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Portugal Culture

Portugal has a wealth of places of cultural and historic interest to visit. The Alentejo region has over 130 dolmens, cromlechs, cave paintings and menhirs dating from the Neolithic age. Those interested in archaeology will also enjoy the superb Celtic hill fort site at Citânia de Briteiros in the Minhoregion. Several of the circular huts have been rebuilt and there are paved streets and a bathhouse to explore. Conímbriga near Coimbra is the country’s most important Roman site. Here you can see the remains of intricate mosaics, pools and baths. There is also an interesting museum displaying items excavated from the site. The small university town of Évora in the Alentejo region boasts not only a Roman temple but Moorish alleys, medieval walls and restored 16th century palaces all under the protection of UNESCO. A wonderful place to spend a day!
 
There are many museums and art galleries to visit across Portugal. If you are in Oportodon’t forget to go to the Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves – a fabulous collection of modern art from the 1960’s to the modern day housed in a state of the art building. Portugal’s national art collection is on display in a 17th century palace known as the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga in Lisbon. Apart fromworks by local and European artists, decorative art and sculpture the museum contains an excellent selection of Flemish-influencedPortuguese paintings. The national tile collection can be found at the Museu Nacional de Azulejo in Lisbon in the lovely setting of the cloisters of the Convento de Madre de Deus. Here you can trace the history of tile-making from Moorish times, Spanish influences and the development of Portugal’s own style.
 
Portugal’s largest church, the Mosteiro de Santa Maria de Alcobaça is abeautiful 12thcentury Cistercian monastery inland from Nazaré on the west coast. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site it contains the intricately carved tombs of King Dom Pedro and Inês de Castro and tells of their sad love story. Nearby is the towering Dominican abbey of Santa Maria da Vitória at Batalha,also a UNESCO site. The original Gothic carvings have been embellished in the Portuguese Manueline style. This is one of the architectural gems of Portugal and was built as a symbol of independence from Spain back in the late 14th century by King João I.
 
Finally, a unique feature to Portugal is the style of music called fado; similar to the blues it is mournful and full of longing. This tradition has survived in the back-street cafés of Lisbon for over 150 years. Sung by both men and women it is always accompanied by the guitarra (shaped like a mandolin)and viola (acoustic Spanish guitar). There are several well known authentic fado houses in the Alfama and Bairro Alto districts of Lisbonoffering not only good traditional music but fine foodand wine. Enjoy!