Portugal is a colourful and illustrious European country, sitting on the western coast of the Iberian Peninsula that was once believed to be the world’s end. Always honouring its traditions whilst safeguarding its authenticity, Portugal is a beautiful amalgamation of cosmopolitan charm, gastronomic pleasures, scenic beauty and distinctive architecture. A sun-drenched escape in Portugal will surely enchant you with captivating cities, golden sand beaches, medieval castles, and majestic rural scenery, while the country’s world-class culinary experiences are bound to make your visit even more remarkable. Read along for the top 5 reasons to visit Portugal, where incredible nature, interesting culture and exciting adventures await you!
1. Discover the Indelible Charm of Lisbon
Once the heart of a vast maritime empire, the history of Lisbon is inextricably linked to the sea, and so it’s fitting that the city’s commercial port - built over seven hilltops on the banks of the River Tagus - remains the largest of its kind in Portugal. Of Lisbon’s many enchanting neighbourhoods, the mesmerizing Baixa and the charming Bairro Alto offer the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in the “Vida Buena” of the Lisboetas (good life of the Lisboans) while the Castle of Sao Jorge that overlooks the historic centre is one of the best places to admire the city’s skyline. Lisbon’s distinct architectural style encompasses elements of the Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque architectural traditions to stunning effect, making it a city that is easy to appreciate and fascinating to explore.2. Porto’s Old-World Allure and Trendy Buzz
Sitting on the banks of the River Douro, Porto was once a port where locals would gather to bid their loved ones farewell before embarking on their voyages to distant and unknown lands, often never to be seen again. This historical circumstance has imbued the city with a profound sense of sadness, and even to his day , nearly half a millennium since the Age of Discoveries ended, Porto’s air of melancholy feels no less pronounced, which oddly enough, makes up a big part of the city’s unique appeal. There’s beauty in sadness as the Portuguese espouse, but there’s also beauty that is more readily apparent in the city’s rustic cobbled streets, its artfully tiled churches and the fragrant colourful roses of the Palácio de Cristal. Yet for all its timeless charm, the modern city of Porto is not without its contemporary pleasures. Featuring lively bars set on the banks of the River Douro and a flourishing cultural scene that is fit to contend with any of the world’s major international art hubs, you’ll find plenty to do and discover in this fascinating European city.3. Nature’s Most Exquisite Work
The Portuguese coast that stretches nearly 230 miles across the western part of Portugal is mostly made up of golden sand-dune beaches and small bays nestled amidst soaring granite cliffs. The stunning archipelago of Madeira - also known as the “Pearl of the Atlantic” - captivates the imagination of all those who visit with its exotic vegetation and wild, untamed beauty. In the famed Algarve province, a wide selection of gorgeous beaches and lavish resorts will surely leave a lasting impression while the dramatic coastlines in Alentejo and the stunning city of Faro are some of the most photogenic locations in all of Portugal. If you’re looking for an adrenaline spike, hiking the granite peaks of Peneda-Gerês National Park or surfing the waves of Algarve are sure to get your blood pumping and bring you into close contact with Portugal’s wonderous nature.
4. The Portuguese Table, a Culinary Discovery
In the Portuguese kitchen, less is definitely more. The smells and flavours of fresh produce, small backstreet “tascas” (traditional taverns) and the swanky restaurants of Portugal will take you on a delicious culinary journey you won’t soon forget. The roots of Portuguese cuisine can be traced back to peasant cookery, the art of choosing quality ingredients and expressing an immense appreciation for eating good food. Simple, delectable dishes like the well-known “bacalhau” or salted cod are commonplace and offer a great starting point to begin your exploration of Portuguese cooking. Other popular choices include locally sourced, chargrilled fish and mouth-watering “cataplana” (seafood stew), as well as cured meats, olive oil and cheeses of the finest quality. If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll be delighted by the regional “pastel de natas”, Portugal’s signature custard tarts - typically served with a dash of cinnamon.
5. A Wine Utopia
The lands of the Alto Douro Wine Region exemplify Portugal’s long-standing viticulture tradition and they are the perfect place to learn about the country’s long and illustrious wine making history while sampling its delicious products. The world-famous Port wine (sweet, fortified wine) is produced exclusively from local grapes that originate in the demarcated area of Douro, the world's largest mountainous wine-producing region, where the river snakes through traditional vineyards and bucolic villages. Portugal’s “vinho verde” (meaning young wine, as it is released 3-6 months after the grapes are harvested) is another one of the region’s most celebrated wines. Featuring floral notes, mild acidity and a light body, this delightfully simple yet splendid wine is one you should absolutely sample during your time in Portugal.
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