Read more about the article Evora – Portugal
Evora - Portugal

Evora – Portugal

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Roman Liberalitas Julia

Our second objective for this weekend, the city of Evora after visiting the day before beautiful Elvas, the easternmost city along the border with Spain, and Badajoz right across the border, the first city in Spain. Now if we enjoyed a lot the experience and what we’ve visited the day before; here in Evora came as twice the surprise. Not only that both cities are off the beaten path of the minds of most of the tourists for what you get to enjoy these places to yourself; you get to see their nice people and traditions, inexpensive great food, history and art literally on every corner. Both cities are near each other, however very difference and oppose one to another. Elvas, a garrison frontier city with its immaculate network of fortresses, walls and bastions; Evora, home to some of the finest Roman monuments in the whole of Portugal, a monumental “museum city”. The only “minor” downside in our experience? well, quite an ugly grey and rainy day.

Its network of narrow streets, squares, palaces and buildings of many epoch and countless styles and the great level of preservation of the urban fabric all were a good reason why the UNESCO listed it as a World Heritage site. Moreover, since its foundation as a thriving city, to the many wars and posterior decline to then thrive again and so on, it is only recent its “rediscovery”, a city transforming and reinventing itself as an ever stronger tourist pole adding to the already long list of amazing cities to visit in Portugal.

Visiting every place and sight is straightforward because of a very compact urban core and overall reduced size. A day is well more than enough, giving you plenty of time to enjoy some coffee or beer time at any of the many bars and terraces, perhaps that delicious pastry and a great lunch all without any rush. Our time here was actually from the morning until late afternoon when we started to make our way back to Lisbon’s airport for our late departure back to London.

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Read more about the article Badajoz – Spain
Badajoz - Spain

Badajoz – Spain

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Former capital of the small Muslim kingdom Taifa of Baṭalyaws

Double the excitement for visiting a city completely not planned in the original plans for this weekend that turned out to be totally feasible and in turn, a great surprise for its prettiness, yet small, historic centre. We arrived quite late, that was our only downside, however still managed to get really nice pictures of most of the city in daylight, and take with us a great load of shopping. Why not to take the chance for getting some nice meat cuts, cheeses and staff I really like and cannot find anywhere else at this quality? Now this was a trip that really paid back well.

Our base was Elvas, merely 10 kilometres west from Badajoz. So while one is the last city of Portugal, the other is the first city in Spain (border-wise talking here). And because we perhaps planned too much time for Elvas while in reality it is a very small city, I strongly recommend if you fall in the same situation to plan beforehand the day to include both Elvas and Badajoz. Certainly we could have been more time in Badajoz, but as this was just planned on the go, never checked pictures of the city, nor a map nor nothing before coming, we did not know that in reality there are a lot of sights to enjoy, but as suggested before, this is a city where a full day can definitely be too much as well.

There are two well different areas in the city, one, the traditional old town around the old Moorish citadel, the Alcazaba and the perimeter walls and bastions surrounding it, and the newer city outside of the walls, and across the Guadiana River. The way we drove in from Elvas, meant we came directly towards the north bank of the river where we saw the most picturesque image of the city. Without any doubt it’s the most beautiful skyline view, with the Alcazaba in the foreground and the towering old walls across the crystal clear waters of the Guadiana river with the historic Palma Bridge. Only for this view the trip is already worth it. (more…)

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Read more about the article Elvas – Portugal
Elvas - Portugal

Elvas – Portugal

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Frontier fortress of Portugal

Once again returning to beautiful Portugal, and for the many more trips to come hopefully in the near future. The plan for this weekend was something more off the beaten path than the usual big cities. Instead, two smaller towns yet full of history: Elvas, the easternmost city near the Guadiana River which is the natural border between Portugal and Spain, a city sometimes referred as “the fortress of Portugal” due to the large amount of fortresses and bastions; and the city of Evora, famous for being home to some of the finest and most complete Roman monuments in the country. Ans considering that less than 10 kilometres ahead of Elvas, already across in Spain is the city of Badajoz, we left the possibility, if time permitting, to come and visit, which… of course it did happened.

Reaching both cities was not an easy and direct task. Unfortunately the nearest airport is Lisbon, 230 kilometres west from Elvas, that’s a long drive to consider. However, this is all along the motorway that continues after Portugal towards Madrid. This translates is less than 2 hours from west to east which is acceptable. Evora is nearer to Lisbon, at around 180 km. The same you can do by driving, you can take the train as both cities lie along the major rail link between Lisbon and Madrid, so don’t worry if you do not drive, you can still perfectly do both cities in a weekend.

Because of the large amount of immaculate fortifications in the italienne trace (star fort) style, most of which still complete, the city was declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO under the listing of: Garrison Border Town of Elvas and its Fortifications. Such extensive fortifications were built from the 17th to the 19th centuries becoming the largest bulwarked dry ditch system in the world. There is of course much more than this, as the impressive 15th century 6 kilometres long aqueduct, its Gothic cathedral and the many remains and influences from the Moors in the city’s urban fabric. (more…)

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Read more about the article Braga – Portugal
Braga - Portugal

Braga – Portugal

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Cidade dos Arcebispos: Archbishop’s Town

At only 60 kilometres from Porto, this makes the perfect day out if you have the time after visiting Porto, or if you planned this trip on purpose. The city lies only 20 kilometres west of Guimaraes, the city where the country Portugal as such was born in the 10th century, another of the most beautiful and historical cities in the country, UNESCO World Heritage Site listed. The three of them, Porto, Braga and Guimaraes are unique sights on their own, some of the must visit places in the country.

We planned this trip from our base Porto, and while we decided to have as our main highlight the city of Guimaraes, we left the open possibility, if time permitting, to then end our weekend tour here to Braga for the rest of the day before heading back to Porto’s airport. Our flight was thankfully quite late at night, so we had plenty of time; all we needed is good organisation and preparation and this worked great as you can imagine; otherwise I would not be writing a travel guide for this city right now.

The city is a wonder, like anywhere in Portugal you can never be wrong. There is a large amount of beautifully preserved old buildings covered in tiles all over the historic area, palaces, charming squares and dozens of churches all around the usual and so characteristic Portuguese way of paving the streets, in stone and granite mosaics. Another unique fact in Braga is the oldest water-counterbalancing funicular in the world still in operation, linking the upper city with the sanctuary at the top of the hill from where you get the views of the entire city. (more…)

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Read more about the article Guimaraes – Portugal
Guimaraes - Portugal

Guimaraes – Portugal

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The birthplace of Portugal

At only 50 kilometres from Porto, this makes the perfect day out if you have the time after visiting Porto, or if you have planned this trip on purpose. The city lies only 20 kilometres east of Braga, another of the most beautiful and historical cities in the country. The three of them, Porto, Braga and Guimaraes are unique sights on their own, some of the must visit in Portugal. After all, this is from where the country as such was born in the 10th century, precisely right by the Guimaraes Castle. With so much history thriving on every street, every turn, it is no surprise UNESCO has recognised it and listed as a World Heritage Site.

The city is very small and extremely compact. The UNESCO area is reduced to the medieval core which is intact. Once, it was completely surrounded by fortification walls, but were mostly turned down in order to expand the city with elegant wider streets and avenues, notoriously to the east of the old town, centred around the Mumadona Square where the streets follow from here an orthogonal grid typical from the 19th/20th century extension of most of the European cities.

Visiting Guimaraes is straightforward and won’t take you much time. A day trip is well more than enough, with plenty of time to do everything and actually having the other half of the day to complete your day by going to the nearby city of Braga. Although double in size than Guimaraes, is a perfect combination that I strongly advice you to do. Going from Porto to either of them by commuter railway only takes approximately 1 hour, and in between them, one of the many public buses take around 30 minutes. (more…)

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Read more about the article Porto – Portugal
Porto - Portugal

Porto – Portugal

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A Cidade Invicta: The Unconquered City

Over 6 years have passed since our first and only time in this incredible city, and still not sure how so much time have passed to return only for the second time. There are certain cities in Europe where does not matter how many times you return, there is always a fun in coming back and always something new to see and enjoy. Porto is one of them for sure, and now that there are better and more frequent choices of airlines and timings, will be easier to find another good deal in the near future. However, as pretty much everywhere else in Europe, during high season it is generally cheaper to fly farther away to more exotic destinations to the rather “around the corner” Porto. Anyway, this was about time to revamp the guide for this city, since what I wrote years back was not so complete and already getting obsolete.

Have in mind that a weekend for this city can be short. There is simply too much to see and do, and our plan this weekend also included visiting the nearby cities of Braga and Guimaraes, or at least that was our initial intention, if not both, then just Guimaraes. On literally every corner there are sights and amazing buildings everywhere. The old town core is very large considering the overall size of the city, one of the most historic cities in Portugal, no wonder it is listed an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Yet despite this fact, it is unfortunately in much need of restoration. Many buildings falling apart and many others totally ruined. Thankfully the city is slowly revitalising and regenerating bit by bit which surely in few years time will make a huge difference. It does already in these 6 years lapse, nothing to compare to the rather run down city we once knew. The current gentrification is perhaps too fast, with trendy and chic shops, cafes and bars popping everywhere but with an ideology I don’t quite share: skyrocket prices.

While distances in the city seems “small” on a map, they are not in truth. The city was built among steep hills, and the up and downs are considerably, not to mention the gorge the river Douro marks along its length, cutting the city in 2 and connected by high bridges. Among them, the iconic and symbol of Porto, the Ponte Dom Luis I, and the Maria Pia Bridge by Gustave Eiffel. Paris has the Eiffel Tower, and Porto this masterpiece of a bridge.

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Read more about the article Sintra – Portugal
Sintra - Portugal

Sintra – Portugal

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Medieval Suntria

Once more like for the past years three years on the row, we returned to the beautiful city of Lisbon to spend the weekend. This time with the intention of spending Saturday for touring the world famous palaces and castles of Sintra, listed by UNESCO World Heritage Site as “Cultural Landscape of Sintra”. And knowing us how special we are when talking about visiting UNESCO sites, this was a must we could not resist. After all, we’ve been to Lisbon before and visited everything so we need new places to go and still enjoy another time what is one of the most beautiful and historical capital cities in Europe.

The distance between Lisbon and Sintra is only 30 kilometres, making it extremely easy and convenient to reach by public transportation. Sintra is, anyway, one of the most visited attractions in the whole of Portugal, with hordes of tourists pretty much all year round, yet thankfully during the winter months you can save you from the rivers of people and enjoy the place more quietly than during high season months. Anyone visiting Portugal on a tour will surely come here as a day trip from Lisbon. But you do not need to be on a guided tour whatsoever, I strongly recommend you to come if you are visiting Lisbon for more than 3 days.

It takes a day to visit all the sites in Sintra, hence why it works great to include it whenever you plan to spend more than 3 days in Lisbon, or if you are a returning traveller to the capital as we are. You could, however, spend more time since the beautiful Atlantic beaches are only 12 kilometres from the centre of Sintra! And what is best, both the city and the beach are connected by a historical tram line that takes around 45 minutes to complete. While if during winter months you can easily take this in consideration, during summer months the vast number of people wanting to do this will turn in hours of queue for the rather infrequent trams. A bus instead, does the very same route, just in case.


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Read more about the article Algarve – Portugal
Algarve - Portugal

Algarve – Portugal

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Moorish Al-Gharb, The West

Returning for a second time to one of the most beautiful and visited regions in Portugal, the southernmost region of Algarve. Where nature meets the Atlantic ocean along the west and south, with idyllic Moorish style villages and beaches, caves, cliffs and mountains. A truly fascinating region not so heavily tourist faced as the nearby regions of Huelva or Cadiz in Andalusia, Spain, but instead more laid back and traditional, yet at points, old-fashioned. Nevertheless, tourism can be massified during the peak season of the summer months, therefore knowing the accommodation capacity is somewhat limited, prices can really go up dramatically as opposed if coming during low season where you will enjoy most of the places at your own peace pretty much alone.

You will need to know that although Faro will most likely be your entry point as it is the main city and where the international airport is located; the more to the west you go, the better and nicer the landscapes become all along the coastal cities and villages, up to the south-westernmost point of mainland Europe, Cabo Sao Vicente. Afterall, distances are not big at all and driving from one place to another is matter of few minutes. Talking of driving, this is without doubt the best option you have in order to travel around the area and get to the more secluded locations, otherwise if considering only public transport, while there are frequent trains all the way from Faro to Lagos in the west, or from Faro continuing to the east up to the Spanish border in Vila Real de Santo Antonio, it would not be possible to easily reach the coastal villages as railways are more inland and not right by the coast.

The charm of the villages by the Atlantic, the cliffs and rock formations you will see everywhere are really worth the trip itself, even if it’s as short time what you are staying as was the case in the first time I came here merely a weekend yet still managed to enjoy everything I wanted from that trip, plus the delicious food almost anywhere. Not to mention one of my favourite pastries ever, the pasteis de nata found in any patisserie and coffee place freshly made.


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