For Lisbon, a dominant national capital and increasingly internationalized city, the last 30 years have witnessed a period of dramatic growth, modernization and dynamism. As the socioeconomic landscape has changed, so too has the political and institutional one, with a significant evolution in the nature of systems of governance to manage, respond to and lead the city through this period of intense transition. Whilst increased global and particularly European integration has been an important driver to change, critically it has been the interplay of these global forces with the role and constitution of the national state and political developments at the level of the city, region and municipality that has shaped the evolutionary path of governance change. This article analyses recent governance change within Lisbon to argue that governance transition within Lisbon is characterized by significant change with regard to the relationships between public and private sectors, but also by strong continuities with regard to the dominant role of the central state in the absence of political devolution. The result is a governance system marked by structural constraints that limit the city’s capacity to deal with current strategic challenges in an integrated, coordinated and inclusionary manner.