Situated on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean on the west coast of Portugal, Lisbon is a unique combination of Western Europe and Northern Africa that boasts a great cultural and historical heritage. Portugals largest city is the capital and hub of Portuguese business, commercial and political life. Built on the hills overlooking the harbor, the Rio Tejo (River Tagus) dominates life in Lisbon. The citys various quarters are linked by a web of cobbled streets running up some unbelievably steep gradients served by Lisbons trams, funicular railway and street lift!
The Great Earthquake which struck Lisbon in 1755 destroyed much of the city and killed 40 000 of its inhabitants. The disaster shocked the rest of the continent and also marked the end of Lisbons ranking as one of the most active ports in the Europe. In more recent times the city has been the object of much development and modernization, especially in light of the fact that tourism has become its key industry. Named European City of Culture in 1994, successfully hosting the World Expo 98 and a triumphant bid to stage the European Football Championships in 2004 are examples of the direction and ambition of this city.
The Tagus is the main river in Lisbon and in Portugal and Lisbon is located at the point where the Tagus flows into the Atlantic Ocean; it enhances the citys importance.My first excursion was to the Monsanto Natural Park, one of the largest urban parks in Europe covering an area of around 9 square kilometers, it took 2 days to visit this park! Over the following days I visited the highlights of the capital, which includes St. Georges Castle and the major attraction of Belem and Jeronimos Monastery. The Quelez Palace is just 15 km from the city and Sintra is just 29 km from the city, both are well worth a visit. Lisbon is the perfect place to enjoy a holiday. Thats why reservations in Lisbon hotels are essential.
Lisbon plays an important role in the countrys literacy rate which is 93%. The city has several private and public secondary schools and several international schools. Lisbon has 4 major state universities.
Lisbon is the original birthplace of Fado music, characterized by mourful tunes and lyrics, often about the sea or the life of the poor. There are two main varieties of Fado. One is rooted in Lisbon and the second is in Coimbra, of the two Lisbon is the most famous.
Getting around in Lisbon is comparatively much easier than any other city in Europe as train travel is relatively inexpensive. Most visitors simply buy a ticket every time they make a journey. There are different discount schemes for train travellers and children under 4 go free. Under 12s pay half price and senior citizens above 65 yrs can get 30% off. If you are planning a lot of train travel, using a rail pass might save you money.
Traveling by bus can be more expensive than train as buses link you to most of the countries smaller towns and villages. There are comfortable express buses that operate on longer routes. For this you have to reserve tickets in advance. All buses are privatized but still you can find a national network of express coaches called Rede Expressos.