Lisbon, Portugal

Stop #33 (the final stop):

Lisbon sits on seven hills, and no matter where you go in Lisbon, you always feel like you are walking up one of them! To get a feel for the streets, take a look at the photos of the streetcars. I don’t know what they have for engines, but they must pack some serious power to navigate the hilly narrow streets.

The city is just north of the Rio Tejo (Tagus River) and has several distinct neighborhoods. We spent time in the following ones (and probably others but didn’t know what they were called):

  • Alfama is the old Moorish quarter. It has some of the oldest buildings because it survived a major earthquake in 1755. This is where the Sé (the cathedral) and the Castelo de São Jorge (St. George’s Castle) are located.
  • Baixa (Lower Town). The very large square, Praça do Comércio is one of Europe’s largest riverside squares— in the photos, is a yellow (perhaps ochre) and white large square building with a gigantic square and monuments. Baixa sits between this square and Praça Dom Pedro IV, a smaller square.
  • Bairro Alto (Upper Neighborhood). We went to a bar and restaurant in this area, which is had hills (of course) and 18th-century streets with lots of bars and restaurants.
  • Alcântara and Belém. The old port district. Belém is the Portuguese word for Bethlehem. It was from here that the country’s great explorers set out during the period of the discoveries. The Manueline buildings in this part of town make it obvious that they came home with many riches.


  • Castelo de São Jorge (St. George’s Castle) was constructed by the Moors, but it refortified previous forts built by the Romans and Visigoths. Dom Afonso Henriques, mentioned in the Guimaraes portfolio, drive the Moors from Lisbon in. The views from the castle were some of the best in town.
  • Elevador de Santa Justa. This is a tourist attraction built in 1902 by Raul Mésnier, who studied under Gustave Eiffel. You will see the steel tower in pictures below.
  • This is another name for Lisbon’s main square described above. It is the same as the Praça Dom Pedro IV. There are ornate sculptures/statues throughout the square.
  • Torre de Belém. The building shown with a reflection in my photos below including balconies and turrets is Belém completed in 1520 to defend the port entrance. It is dedicated to St. Vincent, the patron saint of Lisbon.
  • Padrão dos Descobrimentos. The white Monument of the Discoveries in photos below was made in 1960 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of Prince Henry the Navigator. From this site, Vasco da Gama left for India. Prince Henry is first figure on the monument, nearest to the water. Behind him are the Portuguese explorers of Brazil and Asia.

Porto, Portugal

Stop #29:

Porto is Portugal’s second-largest city.  There is a famous expression in Porto: “Coimbra sings, Braga Portugal’s second-largest city, with a population of roughly 280,000, considers itself the north’s capital and, more contentiously, the country’s economic center. Locals support this claim with the maxim: “Coimbra sings, Braga prays, Lisbon shows off, and Porto works.”

From Porto, Douro wine was mixed with brandy to preserve it during the journey and improve it over time.  Today we enjoy it at Port wine.

Aveiro, Portugal

Stop #30:

When your guide book tells you that you will visit the “Venice of Portugal”, it is pretty hard for that town to live up to your expectations.  So, to get to the point immediately, this wasn’t Venice.

Aveiro is a sea town and sits on the Ria de Aveiro, with a large shallow lagoon close to town.  Both salt and kelp are taken from the lagoon and sold in what seems like every shop in town. There are boats in town called moliceiros, which are kelp boat, that ride in the town’s canals.  The older part of town has sidewalks and squares with traditional Portuguese hand-laid pavement in fancy patterns.

Nazaré (Nazare), Portugal

Stop #32:

Nazaré has become synonymous with surfing and big waves.  They are the biggest waves in the world.  The town isn’t the quaint Portuguese fishing village it once was.  But it is still beautiful with cliffs and sand that stretches for miles.  The town of white buildings and tile roofs buts up against the cliffs.

The photos below show the point where many surfing photos are taken.  I took photos of a couple of original photos taken when the waves were at their highest, more than 50 feet high.  In 2011, surfer Garrett McNamara of Hawaii surfed a record-breaking 78 foot wave at Nazaré.

Guimarães, Portugal

Stop #28:

One of my favorite cities on this trip was medieval Guimarães.  We stayed at an old monastery converted into a hotel.  In the fact, the history of the monastery is described below.

The city is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a 2012 European Capital of Culture.  You will see a picture below with the words “aqui nasceu Portugal”, which means “ Portugal was born here”.  Actually, Portugal’s first king, Alfonso Henriques, was born here.  He eventually brought together lands between the Minho and Douro rivers.  From Guimaeres, Afonso Henriques eventually took back Lisbon from the Moors in 1147.  While the city was the first capital of Portugal, power eventually moved to Coimbra and later to Lisbon.


  • Castelo de Guimarães – Alfonso Henriques was born in this castle (lots of photos of the ruins below).
  • Paço dos Duques de Bragança (Palace of the Dukes of Bragança). The Paço dos Duques de Bragança is a 15th-century palace that once belonged to the dukes of Bragança but which is now the official regional seat of Portugal’s president. These are the photos below with the tapestries and heavy wood furniture with porcelain and paintings.
  • Pousada de Guimarães, Santa Marinha – We stayed at this pousada (former monastery) from the 12th-century.  It was originally founded by the wife of Dom Afonso Henriques to honor the patron saint of pregnant women. Our room was a former monk cell.  We enjoyed the gardens on a sunny and warm February day.  The views were also pretty extraordinary.

Thanks to Fodor’s Travel Guides, Trip Advisor, and Wikipedia for the great lessons that helped me to plan and summarize this trip.

Pinhão, Portugal

Stop #27:

In Pinhão, we stopped at the local train station to take photos of the 25 large azulejo panels depicting scenes from Douro rural life.  While Portugals buildings are often covered in these tiles, the scenes that were included at the train station tell a story about every day live in the Douro Valley, which is full of vineyards growing grapes for port wines.

The wines from the Douro region (Douro River means River of Gold) is transported to Porto for export.  We also spent some time driving through the Douro Valley through the wine quintas (estates) in the valley.  The patterns of grape vines and stepped designs of the hills made for interesting photos of the landscape.

Douro grows several varieties of grapes for wines.  Reds are usually made from a blend of the native grape, Touriga Nacional. Whites are dry, have a pale-yellow color.  Famous wines from Douro include the  “Douro Boys”— Quinta do Vallado, Quinta do Vale Dona Maria, Quinta do Vale Meão, Quinta do Crasto, and Nieport.  To be callsed “Port”, it must be produced in Douro under strict regulations.

Thanks to Fodor’s Travel Guides, Trip Advisor, and Wikipedia for the great lessons that helped me to plan and summarize this trip.

Villa Vicosa, Portugal

Stop 6:

The area of Vila Viçosa has been inhabited since antiquity and was a small Roman settlement.  It was part of the Visogoth Kingdom and came under Moorish control.  In 1217, Moorish domination ended with reconquest by Christians.  In the early 14th century, a castle was constructed in the village to protect it from potential Castilian incursions.

In 1461, Vila Viçosa came to the hands of the House of Braganza, one of the most important houses of nobility of Portugal.  The Ducal Palace of Vila Vicosa began in 1502.  When Duke John became King John IV in 1640, the House of Braganza moved to the capital Lisbon, and many of the riches of the Ducal Palace were transferred to the Ribeira Palace.  Vila Viçosa became a vacation spot for the members of the Braganza family.

Thanks to Fodor’s Travel Guides, Trip Advisor, and Wikipedia for the great lessons that helped me to plan and summarize this trip.

Estremoz, Portugal

Stop #5:

Between Lisbon and Mérida, Spain is a town called Estremoz, a site of strategic importance since Roman times.  It has a castle that overlooks the town.  And I did get some pictures of the cutest elderly Portuguese lady I ever did see. 🙂  The pousada was also really impressive.

Thanks to Fodor’s Travel Guides, Trip Advisor, and Wikipedia for the great lessons that helped me to plan and summarize this trip.

Evoramonte, Portugal


At the very top of the hilltop village of Evoramonte is a pretty massive fortress.  At first, I said that we shouldn’t bother because it looked like a concrete building.  But then I later realized that this building was first founded in 1160 and rebuilt after a 1531 earthquake. Oops!  The knotted rope sculpture molded into the castle walls represents loyalty of the Portuguese royal family.

You can also see the really pretty cork trees that surround this town.  The numbers on the tree indicated the year when the bark was carved off of the tree.  You have to wait about 10 years for the bark to rejuvenate before carving off the bark again.

Thanks to Fodor’s Travel Guides, Trip Advisor, and Wikipedia for the great lessons that helped me to plan and summarize this trip.

Elvas, Portugal

Stop #7:

Elvas is a town about 10 miles from the Spanish border.  It wasn’t a major destination, but we had to stop to see the gigantic aqueduct.  At some points there were 5 stacked arches (including the really little arches you can see in the photos).  Elvas is a UNESCO world heritage site (The Garrison Border Town of Elvas and its Fortifications).   Constructuion of the aqueduct began in the 15th century.  It is just about 4 miles long. The trees in the photos are olive trees.  Lesson learned: don’t eat unripened olives off the tree…they taste terrible.

Evora, Portugal

Stop #3:

Évora, a university town, is the capital of the central Alentejo. It sits on a hill (as every city in Portugal seems to do), and it is surrounded by cork and olive trees.  The central main section of town in Évora is a UNESCO World Heritage site.  You will see that the streets are narrow and winding.

During the Roman times, Evora was a town called Liberalitis Julia.  There are still some signs of Roman times today with the large Temple of Diana (pictures below).

The Moors also settled in this area in 715 and stayed for 450 years.

Some of the highlights are:

  • Sé is a Gothic-style cathedral constructed in 1186 from huge granite blocks, with two asymmetrical towers and battlement-ringed walls.   Some of the photos below show the marble columns with statues of the apostles. The Museu de Arte Sacra da Sé (Sacred Art Museum) also has some items pictured below.
  • Igreja de São Francisco – this is the second of Évora’s churches after the Se. It dates from the early 16th century, on the site of a former Gothic chapel.
  • Capela dos Ossos (Chapel of Bones) is the main attraction within the Igreja de São Francisc. Above the doorway you will see the following (translated):  “We, the bones that are here, await yours.” There are bones of approximately 5,000 skeletons dug up from cemeteries in the area.
  • Igreja dos Lóios is a small church next to the former Convento dos Lóios, which is now the Pousada dos Lóios.  You will see it below with the Temple of Diana.
  • Templo Romano (Roman Temple or Diana Temple) is well-preserved ruins of the Roman Temple dominate Largo do Conde de Vila Flor. It was probably built in the 1st to 2nd century AD.

Thanks to Fodor’s Travel Guides, Trip Advisor, and Wikipedia for the great lessons that helped me to plan and summarize this trip.

Marvao, Portugal

Stop #2:

We stopped in Marvão after Tomar, and we couldn’t believe the views of the mountains from the top of the hills (@2,800 feet).  Marvão is a medieval fortress town at the top of a cliff.  The sun was setting and we caught this beautiful town at sunset.  Randy is not a fan of heights, so climbing the fortress walls with no railings was a bit scary.  But he did great and our reward was amazing at the top of the hills.  What a great way to spend our first day in Portugal.

Thanks to Fodor’s Travel Guides, Trip Advisor, and Wikipedia for the great lessons that helped me to plan and summarize this trip.

Knight’s Templar (Tomar, Portugal)

Our first stop on our trip through Portugal and Spain was Tomar, Portugal. There, we visited the Convent of Christ, which was originally a 12th-century Templar stronghold (the convent was founded by the Order of Poor Knights of the Temple, or Templar Knights, in 1118). The Convent and Castle complex are a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The convent entrance is in Manueline style, which usually means it incorporates maritime elements and representations of the discoveries brought from the voyages of Vasco da Gama and Pedro Álvares Cabral. The window of the Convent of Christ (which is in many of the photos in this portfolio) is also a well-known example of Manueline style.

The Romanesque round church is a Roman Catholic Church from the castle (charola, rotunda) was built in the second half of the 12th century by the Knights Templar. The castle was built around 1160 on a strategic location, over a hill and near river Nabão. It contains gothic painting and sculpture.

This was a great way to start off our trip.

Thanks to Fodor’s Travel Guides, Trip Advisor, and Wikipedia for the great lessons that helped me to plan and summarize this trip.

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