Lisbon, Porto and other lesser-known cities such as Coimbra and Aveiro are in great demand with city-break travellers.
Lisbon has become increasingly popular as a short-break destination over the last few years. The Portuguese capital is well served with flights from British regional airports and can be reached in only around 2 hours 30 minutes. Its favourable climate has also made it the perfect year-round destination. It is a reasonably small city but with plenty of sights to interest visitors. It’s impossible not to love the century-old wooden trams which still lurch and rumble their way among the steep hills over which this city lies. Anyone spending a few days in Lisbon should make a point of heading up one of the city’s loftiest hills to explore the wonderful Arabic-cum medieval São Jorge (St. George’s) Castle. Here you can stand on the battlements and enjoy the splendid view of the historic city centre and the River Tagus.
Porto enjoys a wonderfully scenic hilly location at the mouth of the River Douro on Portugal’s Atlantic coast. Portugal’s second city – best known as the historic home of port wine – also has plenty of sights to interest the tourist. There are no really famous landmarks but the city is a great place for wandering about, in particular exploring the pretty and characterful Ribeira neighbourhood, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Straddling the banks of the River Mondego, Coimbra is famous for its university, the oldest in Portugal and one of the oldest in Europe. It’s well worth climbing the tower at the university which houses the bells that signal the start and end of classes, in order to appreciate the superb 360º view of the city. Some fine museums also congregate around the university as well as some wonderful buildings including the Chapel of São Miguel with an imposing Baroque organ and the Joanine Library. The first Kings of Portugal lived in a palace which formerly occupied this area.
A hidden gem, Aveiro is a charming town which is best explored on foot. Its long history is closely linked with its port and its canals. What better way to spend a relaxing afternoon than wandering along the canals, watching the brightly coloured traditional gondola-style fishing boats?
Portuguese cities tend to be good value for money and they certainly seem to be offering something new and different to travellers who have already visited many of Europe’s most popular cities.