Portugal is not only about stories of maritime adventure and skills of the football star Christiano Ronaldo, but also an integral part of the European legacy with deep-rooted culture that has been formed with a seamless amalgamation of idyllic coastlines, mystic woods, rocky terrains, legendary castles, spine-chilling folklore, cobblestone villages, sprawling cities, tasty cuisine and great music.
There is no better way of knowingPortugal than living there and experiencingthe vibe. While there are many, we have listed below some of the most exciting as well as soothing places that you may start with.
The Northern Region
Historically, Portugal owes its birth as a nation to its northern regions. The emergence of Portugal dates back to the 12th century and it is in the Northern region that the local inhabitants and immigrants became unified as a kingdom. This region comprises of cities like Vila Real, Chaves, Braga, Lamego, Viana do Castelo and off course, Porto. These are not bustling cities in their true sense; nevertheless, these cities are inhabited by people with warm hearts who are ready to embrace guests with open minds. A calm, quiet and laid back culture is enough to rejuvenate a tired mind, not to mention the serene natural beauty that is as charming as it can be!
Porto is a UNESCO World Heritage City that is famous for its Port and Douro wines that are exported worldwide. The city acts as a central point for reaching out and exploring the vivid cultural and ecological diversity of the entire region. The river Douro waters the valleys and the woods that comprise the beautiful landscapes. Exquisite wine is produced along the banks of the river Douro and transferred to Vila Nova de Gaia, which is upstream along the same river route, through which tourist cruises make their way.
With natural parks and mountains that are home to the wild, the region has enough for the nature lovers and wild life enthusiasts. Not only are there ancient churches, cathedrals, castles and manor houses, but also exemplary examples of modern architecture. The Cathedral and the Church of Sao Fransisco, the castle of Guimaraes and many other shrines are some of the most popular destinations for the pilgrims, especially during the summer days.
The architectural diversity is prominently portrayed through stark contrasts that can be found in the designs of simplistic rural chapels, the Baroque architecture with wonderfully crafted carvings of stone and gild, as well as instances of 21st century architecture illustrated through Serralves museum and Casa da Musica. No wonder, this region hosts the School of Architecture that has produced famous architects like Eduardo Souto de Moura and Alvaro Siza Vieira, who has won laurels like the Pritzker Prize for the institute.
In addition to all these attractions, true Portuguese culture in its raw form can be experienced through the traditions, rituals and the festivities of the locals; who are strongly committed to retaining and upholding the original flavour of their heritage. These are people who will gladly share their supper with a stranger and are always eager to educate tourists about the roots of their customs.
Centro de Portugal
The interiors of Portugal have everything that a human being needs to enjoy life to its fullest and purest of forms. Golden beaches and water sports for the cosmopolitan public, sea-side villages inhabited by the fishermen for their livelihood, mountainous terrain nesting cottages and streets of schist and granite – a three-pronged approach to life can be a true eye-opener to the uninitiated, when it comes to knowing the rich heritage and history of the region in its crudest form.
Towns like Obidos that proudly displays its whitewashed houses and the Schist villages that are of historic and national importance, considering that the villages and the castles borders the country, bears immense significance for the locals as well as the tourists. Stone architectures that stand tall from the past immemorial can be witnessed in the cities of Guarda, Aveiro, Castelo Branco and Viseu. Along with the university city of Coimbra, the Convent of Christ situated in Tomar and the beautiful monasteries of Batalha and Alcobaca, the region boasts of a cluster of places that enjoys the prestige of being included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.
If you want to satiate your appetite for adventure and experience adrenaline gushing through your veins, the region has more than you can possibly cope up with. Whether you prefer hiking through the woods or biking off the road through a challenging terrain in a daunting altitude, mountain ranges like Acor, Caramulo and the Lousa, with all its mystery and enchanting environment can prove to be an experience to treasure. Besides rock climbing and abseiling, you can also indulge in rafting and canoeing through the twisting, turning water streams of the Naturtejo Geopark – an area that has been preserved for birds and wild animals. However, the star of the show is Serra da Estrella, the highest cliff within the premises of mainland Portugal, decorated with vast landscapes and glacial lagoons.
Crystal clear waters rising from the hot water springs, the river beaches guarded by forests and the coastlines that opens up the Portuguese land into the endless expanse of the North Atlantic – all of these acts as a welcome relief and change characterized by freshness during the scorching summers. This region also has something for the surfers, be it the moderate waves in Peniche or the gigantic ones in the Nazare.
And that’s not all! After all, there is little pleasure in anything if we cannot treat our taste buds with the local cuisines. There is a lot to savour and there is something for every palate of foodies – sausages, cheese, pork, honey, sweets and off course, wines to make a day worth living for.
Lisbon and its surroundings
A truly multicultural and multifaceted cosmopolitan hub, Lisbon is the capital of Portugal and one of the major attractions for tourists. Lisbon, in its own merit, deserves a special place in the history of Europe, especially due to the fact that it was the starting point of many sea-faring adventures in the pre-medieval era that altered the course of world history and left its mark on the entire world.
With all the amenities of modern life, Lisbon has been successful in retaining the feel of a rustic and laid back village, especially in the form of pockets of historical significance. A casual wandering through the streets of the Baixa district exposes the hidden pattern and beauty of the famous Pombaline grid. Strolling aimlessly along the river to explore the monuments of Belém, most of which are World Heritage Sites, may take one to the medieval era. Submerge yourself into the basking glory of the medieval Portugal or chill out at Parque das Nações, one of the most contemporary places for leisure time – time will simply fly away without any clue!
If you continue to the mouth of the river, you’ll understand why we say that Lisbon is the centre of a vast resort. Along the coastal road you’ll find beaches and beach resorts that combine villas and hotels from the beginning of the 20th century with marinas, terraces and excellent golf courses. Further along the coast you’ll come across world-renowned surfing beaches, but also the palaces scattered across the cultural landscape of Sintra, a World Heritage Site.
It is being aptly said that Lisbon is at the middle of a widespread resort. Near the mouth of the river and along the roads bordering the coasts, one can see beach resorts, villas and hotels that have been modified from the 20th century buildings. These buildings are characterised by beautiful terraces, marinas, landscaped gardens and carefully curated golf courses, all of which are real treats for eyes.
Famous for its surfing beaches that attract professional surfers from all parts of the globe, Lisbon also has a number of palaces to show off, especially in Sintra. If one wishes to spend a night or two in the traditional Fado houses of Lisbon, or booze and dance in the tunes of music ranging from the African to the trans and electronic ones, Lisbon has a plethora of ways to enjoy nightlife in its lively bars, pubs and discotheques.
Be it beaches for sun bath, natural parks for observing the wild or heritage sites for contemplating on the history of the nation – Lisbon is full of alleys and avenues and can accommodate people from all cultures, senses and tastes.
The whitewashed fishing villages with laced chimneys, a golden coastline warmed by over 3000 hours of sunshine every year; 4,997 square kilometres of great weather, greater food and the greatest wine, that is the Algarve! The idyllic temperature range makes the Algarve region the most preferred holiday destination in the south of Portugal. And it holds one of the longest sunshine records in Europe!
The Algarve region is merely 40 kilometres in width, and yet, has so much to offer! Great beaches, good infrastructure and golf, to name but a few! And retirement income is not taxed here! There are the mountains, where individuals live amicably with nature and preserve the customs that they want to share. The worldly places such as Albufeira and Portimao are clamouring towns by night and day. Tavira is famous for conventional structural engineering and Faro, the passage to the area.
To unwind, you can have different medicines in the spas and various treatment centers, as well. There are numerous globally acclaimed greens where you can appreciate a spot of activity. To put it plainly, a differed exhibit sharing a real love for friendliness.
You can utilize pathways and cycle trails to become more acquainted with the area. What’s more, pontoon rides are another natural approach to watch the verdure.
You will be charmed with some of the finest dishes which are specific to that particular region. And, to cap it all, real estate is amongst the most affordable in Europe, in spite of being the third richest region in Portugal, with favourable price-to-rent ratios.
The fields that stretch out similarly as the eye can see begin near to the Tagus. While toward the north, the pace is situated by the green of the flatlands, advance south the scene joins with the sun, the warmth and a slower pace of life. This is the Alentejo
Toward the north, the fields of the marshlands, the incomprehensible interior, unending levelness and the vast fields of crops are some of the astonishing fields.
The immensity of the landscape is specked with stopper oaks and olive trees that withstand time. Santarem is a characteristic perspective over the enormity of the Tagus. At this stage, you will locate a town, for example, Monsaraz or Marvão or an antiquated dolmen to review the enchantment of the spot. Around the slopes, low, whitewashed houses remain on little meadows, palaces bring out fights and successes and the yards and gardens are witness to the Arab impacts which molded the individuals and nature. These characteristic features are some of the enthralling aspects that inspires one tom own a property in these areas.