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With a winning combination of emerald waters, beautiful vistas, luscious green valleys and mountainous terrain, Portugal was awarded the title of the best European country by USA Today and rightly so. Many come to this nation seeking sun, sea and sand, and also rich cultural and culinary experiences.
Sights and Attractions
With Portugal's rich heritage, both locals and visitors are able to enjoy historical sites like São Jorge Castle or the medieval town of Ourém. The nation is also gifted with an impressive and diverse landscape from the ornate park surrounding the whimsical palace of Quinta da Regaleira, to some of the finest sandy beaches in Europe on the Algarve coast, such as Praia da Bordeira, with dramatic sandstone cliffs nearby carved into grottoes and caves.
Aside from the vistas on offer, there are a number of lively festivals to enjoy throughout the year. Rock in Rio-Lisboa, which takes place in June, is Europe's largest rock festival and Arraial Pride, which is also in June, celebrates the LGBT community. There are also more traditional festivals such as Feiras Novas and Feira de São Mateus, which take place in September.
Restaurants and Cafes
The cuisine in Portugal is a reflection of Portugal's character as a seafaring nation. The most celebrated dish is, perhaps, Bacalhau, a salted cod, which can be prepared in a variety of different ways and can vary greatly among different regions. In Porto, Bacalhau is typically served with potatoes, onions and eggs. Other popular fish based dishes include sardines, swordfish, squid and sea bass. Besides fish and seafood, the Portuguese also love their meat and in particular, pork, with roast suckling pig being a big favourite in central Portugal.
If it's dessert that you're lusting after, the Portuguese have rich egg-based delicacies to tuck into. One such decadent treat is Arroz Doce – a rice pudding infused with lemon and cinnamon.
So where can you sample such exquisite cuisine? With around 12 Michelin-starred restaurants such as Willie's in the Algarve and Vila Joya in Albufeira, and a plethora of charming cafés, rustic eateries and tempting street vendors in major cities, towns and villages - there is no shortage of choice wherever you go.
While you sink your teeth into your gorgeous food, you should also enjoy a sip or two of refreshing local wine! If you wish to go all out, book a wine-tasting tour at Sandeman's Quinta do Seixo Wine Centre in Douro Valley to sample some of the finest locally produced wine in Portugal.
With a fantastic shopping scene and talented regional artisans, visitors and locals can pick up famed carpets from Arraiolos, beautiful linen from Porto, remarkable polychrome pottery from Aveiro and quality leather goods from Lisbon.
Aside from the handicrafts on offer, fashion seekers can find international favourites like Gucci and Hugo Boss as well as a collection of marvellous, local designers such as Jose Antonio Tenente and Luvaria Ulisses. If, however, you prefer modern shopping centres over fabulous boutiques, you'll find a number of these dotted around the country. One particular favourite is Forum in Faro, which is home to a number of international and local brands.
Portugal is also host to several flea markets, antique fairs and fresh food markets. Here you can discover the colourful flair and exuberant atmosphere of Portuguese culture. One notable market to visit is the craft fair held in Estoril during summer. Artisans come from all over Portugal to create and sell their goods to the public. While here, you can also expect traditional folk dances, cooking, and a good time experienced by all!
The appeal of living in Portugal is further aided by its close proximity to Africa, Europe and America, making it a stopover point for a number of international airlines and as a result, the Portuguese airports – in Lisbon, Faro, Porto, Funchal and Ponta Delgada - provide connections to a majority of the major cities in the world.
Once you're in the country you can either travel by road, bus, rail, cycle or on foot. Since the nation is not so large, getting around is quite easy. Train and bus are both popular - although reliability, speed and convenience may vary between areas, but the scenery more than makes up for it!
If, however, you wish to have more flexibility, then you should consider driving. Not only does it allow you to visit places that are remote, hard-to-reach or undiscovered from tourists, it also provides the best vistas, enabling you to seriously explore the country, in your own pace and time. However, not all roads are properly maintained meaning that most of your journey may be uncomfortably rough. It's also wise to note that the Portuguese drive on the right.
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