What is Lisbon?
Lisbon is Europe’s second-oldest capital (after Athens), once home to the world’s greatest explorers like Vasco da Gama, Magellan and Prince Henry the Navigator, becoming the first true world city, the capital of an empire spreading over all continents, from South America (Brazil) to Asia (Macao, China; Goa, India). The former launch pad for many of the world’s greatest voyages is now where modern travelers discover…
…one of Europe’s most soulful, captivating and picturesque capitals, built on a series of hills with scenic vistas from every angle.
…the city of the oceans, the only European capital with sunsets on the sea, so close to sandy beaches and with one of the world’s largest state-of-the-art aquariums.
…one of the world’s greatest natural harbors which attracted different civilizations, now reflected in its architecture and culture recalling Phoenicians, Celts, Romans, Visigoths and Moors.
…a charming visual time-warp with vintage trams and medieval village-like neighborhoods.
…a lively but serene and melancholic place with an insatiable appetite for long dinners, coffee breaks and nightlife.
…World Heritage monuments and singular museum treasures, from international design and contemporary art, to treasures from when the East met West, to the ancient art of tile painting and gilding.
…a reminiscence of the romantic decay of Venice, the exoticism of Naples or Istanbul, the laid-backness of Rome, echos of San Francisco, and Iberian spirit.
…one of Europe’s capitals of Romanticism, a real fairytale just minutes from the city center (Sintra).
…the safe haven of WWII that remains a peaceful city in a tumultuous world.
Lisbon ( Portuguese: Lisboa is the capital and the largest city of Portugal, with a population of 552,700 within its administrative limits in an area of 100.05 km². Its urban area extends beyond the city’s administrative limits with a population of around 2.7 million people, being the 11th-most populous urban area in the European Union.
About 2.8 million people live in the Lisbon Metropolitan Area (which represents approximately 27% of the country’s population). It is continental Europe’s westernmost capital city and the only one along the Atlantic coast. Lisbon lies in the western Iberian Peninsula on the Atlantic Ocean and the River Tagus. The westernmost areas of its metro area is the westernmost point of Continental Europe.
Lisbon is recognised as a global city because of its importance in finance, commerce, media, entertainment, arts, international trade, education and tourism. It is one of the major economic centres on the continent, with a growing financial sector and one of the largest container ports on Europe’s Atlantic coast. Lisbon Portela Airport serves over 20 million passengers annually, as of 2015, and the motorway network and the high-speed rail system of Alfa Pendular link the main cities of Portugal.
The city is the 7th-most-visited city in Southern Europe, after Istanbul, Rome, Barcelona, Madrid, Athens and Milan, with 1,740,000 tourists in 2009. The Lisbon region contributes with a higher GDP PPP per capita than any other region in Portugal. It also ranks as the 10th highest GDP of metropolitan areas in the EU amounting to 110 billion euros and thus €39,375 per capita, 40% higher than the average European Union’s GDP per capita. The city occupies 32nd place of highest gross earnings in the world.
Most of the headquarters of multinationals in the country are located in the Lisbon area. It is also the political centre of the country, as its seat of Government and residence of the Head of State.
Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in the world, and the oldest in Western Europe, predating other modern European capitals such as London, Paris and Rome by centuries. Julius Caesar made it a municipium called Felicitas Julia, adding to the name Olissipo. Ruled by a series of Germanic tribes from the 5th century, it was captured by the Moors in the 8th century.
In 1147, the Crusaders under Afonso Henriques reconquered the city and since then it has been a major political, economic and cultural centre of Portugal. Unlike most capital cities, Lisbon’s status as the capital of Portugal has never been granted or confirmed officially – by statute or in written form. Its position as the capital has formed through constitutional convention, making its position as de facto capital a part of the Constitution of Portugal.
Why You Should Go to Lisbon;
- CULTURE: It’s one of the world’s great historical cities, with characteristic and surprising sights, cultural treasures, and a beautiful setting that make it a paradise for walkers and photographers.
- VALUE: It’s one of Europe’s best values — officially Western Europe’s least expensive capital.
- LOCATION: It’s the closest European capital to the United States and just around a 2-hour flight from all the other major European cities.
- CLIMATE: Its mild climate makes it an ideal year-round destination. Even in winter, when most other European cities are freezing, in Lisbon high temperatures rarely go below 10C (50F).
- RESORT: It is the only European capital located so close to sandy beaches, enabling visitors to combine culture with fun by the sea.
- SIZE: It’s a compact and intimate city, ideal for a short city break or a longer romantic stay, with a lively café culture and a nightlife that is one of the most vibrant in Europe.
- VARIETY: Its surroundings offer an incredible variety of tourist attractions, from fairytale palaces in one of Europe’s most romantic towns (Sintra), to world-class golf and fun in Europe’s largest casino in Estoril, to surfing in Cascais or escaping to a natural park in Arrábida, to dolphin-watching in Setúbal.
- GATEWAY: It makes a perfect base to explore many of Portugal’s most outstanding towns and villages, from Evora to Obidos.
- SAFETY: It’s one of the safest European capitals. Tourists are always automatic targets in all big cities and visitors should beware of pickpocketing in Lisbon, but serious random violent crime is practically unheard of in this city.
- WELCOMING: It’s a friendly city with a cosmopolitan population, welcoming to all visitors and families with children, and open to minorities and alternative lifestyles.
Lisbon enjoys a Mediterranean climate. Among all the cities in Europe, it has the warmest winters, with average temperatures 15 °C (59 °F) during the day and 8 °C (46 °F) at night from December to February. The typical summer season lasts about six months, from May to October, although also in April temperatures sometimes reach around 25 °C (77.0 °F).
The name of Lisbon can be traced back to Phoenician times, according to one of several conjectures on the origin of Lisbon’s toponymy, or alternatively, to the legend that Odysseus founded Lisbon. Another conjecture suggests that the settlement took the name of the pre-Roman word for the Tagus (Lisso or Lucio). Lisbon’s name was written Ulyssippo in Latin by the geographer Pomponius Mela, a native of Hispania. It was later referenced as “Olisippo” by Pliny the Elder and by the Greeks as Olissipo (Ὀλισσιπών) or Olissipona (Ὀλισσιπόνα).
Traditional Portuguese Song – Dulce Pontes – Canção do Mar. This is called Portuguese Fado. The most famous style of Portuguese tradtional music.
Fado (“destiny, fate”) is a music genre which can be traced to the 1820s in Portugal, but probably with much earlier origins. Fado historian and scholar Rui Vieira Nery states that “the only reliable information on the history of Fado was orally transmitted and goes back to the 1820s and 1830s at best. But even that information was frequently modified within the generational transmission process that made it reach us today.” Its simply something very new to me and I am enchanted by this music. Enjoy!
During the Neolithic period, the region was inhabited by Pre-Celtic tribes, who built religious and funerary monuments, megaliths, dolmens and menhirs, which still survive in areas on the periphery of Lisbon. The Indo-European Celts invaded in the 1st millennium BC, mixing with the Pre-Indo-European population, thus giving rise to Celtic-speaking local tribes such as the Cempsi.
Archaeological findings suggest there were Phoenician influences dating back to 1200 BC, leading some historians to believe that a Phoenician trading post might have occupied the centre of the present city (on the southern slope of the Castle hill). The sheltered harbour in the Tagus River estuary was an ideal spot for a settlement and provided a secure port for provisioning of Phoenician ships travelling to the Islands of Tin (modern Isles of Scilly) and Cornwall.
The Tagus settlement was also an important centre of commercial trade with inland tribes, providing an outlet for the valuable metals, salt and salted-fish they collected, and for the sale of the Lusitanian horses renowned in antiquity. Although Phoenician remains from the 8th century BC were found beneath the Mediaeval Sé Cathedral, modern historians believe that Lisbon was an ancient autochthonous settlement (Roman oppidum) and that, at most, it maintained commercial relations with the Phoenicians (accounting for the discovery of Phoenician pottery and artefacts at the site).
According to legend, the location was named for Ulysses, who founded the settlement after he left Troy to escape the Greek coalition. Later, the Greek name appeared in Vulgar Latin in the form Olissipona.
Following the defeat of Hannibal during the Punic wars, the Romans determined to deprive Carthage of its most valuable possession: Hispania (the Iberian Peninsula). The defeat of Carthaginian forces by Scipio Africanus in Eastern Hispania allowed the pacification of the west, led by Consul Decimus Junius Brutus Callaicus. Decimus obtained the alliance of Olissipo (which sent men to fight alongside the Roman Legions against the northwestern Celtic tribes) by integrating it into the empire, as the Municipium Cives Romanorum Felicitas Julia. Local authorities were granted self-rule over a territory that extended 50 kilometres (31 mi); exempt from taxes, its citizens were given the privileges of Roman citizenship, and it was then integrated with the Roman province of Lusitania (whose capital was Emerita Augusta).
Lusitanian raids and rebellions during Roman occupation necessitated the construction of a wall around the settlement. During Augustus’ reign, the Romans also built a great theatre; the Cassian Baths (underneath Rua da Prata); temples to Jupiter, Diana, Cybele, Tethys and Idea Phrygiae (an uncommon cult from Asia Minor), in addition to temples to the Emperor; a large necropolis under Praça da Figueira; a large forum and other buildings such as insulae (multi-storied apartment buildings) in the area between the Castle Hill and the historic city core. Many of these ruins were first unearthed during the mid-18th century (when the recent discovery of Pompeii made Roman archaeology fashionable among Europe’s upper classes).
The city prospered as piracy was eliminated and technological advances were introduced as Felicitas Julia became a centre of trade with the Roman provinces of Britannia (particularly Cornwall) and the Rhine. Economically strong, Olissipo was known for its garum (a fish sauce highly prized by the elites of the empire and exported in amphorae to Rome), wine, salt and horse-breeding, while Roman culture permeated the hinterland. The city was connected by a broad road to Western Hispania’s two other large cities, Bracara Augusta in the province of Tarraconensis (Portuguese Braga), and Emerita Augusta, the capital of Lusitania (Mérida, Spain). The city was ruled by an oligarchical council dominated by two families, the Julii and the Cassiae, although regional authority was administered by the Roman Governor of Emerita or directly by Emperor Tiberius. Among the majority of Latin speakers lived a large minority of Greek traders and slaves.
Around 80 BC, the Roman Quintus Sertorius led a rebellion against the dictator Sulla. During this period, he organised the tribes of Lusitania and Hispania and was on the verge of forming an independent province in the Sertorian War when he was assassinated.
Olissipo, like most great cities in the Western Empire, was a centre for the dissemination of Christianity. Its first attested Bishop was Potamius (c. 356), and there were several martyrs during the period of persecution of the Christians: Maxima, Verissimus and Eulalia of Mérida are the most significant examples. By the time of the Fall of Rome, Olissipo had become a notable Christian centre.
Following the disintegration of the Roman Empire there were barbarian invasions; between 409 and 429 the city was occupied successively by Sarmatians, Alans and Vandals. The Germanic Suebi, who established a kingdom in Gallaecia (modern Galicia and northern Portugal), with its capital in Bracara Augusta, also controlled the region of Lisbon until 585. In 585, the Suebi Kingdom was integrated into the Germanic Visigothic Kingdom of Toledo, which comprised all of the Iberian Peninsula: Lisbon was then called Ulishbona.
On 6 August 711, Lisbon was taken by Muslim forces. These conquerors, who were mostly Berbers and Arabs from North Africa and the Middle East, built many mosques and houses, rebuilt the city wall (known as the Cerca Moura) and established administrative control, while permitting the diverse population (Muladi, Mozarabs, Berbers, Arabs, Jews, Zanj and Saqaliba) to maintain their socio-cultural lifestyles. Mozarabic was the native language spoken by most of the Christian population.
Islam was the official religion practised by the Arabs, Berbers, Zanj, Saqaliba and Muladi (muwalladun); the Christians were allowed to keep their religion under the status as Dhimmi subjects, and were allowed rights of residence in return for jizyah taxes. In return for paying this extra tax, Christians and Jews were excluded from specific duties assigned to Muslims like joining the Islamic army, and their security was guaranteed by the state, but otherwise, the Christians and Jews were equal to Muslims under the laws of property, contract and obligation.
The Muslim influence is still visible present in the Alfama district, an old quarter of Lisbon that survived the 1755 Lisbon earthquake: many place-names are derived from Arabic and the Alfama (the oldest existing district of Lisbon) was derived from the Arabic “al-hamma“.
For a brief time, Lisbon was the central town in the Regulo Eslavo of the Taifa of Badajoz, and then as an independent Taifa, as the Taifa of Lisbon.
In 1108 Lisbon was raided and occupied by Norwegian crusaders led by Sigurd I on their way to the Holy Land as part of the Norwegian Crusade. It was taken by the Moorish Almoravids in 1111.
In 1147, as part of the Reconquista, crusader knights led by Afonso I of Portugal besieged and reconquered Lisbon. The city, with around 154,000 residents at the time, was returned to Christian rule. The reconquest of Portugal and re-establishment of Christianity is one of the most significant events in Lisbon’s history, described in the chronicle Expugnatione Lyxbonensi, which describes, among other incidents, how the local bishop was killed by the crusaders and the city’s residents prayed to the Virgin Mary as it happened.
Some of the Muslim residents converted to Roman Catholicism, and many of those who did not convert fled to other parts of the Islamic world, primarily Muslim Spain and North Africa. All mosques were either destroyed or converted into churches. As a result of the end of Muslim rule, spoken Arabic gradually lost its place in the everyday life of the city and disappeared altogether.
With its central location, Lisbon became the capital city of the new Portuguese territory in 1255. The first Portuguese university was founded in Lisbon in 1290 by King Denis I; for many years the Studium Generale (General Study) was transferred intermittently to Coimbra, where it was installed permanently in the 16th century as the University of Coimbra.
In 1384, the city was besieged by King Juan I of Castille, as a part of the ongoing 1383–1385 Crisis. The result of the siege was a victory for the Portuguese led by Nuno Álvares Pereira.
During the last centuries of the Middle Ages, the city expanded substantially and became an important trading post with both Northern European and Mediterranean cities.
Most of the Portuguese expeditions of the Age of Discovery left from Lisbon during the 15th to 17th centuries, including Vasco da Gama’s expedition to India in 1497. In 1506, 3,000 Jews were massacred in Lisbon. The 16th century was Lisbon’s golden era: the city was the European hub of commerce between Africa, India, the Far East and later, Brazil, and acquired great riches by exploiting the trade in spices, slaves, sugar, textiles and other goods.
This period saw the rise of the exuberant Manueline style in architecture, which left its mark in many 16th century monuments (including Lisbon’s Belém Tower and Jerónimos Monastery, which were declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites). A description of Lisbon in the 16th century was written by Damião de Góis and published in 1554.
Portugal lost its independence to Spain after the succession crisis of 1580, initiating a sixty-year period of dual monarchy in Portugal and Spain under the Spanish Habsburgs. This is referred to as the “Philippine Dominion” (Domínio Filipino), since all three Spanish kings during that period were called Philip (Filipe). The Portuguese Restoration War, which began with a coup d’état organised by the nobility and bourgeoisie in Lisbon and executed on 1 December 1640, restored Portuguese independence. The period from 1640 to 1668 was marked by periodic skirmishes between Portugal and Spain, as well as short episodes of more serious warfare, until the Treaty of Lisbon was signed in 1668.
Now you know where the famous name “Portuguese egg-tarts” came from yeah?. In Malaysia we’ve always enjoyed the derivative, hence so many confectionaries selling it to us locals. Here is a photo I took of a pastry shop in downtown Lisbon selling all types of yummies.
In the early 18th century, gold from Brazil allowed King John V to sponsor the building of several Baroque churches and theatres in the city.
Prior to the 18th century, Lisbon had experienced several significant earthquakes – eight in the 14th century, five in the 16th century (including the 1531 earthquake that destroyed 1,500 houses and the 1597 earthquake in which three streets vanished), and three in the 17th century.
On 1 November 1755, the city was destroyed by another devastating earthquake, which killed an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 Lisbon residents of a population estimated at between 200,000 and 275,000, and destroyed 85 percent of the city’s structures. Among several important buildings of the city, the Ribeira Palace and the Hospital Real de Todos os Santos were lost. In coastal areas, such as Peniche, situated about 80 km (50 mi) north of Lisbon, many people were killed by the following tsunami.
By 1755, Lisbon was one of the largest cities in Europe; the catastrophic event shocked the whole of Europe and left a deep impression on its collective psyche. Voltaire wrote a long poem, Poême sur le désastre de Lisbonne, shortly after the quake, and mentioned it 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 Prime Minister Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, the 1st Marquess of Pombal; the lower town began to be known as the Baixa Pombalina (Pombaline central district).
Instead of rebuilding the medieval town, Pombal decided to demolish what remained after the earthquake and rebuild the city centre in accordance with principles of modern urban design. It was reconstructed in an open rectangular plan with two great squares: the Praça do Rossio and the Praça do Comércio. The first, the central commercial district, is the traditional gathering place of the city and the location of the older cafés, theatres and restaurants; the second became the city’s main access to the River Tagus and point of departure and arrival for seagoing vessels, adorned by a triumphal arch (1873) and monument to King Joseph I.
Late modern and contemporary
In the first years of the 19th century, Portugal was invaded by the troops of Napoléon Bonaparte, forcing Queen Maria I and Prince-Regent John (future John VI) to flee temporarily to Brazil. By the time the new King returned to Lisbon, many of the buildings and properties were pillaged, sacked or destroyed by the invaders.
During the 19th century, the Liberal movement introduced new changes into the urban landscape. The principal areas were in the Baixa and along the Chiado district, where shops, tobacconists shops, cafés, bookstores, clubs and theatres proliferated. The development of industry and commerce determined the growth of the city, seeing the transformation of the Passeio Público, a Pombaline era park, into the Avenida da Liberdade, as the city grew farther from the Tagus.
Lisbon was the site of the regicide of Carlos I of Portugal in 1908, an event which culminated two years later in the First Republic.
The city refounded its university in 1911 after centuries of inactivity in Lisbon, incorporating reformed former colleges and other non-university higher education schools of the city (such as the Escola Politécnica – now Faculdade de Ciências). Today there are two public universities in the city (University of Lisbon and New University of Lisbon), a public university institute (ISCTE – Lisbon University Institute) and a polytechnic institute (IPL – Instituto Politécnico de Lisboa).
During World War II, Lisbon was one of the very few neutral, open European Atlantic ports, a major gateway for refugees to the U.S. and a haven for spies. More than 100,000 refugees were able to flee Nazi Germany via Lisbon.
During the Estado Novo regime (1926–1974), Lisbon was expanded at the cost of other districts within the country, resulting in nationalist and monumental projects. New residential and public developments were constructed; the zone of Belém was modified for the 1940 Portuguese Exhibition, while along the periphery new districts appeared to house the growing population. The inauguration of the bridge over the Tagus allowed rapid connection between both sides of the river.
Lisbon was the site of three revolutions in the 20th century. The first, the 5 October 1910 revolution, brought an end to the Portuguese monarchy and established the highly unstable and corrupt Portuguese First Republic. The 6 June 1926 revolution would see the end of that first republic and firmly establish the Estado Novo, or the Portuguese Second Republic, as the ruling regime. The final revolution, the Carnation Revolution, would take place on 25 April 1974 and would end the right-wing Estado Novo and reform the country as the current Portuguese Third Republic.
In the 1990s, many of the districts were renovated and projects in the historic quarters were established to modernise those areas; architectural and patrimonial buildings were recuperated; the northern margin of the Tagus was re-purposed for leisure and residential use; the Vasco da Gama Bridge was constructed; and the eastern part of the municipality was re-purposed for Expo ’98, to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Vasco da Gama’s sea voyage to India, a voyage that would bring immense riches to Lisbon and cause many of Lisbon’s landmarks to be built.
In 1988, a fire in the historical district of Chiado saw the destruction of many 18th century Pombaline style buildings. A series of restoration works has brought the area back to its former self and made it a high-scale shopping district.
The Lisbon Agenda was a European Union agreement on measures to revitalise the EU economy, signed in Lisbon in March 2000. In October 2007 Lisbon hosted the 2007 EU Summit, where agreement was reached regarding a new EU governance model. The resulting Treaty of Lisbon was signed on 13 December 2007 and came into force on 1 December 2009.
Lisbon has been the site for many international events and programmes. In 1994, Lisbon was the European Capital of Culture. On 3 November 2005, Lisbon hosted the MTV European Music Awards. On 7 July 2007, Lisbon held the ceremony of the “New 7 Wonders Of The World” election, in the Luz Stadium, with live transmission for millions of people all over the world. Every two years, Lisbon hosts the Rock in Rio Lisboa Music Festival, one of the largest in the world. Lisbon hosted the NATO summit (19–20 November 2010), a summit meeting that is regarded as a periodic opportunity for Heads of State and Heads of Government of NATO member states to evaluate and provide strategic direction for Alliance activities.
Lisbon is located at, situated at the mouth of the Tagus River and is the westernmost capital of a mainland European country.
The westernmost part of Lisbon is occupied by the Parque Florestal de Monsanto (English: Monsanto Forest Park), a 10 km2 (4 sq mi) urban park, one of the largest in Europe, and occupying ten percent of the municipality.
The city occupies an area of 84.94 km2 (33 sq mi), and its city boundaries, unlike those of most major cities, are narrowly defined by its historical centre. The rest of the urbanised area of the Lisbon Metropolitan Area, known generically as Greater Lisbon (Portuguese: Grande Lisboa), is actually several administratively defined cities and municipalities, such as Amadora, Queluz, Agualva-Cacém, Odivelas, Loures, Sacavém, Almada, Barreiro, Seixal and Oeiras
Lisbon has a Subtropical-Mediterranean climate (Köppen climate classification: Csa) with mild winters and warm summers. The average annual temperature is 21.5 °C (70.7 °F) during the day and 13.5 °C (56.3 °F) at night. Average annual temperature of the sea is 17.5 °C (63.5 °F).
In the coldest month – January – the high temperature during the day typically ranges from 11 to 18 °C (52 to 64 °F), the low temperature at night ranges from 3 to 13 °C (37 to 55 °F) and the average sea temperature is 15 °C (59 °F). In the warmest month – August – the high temperature during the day typically ranges from 26 to 33 °C (79 to 91 °F), the low temperature at night ranges from 17 to 21 °C (63 to 70 °F) and the average sea temperature is 20 °C (68 °F).
A video on Lisbon and the Algarve – Starts in Lisbon, where salty sailors’ quarters and wistful Fado singers mix with ornate architecture to recall the glory days when Vasco da Gama and Magellan made Portugal a world power. Then on to the Algarve where one explores the Land’s End of Europe — windy and historic Cape Sagres — before savoring pristine beaches and arm-wrestling octopuses in the sleepy fishing village of Salema.
Generally, a summer season lasts about 6 months, from May to October. Three months – March, April and November – are transitional, often the temperature exceeds 20 °C (68 °F), with an average temperature in these three months of 18.9 °C (66 °F) during the day and 12.0 °C (53.6 °F) at night. December, January and February are the coldest months, with an average temperature of 15.5 °C (59.9 °F) during the day and 8.9 °C (48.0 °F) at night.
Among metropolises in Europe (along with Valencia), Lisbon has the warmest winters, and the mildest night time temperatures, from an average of 8.3 °C (46.9 °F) in the coldest month, and a comfortable 18.6 °C (65.5 °F) in the warmest month.
An old map of Lisbon
Rain occurs mainly in winter, the summers being generally dry. Sunshine hours are about 2,800 per year, from an average of 4.6 hours of sunshine duration at day in December to an average of 11.4 hours of sunshine duration at day in July.
Portuguese discoveries (Portuguese: Descobrimentos portugueses) are the numerous territories and maritime routes discovered by the Portuguese as a result of their intensive maritime exploration during the 15th and 16th centuries. Portuguese sailors were at the vanguard of European overseas exploration, discovering and mapping the coasts of Africa, Canada, Asia and Brazil, in what became known as the Age of Discovery.
Methodical expeditions started in 1419 along West Africa’s coast under the sponsorship of prince Henry the Navigator, with Bartolomeu Dias reaching the Cape of Good Hope and entering the Indian Ocean in 1488. Ten years later, Vasco da Gama led the first fleet around Africa to India, arriving in Calicut and starting a maritime route from Portugal to India. Soon, after reaching Brazil, explorations proceed to southeast Asia, having reached Japan in 1542.
Southeast Asia expeditions
In April 1511 Albuquerque ( portrait above) sailed to Malacca in Malaysia, the most important eastern point in the trade network, where Malay met Gujarati, Chinese, Japanese, Javanese, Bengali, Persian and Arabic traders, described by Tomé Pires as invaluable. The port of Malacca became then the strategic base for Portuguese trade expansion with China and Southeast Asia, under the Portuguese rule in India with its capital at Goa. To defend the city a strong fort was erected, called the “A Famosa”, where one of its gate still remains today.
Knowing of Siamese ambitions over Malacca, Albuquerque sent immediately Duarte Fernandes on a diplomatic mission to the kingdom of Siam (modern Thailand), where he was the first European to arrive, establishing amicable relations between both kingdoms.
In November that year, getting to know the location of the so-called “Spice Islands” in the Moluccas, he sent an expedition led by António de Abreu to find them, arriving in early 1512. Abreu went by Ambon while deputy commander Francisco Serrão came forward to Ternate, were a Portuguese fort was allowed. That same year, in Indonesia, the Portuguese took Makassar, reaching Timor in 1514. Departing from Malacca, Jorge Álvares came to southern China in 1513. This visit was followed the arrival in Guangzhou, where trade was established. Later a trade post at Macau would be established.
The Portuguese empire expanded into the Persian Gulf as Portugal contested control of the spice trade with the Ottoman Empire. In 1515, Afonso de Albuquerque conquered the Huwala state of Hormuz at the head of the Persian Gulf, establishing it as a vassal state. Aden, however, resisted Albuquerque’s expedition in that same year, and another attempt by Albuquerque’s successor Lopo Soares de Albergaria in 1516, before capturing Bahrain in 1521, when a force led by António Correia defeated the Jabrid King, Muqrin ibn Zamil.
In a shifting series of alliances, the Portuguese dominated much of the southern Persian Gulf for the next hundred years. With the regular maritime route linking Lisbon to Goa since 1497, the island of Mozambique become a strategic port, and there was built Fort São Sebastião and an hospital. In the Azores, the Islands Armada protected the ships en route to Lisbon.
In 1521, Cristóvão de Mendonça discovers Australia.
In 1525, after Fernão de Magalhães’s expedition (1519–1522), Spain under Charles V sent an expedition to colonize the Moluccas islands, claiming that they were in his zone of the Treaty of Tordesillas, since there was not a set limit to the east. García Jofre de Loaísa expedition reached the Moluccas, docking at Tidore. The conflict with the Portuguese already established in nearby Ternate was inevitable, starting nearly a decade of skirmishes. An agreement was reached only with the Treaty of Zaragoza (1529), attributing the Moluccas to Portugal and the Philippines to Spain.
In 1530, John III organized the colonization of Brazil around 15 capitanias hereditárias (“hereditary captainships”), that were given to anyone who wanted to administer and explore them, to overcome the need to defend the territory, since an expedition under the command of Gonçalo Coelho in 1503, found the French making incursions on the land.
That same year, there was a new expedition from Martim Afonso de Sousa with orders to patrol the whole Brazilian coast, banish the French, and create the first colonial towns: São Vicente on the coast, and São Paulo on the border of the altiplane. From the 15 original captainships, only two, Pernambuco and São Vicente, prospered. With permanent settlement came the establishment of the sugar cane industry and its intensive labor demands which were met with Native American and later African slaves.
In 1534 Gujarat was occupied by the Mughals and the Sultan Bahadur Shah of Gujarat was forced to sign the Treaty of Bassein (1534) with the Portuguese, establishing an alliance to regain the country, giving in exchange Daman, Diu, Mumbai and Bassein. In 1538 the fortress of Diu is again surrounded by Ottoman ships. Another siege failed in 1547 putting an end to the Ottoman ambitions, confirming the Portuguese hegemony.
In 1542 Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier arrived in Goa at the service of king John III of Portugal, in charge of an Apostolic Nunciature. At the same time Francisco Zeimoto and other traders arrived in Japan for the first time. According to Fernão Mendes Pinto, who claimed to be in this journey, they arrived at Tanegashima, where the locals were impressed by firearms, which would be immediately made by the Japanese on a large scale.
In 1557 the Chinese authorities allowed the Portuguese to settle in Macau through an annual payment, creating a warehouse in the triangular trade between China, Japan and Europe. In 1570 the Portuguese bought a Japanese port where they founded the city of Nagasaki, thus creating a trading center for many years was the port from Japan to the world.
Portugal established trading ports at far-flung locations like Goa, Ormuz, Malacca (remains of the Portuguese Fort in downtown Melacca, Malaysia – photo above) Kochi, the Maluku Islands, Macau, and Nagasaki. Guarding its trade from both European and Asian competitors, Portugal dominated not only the trade between Asia and Europe, but also much of the trade between different regions of Asia, such as India, Indonesia, China, and Japan. Jesuit missionaries, such as the Basque Francis Xavier, followed the Portuguese to spread Roman Catholic Christianity to Asia with mixed success.
This video (below) focuses on the fall of Melaka in 1511 to the Portuguese. They ruled the city state for more than 100 years. Within this period of time, the Acheh Sultanate established itself as a new superpower. The three of them, Portuguese, Melaka (later replaced by the Johor Riau Empire) and Acheh, were later entangled in a triangular war which lasted for almost 100 years. In 1646, the Johore Riau Empire with the help of the Dutch, managed to force the Portuguese to leave Melaka. This video was directed, scripted and researched by one Malay gentleman for Muzium Negara Malaysia.
I will be covering the World Heritage Site city of Melacca (Melaka), Malaysia in my next travel article, so do keep a look for it. Now back to Lisbon or Lisboa in Portuguese.
Locally, Lisbon’s inhabitants may more commonly refer to the spaces of Lisbon in terms of historic bairros (neighbourhoods). These communities have no clearly defined boundaries and represent distinctive quarters of the city that have in common a historical culture, similar living standards, and identifiable architectural landmarks, as exemplified by the Bairro Alto, Alfama, Chiado, and so forth.
In the early 1990s, Alcântara began to attract youth because of the number of pubs and discothèques. This was mainly due to its outer area of mostly commercial buildings, which acted as barriers to the noise-generating nightlife (which acted as a buffer to the residential communities surrounding it). In the meantime, some of these areas began to become gentrified, attracting loft developments and new flats, which have profited from its river views and central location.
The riverfront of Alcântara is known for its clubs and bars. The area is commonly known as docas (docks), since most of the clubs and bars are housed in converted dock warehouses.
The oldest district of Lisbon, it spreads down the southern slope from the Castle of São Jorge to the River Tagus. Its name, derived from the Arabic Al-hamma, means fountains or baths. During the Islamic invasion of Iberia, the Alfama constituted the largest part of the city, extending west to the Baixa neighbourhood. Increasingly, the Alfama became inhabited by fishermen and the poor: its fame as a poor neighbourhood continues to this day.
While the 1755 Lisbon earthquake caused considerable damage throughout the capital, the Alfama survived with little damage, thanks to its compact labyrinth of narrow streets and small squares. It is an historical quarter of mixed-use buildings occupied by Fado bars, restaurants, and homes with small shops downstairs. Modernising trends have invigorated the district: old houses have been re-purposed or remodelled, while new buildings have been constructed. Fado, the typically Portuguese style of melancholy music, is common (but not obligatory) in the restaurants of the district.
The Mouraria, or Moorish quarter, is one of the most traditional neighborhoods of Lisbon, although most of its old buildings were demolished by the Estado Novo between the 1930s and the 1970s. It takes its name from the fact that after the reconquest of Lisbon, the Muslims who remained were confined to this part of the city. In turn, the Jews were confined to three neighbourhoods called “Judiarias”
Bairro Alto (literally the upper quarter in Portuguese) is an area of central Lisbon that functions as a residential, shopping and entertainment district; it is the centre of the Portuguese capital’s nightlife, attracting hipster youth and members of various music subcultures. Lisbon’s Punk, Gay, Metal, Goth, Hip Hop and Reggae scenes all find a home in the Bairro with its many clubs and bars that cater to them. The crowds in the Bairro Alto are a multicultural mix of people representing a broad cross-section of modern Portuguese society, many of them being entertainment seekers and devotees of various music genres outside the mainstream, yet Fado, Portugal’s national music, still survives in the midst of the new nightlife.
The heart of the city is the Baixa or city centre; the Pombaline Baixa is an elegant district, primarily constructed after the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, taking its name from its benefactor, 1st Marquess of Pombal, Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, who was the minister of Joseph I of Portugal (1750–1777) and a key figure during the Portuguese Enlightenment. Following the 1755 disaster, Pombal took the lead in rebuilding Lisbon, imposing strict conditions and guidelines on the construction of the city, and transforming the organic street plan that characterised the district before the earthquake into its current grid pattern. As a result, the Pombaline Baixa is one of the first examples of earthquake-resistant construction. Architectural models were tested by having troops march around them to simulate an earthquake. Notable features of Pombaline structures include the Pombaline cage, a symmetrical wood-lattice framework aimed at distributing earthquake forces, and inter-terrace walls that were built higher than roof timbers to inhibit the spread of fires.
Belém is famous as the place from which many of the great Portuguese explorers set off on their voyages of discovery. In particular, it is the place from which Vasco da Gama departed for India in 1497 and Pedro Álvares Cabral departed for Brazil in 1499. It is also a former royal residence and features the 17th–18th century Belém Palace, a former royal residence now occupied by the President of Portugal, and the Ajuda Palace, begun in 1802 but never completed.
Perhaps Belém’s most famous feature is its tower, Torre de Belém, whose image is much used by Lisbon’s tourist board. The tower was built as a fortified lighthouse late in the reign of Dom Manuel l (1515–1520) to guard the entrance to the port. It stood on a little island in right side of the Tagus, surrounded by water. Belém’s other major historical building is the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (Jerónimos Monastery), which the Torre de Belém was built partly to defend. Belém’s most notable modern feature is the Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries) built for the Portuguese World Fair in 1940. In the heart of Belém is the Praça do Império: gardens centred upon a large fountain, laid out during World War II. To the west of the gardens lies the Centro Cultural de Belém. Belém is one of the most visited Lisbon districts.
The Chiado is a traditional shopping area that mixes old and modern commercial establishments, concentrated specially in the Rua do Carmo and the Rua Garrett. Locals as well as tourists visit the Chiado to buy books, clothing and pottery as well as to have a cup of coffee. The most famous café of Chiado is A Brasileira, famous for having had poet Fernando Pessoa among its customers. The Chiado is also an important cultural area, with several museums and theatres, including the opera. Several buildings of the Chiado were destroyed in a fire in 1988, an event that deeply shocked the country. Thanks to a renovation project that lasted more than 10 years, coordinated by celebrated architect Siza Vieira, the affected area has now virtually recovered.
The ornate, late 18th-century Estrela Basilica is the main attraction of this district. The church with its large dome is located on a hill in what was at the time the western part of Lisbon and can be seen from great distances. The style is similar to that of the Mafra National Palace, late baroque and neoclassical. The façade has twin bell towers and includes statues of saints and some allegorical figures. São Bento Palace, the seat of the Portuguese parliament and the official residences of the Prime Minister of Portugal and the President of the Assembly of the Republic of Portugal, are in this district.
Parque das Nações
Parque das Nações (Park of Nations) is the newest district in Lisbon, having emerged from an urban renewal programme leading to the World Exhibition of Lisbon 1998, also known as Expo’98. The area suffered massive changes giving Parque das Nações a futuristic look. A long lasting legacy of the same, the area has become another commercial and higher end residential area for the city. Central to this is the Gare do Oriente (Orient railway station), one of the main transport hubs of Lisbon for trains, buses, taxis and the metro. Its glass and steel columns are inspired by Gothic architecture, lending the whole structure a visual fascination (especially in sunlight or when illuminated at night). It was designed by the architect Santiago Calatrava from Valencia, Spain. Across the street, through Vasco da Gama Mall, is Parque das Nações (Park of the Nations), site of the 1998 World Expo.
The area is pedestrian-friendly with new buildings, restaurants, gardens, the Casino Lisbon, the FIL building (International Exhibition and Fair), the Camões Theatre, as well as the Oceanário de Lisboa (Lisbon Oceanarium), the second largest in the world. The district’s MEO Arena has become Lisbon’s “jack-of-all-trades” performance arena. Seating 20,000, it has staged events from concerts to basketball tournaments.
We all know about Portugal’s world famous football team yes? Just in case we all forgot.
In brief, the Portugal national football team (Portuguese: Seleção Portuguesa de Futebol) represents Portugal in association football and is controlled by the Portuguese Football Federation, the governing body for football in Portugal. Portugal’s home ground is the Estádio Nacional in Oeiras (however, many recent games have been played at the Estádio da Luz), and their most recent head coach is Fernando Santos.
Their first World Cup appearance, in the 1966 FIFA World Cup, saw them reach the semi-finals, losing 2–1 at Wembley to the eventual world champions, England, and defeating the Soviet Union 2–1 to claim a third-place finish. The next two times Portugal qualified for the World Cup were 1986 and 2002, going out in the first round both times. In the 1986 tournament, players went on strike over prize money and refused to train between their first and second games.
As we can see, Lisbon is a city of many faces, rich in history, great Fado music bars and wonderful history of worldwide exploration. I only managed to visit this great city one time but you can be sure I’ll make the effort one fine day to drop by again. You’d need more than just one week to discover everything here. Before I go, do remember to come back soon, as my next travel article will be on Melacca (Melaka) in Malaysia where Portuguese explorers discovered and made Melacca it’s far eastern port.