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Earthquakes in Portugal

"Seismic vibrations on the Iberian Peninsula"

"Vibrações sísmicas na Península Ibérica"

Historical earthquakes in Portugal

What? Earthquakes in Portugal? Yes, indeed the area of the Iberian Peninsula is sensitive to seismic vibrations and earthquakes. As well as the area of north-west Africa. Indeed, this is not the most happy fact to talk about in a post. But, in my opinion, a very important subject. Because, it changed the capital Lisbon to the beauty and splendor of today.

Estimated read time: 5 minutes


#earthquake, #seismicvibration, #1november1755, #lisbon

Earthquakes and seismic vibrations

"Moving plates on the earth's surface"

The earth's surface is built up by tectonic plates. Seismic vibrations arise when these plates are moving. Sometimes it happens that these movements are very intense. On the sides of these plates, you feel these movements the strongest. Because there collide the plates to each other.

"At the side of an earth plate"

Portugal, Spain and the north of Africa is one of the areas on the world which are more sensitive for earthquakes. Because between the Iberian Peninsula and Africa is a fault line of 2 plates. As well as the fault line in the Atlantic Ocean with the North American plate. This is why the Iberian Peninsula and the north of Africa are sensitive of earthquakes. The Portuguese institute of the weather forecast IPMA also gives information about seismic activity. Find more here.

Earthquakes in Lisbon

"3 Known large earthquakes"

In history, Lisbon had already 3 known large earthquake. One in 1321, a second in 1531 and finally a third one in 1755. This last one is the most devastating earthquake in history of Lisbon.

Earthquake of 1st November 1755

In the morning of 1st November 1755, around 9h40, a devastating earthquake reached Lisbon. Because it was the day of All Saints, most people were in the church at that moment. So, a lot of people ran out of the church to the Tagus river, while the city was burning. Afterwards, it was followed by a tsunami. The epicenter of this earthquake was around 300 km away from Lisbon in the Atlantic Ocean. The magnitude of this earthquake is valued at around 7,7 to 9,0 or even greater on the moment magnitude scale.

earthquake in portugal lisbon lisboa 1st november 1755 devastating tsunami

Whole Lisbon was destroyed

This earthquake is also known as the Great Earthquake of Lisbon. The whole city of Lisbon was destroyed, except some monuments on the higher hills and the neighbourhood on the walls of the castle, Alfama and Mouraria.

A new design by Marquês de Pombal

Lisbon had to be rebuilt. The main figure in this project was Marquês de Pombal. Baixa had to become the masterpiece in his designs with large squares, wide streets and impressive buildings. His designs were made to represent the rebirth of Lisbon and show the grandeur and glory of the Kingdom of Portugal. You can discover this perfectly at the triumphal arch at the Praça do Comércio. This was the begin of the beauty of Lisbon as you can discover it these days.

Convento do Carmo

The Carmo Convent, o Convento do Carmo, is the best monument in Lisbon to still see which witnesses this devastating earthquake in Portugal. This is a church without a rooftop. Of course also other monuments were damaged by this earthquake, like the castle of Saint Jorge and the São Domingos church.

lisbon lisboa earthquake carmo convent church no rooftop

Lisbon in Azulejos

To get a view of Lisbon before the earthquake, it is possible to visit the Azulejos museum, the National Tile Museum. There you can see a large panel in Azulejos tiles of the city of Lisbon before the devastating earthquake of 1st November 1755.

Learn more about earthquakes


Visit the experience centre Quake in Belém. This is the ideal place to learn more about earthquakes and the devastating earthquake of 1 st November 1755 in Lisbon. Discover and walk through the streets of Lisbon how it was built up before this devastating earthquake. Feel what the people of Lisbon felt when they were in the church during this apocalyptic morning in 1755. A must do experience centre to learn more about the history of Lisbon and Portugal. Also a great activity with children.

earthquakes lisbon belem quake portugal experience centre museum

Lisbon Story Centre

Also when you visit the Lisbon Story Centre at Praça do Comércio, you can watch a video of this earthquake at the end of your tour. So, this also is a great museum to visit on your Lisbon trip to learn more from this wonderful city.

When is the next earthquake in Portugal?

According all above facts, many people and scientists believe that it is very likely that one day there will again happen a devastating earthquake in Portugal. According the known historical moments of devastating earthquakes in Lisbon, we are already many decades over time. So, for many people it is not the question if it will happen, but the question is when.

Or maybe was the earthquake of Morocco in 2023 the one in this area on the world at this moment? Maybe, maybe not. The future will bring more insights.

But don't let this fact stop you from visiting and discovering the beauty of Portugal and the Iberian Peninsula.

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