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Map showing district of Lisbon in Portugal

Lisbon (in Portuguese, Lisboa) is the capital and largest city of Portugal. It is the seat of the district of Lisbon.


Geography and Location

Lisbon is situated at 38 degrees, 43 minutes north, and 9 degrees, 8 minutes west. It is located in the west of the country, on the Atlantic coast at the point where the river Tagus (Portuguese Tejo) flows into the ocean. The city occupies an area of 84.6 km2. The city comprises 53 freguesias.

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 the world.


Lisbon is one of the warmest European capitals. Spring and Summer months are usually sunny and the temperatures very high during July and August, with highs usually above 30°C only rarely reaching 40°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. Lisbon's climate is classified as Atlantic-Mediterranean.


According to the 2001 census, 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.


Panoramic view of Lisbon from Miradouro de Santa Luzia with Mosteiro de São Vicente on the left and St Michael's church in the Alfama on the far right.
Panoramic view of Lisbon from Miradouro de Santa Luzia with Mosteiro de São Vicente on the left and St Michael's church in the Alfama on the far right.

The heart of the city is the Baixa or lower town, 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. The São Jorge Castle 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.

Other monuments include:

Jerónimos Monastery , Belém Tower 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 and connecting the Baixa and Bairro Alto.

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.

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 mostly modern art); the Oceanário de Lisboa (Lisbon Aquarium, largest in Europe); the Museu do Design at Centro Cultural de Belém (Design Museum); and the Museu Nacional dos Coches (National Coach Museum, containing one of the largest collections of royal coaches in the world).


According to varying reports, the city was founded either by Phoenecians or Greeks. The Greeks knew it as "Olissipo", derived from Ulysses; over time, this became "Olissipona", "Lissapona" and finally the modern Portuguese "Lisboa". The city was part of Roman Lusitania (although not the capital), was taken by Moors in the Eighth Century (approximately 711), was reconquered 1147 by Dom Afonso Henriques, first king of Portugal (with the help of crusader Gilbert of Hastings , who became the first Bishop of Lisbon), and has been the capital of Portugal since 1260. The University of Lisbon was founded in 1290. 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.

On 1 November 1755 Lisbon was destroyed by another earthquake, the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, which killed 90,000 and destroyed eighty-five percent of the city [1] . Voltaire wrote a long poem, "Poeme sur le desastre 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.

Lisbon was the centre of a republican revolt October 4-5,1910 and the Carnation Revolution of April 25, 1974, which overthrew Antonio Salazar's handpicked successor Marcelo Caetano.


Expo '98 was held in Lisbon. The timing was intended to commemmorate the 500th anniversary of Vasco da Gama's sea voyage to India and the international year of the oceans.

Lisbon hosted the Euro 2004 final. It has also hosted countless other international events including various NATO and EU summits.

In 1994, Lisbon was the European City of Culture.


Lisbon, as the capital city of Portugal, has an economy concentrated on services. Most of the headquarters of multinational corporations operating in Portugal are concentrated on this city. Greater Lisbon is also heavily industrialized, especially the south bank of the Tagus river.

The Lisbon region is by far the wealthiest in Portugal; it constitutes 45% of the Portuguese GDP, and in per capita terms it is well above the rest of Portugal and above the EU average. The Lisbon region is likely to stop receiving 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 probelms.

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 Setubal crossing the Tagus river over the 25 de Abril bridge.

The city is connected to the far side of the Tagus by two imponent bridges:

  • The April 25 Bridge , inaugurated (as the Ponte Salazar) August 6, 1966, and later renamed after the date of the Carnation Revolution. It is the longest suspension bridge in Europe.
  • The Vasco da Gama Bridge, inaugurated May 1998, is one of the longest in the world and the longest in Europe.

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

The University of Lisbon, founded in 1290 is one of the oldest institutions of higher learning in the world. Today it is one of the largest universities in the country and one of the most renowned. The New University of Lisbon [2] is the second public university of Lisbon, founded in 1973. These two universities, together with Oporto University and Coimbra University, form the core of Portuguese higher education system. The Technical University of Lisbon [3] , founded in 1930, offers degrees in the sciences and engineering. Major private institutions include the Modern University of Lisbon, the Catholic University UCP [4] , the Lusíada University, the Lusófona University of Humanities and Technologies and the Luís de Camoes 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 Security Agency (EMSA). The CPLP (Community of Portuguese Language Countries [Portuguese Commonwealth]), is also headquartered in Lisbon.
  • Lisbon is the centre 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.

Prominent people born in Lisbon

External links

  • Lisbon Guide a detailed guide to Lisbon and meeting point for foreigners living in the city.
  • Turismo de Lisboa offers a comprehensive overview of the city for visitors, including a zoomable map.
  • Images of Lisbon - hundreds of images of the Portuguese capital

Last updated: 02-07-2005 08:58:40
Last updated: 02-26-2005 04:53:46