Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in Europe, steeped in some 3,000 years of history. Perched near the mouth of the Tagus River and the Atlantic Ocean, first it was a Phoenician trading settlement.
In Roman times it was called Olissipo and formed part of Lusitania, renowned for its horses.
Later it was invaded by the Vandals, the Alans, integrated into the Kingdom of the Suebi, and, finally, into that of the Visigoths. The Muslims took it in 714, and from that era we have the Alfama quarter and the alcazaba, or citadel, today the Castle of St George.
In 1147 Alfonso Henriques Primero of Portugal managed to conquer it. In the battle Martim Moniz was crushed while holding open one of the city gates.
In 1195 Saint Anthony of Padua was born there. In 1256 Alfonso II made it the capital of Portugal. After the death of Ferdinand I of Portugal, the kingdom passed to John I, King of Castile.
A conflict began that would pit the aristocrats and clergy of the north, supporters of the King of Castile, against Lisbon merchants who backed John I of Portugal. After a victorious siege of Lisbon, and at the Battle of Aljubarrota, John I of Castile became King of Portugal.
Expeditions such as those by Vasco de Gama, who reached India in 1498, expanded Portuguese trade with the East and Africa. The Portuguese would establish settlements on the islands of Madeira and the Azores, and trade in sugar, cotton, and indigo – and also slaves – made Lisbon one of the richest cities in the world.
The Monastery of the Hieronymites and the Belem Tower date from this era, and the Barrio Alto, or Upper District, was also built for the constantly burgeoning population.
In 1580 Philip II of Spain was declared King of Portugal based on the dynastic rights of his mother, Isabel of Portugal. After decades of conflict between the Braganzas and the Habsburgs, the Lisbon Treaty was signed with Alfonso VI, recognising Portugal’s independence.
In 1755 the great Lisbon earthquake struck, followed by a tidal wave.
The catastrophe led to the advent of modern western seismology, promoted by the Marquis of Pombal, who was also the architect behind the city’s reconstruction. The Jesuits, meanwhile, saw the catastrophe as a divine punishment, leading to a clash with pro-Enlightenment leaders that would result in their banishment.
In 1807 Lisbon was occupied by Napoleonic troops, driving King John VI to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which he declared the capital of Portugal.
In 1808 English troops landed to fight against the French, for which they were granted great economic privileges that the Portuguese would recover in 1822 after the liberal Porto Revolution.
In 1910 the Portuguese republic was proclaimed. In 1926, the conservative right seized power and Antonio de Salazar established a dictatorship, ending with the “Carnation Revolution” in 1974.
With its entry into the European Union an era of modernization began in Portugual … and Expo 98 brought about a profound revamping of Lisbon.
Today in Lisbon we enjoy the melancholic music of its fados, and its cuisine, rich in seafood and agricultural products: cod, cheese, magnificent wines…
On the cable car we can visit the Plaza del Comercio (Commerce Square), and the Castillo de San Jorge (Castle of St. George), offering magnificent views of the city, the Sé Cathedral, the Barrio Alto (Upper District), the chic Chiado area, the historic Alfama area, and the Cementerio Dos Placeres, the cemetary where famous poets and writers rest.
Not far from Lisbon we have Cascais, Sintra and Estoril. Definitely places worth a visit.