A focus on Lisbon’s culture and history

21st August 2015

The third oldest European city is a product of various civilizations: Romans, Moors, Visigoths, Phoenicians… Today, the French, Italians, Brazilians and many other nationalities have also influenced Lisbon, for it is a bridge between many countries and continents. Let’s discover the cultural wealth of this unique place.

A bit of Lisbon’s history…

Ulysses is said to have founded Lisbon after he left Troy, while fleeing Greeks.  Occupied by many civilizations, the city experienced a real growth spurt under Roman reign. During the 8th and 9th centuries Christians and Moors fought over Lisbon, each ethnicity leaving its piece of legacy – mosques, spices, remedies, the first caravels and even trade customs. 

By the 15th century Lisbon was the world’s most prosperous city.  In addition to creating numerous colonies, the Portuguese built two monuments, now listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites. The Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, an impressive burial place for kings and poets is one, and the other, Torre de Belém, strategically located fortified tower, which watched over the city for ages. However this golden era didn’t last; in 1755 an earthquake destroyed much of the city. After being rebuilt, Lisbon spread outwards and new areas were added like the famous ‘Avenidas Novas’.

What remains of the old city?

You can follow the footsteps of Lisbon’s earliest inhabitants by visiting the ‘Castelo de Sao Jorge’. It was built by the Visigoths, extended by the Moors and will offer you one of the most beautiful views across Lisbon. 

The Baixa district has been fully rebuilt after its complete destruction in 1755. It will give you an overview of the acheivements of Marquês de Pombal. In Chiado, you can actually witness firsthand the earthquake’s damage, by looking at the Church of Carmo Nave’s vault. 

Lisbon also has contemporary beauties…

It’s hard to talk about Lisbon’s culture without referring to Fado. It is said that this music genre was created 300 years ago by Lisbon seamen. Fado music is filled with feelings, languidness and resentment... In other word: it is full of “saudade”.

With your ears charmed, your taste buds are next and Lisbon’s position as a port on the atlatic has enabled it to be a melting pot of cuisines. Enjoy traditional Portuguese wine, grilled sardines, or Bacalhau – cod – served with grain or black-eyed peas. For dessert just try these fine Portuguese custard tarts called Pastéis de Belém. 

There are also lots of festivals, the highlight being the one that takes place in June. The whole city lights up to celebrate San Antonio, the country’s patron saint. Streets become the scene of cultural and mythic manifestations, such as Pimba music, typical food, colourful decorations, and even wedding festivities. 

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