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Portugal Popular Places to Visit

Parque Natural Da Ria Formosa

The Algarve is justly famous for its pristine coastline, and one of its natural wonders is the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa. This protected marine habitat constitutes a 60-kilometer stretch of marshland, saltpans, shallow water lagoons, and sand dune islands that run from Quinta do Lago east past Faro all the way to Cacela Velha.

A haven for an abundance of flora and fauna, the park is crisscrossed by a series of nature trails with close proximity to some of the animals associated with this region of Portugal. From observation hides built on the lakes, birdwatchers can spy species like the rare purple gallinule, while out on the mudflats, flocks of greater flamingo can be admired. On land, look out for the delicate sea daffodil and flourishing goosefoot and, if you're lucky, the Mediterranean chameleon. One of the walks passes the renowned San Lorenzo golf course, itself a draw for all sorts of birdlife. 

Algarve, Portugal

Óbidos

Óbidos is an artist's dream. An assortment of whitewashed cottages, cafés, and handicraft stores lining a series of narrow, cobbled streets are completely enclosed by sturdy medieval walls. There's also the Igreja De Santa Maria, which features a wonderful interior of blue and white 17th-century azulejos (tiles). A museum on the town's attractive square includes rare works of art by the 17th-century painter, Josefa de Óbidos. 

You can walk along the top of the battlements for lovely views over the terracotta rooftops and the lush plains beyond. The fortifications form part of the landmark castle, whose keep looms guardian-like over the charming scene below. The castle itself is now a pousada, an upscale period hotel.

Óbidos, Portugal

Oporto

With its robust granite architecture and commercial disposition, Oporto, Portugal's second city, rewards visitors with a very different experience to that of the capital. Sited at the mouth of the River Douro and blessed with a waterfront - the Ribeira - acknowledged by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, Oporto is a destination endowed with Baroque churches and Neoclassical buildings that number some of the best examples of their kind in the country. 

Oporto, Portugal

Jeronimos Monastery

The Jerónimos Monastery is the most accomplished example of the very Portuguese Manueline style and the decorative use of the symbols of the great Portuguese expeditions of the 15th and 16th centuries. The style represents a late Gothic expression, showing influences of the then modern Renaissance movement. It also reflects the manifold influences from other overseas cultures with which the pioneering Portuguese came into contact. See, for example, the Islamic-inspired solution for the vaulted ceilings in the church and the columns in the cloister, to name just a few of the many examples of architectural solutions and decorative elements.

Lisbon, Portugal

Sagres Fort

Located on the Cape of Sagres, the Promontorium Sacrum famous for its unparalleled beauty, Sagres Fortress owes its origins to Prince Henry the Navigator who created the town and died here in 1460. 

There is little left of the walls that the father of the Discoveries ordered to be built, as the fortress was rebuilt in the 16th century and during the second half of the 18th century, at which time it was altered to the "Vauban" defensive system. The entrance to this bastioned fortress is a good example of neoclassical architecture. On the inside can be seen cannons, a 16th century tower and also the Church of Nossa Senhora da Graça (Our Lady of Grace), built in the 16th century on the exact spot where previously the Church of Santa Maria had stood, which was founded by Prince Henry but was destroyed by the English privateer Francis Drake in 1587.

One of the most important attractions of Sagres Fortress is without doubt the "rosa-dos-ventos" (the wind rose), a sundial which many think dates from the time of Prince Henry and the nautical school he founded in Sagres. 

A place of great historical and symbolic value, this monument offers visitors an opportunity to revisit the glorious period of the maritime Discoveries and to enjoy one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world.

Algarve, Portugal

Alcobaca Monastery

The complex of Alcobaça Monastery is one of the most notable and best conserved examples of Cistercian architecture and spatial philosophy.

Alcobaça was the last abbey founded in St. Bernard's lifetime and the first wholly Gothic building in Portugal. The abbey was founded in 1153, when King Afonso Henriques donated the land to Bernard of Clairvaux (St. Bernard).

Construction work on the building as we see it today only began in 1178 and lasted several decades, which is understandable considering the absolutely exceptional dimensions of the project.

The religious brotherhood occupied the already completed buildings in1223 and followed a programme of prayer and manual work ("ora et labora").

Coimbra, Portugal

Batalha Monastery

The town of Batalha developed alongside the Monastery of Santa Maria de Vitória, constructed in 1386 to keep a vow by Portuguese King Dom João I to the Virgin Mary that he would build it if Portugal defeated Castile at the Battle of Aljubarrota on 14th August 1385. Extravagant celebrations commemorating this victory are held next to the monastery in August of every year.

The Monastery of Batalha, a masterpiece of Portuguese Gothic, is a magnificent piece of architecture that combines various influences from its lengthy period of construction, which lasted several reigns.

Outstanding in the interior are the Founders' Chapel with its fine stained-glass windows, the cloisters, the Unfinished Chapels with their Manueline and Flemish Gothic features and the Chapter House.

Coimbra, Portugal

Coimbra Library

At the Joanine Library there are worlds inside worlds, inside worlds; here, everything is knowledge and art invites you to discovery. There are thousands of works which lay upon a lavish space full of beauty and exoticism, where the richness of the painted ceilings is in harmony with the balustrades and shelves made of golden leaves and wood from the tropics. Enjoy the scholar knowledge of this bounded treasures here protected by the magnificence of the Joanine Baroque style.

The Joanine Library at Coimbra University, which replaced the old University Book House, owes its name to the monarch who ordered its building in 1717. King John V, the Magnanimous, became known as a great patron of culture, science and arts and this library is a remarkable testimony of the King's cultural policy.

In the portico of the elegant building with four ionic columns, the majestic royal coat of arms in Baroque style stands out, displaying a spirit of magnificence which characterized the most auspicious reign in the History of Portugal.

In this three stores building, two of which are underground, the walls, covered in bookshelves, keep thousands of volumes, especially about Medicine, Geography, History, Humanist Studies, Science, Civil and Canon Law, Philosophy and Theology works.

The Library is just a fraction of the UNESCO Heritage sites in Coimbra, all worth a visit which can take from a morning to a couple of days depending on your itnerest.

Coimbra, Portugal

S. Francisco Church

What from outside looks like an ordinary 14th century Gothic and Baroque construction, has the most extraordinary church interior in Oporto and unquestionably one of the most fabulously opulent in all of Europe. 

The extensive 17th and 18th baroque decoration is a profusion of gilt wood carvings in the vault pillars and columns: cherubs, plants, and animals dripping with gold -- note the "Tree of Jesse," dating from 1718. The little that is not covered in pure gold (it is said that there is 400kg of it here) such as the wide-ribbed Gothic arches, is made of marble. 

There is a museum housed in the catacombs below consisting of artifacts from the former monastery. Beneath the flags of the cellar are thousands of human bones, stored to await Judgment Day. 


If you only have time to visit one church in Oporto, make it this one. 

Porto, Portugal

Chapel Of Bones

The Capela dos Ossos (Chapel of Bones) is one of the best known monuments in Évora, Portugal. It is a small interior chapel located next to the entrance of the Church of St. Francis. The Chapel gets its name because the interior walls are covered and decorated with human skulls and bones.

No more words are needed not to ruin the surprise, a place that you certainly should visit while in Évora.

Evora, Portugal