Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, lies on the right bank of the river Tejo, near where the river enters the Atlantic. It is a city of valleys and hills overlooking the river, and grew outwards from the hill on which the ancient castle was built.
Phoenicians, Greeks and Carthaginians founded colonies there, and the Romans consolidated its importance for shipping and fishing; the city became part of the imperial itinerary. Today about three million people live, study and work in the Lisbon region.
Today Lisbon is still a city of many contrasts, a modern and ancient city that fascinates those who visit it. The characteristic quarters of the city are a must-see for their culture, history, architecture and people, who have managed to pass on their traditions down the years. Castelo, Alfama, Mouraria, Bairro Alto, Madragoa, Chiado and Belém recount the history of the city.
Lisbon became one of the major mercantile centres of Europe following the Portuguese discoveries in the 16th century. Ships set sail from the shores of the River Tejo to chart a route to far-off India. In the Ribeira area, houses were built for the spice trade. The square close to the new Royal Palace, together with Rossio, became the political and commercial centre. In 1755, the city was devastated by an earthquake. It was rebuilt under the direction of the Marquis of Pombal and downtown Lisbon still retains its 18th-century character.
Over the centuries, Lisbon has gone through considerable changes, but many traces of the city’s rich past have been retained. It was the European Capital of Culture in 1994. In 1998, Lisbon hosted the last world exhibition of the 20th century, Expo 98, on the theme of the oceans, in view of Portugal’s contribution to the era of great discoveries and sea voyages. At Parque das Nações Europe’s largest aquarium was constructed. Art exhibitions, cinema, theatre and musical events made Lisbon the right place to be. In 2004 it hosted the European Football Championships.
Lisbon is the only European capital with Atlantic beaches, and its coastline is ideal for swimming, surfing, sailing and windsurfing. By taking the train along the north bank of the Tejo estuary it is possible to discover the golden sandy beaches of Costa de Estoril and Cascais and the best surfing waters at the world-famous Guincho, where international championships are often held. Only half an hour south of the city is the 30-km long Costa de Caparica beach.