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Coordinates: 38°42′50″N 9°8′22″W



Location of Lisbon in Portugal
Coordinates: 38°42′N 9°11′W
Country  Portugal
Region Lisboa Region
District Lisbon District
 •  Mayor António Costa (elected) PS
 • City 84.8 km2 (32.7 sq mi)
 • Metro 2,957.4 km2 (1,141.9 sq mi)
 • City 480,766(est.2009)
 • Density 6,368/km2 (16,490/sq mi)
 •  Metro 2,661,850(est.2009)
Time zone GMT ( UTC+0)

Lisbon (Portuguese: Lisboa; Portuguese pronunciation:  [liʒˈboɐ]) is the capital and largest city of Portugal. It is considered an alpha global city and is the seat of the district of Lisbon and the main city of the Lisbon region. Its municipality, which matches the city proper excluding the larger continuous conurbation, has a municipal population of 564,477 in 84.8 km2 (33 sq mi), while the Lisbon Metropolitan Area in total has around 2.8 million inhabitants, and 3.34 million people live in the broader agglomeration of Lisbon Metropolitan Region (includes cities ranging from Leiria to Setúbal).

Due to its economic output, standard of living, and market size, the Grande Lisboa (Greater Lisbon) subregion is considered the third most important financial and economic centre in the Iberian Peninsula. The Lisbon region is the wealthiest region in Portugal and it is well above the European Union's GDP per capita average – it produces 37% of the Portuguese GDP. It is also the political centre of the country, as seat of government and residence of the Head of State.

The city was under Roman rule from 205 BC, when it was already a 1000 year old town. Julius Caesar made it a municipium called Felicitas Julia, adding to the name Olissipo. Ruled by a series of Germanic tribes from the 5th century, it was captured by Moors in the 8th century. In 1147, the Crusaders under Afonso Henriques reconquered the city for the Christians and since then it has been a major political, economic and cultural centre of Portugal. Unlike most capital cities, Lisbon's status as the capital of Portugal has never been granted or confirmed officially – by statute or in written form. Its position as the capital has formed through constitutional convention, making its position as de facto capital a part of the Constitution of Portugal.

Lisbon hosts two agencies of the European Union, namely, the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) and the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA). The Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP), is also headquartered in Lisbon.

Geography and location


Lisbon seen from a SPOT Satellite

Lisbon is situated at 38°42' north, 9°5' west, making it the westernmost capital in mainland Europe. It is located in the west of the country, on the Atlantic Ocean coast at the point where the river Tagus flows into the Atlantic Ocean.

The city occupies an area of 84.8 km2 (33 sq mi). The city boundaries, unlike those of most major cities, are narrowly defined around the historical city perimeter. This gave rise to the existence of several administratively defined cities around Lisbon, such as Amadora, Queluz, Agualva-Cacém, Odivelas, Loures, Sacavém, Almada, Barreiro, Seixal and Oeiras, which are in fact part of the metropolitan perimeter of Lisbon.

The western side of the city is mainly occupied by the Monsanto Forest Park, one of the largest urban parks in Europe with an area close to 10 km2 (4 sq mi).


Neolithic era to the Roman Empire

The Castle of Saint George has played an important role in the history of Lisbon throughout the ages, for example, by protecting its citizens or being the residence of the royal family.

During the Neolithic the region was inhabited by Iberian-related peoples, who also lived in other regions of Atlantic Europe at the time. They built religious monuments called megaliths. Dolmens and menhirs still survive in the countryside around the city.

The Indo-European Celts invaded after the first millennium BC and intermarried with the Pre-Indo-European population, giving a rise to Celtic-speaking local tribes such as the Cempsi.

Archaeological findings suggest that some Phoenician influence existed in the place since 1200 BC, leading some historians to the theory that a Phoenician trading post might have occupied the centre of the present city, on the southern slope of the Castle hill. The magnificent harbour provided by the estuary of the river Tagus made it an ideal spot for a settlement to provide foodstuffs to Phoenician ships travelling to the tin islands (modern Isles of Scilly) and Cornwall.

The new city might have been named 𐤑𐤇𐤋𐤋𐤀 𐤏𐤁𐤁𐤅 Allis Ubbo or "safe harbour" in Phoenician, according to one of several theories for the origin of its name. Another theory is that it took its name from the pre-Roman name of the River Tagus, Lisso or Lucio.

Besides sailing to the North, the Phoenicians might also have taken advantage of a settlement at the mouth of Iberia's largest river to trade with the inland tribes for valuable metals. Other important local products were salt, salted fish, and the Lusitanian horses that were renowned in antiquity.

Recently, Phoenician remains from the eighth century BC were found beneath the Mediaeval Sé de Lisboa (Lisbon See), or main Cathedral of the modern city. Most modern historians, however, consider the idea of a Phoenician foundation of Lisbon as unreal, and instead believe that Lisbon was an ancient autochthonous settlement (what the Romans called an oppidum) that at most, maintained commercial relations with the Phoenicians, to account for the presence of Phoenician pottery and other material objects.

The Greeks knew Lisbon as Olissipo (Ολισσιπο) and "Olissipona" (Ολισσιπόνα), a name they thought was derived from Ulysses, though this was a folk etymology. According to an Ancient Greek myth, the hero founded the city after he left Troy, and departed to the Atlantic to escape the Greek coalition.

If all of Odysseus' travels were in the Atlantic as Cailleux argued, then this could mean that Odysseus founded the city coming from the north, before trying to round Cape Malea, (which Cailleux located at Cabo de São Vicente), in a southeasterly direction, to reach his homeland of Ithaca, supposedly present Cadiz. However, the presence of Phoenicians (even if occasional) is thought to predate any Greek presence in the area.

Later on, the Greek name was corrupted in vulgar Latin to Olissipona. Some of the native gods worshiped in Lisbon were Aracus, Carneus, Bandiarbariaicus and Coniumbricenses.

Roman Empire to the Moorish conquest

Lisbon Cathedral, built after 1147 over the remnants of the mosque of the Islamic period.

During the Punic wars, after the defeat of Hannibal (whose troops included members of the Conii) the Romans decided to deprive Carthage of its most valuable possession, Hispania (the name given by the Romans to the whole of the Iberian Peninsula). After the defeat of the Carthaginians by Scipio Africanus in Eastern Hispania, the pacification of the West was led by Consul Decimus Junius Brutus Callaicus.

He obtained the alliance of Olissipo which sent men to fight alongside the Legions against the Celtic tribes of the Northwest. In return, Olissipo was integrated in the Empire under the name of Felicitas Julia, a Municipium Cives Romanorum. It was granted self-rule over a territory going as far away as 50 kilometres (30 miles), exempted from taxes, and its citizens given the privileges of Roman citizenship.

It was in the newly created province of Lusitania, whose capital was Emerita Augusta. The attacks by the Lusitanians during the frequent rebellions over the next couple of centuries weakened the city, and a wall was built.

During the time of Augustus the Romans built a great Theatre; the Cassian Baths underneath the current Rua da Prata; Temples to Jupiter, Diana, Cybele, Tethys and Idae Phrygiae (an uncommon cult from Asia Minor), besides temples to the Emperor; a large necropolis under Praça da Figueira; a large Forum and other buildings such as insulae (multi-storied apartment buildings) in the area between the modern Castle hill and Downtown.

Many of these ruins were first unearthed during the middle Eighteenth century, when the recent discovery of Pompeii made Roman Archeology fashionable among Europe's upper classes.

Economically strong, Olissipo was known for its garum, a sort of fish sauce highly prized by the elites of the Empire and exported in Amphorae to Rome and other cities. Wine, salt and its famously fast horses were also exported.

The city came to be very prosperous through suppression of piracy and technological advances, which allowed a boom in the trade with the newly Roman Provinces of Britannia (particularly Cornwall) and the Rhine, and through the introduction of Roman culture to the tribes living by the river Tagus in the interior of Hispania.

The city was ruled by an oligarchical council dominated by two families, the Julii and the Cassiae. Petitions are recorded addressed to the Governor of the province in Emerita and to the Empreror Tiberius, such as one requesting help dealing with "sea monsters" allegedly responsible for shipwrecks.

The Roman Sertorius led a large rebellion against the Dictator Sulla early in the Roman Period.

Among the majority of Latin speakers lived a large minority of Greek traders and slaves.

The city was connected by a broad road to Western Hispania's two other large cities, Bracara Augusta in the province of Tarraconensis (today's Portuguese Braga), and Emerita Augusta, the capital of Lusitania (now Mérida in Spain).

Olissipo, like most great cities in the Western Empire, was a centre for the dissemination of Christianity. Its first attested Bishop was St. Potamius (c. 356), and there were several martyrs killed by the pagans during the great persecutions; Maxima, Verissimus and Julia are the most significant names.

At the end of the Roman domain, Olissipo was one of the first Christian cities. It suffered invasions from the Sarmatian Alans and the Germanic Vandals, who controlled the region from 409 to 429. The Germanic Suebi, who established a kingdom in Gallaecia (modern Galicia and northern Portugal), with capital in Bracara Augusta ( Braga), from 409 to 585, also controlled the region of Lisbon for long periods of time.

In 585 the Suebi kingdom was included in the Germanic Visigothic kingdom of Toledo, that comprised all of the Iberian Peninsula. Lisbon was then called Ulishbona.

Moorish rule

On August 6, 711 Lisbon was taken by the Moors (it was called al-ʾIšbūnah in Arabic الأشبونة), under whose rule the city flourished. The Moors, who were Muslims from North Africa and the Middle East, built many mosques and houses as well as a new city wall, currently named the Cerca Moura. The city kept a diverse population including Christians, Berbers, Arabs, Jews and Saqalibas.

Arabic was forced on the Christians as the official language. Mozarabic was the mother language spoken by the Christian population. Islam was the official religion practiced by the Arabs and Muladi ( muwallad), the Christians could keep their religion but under Dhimmi status and were required to pay the jizyah.

The Moorish influence is still present in Alfama, the old part of Lisbon that survived the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. Many placenames are derived from Arabic; the Alfama, the oldest existing district of Lisbon, for example, is derived from the Arabic "al-hamma".

For a brief time during the Taifa period Lisbon was the centre town in the Regulo Eslavo of the Taifa of Badajoz and then as an independent Taifa ruled by Abd al-Aziz ibn Sabur and Abd al-Malik ibn Sabur sons of Sabur al-Jatib (Sabur the Slav), a Slav that had been at the service of al-Hakam II before ruling the Taifa of Badajoz.

In 1147, as part of the Reconquista, crusader knights led by Afonso I of Portugal, sieged and reconquered Lisbon. The city, with around 154,000 residents at the time, returned to Christian rule.

The reconquest of Portugal and re-establishment of Christianity is one of the most significant events in Lisbon's history; although it is known through the chronicle Expugnatione Lyxbonensi, attributed to Osburnus, that there was a bishop in the town that was killed by the crusaders and that the population was praying to the Virgin Mary when afflicted with plague, which indicates that the Mozarab population followed the Mozarabic rite. Arabic lost its place in everyday life. Any remaining Muslim population were gradually converted to Roman Catholicism, or expelled, and the mosques were turned back into churches.

From the Middle Ages to the Portuguese Empire

The Padrão dos Descobrimentos is a contemporary monument dedicated to the Portuguese Age of Discovery
Belém Tower, a symbol of the Portuguese Age of Discovery.

It received its first Foral in 1179. Periodic raiding expeditions were sent from Al-Andalus to ravage the Iberian Christian kingdoms, bringing back booty and slaves. In raid against Lisbon in 1189, the Almohad caliph Yaqub al-Mansur took 3,000 female and child captives. Lisbon became the capital city of Portugal in 1255 due to its central location in the new Portuguese territory. The first Portuguese university was founded in Lisbon in 1290 by Dinis I of Portugal as Estudo Geral (General Study). The university was transferred several times to Coimbra, where it was installed definitively in the 16th century (today's University of Coimbra).

During the last centuries of the Middle Ages, the city expanded substantially and became an important trading post with both northern Europe and Mediterranean cities.

Most of the Portuguese expeditions of the age of discovery left from Lisbon during the 15th to 17th centuries, including Vasco da Gama's departure to India in 1497. In 1506, thousands of " New Christians" (converted Jews) were massacred in Lisbon. The 16th century marks the golden age for Lisbon. The city became the European hub of commerce with Africa, India, the Far East and, later, Brazil, exploring riches like spices, slaves, sugar, textiles and other goods. This was the time of the exuberant Manueline style, which has left its mark in two 16th century Lisbon monuments, the Belém Tower and the Jerónimos Monastery, both of which were declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.

A description of Lisbon in the sixteenth century was written by Damião de Góis and published in 1554.

Portugal lost its independence to Spain in 1580 after a succession crisis, and the 1640 revolt that restored the Portuguese independence took place in Lisbon (see Philip III of Portugal). In the early 18th century, gold from Brazil allowed King John V to sponsor the building of several Baroque churches and theatres in the city.

1755 Lisbon earthquake

This 1755 copper engraving shows the ruins of Lisbon in flames and a tsunami overwhelming the ships in the harbour.
Statue of King José I in Commerce Square ( Praça do Comércio), erected in 1775 as part of the rebuilding of Lisbon after the earthquake of 1755.

Prior to the 18th century, Lisbon had experienced several important earthquakes – eight in the 14th century, five in the 16th century (including the 1531 earthquake that destroyed 1,500 houses, and the 1597 earthquake when three streets vanished), and three in the 17th century. On 1 November 1755 the city was destroyed by another earthquake, which killed an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 Lisbon residents and destroyed 85 percent of the city. With a population estimated at between 200,000 and 275,000 residents, Lisbon was, in 1755, one of the largest cities in Europe. Among several important structures of the city, the Royal Ribeira Palace and the Royal Hospital of All Saints were lost. The event shocked the whole of Europe. Voltaire wrote a long poem, "Poême sur le désastre de Lisbonne", shortly after the quake, and mentioned it in his 1759 novel Candide (indeed, many argue that this critique of optimism was inspired by that earthquake). Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. also mentions it in his 1857 poem, The Deacon's Masterpiece, or The Wonderful One-Hoss Shay. In the town of Cascais, some 30 km (19 mi) west of Lisbon, the waves wrecked several boats and when the water withdrew, large stretches of sea bottom were left uncovered. In coastal areas such as Peniche, situated about 80 km (50 mi) north of Lisbon, many people were killed by the tsunami. In Setúbal, 30 km (19 mi) south of Lisbon, the water reached the first floor of buildings. The destruction was also great in the Algarve, southern Portugal, where the tsunami dismantled some coastal fortresses and, in the lower levels, razed houses. In some places the waves crested at more than 30 m (98.43  ft). Almost all the coastal towns and villages of Algarve were heavily damaged, except Faro, which was protected by sandy banks. In Lagos, the waves reached the top of the city walls. For many Portuguese coastal regions, the destructive effects of the tsunami were more disastrous than those of the earthquake proper. In southwestern Spain, the tsunami caused damage to Cadiz and Huelva, and the waves penetrated the Guadalquivir River, reaching Seville. In Gibraltar, the sea rose suddenly by about two metres. In Ceuta the tsunami was strong, but in the Mediterranean Sea, it decreased rapidly. On the other hand, it caused great damage and casualties to the western coast of Morocco, from Tangier, where the waves reached the walled fortifications of the town, to Agadir, where the waters passed over the walls, killing many. The tsunami also reached Cornwall, in the United Kingdom, at a height of three metres. Along the coast of Cornwall, the sea rose rapidly in vast waves, and then embedded equally rapidly. A two metre tsunami also hit Galway in Ireland, and did some considerable damage to the Spanish Arch section of the city wall.

After the 1755 earthquake, the city was rebuilt largely according to the plans of Prime Minister Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, the 1st Marquess of Pombal; hence the designation of the lower town as Baixa Pombalina ( Pombaline Downtown). Instead of rebuilding the medieval town, Pombal decided to demolish the remains of the earthquake and rebuild the downtown in accordance with modern urban rules.

19th and 20th centuries

In 1834 the Assembly of the Republic was installed in the São Bento Palace.

In the first years of the 19th century, Portugal was invaded by the troops of Napoléon Bonaparte, making Queen Maria I and Prince-Regent João (future John VI) flee temporarily to Brazil. Considerable property was pillaged by the invaders.

The city felt the full force of the Portuguese liberal upheavals, beginning its tradition of cafés and theatres. In 1879 the Avenida da Liberdade was opened, replacing a previous public garden.

Lisbon was the centre of the republican coup of October 5, 1910 which instated the Portuguese Republic. Previously, it was also the stage of the regicide of Carlos I of Portugal (1908).

The city refounded its university in 1911 after centuries of inactivity in Lisbon, incorporating reformed former colleges and other non-university higher education schools of the city (such as the Escola Politécnica – now Faculdade de Ciências). Today there are 3 public universities in the city ( University of Lisbon, Technical University of Lisbon and New University of Lisbon), a public university institute (ISCTE – Instituto Superior de Ciências do Trabalho e da Empresa) and a polytechnic institute (IPL – Instituto Politécnico de Lisboa). See list of universities in Portugal.

During World War II Lisbon was one of the very few neutral, open European Atlantic ports, a major gateway for refugees to the U.S. and a spy nest. More than 100,000 refugees were able to flee Nazi Germany via Lisbon.

In 1974, Lisbon was the central destination point of the Carnation Revolution maneuvers, the end of the Portuguese Corporative Regime ( Estado Novo).

In 1988, a fire near the historical centre of Chiado greatly disrupted normal life in the area for about 10 years.

In 1994, Lisbon was the European Capital of Culture.

Expo '98 was held in Lisbon. The timing was intended to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Vasco da Gama's sea voyage to India.

Contemporary events

In 2007 the Treaty of Lisbon was signed in this city, which initiated a new chapter in the history of the European Union.

The Lisbon Agenda was a European Union agreement on measures to revitalize the EU economy, signed in Lisbon in March 2000.

On the 7 July 2007, Lisbon held the ceremony of the "New 7 Wonders Of The World" election, in Luz stadium, with live transmission for millions of people all over the world.

In October 2007 Lisbon hosted the 2007 EU Summit, where agreement was reached regarding a new EU governance model. The resulting Treaty of Lisbon was signed on the 13 December 2007 and came into force on 1 December 2009.


Lisbon has a Mediterranean climate that is strongly influenced by the Gulf Stream, giving it one of the mildest climates in Europe. The city is sunny throughout the year, with an annual average of 2900–3300 hours of sunshine.

Summers are hot and dry with average daytime temperatures of 26–29 °C (79–84 °F), falling to 16–18 °C (61–64 °F) at night. Winters are cool and rainy with temperatures around 8–15 °C (46–59 °F), while spring and autumn are generally mild, or even warm during daytime. Extreme temperatures may reach 37 °C (99 °F) or more in some of the warmest summer afternoons and 2 °C (36 °F) in the coldest winter mornings. From May to September the weather tends to be settled most of the time with blues skies and some wind as well. Annual rainfall is around 700–750 mm (28–30 in), spread over 100 rainy days, mostly from October to May.

Climate data for Lisbon
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 22.6
Average high °C (°F) 14.8
Daily mean °C (°F) 11.6
Average low °C (°F) 8.3
Record low °C (°F) 1
Rainfall mm (inches) 99.9
Avg. rainy days (≥ 0.1 mm) 15 15 13 12 8 5 2 2 6 11 14 14 117
Mean monthly sunshine hours 142.6 156.6 207.7 234 291.4 303 353.4 344.1 261 213.9 156 142.6 2806.3
Source: Instituto de Meteorologia, Hong Kong Observatory for data of avg. precipitation days & sunshine hours


The population of the city proper was 564,477 and the metropolitan area ( Lisbon Metropolitan Area) was 2,800,000 according to the Instituto Nacional de Estatística (National Institute of Statistics). The Lisbon Metropolitan Area coincides with two NUTS II units, Grande Lisboa (Greater Lisbon), in the northern bank of the Tagus, and Península de Setúbal (Setúbal Peninsula), to the south, which are the two subregions of Região Lisboa (Lisbon Region). The population density of the city itself is 6,658 inhabitants per square kilometre (17,240 /sq mi).

Like most big cities, Lisbon is surrounded by many satellite cities. It is estimated that more than one million people enter Lisbon every day from the outskirts. Cascais and Estoril are among the most interesting neighbouring towns for night life. Beautiful palaces, landscapes and historical sites can be found in Sintra and Mafra. Other major municipalities around Lisbon include Amadora, Oeiras, Odivelas, Loures, Vila Franca de Xira and, in the south bank of the Tagus river estuary, Almada, Barreiro and Seixal.

Lisbon is ranked number 1 in the Portuguese most livable cities survey of living conditions published yearly by Expresso.

Demographic evolution of Lisbon (1801–2004)
1801 1849 1900 1930 1960 1981 1991 2001 2004 2009
203.999 174.900 350.919 591.939 801.155 807.937 663.394 564.657 529.485 480.766

Culture and sights

The city of Lisbon is rich in architecture; Romanesque, Gothic, Manueline, Baroque, Traditional Portuguese, Modern and Post-Modern constructions can be found all over the city. The city is also crossed by great boulevards and monuments along these main thoroughfares, particularly in the upper districts; notable among these are the Avenida da Liberdade (Liberty Avenue), Avenida Fontes Pereira de Melo, Avenida Almirante Reis and Avenida da República (Republic Avenue). The most famous museums in Lisbon are the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga (National Museum of Ancient Art), the Museu do Azulejo (Museum of Portuguese-style Tile Mosaics), the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian (Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, containing varied collections of ancient and modern art), the Lisbon Oceanarium (Oceanário de Lisboa, the second largest in the world), the Museu Nacional do Traje e da Moda (National Museum of Costume and Fashion), the Berardo Collection Museum (Modern Art) at the Belém Cultural Centre, the Museu Nacional dos Coches (National Coach Museum, containing the largest collection of royal coaches in the world), the Museu da Farmácia (Pharmacy Museum) and the Museum of the Orient.

Lisbon's opera house, the Teatro Nacional de São Carlos, hosts a relatively active cultural agenda, mainly in autumn and winter. Other important theatres and musical houses are the Centro Cultural de Belém, the Teatro Nacional D. Maria II and the Gulbenkian Foundation.

Partial view of old Lisbon, viewed from Cacilhas

The monument to Christ the King (Cristo Rei) stands on the left side of the river, in Almada. With open arms, overlooking the whole city, it resembles the Corcovado monument in Rio de Janeiro, and was built after World War II, as thanks for Portugal's being spared the horrors and destruction of the war.

Every June there are 5 days of popular street celebrations in memory of a saint born in Lisbon – Anthony of Lisbon (or Santo António). Saint Anthony, also known as Saint Anthony of Padua, was a wealthy Portuguese bohemian who was canonised and made Doctor of the Church after a life preaching to the poor, simpler people. Although Lisbon’s patron saint is Saint Vincent, whose remains are in the Lisbon Cathedral, there are no festivities associated with him.

Parque Eduardo VII is the second largest park of the city after Parque Florestal de Monsanto, prolonging the main avenue ( Avenida da Liberdade). Originally named Parque da Liberdade, was after renamed Park Edward VII of England who visited Lisbon in 1903, it includes a large variety of plants in a winter garden (Estufa Fria).

Lisbon is home every year to the Lisbon Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, the Lisboarte, the DocLisboa – Lisbon International Documentary Film Festival, the Arte Lisboa – Contemporary Art Fair, the Festival of the Oceans, the International Organ Festival of Lisbon, the MOTELx – Lisbon International Horror Film Festival, the Lisbon Village Festival, the Festival Internacional de Máscaras e Comediantes, the Lisboa Mágica – Street Magic World Festival, the Monstra - Animated Film Festival, the Lisbon Book Fair, the Peixe em Lisboa – Lisbon Fish and Flavours, the Lisbon International Handicraft Exhibition, the Lisbon Photo Marathon, the IndieLisboa – International Independent Film Festival, the Alkantara Festival, the Temps d´Images Festival and the Jazz in August festival.

Lisbon has been home three times (in 2004, 2005, and 2008) to Rock in Rio, one of the world's largest pop-rock festivals. Annual popular music events within the metropolitan area include the Optimus Alive! and Super Bock Super Rock festivals.

Lisbon is also home to the Lisbon Architecture Triennial, the Moda Lisboa (Fashion Lisbon), ExperimentaDesign – Biennial of Design and LuzBoa – Biennial of Light.


View of the Alfama district.

The oldest district of Lisbon, spreading on the slope between the Castle of Lisbon and the Tejo river. Its name comes from the Arabic Al-hamma, meaning fountains or baths. It contains many important historical attractions, with many Fado bars and restaurants.During the times of Moorish domination, Alfama constituted the whole of the city, which later spread to the West ( Baixa neighbourhood). Alfama became inhabited by the fishermen and the poor, and its condition as the neighbourhood of the poor continues to this day. The great 1755 Lisbon Earthquake did not destroy the Alfama, which has remained a picturesque labyrinth of narrow streets and small squares. Lately the neighbourhood has been invigorated with the renovation of the old houses and new restaurants where Fado - Portuguese typical melancholy music - can be enjoyed. The Castle of São Jorge and the Lisbon Cathedral are located in this area. 4 Other attractions include:

  • Monastery of São Vicente de Fora
  • Church of Santo António
  • Santa Luzia Belvedere
  • Largo das Portas ao Sol


The Baixa Pombalina seen from the Elevador de Santa Justa.

The heart of the city is the Baixa (Downtown) or city centre; The Pombaline Baixa is an elegant district, primarily constructed after the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. It takes its name from Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, 1st Marquess of Pombal, the Prime Minister to Joseph I of Portugal from 1750 to 1777 and key figure of The Enlightenment in Portugal, who took the lead in ordering the rebuilding of Lisbon after the 1755 earthquake. The Marquis of Pombal imposed strict conditions on rebuilding the city, and the current grid pattern strongly differs from the organic streetplan that characterised the district before the Earthquake.

The Pombaline Baixa is one of the first examples of earthquake-resistant construction. Architectural models were tested by having troops march around them to simulate an earthquake. Notable features of Pombaline structures include the 'Pombaline cage', a symmetrical wood-lattice framework aimed at distributing earthquake force, and inter-terrace walls that are built higher than roof timbers to reduce fire contagion.

It was placed on Portugal's "tentative list" of potential World Heritage Sites on 7 December 2004. Other monuments in this area include:

  • Praça do Comércio (Commerce Square) and Rossio Square the oldest and historically most important squares in Lisbon
  • Church of Nossa Senhora da Conceição Velha which has a beautiful manueline façade
  • Church of São Domingos
  • Restauradores Square
  • Elevador de Santa Justa, an elevator (lift) in Gothic revival style, built around 1900 to connect the Baixa and Chiado.


Luís de Camões Square, in the Chiado neighbourhood.

The Chiado is a traditional shopping area that mixes old and modern commercial establishments, concentrated specially in the Carmo's and Garrett's streets. Locals as well as tourists visit the Chiado to buy books, garments, pottery as well as to have a cup of coffee. The most famous café of Chiado is A Brasileira, famous for having had poet Fernando Pessoa among its customers. The Chiado is also an important cultural area, with several museums and theatres. Several buildings of the Chiado were destroyed in a fire in 1988, an event that deeply shocked the country. Thanks to a renovation project that lasted more than 10 years, coordinated by celebrated architect Siza Vieira, the affected area is now recovered. Many international brands are there like Hugo Boss, Pepe Jeans, G-Star, Hermès, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Fornarina, Colcci, Cartier, Diesel, H&M...

Attractions include:

  • Basilica dos Mártires
  • Brasileira Cafe
  • Carmo Convent
  • Church of Corpo Santo
  • Church of Nossa Senhora do Loreto
  • Museu do Chiado, which houses most important works of Portuguese contemporary art
  • The richly-decorated Church of São Roque is located nearby.

Bairro Alto

Bairro Alto (literally upper quarter in Portuguese) is an area of central Lisbon. It functions as a residential, shopping and entertainment district. Today, the Bairro Alto is the heart of Lisbon's youth and of the Portuguese capital's nightlife. Lisbon's Punk, Gay, Metal, Goth, Hip Hop and Reggae scenes, all have the Bairro as their home, due to the number of clubs and bars dedicated to each of them. The fado, Portugal's national song, still survives in the new Lisbon's nightlife. The crowd is a mix of local and tourist, straight and gay, and almost anything else imagined.


The Baroque-Neoclassical Estrela Basilica is the main attraction of this district. The huge church has a giant dome, and is located in a hill in what was at the time the western part of Lisbon and can be viewed from far away. The style is similar to the Mafra National Palace, in late baroque and neoclassical. The front has two twin bell towers and includes statues of saints and some allegoric figures. The Parliament, housed in Sao Bento Palace, is in this district. Nearby is the official residence of Portugal’s Prime Minister. and the Prazeres Cemetery is nearby as well.


A new hangout in Lisbon, the Docas.

Although today it is quite central, it was once a mere suburb of Lisbon, comprising mostly farms and palaces. In the 16th century, there was a brook there which the nobles used to promenade in their boats. Through the late 19th century, Alcântara became a popular industrial area, with lots of small factories and warehouses. Through the centuries, this area has lost all of its charm and old buildings, as well as its brook, and the womenfolk used to go there to do their laundry. Around the early 1990s, Alcântara started to become a place for pubs and discothèques, mainly because its outer area is mostly commercial, and the noise generated at night, and the "movida", would not disturb its residents. Today, some of these areas are slowly being taken over by loft developments and new apartments that can profit from its excellent river views and central location.


The Praça do Império with the Jerónimos Monastery in the background in the Santa Maria de Belem parish.

Santa Maria de Belém, or just Belém (Portuguese pronunciation:  [ˈsɐ̃tɐ mɐˈɾiɐ dɨ bɨˈlɐ̃ĩ]) is a parish of Lisbon, Portugal, located 6 km (4 mi) west of the present city centre and 2 km (1 mi) west of Ponte 25 de Abril (25th of April Bridge). Its name is derived from the Portuguese for Bethlehem.

Belém is famous as the place from which many of the great Portuguese explorers set off on their voyages of discovery. In particular, it is the place from which Vasco da Gama departed for India in 1497. It is also a former royal residence and features the 17th-18th century Belém Palace, former royal residence and now occupied by the President of Portugal, and the Ajuda Palace, begun in 1802 but never completed.

Belém Tower

Perhaps Belém's most famous feature is its tower, Torre de Belém, whose image is much used by Lisbon's tourist board. The tower was built as a fortified lighthouse late in the reign of Dom Manuel (1515–1520) to guard the entrance to the port at Belém. It stood on a little island in right side of the Tagus, surrounded by water.

Belém's other major historical building is the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (Jerónimos Monastery), which the Torre de Belém was built partly to defend. The building of the monastery, an example of Manueline architecture, was begun in 1502 on the instructions of Manuel I and took 50 years to complete. It was built as a monument to Vasco da Gama's successful voyage to India and was funded by a tax on eastern spices. The monastery contains the tomb of Vasco da Gama. Located in the wings of the monastery are the Museu Nacional de Arqueologia (National Archaeological Museum) and the Museu da Marinha (Maritime Museum).

Monument to the Discoveries
Detail of the Monument to the Discoveries

Belém's most notable modern feature is the Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries). This is a 52 m (170.60  ft) high slab of concrete, erected in 1960 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator. The monument is carved into the shape of the prow of a ship in which stand statues of various explorers, as well as a statue of Henry himself. Adjacent to the monument is a square into whose surface is set a map showing the routes of various Portuguese explorers.

In the heart of Belém is the Praça do Império: gardens centred upon a large fountain, laid out during World War II. To the west of the gardens lies the Centro Cultural de Belém. This was built for Portugal's 1992 presidency of the EU. It is now an arts complex, containing Belém's Museu do Design (Design Museum). To the southeast of the gardens is the Belém Palace (1770), the official residence of the Portuguese President. Five hundred metres to the east of Praça do Império lies Belém's other major square Praça Afonso de Albuquerque.

Belém is home to a number of other museums, many of which were established by Salazar for the 1940 Belém Expo: Museu da Electricidade (Electricity Museum), Museu do Centro Científico e Cultural de Macau (Macau Cultural Museum), Museu de Arte Popular (Folk Art Museum) and Museu Nacional dos Coches (Coach Museum).

Belenenses, a renowned sports club from Lisbon is based in Belém.

Belém's main street is Rua de Belém, in which there is a 160-year-old pastry shop, at which can be purchased one of the famous pastel de Belém (plural: pastéis de Belém) - custard tarts made with flaky pastry. Other attractions within the area are:

  • Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument of the Discoveries), built in mid-20th century, during Estado Novo dictatorial regime
  • Belem Cultural Centre, example of Portuguese contemporary architecture, finished in 1994
  • Belem Tower, an ex-libris of the city, built in the 16th century
  • Belem Palace, 18th century palace, which is now the official residence of the President of the Republic
  • Coach Museum, displaying most relevant and spectuacular carriages from 17th to 19th century.

Gare do Oriente

The Gare do Oriente or Orient Station.

Gare do Oriente (Orient Station) is one of the main transportation hubs of Lisbon, for trains, metro, buses and taxis. Its glass and steel columns are reminiscent of palms, making the whole structure fascinating to look at (especially in sunlight or when illuminated at night). It was designed by the architect Santiago Calatrava from Valencia (Spain). Cross through the shopping mall just across the street and you are in Parque das Nações (Park of the Nations), site of the 1998 World Expo.

Lisbon trams and funiculars

A typical tram.

Transportation in Lisbon is more charming than in most cities. Much is owed to its geography; a part of Lisbon has been built on its seven hills. No visit to Lisbon is complete without riding the 1930s trams. The greatest attractions, though, are the funiculars, of which there are three. These are Elevador da Glória, Elevador da Bica, and Elevador da Lavra. Perhaps the most picturesque is the Elevador da Bica, which passes through a charming residential neighbourhood just below Bairro Alto.


Overall view of the Nations' Park.

The Lisbon region is the wealthiest region in Portugal and it is well above the European Union's GDP per capita average – it produces 45% of the Portuguese GDP. Lisbon's economy is based primarily on the tertiary sector. Most of the headquarters of multinationals operating in Portugal are concentrated in the Grande Lisboa subregion, specially in the Oeiras municipality. Lisbon Metropolitan Area is heavily industrialized, especially the south bank of the Tagus river (Rio Tejo).

The country's chief seaport, featuring one of the largest and most sophisticated regional markets on the Iberian Peninsula, Lisbon and its heavily populated surroundings are also developing as an important financial centre and a dynamic technological hub.

Lisbon has the largest and most developed mass media sector of Portugal, and is home to several related companies ranging from leading television networks and radio stations to major newspapers.

The Euronext Lisbon stock exchange, part of the pan-European Euronext system together with the stock exchanges of Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris, is tied with the New York Stock Exchange since 2007, forming the multinational NYSE Euronext group of stock exchanges.


Lisbon's public transport network is extremely far-reaching and reliable and has its Metro as its main artery, connecting the city centre with the upper and eastern districts, and now reaching the suburbs. Ambitious expansion projects will increase the network by almost one third, connecting the airport, and the northern and western districts. Bus, funicular and tram services have been supplied by the Companhia de Carris de Ferro de Lisboa ( Carris), for over a century.

A traditional form of public transport in Lisbon is the tram. Originally introduced in the 19th century, the trams were originally imported from the U.S. and called americanos. The original trams can still be seen in the Museu da Carris (the Public Transport Museum) ( Carris). Other than on the modern Line 15, the Lisbon tramway system still employs small (four wheel) vehicles of a design dating from the early part of the twentieth century. These distinctive yellow trams are one of the tourist icons of modern Lisbon, and their size is well suited to the steep hills and narrow streets of the central city.

There are other commuter bus services from the city: Vimeca, Rodoviaria de Lisboa, Transportes Sul do Tejo, Boa Viagem, Barraqueiro are the main ones, operating from different terminals in the city.

There are four commuter train lines departing from Lisbon: the Cascais, Sintra and Azambuja lines (operated by Comboios de Portugal (CP)), as well as a fourth line to Setúbal (operated by Fertagus) crossing the Tagus river over the 25 de Abril Bridge. A separate CP line to Setúbal ends at the southern bank of the Tagus and requires ferry transfer to reach Lisbon. The major railway stations are Santa Apolónia, Rossio, Gare do Oriente and Cais do Sodré.

The city does not offer a light rail service (tram line 15, although running with new and faster trams does not fall onto this category), but there are plans to build some lines with this service around the city (but not into the city itself).

The city is connected to the far side of the Tagus by two important bridges:

  • The 25 de Abril Bridge, inaugurated (as Ponte Salazar) on August 6, 1966, and later renamed after the date of the Carnation Revolution, was the longest suspension bridge in Europe. Because of its similar coloring, it is often compared to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, USA. In fact, it was built by the same company ( American Bridge Company) that constructed the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and not the Golden Gate, also explaining its similarity in design to the former.
Panoramic view of Lisbon from the top of Cristo-Rei, with 25 April Bridge in the foreground.
  • The Vasco da Gama Bridge, inaugurated on May 1998 is, at 17.2 km (10.7 mi), the longest bridge in Europe.
View of Vasco da Gama Bridge from atop Vasco da Gama Tower.

Another way of crossing the river is by taking the ferry. The company is Transtejo-Soflusa, which operates from different points in the city to Cacilhas, Seixal, Montijo, Porto Brandão and Trafaria under the brand Transtejo and to Barreiro under the brand Soflusa.

Lisbon is connected to its suburbs and the rest of Portugal by an extensive motorway network. There are three circular motorways around the city; the 2ª Circular, the CRIL and the CREL.

The Portela Airport is located within the city limits. TAP and Portugalia have their hubs here, and flights are available to Europe, Africa, and the Americas.


A building of the New University of Lisbon.

The city has several private and public secondary schools, primary schools as well as Kindergärten. In Greater Lisbon area there are also international schools such as Saint Julian's School, the Carlucci American International School of Lisbon, Saint Dominic's International School, Deutsche Schule Lissabon, Instituto Español de Lisboa (Lisbon Spanish Institute), and Lycée Français Charles Lepierre.

There are three major public universities in Lisbon: the University of Lisbon (Lisbon's oldest university in operation, founded in 1911, also called the Classic University of Lisbon), the Technical University of Lisbon (founded in 1930) and the New University of Lisbon (founded in 1973), providing degrees in all academic disciplines. There is also one state-run university institute – the ISCTE, and a polytechnic institute – the Polytechnical Institute of Lisbon.

Major private institutions of higher education include the Portuguese Catholic University, as well as the Lusíada University, the Universidade Lusófona, and the Universidade Autónoma de Lisboa, among others.

The total number of enrolled students in higher education in Lisbon was, for the 2007-2008 school year, of 125,867 students, of whom 81,507 in the Lisbon's public institutions.


Luz Stadium

The Lisbon sports clubs Sport Lisboa e Benfica (commonly "Benfica") and Sporting Clube de Portugal (commonly "Sporting"), have many sports teams in the highest Portuguese divisions and European competitions. Belenenses, another important club with a great tradition in Portuguese sport, is also from the Portuguese capital.

Football is the most popular sport in Lisbon. Major football clubs include S.L. Benfica, with its home 65,000 seat stadium the UEFA Elite stadium Estádio da Luz (named after the area in which the stadium is situated (Luz) and not, as is popularly believed, 'Stadium of Light'). Benfica has won the UEFA Champions League twice and has appeared in the final seven times, and Sporting Clube de Portugal, the other major football team from the city, also having a UEFA elite stadium, 52,000 seat Estádio José de Alvalade stadium. It has won the UEFA Cup Winners Cup once and was the UEFA Cup finalist in the 2004-05 season. Former players from this team include Luís Figo and Cristiano Ronaldo. Belenenses is another important football team in the city, having Estádio do Restelo as its home stadium in the Belém neighbourhood of Lisbon. Belenenses holds the distinction of being the first club, other than perennial winners Sporting, Benfica and Porto, to win the Portuguese League, taking the trophy in the 1945-46 season.

Other sports, such as indoor football, handball, basketball and roller hockey are also popular.

There are many other sport facilities in Lisbon, ranging from athletics to sailing to golf to mountain-biking.

Lisbon was among the Portuguese cities which hosted the UEFA Euro 2004 championship. In 2006 and 2007, Lisbon was the starting city of the Dakar Rally. Every March the city hosts the Lisbon Half Marathon.


Map of the Freguesias

There are 53 freguesias ( civil parishes) in Lisbon:

  • Ajuda (formerly Nossa Senhora da Ajuda)
  • Alcântara
  • Alto do Pina
  • Alvalade
  • Ameixoeira (formerly Funchal)
  • Anjos
  • Beato
  • Benfica
  • Campo Grande
  • Campolide
  • Carnide
  • Castelo
  • Charneca
  • Coração de Jesus (formerly Camões)
  • Encarnação
  • Graça
  • Lapa
  • Lumiar
  • Madalena
  • Mártires
  • Marvila
  • Mercês
  • Nossa Senhora de Fátima
  • Pena
  • Penha de França
  • Prazeres
  • Sacramento
  • Santa Catarina
  • Santa Engrácia (formerly Monte Pedral)
  • Santa Isabel
  • Santa Justa
  • Santa Maria de Belém
  • Olivais (formerly Santa Maria dos Olivais)
  • Santiago
  • Santo Condestável
  • Santo Estêvão
  • Santos-o-Velho
  • São Cristóvão e São Lourenço (formerly São Lourenço)
  • São Domingos de Benfica
  • São Francisco Xavier
  • São João
  • São João de Brito
  • São João de Deus
  • São Jorge de Arroios
  • São José
  • São Mamede
  • São Miguel
  • São Nicolau
  • São Paulo (formerly Marquês de Pombal)
  • São Sebastião da Pedreira
  • São Vicente de Fora (formerly Escolas Gerais)
  • Socorro

Furthermore, and more commonly referred to by its inhabitants, Lisbon is divided into historical "bairros" with no clearly defined boundaries, such as Amoreiras, Bairro Alto, Bica, Alfama, Mouraria, Avenidas Novas, Intendente, Chelas and Lapa.

Prominent people born in Lisbon

Bronze statue of poet Fernando Pessoa in the Café A Brasileira, in the Chiado neighbourhood
  • Saint Anthony of Lisbon (1195–1231)
  • Pope John XXI, born Pedro Julião (1215–1277)
  • Francisco de Almeida, (1450–1510) Portuguese admiral, the first Viceroy of Portuguese India.
  • António Vieira (1608–1697), Jesuit
  • Catherine of Braganza (1638–1705), queen consort of King Charles II of England
  • Fernando Pessoa (1888–1935), poet / writer
  • Amália Rodrigues (1920–1999), fado / singer
  • Mário Cesariny (1923–2006), poet
  • Alexandre O'Neill (1924–1986), poet / writer
  • Mário Soares (born 1924), politician, former President and Prime-Minister
  • Paula Rego (born 1935), painter, illustrator and printmaker
  • Jorge Sampaio (born 1939), politician, former Mayor of Lisbon and President
  • António Damásio, (born 1944), neuroscientist
  • António Guterres (born 1949), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, former Prime-Minister
  • José Manuel Durão Barroso (born 1956), President of the European Commission, former Prime-Minister

International relations

Twin towns - Sister cities

Lisbon is twinned with:

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