"Lisboa menina e moça, menina/Da luz que meus olhos vêem tão pura/Teus seios são as colinas, varina/Pregão que me traz à porta, ternura/Cidade a ponto luz bordada/Toalha à beira mar estendida/Lisboa menina e moça, amada/Cidade mulher da minha vida"
, aka A Cidade das Sete Colinas
(The City of Seven Hills) or Rainha do Mar
(Queen of the Sea), is the capital of Portugal
and its largest city, where (almost) all economic, political and social life converges.
It is one of the oldest cities in the world, founded c. 1200 BC during the Iberian Iron Age, and the oldest city in Western Europe putting it ahead of such cities as London, Paris and Rome by hundreds of years.
The Bairros (Neighbourhoods/Quarters) and other subdivisions
The city of Lisbon occupies the same space as the municipality (município
) of Lisbon and is governed by the same municipal government (in Portugal, city
is just a title given to municipalities and gives no extra powers of responsibilities to those who have it) and is politically subdivided into 24 freguesias
or parishes (since 2012), however largely no one cares about these. (Seriously, whenever anyone talks about these, it's to say that there are 53
of them, which it did before 2012.)
The (cultural) subdivisions people identify themselves with are the bairros
, or neighbourhoods/quarters, which have no defined borders (except for Parque das Nações
, which perfectly matches a parish) and represent special quarters with a common historical culture, identifiable architectural landmarks, livings standards and/or local personality. These are the bairros
, in alphabetical order:
- Alcântara: since The Nineties, this area has become one of the most central areas of Lisbon, which attracts pubs and discos due to an outer layer of commercial buildings which act as barriers to the noise of the night to the residental buildings surrounding that layer, and is also gentrified, with lofts and other apartments, although it was once a quite peripheric area, at first attracting farms and palaces and, then, factores in the 19th century.
- Alfama: the oldest and poorest part of Lisbon, spreading down the southern slope from the Castle of São Jorge to the Tagus river, during the Islamic period was the largest part of the city. Unlike other parts of the city, it was only minimally destroyed during the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, thanks to its compact labyrinth of narrow streets and small squares. It is a historical quarter of mixed-use buildings of homes with small shops, Fado bars and restaurants. Modernizing 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.
- Bairro Alto (lit. upper quarter): the heart of city's nightlife (even more so that Alcântara), it attracts the city's youth, is a multicultural mix of cultures and entertainment and attracts Lisbon's Punk, Gay, Metal, Goth, Hip Hop and Reggae scenes.
- Baixa Pombalina (lit. the Pombaline downtown): the city's downtown and most elegant quarter, it was one of the most hit areas during the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, it was subsequently rebuilt using earthquake-resistant construction, of which the Baixa was one of the first examples. It was named after Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, 1st Marquess of Pombal, which was the benefactor and catalyzer of the rebuilding of this part of the city.
- Belém (lit. Bethlehem): from here the great Portuguese explorers set off on their voyages, such as Vasco da Gama to India in 1497 and Pedro Álvares Cabral to Brazil in 1499. In Belém there are some of the most important monuments and landmarks of Lisbon, such as the Belém National Palace (the royal residence before 1910 and now the official residence of the President of the Republic), the Ajuda National Palace, the Belém Tower (one of the international trademarks of Lisbon, along with the 25 de Abril bridge), the Jerónimos Monastery and the Padrão dos Descobrimentos (inaugurated in 1960 by the Salazar régime and celebrating Portugal's imperial past). There are also the Praça do Império, a garden built during World War II as part of the "Portuguese World Exhibit" (Exposição do Mundo Português) and the Belém Cultural Center (inaugurated 1993).
- Chiado: Lisbon's traditional shopping area, where you can especially find books, garments, pottery and coffeeshops, especially A Brasileira, famous for having Fernando Pessoa as a regular patron. Was a victim of a fire in 1988, which greatly shocked Portugal, but it was renovated on a project that lasted more than ten years by celebrated architect Álvaro Siza Vieira.
- Estrela (lit. Star): The main building of cultural interest is the Baroque Estrela Basilica, but as the São Bento Palace (seat of the Assembly of the Republic, the parliament, and the official residences of the Prime Minister of Portugal and the President of the Assembly of the Republic, as well as a building of cultural interest on its own) is also located here, Estrela is the political center of Portugal.
- Parque das Nações: the only bairro to have well-defined borders (which correspond to the parish of, surprise, surprise, Parque das Nações) and former Wretched Hive and decaying industrial area of Lisbon (it was once a heavily polluted area with containers, slaughterhouses and other polluting industries, and a den of prostitution), it all changed with the coming of the Expo '98 (so influential it is still sometimes called by this name, especially among older people). It is today a commercial and higher end residential area, as well as a transportation hub, for the city, and it has a futuristic look to it. Before 2012, portions of this bairro were in the neighbouring municipality of Loures (not that anyone, except its inhabitants, ever noticed, especially if you were foreign).
- Symbols of Lisbon par excellence:
- 25 de Abril Bridge
- Belém Tower
- Lisbon's electric trams, the elétricos (one of few in the world to still be used for regular services, and not just special touristic services, although there are some services just for tourists)
- The Elevador de Sta. Justa (Sta. Justa Elevator), said to have been designed by Gustave Eiffel, whose more famous piece of work was Paris's Eiffel Tower, although in Real Life it was designed by the French engineer Raoul Mesnier du Ponsard and by French architect Louis Reynaud
- Castle of St. George
- National Theater of São Carlos
- Luz Stadium (a.k.a. the Cathedral, it's Portugal's largest stadium and Benfica football/soccer club's home stadium)
- Rossio Railway Station, the former central station of Lisbon, still has that name on its façade
- Some things in Belém:
- Belém Tower
- Jerónimos Monastery
- Ajuda National Palace
- Padrão dos Descobrimentos
- Praça do Império
- The Praça do Comércio, a.k.a. the Terreiro do Paço, the quintessial Pombaline street
- Parque das Nações (formerly and also commonly known as the Expo '98), a popular landmark in its own, also contains the following landmarks:
- MEO Arena, formerly known as the Pavilhão Atlântico and originally built as the Pavilhão da Utopia, a multipurpose arena and hall;
- Gare do Oriente, which encompasses a Lisbon Metro station, a high-speed, commuter and regional train hub, a local, national and international bus station, a shopping centre and a police station and has 75 million passengers per year, i.e, as many as the Grand Central Terminal in New York City;
- Vasco da Gama Bridge;
- The Lisbon Oceanarium;
- The Lisbon Casino;
- The Feira Internacional de Lisboa (FIL, International Lisbon Fair);
- The Pavilhão do Conhecimento - Ciência Viva (Knowledge Pavilion - Live Science), originally known as the Pavilhão do Conhecimento dos Mares (Seas Knowledge Pavilion)
- The Torre Vasco da Gama, the largest building in Portugal and also renovated as a hotel after being closed between 2001 and 2012 (before this, there existed a restaurant at the top between 1998 and 2001).
- The Parque das Nações Marina.
- The Monsanto Forest Park (nothing to do with that Monsanto)
Lisbon in popular culture