Being within easy reach from many other European countries, Portugal has become a popular travel destination in recent years, and rightly so. There are so many wonderful sites to see in this sunny country beyond the usual beaches and resorts.
The Northern City of Guimarães
Often referred to as the ‘birthplace of Portuguese nationality’, the city of Guimaraes not only is significant historically but also stunning architecturally. The city is located in Braga District in the North of Portugal, approx 40 min drive north east from Porto Airport.
The narrow streets of the 2012 European Capital of Culture are full of colour and character. Why not have a lazy morning and sample some café com leite with a freshly baked pastry at one of the tiny cafes scattered across the Old Town and beyond?
After coffee, take in the sights of the perfectly preserved stunning buildings in the Historic Centre of Guimaraes, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
One of the main attractions to see in the city is the fabulous 12th century Guimaraes Castle, used as an official royal residence until 13th century. The imposing medieval castle is free to explore, but there is a small entrance fee to enter the medieval tower of the Countess Mumadona.
Porto was my absolute favourite place to visit in Portugal. The sea of red tiled roofs and the secret crumbling passageways make the city so distinctive and lovable. In 2014 Porto earned The Best European Destination title.
An attraction in itself is the famous double-decker Dom Luís I Bridge that connects Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia. The top deck is occupied by the Metro do Porto light rail (line D) and the pedestrian walkway. Do make your way up for fantastic panoramic views across the city.
There are tons of things to see and do in this picture perfect city, like walking along the Douro river or sampling some of the nation’s best exports, Porto wine.
Visit the Porto Vasconcellos cellars located in Vila Nova de Gaia, across the bridge from Porto. Book a tour to one of the wine cellars including a wine tasting session (Avenida Diogo Leite 16, Vila Nova de Gaia 4400-111, Portugal).
Santuário Bom Jesús do Monte
The ‘Shrine of Good Jesus of the Mountain’ is a hilltop Catholic pilgrimage site just a few miles from Braga. It’s considered to be one of the most sacred monuments in Portugal.
The top of the hill can be easily reached by car, however it’s much more fun to climb the scenic stairway up to the top. The zigzag staircase represents Five Senses. Each sense, Sight, Smell, Hearing, Touch and Taste are represented with a distinctive fountain.
In the late 1700’s a new addition of the zigzag staircase was added to the complex. This time the stairway was dedicated to the Three Theological Virtues: Faith, Hope and Charity. Again, each virtue is represented with a different fountain.
At the top of the 116 m high hill you will find the beautiful Neoclassical church of Bom Jesus. It was built in 19 th century and replaced the old Baroque style church. Surrounded by beautiful gardens the hilltop provides a peaceful sanctuary to its visitors.
Estrada do Bom Jesus, 4715-261 Tenões, Portugal
Lisbon, the capital of Portugal
No trip to Portugal would be complete without visiting the glorious coastal capital. The sunshine, the sunsets, the sea breeze, parks, yellow trams are waiting to be discovered and the custard tarts – eaten.
With all the sights and smells to take in, make sure you have enough time to visit the glorious Jerónimos Monastery. The strikingly white monastery will invite you to discover the history of this once royal funerary monument.
Take your time to walk through the beautiful two storey cloisters and enjoy the peacefulness and the elaborate Gothic details of the building. The site is massive so spare at least 2 hours to explore.
For the best Portuguese Custard Tarts pop into Antiga Confeitaria de Belem. The spacious white and blue tiled bakery specialises in perfectly executed custard treats. The tarts, flaky and creamy, are utterly delicious (84-92 rua de Belem).
For the soulful sunset visit Lisbon Castle and watch the sun sinking over the 25 de Abril Bridge, the SF Golden Gate Bridge doppelganger.
Have you been to any of these places in Portugal? Which one? Let us know in the comments below…