Lisbon, Porto, Coimbra and Aveiro are all fascinating cities which demand a visit.
Lisbon has for a long time been a very popular choice for city-break travellers, but this year it is proving to be more in demand than ever. Portugal’s capital has a lot to offer the tourist. It certainly is a fascinating city in a beautiful location overlooking the River Tagus.
The centre of the city is quite compact and contains many of the important sights, including Sao Jorge castle and the Royal Palace. A little further out is the suburb of Belém with its famous Tower overlooking the River Tagus and the wonderful Jeronimos Monastery. It’s easy to explore much of the city on foot but it’s also well worth having a ride on one of the historic yellow trams to explore some of the oldest and hilliest parts of the city. It’s also well worth taking time to explore Baixa with its elegant squares and rectangular layout, with the impressive square “ Praça do Comércio” at its heart.
However, there’s a lot more to Portugal than just Lisbon. Other cities which can be combined with Lisbon into a varied, interesting and enjoyable multi-centre break include Porto, Coimbra and Aveiro.
There is much to see in the historic city of Porto but a good starting point is the Ribeira district right in the centre. The area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a great place to wander around on foot with its narrow alleyways, colourful houses and lively restaurants, bars and cafes. From here there are also wonderful views of the Port Wine houses located across the Douro River in Vila Nova de Gaia.
Coimbra is a charming historic university town well worth exploring. Lying approximately half way between Lisbon and Porto, Coimba is a riverfront city and the country’s former capital. It is home to a preserved medieval old town and the historic University of Coimbra which was built on the grounds of a former palace.
Aveiro is perhaps one of Portugal’s most unique and inspiring cities, and yet it remains a “hidden gem”, little known by tourists from the UK and elsewhere. It features canals navigated by colourful boats (barcos moliceiros) which were traditionally used to harvest seaweed. The centre of the city is also known for its Art Nouveau buildings. Well worth a visit are the cathedral with its prominent bell tower and the Museu de Aveiro which is housed in a former convent.
Flights to Lisbon and Porto operate from a number of UK airports, making a holiday in one or more of Portugal’s major cities a very realistic proposition. These very different cities all offer the visitor a very special experience which can perhaps only be gained by getting to know one of Europe’s “hidden gems”.