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Cidade de Lisboa
Municipal Coat of Arms
District or region Lisbon
  - Party
Carmona Rodrigues
Area 84.6 km²
 - Total
 - Density

564 657
6 606/km²
No. of parishes 53 parishes
Coordinates 38º42' N 9º11'W [1]
Municipal holiday Saint Anthony
June 13

Lisbon (in Portuguese, Lisboa; pron. IPA /liʒ.'βo.ɐ/) is the capital and largest city of Portugal. It is the seat of the district of Lisbon and capital of Lisboa e Vale do Tejo region. Lisbon has a population of 564,657 and its metropolitan area has a population of 2,665,000.

Geography and location

Lisbon is situated at 38°43' north, 9°8' 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 84.6 km². It is important to say that, unlike most major cities, the city boundaries are narrowly defined around the historical city perimeter. This gave rise to the existence of several administratively defined cities around Lisbon, such as Loures, Odivelas, Amadora and Oeiras, which in fact are part of the metropolitan perimeter of Lisbon.

The historic centre of Lisbon is built on seven hills, making some of the city's streets too steep for motor vehicles; the city is served by three funicular services and one elevator. The western side of the city is mainly occupied by the Monsanto Natural Park, one of the largest urban parks in Europe with an area close to 10 square kilometers (almost 4 square miles).


Lisbon is one of the warmest European capitals. Spring and Summer months are usually sunny and maximum temperatures close to or above 30 °C during July and August, with low between 15 and 20 °C. Autumn and Winter are typically rainy and windy, yet sunny days are not rare either, the temperatures rarely fall below 5 °C, usually staying at an average of 10 °C. Average sunny hours per year are 3300 h/y, and 100 days with rain per year. Lisbon climate is strongly influenced by the Gulf Stream.


The population of the city is 564 657, and the metropolitan area (Greater Lisbon) is 2 665 000. Lisbon is located in the wider region known as Lisboa e Vale do Tejo, with a population of 3 500 000, constituting about a third of the population of Portugal. The population density of the city itself is 6 606.9 inhabitants per km2. It's expected that the population of the Lisbon Metropolitan Area will increase to some 4,5 million by 2015 and more than 5 million by 2020. It's the fastest increasing region in Portugal.

Culture and sights

The heart of the city is the Baixa or downtown; this area of the city is being considered for UNESCO World Heritage Site status. The Baixa is organized in a grid-system and a network of squares built after the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, which leveled a big part of the medieval town. The Castle of São Jorge and the Santa Maria Maior Cathedral are located on one of the seven hills of Lisbon, to the east of the Baixa. The oldest district of the city is Alfama, close to the Tagus, which has made it relatively unscathed through the various earthquakes. Other monuments include:

The Castle of São Jorge, atop the tallest hill of the central city, Praça do Comércio (Commerce Square), Rossio Square, Restauradores Square, Elevador de Santa Justa, an elevator (lift) in Gothic revival style, built around 1900 to connect the Baixa and Bairro Alto. Jerónimos Monastery, Belém Tower. 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, Avenida Fontes Pereira de Mello, Avenida Almirante Reis and Avenida da República.

Notable among the city's museums are:

The Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga (National Museum of Ancient Art); the Museu dos Azulejos (Museum of Portuguese-style Tile Mosaics); the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian (Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, containing varied collections of ancient and modern art); the Oceanário de Lisboa (Lisbon Aquarium, largest in Europe); the Museu do Design at Centro Cultural de Belém (Design Museum); the Museu Nacional dos Coches (National Coach Museum, containing one of the largest collections of royal coaches in the world) and the Museu da Farmácia (Pharmacy Museum).

Lisbon opera house, named Teatro Nacional São Carlos, hosts a relatively active culture agenda, mainly in Autumn and Winter. Other important theatres and musical houses are the Centro Cultural de Belem, the Teatro D Maria and the Gulbenkian Foundation.

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 the World War II, as thanksgiving for Portugal being spared the horrors and destruction of the war.

Every June, there are some 5 days of popular street partying, in memory of a saint born in Lisbon — Anthony of Padua (or Santo Antonio), a wealthy Portuguese bohemian who was canonized after a life preaching to the poor, simpler people. Although Lisbon’s patron saint is Saint Vincent — whose remains are in the Cathedral (Se Cathedral) — there aren't any festivities related to him.

Parque Eduardo VII is the largest park located in the centre of the city, prolonging the main avenue (Avenida da Liberdade). Named after Edward VII of England who visited it when it was inaugurated, it includes a large variety of plants in a large winter garden (Estufa Fria).

Neolithic era to the Roman Empire

During the Neolithic the region was inhabited by the same peoples that lived in other regions of Atlantic Europe, and are known as the Iberians. They built religious monuments called megaliths. Dolmens and Menhirs still survive in the countryside around the city. The Celts invaded after first millennium BC and they intermarried with the Iberians, giving birth to the Celtic-speaking local tribes such as the Conii and Cempsi.

Archeological findings prove that a Phoenician trading post existed in the place now occupied by the centre of the city since 1200 B.C.. The magnificent natural harbour provided by the estuary of the river Tagus made it the ideal spot for a settlement to provide foodstuffs to the Phoenician ships travelling to the tin islands (modern Isles of Scilly) and Cornwall. The new city was named Alis Ubbo or "safe harbor" in Phoenician. Besides sailing to the North, the Phoenicians also probably took advantage of the situation of the new colony 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 then widely famous Lusitanian horses. Recently, Phoenician remains from the eighth century B.C. were found beneath the Middle Age Sé de Lisboa or main Cathedral of the modern city.

According to an Ancient Greek myth, the hero Ulysses founded the city after he left Troy and departed to the Atlantic to escape the Greek coalition. However the foundation of the city by the Phoenicians predates any Greek presence in the area.

The Greeks knew it as Olissipo, a name they thought was derived from Ulysses (over time, this was corrupted in vulgar Latin to Olissipona).

Roman Empire to the Moorish conquest

During the Punic wars, after the defeat of Hannibal (whose troops included members of the Conii) the Romans decided to deprive Carthage in 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. He obtained the alliance of Olissipo which sent men to fight alonside 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, that is, 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 integrated 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.

The Romans built a great Theatre in the time of Augustus; 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 Figueira Plaza; a large Forum and other buildings such as insulae (multi-storied apartment buildings) existed 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 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 the introduction of higher civilization 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" alegedly responsible for shipwrecks. Roman Lisbon's most famous son was Sertorius which early in the history of the Roman Period led a large rebellion against Dictator Sulla. Among the majority of Latin speaking peoples lived a surprisingly 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, today Merida in Spain.

In matters of religion, the city followed within the mainstream Roman Polytheist cults, but with special attention paid to the god of Medicina, Asclepius and the Moon goddess Cybele and a local lizard and snake divinity.

Olissipo, like most great cities in the Western Empire, was a centre for the dissemination of Christianity. Its first Bishop was Saint Gens, 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. The first bishop was named Saint Gens, who still names one of Lisbon hills. It suffered invasions from Alans, Vandals and Suevs before finally being included in the Visigoth kingdom of Todelo.

Moorish Rule

Lisbon was taken by Moors (it was called al-ʾIšbūnah (Arabic الأشبونة) under the Arabs in the Eighth Century (approximately 711). Under Moorish rule, the city flourished. The Moors were Muslims from North Africa. Many mosques and houses were built as well a a new city wall, currently named the Cerca Moura. The city kept a diverse population including Christians, Muslims, and Jews.

Life in Muslim Lisbon was completely different from contemporary Lisbon life. Arabic was the official language, and was spoken by the majority of the populace as their mother tongue. Islam was the official religion, and by the 11th century, the majority of Lisbon's inhabitants were Muslim.

The Moorish influence is still present in Lisbon. Many placenames exist that are derived from Arabic;the Alfama, the oldest existing district of Lisbon, for example, is derived from the Arabic "al-hamma". And Lisbon's name itself, pronounced "Lishboa" in Portuguese, is more directly derived from the Arabic name of the city, al-Ushbuna, than the Latin Olissipo. The azulejos that appear frequently throughout the city are originally Muslim in style, and the word "azulejo" is derived from an Arabic word.

As part of the Reconquista, in the year 1147, a group of combined French, English, German and Portuguese knights, led by Afonso I of Portugal sieged and reconquered Lisbon. It is believed that part of its inhabitants, Muslim, Jew, and even Christian, was slaughtered. Lisbon was now back in Christian hands.

The fall of Islam is one of the most significant events in Lisbon's history. Arabic lost its place in everyday life, and was replaced by Portuguese. The majority Muslim population was gradually converted to Roman Catholicism. The mosques were turned into churches.

From the Middle Ages to the Portuguese Empire

It received its first Foral in 1179, and became the capital city of Portugal in 1255 due to its central location in the new Portuguese territory.

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.

A university school at Lisbon was originally founded in 1290 by Denis I of Portugal as Estudo Geral (General Study) (today the University of Coimbra), being transferred several times to Coimbra where it was installed definitively in the 16th century. The city refounded its own 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). Today there are 3 public universities in the city (University of Lisbon, Technical University of Lisbon and New University of Lisbon) and a public university institute (ISCTE) - see list of universities in Portugal.

Most of the Portuguese expeditions of the age of discovery left from Lisbon during the XV to XVII centuries, including Vasco da Gama departure to India in 1497.

The 16th century marks the golden age for Lisbon. The city became the European hub of commerce with the Far East, while gold from Brazil also flooded into the city. See Portuguese Empire.

The 1640 restoration revolt takes place in Lisbon (see Philip III of Portugal).


On 26 January 1531 the city was hit by an earthquake which killed thousands.

On 1 November 1755 Lisbon was destroyed by another earthquake, the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, which killed between 60,000 and 90,000 people and destroyed eighty-five percent of the city [2]. Voltaire wrote a long poem, "Poême sur le désastre de Lisbonne", shortly afterwards, and mentioned the earthquake 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.

After the 1755 earthquake, the city was rebuilt largely according to the plans of the Marquês de Pombal; hence the designation of the lower town as Baixa Pombalina. Instead of rebuilding the medieval town, Marques de Pombal decided to demolish the remains of the earthquake and rebuild the down town in accordance with modern urban rules, in what would now probably be considered at least controversial.

19th and 20th centuries

In the first years of the 19th century, Portugal was invaded by the troops of Napoleon Bonaparte and king John VI of Portugal flies temporarily to Brazil. Considerable property is pillaged by the invaders. The city lives the Portuguese liberal fights intensely and initiates the coffees and theaters tradition in the city. In 1879 the Avenida da Liberdade is 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).

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.

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

In 1986, a fire in 2 blocks near the historical centre (Chiado) causes a big consternation and limits normal usage and 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.

The Lisbon Agenda was an EU agreement on measures to revamp the EUeconomy signed in Lisbon at an EU summit in 1999, with progress well below original aspirations.

Contemporary Events

Lisbon hosted the Euro 2004 competition.

Lisbon hosted the 27th Taizé New Year European Meeting from 28th December 2004 to 1st January 2005.

Every March the city hosts the world-famous Lisbon Half Marathon, one of the most attended events of its kind in the world.

It regularly hosts countless other international events including various NATO, EU and other summits.

In January 2006, Lisbon was the starting city of the Dakar Rally.


Lisbon, as the capital city of Portugal, has an economy concentrated on services. Most of the headquarters of multinationals operating in Portugal are concentrated in this city. Greater Lisbon is also heavily industrialized, especially the south bank of the Tagus river (Rio Tejo).

The Lisbon region is by far the wealthiest in Portugal: it produces 45% of the Portuguese GDP, and in per capita terms it is well above the rest of Portugal and above the European Union average. The Lisbon region is likely to stop receiving development aid from the EU in the coming years.


April 25 Bridge

Though the Lisbon public transportation network is extremely far-reaching and reliable, the city still suffers from endemic severe traffic problems.

Lisbon's transportation system has the Metro as its main artery. Connecting the city centre with the upper and eastern districts. 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.

Lisbon Tram

A traditional public transportation in Lisbon is the tram. Originally introduced in the XIX century, the trams were originally imported from the U.S. and called the americanos. The original trams can still be seen in the museum of the city bus and tram operator (Carris)

There are four suburban lines departing from Lisbon: the Cascais, Sintra and Azambuja lines as well as a fourth line to Setúbal crossing the Tagus river over the 25 de Abril bridge.

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

  • The April 25 Bridge, inaugurated (as Ponte Salazar) August 6, 1966, and later renamed after the date of the Carnation Revolution. It is the longest suspension bridge in Europe and a replica (made by the same engineers) of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
  • The Vasco da Gama Bridge, inaugurated May 1998, is one of the longest in the world and the longest in Europe.

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.

Education in Lisbon

The city has several private and public secondary schools and several international schools: St Julian's school, KAISL and St Dominic's school basic and primary schools as well as kindergartens.

There are 4 major state universities in Lisbon, the University of Lisbon, founded in 1911 (it is the oldest institution of higher education in Lisbon, its history backing to 1290), the Technical University of Lisbon, New University of Lisbon and the ISCTE, providing degrees in the natural sciences, engineering, medicine, law, education, social sciences and humanities. There is also a polytechnic institute, the Polytechnical Institute of Lisbon. Major private institutions of higher education include the Portuguese Catholic University, as well as the Modern University of Lisbon, the Lusiada University, the Lusófona University of Humanities and Technologies and the Autonomous University of Lisbon.

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