Lisbon is the capital and the largest city of Portugal. With over 30 centuries of History, this city located on seven hills has more than 500,000 inhabitants. It is mainland Europe's westernmost capital city and the only one along the Atlantic coast.
Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in the world. Its name may have been derived from a popular legend that the city of Lisbon was founded by the mythical hero Ulysses. Whether true or not, it is known that the Phoenicians established a port town called Alis Ubbo (meaning safe harbour) more than three thousand years ago.
The city was later inhabited by the Greeks, the Carthaginians and the Romans, who took over in 200 BC and stayed for the next six centuries. The Moors arrived from North Africa in the 8th century AD and conquered the city. Under the Moors the city was known as al-Usbuma. An important era in the history of Lisbon started then and lasted for some 400 years. The Moors allowed a multicultural society to exist in Lisbon. The first king of Portugal, Afonso Henriques, conquered Lisbon in the year of 1147 with the help of the Crusaders after a siege lasting several months.
The city's modern history gained a new impetus in 1256, when King Afonso III relocated his capital from Coimbra to Lisbon and the city became the base for Portugal’s maritime expansion. From the fifteenth century onwards, the port of Lisbon became one of the most important in the world. During this period, the “Casa da Guiné e Mina”, a set of warehouses and customs offices, was established in the capital. This organization managed all aspects of overseas trade giving the city great power.
The Modern Age has been Lisbon’s golden era, as the capital boomed thanks to the Portuguese Age of Discovery. Once the famous Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama discovered the sea route to India, the wealth began flowing into Lisbon. The city traded with Africa, Europe and the Far East. Merchants arrived from all over the world and the city became one of the most cosmopolitan spots on the planet. Many of the city's great architectural works were built in the 16th century. Under the rule of King Manuel I, Portugal developed the so called Manueline architecture that celebrated Portuguese navigations and discoveries.
In the first half of the 18th century, the profits from the plantations and the gold and diamond mines of Brazil brought a new era of wealth, development and excitement to Lisbon. This period of optimism and growth ended in the morning of Nov. 1, 1755, when Lisbon was devastated by one of the strongest earthquakes ever recorded (recent studies estimated the earthquake approached magnitude nine on the Richter scale). The earthquake was followed by a tsunami and fires, which caused the near-total destruction of the city. About 60,000 lives were lost, and more than 12,000 buildings were destroyed.
The city was rebuilt according to the plans of Prime Minister Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, the 1st Marquess of Pombal. Pombal demolished the earthquake ruins and rebuilt downtown according to modern urban design rules. Lisbon recovered at an astonishing rate for the time, but the city would never return to the glory that it had enjoyed before the earthquake. Nevertheless, Lisbon continued to expand during the 19th century and the population doubled during that period to reach 300 thousand people.
In 1986, Portugal became a member of the European Union and twelve years later, in 1998, Lisbon hosted the World Expo, which changed the city’s urban landscape. Lisbon shows multiple contrasts between the historical and modern, combining different cultures, trends and lifestyles. Rich in monuments, neighborhoods (Baixa Pombalina, Belém, Bairro Alto, Chiado, Bica, Alfama and Mouraria), riverside zone, Fado houses, parks, gardens and viewpoints, Lisbon offers various possibilities to discover, so feel free visit and enjoy the vast natural, historic and cultural city heritage.