Long time travel industry professional, Luís Lopes, describes his hometown . . . “Lisbon has a special, unmatched light that makes it truly unique.” The predominance of white in the limestone buildings and sidewalks contributes to this feeling of light. Situated by the widest stretch of the Tagus River, Lisbon further benefits from the sunlight reflected on its calm waters, which prevails during the majority of the year.
The Phoenicians discovered this calm bay and gave it the first name, Allis Ubbo. 2,000 years ago the Romans changed its name to Olisipo. Many more civilizations followed and even the Vikings visited. Much later, in 1147, the Portuguese, lead by their first king, conquered the city from the Moors. The 1,000-year old St George’s Castle, crowning Lisbon’s highest hill, witnessed this feat and still provides the most spectacular views over the city, particularly in the late afternoon with the setting sun as backdrop.
From Lisbon’s riverfront emerges the sumptuous Commerce Square and the medieval district of Alfama, with its narrow, life-filled and story-telling alleys. A little further west, the view is dominated by the three monuments that perpetuate the memory of the Maritime Discoveries during the 15th and 16th centuries, bravely carried out by the ancestors of the present Portuguese: Belém Tower, Jerónimos Monastery (both UNESCO’s World Heritage sites) and the Memorial to the Discoverers. In those glorious centuries, Lisbon was a “Capital of the World” as the meeting point of different peoples and cultures.
If it is true the earthquake of 1755 was responsible for the destruction of most of the medieval city, it is no less true it made room for the birth of a modern metropolis. Following the Marquis of Pombal’s vision of a Lisbon prepared for the future, much of Lisbon was rebuilt from scratch. An excellent example is the downtown area with its parallel and perpendicular streets conceived like a chessboard; and Rossio Square, still today the city forum. Side by side with Rossio, history and charm blend together in Chiado and Bairro Alto, the much frequented areas for locals, visitors and the colorful streetcars!
The unique mosaic-paved sidewalks have become a trademark of Lisbon. Strolling along the Avenida da Liberdade, Lisbon’s majestic, tree-lined boulevard, Roger Yockey, an American traveler observed, “Luís, you Portuguese spend your lives walking on art!”
For those planning a trip to Spain, Lisbon Airport is a convenient entry point, and the route from Lisbon to Spain is a comfortable day of travel. Escorted tours provide planning and direction to see all the most important sights.