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Take a step back in time to a land where Old World charm reigns, spirituality ignites the air, tradition is lively and respected, and the scenery is about as gorgeous as it gets… this is Portugal. Spain’s neighbor on the Iberian peninsula shares its Moorish influences, gastronomic excellence, and some overlapping traditions, but Portugal has a flair all its own, a savor born of passionate flamenco and dark red wine, the glamor of the Algarve and the shade cast by olive trees.
Portugal draws an eclectic mix of visitors. There’s the international guests seeking a shot of European sophistication, the foodies hungry for amazing dishes, the sun worshippers and jetsetters off to see and be seen on the beaches, and the families keen to enjoy the all-ages diversions the country has to offer. There are old palaces, historic ruins, hot new boutique hotels and trendy restaurants aplenty. There’s buckets of sunshine and romance ‘round every corner, countryside vistas painted in bold strokes of green, yellow, and red, and a generous dose of whimsy in the air. No less than sixteen UNESCO World Heritage Sites are at home here, the most for any country of comparable size.
Here you’ll learn about Portugal’s (notable) part in the Age of Exploration, doze on sunbaked patios, sample exquisite vintages on wine estates, ride horseback through the surf, and nibble some of Earth’s most toothsome breads and cheeses. You’ll daydream in castles straight from fairytale illustrations, hike hills, wander perfect jewelbox churches covered in tile and carved wood, and relax at seaside spas. Let the earthy sensuality of Portugal overwhelm your senses!
Portugal Top Attractions
The Portuguese capital is also its primary cultural hub. Graced by buildings of bleached limestone and a panoramic view of the Atlantic Ocean, Lisbon is both very beautiful and deeply historic. You won’t want to miss the monuments of Belem, a famous old neighborhood lined by rivers and gorgeous gardens. Heaps of museums and gardens will fascinate you! The Portuguese love their nightlife, and Lisbon is a thriving example of this fact. This is the birthplace of fado, the traditional Portuguese music that is heard spilling out of every nightclub as well as at weddings and parties. Take in some of the world-class golf for which the region is known, shop the Baixa, and scoop up some tasty treats at a pastelaria.
Named for its world-famous port, Porto is a city both stately and fascinating. Nicknamed “the invincible city” for its heroic defenses during the Napoleonic Wars, Porto is also widely recognized as one of Europe’s most alluring cities. It is incandescent with great architecture and notable buildings. The Dona Maria Bridge was designed by Gustave Eiffel, architect of the eponymous French tower, for instance. The historic city center, overlooking the Douro River, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Many of the houses there are cut into the faces of cliffs. Cruises up the Douro are popular while in the area, as are tours of the local, very old wine caves! You’ll get your daily workout hiking the streets, but will be richly rewarded with the timeless view of the harbor spread out before you.
It’s a neat twist of history that, in the 15th century, Portuguese explorers pushed off from the shores of what is now the Algarve to discover new places and people—today, people from all over the world come to those same beaches for sun, fun, and a glorious immersion in Portuguese culture. The Algarve is, simply put, the home of some of Earth’s best beaches. Balmy blue waters are surrounded by tawny cliffs, the sand is soft and white, and the swimming is nothing short of glorious. This is the southernmost tip of Portugal, and the location of the warmest weather. No wonder, then, that this is one of Europe’s best summer holiday destinations! Dine on the freshest of seafood at high-quality restaurants, and stroll the sidewalks for a peek at Arab-influenced buildings. Explore the winding, narrow streets of old Lagos, and visit the red castle at Silves! A specialty product of the Algarve is fruit brandy! Strawberry moonshine is delicious and potent—pace yourself!
An autonomous region of Portugal is Madeira, an archipelago in the Atlantic consisting of the islands of Madeira and Porto Santo. Year-round moderate temperatures, exquisite forests, and stunning ocean views all beckon visitors, along with spacious protected areas teeming with the marvels of nature. Swimming and boating the mild waters are both popular, and great ways to soak up the natural beauty of the area. While on the island, be sure to snag a few bottles of the eponymous fortified wine, which is equally good for table drinking or cooking! One of Madeira’s many cultural celebrations worth noting is the extravagant, explosive New Year’s Eve fireworks display!
The far-flung archipelago of the Azores is like another Portugal entirely. These nine islands are located off the southwestern coast of the Portuguese mainland.The sun warms the soft sand all day, hot springs burble through the earth, and terraced vineyards scale back in the distance as far as the eye can see, like steps created by a giant. Outdoor pursuits rule here, with the magnificence of the beautiful, welcoming scenery all around. Whale watching boat tours off the coast are popular, as are fishing, biking, and diving. Sao Miguel, the largest island, offers a quaint traditional town with cobblestone streets, tiny cafes, and colorful religious festivals. There is a tea plantation on the island that hosts guided tours and tastings.
|Primary Airports: Lisbon Portela Airport (LIS), Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport (OPO), Faro Airport (FAO)|
|Government: Parliamentary Democracy|
|Currency: Euro (EUR)|
|Population: 10,530,000 (2012 est.)|
|Electricity: 230V/50Hz (European plug)|
|Time Zone: UTC|
Portugal Travel Reviews
Portugal's second city is definitely first class
Lisbon is a wonderful city, and most visitors to Portugal will begin their stay there. Oporto is the country's second largest city, and definitely worthy of a visit in its own right. Quite apart from its world famous wine which takes its name from here, the city is a charming mixture of medieval, baroque and even early 20th century architecture. Once renowned for its decay, the city is coming back to life with the advent of discount airlines and the accompanying rise in tourism. The shiny new Metro is the most obvious evidence of the city's rebirth, and a great and inexpensive way to travel around the city. Oporto was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the reasons are obvious.
It would not be a proper visit without sampling some port wine, and a visit to the famous still British-run Taylors is one of the best. The winery and restaurant offers tours and tastings in a very English setting with stunning views of the city and the river Douro.
A great way to spend a morning (best on Friday and Saturday) is a visit to the Mercado do Bolhão on the Rua Formosa. There are dozens of stalls offering a variety of seafood, cheeses, produce and local products. Located nearby are many inexpensive restaurants offering fish that was probably still swimming that morning.
There are numerous museums, galleries and other cultural opportunities, particularly the Museu de Arte Contemporânea. The best way to get started, though, is to locate the UNESCO listed historic center of Oporto, the Ribeira district, and let yourself get lost while soaking up the centuries old atmosphere.
I visited Lisbon, Portugal during the summer season a few years ago. I booked my trip online and since I am a Starwood Preferred Guest my third night at the hotel where I stayed was free. I discovered a local travel agency and an agent helped me select excellent tours. Highlights of my day tours are below.
Walking Tour- On the first day I went on a guided tour through old and new Lisbon. My personal guide took me to see the Obelisk in the Restauradores Square, the old Central Train Station and the ancient Moorish neighborhood of Alfama. Towards the end of the tour I had the opportunity to eat fresh seafood and attend a wine tasting at a restaurant in a medieval palace.
2-Day Ticket- This is a fantastic travel deal. I booked 3 tours as a 48 hour package. It included a Tagus tour to see the historic city center, the Tower of Belem on the waterfront and the amazing Monument to the Discoveries on the waterfront. The Olisipo Tour that included visits to the Amalia Rodrigues Museum and the Parque Das Nacoes, and the Castle Tramcar Tour that goes up and down the hills around St. George Castle.
I had a glorious time in Lisbon and plan on returning to see more sites. It is a beautiful and safe country. The people are friendly, there is a lot to do, the climate is mild and the food is tasty.
Exploring Portuguese Coastline
My husband and I decided to visit Portugal on the spur of the moment. Since we did not make any reservations, we thought the best way to do it would be backpacking. The coastline seemed enticing and this is where we begun our trip. Once we arrived, we started our adventure in Nazare, a picturesque fishing village where the man still wear their characteristic checkered shirts and pants, and the women wear several layers of petticoats. We happen to be there in September when traditionally the image of Our Lady of Nazareth is taken down to the sea. The procession is a site to see. We lodged at Hotel Mare right by the beach. The local food is fresh and greatly prepared. The next day we hiked our way to Tavira, more populated but still cozy with its endless shops and architectural wonders. Numerous sandy islands surround this town and can be reached by ferry which operates on hourly basis. Within the next couple of days we also visited Ericeira and Cascais, both beautiful towns with lots of places to see. What we loved the most was how friendly people are in Portugal. Everyone is willing to help, and when you stay at any local hotels or hostels, the service they provide is exceptional along with fresh food, mostly seafood prepared in every imaginable way possible. We ended our trip in Cascais by staying at Hotel Fortaleza de Guincho which is located in the heart of a national park. The breakfast is free, and they have a 24-hour room service.
Traveling to Alentejo, Portugal
During my winter vacation from school, I went with a group of friends to Portugal. As couple of them are natives to the province of Alentejo, this is where we have spent our time. It is located in the South-Central part of Portugal, tucked between the Tangus river and the Algavre region. The landscape of Alentejo is unusual. Flatlands and marshlands sweep down to the most amazing beaches. The best view point is Santarem where you can witness the immensity of the Tangus. You can see the influence of the Arab culture in the architecture and the whitewashed houses in walled towns such as Marvao or Monsaraz. The yards and gardens are so immaculately kept, it is truly a sight to see. The horses are the part of the landscape, and the flatlands make the hiking and cycling easy. Most of all, the beaches deserve special attention. The coast is somewhat rugged and lined with little coves between the cliffs, but ideal for surfing. The region is famous for its wines and distinctive seafood dishes. Make sure to try their cataplanas. For meat lovers, cozido a portuguesa is the meal of choice as it consists of an array of meats, vegetables and fruit, all of them produced organically within the region and prepared daily. We stayed at A Casa Do Tio Tenente, a 19-th century hotel with only six suites in it and all amenities. The feather linens and superb service made the experience exceptional.
Portugal Surprised Me!
My friends were already in Europe and on their way to Portugal so I decided to join them. It was one the best trips I‘ve ever made to Europe. In Portugal, the old and the new are merged together creating an impressive, authentic beauty that’s quite charming. The locals are friendly and you will find that many of them speak a bit of English as well. Lisbon, Portugal’s capital is a jewel of a city. It was love at first sight. The Castle of St Jorge was lovely. I also admired the construction of the many churches. I loved Evora, a little town that has a menagerie of gorgeous historic buildings. The main square is the Praca do Giraldo and the most popular landmark is the Temple of Diana. Of course, I couldn’t visit Portugal without sampling Port in Porto. If you are familiar with port wines, you will know that this is where the wine originates. The taste was authentic and rich. Then it was off to party in Lagos. It’s a small town on the Algarve with cool people where everyone goes to party. It’s also a great place to relax on the beach and enjoy the pleasant weather. Our group was there during the summer, so it was high-party season in the area. Surprisingly, accommodation is rather cheap in Portugal whether you stay in a hostel or hotel. My double room cost roughly $36. Well, it was a two star hotel. Nevertheless, it was clean and works fine for a night or two. Transportation and activities like museums and wine tours are reasonably priced as well.
Portugal: History in the present
I visited Lisbon, Portugal as my last stop at the end of a Holland America cruise throughout the Mediterranean. My most vivid memories are the lovely flowering trees (which I didn’t have time to see up close, unfortunately), the overall beauty of the city itself, and the Aguas Livres Aqueduct. The bus driver explained to us passengers that this famous aqueduct, dating from the time of the Roman Empire, was still in use. That was several years ago, and I don’t know if this is still true today, but it was fascinating at the time. The 18th century aqueduct, which was commissioned by King John V and added on to by later rulers, was built in the Gothic style that was popular with architects at the time. The aqueduct brings water from the modern area called Odivelas, which was a small parish called Canecas when the construction of the duct began in 1731. The aqueduct covers approximately 36 miles! Its majestic thirty-five arches are remarkably preserved for modern sightseers; the tallest arch stands at 213 feet tall. The history of this site is incredible to see, whether or not you have any serious interest in architecture or engineering. Lisbon is not a city to miss!
Family Vacationing in the Portugal Algarve
My husband and I spent May of 2003 in the Algarve region of Portugal. We rented a condo in Lagos, which placed us in a central location to take day trips throughout the area, and be home during evenings to allow the kids to walk the beach and swim in the pool. Throughout the Mediterranean coast of Portugal, there are a number of resorts of vacation condos to be found, and it was easy to find both busy and remote places to stay. This is an ancient region with a beautiful mix of Spanish, Portuguese and Moorish architecture. The Portuguese eat very late, and no one has dinner before 8PM. Dinner is friendly but slow here, and restaurants only have one seating per night, because they stretch things out for three hours or more. The older part of Lagos is a walled city that has unique shops. The beaches are white sand and beautiful, and dolphin watching tours can be fun here. You can even see across to Morocco from the boat. The region is warm but dry, and food has a mix of Spanish and Moroccan influences. The countryside is dry and full of cork trees, which is a major crop for the region. People are very excited to see children, and we were often given extra treats by the proprietors of stores or restaurants as a gift for our sons. The area is known for its pottery, and we also came home with a beautiful set of hand-painted dinner dishes.
A Warm Break to Portugal
To get away from the cold spring in Germany, my wife, son and I escaped to Algarve, Portugal, to explore this beautiful region. We were able to find a cheap RyanAir flight that flew us into the regional airport where we picked up a car to explore the southern part of Portugal. The hotel that we stayed in was minutes away from the beach, and the coastline in this area was absolutely gorgeous. Walking along the Praia da Falesia, you can see the stunning beauty of Albufeira's coastline. Camilo Beach and Praia Dona Ana in Lagos were two of our favorite beaches where we spent the majority of our five day trip. We also took a day trip to Lisbon in order to get a taste of the nation's capital. It was about a three hour drive from Albufeira on the interstate. The hills of Lisbon were amazing, and we enjoyed taking the trolley to the top where there were great views of the bustling city below. Our son thoroughly enjoyed the zoo, and my wife enjoyed wandering around the streets where a carnival was taking place. The atmosphere was festive and contributed to our fond memories of Portugal. Our vacation to Portugal was a five star experience, and we look forward to going back and exploring the northern part of the country and Lisbon in more detail. I also look forward to eating the fresh anchovies once again like the ones I tried in a small restaurant in Algarve.
Travels in Portugal: Sampling Porto
Nikki Von Rooyen
When traveling in Europe, Portugal has always been a favorite destination for me. It is a really beautiful and peaceful country in contrast to other more cosmopolitan destinations in the Continent. Even its biggest cities have a slower, gentler pace than most other European cities.
Porto, also called Oporto, is the second biggest city after Lisbon. Besides its wide and tranquil boulevards, many historical sites, concert halls, and fine restaurants, Oporto is the home of port style wines. We spent several delightful evenings in outdoor cafes sampling varieties of this delicious after-dinner beverage while watching the last rays of sunlight slip away across the lovely Douro River.
We also took a day long boat excursion on the Douro, traveling up this picturesque valley which is the biggest port wine producing area in the world. Wildflowers, vineyards, and villages from centuries past floated by as we relaxed on deck eating ‘bacalhau’, one of the country’s most famous fish cuisines.
Very reasonably priced accommodations are also easy to find. We stayed at a small ‘pension’ style guesthouse that felt more like staying at a good friend’s house than staying in a hotel. I have always found these kinds of guesthouses to be a great place to meet local travelers who are happy to practice speaking English with a tourist like myself.
Oporto is well deserving of the European Best Destination awards it won in 2012 and 2014. I agree: It is one of the most peaceful and pleasant big cities in the world.
Trip to Portugal
I had the pleasure of visiting the beautiful country of Portugal in 2003. I was part of an elite choir and we traveled around the country singing in a variety of locations. We started our trip off in Lisbon, Portugal's capital city. Lisbon is a mega center for culture to say the least! The city sits on the Tagus River and the Atlantic Ocean and has stunning beaches for miles, ports and shipyards, restaurants and hotels, and all sorts of nighttime attractions and dance clubs. If you like seafood then Lisbon is the place for you! The traditional Bacalhau, a type of salted codfish is a must. Check out Cervejaria Ramiro. It's a great restaurant for all your seafood needs and it's reasonably priced. While in Lisbon make sure to take a tour of Belém tower.
We then traveled to the city of Fatima. Fatima is most known for its religious importance and many Christians make pilgrimages to the Sanctuary there. However, if you're looking for an inspiring historical site to visit, religious or not, I highly recommend Fatima. The wall of candles and the statue of Our Lady of Fatima is both breathtaking and heartbreaking.
We visited lots of other cities and villages while in Portugal, but we ended our trip in the region of Alentejo. The coast is exceptional in this region and vast lands are dotted with castles to explore. For a really tasty pastry and some excellent coffee, visit Smiles Café. All the deserts are traditional and homemade and the atmosphere is filled with Jazz music. It's a really nice way to take in all the beauty Portugal has to offer.