The Hieronymus Monastery is the most significant historical building in the whole of Portugal and is... one of the city's finest examples of Manueline architecture. King Manuel I had the building constructed in extravagant splendour in the heyday of the country's expeditions from 1502, funded by the lucrative trade with Asia. Several architects worked on this enormous task for around 100 years. The west wing was not completed until the 19th century. In 1984 UNESCO placed the monastery on its World Heritage List.
Very impressive is the south portal with 24 life-size figures of saints and dignitaries. The Blessed Virgin Mary of Bethlehem stands in the centre. On the centre pedestal stands Infante Dom Henrique, better known as Henry the Navigator. At the main entrance, the west portal, the birth of Jesus is depicted in picture scenes. Many of the most important personalities in Portuguese history are buried in the church grounds.more
City: Évora in/near Portugal Category: Sightseeing
Évora, the capital of the Alentejo, is also known as "Cidade Museu" (Museum Town). It has been included... on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Sheltered within the old town walls are countless historical buildings, bearing witness to the town’s turbulent history. In particular, the gleaming white Renaissance palaces and buildings dating back to Moorish times are a delight to behold.
The town's main landmark is the Templo Romano. This Roman temple, which probably dates back to the 1st century, was transformed into a fortress in the Middle Ages and later disrespectfully used as an abattoir. The Praça do Giraldo is the heart of the town. In the numerous street cafés and restaurants, you can relax and enjoy the picturesque flair of this square surrounded by old houses. One of the most impressive buildings in Évora is the cathedral, an early Gothic granite building. Inside, the choir stalls from the 16th century, the Gothic cloister and the cathedral treasures are particularly worth seeing.more
City: Batalha in/near Portugal Category: Sightseeing
Batalha is a rather inconspicuous little country town located between Lisbon and Coimbra. Nevertheless,... countless visitors flock year after year to the fertile valley of the Lena.
What attracts these crowds is Batalha’s Mosteiro de Santa Maria da Vitória. The monastery, which King João I commissioned to be built in 1388 in gratitude for the victory over the Spaniards, is venerated as a national shrine, symbolising one of the greatest moments in Portugal’s history. This monumental building, built between 1388 and 1533, is one of the country’s most important Gothic buildings. The Claustro Real (Royal Cloister) with its arched halls and picturesque fountain house is a highlight of Portuguese Gothic architecture. Even the Capelas Imperfeitas (unfinished chapels), characterised by a diversity of structural forms with oriental influences, inspire admiration.more
City: Coimbra in/near Portugal Category: Sightseeing
For centuries Coimbra, a university town rich in tradition, significantly influenced intellectual life... in Portugal and even today more than a fifth of its inhabitants are students. There are many historical monuments to visit in the picturesque old part of the town.
The cathedral Sé Velha resembles a fortress. The choir, in particular, with its Flemish altar retable and the azulejo-covered inside walls is well worth seeing. The first Portuguese king, Afonso Henriques, found his final resting place in the Augustinian monastery Mosteiro de Santa Cruz. At the beginning of the 16th century the Romanesque monastery was rebuilt in the manueline, or Portuguese late gothic, style. Also dating from this period are the richly decorated portal facade and the unique choir stalls. The Old University Library, the most beautiful Baroque hall in Portugal, houses over 30,000 volumes, including 2,000 manuscripts of immeasurable value.more
City: Porto in/near Portugal Category: Sightseeing
Porto, the city that gave the country its name, sits on two hills above the mouth of the Douro. You get... your first view of the old city from the Dom Luis I iron bridge, which spans the sloping, rocky Douro valley. Old houses side by side, narrow, twisting alleyways, little taverns and shops below granite arcades are what give Porto its particular charm. Narrow commercial buildings with splendid facades, whose balconies are covered with creeping plants, are evidence of Porto's long tradition as a merchant city.
The metropolis of north Portugal has always been thought of as a liberal and cosmopolitan place - as the "City of Work": by southern standards, the place seems really busy. Almost everything revolves around port wine, which is filled and stored in the many wine cellars in Porto's sister city, Vila Nova de Gaia on the other side of the Douro. Since it was named European Capital of Culture in 2001, Porto's cultural life has taken a giant leap forward: Museums and historical buildings were restored and in future the cultural programme will also remain as extensive and demanding as it is at present.more
Over 20 domes and steeples from all sorts of churches and chapels dominate the unique skyline of Tavira.... The elegant 18th Century townhouses, the Moorish streets and the promenade all contribute to make the town on the shores of the Rio Gilão one of the most beautiful in the south of Portugal. The atmosphere is quiet and authentic as mass tourism has not yet penetrated Tavira.
You can get a wonderful view over Tavira from the remains of the Moorish castle, the Castro dos Mouros. It was severely damaged by the devastating earthquake in 1755, but has now been at least partially rebuilt. The Santa Maria do Castelo church was also badly damaged in 1755. Only the Gothic portal remains of the original building. Countless pilgrims still flock to the church in order to thank the Mother of God for the successful defence against the Spanish in the year 1337. Long sandy beaches join the lagoon isle of Ilha de Tavira.more
Albufeira, which was once a sleepy little fishing village, is now the tourist centre of the Algarve -... known as the "Portuguese St Tropez" because of its countless pubs, bars and clubs. The Moorish village centre, with its whitewashed houses clutching to the steep rocky cliffs in terraces, has more to offer than just nightlife. During the daytime, the long beaches with their bizarre rock formations and wonderful watersports await tourists eager for the sun.
Right on the eastern side of the beach at Albufeira, on the Praia dos Barcos, is the picturesque fishing harbour. There is a wonderful view from the Miradouro de Bem Parece viewpoint high above the village. From here, you can also see the Gothic Capela da Misericórdia, which was destroyed in a major earthquake and later rebuilt. With its filigree portal and dome-shaped choir stalls, it has to be one of the main architectural attractions of Albufeira.more
The Cabo de São Vicente is the most south-westerly point in continental Europe. The cape acquired its... name from the legend according to which at the beginning of the 8th century a ship bore the corpse of St. Vincent, the patron of Valencia, to safety in Sagres here because of the invasion of the Moors. In 1160 he was moved to Lisbon.
On the rocky cape reaching up to a height of more than 60 m (197 ft) above the waves, there is a 24 m (79 ft) high lighthouse whose beacon is visible for miles around. If you are lucky, the keeper will allow you to climb up a spiral stairway into the tower to admire its prisms and 3,000-watt reflectors. The lookout platform just beside it offers a really breathtaking view of the windswept sea and the cliffs. Despite the strong wind, magnificent wild flowers grow on Cabo de São Vicente and in spring and autumn it is inundated with migrating birds.more
The little town of Sintra to the west of Lisbon was once the summer residence of the Portuguese kings.... The old houses with their bay windows, chimneys and azulejos are so unique that the town has been included in the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list.
Sintra's main landmark are the chimneys of the former royal palace, the Paço Real. Interesting buildings from several centuries surround picturesque courtyards with fountains. There are still signs of Moorish architecture everywhere. The walls tiled with old azulejos and the richly decorated wooden ceilings are particularly interesting. Palacio da Pena, a Romanesque palace, which can be compared with Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany, dominates the Sintra skyline. Surrounded by parkland, this palace dating from the 19th century resembles a medieval castle and fascinates visitors with its curious mixture of different architectural styles.more
Queluz, in the north-west of the city, belongs to metropolitan Lisbon and differs little from many other... suburbs. Nevertheless, it is an attractive destination for holidaymakers because of the splendid Rococo castle that is located here. It has been described as a "Portuguese Sanssouci" or a "small Versailles".
The inside of the castle, which combines elements of baroque and classicism, stands out due to its extravagant splendour. For instance the throne room, which is still used to receive visiting dignitaries, contains valuable chandeliers, mirrors and paintings. The castle grounds are also very impressive: created according to French patterns, the landscape designers created geometrical beds, borders and hedges, broken up by allegorical figures, lead sculptures, fountains and small canals. In the former palace kitchen a luxury restaurant now serves exquisite food. In August the theme is pure 18th century in terms of scenes and sound when the "Noites de Queluz" musical events are held. The palace is closed to the public during official receptions; it is thus better to phone and check that it is open before making the trip out here.more
The show-piece of the collection is an enormous tiled wall depicting Lisbon before the 1755 earthquake.... Visitors can also obtain information about the history and the manufacture of the tiles and also purchase azulejos as a souvenir in the museum shop. The azulejo museum is housed in the Madre de Deus convent. A visit to the former church and cloisters and the associated chapels is well worth while.
Who has not heard of the famous azulejos, the colourful tiles that make up a significant part of Portuguese art and craftwork? A whole museum has been dedicated to azulejos in the church and cloisters of Madre de Deus. The collection shows ceramic tiles from all over the world. From Hispano-Moorish azulejos with geometric patterns from the 15th and 16th century and 16th century tiles from Antwerp to modern designer tiles - almost everything associated with tile art is represented here.more
Belém with its public gardens near the Tagus river is the ideal spot for relaxing. But this popular... excursion resort on the outskirts of Lisbon, which is easily accessible by tram, also has cultural monuments of the highest order to offer.
The town’s landmark is the Torre de Belém (Belem Tower). This manueline fortress was built between 1515 and 1521 and once guarded the entrance to the harbour from its position on an off-shore island. Today it is a five-storey tower, which once served as a dungeon, and which is linked by a sandbank to the mainland. Another monument from Portugal’s colonial past is the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos. The manueline ornamentation and the monastic church of Santa Maria and the cloister of the former Hieronymite monastery make it an unique example of Portuguese architecture. The large public park Praça do Império was created in 1940 on the occasion of a world fair. The gleaming white Padrão dos Decobrimentos (explorer monument) on the banks of the Tejo has a viewing platform.more
Baixa on the shores of the Tagus was completely destroyed in the devastating earthquake of 1755. Today's... Lower Town with its straight streets and rows of houses was designed according to the plans by the Marquis de Pombal. As the Baixa was intended to be the preserve of trade and commerce, only town houses with storage rooms in the basement were built, but no churches or palaces.
The focal point of public life in Lisbon since the 14th century has been the Rossio. Markets and court hearings used to be held in the area around the two Baroque fountains in this magnificent square. No less lively is the Rua Augusta, which is ideal for a leisurely stroll. At the end of the Rua Augusta, you pass through the Arco Monumental triumphal arch, which dates back to 1875, and reach the Praça do Comércio, one of the most impressive squares in Lisbon, where King Dom José I presides in bronze on horseback in the midst of shady arcades.more
The Bairro Alto, or Lisbon's Upper Town, was built in 1513 as part of a planned urban expansion. The... small alleyways and streets, most of them running parallel to each other, are still reminders of this today. The district really comes alive at night when its 300 pubs, restaurants and bars bustle with activity. Revellers with drinks also cluster in front of the bars, making it hard work for passers-by to get through.
There are three cable cars which take you to the Bairro Alto from the Lower Town. The Elevador de Santa Justa also runs from the Baixa to the Bairro Alto. Its spectacular iron construction has made it one of the landmarks of Lisbon. The ruins of the Gothic Convento do Carmo are a reminder of the destructive force of the earthquake of 1755. Today the remains of the former convent church house an Archeological Museum. The tropical and subtropical plants in the Jardim Botânico, one of the most beautiful botanical gardens in Europe, are unique.more
The Alfama is not only the oldest district of Lisbon, it is also the only part of the historical town... not to have been badly affected by the earthquake in 1755. Time seems to have stood still in its alleyways joined by narrow stairways. Numerous corner shops and cosy pubs give a flavour of what Lisbon used to be like.
The king's well Chafariz d'El Rei is worth a visit. Although in its present form it only dates back to the 19th century, it is still considered the city's oldest well. It is reported to have supplied the Alfama with water as far back as the 13th century. Even older than the well is the cathedral of Sé Patriarcal - which was built in 1147 - with its two impressive defensive towers and an important collection of sacral goldsmith's work. On a rise above the Alfama stands the monastery of São Vicente de Fora, built between 1582 and 1627 in honour of St. Vincent, the town's patron saint.more
This area on the east bank of Lisbon, which was set up for Expo 98, is now known as the Parque das Nações... (Nations Park). The sheer variety of the buildings put up for Expo is staggering. The filigree glass and steel structure of the Estação Oriente station, the suspended concrete ceiling of the Pavilhão Portugal and the fascinating stretch of the Ponte Vasco da Gama - this place is home to modern architecture of world-class standards.
All this against a promising backdrop devoted to culture, entertainment and business in equal measures. While Lisbon's International Exhibition has moved into the main buildings of the World Exhibition, some of the pavilions are still showing the original Expo exhibitions, including a virtual show on the history of the oceans. You can also see real-life sea creatures in the impressive underwater tanks at Oceanário, Europe's largest aquarium. The experience can be rounded off with a ride on a gondola with a view over the river, theatre, casino, restaurants or a massive concert hall.more
The more than 110,000 square meter (1,184,030 sq ft) Cemitério dos Prazeres consists of a system of... 73 roads. Many important Portuguese personalities from the last two centuries, including many artists and politicians, are buried in the "Cemetery of Pleasures", which was opened in 1833.
With loving care and attention the rich citizens of Lisbon have constructed splendid sepulchers for their loved ones here. Chapel-like buildings containing tables and chairs, picture frames and even pretty curtains hanging in front of tiny windows give the impression of miniature living rooms. But while the dead from rich families are buried in these mini houses, the dead from poorer families have to make do with an uncomfortable walled compartment. Visitors to this cemetery enter a bizarre realm filled with beauty and blatant injustice.more
The view is staggering. A tour around the battlements of the ruins of the Castelo opens up wonderful... views over the old town of Lisbon and the Tejo. What was once a bastion of royal power is now a refuge for romantic souls and a must for any visitor to Lisbon.
The Castelo, which stands at 360 ft high, has a chequered history. The Romans have been here, as have the Visigoths, the Moors and, since the 16th century, the Portuguese kings. As of the 17th century, it also served as a prison until the great earthquake of 1755 made the Castelo uninhabitable. Today, the external walls have been renovated and are home to a restaurant. White peacocks strut around the court garden, while a multimedia show explains the history of Lisbon. Anyone looking up at the evening sun after a strenuous sightseeing tour will understand the typically Portuguese concept of Saudade.more
Lisbon's oceanarium was opened for the 1998 world exposition and is now one of the city's most important... attractions. At the same time it is regarded as the biggest aquarium in the whole of Europe. All the world's oceans and the many climate zones are represented in the various water tanks. The oceanarium attempts to imitate the natural habitats of the marine life as realistically as possible.
The main tank is extraordinarily large and can be seen from many angles on your tour through the rest of the exhibits. Visitors can be astounded by the schools of fish and numerous individual sea creatures. Particularly impressive are the many rays and reef sharks that shoot past the visitors. The oceanarium is also home to birds, reptiles and two otters. Around 15,000 animals belonging to more than 450 different species live in Oceanário.more
The famous square, generally known as Rossio, is actually called Praça Dom Pedro IV. After the great... earthquake of 1755 it was restored to new splendour. A statue of King Peter (Pedro) IV stands in the centre. In the past, Rossio witnessed everything from the burning of heretics to bullfights. The square and its surroundings were extensively restored in 2001 and it is now one of the favourite meeting places in the city.
The architects placed great emphasis on restoring the wavelike cobblestones, symbolising the waves in the sea. Rossio is regularly filled with a colourful crowd. Quite a few tourists mingle among the people who have business in the neighbourhood or who have come here to do some shopping. Shoe polishers and beggars make their living here. If you are lucky enough to find a seat in the popular Café Suiça, you can do your people-watching in peace. Even if you do not plan to travel by train, the richly decorated Estação Central Rossio station is well worth a visit.more
Commerce Square is arguably one of Lisbon's most beautiful squares. The view from the Tegus over the... square towards the city is very well known. To the right you see the castle and cathedral and to the left the narrow districts of Bica and Barrio Alto on a hill. This how many seafarers would have seen Lisbon in days gone by. The Praça is rectangular and surrounded by uniform baroque buildings with arcades.
The equestrian statue in the middle of the square was erected in 1775 and depicts King José I. This bronze statue was designed by Joaquim Machado de Castro, Portugal's foremost sculptor of the time. A medallion on the pedestal shows The Marquis of Pombal, the interior minister under King José and the person responsible for having the square and the neighbouring lower district (Baixa) remodelled after the disastrous earthquake of 1755. The entrance gate to the central axis of the Baixa, the Rua Augusta, is a triumphal arch built in 1873. Above the arch on the right hand side is Vasco da Gama, who discovered the sea route to India.more
Porto's main train station was built between 1890 and 1915 on the site of the former Convent of S. Bento... de Avé-Maria, which had been closed in 1834. The building was designed by local architect Marques da Silva. Lined with 20,000 azulejos (coloured wall tilework), the courtyard is an attraction in itself.
The tilework was hand-painted by Jorge Colaço (1864-1942) in the 1930s and illustrates historical motifs in Portugal's then contemporary style, which portrayed the region's past events in idealised form. These azulejos represent one of Portugal's most remarkable artistic achievements of those days.more
In order to replace a suspension bridge over the Douro right outside the Old Town of Porto, the metal... Luís I Bridge was erected between 1881 and 1886. The Belgian company Société Willebroeck was entrusted with the execution. Engineer Théophile Seyrig, had already worked on the construction of the Maria Pia Bridge as an associate of Gustave Eiffel, had sole responsibility this time. The goal was to make the new bridge even more grandiose that the Eiffel Tower, whose influence on it is visible.
The Dom Luís I. Bridge, which is by the way often mistaken for the Maria Pia Bridge, connects the two banks of the river between Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia with one single arch. It is 565 ft (172 m) long and 146 ft (44.60 m) high. The lower carriageway is suspended on the bridge, the upper track - which today is used by Porto's metro - runs on a frame above the arch.more
The most important art museum in Lisbon is situated in the middle of Gulbenkian Park. The park and the... museum are named after the Armenian oil magnate Calouste Gulbenkian who found refuge in Portugal during World War II.
The museum concentrates on works by European masters of the 15th to the 19th centuries, above all on portraits by Rembrandt, Rubens and Gainsborough. The handicraft exhibits, such as carpets, glass and ceramics from the Orient and Asia are also worth seeing. In the inner courtyard, you can see 18th century French furniture and tapestries from the Gulbenkian palace in Paris. You can also admire the most comprehensive collection of art nouveau objects by the French goldsmith René Lalique anywhere in the world. The Centro de Arte Moderna at the other end of the museum garden is dedicated to works by contemporary Portuguese artists.more
Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga exhibits a historical cross section of European painting from Bosch to... Velázquez. The focus is on the history of art in Portugal. Furniture and Gobelin tapestries, gold and silverwork and a large collection of Portuguese paintings from the 15th-19th centuries form an extensive spectrum.
Since 1884 the museum has been housed in the two-storey palace, built in 1690, in the "street of the green windows". The so-called Minister of the Kingdom, the Marquis of Pombal lived here. These days Henry the Seafarer is the uncontested man in the house. The portrait of the seafaring pioneer can be admired on the polyptych from St. Vincent's altar. The work from the 15th century is the main attraction of the museum - according to unofficial reports, the second most popular attraction is the museum café with its wonderful view of the River Tegus.more