Porto Portugal

Located in Northwest Portugal, the city of Porto Portugal is the world famous home of port wine. With a population of approximately 240,000 residents, Porto is the second largest city in Portugal behind the city of Lisbon. The name Porto means "port" in English.

The first inhabitants of the Porto area were members of various Celtic tribes. The Roman Empire captured the area and located a settlement there that they named Portus Cale. The Romans built up the port, and the city became one of the Roman Empire's more important trading areas.
Porto Portugal
During the Middle Ages, Porto was part of the European area controlled by the Moors. The city came back under the control of Christian forces in the year 868 AD.


At one time, Portugal was one of Europe's great naval powers. Hundreds of vessels were built in Porto. This shipbuilding was a major factor contributing to the success of Portuguese exploration and colonization.

Shipping remains one of the mainstays of the Porto economy. The area is a major export point for the Portuguese oil and gas industry. The Porto economy is also dependent on heavy manufacturing, and many of Portugal's largest manufacturing companies are located in the city of Porto.

Tourism is another major contributor to Porto's economic health. Those visiting the city will have no trouble exploring Porto's many attractions as the city has a robust public transportation network. Visitors will also find a large assortment of holiday apartments in Porto.

Porto's beautiful churches are among the city's top tourist sites. Porto Cathedral was originally built in the 12th century utilizing a Romanesque design. A restoration of the cathedral added many baroque architectural features to the building. The views of the city from the church are amazing. Two other architecturally important churches worth a visit are the Church of Santa Clara and Sao Francisco Church.

Visitors to the city will also find many art galleries and museums to browse. Several fine restaurants are located throughout Porto as well. Travelers will find that a lot of the citys attractions and restaurants are all within walking distance of many holiday apartments in Porto.

The weather in Porto is greatly influenced by its location near the Atlantic Ocean. Summers are hot and dry. The winter months are cool, but not exceptionally cold. However, the winter months and the first part of spring are very rainy.


Caldas da Rainha, Portugal

As one may expect with a name that translates to “Spas of the Queen,” the town of Caldas da Rainha, Portugal was founded by royalty and boasts over five centuries of history for visitors to explore. Nowadays, the town is well-known for its arts and crafts, especially ceramics and sculptures. It has become a popular destination for artists and collectors alike who come to view the unique and peculiar designs created in the town.
Parque D. Carlos I, Caldas da Rainha, Silver Coast, Portugal
In the 15th century, Queen Leonor was travelling through the region when she spotted some peasants bathing in some rather pungent smelling waters. When she asked them what they were doing she was told of the amazing healing powers of the waters. Trying it out for herself she found that some of her sufferings were relieved by soaking in the hot waters and immediately ordered a thermal hospital be built and a settlement quickly grew around the area. Over the centuries, Caldas da Rainha continued to be a favorite destination for the Portuguese royalty through the 19th century. Soon after, commerce shifted to the ceramics industry due to the large clay deposits in the surrounding area.

Situated 51 miles north of the capital city, Caldas da Rainha makes a perfect day trip from your apartments in Lisbon, Caldas da Rainha has a population of around 50,000 residents. Caldas da Rainha is on the western coast of Portugal in an area known as The Silver Coast and there are several nearby beaches on the Atlantic Ocean including nearby Foz do Arelho and Salir do Porto further up the coast.

Unspoiled country sides and a quaint small town atmosphere have made Caldas da Rainha a favorite for travelers. The area is easily accessible from the larger cities of Lisbon and Porto and a great base for exploring the Silver Coast region. Colorful weekday markets sell a variety of local fruits, fish and craft goods. Caldas da Rainha has a variety of restaurants and boutique shops where the town’s famous pottery is sold. There are several parks to explore, as well as the ceramic museum, historic Nossa Senhora do Pópulo Church and thermal springs hospital.

Caldas da Rainha boasts a warm, Mediterranean climate. The weather is relatively mild, with no drastic seasons and an annual rainfall average of 29 inches. The warmest month is August, with average highs in the 70’s. January is the coldest month and the average lows are in the 40’s. July is the driest month and the rainy season peaks in December, but overall the weather is rather constant and enjoyable year round.

Caldas da Rainha is a ideal destination, wheather for a day trip or weekend getaway from Lisbon apartments and hotels. Travelers will find that there is plenty to do just to the north of Lisbon.


Evora, Portugal

Evora is, indeed, a window to a time five centuries ago. From the center of town, El Praça do Geraldo, a rich historical tapestry unfolds as one visit’s the neighborhoods of this unique and ancient city. Architectural achievements and monuments created by past masters dot the landscape. A tour of Evora can trace the evolution of architecture as it passes through the Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque eras.

Evora is the capital and largest city in the Alentejo region of Portugal. As such it dominates the area’s cultural and economic activities of this large, plains covered region of Portugal. The Tagus river flows on its northern edge and was the source of it historical power and importance.

Giraldo Square Evora, PortugalThe history of this storied town dates from the pre-Roman era over two millennia ago. Rome conquered the town in 57 B.C and left a lasting footprint in architecture and monuments. The town flourished under Roman rule and both Julius and Caesar and Pliny the Elder recognized its virtues.

Evora suffered under the barbarian rule of the Visigoths but once again flourished after conquest by the Moors. Significant Moorish influence can still be found in the civic gardens and mosques of the city.

In the late 12th century, Evora would, once and for all, become part of the Portuguese empire. It was considered a wonder in the Middle Ages and its reputation has not diminished in the intervening years. Over the centuries, the most famous artists of Europe from every discipline have visited and contributed to the artistic splendor of this museum city.

From the Roman era , one can visit the Temple of Diana in the central town square. This well preserved structure from the first century and is the town’s most famous and visited monument.

The architecture of the Middle Ages is well represented by the Cathedral of Evora. It combines overall Gothic elements in the main areas with Manueline and Renaissance details in various naves and transepts.

In the center of town, Giraldo Square is home to the Estaus Palace, the Henriquina fountain and the beautiful St. Anton’s Church.

The City Museum houses a collection of art that showcases the Golden Age of Portugal. It is noted for several outstanding paintings and sculptures from the 16th and 17th centuries.


Sines, Portugal

Sines is situated on a coastal plain and an escarpment south of Portugal’s capital, Lisbon. Over the centuries, the area was settled by Visigoths, Punic Tribes, and Romans who used it as a commercial trading port. The early settlement was sacked by the Moors in the 7th century. With the return of the Portuguese fishermen in the 8th century, coastal settlements grew larger and a castle was built in the early 15th century to enhance the remnants of the Visigoth defensive wall. It was in this castle that the legendary explorer Vasco da Gama was born in 1469.

Over the next several centuries, the area retained its fishing and economic position along the coast. Entrepreneurial growth spurred development of the area when roads and a rail line were constructed. A cork industry, agriculture, fishing and in recent years, tourism and a petrochemical industry have driven the economy of this once sheltered fishing village. The large, deep water port is home to one of Portugal’s largest maritime industrial complexes.
Ocean View, Sines, Portugal
Despite this modern economic development, Sines still retains many of its historic buildings and landmarks. The historic town center sits on a cliff that overlooks a small bay. Visitors to Sines can enjoy sunbathing and surfing at one of the areas Blue Flag Award winning beaches. On Vasco da Gamma Beach, guests can see vestiges of pirate attacks and the place where King Miguel departed into exile as they walk along the promenade. The list of other beautiful beaches includes Porto Covo, Pessegueiro Island and Sao Torpes. Divers and underwater fishermen are drawn to the area’s underwater caves and rich, abundant fishing grounds.

Sightseers can visit the Sines Museum and the home of Vasco da Gama which is housed in the historic castle. Here they will see displays of Carthaginian, Roman and Visigoth artifacts as well as a biographical depiction of the navigator whose pioneering voyages helped to shape the modern world. You can visit the Treasures of the Salas Church, which are ornaments and jewels that have been donated over the years in honor of the Virgin Mary. Visitors can also enjoy the numerous religious and folk festivals and a tour of the Sines Art Center.

You will find a Mediterranean climate that is moderated by ocean influences as you sample the local cuisine including the regional specialty Vasquinhos, an almond cake named in honor of the city’s favorite son.


Santarem, Portugal

From a position on the ridge overlooking the Tagus River, Santarem holds a significant place in the history of Portugal. Originating during the Iron Age, the town was named in honor of martyred Saint Iria by the native Visigoths. The area served as an administrative center for Julius Caesar’s Legions and was one of the strongest fortresses in Portugal. The area became a center of culture and commerce. It was named Santarem when the Christians re-conquered the area from the Moors in the 12th century. After its recapture, Santarem was a favorite city for Portuguese monarchs. It was used as a location for the royal courts of Alfonso IV and John II. This is also the hometown of the celebrated poet Ibn Bassam. Santarem was used as a base of operations for Capitao Maia and his Carnation Revolution forces that helped to overthrow the Estado Novo dictatorship in 1974.

Almourol castle on the Tagus River, Santeram, PortugalVisitors to Santarem will be amazed by the carved rose window of the Church of the Grace. The church is a National Monument as it’s the burial site of Pedro Alvares Cabral, the explorer who discovered Brazil. The town’s archaeological museum contains many Roman and Moorish artifacts. It also houses the tomb of Duarte de Menezes, a nobleman and colonial officer in India. Guests will also admire the beautiful Gothic cloister and ornate west door of the 13th century Convent of Saint Francis. Santissimo Milagre Church contains a vial that legend says holds a drop of Christ’s blood. There are several other fine examples of Gothic. Romanesque and Arab influenced architecture in the city.

Visitors to Santarem, Portugal’s bullfighting capital will find a moderate Mediterranean climate as they admire the views of the countryside from the 13th century Alenquer Castle or Portas do Sol Park which is situated above the Alentejan plains and the Tagus River. From these vantage points and the city tower, you can easily see why Santarem is the center of one of Portugal’s thriving agricultural areas. There are major festivals in June and October to celebrate the gastronomical delights that are produced in the region. You’ll discover Santarem’s cultural and artistic heritage during these festivals that showcase bullfighting, farmers markets, music and folk dancing, especially the Fandango, the traditional dance of the region.

Today, Santarem is a whitewashed, terracotta tiled city that makes an excellent location from which to explore Portugal’s renowned Ribatejo wine producing region.


Beja, Portugal

From its medieval churches to the castle on the hill, the appeal of Beja, Portugal, cannot be denied. Seated high above the fertile plains of Baixa Alentejo and just 2 hours from Lisbon, Beja is surrounded by ancient towns and stunning vistas. Its romantic restaurants, cozy hotels and excellent wines combine to make today's Beja a desirable tourist attraction when visiting Portugal. Throughout its checkered history, however, this was not always the case.

Steeped in antiquity, the region dates back to the Bronze age, with Celtics its first known inhabitants. Due to its strategic military location and productive copper mines, Beja suffered numerous conquests and consequent changes of name. In the year 48 B.C., the self-promoting Julius Caesar christened it Pax Julia. Emperor Augustus, not to be outdone, felt that Pax Augusta was a better fit. The name changed once again under Visigoth rule, this time to Paca. Finally, during the sixth century, the Moors decided on the current name of Beja.Tower Torre de Menagem in Beja, Portugal

The oft-repeated battles for control left the city decimated and virtually depopulated. For centuries, embattled Beja struggled to rebuild. It finally managed to regain city status, only to be sacked again by Napoleon's troops in 1808.

Today, Romans and Visigoths no longer roam the city. Friendly residents replace the ancient warriors, and a stroll through Beja's venerable streets will reward you with delightful scenes of red-roofed buildings and magnificent medieval cathedrals. You might spot a craftsman selling pottery or a farmer leading his horse to pasture. Stunning views of the castle are visible for miles, and a trip to the top of its tower rewards the energetic with an excellent view of the city.

Behind the castle stands the whitewashed, pre-Romanesque Basilica of Santo Amaro, which houses the Visigoth exhibition of the Beja Regional Museum. Another fine museum, the Rainha D. Leonor, is located in the Franciscan convent of Our Lady of the Conception. This convent, a Gothic wonder dating back to 1459, was home to Mariana Alcoforado, the 17th century nun whose love letters to a French military officer inspired the book and movie "Letters of a Portuguese Nun." The convent itself is a national historic monument.

The additional attractions of St. Andrew's Chapel, St. Mary of the Market Church and the ruins of Pisoes make Beja more than worth the trip, but potential visitors should keep one thing in mind: Since its summer temperatures can exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit, knowledgeable tourists consider May and June the best months to visit Beja.


Carrapateira, Portugal

Carrapateira, Portugal, is a village on the Algarve coast with a nice selection of beach house rentals. The village offers easy access to an isolated beach that features three clean kilometres of virgin sand. Carrapateira is the real Portugal, a place to let go of big city worries. This is a vacation for the discerning traveler, wanting to escape to a unique environment. It helps if you are a serious surfer, because the waves at the mouth of the Ribeira da Bordeira can be challenging. The beach is bounded by limestone cliffs and wide ranging dunes that extend inland to Carrapateira, a rural place with an easy going atmosphere, quite more relaxed from the more crowded resorts, also found in the region.

Find your inner poet in the peace and quiet of Carrapateira. This is where you go to find freedom, in a secluded beach house with a glorious view. The meaning of life comes clear to those who spend time in a village like this, where you will find a surprising range of affordable and convenient rentals.

And, when you need big city advantages, it’s only a drive of a few kilometres to a generous selection of restaurants, spas, and golf courses. The Algarve Coast has long catered to international tourism. Whether you are here to fish, surf, or just soak up the sun, this is a unique escape.

For your soul, spend time walking around Costa Vincentina Natural Park, a protected reserve with fabulous ocean views, pristine forest trails, and wildlife. Then, for fine dining, your favorite stop will be Restaurante Sitio de Forno, sited on a limestone cliff with an unobstructed ocean view. But for fun, learn to surf at the nomad surfer’s home, the Carrapateira Surfcamp, Surf School & Surfaris, Portugal. Remember, the Algarve’s southwestern tip is a surfer’s paradise unmatched anywhere else in Europe. Blessed with perpetual sunshine,
the Sagres Peninsula has a coastline with decent to excellent surfing conditions year round. The waves range in size from timid to heroic, while the variety of beach breaks and reefs will provide the perfect challenge for all surfers, from the tyros to the maestros.

The other option is to stay at the Carrapateira Surfhouse, a one stop business offering surf lessons for beginners, guided tours for the pros, and comfortable B&B housing. Connect with kindred spirits in the surfer’s village of Carrapateira, or enjoy a beach party on the ageless dunes of Bordeira Beach.

The Carrapateira Surfhouse boasts a multicultural, poly-lingual staff. Look forward to parties with Brazilian food, Mexican barbecues, and even the random belly dancer. For this and many other reasons, the Alrgave coast continues to be particularly popular for United Kingdom vacationers.

When you vacation at Carrapateira, look forward to a pristine beach with a charming café, romantic sunset surfs, and a feathery mist suspended off the coast like a distant shore. When the mist comes in, it will feel like the land that time forgot, to create a memory that you will savor, always.


Sagres, Portugal

For the traveler looking to avoid hustle and bustle, all-night parties and rampant overdevelopment, Sagres in the southwest region of Portugal’s popular Algarve region offers an oasis of relaxation. The relative remoteness of the small town from larger population centers has allowed it to escape the rapid development experienced by other areas of the Algarve. Sagres offers beautiful beaches, surfing, diving, cycling and bird watching.

During Roman occupation, the area around Sagres was known as Promontorium Sacrum, or Sacred Promontory. The Romans thought that the area marked the westernmost point of the world and that the setting sun caused the waters off the point to boil furiously. Legend has it that Prince Henry the Navigator founded Sagres around 1420. The school of navigation that Henry established is believed to have pushed Portugal forward as a leader in exploration.

The population of Sagres dwindled after Henry’s death, and the town began to fade. An earthquake destroyed the town’s church in 1755, forcing residents to travel a considerable distance to attend Mass, and even more people left.

Though history buffs may be disappointed that many of the town’s original buildings collapsed during the 1755 quake, the Fortaleza de Sagres survives. The fortress, originally completed in the 15th century and rebuilt in 1793, dominates Sagres Point. A small chapel from Henry’s time survives inside. Sagres Point itself affords breathtaking views up the coast to Cabo Sao Vincente, which is home to the second-most powerful lighthouse in Europe.

Though the town has recently undergone expansion, its population remains under 2,000. Sagres spreads out a considerable distance, but the shops, restaurants and cafes cluster along the main street, the Rua Comandante Matoso. Seafood lovers will enjoy the abundance and variety of fresh fish offered by the restaurants on this street.

Both Atlantic and Mediterranean currents influence the climate. Sagres enjoys moderate temperatures, and winds from the Atlantic help to keep summers cool. Rainfall is sparse and occurs mostly in the winter months.

Most people visit Sagres for its stunning coastline, popular with surfers and sunbathers alike. The shape of the coastline provides sheltered beaches and numerous surfing opportunities. Praia da Mareta is a popular family beach five minutes from the town center on the southern side of Sagres. Praia do Tonel on the more exposed northern side of the point is popular with surfers and is patrolled by lifeguards during the summer. Those seeking solitude will enjoy Praia do Martinhal, just east of Sagres.

Accommodations include hotels, apartments, guest houses and a campground. Concrete high-rises are almost nonexistent. Travelers should note that surfers flock to the region in late July and August, and accommodation may be more difficult to find during those times.

Travelers can get to Sagres by flying to the regional capital, Faro. The Faro International Airport has links with all the European capitals. Trains run from Faro to Lagos, which is 30 miles from Sagres. Bus service is infrequent and may take a long time, so travelers are advised to allow plenty of time when traveling by bus from Lagos to Sagres. Rental cars are also available in both Faro and Lagos.


Sintra, Portugal

Known as a city of palaces, encircled by the Sintra Mountains, and located on the Lisbon coast of Portugal, Sintra is a historical city recognized by UNESCO. Setting to both the summer home of the Portuguese royal family and the Moors who ruled Portugal from Lisbon, it offers stunning scenes of Lisbon that is 28 km in distance. Near by are verdant gardens, extravagant estates and resorts situated on the coastline at the furthermost west spot in Europe.

An Arab geographer and later poets verified Sintra’s existence in the 11th century, but the Moors built the Castelo dos Moros earlier by the 9th century. The Portuguese conquered Sintra in the 1100s when Alfonso Henriques commanded that a church be built inside city walls. Christopher Columbus caught site of the Rock of Sintra when he was sailing to the West. 1808 is an important date in Portuguese history when the French invasion of Portugal ended with the Convention of Sintra.

Travelers will be attracted town’s history and culture and to the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park that comprises the Serra de Sintra and continues to the beaches on the coast and to the Cabo da Roca, 18 km west of Sintra, the most western point of Europe.

UNESCO recognized Sintra as a World Heritage Site because it of its cultural legacy. Incorporated in these cultural sites are Quinta da Regaleira encompassing the Palace and Chapel, Pena National Palace, Sintra National Palace, Monserrate Palace, Seteais Palace, and Castle of the Moors.

Getting to Sintra is easy as CP trains run often from several Lisbon stations. Negotiating Sintra is also uncomplicated if riding the bus or walking but not by driving as parking is limited to parking lots below the town. The best choice is to ride the bus around town, stopping at the sites. The walk from Palacio da Pena to the Castelo dos Mouros is a sharply inclined hour-long walk. Other walks in town, such as to Monserrate, are not as arduous.

Travelers could immerse themselves for days in the sites of Sintra. Start at the Tourist information center in town. Travelers have the choice of 10 hotels and 14 restaurants. With more that 10 art and historical museums and houses listed, perhaps two highlights would be the Toy Museum and the Gun Powder Museum. Regaleira Palace and Gardens, started in the late 17th century and built in the late 1800s reflects the Romantic style architecture Sintra is known for and is representative of the many palaces and estates to visit. Poco Iniciatico, an upside down tower, is found in the gardens at Pena. Plan to visit Sintra’s more than seven churches and convents such as Our Lady of Mercy Chapel or Convento dos Capuchos. In walking distance are fountains, the historical Jewish district, restaurants and bars such as Estrada Velha that is traditional, Mourisea – with Moorish influence, and the Hockey Café.

Sintra’s Public market is situated in Sintra’s town center. The market sells all the daily needs for the people of Sintra as well as Porto wine and tourist souvenirs. Unique items from Sintra are cork merchandise such as wallets and umbrellas that are strong as leather.

Sintra’s beaches are the best place to unwind and relax after a day of walking and sightseeing. Long Beach is the longest beach. Apple Beach is called so because the river that runs into Praia das Macas had apple trees along the bank and the apples ended up on the beach. The beach has lifeguards and local bars and cafes.


Monchique, Portugal

Step back in time to when life was peaceful and things didn’t move too fast. Picture a village with lush gardens, beautifully terraced hillsides, charming cottages and a beautiful green landscape gently making its way up the hillside. Monchique, Portugal might be just the place you are dreaming of.

Monchique is a small town with little more than 10,000 residents, which has a nineteenth century atmosphere that is very inviting. In recent years, many of the younger residents have moved to the coastal areas where there are better career opportunities, but taking up residence in the charming town is a community of expatriates and others who have come to visit and fallen in love with the relaxed pace of life there.

The climate in Monchique is milder than its coastal neighbors and enjoys more sunshine. The residents are warm and friendly, with hospitality being the norm rather than the exception. The town is comprised of lush hillsides dotted with white houses built around the central church with a few small villages to the east and west. There are no pretentious shopping malls, golf courses or five star restaurants, but the local cuisine, although not elaborate, is excellent.

Sight seeing in Monchique is best accomplished on foot, taking in the beautiful and relaxing scenery. Enjoy a coffee in the town square or a bit of lunch. Sample a pao com chourico, which is spicy sausage in a fresh roll. You might also want to sample the signature local dish piri-piri, a traditional spicy casserole prepared with chicken or salted cod, or local favorites wild boar, kid or assorted wild game.

Monchique has many local artisans that produce beautifully crafted items including sculptures, pottery and homemade soaps as well as handmade shoes crafted by local cobblers.

Strolling through town, there are signs to guide you through the area and a wide variety of walking trails. Follow the cobblestone streets and visit the parish church and the Sacred Art Museum located there, then follow the path up the hill to the ruins of the Franciscan convent, circa the 1600s, that offers breathtaking views of the area. Another interesting feature of Monchique is the terraced orchards where oranges, almonds and figs are grown in the traditional manner that has been used for many centuries.

The nearby village of Caldas de Monchique is located off in a wooded valley along the road to Monchique and a favorite locale since the Roman era for its natural spring water, prized for both drinking and bathing. During Roman times the area was developed into a spa around the natural hot spring that is at a constant temperature of around 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius). There is another natural hot spring near Picota called Fonte Santa that legend credits with having special healing properties.

Surfing, sunbathing and swimming are all available within a short distance from Monchique as well, with both the south and west coast beaches of Portugal nearby. The coastline is pristine and offers some of the best beaches in the world.