Portugal, one of the oldest countries in Europe, is located in the southwest of the Iberian Peninsula lying between Spain in the north and east, and the Atlantic Ocean in the south and west. It is a fascinating country with a proud history that can be felt all throughout the country - from its capital, down to each tiny, picture-perfect village. The Portuguese natural heritage is extremely rich and diverse with the highest mountain range being the Serra da Estrela, in central Portugal. Imposing cliffs and private beaches line the Portuguese coast, a dazzling stage for all manner of outdoor adventure. Visitors can ride horses, surf waves, paddle rivers, dive shipwrecks, hike hills and explore Moorish castles and Roman ruins between rounds of golf.
Anyone can discover the majestic Monastery of Santa Maria de Alcobaça, also known as Royal Abbey of Santa Maria de Alcobaça or more simply as Alcobaça Monastery. National Monument since 1910, it is classified as World Heritage by UNESCO. This is the first Gothic architecture in Portugal: a model that was not immediately followed and it was not reproduced until much later.
In the transepts are the sumptuous, richly carved tombs of King Pedro I and his beloved Inês de Castro, a testimony to one of Portugal's great love stories (see our Coimbra page for the story of their tragic romance). In the transept chapels are 17th century painted terracotta figures of monks and a fine 17th century ceramic sculpture of the death of St. Bernard.
The central apse of the Cripta shows Christ dressed with a white tunic and a golden mantle. On the sides two angels dressed with byzantine
clothes. Stairs from the Cripta take you to a terrace in front of the main chapel.
The main chapel is constituted on environment with shaped as a cross and other spaces with vault to barrel. The vaults shaped as a cross shows a central frame where probably there was a figure of Jesus.
The Abbey was not only a religious centre but also a productive hub: out of the close links between the Abbey and the surrounding countryside so
rich in olive groves, fruit trees and crops, there arose a great deal of agricultural activity, and today we can see the remains of two ancient underground olive oil mills and wells for
collecting the oil.
The Temple of Diana is a Roman temple located right in the heart of the historic city of Évora, Portugal. Known in Portugal as the Templo de Diana. In ancient Rome, Diana was the goddess of the moon, the hunt and chastity and the temple was dedicated to her upon its construction.
It is believed that there would have been other similar temples built in the city around the same time, however if this is the case they have not survived. The Temple of Diana is located right in Évora’s central square at the highest point of the city and is surrounded by a number of other ecclesiastical buildings that were associated with the Inquisition in Portugal during the middle ages.
These include the Sé Cathedral, the Palace of the Inquisitor, the Court of the Inquisition, the Palace of the Dukes of Cadaval and the Lois Church and Convent.
The Ponte de Dom Luis I is the most famous of the several bridges that span the Duoro River. Built in 1886, it was designed by Téophile Seyrig, an engineer who worked with Gustave Eiffel. The massive iron bridge has both an upper and lower deck, both of which carried road traffic until 2003 when the top span was converted to accommodate a light rail system.
A pedestrian walkway on the upper deck offers spectacular views as well as a direct walking route to the port wine lodges across the river in Vila Nova de Gaia.
The nearby attraction around the Dom Luis I Bridge will give us a contemporary look that provide the timeless experience. The list of some but not limited, such as the art metro, the expanded airport, and the renovated World Heritage Centre. Wine would be one of the gems of this city and countries as a whole golden place.
Porto is Portugal's second largest city and was nominated Best European Destination in 2014. Every year the city attracts thousands of tourists eager to discover the ancient downtown, the typical riverside with colourfully painted houses, to get lost in century old streets, to enjoy the Portuguese cuisine and, of course, to taste wine. You need to go a specific winery or vineyard in the Douro Valley to taste the best Portuguese wines.
At Caves Ferreira you travel back to the origins of the Portuguese tradition. In this cellar you will learn history of Port wine of the Douro region and discover one of its most iconic figures - Dona Antónia Adelaide Ferreira.
The Croft Cellar is located just few clicks away from the waterfront Gaia and always open. This cellar offers most genuine and traditional tours to the Port wine where you can taste the best Portuguese wines. You can also enjoy other experiences such blind tastings and chocolate pairings.
Located in Vila Nova de Gaia near the waterfront. In Caves Offley you will learn the fascinating story of the Baron of Forrester and its role in the Port wine industry. In this guided tour through the cellar, there will be wine Port tastings and for small groups of taste experts there is also available an intimate visit with a wider selection of Port Wine tastings.
The Clerics Tower, or Torre dos Clerigos, is one of the most sought-after sightseeing destinations in Porto, Portugal. The Torre dos Clerigos provides the perfect marvel to one of Porto’s most attractive buildings which is constructed in beautiful Baroque style.
Built for the Brotherhood of the Clerigos, it was commissioned from the Italian architect and painter, Nicolau Nasoni. The Tower is very much a landmark in Porto, visible as it is high above the rooftops from many a vantage point throughout the city.
It is an impressive 76 metres tall and for many years was used as a reference tool for the many boats that entered the waters of the Douro on trading routes between Portugal and other areas of the country and indeed the world.
The store has an excellent neo-gothic façade, where you can see two figures painted by José Bielman, representing the Science and the Art. This facade is only surpassed by its stunning interior, designed by Xavier Esteves.
Step inside, and you have a wonderland of stunning design, intricate decoration and volumes of books. From floor to ceiling ornate painted plaster provides a rich texture. Pillars are decorated with bronze bas-reliefs of Portuguese literature figures. Glass enclosed bookcases arch at the top.
The policy is very strict concerning photography inside the library, and for a reason: this is a private space which is full of people all the time, but only few buying a book. However, you can still enter for free and enjoy the beauty of the building and there are great postcards that you can buy and take home to complete your photo album.
The Palácio da Bolsa (Stock Exchange) is one of the most important historic monuments in Porto and one of the sights that must definitely be on the list of all visitors to the city. The Palacio da Bolsa is found right next to the Igreja de Sao Francisco, the old Franciscan church that was once linked to the St Francis Convent before the latter’s destruction by fire in the early 19th century.
The Tribunal Room, Assembly Room and Golden Room each showcase lavish artworks and furniture along with sculptures are worth watching design!
Most of the palace was complete by 1850, but the interior was only finished in 1910 and involved several different artists. This creates a melange of artistic and architectural styles and influences. And as you progress from one room to the next you’ll be able to notice these significant differences and how they contribute to the overall uniqueness of the building.
Furthermore, the floor is made from the highest quality woods such as mahogany, rosewood and maple, as is most of the building. It is also equally as patterned and detailed as the walls.
The Casa da Música is situated on a travertine plaza, between the city's historic quarter and a working-class neighbourhood, adjacent to the Rotunda da Boavista. Daringly original building that is sure to catch anyone’s attention: the Casa da Música or “House of Music”.
The twelve storey irregular shaped building was designed by the distinguished Dutch architect and urbanist Rem Koolhaas. Top international orchestras have already played here, and there is also a resident company. On the top floor is one of the most sophisticated restaurants in the city.
The annual programme is structured around the season of the resident groups (Symphony Orchestra, Remix Ensemble, Baroque Orchestra and Choir), the Piano and Jazz Series, the Theme Blocks and Educational Activities, all under the orientation of a Theme Country, defined for each calendar year.
This museum showcases some of the most cutting-edge contemporary art of its time from all over the world. There is an impressive permanent collection of paintings and sculptures which sits alongside a regular calendar of temporary exhibitions by some of the biggest names in contemporary art.
This is a sight that should not be missed when visiting Porto, and be sure to also pass by the museum shop for some of the best of Portuguese design. In 1986 the government decided to create a new museum of contemporary art but rather than a standalone gallery, such as the Baltic in Gateshead, it wanted more than art and so bought one of Portugal's finest estates. At the centre of the estate is a 1930s art deco mansion.
The surrounding 18 hectares of land includes an English Victorian style garden and a rare art deco garden in keeping with the house. The estate was handed over to the Serralves Foundation, which receives half of its funding from the state and the rest from private trusts and corporations.
The foundation decided to restore the art deco house and use it for temporary exhibitions of international and Portuguese art as well show a new and growing permanent collection. A small farm on the estate has been turned into an education centre for children, teaching them about farm animals and letting them grow flowers and vegetables. The grounds of the estate needed restoration as well.
The Knights Templar Region contains some of the most intact and important Knights Templar sites in the world. The castle was part of the defence system created by the Templar Knights to secure the border of the Christian Kingdom against the Moors and remained a major stronghold for nearly two centuries during the Middle Ages.
The concept of a keep was introduced to Portugal by the Templar Knights as a central tower with administrative and residential functions, and the example at Tomar is one of the oldest and finest in the country. Within the outer walls of the castle lie the remains of the residents’ dwellings that were located within the protective city boundaries. The rounded towers proved more resistant to attacks than the traditional square towered format.
Inside its walls, visitors will find the Convent of Christ, a combination of a fortified citadel and a monastery. It was built in 1160 under the orders of Gualdim Pais, the fourth Grand Master of the Knights Templar in Portugal.
The barren headland marks the south westernmost point of continental Europe. Named after the body of St. Vincent was taken here to protect it from the invading Moors, it became a place of pilgrimage for centuries.
When you depart for Sagres you notice how barren the cliffs are and how crystal blue the water is. However the most striking scenery is to be had at the end of the road. There exists the great views of the cliff and the little lighthouse with its museum. We found it somewhat surprising that none of the area had any railings at all protecting folks from the steep and slippery cliffs.
The tower consists of a six-sided base with Moorish style turrets at each corner. A battery of canons were placed here. The cross-vaulted basement was later used as a prison. The terrace above the basement is decorated with a statue of Mary and child that is meant to protect seafarers.
For a fortress, the tower has a surprisingly rich exterior with beautiful sculpted balconies and fine limestone ornaments, a testament to the wealth Portugal experienced during the Manueline era.
The upper floors of the tower contained private residences along with armory. Interestingly the royal residences on the second floor, featuring a beautiful structure with sculpted columns and several balconies with intricate carvings.
Fatima was then a small rural village in a rocky region whose main product was olive oil. There are no historical or legendary accounts of the village or surrounding area having any religious importance in earlier times. It is located in west central Portugal, in the region of Leiria and approximately 110 kilometres north of Lisbon, the small town of Fatima is one of the most visited Marian shrines in the world today.
During most of the year, the shrine of Fatima is a quiet and peaceful place, visited by locals and the few hundred pilgrims arriving each day from beyond the local area.
Commemorating the day of the first apparition on May 13 to the day of the final apparition Oct 13 millions of pilgrims visit to the basilica. During these times there is an atmosphere of extremely passionate religious devotion, with hundreds of pilgrims crawling toward the shrine on their knees, thousands making vows, and much praying and weeping. In addition to the basilica and its plaza, pilgrims will visit the Chapel of the Apparitions.
A friar ordered the construction of a chapel/sanctuary devoted to Our Lady of Monserrate (thus the name of the Palace and Park) on the place where the grave of the arab knight was. The Monserrate Palace is located some four kilometres outside Sintra old town and is well worth adding to the itinerary of any visitor to this beautiful and unique area.
Monserrate Park is a masterpiece of landscaping and botanical engineering and is one of the most romantic exquisite green areas that any visitor to Portugal can hope to enjoy. The park is cleverly designed to embrace the unique microclimates that are found within the Sintra mountain region to create unmatched vistas and make a home for over 3,000 exotic species that thrive within the park’s many individual environments.
Stepping into the palace you’re greeted with a lovely fountain in the centre of the building, and on either side there are two corridors with beautifully crafted pillars and arches. These two corridors seem to be a focal point for photographers, so many Monserrate photos I had seen were taken here and after being there in person I can see why.
Pena National Palace can be seen from as far as Lisbon on a clear day. Pena’s dramatic architecture has made enough to be placed it on the UNESCO World Heritage sites list and made it one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal. Pena was a colourful palace, the hilltop was home to a secluded chapel called Our Lady of Pena.
The architecture of the Pena Palace, is wildly over-the-top. It’s a mix of Neo-Gothic, Neo-Manueline, Islamic and Neo-Renaissance styles.
Approaching the castle, you are immediately struck by the vivid colors on all the turrets and differentiation of all the terraces. From the terraces you can view the clock tower and the sundial which was setup to trigger a cannon to fire at noon daily.
The walk around the terraces is the highlight of this Palace. From the walkways, you will have beautiful views of the valley below and the Moorish Castle.
Stay in a wine hotel in the middle of the vineyards and wake up every morning to the beautiful landscapes of the Douro Valley. The Douro valley has more than just the perfect climate and soil for cultivating grapes. The undulating curves of its hillsides create a beautiful and dramatic landscape which changes with the seasons.
The endless rows of terraced grape vines are nothing more than dark gnarly stumps during the winter but come April, the leaves gradually transform the hills until they are covered with green stripes.
Boat trips can last from an hour to two or more days with or without meals and vineyard visits. Sailing and canoeing enthusiasts can arrange to get even closer to the water. If you can spend some hundreds euro you can see aerial view from helicopter.