Portugal sits to the west of Spain, and together these two countries go to make up the Iberian Peninsula. Much like its neighbour, Portugal has a great deal to offer visitors in the way of idyllic beach resorts, hot weather and beautiful scenery.
The capital, Lisbon, is a great place to visit to get a feel for the country’s history. There are many museums, palaces and churches dotted around the city to explore as well as the Belem Tower which sits on the shores of the Tagus River. Porto, the second largest city and home of port wine, is a great place to visit and take a wine tour in one of the many wine caves. Those who come in search of beach resorts largely head to the Algarve. This stretch of coastline, running along the southern region of Portugal, is approximately 100 miles long and home to numerous holiday resort towns.
The safe beaches are a draw for holidaying families and the abundance of nightlife attracts crowds of party goers in search of a good time.
Year round sun ensures a constant flow of visitors to Portugal with summers being hot and winters being very mild. Lisbon’s proximity to the Atlantic means sightseeing in the summer months doesn’t get too uncomfortable.
For our review we stayed at the The Altis Avenida Hotel, a five star Boutique Hotel, in Lisbon. It has an extraordinary location in the Lisbon’s centre, at Restauradores Square. The Hotel is a listed building with significant historical and architectural importance that was completely renovated maintaining intact its original Art Deco façade and elegant stairwells. The decoration was inspired by the 1940s, injecting decidedly contemporary urban–chic spirit, where the past and the future merge creating a unique charm and glamour ambiance.
As well as sightseeing Portugal is a great place for the foodies out there. If you enjoy your food, you must make sure you try one of Portugal’s famous creamy tarts with your coffee in the morning.
Pasteis de nata, a kind of small custard tart, are as pervasive in Lisbon as bagels are in Manhattan. The best place to go for the original, though, is the Antiga Confeitaria de Belem, a tile-decorated bakery on the western edge of the city, where they are known as Pasteis de Belem. They are traditionally served dusted with cinnamon and powdered sugar.
Most people order them to go, often after waiting in lines that stretch out the door. Eaten best with a warm mug of coffee, you will definitely not want to miss trying these soft-in-the-center sweets that come warm from the oven, in one of the bakery’s serving rooms.
Lisbon is also well known for outstanding cheeses, or queijos. The most famous, though, is creamy yellow queijo da serra, made from sheep’s milk and the ingredient that sets it apart is thistle flower. Produced only in the region of the Estrela mountains, in the north-central part of the country, it is served in many of Lisbon’s finer restaurants. The best place to try this would be at Manteigaria Silva, a shop in the historic center whose owners produce their own each winter at their farm in the Serra da Estrela. Queijo da serra hardens as it ages but is perfection when it will drip off a knife.
The Portuguese national dish, bacalhau, or salt cod, has its origins on the Grand Banks of the North Atlantic, where the Portuguese once played a major role in manning the fishing boats. A flavorful fish, to say the least, there are supposedly at least 365 ways to prepare it, including the 25 served up at the vault-ceilinged Casa do Bacalhau, said to be in the former stables of a duke’s palace in the eastern part of Lisbon. It’s difficult to find any Lisbon restaurant that doesn’t serve some form of it—the most popular is probably bacalhau a bras, a stir fry of cod, rice, scrambled eggs, and onions, garnished with black olives.
From the beautiful streets and architecture of Castles and Palaces, to bullfighting and nature and wildlife there’s plenty to do in Lisbon.
For those who enjoy getting close to sea life but minus the wetsuit, you will love Lisbon’s Oceanário Around 8000
species splash in 7 million litres of seawater is truly mind blowing. Huge wraparound tanks make you feel as if you are underwater, as you eyeball zebra sharks, honeycombed rays, gliding mantas and schools of neon fish.
Keep an eye out for oddities such as filigree sea-dragons, big ocean sunfish, otherworldly jellyfish and frolicsome sea otters. You’ll also want to see the recreated rainforest, Indo-Pacific coral reef and Magellan penguins on ice. The conservation-oriented oceanarium arranges family activities from behind-the-scenes marine tours to sleeping with the sharks.
If you want a bit of culture and experience traditional Lisbon then wander down through Alfama’s steep, narrow, cobblestoned streets and catch a glimpse of the more traditional side of Lisbon. Linger in a backstreet cafe along the way and experience some local bonhomie without the tourist gloss.