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Portugal Travel Guide
Centuries ago, Poland was a
pioneer in exploring the entire world. Until recently though, it wasn’t
very successful in the tourism industry. Besides Lisbon, Algarve and
the Madeira Island, Portugal was undiscovered by most of the visitors.
Today Portugal is flourishing as a pure gem in the European tourism.
Its rich and troubled history, created by the discoveries in the 15th
and 16th centuries and the leadership of the new State from
1932 to 1974, is an important part of the present country.
Portugal has enough places
enlisted as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO to attract every visitor’s
attention, for a longer period of time. The country has a surprising
diversity, an ideal climate and hospitable inhabitants, not to mention
the postal card views of the craggy coastline, the primordial beaches
and the fishermen, the cobblestone streets, the whitewashed houses and
the fairytale castles.
Portugal offers unlimited
from sophisticated parties in the seaside resorts, to medieval centers
like Lisbon, Porto, Braga or Coimbra. To explore the more remote places
spend a night in a romantic lodge, a monastery or a manor located in
a fascinating landscape.
Concerning the sports, Portugal
is a great destination for golf, tennis, fishing, horseback riding,
windsurfing and water skiing. Other unforgettable experiences include
Fado, Portugal’s soul music, the countryside festivities, with
old folkloric traditions, wine tasting and delicious fish dishes.
Portugal Tourist Attractions
- Wander on the capital city’s,
Lisbon, hills to admire the city and the river Tagus’ estuary. Climb
the highest of the 12th hills and visit the St George Castle,
from the 12th century.
- Watch the sharks in the
oceanarium in Europe, have an overview of the Tagus River, from the
gondola, and visit the Knowledge Pavilion in the Nations Park, 5km east
- Explore Lisbon’s suburb,
Belem, the place where Vasco da Gama left in the 15th and
16th centuries. Attractions that you should not miss are
Torre de Belem and the Hieronymus Monastery, both enlisted as UNESCO
World Heritage Sites, as well as the new Berardo collection of modern
- Visit Sintra, an alpine city
filled with palaces, 25km away from Lisbon. Don’t miss the former
summer residence of the Portuguese royal family and the beautiful
- From Sintra head west, to
the lighthouse in Cabo da Roca, and watch they waves that crush into
the underneath rocks, in the westernmost place in Europe.
- Discover Evora, a virtual
museum and a city that reached its golden age in the 15th
century, when it became the Portuguese kings’ residence. Its monuments
have had a profound influence on the Gothic and Manueline Portuguese
- Visit the St Mary Monastery,
enlisted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which was constructed in
Joao I memory, over Castile in 1385. Visit also the St Mary d’Alcobaca
Monastery, founded by the king Alphonso I in the 12th
- Explore the medieval history
in the Templar Knights’ Castle in Tomar. The monastery Christ’s
Order from the heart of the castle is one of the main artistic and
structures in Portugal.
- Visit the historical center
of the city Porto, with the Stock Market Palace, the Romanesque-Gothic
cathedral, the Romanesque church Cedofeita, the Baroque tower Clerigos
and Cais de Ribeira, located on the shores.
- Visit Porto and Gaia to taste
the best Porto wine. The region Alto Douro is a place enlisted as a
UNESCO World Heritage Site, due to the centuries of winegrowing which
produces a cultural landscape of an unequalled beauty.
- In the north-east you will
find the medieval capital city of Portugal, Guimaraes, an exceptional
example of a medieval town that turned into a modern city, with a
castle and the former palace of the dukes in Braganca.
- Admire a series of stone
sculptures from the late Paleolithic period (22.000 – 10.000 BC) in
the archeological park Coa Valley, which represents the most impressive
primitive artistic expression of this kind in the entire world.
- Admire the Portuguese culture
in the lovely city of Coimbra, where you will find the oldest
in Europe, the Romanesque cathedral Se Velha, the Jesuit cathedral Se
Nova and the Gothic church where the first king of Portugal rests, Santa
- Discover the oldest city
in the Algarve region. Built on the banks of Gilhao River, the scenic
settlement Tavira can brag with a city hall with arcades, a Roman bridge
with seven arcades, old fortifications and a beach.
- Enjoy the beaches and waters
in Portugal – scuba diving and snorkeling, windsurfing, water skiing,
- Absorb the spiritual
in Fatima, an important pilgrimage center since 1917, when the Virgin
Mary showed up in front of a group of children. Admire the torch
that takes places on May 13th and October 13th.
Go hiking, alpinism or
in Peneda-Geres, the only national park in Portugal. Take part in a
car or motorcycle race on the famous Estoril race track, located in
a short distance from Lisbon, on the Atlantic coast.
The fish is the main ingredient
in the Portuguese diet, and the cod is the most popular one. The fish
is being prepared after so many recipes that it is said you can cook
it in a different way in each day, during a year. Other sea specialties
that are often consumed are the salmon, sardine, eel, octopus, squid,
barbell, merluccius, brill and bass. Practically every Portuguese meal
contains a soup. The most popular one is the green soup (caldo verde),
made out of Gaelic cabbage (couve galega), sausages, potatoes and olive
oil. Another popular soup is the sopa alentejana, with bread and garlic.
Another traditional dish is called caldeirada, a stew made of several
types of fish, onions and tomatoes. The most usual dessert is the rice
pudding (arroz doce) with a cinnamon flavor.
It is believed that the
a Celtic tribe, were the first inhabitants of Portugal. The region was
conquered by the Roman Empire in 140 BC. Towards the Roman Empire’s
fall, the Visigoths invaded the entire Iberian Peninsula. The Portuguese
had gained their independence from the Moorish Spain in 1143. Portugal’s
expansion was excellently coordinated by the king’s Joan I son, Prince
Henry the Navigator. In 1488 Bartolomeu Dias reached the Cape of Good
Hope, proving that Asia was accessible by sea. In 1498 Vasco da Gama
reached the western coast of India. In the middle of the 16th
century the Portuguese Empire had extended towards the west and Eastern
Africa, Brazil, Persia, Indochina and the Malaysian Peninsula.
In 1581 king Philip II of Spain
invaded Portugal and occupied it for 60 years, a fact that lead to a
disastrous decline in commerce. Brave and cunning explorers, the
proved to be non-efficient and corrupt colonists. At the time when the
Portuguese monarchy was restored, in 1640, the Dutch, British and the
French had already taken over most of the colonies and the world
Portugal was left with Angola and Mozambique in Africa and Brazil (until
The corrupt king Carlos, who
acceded to the throne in 1889, made Joao Franco the prime minister,
with dictatorial powers in 1906. In 1908, Carlos and his heir were shot
on the streets of Lisbon. The new king, Manoel II, was forced to resign
his power during the 1910 revolution, Portugal becoming a French style
republic. Having a traditional friendship with the United Kingdom,
fought on the Allied side in the First World War, in Africa and on the
Western Front. The weak post-war government and the revolution in 1926
brought Antonio de Oliveira Salazar to power. As a finance minister
(1928-1940) and prime minister (1932-1968), Salazar ruled the country
in a dictatorial way. He kept Portugal neutral during the Second World
War, but he helped the Allies with naval and aerial bases after 1943.
Portugal joined NATO as a founding member in 1949, but was accepted
in the United Nations only in 1955.
Starting with the 1950s, the international and colonial policy of Portugal encountered difficulties. The most blood-shedding wars against the colonialism in Africa took place against the Portuguese. In the next 13 years, Salazar and his successor, Marcello Caetano, fought against the independence movements, attracting world criticism. The leftist army troops managed to start a revolution in 1974 and the new military leadership renounced all its territories. Portugal was accepted in the European Union in 1986 and in the same year Mario Soares became the first civil president after more than 60 years.