travelgrove Travel Guides

Lisbon History, Portugal

The history of Lisbon dates back to the Neolithic Age when the area was inhabited by the Iberian people. Megalith structures, chiefly Dolmens and Menhirs, still found in the outskirts of the present-city of Lisbon stand witness to that period in the history of the region.

Around the first millennium BC, the region was invaded by the Indo-European Celts; however, this was ‘invasion of sorts’ and not real-invasion as had it ended in intermarriage of the invaders and the invaded.

History Of Lisbon – About The Greeks, Romans And African Moors

There are a number of myths that relate to the foundation of the Lisbon city. According to one such legend, the city was founded by the Greek hero, Odysseus (who named it Olissipo) on his way back to Ithaca from the Trojan War. Although there are some doubts about the Greek-connect, there are enough archeological evidences to indicate that by 1200 BC, the area was being used as a trading post by the Phoenicians.

Then followed the days of the Roman Empire; the region, then named Felicitas Julia, made immense progress as a ‘Municipium Cives Romanorum’. Archaeological excavations carried out in different parts of the city have unearthed ruins belonging to the Roman times.

By 711 AD, the reins of control of the city (in fact, of most of Iberian peninsula) went to the North African Moors and their occupation continued till the 12th century. The city flourished under the Moors but the arrival of the Muslim rulers saw the wave of Christianity receding. The Christians were allowed to follow their religion but ‘jizyah’ (extra tax) was levied on them (because they were ‘Dhimmis’ or non-Christians). Prominent structures like the city wall (presently named Cerca Moura) and the fortress of Castelo Sao Jorge were built during the Moorish regime.

History Of Lisbon – Return Of The Christian Rule

Year 1147 proved very significant in the history of Lisbon – the year saw the return of Christian rule when Afonso I of Portugal joined forces with the English Crusader, Gilbert of Hastings (who, later on, became the first Bishop of Lisbon) to oust the Muslim Moorish rulers and re-capture Lisbon. The event resulted in the mass conversion of the Muslim population to Roman Catholicism and a number of mosques built during the Moorish rule were transformed into churches.

The development of Lisbon continued in spheres other than the ecclesiastical and by 1290 the city had its first university. However, life and progress were greatly disrupted when plague hit Lisbon.

History Of Lisbon – The Age Of Discovery

Vasco Da Gama’s discovery of the sea-route to India marked the arrival of what is termed ‘The Age of Discovery’. Lisbon prospered once again by exploiting the wealth of its overseas’ trading allies and colonies. The city’s star attractions, such as the Torre de Belém and Mosteiro dos Jerónimos belong to this period in the history of Lisbon.

In 1580, Portugal was captured by Spain and it was not before 1640 that Portugal was free from the Spanish clutches. The discovery of Brazilian gold in 1697 marked the return of Lisbon’s fortunes.

History Of Lisbon – The Devastating Earthquake And The Latter Period

The devastating earthquake of 1755 tore the city apart and Lisbon was literally turned into ruins. In the following years, Lisbon was re-built as a perfectly modern city and the credit for all this goes to the Marquês de Pombal.

Towards the beginning of the 19th century, Portugal was attacked by Napoleon Bonaparte’s troops and the royal family fled to Brazil. But the Industrial Revolution once again turned the Wheel of Fortune in the favor of Lisbon.

Lisbon witnessed the republican coup in the initial years of the 20th century. Under the autocratic, fascist leadership of Antonio Salazar, Lisbon underwent thorough modernization; however, the country as a whole suffered and became Europe’s poorest nation. Salazar’s rule came to an end after the Carnation Revolution in 1974 and Portugal was declared a democratic nation.

Although present-day Lisbon is economically a little unstable, the rich history of Lisbon and its cultural mix make it one of the popular destinations in Europe.

Ask our travel experts a question about Lisbon

Things about Lisbon you may be interested in


Read our members' reviews about Lisbon

No reviews have been added yet for this category. Be the first to add a new one.

Read our members' travel tips about Lisbon

  • IvanCasa do Alentejo in Lisbon
    travel tip by Ivan posted more then 30 days ago
    No one would say that this shabby, old building is actually a small palace and hides a beautiful, rich interior with decorations, and furniture showing the luxury of the aristocratic life in the past centuries. When we went to the San...
  • zsoldicsaThe Gulbenkian Museum
    travel tip by zsoldicsa posted more then 30 days ago
    This museum, though not a big one, hosts first-class exhibitions from various Eastern cultures, like Egypt, Mesopotamia, India even Japan and China, and some collections of French furniture and paintings among other interesting artifacts...
  • papillonFatima near Lisbon
    travel tip by papillon posted more then 30 days ago
    Though it is a bit far from the city (about 88 miles to the North), it is a place which is worth a visit, even if you're not a pilgrim or a devoted Christian. Fatima is the worshiping place of the Virgin Mary, where millions of...
view all


Members Who Have Been to Lisbon

Community Galleries About Lisbon

Browse our members' Lisbon galleries to get a better impression of the place
show alladd gallery
the best travel deals provided by TravelZoo...
  •$634Multiple Airlines flightMultiple Airlines
    Boston, MA (BOS)  Lisbon, PT (LIS)
    03/07/2017 10:05 pm
    Lisbon, PT (LIS)  Boston, MA (BOS)
    03/14/2017 03:50 pm
  •$658Tap airways flightTap airways
    New York, NY (JFK)  Lisbon, PT (LIS)
    03/07/2017 11:40 pm
    Lisbon, PT (LIS)  New York, NY (JFK)
    03/14/2017 03:50 pm
  •$689Multiple Airlines flightMultiple Airlines
    Newark, NJ (EWR)  Lisbon, PT (LIS)
    03/07/2017 05:59 pm
    Lisbon, PT (LIS)  Newark, NJ (EWR)
    03/14/2017 03:50 pm

Lisbon City Ratings

  • Ratingunrated
    City Rankunrated
  • History & Culture: not rated
  • Night Life & Entertainment: not rated
  • Family & Fun: not rated
  • Outdoors Activities: not rated
  • Food: not rated
  • Sightseeing: not rated
  • Shopping: not rated
  • Public Transportation: not rated
  • Must visit this place: not rated
   Welcome to Travelgrove  register tell a friend bookmark it