A small, charming town situated by the Mondego River in Central Portugal , Coimbra is home to a treasure trove of historic sites, beautiful gardens, the country’s second style of fado music, and a lively culture that is centered around one of Europe’s oldest universities. One of the best things to do in Coimbra is to simply get lost and discover the many historic attractions from the stunning Old Cathedral to the Gothic Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Velha, which contains the tomb of Queen Isabel. No trip to Coimbra would be complete without a visit to the University of Coimbra to admire one of the world’s most beautiful libraries, the Joanina Library.
The Archipelago of the Azores is composed of 9 volcanic islands in the Atlantic Ocean, located about 1,500 km (930 miles) west of Lisbon. Renowned for world-class whale watching, hot mineral springs, and quaint seaside towns, each island has its own fascinating identity. São Miguel is the largest island of the Azores and is known as “The Green Island” while Pico is home to the highest mountain in Portugal.
Nestled in the foothills of the Sintra Mountains on the Lisbon Coast, just a day trip away from Portugal’s capital city, Sintra presents a spectacular setting of verdant hills, sprinkled with pretty villas, royal retreats, castles and palaces such as the famous Pena’s Palace, a fantastical castle reminiscent of Germany’s Neuschwanstein. Built in the mid-1800s and serving as a summer retreat for the Portuguese royal family, Pena’s Palace is surrounded by forested parklands containing exotic trees, plants and flowers. Also not to be missed are the ancient ruins of the Castle of the Moors crowning the city’s highest hill, and the romantic Monserrate Palace with itssubtropical gardens.
Stretching along the banks of the Tagus River near the Atlantic Ocean, Portugal’s capital and largest city winds upward among seven steep hills, forming an enchanting destination of warm weather, alluring alleys, quaint shops, Gothic cathedrals, impressive bridges and colorful neighborhoods, reverberating in traditional fado music. The city’s oldest district is Alfama, an old Moorish quarter, distinct for its maze of cobblestone streets, rustic architecture and St. George’s Castle. The best way to experience Lisbon is by taking one of the vintage trams such as the well known Tram 28, which winds along historic quarters, gardens and main attractions.
World famous for its production of fine port wine, the busy city of Porto sprawls along the hills overlooking the Douro River in northern Portugal. At the heart of Porto is the charming pedestrian zone, the Ribeira, an atmospheric place on the river, buzzing in live music, cafes, restaurants and street vendors. Dominating this popular tourist setting is the Ponte Dom Luis, a metal, double-deck arch bridge that links Porto to Vila Nova de Gaia, well-known for its port wine cellars.