Portugal: Insider guide to 5 places to see is written by Paloma Fjord.
Portugal contains a bit of it all
Therefore, it can be difficult to know where to start and end. Here are five places to go, when traveling to Portugal.
The country is relatively unspoilt, and it is a perfect alternative to the more classic southern European destinations - both as a weekend trip and for a longer trip. It is easy and safe to travel around Portugal; the portugals speak excellent english and are always helpful, there is plenty to experience and the prices are really reasonable.
Experience the many facets of beautiful Portugal
Portuguese gastronomy is super delicious and varied. It is Mediterranean cuisine of the best kind and the desserts are very diverse and always worth trying. Portugal is a coffee country, and the locals drink especially strong strong espressos, a so-called bica. All this can be recommended to explore at the local restaurants, tascas, where prices are fortunately at a level where most can join.
If you are going to experience mainland Portugal, we can recommend you to fly to Porto instead Lisbon, as flights to Porto are often cheaper.
From Porto you can easily catch a bus to Lisbon. It takes about four hours. You can also rent a car in Porto, drive the small country thin and experience all the places in Portugal that this article recommends.
When you finally end up on the Algarve coast in the south, you might as well stay a bit, as the beaches and coastline are some of the most beautiful.
Lisbon: High on life in Portugal
The capital of Portugal Lisbon is in many ways a wonderful city to be a tourist in. It has also been hailed for the last three years, where it has won the 'Best City Destination' award of World Travel Awards. For the same reason, the city can feel a bit overrun, and it is therefore recommended that you search a little away from the classic tourist destinations.
We recommend you to experience Lisbon both on land, at sea and from the top.
On land, the capital must be experienced from the windows of a bumbling tram. Speaking of Lisbon, trams are absolutely inevitable. They are a really nice way to be transported up and down the cobbled hills and get an insight into city life from the first floor. Tram number 28 covers the most photogenic route as it runs through the steep, narrow streets of the Alfama neighborhood, as seen in the photo above.
At sea, Lisbon is to be experienced from the river Tagus. Here you can get on a fantastic boat trip that sails along the city and out to the historic district of Belém. The beautiful light that Lisbon is always adorned with comes into its own when you experience the city's colorful buildings from the water 'side on a sunny day.
From the top, Lisbon must be experienced from the many hilltops. It is said that Lisbon is built on seven hilltops. Therefore, there are also many beautiful viewpoints where there is always life and from which you can, for example, enjoy the amazing sunset.
Viewpoint is called 'miradouro' in Portuguese. I would recommend the viewpoints Miradouro Santa Catarina, Miradouro da Senhora do Monte and Miradouro Monte Agudo.
Small and lively Porto in northern Portugal
Porto is located in northern Portugal and is the country's second largest city. You could say that Porto is a bit like Lisbon's relaxed little brother: where Lisbon can feel a bit crowded, Porto is still less known and less hectic. However, the city is reminiscent of the capital, as it is also filled with steep hills, old houses with tiled facades and a large beautiful river; Douro.
The Douro River is a wonderful place to settle down. A glass of port or local 'green' wine is especially recommended - vinho verde - in the sun.
Everyone who visits Porto should stop by the world-famous bookstore Livraria Lello. The bookstore's old mahogany interior and bulging bookshelves are said to have inspired JK Rowling to the Hogwarts School's Castle Library known from Harry Potter.
If you visit Porto, do not deceive yourself to walk around and explore the winding streets with old historic buildings and the ubiquitous scent of grilled sardines.
In the city's oldest quarter, Ribeira, which is next to the river, you can really feel that Porto is an old and somewhat dilapidated city. However, it is aged with grace and charm, which is only underlined by the fact that the locals are known for being very smiling and helpful.
On top of Portugal in the Serra da Estrela
Serra da Estrela is the highest mountain area in Portugal and is located in the northwestern part of the country, and most of the year the mountain peaks are snow-capped, although the temperature is comfortable.
It is obvious to go on active hikes and explore the beautiful views on your own. If you only have a single day or two, you can also easily rent a car in Porto, for example. From there you can drive to Serra da Estrela and have the beautiful landscape and the snow-capped views served on a silver platter.
Serra da Estrela has a strong local culture and you must not deceive yourself to take in past the many small villages. Local ham and cheese, a particularly delicious bread, homemade slippers and soft wool socks are sold here. In addition, the area has a special dog breed that thrives in the cold and that you meet in all the villages. It is enormously sweet, plush and affectionate.
The rural Alentejo region - Portugal's cork and wine country
The Alentejo is the region south of Lisbon. It is known for having really beautiful flat natural areas adorned with cork trees, vineyards and a rich bird life. For example, you can not drive for many minutes without seeing a stork sitting in a tree by a large stork nest.
I would recommend that you rent a car in Lisbon and drive around the Alentejo. That way you can experience the small local villages, the beautiful landscapes and the beaches in the west.
On your road trip, do not deceive yourself to eat at the most local places you can find, as the gastronomy from Alentejo is recognized throughout Portugal as the very best.
In recent years, many foreigners have also settled in the Alentejo region. They have opened up many types of alternatives retreats and yoga places. If you're into that sort of thing, it's definitely worth seeking out, because there are plenty of them.
Every other year, a large alternative festival run by volunteers called the 'Boom Festival' is also held. Here goes electronic music, yoga and psychedelia up in a higher unit.
Alentejo's largest city, Sines, also holds a major annual world music festival, 'FMM Sines', every year in July. It's worth checking out.
Visit the scenic Algarve - Portugal's beach paradise
One of the other great places to visit is the south coast is a favorite tourist destination and it is rightly so. The entire coastal area, which includes both the Atlantic coast and the Mediterranean coast, is adorned with large golden cliffs and clear turquoise blue water.
The major cities in the area are called Lagos, Albufeira and Faro. However, I would say that all three are characterized by mass tourism and are not very exciting in themselves. The exciting thing is to find a hotel in a remote nature area and rent a car or scooter and drive around from there.
With a little GPS to help you can explore the area on your own and find fantastic, unspoilt beach areas. As the Algarve coast is not very big, you can easily drive around and experience a lot. Nature also invites to walks with stunning views and to explore the large caves in and under the beach cliffs.
It is recommended to visit the small town of Sagres at sunset. Sagres is said to be Europe's westernmost point. For the same reason, the outermost part of the city is surrounded by an old fort and a large lighthouse. Here you can clearly see how the crashing waves of the Atlantic and Mediterranean meet in the middle. With the deep orange glow of the sunset in the background, this sight is absolutely magical.
Good morning to Portugal!
What to see in Portugal? Sights and attractions
- The capital Lisbon
- The city of Porto with its winding streets
- Douro River
- The world-renowned bookstore Livraria Lello
- The Serra da Estrela mountain range
- The beautiful Alentejo region
- Algarve coastal area
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