Known for its diverse landscape, Portugal offers a variety of scenery ranging from the green mountains in the north, to the dryer region of central Portugal and the fabulous golden sand beaches of the southern coast. The country’s mild climate and a significant investment in its golfing infrastructure in recent years have contributed to the country’s reputation as a haven for golfers.
No less than 14 of Portugal’s courses are regularly rated among the top 100 courses in Europe. A popular destination for tourists, the country’s two largest cities, Lisbon and Porto, have much to offer in terms of culture and history.
The Portuguese know their capital as the city of seven hills, and legend has it that Lisbon was built on seven hills. Studded with mosaic pavements, it is a vibrant city packed with gothic cathedrals and museums. A real treat awaits those adventurous enough to explore the city’s meandering backstreets, narrow roads shaded by towering trees and lined with lively terraced cafes. Strolling amid the bright colors are fadista, singers performing Portugal’s traditional melancholic Fado, a music genre that can be traced back to the early 19th century.
In other parts of town, visitors may join the locals enjoying the warmth of 1930s- style cafes overlooking the sea that once welcomed home the famous explorer Vasco de Gama. The country has a long history of discovering and rediscovering lands across the world, but centuries-old Lisbon remains young at heart. In the hilltop neighbourhood of Bairro Alto, the upper district, the streets are bursting with restaurants and bars where customers can party until dawn to a choice of jazz, reggae, electronica and fado. The city’s historical sights include the Torre de Belém (tower of St Vincent) fortress, a limestone monument to Portugal’s age of discovery when Europeans were preoccupied with exploring the world. A short walk away is the Hieronymites monastery, built in 1501 and funded by the treasure from expeditions to Africa, Asia and South America. Other fantastic attractions include the nearby Pena national palace, one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal, and the huge discoveries monument of a sailing ship built on the estuary of the Tagus River with sculptures of important historical figures. Visitors can go inside and climb to the top of the monument for spectacular views. Off the beaten track and not to be missed is the unparalleled beauty of Convento dos Capuchos, a one-time monastery that housed a reclusive religious order of monks.
To the north, Porto is a mixture of styles from medieval alleyways and Baroque churches to 20th century town houses. Portugal’s second city is famous for its port wine lodges and home to some household names such as Taylor’s, Sandemans, Grahams and Cockburns. Visitors can tour the lodges and indulge in a tasting session afterwards. The city has a blossoming nightlife, a lively creative scene and a wealth of adventurous restaurants. The cobblestone streets are swarming with young locals on their way to one of the city’s many hip bars. Piano B is a popular destination for rockers and bohemians for its upstairs art gallery and cafe, with the basement home to Indie rock, dJs and performance art.
The picturesque Ribeira district on the quayside, declared a Unesco World
Heritage site, features tiled churches and winding medieval streets. In the last two decades, Porto experienced an urban renaissance, which includes an efficient metro system. The Museum of Contemporary Art and the Casa da Musica have transformed the city into the go-to spot for art enthusiasts, music lovers and architecture buffs alike.
WHERE TO STAY
Suitable for both tourists and the business traveller, the contemporary luxury hotels tiara park Atlantic Lisboa and tiara park Atlantic Porto attract good reviews on top travel websites and rank high in customer ratings. Friendly and efficient servicein particular are singled out by guests and I found both hotels merited their five-star rank. Both offer luxurious accommodation in a home- from-home atmosphere and are conveniently located, with the Porto Hotel in the Avenida Boavista business district and the Lisbon hotel just a few minutes from the airport in the centre of the city.