Welcome to Lisbon
The eighteenth-century city of central Lisbon is known for its elegant design, proximity to the sea, and careful planning. This description applies within the boundaries of the old central triangle of hills, but not to the modern suburbs, some of which are grim. The Baixa, or lower town, was built in less than a decade by the Marquês de Pombal, a dictatorial minister, after the Great Earthquake of 1755 destroyed much of central Lisbon. The earthquake, which struck on All Saints’ Day in 1755, caused fires that raged throughout the city, and a tidal wave that killed 40,000 of the 270,000 population. Before the earthquake, Lisbon was one of the most active ports in Europe, having been prosperous since Roman times. The city was twice at the forefront of European development and trade in the past, during the great Portuguese discoveries of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and the opening decades of the eighteenth century, when Brazil yielded gold and diamonds. These were the great ages of Portuguese patronage. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Lisbon experienced political upheavals, but the Art Nouveau movement made its mark on the city. In recent decades, Lisbon has undergone significant reconstruction and renovation, boosted by EU funding for economic regeneration in the 1980s, its status as European City of Culture in 1994, hosting of the Expo in 1998, and the European Championships of 2004. The city’s transportation infrastructure has been improved, and historic districts and riverfronts have been given makeovers, making Lisbon one of Europe’s most exciting capitals.