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12 astounding aqueducts

By: Matt Hickman on July 22, 2015, 11:21 a.m.
The Águas Livres Aqueduct in Lisbon

Photo: Pavel Arzhakov/flickr

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Águas Livres aqueduct

Between the 16th century watchtower, iconic suspension bridge, historic funicular (elevador) system, neo-Moorish bullring and enough soaring gothicedifices to delight even the most jaded European cathedral-hopper, Portugal's seven-hilled capital city of Lisbon is a veritable treasure trove of staggering feats of architecture and engineering spanning from the Middle Ages to modern day.

Impossible to miss is the Águas Livres aqueduct, a 36-mile marvel comprised of 109 formidable stone arches erected by order of King John V to bring much-needed fresh drinking water into Lisbon. Spanning the Alcantara Valley, Águas Livres miraculously survived the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 with nary a scratch – the cataclysmic event all but leveled the vibrant port city in its entirety just a few short years after the aqueduct was completed. While decommissioned from service in 1967, the legacy of the aqueduct lives on thanks to the work of Museu da Água, an award-winning multi-site museum dedicated to preserving Lisbon’s historic water infrastructure. On a clear summer day, a guided tour across the aqueduct's view-heavy passeios dos arcos (walkways) is a much-recommended diversion (and a nice change of pace from the perpetually congested ramparts of Castelo de São Jorge). Just be sure to bring along a bottle of áqua.