Between Lisbon & Porto
Most travellers looking to spend a week or more in Portugal will usually include both Lisbon and Porto, so it makes sense to look how these two cities can best be combined. Whilst there is a quick air connection, and a rail link, we encourage you to take to the road and visit some wonderful places en route. There are several charming small towns to visit in a very scenic part of the world.
The medieval walled town of Óbidos is a highlight, with its whitewashed houses covered with bougainvillea and honeysuckle. The entrance to the town sets the scene with its stunning eighteenth-century tiles, and the crowning glory is the impressive Moorish castle looks over the town. If you’re here in early spring and you’re a chocolate fan, you’re in luck – Óbidos hosts the international chocolate festival for 3 weeks.
Nazaré on the coast is perhaps best known for the massive waves that attract surfers from all over the world, but it’s a place for real Portuguese authenticity. There are cork groves, eucalyptus trees, ladies in petticoats, and men who stow cigarettes and fishhooks in their stocking caps. Nazaré strikes the ideal balance between romantic old-world Portugal and a bustling seaside resort.
The monastery and UNESCO World Heritage site at Batalha is the reason why people visit this small town. The Gothic and – uniquely Portuguese – Manueline architecture and intricate stonework of the building is spectacular. It’s also a chance to learn about the famous battle of 1385 which led João to build and dedicate this magnificent monument to his victory.
A little off the beaten path is the town of Tomar. Today, it is a charming and quaint town with scenic cobbled streets that line the banks of the Nabão River. During the 13th century Tomar was the religious center for the Knights Templar and thus one of the key strategic points of the Iberian Peninsula. This secretive and powerful religious order once ruled from the Convento de Cristo, and this expansive religious complex is regarded as one of Portugal’s finest national monuments.
A must on any itinerary that heads up to the north is Coimbra, Portugal’s former capital and ancient university town. A maze of medieval streets, arguably the most romantic town in Portugal, Coimbra has been one of Portugal’s key centers for arts and culture for hundreds of years.
Founded in 1290, Coimbra is home to one of the oldest universities in Europe and the spirit of tradition that lives on adds so much to its charm. You’ll see students all around the city, identified by the black capes they still wear. The little-colored ribbons on their briefcases denoting the school they attend. We highly recommend a private tour of Coimbra on your travels, and time permitting, a short stay.
If you stay in Coimbra overnight, we encourage you to visit the Schist villages or go hiking in Portugal’s highest mountain, Serra da Estrela.
Further North from Coimbra, near the coast, Aveiro is often called the “Venice” of Portugal and the most characteristic images include of course its canals and colorful houses.
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