Portugal is one of Europe’s sunniest countries and home to vivacious towns, out-of-this-world gastronomy, extravagant landmarks and sparkling beaches making it nothing short of amazing and colorful.
PORTUGUESE TREASURES: AZULEJOS
Bursting with color, azulejos — ceramic tiles — decorate everything from churches, houses, palaces, park benches, train stations and more throughout Portugal. The tiles range from simple designs to large murals depicting moments in Portuguese history. They are often white and ocean-blue but it’s easy to find many with their own unique styles and variety of colors. The introduction of these special tiles in Portugal began in the 15th century. Portugal’s own King Manuel I brought azulejos from Seville, Spain during this time as the tiles had been very popular aspects throughout various parts of the Iberian Peninsula during the Middle Ages. Since then, they’ve become an integral part of Portuguese culture.
Portugal’s buzzing capital should be at the top of every avid traveler’s list with its budget-friendly experiences, wide array of gastronomic specialties, vintage trams and historic landmarks. Although Portugal’s best delicacies of salt cod, grilled sardines, Azeitão sheep's cheese, Alentejo ham, pastéis de nata and regional wines can be found throughout the entire country, a truly unique experience can be found in Lisbon’s Time Out Market. This wonderful food hall hosts 35 various kiosks where many top chefs provide mini-versions of their restaurant’s menus for travelers to enjoy.
Be sure to visit the best sites of the city, Castelo de São Jorge, Jerónimos Monastery, Camo Convent, Belém Tower and Lisbon Cathedral. Although various colors and patterns of azulejos are found decorating all types of places in Lisbon, visit the Azulejos Museum to get a deeper understanding of these tiles and their vital role of Portuguese culture and history. Taking home a tile for the perfect souvenir is a must.
Home to an energetic atmosphere along the Douro riverside, lovely locals, fascinating architecture, delicious seafood and the creation of port wine — it’s no wonder why this city is becoming more and more popular. Take a river cruise along the Douro River while sipping on a refreshing glass of port wine. Better yet, try vinho verde (green wine), a true Portuguese specialty. Peek azulejos at their finest at Igreja Paroquial de Santo Ildefonso, Parish Church of St. Nicholas, Sé do Porto, São Bento Station, Igreja do Carmo and Capela das Almas.
Make a stop at the fancy Majestic Café, a place that was frequented by the elite class in the 1920s, for a cappuccino or decadent dessert. It’s said that J.K. Rowling wrote chapters of the earlier Harry Potter books in this cafe while she lived in Porto in the early ‘90s. Another magical fact, the astonishing library — Livraria Lello — inspired Rowling’s vision for various parts of Hogwarts with its winding staircase, books covering the walls from top to bottom, brightly-colored, stained-glass windows and unparalleled atmosphere.
View the Portuguese fairytale of Pena Palace — a 19th-century architectural masterpiece perched on a hilltop overlooking the town of Sintra. The palace is covered with striking colors of dandelion yellow, coral and hues of grey and white that make it pop from the lush greenery of the forest that surrounds it. The inside of the palace holds the same degree of beauty with decor from 1910, intricate, cathedral-style ceilings, an indoor courtyard and azulejos adorning the Room of the Coats of Arms. The entrance fee into Pena Palace is 14 euros for adults, 12.50 euros for children and seniors or 49.50 euros per family.
Looking for a beach getaway? The Algarve region is known for its vivid, turquoise waters, sandy coves, gorgeous fishing villages and a plethora of restaurants, bars and shops dotted throughout it. Lagos is the most-favorited city in the Algarve, making it a great home base as you explore the region. Take a dip in the radiant waters of the region’s best beaches to include Praia da Marinha, Praia de Odeceixe, Praia de Falésia and Praia de Cacela Velha. However, with over 150 beaches, you’ll surely find one that suits you in the Algarve. Book a kayak tour, go snorkeling, take a boat or simply sunbathe along the shore in Portugal’s southernmost region for an unforgettable escape from reality.
Buzzing towns, history around every corner, fabulous beaches and food and drinks galore — a trip to the colorful country of Portugal will not disappoint!
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