Portugal

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Portugal Guide: Spend Less, Do More

Welcome to Portugal

Portugal-Boats-of-Porto-Douro-RiverLocated on the Iberian Peninsula, Portugal is an ancient, mesmerizing country to visit, with many fine places to stay ranging from hauntingly beautiful hotels that were once majestic monasteries to quaint inns and romantic bed-and-breakfasts. There are not only historic places to stay in this amazing and architecturally rich country: the Algarve, Madeira and cities like Lisbon have luxurious, palatial hotels that specialise in making their guests feel like royalty. 

Portugal is your destination if you are looking for sea, sun and romance. Despite the enormous number of visitors, most of the country is still tourist free and the perfect setting for a romantic escape in charming medieval villages or on beautiful sandy beaches. For such a small country, Portugal offers an amazing variety of landscapes with natural parks and mountains, big rivers and a vast coastline.

Top Things about Portugal

It is not only the stunning architecture, rich history and breathtaking scenery that bring tourists in the thousands each year to this country. Although the steep hills and ancient castles are hard to resist, it is Portugal’s many extraordinary landmarks that truly amaze the visitors. 

Portugal-Torre-Of-Belem-LisbonStart off your trip with a journey to the picturesque beach towns of Nazare, Ericeira and Cascais; travel to medieval times in the quaint villages of Marvao and Monsaraz; continue on to the city of Coimbra, which has one of the world’s oldest universities; take a tour of the majestic wine area along the Douro River; be sure to visit the palatial castles of Sintra; and float further back in time when you visit the world’s largest outdoor gallery of Stone Age art in the Coa Valley. 

Another of Portugal’s most famous landmarks that should not be missed is the ancient Celtic settlement in Citania de Briteiros. The ruins are where early settlers of the area built their huts and lived their lives before the Romans took over and made the city their capital after they finally gained control of Lusitania, which is the Roman name for Portugal. 

Best Cities and Places to Visit

Portugal-Traditional-Fish-Dish-BacalhauA country that is so permeated with a rich and varied history has much to offer visitors. Lisbon, Portugal's capital, is a stunning and dramatic looking historic city clinging on to steep hills at the estuary of the river Tagus. Impressive architecture, great museums, charming cobble stoned Moorish quarters and a vibrant nightlife make it all more than worth it to spend at least a few days in enchanting Lisbon. The Museu Calouste Gulbenkian is truly breathtaking. This beautiful museum offers a stunning collection of objects and artefacts that once belonged to the oil tycoon Calouste Gulbenkian. There are also numerous equally stunning hotels near the museum that are perfect to indulge in. 

Another attraction in Lisbon that commands a visit is the Castelo de Sao Jorge. At over 360 feet high, this breathtaking castle affords stunning views of the city and is considered a historical focal point in Lisbon. 

Do you have children? Take the whole family to the Jardim Zoologico de Lisboa, where the amazing greenery and wide variety of animals make it a jewel of this city. 

The island of Madeira offers a stunning variety of important landmarks to visit. One is the Monte Palace Tropical Garden, which surrounds the majestic Monte Palace and gives views of the marina and glittering ocean beyond. The area is also home to some of the most luxurious hotels. Another popular place to visit on the island of Madeira is the famous Artur de Barros e Sousa Lda, a scenic winery that offers tastings. 

The owners of this small establishment will explain the different types of Madeira wines as you taste them, which is why it is an excellent place to stop and relax for all wine lovers. One place not to be missed is the Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Monte, an 18th century church in the ancient town of Monte. It has ornate paintings and lots of gold gilt.

Events

The country of Portugal has many annual events and sports that are popular with natives and tourists alike. One such famous event is the Pilgrimage to Fatima, a journey that boasts tens of thousands of people trekking to the ancient village of Fatima, where the Virgin Mary was said to have appeared to three shepherd children. The pilgrimage began in 1917 and is still going strong today. Another annual Portuguese event is the Loule Carnival. Held in the beautiful city of Loule in the month of February, the carnival boasts elaborately decorated floats and people dressed in beautiful clothes. 

The Madeira Carnival is even larger than the one in Loule and offers tourists a party atmosphere, complete with dancing, plenty of music, intricate floats, costumes, and tons of fun.

Local Cuisine, Wine and Beer

From fresh seafood and Alentejo’s famous fresh pork to the area’s unbeatable fortified wines like Port and Madeira, the Portugal gastronomic experience is unmatched. Modern restaurants now offer vegetarian options and flavourful fusion cuisine, such as seafood broth with Asian vegetables and grilled red prawns, a codfish salad in olive oil served with a chickpea ice cream, and the ever-popular veal knuckles, which are browned in oil and are accompanied by sautéed potatoes and fragrant bay leaves.

Portugal’s most famous wines are Port and Madeira. Port comes from the Douro region and Madeira hails from the island of Madeira. These two noteworthy fortified wines are not the only praiseworthy wines coming out of the regions of Portugal, as the Alentejo and Deo regions also boast amazing whites, reds and roses. Fresh beers in the country are most normally enjoyed in the evening, with the mesmerising setting of the sun.

Culture

This great country is a wonderful mix of different races, from the ancient Celts who settled the area to the crusades that brought Spaniards and other travellers to the area. These many changes in the country’s vast history gave forth such architectural jewels as azulejos, which are glazed ceramic tiles that cover the facades and interiors of churches, private homes and government buildings. Stucco is another dominant feature in Portuguese architecture, seen on many buildings around Portugal, including residential homes and the main government buildings in the city of Lisbon. 

Each distinct region of Portugal has its own type of dance and song. A few of the best examples of these regional dances are the fandango, vira, corridinho, tirana, and the chula. Couples perform elaborate and lively dances, usually to the beat of hand clapping, guitars and accordions. These dances often symbolise the courting and wedding traditions of this ancient culture.

Drenched in its rich architectural and archaeological heritage and steeped in natural beauty, Portugal has a wealth of discoveries to offer its visitors.

 Head for an exciting beach day in sun-drenched Algarve, find treasures in the mystical hills and the fairytale palaces of Sintra, travel back in time in the medieval villages of Obidos and Monsaraz, marvel at ornate stonework in Tomar, visit the wonderfully preserved monuments in the museum town of Evora, take a cruise down the Douro River for the magical landscapes of the wine country ending in the majestic town of Porto, and feel the pureness of nature in the volcanic islands of Azores and Madeira. You will not have enough time to see, do and enjoy all the marvellous experiences Portugal has in store for you.

Hotels and Accommodation in Portugal

There are many four- and five-star hotels in Portugal to choose from when staying in one of its many famous cities. Lisbon, for example, has over 100 different hotels, ranging from budget hotels to resorts and state of the art five-star hotels. There are also youth hostels and camping sites to be found throughout Portugal, scattered along the scenic coastline, making Portugal an ideal holiday destination for all budgets. 

Getting around by car in Portugal

Lisbon Airport to Lisbon: 13 min (5.9 km) via Av. Alm. Gago Coutinho and Av. Alm. Reis

Porto to Lisbon: 13 min (5.9 km) via Av. Alm. Gago Coutinho and Av. Alm. Reis

Faro to Lisbon: 2 h 33 min (278.0 km) via A2

Madrid to Lisbon: 5 h 37 min (628.9 km) via A-5

Top Scenic Roads and Areas to Stay in Portugal

Highly Recommended: The World’s best road was voted to be here in Portugal, from Peso de Regua to Pinhao 33 min (28.2 km) via the N222 road by Avis, which cuts through the Douro Valley a wine growing region.

Elsewhere, Portugal has a rich history and diverse scenery from the North all the way down to the South, with an excellent road system. Here are a few of the main scenic drives:

Valença- Braga- Guimarães Guimarães- Porto - 

Guarda-Coimbra-Lisboa

The Tagus

Estremoz-Évora- Sines 

Barlavento to the Vicentina Coast (Algarve) 

The Guadiana border

Accommodation, driving and car rental

At Cheaperthanhotels and Cheaperthancars we have a wide range of car rental discounts at convenient locations and accommodation to meet all budgets and taste. We really do believe that the less you spend, the more you will have to do when you get there.

Your Cheaperthanhotels Team