Lisbon has 830,000 inhabitants in its densely populated urban area and if one includes the surrounding areas the total reaches 2.5 million. Lisbon is 15 kilometers from the Atlantic on the lower Tajo, which forms a large estuary when it reaches the sea (Mar da Palha) and thus creating a natural harbor. From here the town rises like an amphitheater on seven hills with the castle Castelo Sao Jorge towering above, a landmark which facilitates orientation when around on foot. The hill tops make excellent observation points, Miradouros as the Portuguese call them. The Bairro Alto, the upper town which one can also reach in an iron lift is the area of the goldsmiths, the antique dealers, the artists and the taverns. Here one has the famous ‘fado’ pubs. Fado is a remarkable, melancholic song, a recognised art, which ‘rings in the souls of the nation’ so the saying goes.
The beautiful street Avenida de Liberdade can be compared with the Champs Elysees, whilst the old street trams and modern bridges over the Tajo are reminiscent of San Francisco. Historically and architecturally speaking Lisbon is divided in two parts. Up to the time of the earthquake of 1755 and afterwards. After the disaster the Baixa, the lower town, was developed. New-in a strictly geometric pattern, it is today the shopping, administration and business district. Here the Avenida begins with the square Praca de Comercio, the magnificent gate to the town and the Stock Exchange. In an easterly direction is the Alfama, the old city center, which gives the feeling of an oriental bazaar. Lisbon is a university city, an archbishopric, seat of the Opera and National Theater, and has a port with 14 km of canals. It is deservedly one of the most beautiful cities in the world.