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Lisbon capital of Portugal
Photographic Book Portugal

Lisbon, capital and largest city of Portugal, located in the western part of the country. It is also the capital of Lisbon District and serves as the nation’s administrative, commercial, and cultural center. The city is located on the Tajo (Tejo) River where it broadens to enter the Atlantic Ocean.

Commerce and transportation in Lisbon

Lisbon is Portugal’s major industrial area and is home to shipyards, petroleum refineries, and plants producing chemicals, cement, steel, processed foods, hardware, paper, and textiles. The city’s main imports are petroleum and other raw materials, specialized machinery, and electronic equipment. Its chief exports are cork, canned fish, olive oil, resin, and wine. Lisbon is also a center for Portugal’s service industries, including banking and finance, insurance, and telecommunications. Most of the international firms that have operations in Portugal are based in Lisbon. In recent decades the national government has worked to modernize the city’s transportation and other infrastructure, and tourism has become a major revenue source. Lisbon is endowed with an exceptionally fine harbor and is the nation’s chief seaport. It is also the center of the country’s rail and highway network, and Lisbon Airport is Portugal’s main international airport. Two of Europe's largest bridges, the 25th of April Bridge (opened 1966) and the Vasco da Gama Bridge (opened 1998), span the Tajo River to Lisbon.

Lisbon’s public transportation system is made up of a network of electric trams, trains, and bus lines. A system of elavadors (cable-operated trams) carries passengers up and down the city’s steep hills. The famous Elevador de Santa Justa, a massive cast-iron vertical elevator in central Lisbon, rises 45 m (148 ft) and affords a spectacular view of the city. The transportation system was overhauled and expanded in preparation for Lisbon’s hosting of the Expo ‘98 World’s Fair.

Lisbon tram picture
Lisbon tram picture. Photo by E. Buchot
Lisbon and its metropolitan area

Lisbon is built on the terraced sides of seven low hills overlooking the harbor at the wide mouth of the Tajo. The bustling and picturesque Alfama district, the city’s old quarter, is located near the waterfront. The Alfama, which retains its narrow and crooked medieval streets, is one of the few districts of Lisbon to survive the great earthquake of 1755. To the west lies the Baixa (Lower Town), an area completely destroyed by the same earthquake and resulting tsunami (tidal wave). Rebuilt with a grid of parallel streets, the Baixa contains broad, tree-lined avenues, handsome squares, and extensive public gardens. The Bairro Alto (Upper Town) covers a hill west of the Baixa and preserves 17th-century streets, houses, and churches. Sitting atop São Jorge, Lisbon’s highest hill, is the famous Castelo de São Jorge (St. George’s Castle), a former Moorish stronghold that commands sweeping views of the city. At the riverbank is a large central square, the Praca do Comércio (also known by its earlier name, Terreiro do Paço), the traditional maritime gateway to the city.

Notable educational and cultural institutions in the city include the National Library of Portugal, the National Museum of Ancient Art, and several colleges and universities, the oldest of which is the University of Lisbon (1288). Other well-known museums include the Maritime Museum, one of Europe’s most important maritime museums, and the National Tile Museum, which houses an extensive collection of decorative tiles dating from the 15th century.

Lisbon contains many old churches, convents, and monasteries. It is also the site of the Sé, a Romanesque-Gothic cathedral built in the 12th century and partially ruined by successive earthquakes. The magnificent Monastery of Jerónimos in the district of Belém was built by King Manuel in the 16th century to mark the discovery of a sea passage to India by Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama. It holds the tombs of da Gama and the famed 16th-century Portuguese poet Camões. A distinctive type of rococo style architecture, called Pombaline, developed during the rapid rebuilding of Lisbon that followed the disastrous 1755 earthquake.

Pombaline architecture used colorful ceramic tiles, usually blue and white, as decoration, rather than the intricate sculptural detail that had previously been popular.

Sections of Lisbon were renovated in preparation for the Expo ‘98 World’s Fair. The Expo site was constructed on a large tract of rundown industrial waterfront, and it lies at the center of a massive urban redevelopment project that has transformed northeastern Lisbon. A commercial and retail center called the Park of Nations stands on the former fairgrounds, and many pavilions from the fair have been preserved. These include the Oceans Pavilion, the site of Europe’s largest oceanarium, and the Utopia Pavilion, a multiuse venue that is popular for concerts and other entertainment. Additional improvements to the city, including the construction of a new stadium, were made in preparation for the 2004 European championship of soccer. Encarta

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