The Glória Funicular (known locally as the Ascensor da Glória) was the second of its kind to operate in the heart of the Portuguese capital. This time-honoured and very popular form of public transport connects downtown Lisbon’s main thoroughfare – the Avenida da Liberdade – with the cobbled, narrow-laned labyrinth of the ancient Bairro Alto district.
The most popular of all Lisbon’s ascensores, it hauls some three million passengers up and down one of the city’s steepest hills every year, offering visitors a thrilling ride in both directions.
The Glória Funicular started serving the city for the very first time on Saturday the 24th of October 1885, just eighteen months after the inauguration of Lisbon’s first funicular, the Ascensor do Lavra.
On the 1st of August 1914, it became the first of Lisbon’s three funiculars (the other one being the Ascensor da Bica near the Bairro Alto) to be powered by electricity in its twenty-ninth year of operation.
Originally it was powered by a system of counterbalances requiring 400 cubic-metres of water every day, which was supplied by the Amoreiras reservoir at a cost of 30 reis (the local currency at that time) per cubic-metre.
Later on, the Glória Funicular was powered by a steam engine, the boiler being installed in a building at Largo da Oliveirinha.
Of all Lisbon’s funiculars, Glória was the first one to provide an optional ride on the roof, which the locals dubbed ‘imperial class’. Passengers with a more adventurous spirit travelled upstairs sitting back-to-back on a long wooden bench, with access to the upper floor via a winding and slightly precarious staircase.
Nowadays, despite ‘imperial class’ no longer being available, the Glória Funicular seats twenty-four passengers along two wooden benches stretched out from one end of the cabin to the other.
Running every day, the Glória Funicular was originally built by Companhia Ascensores and has been the property of Lisbon’s public transport operator Carris since the 15th of December 1926.
Besides these three funiculars, for which the locals have great affection, Lisbon is also home to the world’s most original and attractive elevator tower, the Elevador de Santa Justa, which connects the city’s downtown Baixa district with the Bairro Alto.
This filigree-style metal construction was inaugurated in 1902 and provides a unique form of public transportation for locals and visitors alike in two solid wooden cabins, rising to over a thirty-metre (ninety-eight foot) height and offering head-spinning city vistas from the viewing platform at the top.