Reasons to Visit Portugal
France and Spain always get the lion's share of tourists to Europe - but Portugal stakes a strong claim as a smaller nation with a different flavor that's all it's own.
The flaky pastry tart full of soft egg Custard, is as characteristic of Portugal as the croissant is of France. Traditionally it's been said the best ones come from the Pasteis de Belem, near the Jeronimos monastery, a fifteen-minute tram ride from the center of Lisbon, but everyone you ask will have their favorite baker. Eat them warm from the oven for a taste of heaven.
Fado is to Portugal what flamenco is to Spain. Instead of flamenco's passion and fire, the fado is full of melancholy and nostalgia.
Pass the port!
The Portuguese city of Oporto gave its name to this fortified wine, and became rich on the trade. Visit Oporto and you can tour the cellars and try a tasting, as well as seeing the traditional Rabelo boats which used to take it downriver. In the sixteenth century Portugal developed its own style of highly decorative architecture, the Manueline Gothic.
Royal patronage created beautiful churches like the Jeronimos of Belem and the 'unfinished chapels at the abbey of Alcobasa, but perhaps the height of the style was reached in the little town of Tomar, where the convent has windows that seem to be made out of seaweed and tree trunks.
Portugal has a long tradition of azulejos, ceramic tiles used to decorate both the interior and the outside of buildings. Anywhere you go, from the Lisbon Metro to tiny churches or university corridors, you'll see imaginative decorative schemes, and if you visit Lisbon's flea market you can see tall houses entirely dad in bright azulejos. There's even a museum of azulejos in an old convent in Lisbon.
Easter is still celebrated in the old way in Braga and Obidos, with religious processions and opulent church services from Palm Sunday onwards. Huge figures of Christ, the Virgin Mary and saints are paraded around the town; the atmospheric. Being on the west side of the Iberian peninsula, with an Atlantic coast, Portugal has spectacular surfing as well as beautiful beaches.
It also offers a variety of surf, waters and rocky coast of the north; there are beaches for experienced surfers, and gentler, reliable swells for the beginner.