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Situated in South West Europe, Portugal is a favourite among holiday-goers and those wishing to relocate. Most visit the nation seeking historical, cultural, culinary and maritime experiences, so much so, that it has been voted as the best European country by readers of USA Today.
Things to do
With mountainous terrain in Serra da Estrela, rocky coasts in the Algarve, the rolling vineyards of the Douro Valley and the luscious islands of the Azores - the landscape in Portugal is dramatically diverse. It is also one of the most peaceful countries in the world due to its low crime rates, high standard of living and extremely liberal judicial system.
Aside from that, the nation is home to a range of beautiful monuments. Two notable ones include Quinta Da Regaleira in Sintra, a fairy-tale castle surrounded by a beautiful park, and the unique Fortaleza de Sagres, a 15th Century fortress located at the southern tip of the Sagres Peninsula from where the golden age of Portuguese exploration was born.
History buffs can take a trip into the past in Convento da Ordem de Cristo in Tomar and Castelo de Marvao in Marvao and avid adventurers can take the opportunity to quad-bike, kayak or horse ride through the picturesque vistas.
Places to eat
Portuguese cuisine is heavily fish based, fragrant and simple. The most celebrated dish is Bacalhau - salted, dried cod - which is typically served with potatoes, onions and eggs. Other dishes to indulge in include hearty stews, soups, roast suckling pig and grilled meats.
To sample such dishes a number of cafés, restaurants, street vendors and rustic eateries can be found in major towns and villages. Notable ones to visit include Hamburgueria da Parada in Lisbon, which serves lip-smacking burgers, cocktails and coffees, and Restaurante Ora Viva in Porto, which offers spectacular seafront views and gigantic portions of authentic Portuguese grub.
If it's decadent treats that you seek, numerous cake shops, tea rooms and cafés serve up delightful pastries, tarts and cakes. Specialities such as pastéis de nata (custard tarts) and bolos de arroz (rice cupcakes) - must be sampled!
To get a real flavour of Portuguese cuisine, pay a visit to Mercado Bolhão, a food market in Porto, on either a Friday or a Saturday. Here you can find dried pig's heads, extravagantly decorated cinnamon sticks - yes, you read that correctly - and tons of fresh produce. You will also come to notice that almost all of the traders are women!
Like the UK, the major Portuguese cities have modern shopping centres ready to satisfy the most curious of shoppers. However, a majority of the locals actually prefer to shop in local stores and markets instead of the more well-known shops.
However, if it's high quality, designer clothing that you seek, local stores just won't cut it. Fortunately, vibrant cities like Lisbon have areas like Avenida da Liberdade, which allow you to peruse all of your favourite international brands like Burberry and Louis Vuitton.
Aside from satisfying fashion needs, Portugal is home to other notable goods and odd wares such as the world-renowned Arraiolos carpets from Alentejo, exquisitely embroidered linen from Porto, and beautiful handmade polychrome pots in Aveiro. When it comes to doing your weekly food shop, instead of visiting mini-markets or supermarkets, you can traipse along to local markets like Loulé, in the Algarve, or Carcavelos, in Lisbon, to snap up some great deals on fresh food, clothing, shoes, furniture and toys!
Due to its location, Portugal has fantastic transport links with three continents - Africa, Europe and America - and has international airports in Lisbon, Faro, Funchal, Ponta Delgada and Porto, which all provide regular flights to major cities all over the world.
If you want to explore the wonders of Portugal by road, you're in luck as the nation is considered to have the best road infrastructure in Europe. In fact, the N-222 road in Northern Portugal - which takes residents from Peso de Regua to Pinhao - was awarded the honour of the world's best road due to its breathtaking views of the wine region. Just a heads up - the Portuguese drive on the right side!
Another good way to get around Portugal, especially between the larger cities, is by train. Train tickets are cheap and are usually only a few euros. Cities such as Lisbon and Porto also have good metro and tram systems. The trams are also a classic sight in the cities and it is worth the experience of travelling on one. Taxis can also be used in cities and large towns, and for short distances they are quite affordable. Buses are another method of transportation that residents rely on, although reliability and efficiency differs between areas.
Walking or cycling is another popular option for many. Why not get off the beaten track and cast your eyes on the marvellous landscapes that Portugal has to offer?
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