Lisbon is one of Europe’s lesser-known capitals but is well worth a visit
The name Lisbon may not roll off the tongue in the same way as the ever popular European cities such as Rome, Paris, Barcelona and Venice, or perhaps Florence, Madrid or even Krakow. However Lisbon is a charming city with much to offer the tourist and should be well worth a place on everyone’s bucket list.
Lisbon is the oldest city in Western Europe, pre-dating cities such as London and Paris by many centuries. Julius Caesar made it a municipium called Felicitas Julia. It was ruled by a series of Germanic tribes from the fifth century before being captured by the Moors in the eighth century. In 1147, the Crusaders under Afonso Henriques re-conquered the city.
One of the attractions of Lisbon is its Mediterranean climate. It enjoys warmer winters than almost any other European city, and temperatures in March and April can reach a very pleasant 25º C.
Sections of the old town survive in the winding alleys of the medieval and Moorish district, known as the Alfama but Lisbon is for the most part a city of 18th Century architecture as large areas of the city were razed to the ground by the earthquake of 1755. After the earthquake the city was largely rebuilt following the plans of the Prime Minister the Marquess of Pombal. The compelling City Museum tells the story of Lisbon’s long history through prehistoric, Roman, Visigothic, Moorish, and medieval remains. It is located in the 18th century Pimenta Palace, built as a gift for King João V’s mistress.
For anyone visiting Lisbon this June, the Festas de Lisboa will be taking place in several of the city’s historic neighbourhoods. Street entertainment, concerts, shows and folk festivals are held throughout the city. Traditionally grilled sardines, “caldo verde” kale soup, bread with sausages, beer and red wine will all be in plentiful supply. The highlight of the festival will be the parade on Avenida da Liberdade where the various districts of the city are represented in a competition for best folk parade. Another of the festival’s special events will include “St. Anthony’s Brides”, a ceremony featuring several weddings in Lisbon’s Sé Cathedral and Santo António’s Church (the saint was known as the matchmaker).
Any visit to Lisbon this June certainly will be an experience never to be forgotten.