O Castelo e a Graça

A Brief History of Lisbon

Lisbon was born in the Castelo (Castle) Hill. The Romans fell in love with her and gave her a heroic paternity: Odysseus (the one from Odyssey!), the mythical Ulysses of the Romans, who on the return from the Trojan War would have passed by the Tagus River and there founded Olissipo (the Town of Ulysses’ Horses). Thus, Lisbon was born.

Of course, with a little imagination, we notice that the Castle Hill is a place with steep slopes, easy to defend, a fertile land, plenty of fresh water and a river rich in fish: a paradise on earth for Mankind. Upon arrival, the Phoenicians also found here a safe haven for their ships which they called Alis Ubu.

Thus, Lisbon was born and subsequently grew with Phoenicians, Lusitanians, Carthaginians and Romans. In the second century, Lisbon was an imposing town of the Roman Empire, built in the Lusitania Province, with its Forum, Theatre and Hippodrome. At a time when the world was very small, Lisbon was the last town of the Roman World and then ...... came the Barbarians!

In the year 410, Rome was conquered by the Ostrogoths and in 411 the Alans became the new masters of Lisbon. Then came the Vandals, the Swabians and the Visigoths. Over a period of about 300 years Lisbon lived of past glories and its great public buildings fell in ruins.

711 in Gibraltar saw the rise of the new masters of the peninsula. The Moors were here! Very quickly they conquered almost the entire peninsula., Lisbon became Moorish and for more than 400 years was known as Al-Ushbuna.

The year was 1147 and an armada of Crusaders has just reached Porto on the way to the Holy Land. Dom Afonso Henriques, the young king of the Portuguese asks the Bishop of Porto to convince the crusaders that Paradise is to be found in Lisbon as well as in the Holy Land!  …. Moreover, they could loot the town for 1 day!!!

On July 1, Lisbon is besieged. The Crusaders gather in Bairro Alto and the Portuguese in Graça: even today, São Vicente de Fora marks the place where the Portuguese encamped. From October 21, onwards, Lisbon becomes Portuguese. The conquest of Lisbon gives Portugal the desired economic independence and today its achievement is remembered as one of the castles of the national flag.

The years pass and it is already in the 14th century that Lisbon once again marks the history of Portugal. Two brothers: Dom Fernando and Dom João will leave their mark in Lisbon. With Dom Fernando, Lisbon sees the growing of a magnificent wall with 46 gates and 77 towers - all the inhabitants of Lisbon and its surroundings worked on its construction and in just two years the works were finished and soon would be tested. As early as 1384, the King of Castile tries to conquer Lisbon and after more than four months his army is defeated at the walls of Dom Fernando, without ever being able to get in and suffering heavy casualties.

With Dom João Lisbon grows and starts looking at the rest of the world. It’s from Lisbon that in 1415 the Armada departs on its way to conquer Ceuta and this marks the beginning of the expansion of Portugal. In 1493 Christopher Columbus returns to Lisbon coming from "Cuba", thinking that he had arrived in Japan. In 1499, Vasco da Gama returns in glory having opened the way to the riches of the East, making Lisbon the capital of the world in the sixteen century. From Lisbon emanates a power and a will that extends from Brazil through Africa, India and reaching Timor. From Lisbon embassies depart with elephants, rhinos and other exotic animals to show the Pope and the rest of Europe how far Lisbon and Portugal had arrived.

Lisbon became grandiose, embellished by churches and tile covered palaces. But on November 1, 1755 a massive earthquake strikes Lisbon, causing destruction and a huge fire. The people run to   the Tagus looking for protection, but on this day, there is no shelter: From the river, a giant wave strikes down the city. The medieval and Renaissance Lisbon died on that day. In its place the Marquis of Pombal will create the perfect town for the future, with major streets opening to large squares. It’s at this time that the present downtown of Lisbon is born, grounded between Rossio, Praça da Figueira and Praça do Comércio. The Castle Hill suffers a lot with the earthquake, but much survives to the present day, including the typical Arab layout of the streets and several buildings.

Time moves on and in the 19th century Lisbon receives the undesired visit of Junot and the Napoleon's army. In Lisbon, at the hands of the Anglo-Portuguese army led by the Duke of Wellington, Napoleon will suffer one of his major defeats.

In 1908, the regicide takes place at Praça do Comércio, opening the door to the establishment of the Republic in 1910. The early twentieth century will be marked by revolutions and the implementation of a dictatorial regime that lasts until a new revolution puts an end to it on April 25, 1974.

From the small prehistoric Castro to the present day, an important part of the History of humanity passes through Lisbon. The Castle Hill was there at the beginning and today marks its presence with its people and traditions.

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The Saints festivities and Lisbon’s Santo António

Broadly we can say that wherever the Portuguese presence is felt around the world, popular Saints Festivities are held throughout the month of June! The festivities take place in the following order:  St. Anthony, St. John the Baptist and St. Peter. Being one of the oldest traditions in Portugal, they belong to the so called Juninas or Juaninas parties as the most celebrated saint is St. John the Baptist. In the case of St. John, we are talking about a celebration that takes place in most parts of Europe, since the day of St. John is the day that marks the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year. From this date on the days start to get shorter until Christmas Day (the Winter Solstice) when the days begin to be longer again.

Enthusiastically, St. Anthony is celebrated in Lisbon! Born in Lisbon, about 1190 or 1195, (no one knows for sure because when he was born no one could anticipate he was going to be famous!) is baptized as Fernando de Bulhões (others say it would be Fernando Martins), at the Lisbon Cathedral, just across his home and dies on June 13, 1231 in Padua.

For the Portuguese, he is Saint Anthony of Lisbon: May the Italians excuse us, but St. Anthony is ours!

It was always to St. Anthony that the people of Lisbon turned when they needed help: either for good weather, protection or simply to find something lost. Of course, girls shouldn’t overlook his help when finding a suitable husband.

On the night of St. Anthony (June, 12 through 13), Lisbon dress with altars to Saint Anthony and at Avenida da Liberdade march the representatives of each quarter of Lisbon in competition to see which one is best.

On June, 13 (the Day of Saint Anthony), the famous St. Anthony’s weddings (also known as the St. Anthony’s brides) are celebrated at the Cathedral.

As a curiosity, Saint Anthony belongs to the Portuguese Army and was enlisted into the Lagos Infantry Regiment during the Restoration of Independence war with Castile: Major St. Anthony - With him at your side you cannot lose!

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São Jorge and São Vincente

The Castelo and Graça hills are old and their accesses were built in very steep slopes. The most complex is the castle hill because it’s the highest and the one with more steep slopes. Understandingly enough, no one would make a castle in an easily accessible place! On the contrary, at the time the idea was - The harder it is, the better! And even if they can get in, let’s hope they are too tired to fight!

Yes, some parts have very complicated pathways but there are others with easier access. As each one of us has different characteristics and needs, we have chosen to report on accessibility so that each can decide for himself where to go: we want to provide the correct information so that the visitor can decide for himself!

When introducing the exploration routes, in addition to what you can see, we have taken into account:

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How to get there


Lisbon has a modern public transport network. The downtown area is served by Taxi, Underground, Bus and Tram.

When calling for a taxi, indicate that the taxi will have to be adapted – You will find relevant contacts on page XX

We recommend you to book a taxi 24 hours in advance.


Not every metro station in Lisbon is adapted for people with limited mobility. The stations that serve the historic district are:

Note: There is a gap of about 10 cm (3.9in) between the carriage´s floor and the station. If you are in a wheelchair, we recommend you to enquire about your journey and confirm whether the access lifts are operational (in the final station and, in case of need, in the transfer line) at the ticket office.


Lisbon buses are being progressively adapted as the older vehicles are being replaced by new ones.

For the Historical area of Lisbon there are:


Trams are not adapted for passengers with low mobility.

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