Lisbon always offers something special to its visitors and however many descriptions you have read, you will only know which Lisbon is yours once you have arrived here.
Legend has it that Lisbon was founded by Ulysses. The name comes from “Olissipo”, which has its origins in the Phoenician words “Allis Ubbo”, meaning “enchanting port”.
Most likely it was founded by the Phoenicians and styled by the Moors which shows in the strong Arabic influences. It was, after all, ruled by the Moors for 450 years. In the 12th century the Christians reconquered the city but it was not until the mid-13th century that Lisbon became the country’s capital.
With the beginning of the Portuguese Age of Discoveries, Lisbon enriched as a spices, gems and gold trade centre. The breakthrough for Portuguese expansion came in 1498 when Vasco da Gama discovered the sea route to India. This was indeed the beginning of a golden age, characterized by the Manueline architectural style named after King Manuel I, with its typical decorative use of maritime motifs. Over the centuries Lisbon naturally grew and changed. When the city centre was almost completely destroyed by the earthquake of 1755, it was rebuilt by Marquis de Pombal , who thus created the Baixa Pombalina, a commercial area that still retains much of its original lay out.
Over the past 20 years the city has prepared itself for the future. Lisbon held an enormously successful international EXPO in 1998 and European Football Championship in 2004. As a result, a city that was already vibrant and diverse rapidly acquired a more modern and avant-garde dimension. As The Observer said, “Lisbon itself changed, phoenix-like, into a more modern and colourful city”. Lisbon is an historic capital, a potpourri of unusual character and charm, where 800 years of cultural influences mingle with modern trends and life styles creating spectacular contrasts.
Baixa (downtown) - the busy financial and shopping area. Praça do Comércio, the magnificent «Black Horse» Square with its Triumphal Arch facing the River Tagus, the Cathedral, the City Hall, the Carmo Convent, etc.
Alfama - charming ancient Moorish quarter with narrow winding streets and picturesque white washed houses. On top of the hill is the St. Jorge's Castle from where you have fantastic view over the city and the river Tagus.
Bairro Alto - a typical "quarter" in the city centre where the nightlife is lively and where you will find some of the more famous Fado houses, where Fado (the traditional "blues" of Lisbon) is performed.
Belém - the most western part of the city, known for its UNESCO world heritage monuments and other important and emblematic buildings (Tower of Belém, Jerónimos Monastery, Discovery's Monument, Cultural Centre, Royal Coaches Museum, Ajuda Royal Palace and the Presidential Palace). This area is also appreciated by the local inhabitants for its leisure and recreational areas. It was from the Belém river shore, near its graceful Tower (1515), that the ships of Vasco da Gama and other famous explorers set sail.
Parque das Nações (Nations Park) – this was the site of the world Expo'98, leaving its legacy of avant-garde architecture along the river Tagus to Lisbon. The area is today a residential area including some spectacular constructions such as the Vasco da Gama Tower, the old oil refinery Galp Tower, the Pavilhão de Portugal (designed by the awarded Portuguese architect Siza Vieira), the Oceanarium and the superb "Atlantico Dome" - Lisbon's multipurpose hall for sports, shows, meetings and exhibitions.
Mini Cruise Tagus River - A mini cruise is a real must as its offers a complete view over the city. Centuries of history will emerge from its monuments scattered along the hills always with a window open to the river.
For more information, visit www.visitlisboa.com/lisbon