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Portugal Travel & Holiday Tips
 
 
 

General

Often overshadowed by its much larger eastern neighbor, Spain, Portugal has its own distinct language, identity, customs, landscapes and scenery. Despite the encroachment of tourism, it remains one of the least spoilt corners of Europe. Portugal can conveniently be divided into 6 regions: Porto and the north, Beiras, Lisbon and the Tagus Valley, Alentejo, the Algarve and the Madeira islands.

Lisbon & the Tagus Valley

Lisbon

Lisbon (Lisboa), the capital of Portugal, enjoys one of the most dramatic settings of any European capital, clinging to a series of steep hillsides at the estuary of the River Tagus (Rio Tejo), just 10 km (6 miles) from the Atlantic Ocean. Perched above the old Moorish quarter of Alfama, characterized by twisting, cobbled streets and whitewashed houses, is the magnificent Castle of São Jorge. Founded in the 12th century, its 10 towers crown the hill where the original colony was situated in Phoenician times. Lisbon Cathedral (Sé) dates from the same period as the castle and was an important element in the fortifications. The downtown Baixa district was built on a grid formation following the devastating earthquake in 1755. Today, it is one of Lisbon’s best areas for shopping (especially crafts – gold, silver and jewellery). This is a lively area with plenty of cafes and terrace restaurants.

Baixa slopes down towards the River Tagus, Lisbon’s main waterway, where visitors can take an interesting boat trip along the estuary and across to the picturesque southern shore. An antiquated elevator operates between Baixa and the aptly named Bairro Alto (Upper Town), home of Fado, the traditional folk music of Lisbon. Also worth a visit is the Gulbenkian Foundation, a cultural centre and museum set in its own park. The museum houses a range of artifacts, from Oriental jewellery to French impressionist paintings. The exhibition grounds of ‘Expo ’98’ are now known as the Park of Nations. Its attractions include the second largest Oceanarium in the world, a Virtual Reality Pavilion, and the Vasco da Gama Tower. The 850m-tower (2788ft) offers excellent views of the city and beyond.

The fin-de-siècle glories of the Chiado quarter, traditional haunt of artists and writers, are now re-emerging after a fire in 1988 which destroyed large parts of the city. Also worth seeing is the 2.5 km- (1.5 mile-) long suspension bridge over the Tagus which is overlooked by a towering statue of Christ. The riverside suburb of Belém is where the ships of Vasco da Gama, Àlvares Cabral and other famous explorers were launched in the 15th and 16th centuries. The attractions here include the strikingly beautiful prison tower, known as the Torre de Belém (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), the Monument to the Discoverers, the Hieronymite Monastery – one of the architectural glories of Portugal’s Golden Age – and the Coach Museum.

Other Places

There are two famous seaside resorts close to the capital. Estoril predates the tourist boom of the 1960s but has adapted well to changing tastes and demands. The elegant hotels, which fringe the glorious Tamariz Beach, maintain the standards of the pre-war era. The entertainment on offer includes a casino, restaurants and nightclubs, watersports, golf and riding. Cascais has changed even more quickly, from a small fishing village with fine but empty beaches to a lively resort with bars, nightclubs and good-value restaurants. Sintra (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), a mountain town 25 km (15 miles) from Lisbon, boasts the former summer residence of the Portuguese royal family, the Monserrate gardens and a twice-monthly antique market. A classical music festival takes place every July and August. Colares is an attractive village, famous for its red wines. Queluz has an 18th-century rococo palace, supposedly modeled on Versailles. Mafra is home to a Baroque convent built in 1717. Ericeira and Sesimbra are busy fishing villages with good beaches and developing facilities for tourists. Tróia is a modern tourist complex, situated on a peninsula near to the industrial town of Setubal, with a casino, marina, good beaches and sports facilities. The village of Palmela has a 12th-century castle and monastery, which is now a


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