Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Lisbon
Lisbon, in Portuguese Lisboa (pronounced "Lisbóa"), capital of Portugal lies some 17km/10.5mi from the Atlantic on the north bank of the Tagus, which here opens out into the Mar de Palha ("sea of straw"), 7km/4.5mi wide. To the west of the city the estuary narrows again to 2-3km/1-2mi across, forming a fine sheltered natural harbor.
Thanks to its wonderful setting Lisbon is rightly numbered among the world's most beautiful cities. The many treasures of art and architecture still testify to its glorious past and, together with the charm of the old town and its steep narrow streets, make a stay here a memorable experience for any visitor.
The Phoenicians were the first to take advantage of this excellent harbor-age at the mouth of the Tagus, establishing a settlement which they called Alis Ubbo. Later the Lusitanian port of Olisipo, it was taken over by the Romans, surrounded by walls and, as Felicitas Iulia, became the admininstrative capital of the Roman province of Lusitania, the second most important town (after Mérida) in the Iberian peninsula.
In A.D. 407 the town was taken by the Alani; from 585 to 715 it was under Visigothic rule; and after the battle of Jerez it fell into the hands of the Moors, who called it Al Oshbuna or Lishbuna. Under the Moors (until 1147) it enjoyed economic prosperity and a great flowering of culture.
Lisbon became of major importance again in 1260, when King Afonso III made its capital. The great discoveries of the late 15th C. and the conquest of the East Indies principally benefited the capital, which rapidly developed into one of the wealthiest cities in Europe.
On November 1, 1755 most of the town was laid in ruins by a devastating earthquake, but rebuilding soon began under the direction of the Marquês de Pombal. The city was laid out on a magnificent scale, which is still visible today, to the plans of Manuel de Maira, incorporating such asf the older Gothic and Manueline buildings has survived.
The transfer of the capital to Rio de Janeiro from the French invasion (1807-08) until 1821, followed by the loss of Brazil as a colony, were considerable setbacks to Lisbon, from which it only gradually recovered in the second half of the 19th C. The 20th century has seen Lisbon develop into a modern and enlightened city whilst generally retaining its individuality, depite the impact on its history by the fire that destroyed 7,500 sq.m/8,970 sq.yd of the center in August 1988.
Lisbon's sea of whitish-gray houses extends over twenty hills on the southern slopes of the Estremadura plateau, with considerable variations in height, the different parts of the city being linked by steep streets and a number of lifts and funiculars.
At the heart of the city is the Baixa, the lower town, completely rebuilt in a depression just above the level of the Tagus after the quarter had been destroyed by the 1755 earthquake. It is full of gardens and broad promenades, along with narrow streets lined by great business houses. East of the Baixa, on the slopes of the castle mound, are Lisbon's oldest quarters, the Alfama and Mouraria, with the mass of secretive, medieval seeming alleys that survived the earthquake virtually unscathed. The same was true of the old part of town, the Bairro Alto, the upper town west of the Baixo. This is bordered on the west by Lapa, one of Lisbon's smartest residential suburbs and also the diplomatic quarter, where many countries have their embassies and the homes of their diplomats, while the suburb of Belém, farther west, has its own impressive buildings that serve as reminders of Portugal's past greatness.
The most radical changes to the face of Lisbon in recent decades have been in the north and east with the building of enormous housing estates such as Alvalade, in the north, designed to accommodate 50,000 while modern office and retailing complexes such as the Amoreiras shopping center have also made their mark on the city's skyline.
A city's problems
In the "bairros da lata" in the northern and eastern outskirts of Lisbon the poorest of the community live in shanties, often without electricity or running water. Many of these deprived people have come from the former Portuguese colonies or from other parts of Portugal, or are simply unable to afford higher rents. The housing shortage in the inner city is another pressing problem, and most people who work in the capital have to commute daily. In its turn this has led to chaotic traffic conditions, especially in the rush-hours. Attempts are now being made to alleviate the housing shortage and to control rents, but it will some time before the effects of these measures can be assessed.
Lisbon has hosted numerous contemporary events including the world-renowned Lisbon Half-Marathon every March, Rock in Rio in 2004 and 2006, the Euro soccer cup and in 2007 it was the site of the "New 7 Wonders Of The World" ceremony that was transmitted around the world.