Lisbon is located by the Tagus river, near the Atlantic Ocean coast and enjoys a Mediterranean climate with mild winters and warm hot summers. The capital city is one of the oldest cities in the world and the oldest in Western Europe. It has a population of approximately 600,000 people, with an estimated extra 400,000 people entering the city every day coming from the suburbs and neighboring satellite cities.
The legend says that Lisbon was founded by Ulysses and the city name comes from “Olissipo”, which has its origins in the Phoenician words “Allis Ubbo”, meaning “enchanting port”.
Following the desintegration of the Roman Empire, Lisbon was occupied by several different peoples before being taken by Muslim forces in 711. The city was ruled by Moors, as they were known, for 450 years, until the 12th Century when it was definitely conquered by Christian crusaders at the second attempt. The Arabic influence is present all throughout the cities, most especially in the old quarters such as the quaint Alfama neighborhood.
In the mid of 13th Century, due to it's central location, the city became the capital of the newly founded Portuguese territory.
The 15th Century saw the beginning of the Portuguese Discoveries, which would turn Lisbon into a very rich port as a spice and jewelry trade town and Portugal into a very rich and powerful country, with an empire in which, allegadly, the sun never set and which included many current African countries, Brazil and Asian outposts such as the Indian cities of Goa, Damão and Diu.
Architectonically, this period is more presents in the buildings constructed in the Manueline style, a late Gothic style impregnated with nautical references which is present in many monuments in the Belém area, such as for example the Jerónimos monasthery. Later, the gold from Brazil also allowed for especially noteworthy examples of Barocque and Rococo Architecture.
An absolutely key event in the history of Lisbon was the earthquake on the 1st November 1755, which completely destroyed the city's downtown area. Between the earthquake itself and the tsunami and fires that followed 60,000 to 90,000 people were killled. After this the city was rebuilt thanks to the energic and visionaru Marquês de Pombal who decided to demolish all the remains of the medieval town and rebuilt a new city center with wide streets and modern urban design. The city center was reconstructed in an open rectangular plan with two squares, the Praça do Rossio and the Praça do Comércio. The first one marks the beiginning of downtown Lisbon, a central commercial area with all kinds of shops, theatres and restaurants and the second one became the main access to the Tagus River. The original layout from Marquês de Pombal has been preserved until today, as have most buildings built in this time period, and together this area is often named after him and refered to as Baixa Pombalina.
For all its conturbated history, which would still include almost five decades of fascist rule and a peaceful revolution in 1974, Lisbon is an enchanted city that is definitely worth a visit.
For those staying longer than a few days, the surrounding areas of the capital, Sintra, Mafra, Estoril, Cascais and Ericeira also include magnificent sights, beautiful landscapes and several great beaches.
For more information please visit the official Lisbon Tourism's website.