Lisbon Portugal

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Lisbon is Portugal's capital city and one of the two large cities in Portugal, along with Porto, as the rest of the country really has nothing of this size. Having said that, Lisbon is small compared to other European cities, with only two million inhabitants in the metropolitan area. Lisbon has 35 museums covering a wide range of subjects, renowned exhibition spaces and many small, private galleries in the thriving art scene. Official tourist site for Lisbon. (See left hand button for English)

Music and theatre flourish in Lisbon, Portugal's musical centre and the birthplace of fado, with concerts and festivals covering all genres. There are four important football teams based in Lisbon and sport is an important feature of daily life, as you will see from the predominance of sports newspapers on the newsstands. In a country that is largely provincial, Lisbon offers the resident and visitor alike the opportunity to experience the rare cosmopolitan side to life in Portugal.

The lower part of Lisbon was completely flattened during an earthquake in 1755 and rebuilt in a decade, so the architecture of the Baixa quarter is quite uniformly 18th century. The earthquake ended Lisbon's reign as the most significant port in Europe but, as a town that has been active since Roman times, Lisbon was not going to give up lightly. Romans and Moors used Lisbon as a trading post and it grew into a sizeable town by the 12th century. In 1255 Lisbon became the capital of Portugal, taking over from Coimbra. In the 15th and 16th century and again in the 18th century, Lisbon was at the forefront of international exploration as trade routes to India and Brazil were discovered. Architecture from these wealthy periods, especially the flamboyant Manueline style, dominates Lisbon's principal monuments, such as the monastery at Belém.

As a small city, Lisbon is a delight to discover on foot (you should certainly avoid driving as the roads are a nightmare). When the hills and the heat get too much for you, hop on one of the funicular railways (elevadors) or trams and let them do the work. Whilst wandering around you will see the changing ambience in the quarters, the 18th century repose of the latticed streets in the Baixa, the Moorish Alfama district near the Castelo São Jorge with its winding streets, and chic Chiado shopping district. A medley of sounds including the heart rending strains of fado, ear bursting traffic noises and African musical rhythms provides the aural backdrop to your tour.

Quite a few museums are free on Sunday mornings, including the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, which is a wonderful collection of 6000 paintings from all periods, genres and places. Only 1500 can be exhibited at one time, so the displays change quite often.