Skip to content
Oct 31, 2022

The Great Lisbon Earthquake

panoramic view of lisbon with Christ Statue

Lisbon, Portugal. Once the center of the world and arguably one of the most interesting places on earth. In Lisbon, old and new are built on top of each other. The same old tramlines have run the streets since 1873 and at night the narrow corridors buzz with activity coming from cafes.

The shops are open late. While this is one of the oldest cities in the world – predating London, Paris and Rome by centuries it retains a youthful freshness about it.

Perhaps, so much history to reflect upon results in a progressive mindset. Lisbon is one of the most interesting places you can visit and that may be due to the fact that it has been destroyed and rebuilt on several occasions.

None of these times of rebuilding was born of such carnage and destruction as the earthquake of 1755 which destroyed most of the city. This geological event was a catastrophe and caused a tsunami that travelled across the Atlantic Ocean. It is believed to have been the most destructive earthquake in the history of Europe.

Songs were even written about the quake as far away as Newfoundland, Canada – a long way from the epicenter; Lisbon, Portugal. Remnants and ruins still exist and can be visited to this day. Let’s explore a few of these.

Aerial view of Tower of Belem at sunset, Lisbon

Exploring the Ancient History of Lisbon

Being one of the longest-standing cities on earth means that there is a whole world to exploreLink opens in a new tab – an ancient one.

There is so much history that was made not only by the earthquake itself but by the subsequent rebuilding. Imagine the politics, the debates and the goings-on that it took to put back together an ancient port city of hills and river.

There is too much to describe at a high level – the sites need to be examined one by one to get a clearer picture of how the city managed to pull itself together.


 Igrewa De Sao Domingos

 Once upon a time this was the largest church in Lisbon and has stood for centuries. Ground was broken to build this church in 1241, yet construction was not completed until 1748. With it taking around 500 years to complete the building, it would have been a travesty to witness what happened next!

 This church had already survived one earthquake – sustaining damage in the 1531 Lisbon Earthquake, but when the monster of 1755 hit, this church was almost completely destroyed. The rebuilding of it began swiftly, however with such extensive damage, rebuilding wouldn’t be completed until 1807.

 Now a national monument, this baroque-style piece of architecture can be visited to this day – a symbol of resiliency and triumph over adversity.


Museo Teatro Romano

 There are few attractions that can visually give its visitors a sense of its history like the Museo Teatro Romano. As mentioned, Lisbon is one of the oldest hubs in Europe and had already been around for centuries by the time this Roman amphitheatre was built, around 10 BCE.

The ancient amphitheatre was rebuilt after the earthquake destroyed it as it did most of Lisbon, but it wasn’t discovered by modern civilization until 1964. It was then that it was found and subsequently excavated.

Visitors can view the site which is adorned with visual representations and models that help to gain a sense of what really happened there. It all makes for an incredibly interesting tour and an experience that will be remembered for life.


Sao Jorge Castle

Being an ancient port city has meant that Lisbon has played host to Carthaginians, Phoenicians, Romans, Moors – even Celtics. There are also many more and to get an idea of the history here, Sao Jorge Castle – now a monument and museum, is a fantastic place to start.

The hill where Sao Jorge Castle stands has been an important location in Lisbon both strategically and historically. The castle is estimated to have been established in the 1st century BC and has served as a royal palace, a military barracks, and host to the Torre do Tombo National archive before playing its current role.

aerial view of fortress on hill in Lisbon at sunset

One of the Most Intriguing Places on Earth

Lisbon is a wonderful place where ancient history, vibrant and energetic people and a beautiful climate mix to form one of the richest destinations on earth.

There are few places where history exists as such a rich, understated backdrop to a wonderful, unique and extensive culture. There is much to see and experience in Lisbon.



Got excited?

Catch a flight to Lisbon

Search flights

All You Can Eat in Lisbon, Portugal

Things to do in Lisbon