Portugal is the best country for hedonists. Wandering through the cozy streets of its cities, you can feel, for a moment, like being in Spain or Southern France. With one major exception, there is almost no ubiquitous tourist format "to see more in a shorter time"; rather, this place is for wealthy travelers who prefer an exclusive holiday. Locals value tradition, honor the rich historical heritage of Portugal, know how to enjoy life and are not stingy about comfort, creating it for themselves and for their guests. Breathing in the smell of oranges and eucalyptus, walking along the waterfront, enjoying wine and sad songs of Fado in picturesque cafes, you can get to know the real Europe — the one that is too proud and beautiful to be in the tourist race.
The capital of Portugal, Lisbon, which became the center of the country in the 13th century, was destroyed by an earthquake five centuries later, but in a short time, revived to greatness. The best attraction is St. George's Castle, a formidable fortress on a hill that once belonged to a Moorish emir and later to the Portuguese kings. The Lisbon Cathedral, which has survived the earthquake and shows traces of Rococo, Baroque, Gothic, and Neoclassical architecture, is also a survivor. There are beaches in the vicinity of the capital — a succession of fashionable resorts called the Lisbon Riviera.
But the best reason to come here is the long walks through the streets of Lisbon. You can spend a whole day walking up and down the steep streets, often turning into stairs, admiring the divine azulejos (tiles on the walls of houses), photographing the flower-potted windows, tiny balconies, and picturesque laundry hanging on them, listening to the sounds of the Fado romances in the city and the crazy whisper of the Portuguese language, which is so beautiful.
Close to Lisbon is the tiny town of Mafra, with a population of just over ten thousand, but this is where the most magnificent and largest palace in Portugal is located, created to please João V, who, by all means, wanted to emulate the Spanish royal residence. Mafra Palace is a whole complex of about forty thousand square meters in area, created as a single architectural ensemble, including a monastery with a magnificent basilica. Around this castle, as it should be, there is a luxurious park, on eight square kilometers of which a huge number of wild animals used to live.
The second most visited city is Porto, which has a history dating back to the 4th century. Here are both the fortress-like cathedral and the impressively sized Church of São Francisco. Tired of being monumental, head to the Ribeira neighborhood, with its colorful little houses that overlap each other to create a charming atmosphere. After the tour, it is time to relax on any of the town's sandy or fine beaches.
Sintra, which has long been the seat of the rulers of Portugal, is one of the most beautiful cities. Its architecture could not fail to make the UNESCO list of cultural heritage. It is truly a museum city, where every house, every fountain, every stone in the cobbled streets is a priceless exhibit. There are several medieval castles standing on impregnable hills. Among them is the chic Palacio de Pena, where the royal family of Portugal spent the summer months. It is surrounded by a huge castle park and has an unusual architectural and sculptural design. The nearby centuries-old forests add to the charm of this ancient city.
Fifty km north of Porto is Braga, the center of Portuguese Catholicism and home to the archbishop. More than 30 churches have earned the nickname "Portugal's Rome" for the city and made it one of Portugal's major religious centers. The history of Bracara Augusta, as it was once called, goes back to the Romans, who have left many traces in the region. There is the oldest cathedral in the country, the Cathedral of Braga, built in 1070, serves as the final resting place of Henry and Teresa, parents of Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal.
But the best attraction is the sanctuary of Bon Jesús do Monte, "looking out over the city through a straw" at the top of the hill. It is one of the most visited religious sites in Portugal, second only to the Shrine of Fatima. Its Baroque staircase, with more than 500 steps, and adorned with many themed fountains, provides access to a neoclassical building that delights those who dare to climb up. You can also take the funicular, located right at the steps.
Évora is the perfect place to sample the gastronomic delights of its cheeses, desserts, and wines. The surrounding countryside offers beautifully preserved neolithic architecture, while the city itself holds the remains of a Roman temple and medieval cathedrals. It is the best place to experience the true Portugal.
The westernmost point of Europe Cabo da Roca is located in Portugal.
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001, Guimarães is a city of incomparable historical importance and continues to be modern, rapidly developing, and renewing itself. The character of this historic city, with its impressive castle, squares, and old streets, is inextricably linked to the youthful energy that permeates the city and contributes to its identity and style. It is believed that Portugal was born here in the city of Guimarães!
A walk through the streets of Guimarães is one of the best ways to get to know the city. The Largo da Oliveira in the historic center of the city brings together several interesting sights, such as the Church of Nossa Senhora da Oliveira and Paços do Concelho (today it houses the Museum of Primitive Modern Art). You can also see the beautiful Padrão do Salado, a Gothic monument built during the reign of D. Afonso IV in honor of the Battle of Salado in 1340. Santa Maria Street is one of the oldest in the city, connecting the castle area with the Santa Clara Monastery (today Guimarães Town Hall).
Obidos is a small and very cozy town; snow-white villas, paved walkways, and bright flower beds look like they came straight out of a beautiful postcard. If you find a place here, and the sights are worth it, just a medieval castle, where if you want — and enough thickness of the purse — you can even spend the night. Setúbal is famed for its natural scenery and ancient architecture, with fortresses and cathedrals set against a backdrop of mountains that are a sight to behold. The historic center of the city is entirely within the confines of the main local landmark: Obidos Castle. It was built between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries and was of great strategic and military importance to Portugal, then a developing country. The long walls surrounding the village have a perimeter of nearly one mile (1.5 km) and can be viewed on foot, allowing visitors to enjoy a beautiful view of the village as well as the surrounding landscape. Other attractions include the castle towers, the old gate, and the cobblestone streets with their usual design and traditional white houses.
Serra da Estrela
Serra da Estrela is Portugal's highest continental point and one of the favorite destinations for skiing enthusiasts. Serra da Estrela is an idyllic place, well suited to escaping the stress and fully immersing yourself in communion with nature. It is the only place in Portugal where you can go skiing, snowboarding, and motor skiing, and there is an artificial snow track for skiing in all seasons. Therapeutic spas and comfortable mountain hotels and hostels with relaxing spa treatments are ideal for a romantic getaway for two, an adventurous weekend with friends, or a family winter vacation. The possibilities are enormous.
In summer, you have to put on your boots and explore the nearly 100,000 hectares of the nature park with more than 300 kilometers of trails. The beauty of the Serra is indescribable and full of "must-see" places, such as the glacial valleys of Loriga and Manteigas, the Covan d'Amea, the Poso do Inferno, and the incipient Zezéri and Mondego, formerly the largest rivers that originate in Portugal. It is also necessary to follow the route of the 25 lagoons, and for the most prepared and daring, dive into the beauty of Vale das Éguas and discover the mysterious White Pebbles in the Golden Rocks, a beautiful place of rose quartz.
Beaches in Portugal
In Portugal, all beaches are municipal. For two sunbeds and an umbrella, you will have to pay at least 8 EUR per day. However, wealthy tourists (and others in the country who almost never go) are not afraid of this. On the Lisbon Riviera and the Algarve, with fine white sand, Madeira beaches are pebbly. Flags warn about the state of the ocean: the red — the sea is rough, and swimming is strictly forbidden; yellow — you must be very careful; green — safe. The season officially starts on June 15 and runs until September 15.
The closest beach to Lisbon is in the town of Carcavelos, which never stops day or night. The coast is wide and sandy and has a gently sloping entrance to the water while the sun shines. It's the best spot for surfing, picnics, and leisurely meandering between bars. At night, Carcavelos becomes a trendy party spot, making the nightclubbing and sandy beach parties all the rage until dawn. The most famous sporting beach of Portugal is Guincho in Cascais, not far from the capital. There are always impressive waves and wind here, so surfers, windsurfers, and kite surfers are magnetically attracted to the area. The coastline is wide, there are cafes and picnic grounds nearby. Tourists, who are looking for a more relaxed holiday, can choose the nearby Torre or Riberia.
The coastline of the south of Portugal is dotted with beaches. One of the most popular resorts in the Algarve is Lagos. Here are the rocky tunnels, secluded corners for nudists, and equipped areas for recreation. One of the oldest nudist beaches is nearby, on the island of Tavira, with its serene atmosphere, clear waters, and the eloquent title of "Nude Beach". For seclusion, the tiny island of Porto Santo, for example, has a 9-kilometer-long stretch of stunning sandy beaches. Sunbathing and swimming are possible not only on the ocean: in the town of Macedo de Cavaleiros, a recreation area is equipped with a reservoir at Albufeira do Azibu. The water is clean, the sand is snow-white, the beauty of the sunsets is breathtaking, and the safety is guaranteed by the Blue Flag.
Diving in Portugal
Divers love Portugal for the best beauty of the underwater world, excellent visibility at different depths, mild climate and developed infrastructure, so even the cold ocean water is not an obstacle. The most popular place for diving is Madeira. In magnificent scenery, among the rocks, reefs, underwater caves and shipwrecks, inhabit a variety of fish and shellfish.
The Azores islands are more often visited by professionals; diving here is not easy, but exciting. Manta and whale sharks can be found off Santa Maria; blue sharks, whales, and dolphins off Pico and Faisla; and giant fish of all stripes off Corvo. The Berlengas Archipelago is suitable for divers of all levels: sea bream and perch, caves and shipwrecks can be viewed here. Sesimbra with squid, octopus and sea eels is popular with beginners. Plenty of schooling is available in the Algarve, and the most interesting things to see are wrecks from the Second World War, steep cliffs, uncanny caves, crabs, octopuses, and other creatures.
Manuelino architecture in Portugal
Architecture in Portugal is unique in that, around the middle of the 15th century, the Manueline style began to be built here. It was named in honor of the Portuguese monarch, Manuel I, and is a mixture of several architectural trends — primarily Gothic and Moorish, with a borrowing of exotic motifs. "Manuelino" is also called the Portuguese Renaissance because its heyday coincides with the rising kingdom power. Buildings in this style can be seen exclusively in Portugal and nowhere else in the world. They include the Tower of St. Vincent in Belem, the Monastery of Batalha, the Templar Monastery in Toméra, the Cathedral of Lisbon, and the royal residence of Sintra.
Where to taste Portuguese cuisine
Portuguese cuisine offers hearty and varied meat, fish, and vegetable dishes, but fish cooking is its mainstay. Chefs in the country know more than 300 ways to prepare cod. They know how to cook a variety of dishes with sardines, mackerel, perch, and trout. We recommend tasting "cataplana," a hearty layered dish of meat, fish, or seafood served right in the pan. The most famous first is the green soup, "caldo verde", made of cabbage, onions, potatoes, and sausage. Meat-eaters will be fond of "cozida a portuguesa" (assortment), the secret of which is a precise sequence of adding various kinds of meat during cooking) and pork Alentejo stewed with shrimp or cockleshells. Local fast food is francesinha sandwiches: toasts with sausage, ham, and meat (at the same time!), topped with sauce and melted cheese. The best dessert is the pâtéis, deliciously sprinkled with cinnamon and powdered sugar.
The traditional lunchtime is from 12:00 to 15:00. The small, cheap restaurants are as good as the expensive ones.
Wines of Portugal are world famous for their exquisite taste. The country produces a huge number of red, white, and "green" wines, reminiscent of champagne. The latter deserve their name not because of their color, but because of their age. These are the young dry wines produced in the northern province of Minho. This exquisite drink with light acidity and bubbles perfectly quenches thirst and is suitable for many dishes. And the port is even a calling card of Portugal: white is drunk as an aperitif, and red for dessert.
The best time to visit Portugal
Portugal has a subtropical Mediterranean climate, mild without extremes of temperature. In the north, a maritime climate prevails because of the Gulf Stream. Summers are dry and sunny, but not hot (average temperature of about +20, in the mountains — about +18), and winter is cool (from +4 ° to +10) and rainy. In the south of the country, it is warm and dry. The average temperature in January is +5, July +20, and August +27. In the summer, the water can reach +20.
The best way to get acquainted with Portugal is from May to October. The weather at this time is almost always warm and sunny; rain is a rarity, and you'll feel comfortable on the beach and on foot. But be careful about swimming: because of the ocean currents, the water on the Portuguese coast is cool. Swimming is better in the south of Lisbon, where the Atlantic is warmer by 2-3, and the difference is noticeable. Most vacationers prefer to sunbathe and enjoy the scenery north of the capital. Spring is the best time for surfing, but in winter it's rainy, although the sun often returns to the south.
The best way to visit Portugal is from May to October.