Luanda, formerly named São Paulo da Assunção de Loanda, is the capital city of Angola, and the country's most populous and important city, primary port and major industrial, cultural and urban centre. Located on Angola's coast with theAtlantic Ocean, Luanda is both Angola's chief seaport and its administrative center. It has a metropolitan population of over 5 million. It is also the capital city of Luanda Province, and the world's third most populous Portuguese-speaking city, behind only São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, both in Brazil, and the most populous Portuguese-speaking capital city in the world, ahead of Brasília, Maputo and Lisbon, for example.
The city is currently undergoing a major reconstruction, with many large developments taking place that will alter the cityscape significantly.
Portuguese explorer Paulo Dias de Novais founded Luanda on 25 January 1576 as "São Paulo da Assumpção de Loanda", with a hundred families of settlers and four hundred soldiers. In 1618, the Portuguese built the fortress called Fortaleza São Pedro da Barra, and they subsequently built two more: Fortaleza de São Miguel(1634) and Forte de São Francisco do Penedo (1765-6). Of these, the Fortaleza de São Miguel is the best preserved.
Luanda was Portugal's bridgehead from 1627, except during the Dutch rule of Luanda, from 1640 to 1648, as Fort Aardenburgh. The city served as the centre of slave trade to Brazil from circa 1550 to 1836. The slave trade was conducted mostly with the Portuguese colony of Brazil; Brazilian ships were the most numerous in the port of Luanda. This slave trade also involved local merchants and warriors who profited from the trade. During this period, no large scale territorial conquest was intended by the Portuguese; only a few minor settlements were established in the immediate hinterland of Luanda, some on the last stretch of the Kwanza River.
In the 17th century, the Imbangala became the main rivals of the Mbundu in supplying slaves to the Luanda market. In the 1750s, between 5,000 to 10,000 slaves were annually sold. By this time, Angola, a Portuguese colony, was in fact like a colony of Brazil, paradoxically another Portuguese colony. A strong degree of Brazilian influence was noted in Luanda until the Independence of Brazil in 1822. In the 19th century, still under Portuguese rule, Luanda experienced a major economic revolution. The slave trade was abolished in 1836, and in 1844, Angola's ports were opened to foreign shipping. By 1850, Luanda was one of the greatest and most developed Portuguese cities in the vast Portuguese Empire outside Continental Portugal, full of trading companies, exporting (together with Benguela) palm and peanut oil, wax, copal, timber, ivory, cotton, coffee, and cocoa, among many other products. Maize, tobacco, dried meat, and cassava flour are also produced locally. The Angolan bourgeoisie was born by this time.
In 1889, Governor Brito Capelo opened the gates of an aqueduct which supplied the city with water, a formerly scarce resource, laying the foundation for major growth. Like most of Portuguese Angola, the cosmopolitan city of Luanda was not affected by the Portuguese Colonial War (1961–1974); economic growth and development in the entire region reached record highs during this period. In 1972, a report called Luanda the "Paris of Africa." Throughout Portugal's Estado Novo period, Luanda grew from a town of 61,208 with 14.6% of those inhabitants being white in 1940, to a wealthy cosmopolitan major city of 475,328 in 1970 with 124,814 Europeans (26.3%) and around 50,000 mixed race inhabitants. Luanda has also become one of the world's most expensive cities.