Top Ten Portuguese Attractions

Top Ten Portuguese Attractions


       Portugal is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and Spain. The Atlantic archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira are part of Portugal. The country is named after its 2nd largest city, Porto, whose Latin name was Portus Cale. The land within the borders of today’s Portuguese Republic has been continuously settled since prehistoric times: occupied by Celts like the Gallaeci and the Lusitanians, integrated into the Roman Republic and later settled by Germanic peoples such as the Suebi, Swabians, Vandals and the Visigoths. In the 8th century most of the Iberian Peninsula was conquered by Moorish invaders professing Islam, which were later expelled by the Knights Templar under the Order of Christ. During the Christian Reconquista, Portugal established itself as an independent kingdom from León in 1139, claiming to be the oldest European nation-state. In the 15th and 16th centuries, as the result of pioneering the Age of Discovery, Portugal expanded western influence and established a global empire that included possessions in Africa, Asia, Oceania and South America, becoming the world’s major economic, political and military global power. The Portuguese Empire was the first global empire in history, and also the longest lived of the European colonial empires, spanning almost 600 years, from the capture of Ceuta in 1415, to the handover of Macau to China in 1999. However, the country’s international status was greatly reduced during the 19th century, especially following the independence of Brazil, its largest colony. After the 1910 revolution deposed the monarchy, the democratic but unstable Portuguese First Republic was established being then superseded by the “Estado Novo” authoritarian regime. Democracy was restored after the Portuguese Colonial War and the Carnation Revolution in 1974, after which Portugal’s last overseas provinces became independent (most prominently Angola and Mozambique); the last overseas territory, Macau, was ceded to China in 1999. Portugal is a developed country with a very high Human Development Index, the world’s 19th highest quality-of-life and a strong healthcare system.

  1. Porto
           Porto, also known as Oporto in English, is the 2nd largest city in Portugal, after Lisbon, and one of the major urban areas in the Southern Europe. Its administrative limits (an area of 41.66 square km/16 square mi) include a population of 237,584 (2011) inhabitants distributed within 15 civil parishes. The urbanized area of Porto, which extends beyond the administrative limits of the city, has a population of 1.3 million (2011) in an area of 389 square km (150 square mi), making it the 2nd largest urban area in Portugal. The Porto Metropolitan Area includes approximately 1.7 million people, and is recognized as a Gamma-level global city by the Globalization and World Cities (GaWC) Study Group, being one of the four cities in the peninsula with global city status (the others being Madrid, Barcelona and Lisbon). Located along the Douro river estuary in northern Portugal, Porto is one of the oldest European centers, with its settlement dating back many centuries as an outpost of the Roman Empire. Its Latin name, Portus Cale, has been referred to as the origin for the name “Portugal,” based on transliteration and oral evolution from Latin. In Portuguese the name of the city is spelled with a definite article as “o Porto” (the port). Consequently, its English name evolved from a misinterpretation of the oral pronunciation and referred to as “Oporto” in modern literature and by many speakers. One of Portugal’s internationally famous exports, port wine, is named for Porto, since the metropolitan area, and in particular the adegas of Vila Nova de Gaia, were responsible for the production and export of the fortified wine.
    Links: Sculptures, Churches, Top Ten Cathedrals, Top Ten Office Buildings, Top Ten Towers, Top Ten Bookstores,,
  2. Lisbon
           Lisbon is the capital city and largest city of Portugal with a population of 547,631 within its administrative limits on a land area of 84.8 square km (33 square mi). The urban area of Lisbon extends beyond the administrative city limits with a population of 3 million on an area of 958 square km (370 square mi), making it the 9th most populous urban area in the European Union. About 2,831,000 people live in the Lisbon Metropolitan Area (which represents approximately 27% of the population of the country). Lisbon is the westernmost large city located in Europe, as well as its westernmost capital city and the only one along the Atlantic coast. It lies in the western Iberian Peninsula on the Atlantic Ocean and the Tagus River. Lisbon is recognized as a global city because of its importance in finance, commerce, media, entertainment, arts, international trade, education and tourism. It is one of the major economic centers on the continent, with a growing financial center and the largest/second largest container port on Europe’s Atlantic coast, Lisbon Portela Airport serves about 13 million passengers per year, motorway network and hub of high-speed rail (Alfa Pendular) linking main cities in Portugal, and in 2013 will have a rail’s high-speed connection to Spain. Lisbon is the 25th most livable city in the World according to lifestyle magazine Monocle. The city is the 7th most visited city in Southern Europe, after Istanbul, Rome, Barcelona, Madrid, Athens and Milan, with 1,740,000 tourists in 2009. The Lisbon region is the wealthiest region in Portugal, GDP PPP per capita is 26,100 euros (4.7% higher than the average European Union’s GDP PPP per capita). It is the 10th richest metropolitan area by GDP on the continent amounting to 98 billion euros and thus €34,850 per capita. This is 40% higher than the average European Union’s GDP per capita. The city occupies 32nd place of highest gross earnings in the world. Most of the headquarters of multinationals in the country are located in the Lisbon area and it is the 9th city in the world in terms of quantity of international conferences. It is also the political center of the country, as seat of Government and residence of the Head of State. The seat of the district of Lisbon and the center of the Lisbon region. Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in the world, predating other modern European capitals such as London, Paris and Rome by hundreds of years. Julius Caesar made it a municipium called Felicitas Julia, adding to the name Olissipo. Ruled by a series of Germanic tribes from the 5th century, it was captured by the Moors in the 8th century. In 1147, the Crusaders under Afonso Henriques reconquered the city and since then it has been a major political, economic, and cultural center of Portugal. Unlike most capital cities, Lisbon’s status as the capital of Portugal has never been granted or confirmed officially by statute or in written form. Its position as the capital has formed through constitutional convention, making its position as de facto capital a part of the Constitution of Portugal. Lisbon hosts two agencies of the European Union: the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) and the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA). The Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP) is also headquartered in Lisbon. In 1994, Lisbon was the European Capital of Culture and in 1998 organized an Expo ‘98 (1998 Lisbon World Exposition). Lisbon enjoys a Mediterranean climate. Among all the metropolises in Europe, it has the warmest winters, with average temperatures 15 °C (59 °F) during the day and 8 °C (46 °F) at night in the period from December to February.
    Links: Sculptures, Top Ten Cathedrals, Monasteries, Top Ten Towers, Top Ten Arenas, Top Ten Soccer Stadiums, Top Ten Fountains,,
  3. Guimarães
           Guimarães is a northern Portuguese city located in the district of Braga, in the Ave Subregion (one of the more industrialized sub-regions of the country), with a population of 52,181 inhabitants, distributed throughout 20 parishes. The municipality is bordered to the north by the municipality of Póvoa de Lanhoso, to the east by Fafe, to the south by Felgueiras, Vizela and Santo Tirso, to the west by Vila Nova de Famalicão and the northwest by Braga. It is an historical city that had an important role in the formation of Portugal and it was settled in the 9th century, at which time it was called Vimaranes. This denomination might have had its origin in the warrior Vímara Peres, when he chose this area as the main government seat for the County of Portugal which he conquered for the Kingdom of Galicia. Guimarães is one of the country’s most important historical cities. The city is often referred to as the “birthplace of the Portuguese nationality” or “the cradle city” (Cidade Berço in Portuguese). This might be because the administrative seat of the County of Portugal was established there by Henry of Burgundy, or that it might also been the birthplace of Afonso I of Portugal, the first Portuguese king or because of the historical role of the city in the Battle of São Mamede (June 24, 1128), which had a tremendous importance in the formation of Portugal and was fought in the vicinity of the city. However, due to the needs of the Reconquista, the governative center was changed to Coimbra in 1129. The “Vimaranenses” are also called “Conquistadores” (the Conquerors) in relation with the historical heritage of the conquest initiated in Guimarães. Guimarães, jointly with Maribor, is the European Capital of Culture in 2012.
    Links: Sculptures, Top 100 Houses, Castles, Churches, Top Ten Squares,,
  4. Sintra
           Sintra is a town within the municipality of Sintra in the Grande Lisboa subregion (Lisbon Region) of Portugal. Owing to its 19th century Romantic architecture and landscapes, becoming a major tourist center, visited by many day-trippers who travel from the urbanized suburbs and capital of Lisbon. In addition to the Sintra Mountains and Sintra-Cascais Nature Park, the parishes of the town of Sintra are dotted by royal retreats, estates, castles and buildings from the 8th-9th century, in addition to many buildings completed between the 15th and 19th century, including the Castelo dos Mouros, the Pena National Palace and the Sintra National Palace.
    Links: Castles, Top 100 Houses, Palaces,,
  5. Tomar
    Tomar is a city of some 20,000 in Portugal. The town was born inside the walls of the Convento de Cristo, constructed under the orders of Gualdim de Pais, the 4th grand master of the Knights Templar in the late 12th century. Tomar is one of Portugal’s historical jewels and more significantly was the last Templar town to be commissioned for construction. Tomar was especially important in the 15th century when it was a center of Portuguese overseas expansion under Henry the Navigator, the Grand Master of the Order of Christ, successor organization to the Templars in Portugal. The Convent of the Order of Christ is a religious building and Roman Catholic building in Tomar and one of Portugal’s most important historical and artistic monuments. It was originally a Templar stronghold built in the 12th century. After the Order of the Knights Templar was dissolved in the 14th century, the Portuguese branch of the order was turned into the Knights of the Order of Christ, which supported Portugal’s maritime discoveries of the 15th century.
    Links: Top Ten Knights Templar Buildings, Top Ten Knights Templars, Top Ten Secret Societies, Top 100 Members of Secret Societies,,
  6. Vilamoura
           Vilamoura is in the municipality of Loulé, in the Algarve, Portugal. Its boundaries lie within the parish of Quarteira. Vilamoura is a purpose built resort and Marina which was started from scratch by a wealthy banker from Porto, Cupertino de Miranda. The resort was started in 1974 and is still expanding outwards from the marine center. The resort is located 14.3 miles west along the coast from Faro and is at 266 km south of Lisbon. The nearest airport is at Faro. Covering some 20 km² of land, it is one of Europe’s largest tourist beach resorts. The area previously hosted the annual Almond Blossom Cross Country competition between 1996 and 2003, and the same course was selected as the venue for the 2000 IAAF World Cross Country Championships.
    Links: Top 100 Beaches, Resorts,,
  7. Douro
           Douro is a Portuguese wine region centered around the Douro River in the Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro region. It is sometimes referred to as the Alto Douro (upper Douro), as it is located some distance upstream from Porto, sheltered by mountain ranges from coastal influence. The region has Portugal’s highest wine classification as a Denominação de Origem Controlada (DOC). While the region is associated primarily with Port wine production, the Douro produces just as much table wine (non-fortified wines) as it does fortified wine. The non-fortified wines are typically referred to as “Douro wines”. The style of wines produced in the Douro range from light, Bordeaux style claret to rich Burgundian style wines aged in new oak.
    Links: Top Ten Wine Regions, Top 100 Wines, Top Ten Portuguese Wines, Top Ten Ports, Top Ten Portuguese Ports,,
  8. Pico Island
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           Pico Island is an island in the Central Group of the Portuguese Azores noted for its eponymous volcano, Ponta do Pico, which is the highest mountain in Portugal, the Azores, and the highest elevation of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. In the tradition of the Portuguese poet, Raul Brandão, Pico is referred to as the Ilha Preta (“Black Island”), for its black volcanic earth, responsible for its historical vineyards that allowed the development of the island.
    Links: Islands, Mountains, Top Ten Wine Regions, Top Ten Volcanoes,,
  9. Angra do Heroísmo
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           Angra do Heroísmo, locally referred to as Angra, is a municipality and city (of approximately 21,300 people) on the island of Terceira, within the Portuguese autonomous region of the Azores. The municipal area has a population of 35,581 and an area of 239.0 square km (92.3 square mi). Along with Praia da Vitória to the north, it is one of two municipal administrative divisions that are comprised by Terceira. Together with Ponta Delgada (São Miguel) and Horta (Faial), Angra is one of the three regional capitals of the Azores. Each capital is responsible for one of the three branches of government; Angra is the location of the judicial branch (the Supreme Court of the Azores), in addition to being the religious center of the Archdiocese of Azores. Angra do Heroísmo is the historical capital of the Azores; it is also the archipelago’s oldest city, dating back to 1450. Some claim that Angra was founded by Álvaro Martins, who sailed with Didrik Pining on his expedition to the New World, and with Bartolomeu Dias on his voyage around the Cape of Good Hope. Others contend that Angra was founded in 1450 or 1451 by Jácome de Bruges, a Fleming in the service of Prince Henry the Navigator, who recruited farmers, fishermen and merchants in the Low Countries to colonize the Azores. Angra served as a place of exile for Almeida Garrett during the Napoleonic Wars. It also served as a refuge for Queen Maria II of Portugal from 1830 to 1833. The word Heroísmo (“heroism”) was added to the name of the city, Angra (meaning “inlet” or “cove”), by Maria II, in recognition of the bravery and sacrifice shown by the people of Angra in the struggle that ended with the formation of a liberal constitutional monarchy in Portugal.
    Links: Top Ten Cathedrals,,
  10. Mosteiro Santa Maria da Vitória (Batalha Monastery)
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           Mosteiro Santa Maria da Vitória, more commonly known as the Batalha Monastery, is a Dominican convent in Batalha, in the District of Leiria, Portugal. It is one of the best and original examples of Late Gothic architecture in Portugal, intermingled with the Manueline style.
    Links: Monasteries, Sculptures, Top Ten Tombs,,
  11. Alcobaça Monastery
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           The Alcobaça Monastery is a Mediaeval Roman Catholic Monastery located in the town of Alcobaça, in central Portugal. It was founded by the first Portuguese King, Afonso Henriques, in 1153, and maintained a close association with the Kings of Portugal throughout its history. The church and monastery were the first Gothic buildings in Portugal, and, together with the Monastery of Santa Cruz in Coimbra, it was one of the most important of the mediaeval monasteries in Portugal.
    Links: Monasteries, Top Ten Tombs, Relieves and Petroglyphs,,
  12. Lagos
           Lagos is a municipality at the mouth of Bensafrim River and along the Atlantic Ocean, in the Barlavento region of the Algarve, in southern Portugal. The main town of Lagos (which includes only the parishes of Santa Maria and São Sebastião) has a population of approximately 20,000 residents, while the municipality supports a resident population of 30,755 inhabitants. Typically, these numbers increase during the summer months, with the influx of visiting tourists and seasonal residents. While the majority of the population lives along the coast and works in tourism and services, the inland region is sparsely inhabited, with the majority of the people working in agriculture and forestry. Lagos is one of the most visited cities in the Algarve and Portugal, due to its variety of tourist-friendly beaches, bars, restaurants and hotels, renowned for its vibrant summer nightlife and parties. Yet, Lagos is also a historic center of the Portuguese Age of Discovery, frequent home of Henry the Navigator, historical shipyard and, at one time, center of the European slave trade. In 2012, travel website TripAdvisor, classified Lagos as the favorite travel destination, on a list of 15 cities worldwide.
    Links: Top 100 Beaches,,_Portugal,
  13. Évora
           Évora is a Portuguese city in the municipality of Évora. Due to its well-preserved old town center, still partially enclosed by medieval walls and a large number of monuments dating from various historical periods, including a Roman Temple. It is also a member of the Most Ancient European Towns Network. Évora was ranked first in a study concerning competitiveness of the 18 Portuguese district capitals, according to a 2006 study made by Minho University economic researchers.
  14. Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra

    Quinta da Regaleira is an estate located near the historic center of Sintra, Portugal. Along with the other palaces in the area (such as the Pena, Monserrate and Seteais palaces), it’s considered one of the principal tourist attractions of Sintra. The property consists of a romantic palace and chapel, and a luxurious park that features lakes, grottoes, wells, benches, fountains, and a vast array of exquisite constructions. The palace is also known as “The Palace of Monteiro the Millionaire,” which is based on the nickname of its best known former owner, António Augusto Carvalho Monteiro. The land belonged to the Barons of Regaleira, a family of wealthy merchants from Porto, when it was sold in 1892 to Carvalho Monteiro for 25,000 réis. Monteiro was eager to build a bewildering place where he could collect symbols that reflected his interests and ideologies. With the assistance of the Italian architect Luigi Manini, he recreated the 4-hectare estate. In addition to other new features, he added enigmatic buildings that allegedly held symbols related to alchemy, Masonry, the Knights Templar, and the Rosicrucians. The architecture Manini designed evoked Roman, Gothic, Renaissance, and Manueline astyles. The construction of the current estate commenced in 1904 and much of it was completed by 1910.
  15. Côa Valley Paleolithic Art
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           The Côa Valley Paleolithic Art site is an open air sites of Paleolithic art in northeastern Portugal. In the late 1980’s, the engravings were discovered in Vila Nova de Foz Côa. The site in situated in the valley of the Côa River, and comprises thousands of engraved drawings of horses, bovines and other animal, human and abstract figures, dated from 22,000 to 10,000 years BC. Since 1995 a team of archaeologists have been studying and cataloging this pre-historical complex and a park was created to receive visitors.
  16. Links: Top Ten Portuguese Hotels, Top Ten Portuguese Restaurants,

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