Discover the fascinating history of Lisbon!


Lisbon, one of the oldest cities in western Europe is simply a graceful, synaesthetic, misterious city, which has so many wonderful attractions to offer and a tumultuous rich history to be told.
The Portuguese capital has a long history, filled with kings, discoveries, tradgedies, rebuilding, one of the most destructive and deadly earthquakes in recorded human history, revolutions, coups and the Europe’s longest dictatorship.

Whether it is true or not that the great Greek hero Ulysses was the first to see the shores of Lisbon, there is no doubt that the Phoenicians established a port town here called Alis Ubbo more than 3,000 years ago. The city’s ancient name, Olisipo (Ulyssipo), may be derived from this Phoenician alis ubbo (“delightful little port”) or from the legend that the city’s founder was Odysseus.
Following the well-respected footsteps of the Phoenicians, the city was later inhabited by the Greeks, the Carthaginians and finally the Romans, who instaurated a 200 year reign in 205 BC during which Lisbon became one of the most significant cities from the Iberian Peninsula, particularly when Julius Caesar became governor in 60 BC.

The Muslims of North Africa (Moors) took Lisbon when they overran the Iberian Peninsula in the 8th century, rulling for 433 years, despite the incursions made by the Normans and by Alfonso VI of Castile and León in 1093. Under the Moors, the city was known by various names such as Luzbona, Lixbuna, Ulixbone, and Olissibona.

In 789, Alfonso II of Asturias managed to reconquer the city until 808. Finally, the Christians retook the city in 1147, led by Afonso I and supported by a fleet of the second crusade, successfully resisting the Moorish attempts to win it back. The Moorish alcazar was transformed into a Portuguese royal palace, and, according to legend, the Lisbon Cathedral (Sé Patriarcal) was converted from a mosque (with subsequent restorations in the styles of many periods after fires and earthquakes).
During the reign of Afonso III, Lisbon became the base for Portugal’s maritime expansion. This contributed to the development of the maritime laws enacted by King Ferdinand I. Afonso III also moved the capital from Coimbra to Lisbon.
During the 15th and 16th centuries Lisbon boomed as the opulent centre of a vast empire after Vasco da Gama found a sea route to India. The party raged on into the 1800s, when gold was discovered in Brazil. Merchants flocked to the city, trading in gold, spices, silks and jewels. Frenzied, extravagant architecture held up a mirror to the era, as seen in Manueline works such as Belém’s Mosteiro dos Jerónimos.

But these prosper times would come to an end on the morning of Nov. 1, 1755. The churches were crowded to honour the dead on All Saints’ Day when the city was devastated by one of the greatest earthquakes ever recorded. Three initial jolts lasted for 10 minutes. Lisbon’s quay sank into the Tagus River. Those who sought safety on boats on the Tagus were drowned by a tsunami. Following the tsunami, massive fires broke out and lasted for days, burning large sections of the city. About 60,000 lives were lost, and more than 12,000 buildings were destroyed.

During the Peninsular War, (1807–1814) Napoleon’s forces began a four-year occupation of the city in December 1807, and Lisbon descended with the rest of the country into anarchy. After the war ended in 1814, a new constitution was proclaimed and Brazil was granted independence. In 1908, at the height of the turbulent period of the Republican movement, King Carlos and his heir Luis Filipe were assassinated. On 5 October 1910, the Republicans organised a coup d’etat that overthrew the constitutional monarchy and established the Portuguese Republic. There were 45 changes of government from 1910 through 1926.

The 20th century brought political upheaval and the Estado Novo regime from 1926-74 proved to be the longest right-wing dictatorship in Europe. During World War II, Lisbon became a refuge for many exiles from the various countries occupied by the Axis powers. From Lisbon, they would sail to the United States or Great Britain.
The Carnation Revolution brought the regime to an end, but in the aftermath, the city failed to modernise and over the following years Lisbon was greatly transformed by immigration.

In 1986 Portugal’s integration into the European Economic Community (later succeeded by the European Union) stimulated modernization in Lisbon, and private investment contributed to the construction of new buildings. Lisbon has spent recent years in and out of the limelight, as 1994 European City of Culture and host of Expo ’98, which spurred the modernization of the city’s infrastructure, increased tourism, and stimulated economic growth, the 2004 European Football Championships and the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest.

Lisbon, as history showed, is definitely a proud, strong, brave and glorious city, a Phoenix bird, able to reborn from its own ashes over and over again, which has so many lessons to be passed on.

Come and discover Lisbon’s history and retake its rememoral paths, always counting on Lisbon Transfers, which provides unforgettable journey for unforgettable memories!