Lisbon - The City of Fado & Funiculars
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History & Evolution
The archeological ruins prove Lisbons history to be 300,000 years old. However it emerged as a nation state in early 12th century and ranked as one of the worlds longest founded cities. The legend has that the city was founded and named by Ulysses as Ulissipo or Olissopo, which has its origins in the Phoenician words Allis Ubbo, meaning enchanting port.
Early history of Lisbon was merely a battlefield for Phoenicians, Greeks and Carthaginians, but it was only after the Romans started reign in Lisbon in 205 BC that the city became one of the most significant region in Iberian Peninsula and renamed as Felicitas Julia.
The Moors arrived in peninsula in 714 and ruled for 400 years resisting Christians. When the Christians finally recaptured the city, it took one more century to repel all the Moors from the peninsula.
Lisbon became the capital city of Portugal in 1255 due to its central location in the new Portuguese territory. During the last centuries of the Middle Ages, the city expanded substantially and became an important trading post with both northern Europe and Mediterranean cities. But during the end of 15th century, most of the Portuguese expeditions of the age of discovery left from Lisbon including Vasco da Gama's departure to India in 1497.
In this era Lisbon along with the whole nation enjoyed abundant wealth and prosperity through its newly discovered off shore colonies in Atlantic islands, the shores of Africa, Americas and Asia. Furthermore, many attractions of the city at present such as Mosteiro dos Jeronimos and Torre de Belem were built during this period. Due to these achievements the 16th century is marked as the golden age for Lisbon as it became the European hub of commerce while gold from Brazil also flooded in.
However, this era didnt stay for long as the earthquake of 1755 destroyed nearly entire city. Nevertheless, the Marques De Pombal rebuilt it and again between 19th-20th centuries, the city spread progressively to north and areas such as the Avenidas Novas (New Avenues) were added.
Today, Lisbon, still maintaining the marks of its early history, is a city of contrasts, offering so much to discover and surprise.
As the narrow, cobbled streets of old days merge into steely high-rises of business district, modernity and antiquity collide, quite literally, in the heart of Lisbon. The city is full with road, symmetric, tree lined roads, tall buildings and handsome squares along with upmarket shopping districts and much more.
Lisbon also hosts a great number of museums of ancient and modern art but it isn't all culture and history as on the other side are the nightlife centers like Bairro Alto with various restaurants and bars where melancholic traditional Portuguese music, Fado, can also be listened.
Castelo de Sao Jorge (Castle of St George):
Sitting atop a hill guarding the Tagus, Saint Georges Castle dates from the Moorish occupation in 10th century but has been a fortress for centuries, possibly since 5th century. Perched on the highest of Lisbons seven hills, the castle provides a panoramic view of the River Tagus and Alfama medieval district while its grounds are planted with olive, pine and cork trees providing a pleasant spot to relax as well.
Within the castle, tourists can visit multimedia presentations or just wander around the walls, towers and gardens and can even attend frequent festivals during summers.
Location: Largo do Chao da Feira
Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation Museum:
The museum is named after Gulbenkian who was an Armenian oil magnate and had put together one of the worlds finest private art collections.
The collection of the museum is very vast and varied covering Egyptian, Greek & Roman antiquities, Islamic ceramics & textiles, Syrian treasures, Chinese ceramics, Japanese prints & lacquerware and European medieval illuminated manuscripts.
All the art work is now housed in a modern center where the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation sponsors a host of cultural and performing arts projects and also hosts a rotating exhibition of works by Portuguese and foreign artists.
Location: Avenue de Berna
Tower of Belem:
An UNESCO World Heritage Site, this white stone tower is the most impressive and photographed landmark of Lisbon. The tower was built in the 16th century in Manueline style to serve as a fortress in the middle of the River Tagus.
The outer walls of the tower are adorned with a stone-carved rope and beautiful openwork balconies along with Moorish watchtowers and battlements shaped like shields. The gangway leads to a very average museum within the tower.
Location: Avenida de Brasilia
Monument to the Discoveries:
Located in the district of Belem, the Monument to the Discoveries was designed to commemorate the Portuguese Age of Discovery. The monument was unveiled in 1960 on the 500th anniversary of the death of Prince Henry the Navigator who was largely responsible for Portugal's role in world exploration during 15th & 16th centuries.
This imposing monument situated on the riverbank where the Tagus meets the sea was the point from which the maritime explorers of the past set forth in their sailing ships to discover the world.
The massive monument is designed in the shape of a caravel, showing Henry the Navigator at the prow holding a small caravel, as well as many relevant heroes of Portuguese history like Vasco da Gama, Pedro Alvares Cabral, Fernao Magalhaes, Camoes and many others.
Situated in Alfama district and built on the site of Saracen mosque after the Crusaders captured the city in 12th century, the Largo Da Se is the first church of Lisbon.
Although the cathedral is not outwardly appealing but inside, this it features some treasures, like the font where St Anthony of Padua was baptised in 1195 and numerous notable relics, images and icons.
Built by Portugals first king, Dom Alfonso Henriques in 12th century, this ancient cathedral is primarily Romanesque in style, although later styles were incorporated when earthquake damage was repaired. The cathedral also houses a small museum.
Location: Largo da Se
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