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Portugal

river-cruises
The westernmost country in continental Europe, Portugal’s history is full of the exploits of explorers, who, in the Golden Age of Discovery, crossed uncharted seas. The country even has its own Manueline-style of architecture, which was inspired by the sea and symbols of royal power. Yet, Portugal is also one of the oldest nations in Europe, and within its centuries-old cities and ancient towns, an amazing collection of monuments and historic buildings define Portuguese history.
 
Noble Guimarães was the country’s first capital and its medieval centre has UNESCO World Heritage status. Braga is Portugal’s religious capital and its 12th century Cathedral is one of the oldest in the country. Coimbra is home to one of the world’s oldest universities, whilst the former frontier town of Elvas has 17th century, star-shaped walls that are one of the best-preserved examples of military architecture in Europe. Both Kings and nobles appreciated Sintra, which, with its castles and 18th century palaces nestled in the forested peaks of the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, is one of Portugal’s most enchanting towns. Even the white-washed, hilltop towns of the Alentejo are a legacy of the Moors.
 
With a history closely tied to its seafaring heritage, Lisbon is one of Europe’s most charming capitals. Yet it’s Porto, at the mouth of the River Douro, that provided a nation with its name and is at the centre of its wine-production, one of the country’s most ancient traditions. A river cruise along the Douro takes you to the heart of this fascinating country.

Things to know

  • Portugal was founded in 1128, making it one of the oldest nations in Europe.  Portugal is named after its 2nd largest city, Porto. 
  • Portuguese is the official language of 9 countries and the 6th most spoken first language in the world
  • Spanning 600 years, Portugal’s colonial empire was the longest of the modern European empires
  • There are 15 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Portugal (ranking it 8th in Europe and 17th in the world) … and each year more than 13 million tourists visit the country.  
  • The country’s national drink Port – a fortified wine, is also its most famous export.
  • At 10.7 miles long, the Vasco da Gama Bridge across the Tagus is the longest bridge in Europe
  • Portugal’s Cabo da Roca is the most western point of continental Europe

Key Destinations

Porto
Porto

On the banks of the River Douro, Portugal’s second biggest city is increasingly popular for its history, gastronomy, architecture and touch of old-world charm. The beautiful old town, a maze of steep, cobbled streets lined with tall brightly painted houses topped with terracotta roof tiles, tumbles down to a waterfront with bars and restaurants. What better way to drink in Porto’s sights than sitting by the river sipping the famous wine?
 
Vila Real Palacio de Mateus
Vila Real

Vila Real is beautifully situated at the foothills of the majestic slopes of Serra do Marão. The town flourished during the 16th and 17th centuries with many aristocrats building grand palaces here, befitting its literal name ‘royal villa’. Owned by the Mateus foundation, the splendid Palacio de Mateus is considered one of the finest examples of baroque architecture in Portugal.
Lamego
Lamego

Often described as Portugal’s ‘Capital of the Baroque’, Lamego is blessed with many splendid buildings from the 1700’s when the style reached its zenith. They include the glorious episcopal palace, which now houses the Museu de Lamego, the Chafariz dos Remédios fountain and stunning Sanctuary of Nossa Senhora dos Remédios reached by a theatrical stairway of almost 700 steps. Dating back to 1129 but with years or architectural refinement, Lamego’s Cathedral is a National Monument.