Visiting Portugal will make you believe in love at first sight.
Places To Visit In Portugal: Lisbon
Chunky pieces of limestone and basalt of all different shapes and sizes lead your eye across mosaic walkways lined by towering trees full of lush green leaves. The sidewalks bring to life the history and culture of Portugal. Each stone is laid by hand; it is a labor of love. There is no other place in the world quite like it.
In spring and summer you will find the Portuguese sitting at corner cafes catching up with friends laughing over a shared bowl of Feijoada Trasmontana. This traditional bean stew is hearty, the kind of meal your grandmother would make you when you come for a visit. This meal sprung forth at a time when people could not afford to waste any part of the animal or their food, so a hodge podge of unmentionable meats add intriguing flavors to the stew.
There are as many ways to get to Portugal, as there are places to visit in Portugal. I’ve taken a boat across the Atlantic Ocean through the Azores, I’ve flown into Lisbon’s Portela International Airport (airport code LIS). I’ve also made the drive from Spain. Portugal is a land locked country with a few islands sprinkled just off the coast in the Atlantic Ocean.
The capital city Lisbon or Lisboa is a great place to fly into and start your journey. The atmosphere is warm and inviting, as friendly people greet you with “Hola!” as they scatter in different directions on their merry way.
With many places to visit in Portugal the hop-on hop-off buses are a great way to get an overview of all that a city offers. A 24 hour pass on the bus will cost an adult 14.50€. Once you have an understanding of the cities layout and places you may want to spend more time, you can venture off on escapes that could fill days or weeks worth of time.
Lisbon is reminiscent of San Francisco as you see trolleys buzzing down the streets and the “25 de Abril Bridge” is a burnt orange suspension bridge designed by the San Francisco architect who designed San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.
Be sure to stop at Mosteiro dos Jerónimos to view prominent examples of Portuguese late Gothic Manueline style of architecture. It is an inordinate detailed and expansive structure that evokes the reverence of visitors.
The Alfama is the old quarter of Lisbon and a picturesque neighborhood as the bright terra-cotta roofs accent the white buildings below and contrast with the vibrant blue sky. The streets are a maze where one can easily get lost as you wind through the cobble stoned streets soaking in the scene before you. Local vendors set up stands along the side walk for tourist to buy their hand made goods and musicians elicit the music pouring out of their hearts. It’s a wild romanic and inviting area to spend the day.
The Praça do Comércio or Commerce Square has a long history you can review as you have lunch at “Martinho da Arcada”, Lisbon’s oldest café. The Tagus river Triumphal Arch is a lined one. Near the center of the square, you will find the bronze Statue of King Joseph I.
Places To Visit In Portugal: Sintra
If you plan to spend all of your time in Lisbon on your trip to Portugal, then be sure to make Sintra a day trip on your itinerary.
Lisbon has an easy to navigate public transport system which is a cost effect way to travel around the city and into the outskirts of town. A 20 minute ride from Lisbon is the charming late 14th century palace of Sintra. Pena Palace is the oldest surviving palace in Portugal. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is also one of the seven wonders of Portugal. It sits high on the hill above the town of Sintra. The palace has held many titles including the role of a monastery and private residence. The sprawling terrain of park will keep visitors busy for hours, be sure to wear your walking shoes as the park has over 200 hectares to explore.
Quinta da Regaleira is a UNESCO World Heritage Sight. The grounds are exquisitely kept and one should take time to stroll through the entire property. With great detail the palace, chapel, lakes, grottoes, wells and fountains are gorgeously designed. The property gives shrouded with a veil of mystery as secret tunnels and caves weave through out the property. One such tunnel leads you past a waterfall into a dark cavern that opens up to the “Initiation Well,” which was never finished as it was not meant to hold water but constructed for ceremonial purposes. The Quinta da Regaleira should be on your list of interesting places to visit in Portugal.
Places To Visit In Portugal: Porto
From Sintra you can catch a train through the rolling green hills of the Portuguese country side as you travel up the coast to the second largest city in the country, Porto. Porto is the birth place of Port Wine. In the 14th and 15th centuries this coastal city moved into the forefront of ship building. The wine of the region was shipped from the vineyards down the Douro? River in large wooden casts. It comes in semi-dry, dry and sweet varieties. Though most know port wine as a red dessert wine in also comes in a white variety. Unlike other wines, Port wine can be recorked and drank over a period of two months. A wine tasting will cost you 5 euros. The town is marked by its mid-evil? feeling and burnt orange terra-cotta roof tops. Enjoy a glass of port from the deck of the Yateman hotel, it is the best view of the city. The city can be easily walked and most of the sites can be seen in one day. If you prefer, there is a hop-on, hop-off bus or metro that can be taken for about 20 euros. If you forego the sight seeing bus and choose to walk the city center you can see everything on the tourist map for less then 20 euros, including lunch.
Places To Visit In Portugal: The Azores
A short plane ride off the coast of Portugal will land you in the Azores. (Be aware that if you are flying one of the low cost carriers, you will most likely be charged 40 euros for your carry on bag, and prices go up if the weight of your bag is over 15kg. Also, the acceptable size of a carry on bag in Europe is much smaller then carry-on bags in the United States). The largest of the Azzore islands is São Miguel Island. The beautiful landscape will capture the heart. When driving around the island, be aware of the cattle that roam the streets as they move from pasture to pasture to feed, which make sense as the leading industries are agriculture, dairy farming and livestock ranching. Once and active the Azores have fertile soil and a rich history. In the crater of the volcano you will find Lagoa das Sete Cidades otherwise known as twin lake. This is a special lake as one half of the lake appears vibrant blue and the other half of the lake is emerald green. Legend says the lake is made up of the tears of torn lovers. One lover had blue eyes, the other green and as they said good bye forever the lake was divided, holding their tears forever together.
Of all the places to visit in Portugal, I have not visited a city I have not not instantly fallen in love with.