The country in the most western part of the European mainland is influenced by life at the Atlantic Ocean.
The “Green Garden of Portugal” in the north, where excellent vines are cultivated, passes into the mountains and finally, in the south, the sea formed the beautiful coastline of the Algarve with sandy beaches and picturesque towns.
Starting from its coastline, many brave men discovered the world and made Portugal a nation of navigators. Among them, there were Vasco da Gama, who found the seaway to India and Pedro Alvares Cabral, who was the discoverer of Brazil. From their long journeys, they brought along many ideas and impressions which can still be found in the Portuguese cuisine, culture and music.
Whether you enjoy a “Bacalhau”, the traditionally dried cod fish, offered in one of 365 different recipes (one for every day of the year) or you drink a glass of famous Port wine while listening to “Fado”, the nation’s melancholic songs, you will enjoy your stay in this nice “End of Europe”. At last, you will understand what Portuguese mean with “their” word “saudade”, the overwhelming longing for Portugal but also for things that they miss. But lengthen your journey with a multitude of souvenirs: Take some “Azulejos”, Portugal’s typical ceramic tiles that beautify every Portuguese house, afford a bottle of Vinho verde or take some music of Amalia Rodriguez, the Queen of Fado, to keep your memory of that beautiful country alive.
Built on seven hills, Portugal’s capital Lisbon – also called the “White Town” – is situated on a beautiful bay at the estuary of river Tagus into the Atlantic Ocean. The lower town “Baixa” which was built after the huge earthquake of 1755 is surrounded by the castle hill with its impressive “Castelo de São Jorge” (Castle of Saint George), one of Lisboan’s landmarks, the old town “Alfama” with its numerous Fado bars and the upper town “Bairro Alto”.
Take the number 28 of the “Eléctrico”, the traditional tramway, and discover the most beautiful streets and places of old Lisbon. The cosmopolitan capital is a city with a great past, attested by numerous sights. Magnificent palaces, churches and monasteries, narrow alleys and cozy squares will captivate every visitor.
An important neighborhood of Lisbon, Belem is home of the famous “Torre de Belém” (Tower of Belem) which was built on the shore of river Tagus for the protection of the city and which is a site of UNESCO World Heritage today.
Seeing the Jeronimos Monastery with its impressive manueline architecture is another highlight for every visitor of Portugal. Its church, Santa Maria de Belem, is the burial place of many noble people, among them five kings and seven queens.
In Belem, visitors can also admire the world famous Monument to the Discoveries, having been erected in commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator and dedicated to all men who gave fame to Portugal.
Known as Portus Cale in the Ancient World, Porto is today Portugal’s second largest city and an important cultural and economical center of the country.
Narrow, looped alleys with clustered houses compose the charming old town of Porto, called “Ribeira”, starting at the shore of river Douro stepping up in terraces. Since 1996, this well preserved ensemble is part of UNESCO World Heritage. But there are many more sights attracting the visitor: Oporto Cathedral, the major concert hall “Casa da Musica” or the Clerigos Church, in order to name only 3 examples.
The most known export article is the Port wine which is cultivated along the river Douro. The center of the wine production is the city Vila Nova de Gaia facing Porto on the opposite side of the river.
Evora is a town with a changeful history. Its foundation goes back to the times of Roman occupation: the Temple of Diana, still admirable nowadays, gives proof of this roman heritage. During the 8th century the Moors conquered the town and held it until 1165 when it was re-conquered for the Portuguese king. With the help of the Knightly Order of Aviz that settled there and erected a strong wall, the town became one of the safest ones in Portugal those days. Accordingly, Evora was declared seat of the Portuguese kings and a rich cultural life developed.
The UNESCO appreciated the entire historical center including the “Praça do Geraldo” (Giraldo square), the Cathedral or the eerily “Capela dos Ossos” (Chapel of Bones) as sites of World Heritage.
Coimbra is the undoubted cultural capital of Portugal and was European Capital of Culture in 2003. This title is based on a multitude of extraordinary monuments.
In the year 1290, King Dinis founded the University of Portugal which makes it one of the oldest educational institutions in Europe. It is located on the highest point of the Upper Old Town and offers a breathtaking view across the city. It is home to the Joanina Library with around 300.000 precious books. The beautiful Capela de São Miguel (Chapel of Saint Michael) with its magnificent organ can be found on the territory of the University as well.
Wherever you go in Coimbra, your steps will be accompanied by historic and modern monuments. If it is the Sé Velha, the old cathedral with its Gothic altarpiece, the Sé Nova, the new cathedral in its beautiful Baroque style or the extraordinary, futuristic bridge Ponte Rainha Santa Isabel, you will be overwhelmed by the abundance of landmarks in Coimbra.
This little walled town in the north is the cradle of one of Portugal’s most typical souvenirs: o galo de Barcelos (the rooster of Barcelos). Legend says that an innocent man was accused of burglary and condemned to death. As a proof of his innocence he said a dead rooster would crow three times during his execution. And indeed, the rooster crowed and gave proof of the man’s innocence. Today the animal is a symbol for Portugal and can be found, mainly in ceramics, everywhere around the country.
Barcelos has a lot more to offer: a walk along the old town wall with a dungeon from medieval times is worthwhile, as well as a visit to the Archeological Museum, the Matriz church and the Jewish quarter.