Back in Time: Historic Regions of Portugal
Portugal is a year around destination well known for both its landscape and its delicious cuisine and wines. Not only that, this country is home to some of the finest historical sites in Europe. Whether you’re walking the moody, narrow streets of the capital, Lisbon, tasting port in the hilly riverside town of Porto, or relaxing on one of the many luxurious beaches in the Algarve, a holiday in Portugal will bring you to a scene that you will undoubtedly enjoy and remember. If you’re looking to explore the historical side of this great country, here are a few sites that you won’t want to miss.
The capital of Portugal is home to many of its historic splendors, and there are few cities in the world that hold the type of ghostly atmosphere that so splendidly accentuates these sites. Visitors can walk in the footsteps of the explorer Vasco da Gama at the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, a UNESCO-listed monastery that was built following da Gama’s discovery of a sea route to India. Other places to discover for yourself include the Alfama neighborhood, and if you’re willing to venture just outside the city, the medieval towns of Óbidos, Nazaré, and Fátima.
Located on the northern coast of Portugal, this city might be most renowned for its regional production of Port wine, but it also contains a variety of sites that are not to be missed, none of which are more remarkable than the Old University. Housed in a group of 16thand 17thcentury buildings, the Old University was established in 1537 and holds views of the city, as well as the main gate to Coimbra’s Moorish fortress. The Joao V Library is the university’s premier site and is not to be missed.
The coastal Algarve is visited each year by many tourists who flock here for some of Europe’s best beaches, but if you’re looking to take a break from the surf and sand there are also plenty of other great things to explore. The main historic region for this is Faro’s Ciudade Velha, a city housed within medieval walls and crisscrossed by cobblestone streets. Following destruction caused by an earthquake in 1755, much of the city was rebuilt, but today you can still see many of the original buildings along the Arco a Vila. There is the municipal town hall, the Bishop’s Palace, as well as the Se, a cathedral completed in 1251 and built on the site of an ancient Roman temple. If you’re looking to discover Roman ruins, a trip just outside the city of Estoi will bring you to a 1stcentury Roman villa, featuring mosaics and a traditional columned courtyard.
Whatever your reason for heading to Portugal, be it the beach and weather or the history, you will find that one trip alone just might not suffice.
Dan Bellingham is a lecturer in European History. He is currently researching a book on influential European generals of the 19th and 20th centuries.