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Cidade de Lisboa
Coat of arms of Cidade de Lisboa
City Coat of Arms
Location of Cidade de Lisboa
District Lisbon
  - Party
Carmona Rodrigues
Area 84.6 km²
 - Total
 - Density
564 657
6 606/km²
Parishes 53 parishes
Coordinates 38º42' N 9º11'W
Municipal holiday
Saint Anthony
June 13
Official website:

Lisbon (in Portuguese, Lisboa; pron. IPA /liʒ.bo.ɐ/) is the capital and largest city of Portugal. It is the seat of the district of Lisbon. 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, 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.


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.


Belém Tower
Belém Tower

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 scraped a big part of 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.

Jerónimos Monastery
Jerónimos Monastery

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.

Marquis of Pombal Square is the intersection of some of Lisbon's main avenues. Parque Eduardo VII in the background
Marquis of Pombal Square is the intersection of some of Lisbon's main avenues. Parque Eduardo VII in the background

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.


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 harbour" 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 (or "Spain"" in English but in fact Spain and Portugal). 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, todays 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.

The city was part of Roman Lusitania (although not the capital), was taken by Moors (it was called al-ʾIšbūnah (Arabic الأشبونة) under the Arabs in the Eighth Century (approximately 711), was reconquered 1147 by Dom Afonso Henriques, first king of Portugal (with the help of crusaders of the Second Crusade (see Siege of Lisbon). One of them, Gilbert of Hastings, was to became the first Bishop of the restored diocese of Lisbon. Lisbon has been the capital of Portugal since 1255.

The University of Lisbon was originally founded in 1290, transferred several times to Coimbra and refounded in 1911 after centuries of inactivity, incorporating reformed former colleges and other non-university schools of the city (such as the Escola Politécnica). Today there are 3 public universities in the city (UL, UTL and UNL) and a public university institute (ISCTE) - see list of universities in Portugal.

Fall of the Moors to the Portuguese Empire

Lisbon reached its peak of prosperity during the period of the Portuguese Empire in the 16th century. On 26 January 1531 the city was hit by an earthquake which killed thousands.

The XVI 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.

Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Discoveries landmark)
Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Discoveries landmark)

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 [1]. 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.

After Napoléon

Lisbon was the centre of a republican coup October 4-5,1910 and the Carnation Revolution of April 25, 1974, which overthrew Antonio Salazar's successor Marcelo Caetano, the last prime-minister of the Portuguese Corporative Regime: the Estado Novo.


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 EU economy signed in Lisbon at an EU summit in 1999, with progress well below original aspirations.

Lisbon hosted the Euro 2004 competition.

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

Every June, there are some 5 days of popular street partying, in memory of saint born in Lisbon — Anthony of Padua (or Santo Antonio), a wealthy Portuguese bohemian who was made a saint after a life dedicated to the lost things, the poor, and travelers. Although, Lisbon’s patron saint is St. Vicente — whose remains are in the Sé — there aren't any festivities related to him.

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


Parque das Nações: exemplary modern architecture
Parque das Nações: exemplary modern architecture

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.


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.

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:

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.

Colleges and universities in Lisbon

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, all of them providing degrees in the sciences, engineering, education and humanities. There is also a polytechnic institute, the Polytechnical Institute of Lisbon. Major private institutions of higher education include the renowned 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.


  • Two EU agencies are headquartered in Lisbon; the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) and the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA). The CPLP (Community of Portuguese Language Countries [Portuguese Commonwealth]), is also headquartered in Lisbon.
  • Lisbon is the original birthplace of fado music.
  • The remains of Luís de Camões, author of the epic Os Lusíadas, can be visited at the Jerónimos Monastery. The remains of other great Portuguese men and women can be visited at the National Pantheon.
  • Lisbon is served by Portela Airport, the largest in Portugal. Plans for construction of a new airport in Ota (50 km from Lisbon) have been around for years, with systematic postponements.


Prominent people born in Lisbon

Greater Lisbon

Like most big cities, Lisbon is surrounded by smaller towns/cities which depend on Lisbon for their economic and social life. It is estimated that close to one million people enter Lisbon every day from the outskirts. Among the most interesting neighbouring towns are Cascais, Estoril and Sintra, including the westernmost point in Continental Europe, the Cabo da Roca, as well as beautiful palaces, landscapes and cultural life.

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