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Portugal Attractions

After the Algarve Portugal’s capital Lisbon on the west coast is a major attraction especially as a city-break. Lisbon is an attractive city which rises above the River Tagus with steep, narrow streets and if you are feeling energetic it is best explored on foot. The old historic districts of Alfama, Bairro Alto and Bélem are well worth wandering through and you can hop on to Tram no 28 if you are feeling weary. The medieval castle of Sáo Jorge Yolispónia sits high on a hill overlooking the Alfama district and the views are worth the climb. The castle also has pretty gardens in which you can relax. The Torre de Belém is a much photographed 16th centuryfortress on the edge of the Tagus. Now a museum of weapons and armour it also boasts lovely views from the tower over the Tagusestuary. Don’t miss the beautiful Mosteiro dos Jerónimos a 14th centurymonastery built in the Manueline style embellished withsea-faring andoriental motifs. Just beyond the city center is the famous museum the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian. This stunning collection of art and artefacts spanning 4,000 years was bequeathed by a wealthy Armenian multi-millionaire. Meanwhile children will love Lisbon’s impressive oceanarium, Oceanario in the Parque das Nações (Park of the Nations).
 
Oportoon the west coastand known locally as Porto is Portugal’s second largest city andanother popular holidaydestination. Like Lisbon the streets are often steep and narrow and rise up from the banks of the River Douro to the historic center of Barredo, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  If you tire of the climb you can always hop on a tram. The lively Ribeira district on the River Douro quayside is also worth exploring. Why not take a boat trip from here up the Douro valley. Another attraction to visit Oporto are the 50 or so port companies in the nearby Vila Nova de Gaia. Here every alley is lined by armázens (lodges) in which port is blended and aged. You can join a tour of several of these and see how port is made and afterwards do a spot of tasting.
 
Portugal is famous for its hilltop towns and fortified villages, especially along the eastern border with Spain. Monsaraz being a good example of the latter - a tiny medieval walled town perched high above the River Guardiana. There are sleepy cobbled streets and the views from the ramparts over the Alentejo and Spain are simply stunning.  Óbidos (east of Peniche) with its 14th centurycrenellated walls, round towers and white-washed houses is a romantic place and home to many a famous Portuguese poet and artist. Guimãres in the Minho regionwasthe first capital of Portugal and is also full of cobbled streets and historic buildings to explore. Sintra a hilltop retreat near Lisbon is another great place to visit and is surrounded by opulent palaces and country houses. Meanwhile Monsanto in the Beiras region claims to be the most ancient hilltop settlement in the country. In the old village houses nestle between giant granite boulders and walls are moulded around the rock. The narrow lanes are hewn from the rock and there are tiny gardens everywhere and flowers tumble from windows making it very picturesque. Not surprisingly Monsanto was voted “most Portuguese” village in Portugal, a title it still holds today – it is well worth a visit!