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Portugal Travel Guide

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Torre de Belem at sunset, Lisbon, Portugal (© Ljupco Smokovski - Fotolia.com)
Torre de Belem at sunset, Lisbon, Portugal

Introduction

Portugal is the westernmost country of mainland Europe. It is one of the oldest independent countries in Europe, having been founded as a kingdom in 1139.

Portuguese language is closely related to and mutually intelligible with Galician, spoken in the north-western corner of Spain. Portuguese evolved from Galician during the Reconquista, the medieval reconquest over the Moors. In 868, Galician warlords founded the County of Portugal in the region of Porto. It progressively expanded south, then split from the Kingdom of Galicia. Portugal was born.

The Portuguese Empire was the first global empire in history and the longest-lived of the modern European colonial empires. The empire spread throughout a vast number of territories that are now part of 53 different sovereign states. Nowadays, Portuguese is spoken by nearly 250 million people, most of whom are native speakers. There are a dozen dialects of Portugese spoken in Portugal, including the Atlantic archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira.

The immense wealth brought by the colonial golden age contributed to the edification of sumptuous public buildings, churches and other monuments, especially in Lisbon, although much of it was lost. On 1 November 1755, the Portuguese capital was was struck by one of the most powerful earthquakes in recorded history, with an estimated magnitude of 9.0 on the Richter scale, followed by a massive tsunami. Lisbon was completely destroyed, and subsequently rebuilt. This single event brought an abrupt end to the Portuguese golden age, and some people claim that Portugal never really recovered.

Portuguese cities and architecture differs a lot from that of Spain. Portuguese houses are typically painted in white, yellow or blue. Many houses, especially in the region of Porto, are decorated with blue azulejos - tin-glazed ceramic tiles inherited from the Moors.

Famous people from Portugal include (chronologically): the navigators and explorers Bartolomeu Dias, Vasco da Gama, Pedro Álvares Cabral and Ferdinand Magellan, the poet Luís de Camões, the writer José Maria de Eça de Queiroz, the Nobel Prize winning neurologist António Egas Moniz, the Nobel Prize winning novelist José Saramago, and the footballer Cristiano Ronaldo.

Attractions

Northern Portugal

Guimarães ※
Palace of the Dukes of Braganza, Guimarães (© Carson Liu - Fotolia.com)
must-see Guimarães
Aveiro
Gondolas on a canal, Aveiro (© acnaleksy - Fotolia.com)
outstanding Aveiro




Coimbra
Coimbra (© mashua - Fotolia.com)
outstanding Coimbra
Peneda-Gerês National Park
Peneda-Gerês National Park (photo by Município de Terras de Bouro - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)
outstanding Peneda-Gerês National Park.
Porto ※
Porto (© neirfy - Fotolia.com)
outstanding Porto
Viana do Castelo
Santa Luzia Sanctuary, Viana do Castelo (© jonybigude - Fotolia.com)
outstanding Viana do Castelo

Other attractions

very good Alto Douro Wine Region
very good Barcelos
very good Braga
very good International Douro Natural Park
very good Prehistoric Rock-Art Site of the Côa Valley and Siega Verde
very good Vila Real

Central Portugal

Évora ※
Courtyard of the historic University of Evora (© inacio pires - Fotolia.com)
must-see Evora
Lisbon ※
Lisbon (© MF - Fotolia.com)
must-see Lisbon
Mafra National Palace
Mafra National Palace (photo by Alvesgaspar - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)
must-see Mafra National Palace
Sintra ※
Pena National Palace, Sintra (© Frédéric Prochasson - Fotolia.com)
must-see Sintra
Elvas ※
Elvas (© inacio pires - Fotolia.com)
outstanding Elvas
Monsaraz
Monsaraz  (© TMAX - Fotolia.com)
outstanding Monsaraz
Óbidos
Óbidos (© Jose Ignacio Soto - Fotolia.com)
outstanding Obidos

Other attractions

very good Alcobaça Monastery
very good Batalha Monastery
very good Cabo da Roca
very good Cascais
very good Estoril
very good Leiria
very good Ourém
very good Nazaré
very good Serra da Estrela Natural Park
very good Setúbal
very good Tomar
good Sesimbra

Southern Portugal

Algarve Coast
Praia da Marinha, Algarve Coast (© Anobis - Fotolia.com)
must-see The Algarve coast ranks amongst the most beautiful in the world. Particularly scenic beaches includes Praia Dona Ana, Praia da Marinha, Praia da Rocha, Ponta da Piedade, and the Algar Seco near Carvoeiro. The southern part of the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park is also comprised in Algarve.

Other attractions

very good Alvor
very good Guadiana Valley Natural Park
very good Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park
very good Faro
very good Lagos
very good Loulé
very good Tavira
good Castle of Paderne (ruins)
good Olhão
good Portimão
good Silves

Madeira

Funchal
Funchal (© Zbynek Jirousek - Fotolia.com)
outstanding Funchal
Madeira Natural Park ※
Madeira Natural Park (© felinda - Fotolia.com)
outstanding The Madeira Natural Park conserves the world's largest surviving area of primary laurel forest, a vegetation type that is now confined to the Azores, Madeira and the Canary Islands. It is listed as a Natural World Heritage Site under the name of Laurisilva of Madeira.


Azores

Angra do Heroísmo
Igreja da Misericórdia , Angra do Heroísmo (© Anibal Trejo - Fotolia.com)
outstanding Angra do Heroísmo

Other attractions

very good Horta
very good Landscape of the Pico Island Vineyard Culture
very good Ponta Delgada

Travel Community

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Eupedia's Rating System

Cities, towns, villages & historic buildings

  • : Moderately interesting - nice for a quick stop
  • : Recommended - to visit if you have time
  • : Outstanding place - really deserves to be seen
  • : Best of the country - shouldn't be missed
  • : Best of Europe

Natural attractions

  • : Moderately interesting
  • : Recommended
  • : Highly recommended
  • : World-class natural attraction
  • ※ : UNESCO World Heritage site

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