Galerias Romanas da Rua da Prata

Lisboa Roman Galleries

Useful Information

Location: In the centre of Lisbon. Rua da Prata, Lisboa. Entrance at Rua da Conceição 75.
Open: On one weekend in September, on the Day of the Cultural Heritage.
22-SEP-2006 to 24-SEP-2006 daily 10-13, 14-18.
Fee: free.
Classification: SubterraneaEnigmatic Cavern
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Guided tours:
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Address: Museu da Cidade (City Museum), Campo Grande 245, Lisboa, Tel: +351+217-513-200. E-mail: contact
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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50 BC supposed age of the galleries.
1755 enormous earthquake destroyes the whole city of Lisboa.
1771 during the rebuilding of the city Roman Galleries underneath downtown Lisbon discovered.


During the reign of Caesar Augustus, or probably even earlier during the reign of Julius Caesar or Claudius, in the first century before Christ, the Romans built underground galleries in the area which is now downtown Lisboa. At this time Lisboa was named Olisipio, and was famous for its production of garum. Garum is a sauce produced from fish, the Roman version of modern ketchup, produced in various flavours and used to spice up many dishes. It was produced at Olisipio and exported in huge amphorae to other parts of the empire, especially to Rome.

The town was rich at that time and the Romans built many extraordinary buildings which lasted for centuries or even millennia. One was a series of galleries, whose origin and use is still an enigma. They were interpreted as spas or municipal forums, as storage rooms or as early earthquake save basements. The geological instability of the area was already known in Roman times, so some archaeologists argued that the vaults might have been an attempt to create a safe basement for the city centre. The most widely accepted theory of their use is a series of storage rooms for the nearby harbour.

The Roman galleries were later incorporated into the continually developing city of Lisboa, used as a basement to build generations of buildings on top, and after a few centuries they were completely forgotten. Later cracks opened, but despite their proximity to river Tagus, the cracks were filled with potable water. They were used for water supply without any knowledge about their origin. The galleries were finally rediscovered because of the biggest earthquake in the history of the town, which destroyed most of the town and the Portuguese sea empire. The re-erection of the city took decades, and during the works various formerly covered structures were unearthed, among them the Roman galleries.

The galleries are filled with water until today, ground water from the back country. To make visits possible, it is necessary to drain all the water with huge pumps. During one weekend per year, in September at the European Patrimony Day, they are open to the public and the pumps are working the whole day. Guides from the City Museum give free tours.