Twice a year, a hatch in a busy street in Lisbon opens up to a 2,000-year-old Roman structure called the “cryptoportico.” The structure is a subterranean maze of tunnels and passageways that was built by the Romans in the first century AD when they occupied the city then known as Olissipo. The “cryptoportico” continues to hold the buildings above it together and keep them stable and safe for those who live, work, and walk above it.
The galleries are usually flooded due to an aquifer running beneath the city, which is essential for its preservation. To allow access, the water must be pumped out. The galleries were first discovered in 1771 when Lisbon was being rebuilt after the devastating Great Earthquake of 1755.
Tickets to visit the galleries usually sell out within 15 minutes. Among the lucky ones who managed to buy one was Gustavo Horta, a Brazilian who lives in Lisbon. He said that it was “unmissable” and that he had waited two years to go on the tour.
The director of the Lisbon Museum, Joana Sousa Monteiro, toured the site and explained that the structure guaranteed and continues to guarantee that the buildings above our heads are stable and safe for those who live, work and walk up there. The hatch opens for only a few days in April and September each year.