Historic Cities and Architecture
Once a powerful colonial nation, many living Portuguese towns still have an atmosphere reminiscent of Old World times. They are full of remarkable monuments and with a little effort you will discover traditional cafés and craftsmen whose families have run their businesses for generations.
Make your way to the charming port city of Porto to linger at the Cais da Ribeira, a perfect spot. Recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, this beautiful waterfront area is characterised by old buildings and streets and, of course, the view of the harbour full of Rabelo boats. Lisbon, the country’s capital, is very lively with contemporary culture, but also has countless monumental limestone buildings to offer. Don’t miss the magnificent cloister of the Jeronimus Monastery and don’t forget to climb the battlements of St George’s Castle for excellent panoramic views of the city. For a royal day out from Lisbon, head to the environs of Sintra and its famous castles, including the romantic Pena National Palace. Then there’s the charming medieval university town of Coimbra, considered by many to be the most romantic city in Portugal. Get lost in the maze of old streets and don’t miss the University Building with its beautiful view of the river. For a more intimate experience, head to the romantic and well-preserved village of Óbidos, once a traditional personal gift from Portuguese kings to their beloved wives. Make your way to the monumental city of Tomar or follow the tens of thousands of religious travellers to Fátima, the most visited pilgrimage site on the Iberian Peninsula. The 12th-century Portuguese capital Évora is a great place for ancient architecture, combining Roman ruins with Moorish and Portuguese architecture, or head to Guimarães, the birthplace of Portugal. If you don’t tire of Portuguese cities, the list of places to see goes on. Try Viana do Castelo, Braga, Aveiro, Amarante, Bragança, Chaves, Lamego, Viseu, Vila Real, Lagos, Silves or Angra.
Natural beauty and beaches
The most popular beaches are those of the Algarve, which has stunning coastlines and landscapes of breathtaking natural beauty. It has been a major holiday destination for decades. The waters of the south coast are generally warmer and calmer than those of the west coast, which is distinctly Atlantic and does not benefit from the Gulf Stream. For surfing or just playing, there are great beaches all along the west coast, near Lisbon and Peniche. Don’t forget some of the almost deserted beaches on the Costa Vicentina in the Alentejo.
Si vous souhaitez passer vos vacances à la campagne, vous pouvez visiter Viana do Castelo, Chaves, Miranda do Douro, la vallée du Douro, Lamego, Tomar, Leiria, Castelo Branco, Guarda, Portalegre, Évora, Elvas or même Viseu.
And if you want to observe wildlife in its natural environment, the islands of Madeira and the Azores are also places worth seeing, not forgetting, of course, the Peneda-Gerês National Park, the Douro Valley and the Serra da Estrela Nature Park.
Portugal has a rich cultural tradition and became famous for its art during the country’s golden age in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. A number of world-class museums offer a glimpse of national and foreign riches, and not only in the form of paintings. The best of them are in Lisbon. The Museu da Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian has an impressive collection of sculptures, paintings, carpets and other Asian and European objects. The Museu Nacional dos Coches displays beautifully decorated state carriages and the Museu de Marinha, housed in a wing of the Jeronimus Monastery, is considered one of the most important maritime museums in the world. Sintra is home to the Museo de Brinquedo, a remarkable toy museum, and the Sintra Museum of Modern Art. For religious treasures, visit the museum in Evora, or head to Coimbra, where you’ll find another excellent art collection at the Museu Nacional Machado de Castro.