where you’ll learn all about how the arch came to be: some of the original proposed designs, the challenges of construction, and how it came to look the way it does today. I found this really interesting because I never considered what it could have looked like, and now I’ll never look at the arch in the same way again.
You then take some narrow spiral stairs up to the top of the building where you are greeted with 360° views of downtown Lisbon, the castle, and the river. The views of the Praça do Comércio are spectacular because you can admire the criss-cross design of the floor and the beautiful yellow buildings contrasting against the blue river; but overlooking the calçada-paved streets (with all the little people) from that height is equally memorable.
If you look up and around, you’ll see other landmarks such as the Castelo de S. Jorge, the Santa Justa Lift, and the Carmo Convent. You may also be able to catch a glimpse of cruise ships on the river.
Even though the Arco da Rua Augusta was completed in 1873, it’s only been open to the public since 2013… so be sure to make the most of being in Portugal at a time where you can enjoy this unique view.