Host City

The host city, Lisbon, is the capital and largest city of Portugal, located in the estuary of the River Tagus. The city has about 550,000 inhabitants, but its metropolitan area has about 2.7 million, one fourth of the population of the country.

According to the popular legend, the mythical hero Ulysses established the city. Recent archaeological discoveries prove that the city was established by Phoenicians.

In 1147, D. Afonso Henriques and its army of Crusades conquered the city to the Moorish, and afterwards, due its strategic localization, made it the Capital of the Kingdom of Portugal. In order to affirm himself in the city and in the region, the Portuguese King ordered the construction of the Castle of São Jorge.

In 15th century the Portuguese ventured into the discoveries, giving beginning to the Renaissance. It was from the river Tagus that the Armies that would come to discover the world left, making Portugal the richest country of Europe. Several monuments were constructed to eternalize the Portuguese Discoveries, the Tower of Belém being the most emblematic. A Manuelino-style Fortress that not only protected the Tagus but also welcomed the Portuguese Armies.

With the 1755 earthquake, the City of Lisbon was almost totally destroyed. The Marquês de Pombal, Prime-Minister of D. José, reconstructed the city. The buildings and squares of the downtown Lisbon still prevail, being one of Lisbon tourist attractions, such as Terreiro do Paço.

Although the Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 destroyed most of the city, some of Lisbon's traditional districts survived. In the area surrounding the Castle of São Jorge, you can find Alfama, the ancient Moorish quarter with its narrow and labyrinth-alike side streets. Below, there is Bairro Alto, a typically Portuguese quarter, where Fado still echoes in the little taverns.

Besides typical and enchanted streets and quarters full of history, Lisbon also differentiates itself for its modern and bold architecture. Expo '98 revolutionized Parque das Nações, linking Lisbon with the future. It enabled a new, clean area which probably turned out to be the most ambitious national project of urban development of the century.

Around Lisbon

The Estoril Coast extends from the Atlantic Ocean and the Tagus river estuary in the south and west up to the northern boundary of the parish of Cascais. It is close to the most westerly point in Europe. A wide range of wonderful experiences awaits the visitor to the Estoril Coast. Furthermore, Lisbon is only about half an hour away by car or train. One of the oldest and most fascinating capital cities in Europe, it has everything a city can provide: a unique atmosphere, good shopping, and entertainment of all types and a wealth of cultural activities.

Nowhere else in the world can such dramatic changes of scenery and such contrasting atmospheres be experienced in as small an area as the Estoril Coast. The region offers a concentration of different experiences all within a half hour’s drive. Apart from an enormous range of sights attractive to any visitor, a number of more specialized interests can also be pursued.

Near Estoril, the majestic Sintra Mountains cast a veil of mystery over the town nestling on its northern slopes. The hills and the surrounding area have been classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage site both for their cultural significance and for their outstanding natural beauty. In addition, the most westerly point in Europe lies within the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park which has a tremendous variety of landscapes and atmospheres.

If you drive out west of Lisbon, you will notice a mountain rising up majestically, casting a shadow of romantic mystery over the town of Sintra, nestling in the foothills to the north of it. Sintra’s rich cultural heritage includes the Moorish Castle, Pena National Palace, the Sintra National Palace, and many other buildings of historical interest, which, together with the mountains and the Sintra–Cascais Natural Park are classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

North of Sintra lies an unspoilt area of traditional farms and villages. As expected in rural Portugal, the cooking is delicious, with a range of local specialties including the famous Negrais suckling pig. The town of Mafra lies at the northern edge of the region. The huge walls of the vast 17th century National Palace and Convent of Mafra seem to rise up out of nowhere. An enormous church with famous bells and an exquisite library are among its many attractions. The grounds, formerly the royal hunting grounds, are now a wildlife reserve where deer graze in freedom. Visitors can learn about the ancient art of falconry and participate in orienteering and other adventure sports.

The culture

The traditional music of Lisbon is the Fado, a nostalgic song accompanied by the Portuguese guitar. The Fado is a Portuguese musical style, generally sung by only one person (fadista) and accompanied by the Portuguese guitar. The themes of the songs are related with destiny, nostalgy, jealousy or the small stories of the daily life in the typical districts. The word Fado comes of Latin fatum, which means, "destiny".

Public areas and museums

The origin of the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga goes back to the Retrospective Exhibition of Ornamental Portuguese and Spanish Art that took place in 1882. The collection of the most important museum in the country was derived from the very large artistic spoils coming from the many convents and monasteries abolished by the liberal law of 1834 and later enriched with acquisitions and generous donations. It has remarkable collections of Portuguese and foreign painting from the 12th to 19th centuries, sculpture from the 12th to 18th centuries, gold and silver work from the 12th to 18th centuries, drawings from the 15th to 18th centuries, European prints from the 16th to 19th centuries, Portuguese and foreign ceramics, tapestry, textiles and furniture with a focus on Indo-Portuguese style.

Detailed information about Lisbon may be found here