Lisbon - Religion and art have left a deep impression

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Since its role in the storied Age of Exploration in the 16th century, lovely and exciting Lisbon has been the crown jewel of Portugal and a major center for tourism, industry, and technology. Nestled on the banks of the Targus River just before it meets the ocean, Lisbon has been both a commercial hub and a religious center for Catholicism for centuries. This history abounds in its churches, fortresses, and secular architecture, clearly on display for anyone strolling its old streets and waterfront. This magic place in the Iberian Peninsula has inspired artists from Voltaire to Rodrigo and Debussy, and accounts for much of Portugal's wealth, both materially and culturally.

Location: The westernmost major city in continental Europe

After the long journey from its source in the Spanish mountains through towns like Toledo and Aranjuez, the Targus River (Rio Tejo) empties into the Atlantic. On its banks lies Lisbon, both the capital and economic center of Portugal. Nestled in the Iberian Peninsula, the beautiful and busy city is the westernmost major city on the European continent.

Business: Ships of all sorts and all flags moor in Lisbon’s harbor

Given its prime, Atlantic location on the doorstep of southern Europe, Lisbon is host to a parade of ships of all sorts. A constant stream of tourists issue from the cruise ships mooring at its docks, so service is the dominant sector of the economy. It has a vibrant industrial sector as well. 45 percent of Portugal’s wealth is generated in Lisbon, which is also home to some notable multinationals. Refineries, textiles, and fishing also play major roles.

Culture: A multi-lingual city at the very heart of Europe

Nestled on the steep slopes that sit astride Rio Tejo, the stone architecture of Lisbon echoes with its rich history. Two ornate cathedrals—the Igreja de São Roque, and the baroque Santo António de Lisboa—are testament to the Catholic past. So too are the Monastery of São Vicente de Fora, and the dark history of the Igreja de São Domingos—a center for the Spanish Inquisition. The explorer Vasco da Gama gets his due with both a bridge and an aquarium named in his honor.

Activities: Sightseeing, Clubbing, and Culinary Arts

With its architecture and old streets filled with shops and restaurants, Lisbon is an exciting blend of old and new, offering much to do. View modern and classical art at the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, or study the ancient use of tile in artworks at the National Tile Museum. Observe diverse marine life without a dive in the ocean at the Oceanario de Lisboa, an excellent aquarium. Pamper your taste buds at one of more than 2,000 restaurants and wine bars, or take in a game of soccer at the city's Estádio da Luz Stadium. Make sure to visit the Torre de Belém, a tower built in the 15th century, and to take a ride on the funicular Elevador da Glória.