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Europe’s Best Destination – Portugal

The country has been named Europe’s leading travel destination by World Travel Awards 2017 in addition to its Algarve beaches being named as Europe’s best beach destination. The awards, based on votes from the travel community, tour industry leaders, and consumer travelers have put Portugal on the bucket list of many avid travelers. For history buffs, Portugal is this faraway country in Europe that had the courage and audacity to plunder the East for spices and countries. Pictures of guys in interesting pants, long beards, and funny hats keep cropping up? Yes, that’s the one, Vasco de Gama in particular.

Portugal has always been a popular destination for Europeans especially Britons looking for a cheap place and with the right climate to laze away on its warm sunny beaches. The Algarve located in Portugal’s southernmost regions is famous for its Mediterranean like beaches and well-developed golf resorts.

There are the sights in the mountains with Sintra being a crowd favorite. Situated in the pine-covered hills of the Serra de Sintra, Sintra has a cooler climate that historically attracted Portugal’s elite and royalty. The place takes on a royal vibe with the extravagant residences and ornamental palaces plus the well- manicured, fancy gardens blooming with all kinds of flowers especially in the summertime. The most well- known palace is the Palace of Sintra, a historic house museum, that has been acknowledged as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The palace allows visitors and it is interesting to see the décor and lifestyles of the royalty throughout historic times. The most striking feature of the royal houses in Sintra are two conical chimneys sticking out from the roof, originating from the royal kitchens.

The capital city of Lisbon seems to be a city that never sleeps as it is perpetually throbbing with excitement from every nook and cranny. The city has a historic atmosphere that is equally charming with its cobbled streets, vivacious people and the ubiquitous churches and palaces including Moorish ones. The main attractions include the São Jorge Castle or Saint George Castle, situated on a hilltop with a commanding view of the city. The Moorish architecture of the castle indicates the Islamic influence that characterizes the city in its buildings, people, and culture.

Belem Tower and the Jerónimos Monastery are interesting historical places situated about 2.5 km from the Lisbon city center. The recommended mode of transport to Belem from Lisbon, are tram services which are convenient, cheap and frequent. The historic monuments and museums in Belem highlight the significance of the age of discoveries, a period when discovering the rest of the world was a top agenda item for the Portuguese royalty. The museums in Belem showcases the Portuguese global domination of the times illustrating the colonization of places such as Malacca and Macao. The Belem tower, completed in 1521, was commissioned by King John 11 as a defense against foreign intruders and to celebrate the glory of Portugal on its successful overseas expeditions in colonization. The architecture of the tower is lavish with intricate details and North African Moorish styled watchtowers completed by the stone carving of a rhinoceros.

Portugal is known for its pastries of which the most noted are the egg tarts, a tourist must- have before leaving Belem. The most well-known bakery is the Pasteis de Belém, a bakery that was started by the monastery, Jerónimos Monastery, in 1837. Although egg tarts can be purchased almost everywhere in Portugal, the pastries from this bakery top the list. The long queues outside the bakery are proof of its popularity.

There are other places equally worth visiting in Portugal such as the Porto, Madeira, and Fatima, especially for Catholics. The country is a delight to visit. Spend at least a weak to soak in its culture, history, food and the beaches not forgetting the egg tarts.

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