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Algarve (1)


Portugal is found in the Iberian Peninsula and borders Spain on one side and the Atlantic on the other. The sea has moulded the psyche and history of the land greatly. The haunting songs called Fades, whose name derives from the word for fate, originated with songs about loss of life at sea. It is also where you will see tiles that you may be used to seeing inside your houses, on the outside. This is one of the main features you notice in Portugal.

The capital of Portugal is Lisbon which is built on several hills with the old quarter having narrow streets which despite their size are traversed by trams. The city of Lisbon suffered great losses to its historical centre in 1988 in the disaster known as the Chiado fire after the name of the district. Since then, the area has been mostly restored although there are still some signs of the conflagration. The district of Chiado is now are chic shopping area that caters to residents and visitors alike having many sports venues and attracting street performers. Hotels, ateliers, museums, theatres, good restaurants and more act like a magnet to art students and the famous alike. This is a great, fun place to visit.
To really get to know the city, just wander and discover. If you legs feel weak, catch a tram on the steep inclines. Tram 28 takes you up as far as the Castle of St. George, so you can use this as a city tour at a reasonable rate. You will find that the city is neither one thing nor another. Many of its features are juxtaposition, creating a strange and interesting melange of styles.
Some areas to explore are Belem and Bairro Alto and check out the tiny cafes or try the local sweet delicacies.
The oldest surviving area of the city is Alfama and is Moorish in character. Fado is said to have begun here so make time to visit a venue where these songs are performed.
In Belem you can try pastel de nata which is a kind of custard tart that is deliberately burnt on top and sprinkled with cinnamon and icing sugar, served warm.

Monuments and places to visit in Lisbon.

The Castle of St George (Castelo de Sao Jorge) which dates back to the 5th century and is perched atop the highest of Lisbon's seven hills offering superb views. Check with the tourist organisation before you visit museums and monuments.

The Igreja de Sao Roque is a church built in the late 6th century which is a repository of ornate elaborate decor. Don't let the exterior of the building deter you.

The Elavador da Santa Justa which was designed by an apprentice of Gustave Eiffel of the tall structure in Paris fame needs to be seen. It was built to connect to areas; Central Lisbon with Santa Justa and the Convento do Carmo church. Its total height is 45 metres.

Next to the Tejo River is the Museum of Electricity which is run by Portugal's energy company. The museum is home to energy related models, machines and interactive educational games. There is an area dedicated to educating children. The gallery at the front also hosts art exhibitions

With a simple cafe and a great location this museum excursion gives you a well-rounded experience where you learn about Portuguese history and also get to view contemporary art in a spectacular building.
Museu da Electricidade | Art & culture |
Av. de Brasilia | Riverside (area map) |+351210028190
Tue - Sun 10:00 - 18:00

Nearby to Lisbon is Sintra about 28 kilometres away. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and dates back a long time, being mentioned by an Arab geographer in the 11th century. Its castle was build by the Moors from whom it takes its name, Castelo dos Mouros. It was captured in the 12th century when much of it was destroyed although the ruins still show its former grandeur.

In 1507, Diogo Boitac built the Hieronymite monastery of Nossa Senhora da Pena. The altarpiece was build a few years later. From there you will be rewarded with fabulous views.

Coimbra is a beautiful historical city with its own university which is housed in fine buildings setting off the place which is situated between Porto and Lisbon built on a hillside above the meandering river Mondego. The city is a lot quieter when term time ends and the students leave this seat of learning which is reputed to be the second oldest in the world being founded in 1290Many of the local vents centre on the university such as the Festa das Latas which is a kind of initiation rite for new students. This area also has its own blend of Fado which evokes still more tugging at the emotions. The old town is entered through the Arco de Almedina and has an old and a new cathedral although the new one was established in the 17th century. The old town is full of attractions and history. You will need more than a day there if you want to appreciate all of its charms but don't miss out the Botanical Gardens which are the largest in Portugal and are dedicated to the study of protection of plants and wildlife. Coimbra is the best accesses point to Portugal’s largest national park, the Serra da Estrela, on the national road the N17.

The Algarve

The Algarve is the area along the south coast of Portugal which is only a couple of hours from London by plane and is famed for its huge sandy beaches and gold courses. The main airport for the area is Faro which is not far from the Spanish border. From there, most people hire cars as a large majority rent villas in the Algarve although all other types of accommodation are provided, most with pools. Away from the coast the area is steep, going up to mountains so you may also combine away from it all holidays with golf or the beach. Some places to where you can stay are purely resorts such as Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo which are next to each other. It mainly appeals to golfer although the villas have pools and there is a great beach. The resort also has some shops and restaurants. The resort actually has three golf courses!

Vale do Lobo

This is of great repute in Europe, having facilities for golf and tennis as well as being set in a valley of pine trees that leads down to its own amazing never-ending beach.These two resorts and Almancil have great restaurants which cater to all tastes and pockets.


This is a commercial town and one of the largest resorts in the area although it has a Moorish feel to it due to its many white domiciles. The name of the town is derived from Arabic during the occupation by the Moors. The town has a lovely old town with narrow streets and a plethora of places to sample the local fare. The beach is framed by cliffs forming strange rock formations, combined with the bright colours of the small fishing-boats, the effect is charming.


This busy town is on an estuary and is one of the largest towns in the Algarve including a commercial centre and busy fishing harbour where boat-builders still ply their trade. The town is rather mixed in its architecture where different styles can be found in one area next to each other. The nearest beach is Praia da Rocha which is a popular resort. The beach is long and sandy.


Luz is family orientated resort which also has a marina and caters to the visitor in general with plenty of bars, cafes, restaurants and cafes. The original village has cobbled streets which are waiting to be explored. The beach is wide and sandy and offers some waterports.


The resort of Guia is about 3 km inland from Albufeira. It is an old village that has kept its original style allowing you to stay in traditional Portugal while being a stone's throw away from the beaches. It is apparently the place to sample chicken piri piri which is a popular dish in the area made of spicy chicken.

Some places of interest are:

Cerro da Villa is a Roman site of a villa where a hydraulic system can still be viewed along with some mosaics while the museum contains artefacts found during the excavation.

The Church of St.Lawrence of Almancil is on the main road west of Faro and has a wonderful display of hand-painted glazed tiles which were brought into the area by the Moors.The church is open Tuesday to Saturday 10am to 1pm and 2.30pm to 6pm, and Monday 2.30pm to 6pm, admission free.

Ria Formosa Nature Park The park covers a large area and was established to preserve the natural resources of the local population. The park contains wetlands, local plants and animals as well as migratory birds. This vast protected area covers some 71 square miles. It was established to preserve the natural resources on which the local population depend for most of their traditional activities, such as fish and shellfish farming, traditional fishing and salt production. Amongst other natural attractions, the nature park is home to wetlands, indigenous fauna and flora and migratory species.

Porto/Oporto and the north

The northern part, especially the north-west is verdant and has a wealth of history illustrated by its castles and stately homes. The fist king of the land Dom Afonso Henriques hailed from there and played an important role in the struggle against the Moorish invasions.

It is possible to stay in manor houses and mansions which are furnished and decorated in the elaborate style of the area.

The coastal resort area is called Cape Verde. The Peneda-Geres National Park is a fabulous area of natural beauty and is worth visiting although the whole area is awash with natural phenomena creating a fairy-tale atmosphere along with its aristocratic homes.

The capital of the area is called Oporto or Porto and has is own airport. It is set at the mouth of the Douro River on which you can travel by boat.


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