Amazing Locations in Portugal
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Sun-splashed beaches, a fairytale castle, vineyards tumbling down the hillsides, picturesque Old World cities, islands that beckon the adventurer…it’s all there in Portugal. While no longer the quiet, hidden destination it was decades ago, Portugal is a place where it’s still easy to escape the crowds and enjoy many of the things that make travel rewarding. From the huge, dramatic cliffs that buffer the Atlantic in the south, to the soft rolling hills and vineyards of the Duoro Valley to the North, Portugal is an amazingly diverse country given its size. Visit the beaches of the Algarve but don’t miss historic Sagres or the historic university city of Coimbra. Stroll the cobbled alleyways of Lisbon and Porto, and be sure to visit fairytale-like Sintra, Lord Byron’s favorite.
photo: Turismo de Portugal


The Baixa, Lisbon’s downtown area, is still the traditional center of city life, and is where Lisbon’s oldest and traditional shops still exist.  In this heart of the city the streets that run parallel to Rua Augusta identify the various tradesmen and craftsmen, who have continued to do business there since the time of the Maritime Discoveries. You’ll find jeweler’s stores in the Rua do Ouro (Gold Street) and the Rua da Prata (Silver Street) and cloth and clothes stores in Rua dos Fanqueiros (Drapers’ Street). The Baixa was destroyed by the earthquake of 1755, but was later reconstructed by the king’s prime minister, the Marquês de Pombal, which is why it is more popularly known as the Baixa Pombalina. This visionary conceived a uniform and perpendicular architecture for the city center, making no distinction between the various social strata that lived here, a phenomenon that can still be seen today.


Sea, sun and sand mark Portugal’s famous Algarve. While the region’s beaches and picturesque villages have made it world renown, the region also has some world-renown golf courses. The area’s capital, Faro, remains nearly the same as it was in the 18th century, with its charming neighborhoods intact. A big draw for travelers here is also the region’s temperate climate which has little rainfall and an average 3,000 hours of sunlight each year. Lagos and Sagres on the east end of the Algarve date back to Roman times. But it was in the 15th century that Sagres achieved importance with the frequent presence of Prince Henry the Navigator during the first days of Atlantic exploration of the African coast as far as the Gulf of Guinea.


Sintra’s  Palácio da Pena is one of the best examples of 19th-century Romantic revivalism in Portugal.


Capital and gateway to the north of Portugal, Porto is both the city that provided a nation with a name and a fortified wine known worldwide as port. With its splendid geographical location on the mouth of the Douro River and an architectural heritage of exceptional quality, the historic center of Porto was declared a UNESCO World Heritage in 1996. The second largest city in the country; it’s a city known for its commercial enterprise.


Roughly halfway between Lisbon and Oporto in the north, Coimbra was once the capital of the Portugal. But it is most famous for the University of Coimbra, founded in 1290 and one of the oldest universities in Europe. It’s a city of medieval churches and a maze of medieval streets, some so picturesque you’ll think you’re in another time, which is likely the reason some consider it the most romantic city in Portugal.

Funchal, Madeira

Funchal is a modern city that pays attention to its traditions with preserved churches, inviting museums, and regionally crafted wine. It’s also a walkable city, with a pleasant harbor and a cathedral more than 500 years old. It’s perpetually sunny but when the sun goes down, it’s easy to find entertainment and excellent food in its nightclubs, restaurants, and casinos, or in the world-class hotels that dot the black cliffs that surround the city.


A unique and historic city, 2,000-yeara old Evora is filled with labyrinthine streets, squares flooded with light, Renaissance fountains, Moorish courtyards and Gothic doorways and turrets. The Romans created its elegant temple, battlements and baths, and the Moorish “Yeborah” influenced the urban network of the Mouraria district.
photo: Jose Gomes


The town of Óbidos, with its white-washed houses covered with bougainvilleas and honeysuckle, was captured from the Moors by the first king of Portugal, D. Afonso Henriques, in 1148. D. Dinis later offered it to his wife, Saint Queen Isabel. From then until 1883, the town of Óbidos and the surrounding land was always the property of the queens of Portugal.
About midway between Boston and mainland Portugal sit the Azores, a collection of nine beautiful islands scattered over several hundred nautical miles. The closest point to Europe from the United States, the Azores is an autonomous region of Portugal, and just four hours by plane from Boston. With their wild and green landscapes, the islands are the perfect spot for the adventurer. Water sports, yachtingdiving and whale watching are popular, the latter from Vila Franca do Campo, the largest town on the islands, which has prospered from the island’s orange and pineapple plantations. Equally popular is horseback riding, and cycling.  


For Portuguese people, Guimarães has a special value, for it was in a field close to the walls of its castle that Afonso Henriques, the first King of Portugal, fought the Battle of São Mamede, on June 24,1128. By emerging victorious from this struggle against the army of Teresa, his mother and the daughter of Alfonso VI of León and Castile, Afonso Henriques began the process that would lead to the foundation of the kingdom of Portugal, of which he was to become the first king. In addition to a medieval castle, built on the site of the first fort of the 10th century, the city also encompasses the Ducal Palace, now both a palace and a museum, originally built in the 15th century. In the center of the town is Rua de Santa Maria, a narrow medieval street, which is considered by art historians to be the most beautiful in the city.