It’s not your imagination; Portugal really is turning into the hottest travel destination of 2015. It’s a country rich in art, history, and tradition, and you simply have to visit. The folks at Expedia Canada are big believers in travelling to new countries and learning about the culture, so when they heard of the latest art exhibit, Heaven, Hell and Somewhere in Between: Portuguese Popular Art, and MOA Journey to Portugal, they knew they wanted to partner with the museum and present you a helpful guide to experiencing Portugal.
With a ton of old-world landmarks and new age attractions, it’s easy to play in Portugal. Here are some of the top sites to look forward to.
Sao Jorge Castle
Atop a proud hill rests Sao Jorge Castle. The Moorish landmark was built in the 11th century and didn’t change hands to the Europeans until the Siege of Lisbon during the Second Crusade. The Castle was later dedicated to Saint George, the fabled king who is often depicted slaying a dragon. Throughout the centuries, it housed many noble families and was a pillar of greatness until the Earthquake of 1755. It took several years and government changeovers, but the crumbling structure was eventually revitalized and is now one of the most notable attractions of the country.
Walking through the city of Evora, it’s easy to feel like you’re strolling through a museum. The old township maintains its Roman-era ruins with structures like the Roman Temple of Évora. The medieval period is also represented, as 12th century cathedrals still stand today. Furthermore, 16th century monuments and 18th century homes fit into the landscape as a curious blend of eras. Wherever you turn, it’s a sight to see.
You haven’t seen a library anything like Biblioteca Joanina. Constructed in the 18th century, the Baroque library is a part of the University of Coimbra. The bookshelves are lined with gold, the staircases are made with exotic woods, and the ceiling displays stunning artwork. There are also 250,000 books inside of the centre, with subjects about everything under the sun.
Seafood and cheese are the food groups of choice in Portugal, and it’s easy to understand why. The country appreciates the most savory products on the market. Here are some of the top dishes you must try when you’re here.
Portugal is widely known for its seafood, so it’s really no surprise that salt cod, called “bacalhau” in Portuguese, is considered the national dish. Rumor has it that you can prepare salt cod over 300 ways, though it’s often found mixed into stir fry with rice, onion, eggs, and black olives.
Queijo Serra da Estrela
It can be hard to name the king of cheese when you’re in a country with such robust and diverse flavours; however, Queijo Serra da Estrela proudly wears the crown. The cheese is made from sheep’s milk and stands out with its secret ingredient: thistle flower. Serra da Estrela is only produced in the Estrela Mountains, and is often found in fine dining restaurants.
Carne de Porco a Alentejana
Take everything you know about surf and turf and watch Portugal change your perceptions. Commonly found in the Lisbon area, Carne de Porco a Alentejana is pork cooked with clams on a low simmer and served with roasted potatoes. The unparalleled dish comes from the Alentejo province, and is found in the major cities of the country.
If you’ve ever wanted to stay in a country full of castles, Gothic churches, and intricate monuments, Portugal is the place to be. Whether you want to luxuriate in your own castle or admire the view from your hotel, here are some styles to look out for.
It’s easy to understand just how old Portugal is by admiring the architecture. The Romanesque style was introduced in the 11th century, and brought over from France by knights and monks. The cathedrals display this history, as they were built with both military and castle-like undertones.
Toward the end of the 13th century, Gothic architecture became one of the most popular styles of the country, and the remnants are still visible today. Many of the monasteries that pepper the country showcase this proud and pointy style.
After the Great Earthquake of 1755, the country, and Lisbon in particular, saw an uptick of Classical style with a focus on pragmatism. As the country rebuilt itself, the architecture took on a simplistic and sturdy objective. In Baixa, for instance, military troops were marched around various in-process buildings to simulate an earthquake. The new style also incorporated iron and steel, to create a juxtaposition of old world and new in the cities around the country.
Put Portugal on your itinerary this year. With strong food, unique art, and beautiful sights, it’s a country that’s hard to beat.
MOA Journeys takes off to Portugal this fall. Check out the itinerary and reserve your spot before the trip sells out.
Story by Jennifer Cuellar, Expedia Canada Staff Writer