What To See In Portugal
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Is Portugal on your bucket list? Yes? Well, good choice then, it’s about time! Let’s guess – you’ve done your research, bought the ticket, and secured your accommodation. But, one question must still remain. What to see in Portugal – for real? Buckle up and get ready, as you’re about to be taken for a wild ride!
P.S. There won’t be your typical touristy things. There is gonna be some weird stuff on this list. But all so worth it.
What to see in Portugal?
Visit the Belém Tower (Torre de Belem)
This gorgeous 16th-century fortification is located in Lisbon, and it has served two purposes – as a defense system, and a ceremonial gateway. The tower was actually constructed on a small island near the bank of the Tagus, opposite the shore of Restelo. It has two parts: the bastion and the four-story tower, which is located on the north side of the bastion. There is a spectacular view of the Tagus river. In 1983, the tower has become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Castelo de Guimaraes
If you enjoy architecture from medieval times, then you should pay a visit to Castelo de Guimaraes. Built all the way back in the 10th century, this castle’s purpose was to protect the monastery built within the walls. At one point, the castle became the official royal residence (from 1139), which tells a lot of its historical importance. You can find the castle in the urban area of Guimarães, isolated on a small hill.
25th of April Bridge (25 de Abril Bridge)
Also known as Tagus River Bridge, this gorgeous piece of architecture sure resembles the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, whereas in fact, in Lisbon. Maybe it is due to the fact that it was designed by an American Bridge Company that has constructed one of the San Francisco bridges, but not the most famous one. Even so, it sure is remarkable, standing tall over the bank of the Tagus river, with 2,277 meters in length (7,470 ft). Besides the standard car lanes, the lower deck carries a double-track railway. And yes, that means trains go over the bridge too. What else could you expect from the 38th largest suspension bridge in the world?
Making our way back to the capital of Portugal, Lisboa also offers great scenery when it comes to the ocean world. In the “Oceanario de Lisboa“, you can see a large selection of marine species, such as penguins, seagulls, sharks, rays… all swimming near you, with only a glass wall between you. There are about 450 species, with near 16000 individuals! Being the largest aquarium in Europe, it will surely not disappoint.
Credit goes to the respective owners of the website castelodesaojorge.pt
The beauty of this incredible piece of architecture has more to do with its history and cultural significance. The very fact there was a human occupation of the castle hill that dates to at least the 8th century BC sure leaves us breathless. Imagine walking these halls knowing the number of historical events that have taken place there. This castle has gone through phases such as becoming a royal palace over and over again. Then, a military barracks, home of the Torre do Tombo National Archive, and now – a national monument and museum.
This beautiful palace was built during the reign of King John V (1707–1750). The main intent of this palace was to have the king build a convent if his wife, Queen Mariana if she gave him offspring. It was also a Franciscan friary. Now it is classified as a National Monument. And in July this year, it became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Cabo da Roca
Cabo da Roca, also known as Focinho Da Rosa (Red Nose) is a cliff with 144 meters in height. It is the westernmost extent of Portugal, and Europe itself. Today, it is an incredibly picturesque tourist attraction with an 18th-century lighthouse standing tall, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. In history, it was known to the Romans as Promontorium Magnum. It is located 42 kilometers west of the city of Lisbon and is a go-to location for Instagram-lovers.
Going back into civilization means visiting the oldest part of the city of Porto – the Ribeira District. You can walk the cobblestone streets, enjoy the colorful exteriors of houses nearby, go shopping, listen to the street musicians, go dining… it is a hot tourist spot, but for a good reason.
Credit goes to the respective owners of the website tour.calem.pt
As mentioned earlier, Portugal is famous for its wine. If you want to try some good Portuguese wine, then head straight to Porto Calem. There, you can join tours of the wine cellars and eventually enjoy wine-tasting. Sounds great, right?
Credit goes to Flickr, Carmen
We are onto some freaky stuff with this one. Portugal’s Chapel of Bones is just what it says it is – a chapel of Bones. No, those are not decorative, those are real, human bones.
This chapel was built in Evora, by the orders of monks. You wonder why monks, as people of spirituality, would want to move the deceased from their resting places? It wasn’t to perform any kind of ceremony. In fact, by the 16th century, the cemeteries in Evora started to become overcrowded. Burial grounds were taking up too much space. That’s why monks decided to relocate them. Their intent was to evoke people’s conscious when it comes to death. There was even a song written a long time ago, calling people out to pause their journey, reflect on death and its inevitable coming. Supposedly, it should have given your journey of life “a push”. Plus, at the entrance, there is a sign that translates to:”We bones, are here, waiting for yours.”.Nevertheless, it sure is mesmerizing and equally freaky to see.
Continuing on with the spooky series by introducing to you the Drowned Village of Vilarinho da Furna. One of the prosperous cities of Portugal, founded in 1st Century BC, is now an underwater resting place for memories and lost history. What happened to it is actually a part of the recent history, with the involvement of human hands. Back in 1967, the small village of 300 people needed to relocate as a dam was starting to get built. The village would be flooded, but the purpose was to provide the region with an enormous amount of hydroelectricity.
The residents did protest, but eventually, they were paid off to leave. They left, leaving behind their home, as well as 2000-years worth of history. There is a museum opened nearby São João do Campo, in purpose to preserve the historical significance of this place. Note that you cannot see this place all of the time unless the rivers’ level is particularly low. Although there are tours with transparent boats that take you to that place, no one dares to come close to the ruins, as the levels of water aren’t consistent. Nevertheless, if you’re lucky to catch it in the drought season, then you’re in for some view.
This gorgeous artificial lake with a manmade Bell-mouth spillway looks like something out of a movie. Nevertheless, it is completely real and breathtaking to see. It is in the Serra da Estrela mountains in Portugal. Built back in 1955, this amazing feat of engineering purpose was to connect the water between two lakes. Instead of building a pipe to channel the water, they have decided to drill a tunnel in the mountains instead. Pretty spectacular what humankind and nature can do when they work together.
Credit goes to the respective owner Adrià Marrasé
This place is taking swimming pools to the next level. The Tidal Pools of Leça da Palmeira are built in the rocks and are completely immersing withing its surroundings. The two pools are filled with salt water, so you get the complete feeling as if you were actually in the ocean. Note that the pools are opened to the public for swimming from June to September. However, the opening dates seem to change constantly, so make sure you find someone to check that out with. Browse Instagram by location or hashtag to find people who have recently been there and ask them if it’s still working. But you can visit this place all year round, just the bathing is limited by time.
The Fort of Graça is located in the village of Alcáçov, just one kilometer away from the town of Elvas. The construction work began in 1763 and was based on fortress Wilhelmstein. The fort is a 150 meters quadrangle with pentagonal bastions at the corners. Absolutely breathtaking to see.
Folk-Saint Maria Adelaide
Maria Adelaide was a girl born in Porto, supposedly out of wedlock. She grew up in a convent in a nearby city, Due to the high humidity, she contracted tuberculosis. Doctors advised to move to Porto, and then when that didn’t help, they advised she moved to a seaside place, with “with plenty of pines and eucalyptuses.”. This helped her condition, and she felt better. She was known as a very humble and generous person. She would read to kids, and raise money to those in need by baking and embroidering. However, the things took a bad course when Maria Adelaide caught a cold and tuberculosis came back. She died in 1885 and was buried in Arcozelo.
In 1916, the plot she was buried in was sold to a new owner. When her grave was dug up, they have discovered a completely intact corpse. Then, they decided to wash the body in chemicals and bury her back in a common grave. However, the secret was out and people started coming to see if the rumor was true. Thus began the legend of Maria Adelaide, a folk-proclaimed saint. People have then built her her own chapel and transferred her body into a transparent coffin, so the believers could come and admire her. Due to her rising popularity, folk-saint Maria Adelaide couldn’t rest in peace. Several times her grave was exposed to danger – first by an explosion, then with attempt and successful robberies, which left some damage to the body. Once in 1983, a man tried to break the coffin and destroy the body with a club hammer!
Credit goes to the respective owner Ernesto São Thiago
Try Out Tasty (and Strange) Food
Besides the spooky localities and amazing wine, you might be angry after all this, right? Well, consider yourself lucky then. Wondering what to see in Portugal, or better yet – eat? Here ya go:
- Baba de Camelo – roughly translated to “Camel’s Drool”, this tasty treat is perfect for sweet-tooths. It is made mostly out of egg yolk and condensed milk.
- Doces Fálicos – the village of Amarante celebrates Saint Gonçalo de Amarante with phallic-shaped cakes, although the mentioned saint has nothing to do with fertility. You can find these cakes now year-round.
- Pão de Ló de Ovar – a traditional Portuguese spongecake you’re gonna have to eat with a spoon.
- Lampreia de Ovos – this is a Christmas dessert that actually celebrates lamprey – a bloodsucking fish.
- Francesinha – it’s a sandwich with cured ham, steak, Portuguese sausage, with melted cheese, tomatoes, and pretty much anything you can think of. YUM!
- Bolo Lêvedo – bread with a muffin texture, extremely tasty.
- Malasadas – Portuguese doughnuts
- Moelas – savory stewed chicken gizzards
Credit goes to the respective owner RUI POÇO
Listen to Fado (Portuguese Folk Music)
Fado literally translates to “fate” or “destiny”. It is Lisbon’s version of the blues, with vocals accompanied by a Portuguese 12-string guitar. It is a unique experience and one you should not skip.