Portugal - Regions, Cities, Culture and Lifestyle
Portugal has a rich, unique culture, lively cities and beautiful countryside. The country offers outstanding landscape diversity, due to its North-South disposition along the western shore of the Iberian peninsula. You can travel in a single day from green mountains in the North, covered with vines and all varieties of trees to rocky mountains, with spectacular slopes and falls in the Centre, to a near-desert landscape in the Alentejo region and finally to the glamorous beach holidays destination Algarve.
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A historic region that is considered the birthplace of the nation. Includes the second largest city, Porto.
|North Central Portugal|
|South Central Portugal
The capital, Lisbon, Estremadura and the Upper Alentejo.
The beaches and sun of the Algarve and the laid-back pace of the Lower Alentejo.
Cities & Select Destinations
- Albufeira - Main tourist destination in the Algarve.
- Aveiro - the "Venice" of Portugal.
- Braga - city of Archbishops.
- Coimbra - home of the ninth oldest university in the world.
- Évora - "Museum City", Alentejo regional capital.
- Faro - The administrative centre of the Algarve.
- Fátima - Pilgrimage destination.
- Funchal - the capital of Madeira.
- Guimarães - the founding place of the nation.
- Lisbon - national capital, city of the seven hills.
- Porto - "Unvanquished City", along the river Douro and the Atlantic Ocean.
- Viana do Castelo - Famous for the Nossa Senhora da Agonia Festival.
- Praia D'El Rey
- Peneda-Gerês National Park
- Douro & Coa - river valleys
- Cabo da Roca - the westernmost point of mainland Portugal and European continent, near Cascais
- Serra da Estrela
- Coa Valley a registered World Heritage Site
- Óbidos - Roman settlement, located on a hill top
If you are into visiting beautiful monuments and enjoy remarkable views, then Lisbon, Sintra, and Porto are the top three places, and all of them are well worth a visit. But don't overlook Viana do Castelo, Braga, Guimarães, Coimbra, Tomar, Aveiro, Amarante, Bragança, Chaves, Lamego, Viseu, Vila Real, Lagos, Silves, Évora, Angra as they also have wonderful monuments and places of interest. Although in Portugal most of the monuments in existence are somewhat neglected from a tourist point of view, one can easily find very old romanic churches, some with almost 900 years and still quite unchanged from that time. Old monasteries like Alcobaça or luxurious palaces like Mafra (one of the biggest palaces in Europe) or Queluz are not to be missed either. In most of these places you will have no queues.
The most popular beaches are in the Algarve, which has stunning coastlines and gobs of natural beauty. The water along the southern coast tends to be warmer and calmer than the water along the west coast, which is definitely Atlantic and doesn't benefit of the Gulf Stream. For surfing, or just playing in the surf there are great beaches all along the west coast, near Lisbon and Peniche. Don't forget also some of the almost deserted beaches along the Costa Vicentina, in Alentejo.
If you want to spend your holidays in the countryside, you might want to visit Viana do Castelo, Chaves, Miranda do Douro, Douro Valley, Lamego, Tomar, Leiria, Castelo Branco, Guarda, Portalegre, Évora, Elvas or even Viseu.
And even if you wish to observe wild life in its natural state, Madeira and Azores Islands are places to remember, not forgetting of course the Natural Reserve of Peneda-Gerês, the Douro Valley and Serra da Estrela.
There are several Fairs, specially in the Summer months, particularly in Northern Portugal. During the summer, music festivals are also very common. In the north of the country two of the oldest festivals such as Paredes de Coura and Vilar de Mouros. The regions chosen for the festivals are most of the time surrounded by beautiful landscapes and pleasant villages. In the south, the most famous one is Festival do Sudoeste, in the west part of the south cost with a summer landscape and never ending beaches.
Porto is famous for the eponymous port wine, a fortified wine (20%) made by adding brandy to the wine before fermentation is complete. According to EU laws, port wine can only be named as such if the grapes are grown in the Douro valley, and the wine is brewed in Porto. The end product is strong, sweet, complex in taste and if properly stored will last 40 years or more.
There are many, many grades of port, but the basic varieties are:
- Vintage, the real deal, kept in the bottle for 5-15 years, can be very expensive for good years. It is, nevertheless, worth it.
- Late-Bottled Vintage (LBV), simulated vintage kept in barrel longer, ready to drink. Nice if you are on a budget.
- Tawny, aged for 10-40 years before bottling, which distinguishes itself by a more brownish red color and a slightly smoother bouquet and flavour. As with any wine, the older it gets, the more rounded and refined it will be.
- Ruby, the youngest and cheapest, with a deep red "ruby" color.
- White port is a not-so-well-known variety, and it is a shame. You will find a sweet and a dry varietal, the latter of which mixes well with tonic water and should be served chilled (if drunk alone) or with lots of ice (with tonic), commonly used as an aperitif.
- Another good choice is the ubiquitous vinho verde (green wine), which is made mostly in the region to the north of Porto (the Minho.) It's a light, dry and refreshing wine (approx. 9% -9.5% in volume), made from region specific grapes with relatively low sugar content. Mostly white, and sometimes slightly sparkling. Very nice, and very affordable.