Lisbon is a European city that doesn't get the attention like others, perhaps this is a good thing as things remain relatively unspoiled and un-exploited.
The capital and largest city of Portugal, and the political centre, perched on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, with white bleached limestone buildings, intimate alleyways built on seven hills, an easy going charm that makes it a popular year round destination.
Rich in architecture can be found all over the city, crossed by great boulevards and monuments along main thoroughfares, such as Avenida da Liberdade (Liberty Avenue). Famous museums are the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga (National Museum of Ancient Art), the Museu do Azulejo (Museum of Portuguese-style Tile Mosaics), the Lisbon Oceanarium (Ocean?rio de Lisboa), the Museu Nacional dos Coches (National Coach Museum, containing the largest collection of royal coaches in the world).
The heart of the city is the Baixa (Downtown) or city centre, constructed after the 1755 Lisbon earthquake is one of the first examples of earthquake-resistant construction. Architectural models were tested by having troops march around them to simulate an earthquake. Praça do Com?rcio (Commerce Square) and Rossio Square the oldest and historically most important squares in Lisbon. Santa Justa, an elevator (lift) in Gothic revival style, built around 1900 can also be found there.
Though a city, it still has the charm of a large town with its rolling hills and districts, the small streets with views of the river Tagus, tiled homes and cobbled roads, clothes hanging out to dry, small doorways and buildings that appear to be crumbling and the yellow trams are actually all part of the character of Lisbon.
Video of Lisbon Portugal 2011 © Joe Mendonca
Bairro Alto, literally upper quarter in Portuguese, functions as a residential, shopping and entertainment district and nightlife. A mixed crowd of local and tourist, straight and gay, Punk, 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 such as Cafe Luso.
Bel?m, located 6 km west of the present city centre, is famous as the place from which many of the great Portuguese explorers set off on their voyages of discovery, it is the place from which Vasco da Gama departed for India in 1497. It is also home to a former royal residence and now occupied by the President of Portugal. Bel?m's most famous feature is its tower, Torre de Bel?m, built as a fortified lighthouse to guard the entrance to the port, it stood on a little island in right side of the Tagus. Nearby, the Mosteiro dos Jer?nimos (Jer?nimos Monastery), was built as a monument to Vasco da Gama's successful voyage to India and contains the tomb of Vasco da Gama. Bel?m's modern feature is the Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries), a 52m high slab of concrete to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator, 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.
Bel?m's main street is Rua de Bel?m, in which there is a 160-year-old pastry shop, a must is the Pasteis de Belem - try the famous custard tarts, invented here where only three people hold the custard recipe, and having only one is virtually impossible.
On the left side of the river in Almada is the monument to Christ the King (Cristo Rei), with open arms, stands over 100 meters tall overlooking the whole city, built after World War II as thanks for Portugal's being spared the horrors and destruction of the war. Ponte 25 de Abril, the sister bridge of the Golden Gate in San Francisco was designed by the same architect in 1966 to connect Lisbon with the Setubal peninsula across the Tagus River. Ponte Vasco da Gama is the longest bridge in Europe , and ninth longest in the world.
One of the best things to do while in Lisbon is take the Tram 28, it takes you by many of Lisbon's most famous sites, the route winds its way through many neighbourhoods and past several interesting sights including churches and gardens, hilly, noisy and hectic but offers beautiful glimpses over the city and takes around half an hour from start to finish.
Under Roman rule from 205 BC, it was already a 1000 year old town. Taken by the Moors in 711, who built many mosques and Arabic forced on the Christians as the official language. The Moorish influence is still present in Alfama, the oldest existing part of Lisbon that survived the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. The Castle of São Jorge and the Lisbon Cathedral are located in this area, located up the hill, with a great view over the city and the river. In 1147, as part of the Reconquista, crusader knights led by Afonso I of Portugal, sieged and reconquered Lisbon and returned to Christian rule.
Lisbon 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 and became an important trading post with northern Europe and Mediterranean cities. Expeditions of the age of discovery left from Lisbon during the 15th to 17th centuries, including Vasco da Gama. The 16th century marks the golden age for Lisbon, becoming the European hub of commerce with Africa, India, the Far East and, later, Brazil, exploring riches like spices, slaves, sugar, textiles and other goods.
Lisbon was destroyed by an earthquake on 1 November 1755, which killed an estimated 40,000 Lisbon residents and destroyed 85 percent of the city. The event shocked the whole of Europe, creating a tsunami along the coast with waves reaching more than 30 metres, many people were killed by the tsunami and waves were recorded as far as southwestern Spain, penetrating the Guadalquivir River into Seville, and in Gibraltar the sea rose about two metres.