Saturday, February 1, 2014

Lisbon, Portugal

Lisboa is the capital city of Portugal.  It is also the country's largest city.  Lisbon proper has +547,000 residents but the metro area is home to more than 3 million people.  It's the westernmost capital city in Europe and the only one on the Atlantic ocean. 

Lisbon is one of the world's oldest cities.  It's hundreds of years older than London, Paris or Rome.

The Patriarchal Cathedral of St. Mary Major is Lisbon's Roman Catholic Cathedral.  Construction began in 1147 and it was consecrated in 1150.   

Inspired by the Christ monument in Rio de Janeiro, Lisbon too has a similar landmark.  The 28 meter (90 ft.) statue was built in 1959 as thanks for having spared Portugal from WWII.  Portugal was one of only six European countries to remain neutral during the war.

The 25th of April Bridge crosses the Tejo river.  It was opened in 1966 it was the 5th largest suspension bridge in the world.  Today it ranks #25.  The design was based on the San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge in California and was built by the same company.

The Santa Justa Lift is an elevator in the historic part of town.  It was completed in 1902 and was built to connect the lower part of the town with the upper town.  As the only remaining vertical lift it is now a tourist attraction offering views of the city.

Belém Tower was built between 1514 - 1520.  It was dedicated to St. Vincent, Lisbon's patron saint and it was part of Lisbon's defense system at the mouth of the Tagus river.  In 1983, it was became one of the city's two UNESCO World Heritage Sites.  In 2007, it was listed as one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal.

The nearby Jerónimos Monastery is the other UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The monastery was completed in 1601. 

The Monument to the Discoveries was inaugurated in 1960 to mark the 500th anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator.  It celebrates the Portuguese Age of Discovery during the 15th and 16th centuries.  The monument is 52 meters (171 feet) tall and the statues are carved out of limestone from Sintra.

At Bom Successo Fort there is a memorial to the Portuguese soldiers who died in the Colonial War in 1961–1975.  This took place in the country's African colonies.  There is an eternal flame and a changing of the guards every hour.

The São Jorge Castle is a Moorish citadel that dates back to medieval times.  Until the early 16th it was the royal residence.  Its position on a hilltop overlooking the city offers great views.

São Bento Palace began in 1598 as the first Benedictine monastery in Lisbon.  In 1834 the monks were expelled and the building became the Assembly of the Republic which is now the Portuguese parliament.

The Lisbon Oceanarium opened in 1998.  It is the largest indoor aquarium in Europe.

The Vasco da Gama Bridge was opened in 1998 to celebrate the 500th anniversary of da Gama's discovery of the sea route from Europe to India.  The six lance bridge runs 17.2 km (10.7 miles) and is the longest bridge in Europe. 

The Vasco da Gama Tower was completed in 1998 while the adjoining hotel opened in 2012.  The tower is 145 meters (476 feet) tall.  The lattice tower represents the sail of a caravel.

Palace Square is where the royal palace stood for more than two hundred years, until it was destroyed in 1755 by the Great Earthquake.  It registered between 8.5 - 9 and it remains one of the deadliest earthquakes in history.  The square is now a waterfront area with a triumphal arch and a statue of King Jose I.

View from Alfama
The Alfama is Lisbon's oldest district.  It was the one area of Lisbon that best survived the Great Earthquake.  It's a beautiful historic area and is home to many Fado bars. 

Fado is typical melancholy Portuguese music that dates back to the 1820s.  In 2011, Fado was added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List.

Here's a Rick Steves video I found on YouTube which talks about the Alfama and Fado.

©Rick Steves

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