Thursday, October 11, 2012

Places to go in Portugal

1. The most expensive chapel in the world

See what the gold found in colonial Brazil was able to pay for, hidden in the surprisingly rich Sao Roque Church. The Chapel of St. John the Baptist inside is a European masterpiece (what look like paintings are actually mosaics!) made in Rome for this Lisbon church, and to see more baroque magnificence head to Santa Catarina Chruch nearby.
If you develop a taste for this type of golden art, don't miss the golden carriages of the Coaches Museum.

2.Belem Tower

The Belem Tower is a symbol of the Portuguese capital Lisbon. This beautiful architectural masterpiece is included in the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO because of its enormous historical significance and the role it has played in the so-called voyages of discovery. Belem Tower was the starting point of departures of the caravels going in search of new uninhabited lands.  Belem Tower is a complex of bastion and thirty-foot tower that is visible to all the four directions.  It is built of white limestone and is decorated with beautiful stone ornaments and statues. Today, the Belem Tower still remains a fundamental building in Lisbon, because it reminds of the largest discoveries that laid the foundations of the modern world.

3.The Baixa

 Lisbon’s downtown area, is still the traditional center of city life, and is where Lisbon’s oldest and traditional shops still exist.  In this heart of the city the streets that run parallel to Rua Augusta identify the various tradesmen and craftsmen, who have continued to do business there since the time of the Maritime Discoveries.
The Baixa was destroyed by the earthquake of 1755, but was later reconstructed by the king’s prime minister, the Marquês de Pombal, which is why it is more popularly known as the Baixa Pombalina. This visionary conceived a uniform and perpendicular architecture for the city center, making no distinction between the various social strata that lived here, a phenomenon that can still be seen today.
Recently renovated, it hasn’t lost any of its mysticism…

4. Algarve
Sea, sun and sand mark Portugal’s famous Algarve. While the region’s beaches and picturesque villages have made it world renown, the region also has some world-renown golf courses. The area’s capital, Faro, remains nearly the same as it was in the 18th century, with its charming neighborhoods intact. A big draw for travelers here is also the region’s temperate climate which has little rainfall and an average 3,000 hours of sunlight each year.
Lagos and Sagres on the east end of the Algarve date back to Roman times. But it was in the 15th century that Sagres achieved importance with the frequent presence of Prince Henry the Navigator during the first days of Atlantic exploration of the African coast as far as the Gulf of Guinea.

5. Sintra

Sintra’s  Palácio da Pena is one of the best examples of 19th-century Romantic revivalism in Portugal.
Set at the top of the Monte da Pena, the palace was built on the site of an old monastery belonging to the Order of St. Jerome. It was the result of the imagination of Dom Fernando of Saxe Coburg-Gotha, who married Queen Dona Maria II in 1836. After falling in love with Sintra, he decided to buy the convent and the surrounding land to build a summer palace for the royal family. The royal consort built the palace in a somewhat offbeat mixture of architectural styles, and in the surrounding area established a beautiful woodland park in English style, with a wide variety of exotic trees.
The highlight of the beautiful interior of the palace is the chapel, with its magnificent alabaster altarpiece attributed to Nicolau Chanterenne, one of the architects of the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, in Lisbon. A restaurant has now been opened in one of the wings of the palace, with a terrace that offers a beautiful panoramic view of Serra de Sintra and the coast.

6. Porto
Capital and gateway to the north of Portugal, Porto is both the city that provided a nation with a name and a fortified wine known worldwide as port.
With its splendid geographical location on the mouth of the Douro River and an architectural heritage of exceptional quality, the historic center of Porto was declared a UNESCO World Heritage in 1996. The second largest city in the country; it’s a city known for its commercial enterprise.
The Cais da Ribeira riverfront is the center of the city center and the most picturesque part of Porto. The area has a mix of ancient narrow streets and narrower alleyways, with centuries-old buildings. Old homes of granite and tile loom over the waterfront, and the harbor is filled with Rabelo boats and river excursion ships. In 1996 the Cais de Ribeira area was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The Cais da Ribeira is a romantic place that comes alive as the sun goes down, when the numerous cafés, bars and restaurants open. Couples stroll along the Douro, as the hint of music drifts from the bars and cafes, and the smell of coffee and grilled fish fills the air.

7. Coimbra

Roughly halfway between Lisbon and Oporto in the north, Coimbra was once the capital of the Portugal. But it is most famous for the University of Coimbra, founded in 1290 and one of the oldest universities in Europe. It’s a city of medieval churches and a maze of medieval streets, some so picturesque you’ll think you’re in another time, which is likely the reason some consider it the most romantic city in Portugal.
Located in a commanding position overlooking the rest of the city, with a magnificent view over the River Mondego, the University is a rambling building, constructed around a central courtyard in which a number of features stand out due to their artistic interest and symbolism. The entrance to the University is through the Porta Férrea (Iron Gate), an impressive Mannerist work (1634), where one can see the statues of the University´s patrons, the kings Dom Dinis and Dom João III. You’ll see students all around the city, identified by the black capes they still wear. Those little colored ribbons on their briefcases denote the school they attend.

8. Saint George Castle
he castle of Lisbon, locally named Castelo de São Jorge is located right on top of the tallest of Lisbon´s seven hills of the historic centre of the capital city, above the old Moorish quarter. The castle is clearly visible from a long way off and it is famous for its panoramic views of the city and surrounding countryside.
The initial period of the military stronghold’s construction is relatively unknown. The oldest parts date from the 6th century when it was fortified by the Romans, Visigoths and the Moors, respectively, before the final conquest by D. Afonso Henriques. The castle was classified as national monument in 1910 and reflects values of the memory and antiquity which attested the importance of the unique history, archaeology and architecture in the context of the national cultural heritage.

9. Cristo Rei, Lisbon

On the banks of the Tagus River, on a high pedestal, stands a statue of Jesus Christ with outstretched arms that seems as if he wants to embrace and bless the residents and tourists. Cristo Rei is certainly one of the landmarks of Portugal. The statue is a mini copy of the Jesus Christ statue in Rio de Janeiro. On the opposite bank of Tagus you can enjoy a walk at the Commerce Square which is always crowded and full of the unique energy of the town.

10.The Monastery of Alcobaca

 Cistercian Monastery of Santa Maria d'Alcobaça is a great example of Gothic architecture in Portugal. Built in the 12th century by the first Portuguese King Afonso I (Afonso Henriques), Alcobaca Monastery is incredibly beautiful, spectacular and unforgettable. It hosts a lot of cultural and historical monuments and relics, but the most important thing is that it is one of the historical prides of the Portuguese. Over the centuries, the monastery has played a significant role in education and has enormous implications for the formation of the Portuguese culture. With its 106 m length Alcobaca church impresses with size and its unique Gothic decoration. You can admire the Hall of the fountain and the extremely beautiful baroque statues, created by the monks of the Alcobaca.

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