10 facts you didn’t know about Lisbon

Lisbon, the vibrant heart of Portugal, is a city that enchants visitors with its history, architecture and culture. Whilst you may be familiar with its famous landmarks, we’ve put together a few lesser-known facts about Lisbon in honour of the 2024 National Day of Portgual.

Lisbon is not the official capital of Portugal | WYSTC Conference

1. Lisbon is not the official capital of Portugal

You’ve heard right! Unlike most capital cities, Lisbon’s status as the capital of Portugal has never been granted or confirmed officially by statute or in written form.

In 1256, Afonso III moved his capital from Coimbra to Lisbon, taking advantage of the city’s excellent port and its strategic central position. He declared that declared that Lisbon would become the country’s capital and it has remained so until today.

2. Lisbon is OLD

Lisbon is older than Paris, London or even Rome. As a matter of fact, records mention that Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in the world and the second-oldest European capital city after Athens.

Lisbon has a rich history | WYSTC Conference
Their trams’ origin are not authentically Portuguese

3. The trams’ origin is not authentically Portuguese

The iconic trams of Lisbon are part of the city’s charm, yet their origin may surprise you. It was the US who firstly built the yellow designed trams. This is why you can hear the locals calling them “Americanos”.

4. Lisbon is home to one of the priciest chapels in the world

Commissioned in 1740 by King John V, the Capela de São João Baptista was said to be the most expensive chapel in Europe upon its completion. Its construction was financed by the riches flowing into Portugal from Brazil, showcasing the wealth of the era.

Lisbon is home to one of the priciest chapels in the world | WYSTC Conference
Fado means fate

5. Fado means ‘fate’

Lisbon’s Fado originates from the streets among the humble, serving as the musical lament of the poor. This genre, characterised by a voice and a guitar, captures the famous Portuguese “saudade”: a deep sense of melancholy and nostalgia for a bygone era. Fado, embodying the very essence of the people, is so intertwined with their fate that its name translates to “fate” itself.

6. Lisbon’s symbol is a raven

On Lisbon’s Coat of Arms, you’ll notice two ravens guiding a ship at sea, symbolizing the ravens that accompanied the remains of Saint Vincent of Saragossa, the city’s patron saint, on their journey from Sagres to Lisbon. Interestingly, Lisbon had a longstanding cult dedicated to ravens. These birds even had their own section in São Jorge’s Castle, one of the city’s most fascinating attractions.

Lisbon’s symbol is a raven | WYSTC Conference
It’s got iconic bookstores  | WYSTC Conference

7.  It has iconic bookstores

Lisbon has the oldest bookstore in the world still in operation. The Bertrand bookstore opened in Portugal in 1732, in Chiado and has held, since April 2010, the Guinness World Record for oldest bookstore still in activity. Here, you’ll also find one of the world’s smallest bookstore. Only one person can fit inside Livraria Simão.

8. The city has more than seven hills

Lisbon has long been known as the ‘City of Seven Hills,’ but there are actually more than seven hills. The number seven was reportedly chosen arbitrarily to draw a parallel with the Holy City of Rome.

The city has more than seven hills | WYSTC Conference
The city has more than seven hills | WYSTC Conference

9. It has an attraction that’s open twice a year

Open for only two days a year due to the difficulty of access and the fact that they are flooded most of the time, you have to book and reserve a place a long time in advance if you want to see the Roman Galleries. These galleries are an impressive part of the life of the Roman city of Olisipo in the 1st century AD.

10.  Lisbon was destroyed in an earthquake

The 1755 Earthquake, often referred to as the Great Lisbon Earthquake, devastated the city, triggering a series of fires and a massive tsunami. The commercial hub, Praça do Comércio, was utterly destroyed, and the Royal Ribeira Palace, along with many nearby monuments, suffered extensive damage. The ruins of the Carmo Convent, which remain roofless to this day, serve as a haunting reminder of the catastrophic event.

Lisbon was destroyed in an earthquake  | WYSTC Conference

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