Lisbon is an ancient city full of history and cultural traditions, where magnificent palaces, monuments, churches and museums abound.
Bordered by one of europe's widest rivers, the tagus, the city spreads across the slopes of seven hills and down to the ocean. Lisbon has the mildest climate in europe and is blessed with a cool atlantic breeze and long hours of sunshine. Add to that its cultural diversity, laid-back feel and architectural time warp, and you have one of the most enjoyable cities in europe - and also one of the most economical.
Oldest Quarters in Lisbon
Boasting springtime temperatures during the winter and cool summers freshened by a breeze blowing in from the Atlantic, Costa de Lisboa, on the southwestern coast, offers a rich and impressively integrated diversity. The capital of Portugal since its conquest from the Moors in 1147, Lisbon is a legendary city with over 20 centuries of History. The Alfama is one of the oldest quarters in Lisboa. Since it largely survived the earthquake of 1755, the area still retains much of its original layout. Adjacent to the Alfama are the likewise old quarters of Castelo and Mouraria, on the western and northern slopes of the hill that is crowned by St. George's Castle. Every year in June, the streets of all three quarters come alive with the feasts in honour of the popular saints. The Graca quarter and the churches of Sao Vicente de Fora and Santa Engracia are within walking distance of this area. Radiant skies brighten the monumental city, with its typical tile covered building facades and narrow Medieval streets, where one can hear the fado being played and sung at night. But Lisbon is also the stage for popular festivities, the place for exquisite shopping, exciting nightlife, and interesting museums, a place from where motorways branch off in different directions.
Nearby, Sintra's lush wooded heights and verdant charms invite one to take a ride on a horse-pulled carriage, and gaze at the marvelous manor-houses, located within the grounds of century old farms, as one drives up to Pena Palace, built by Fernando Cobourg Gothas on the ruins of a monastery from the 16th century, the style of the palace is a blend of Gothic, Manueline, and Romantic influences which make for a very explosive combination, and keeps the atmosphere of a royal residence.
To make it a difficult choice for the curious visitor and only slightly farther a field, lie the impressive Mafra Convent, the cosmopolitan seaside resorts on the way to Cascais, the verdant Serra da Arrabida and picturesque Sesimbra, the Sado estuary and the aristocratic farmhouses of Azeitao. Driving south, the ochre and blue unspoiled beaches on the Alentejo coastline open on to a vast Atlantic horizon.
Lisbon dates back to pre-Roman times - legend has it that Ulysses founded the city, although it was more probably the Phoenicians. In its early years Lisbon was a constant battleground with Phoenicians, Greeks and Carthaginians taking turn to rule the city.
In 714 the powerful Moors arrived and, by fortifying the city, held out against Christian attacks for over 400 years. By 1147 the Moors' luck turned and the Christian Cruzaders recaptured Lisbon. The 16th century was Portugal's short-lived golden era of sea exploration when riches were brought fromacross the oceans.
In the late 17th century the discovery of gold in Brazil saw Lisbon enjoy another luxurious period but this time it was cut short by the massive earthquake in 1755 which reduced the city to rubble. In 1910 the monarchy fell and the first Portuguese Republic was proclaimed. Portugal's democratic phase lasted until 1926, when a military coup reduced Portugal to a period of totalitarian regime under the dictator Antonio Salazar.
Spreading out along the right bank of the Tagus, its downtown, the Baixa, is located in the 18th-century area around Rossio. East of the arcade Praca do Comercio, are the medieval quarters of Alfama and Mouraria, crowned by the magnificent St. George's Castle. To the west lie Bairro Alto and Madragoa, with their typical streets, and on the western extreme is Belem, with its Belem Tower, (the sentinel over the Tagus river that protects the entrance into Lisbon), the Jeronimos Monastery (masterpieces of Manueline architecture and classified in UNESCO's International Heritage list) and the Cultural Center of Belem.
Lisbon Museums: Ancient Art, Chiado (Contemporary Art), Tile, Archaeology, Ethnology, Coach, Costume, Theater, Maritime, Military, City, Gulbenkian, Modern Art Center, and the Ricardo Espirito Santo Silva Foundation. Palaces open to the public: Ajuda and Fronteira. Churches: Cathedral (with Treasury); Sao Vicente de Fora; Conceicao Velha (Manueline), Sao Roque and Sacred Art; Madre Deus; Santa Engracia Pantheon (Baroque), and the Estrela Basilica.
Shopping & Nightlife in Lisbon
Shopping area is Downtown; Avenida de Roma, Praça de Londres, Avenida Guerra Junqueiro, and Amoreiras. Best places to enjoy Lisbon night life are placed at Bairro Alto and Avenida 24 de Julho.