The Bohemian city of Lisbon, the oldest city in Europe is a good starting point. Arabic and European influences have created a beautiful city that displays its history and culture with pride. The golden age of Lisbon, when the first Portuguese explorers –Vasco da Gama, Pedro Álvares Cabral, Prince Henry the Navigator began to trade in exotic products from India and the Far East, elevated Portugal into the wealthiest nation on earth. Lisbon still displays evidence of its grand history in the Belem Royal Palace, the magnificent Jeronimo’s Monastery, and the priceless treasures of the Gulbenkian Museum. The city is home to some of the wealthiest people in Europe, and sophisticated theatres, cafes, bookshops, and antique jewellery stores can be found in the elegant district of Chiado, which sits to the west of central Lisbon.
The delights of Portugal don’t end in here however, and it is possible to hire a luxury car in Lisbon and head north to discover the beautiful countryside, with incredible towns, roman ruins, medieval castles and palaces in an area rich with Portuguese history. This region is also well known for its wines and gastronomy and is home to the ‘Vinho Verde’, as well as to the world-famous Port wine.
(30km north from Lisbon)
This town was once popular as the summer residence of Portuguese kings and aristocrats and boasts the wonderful Palacio Nacional de Sintra, the Palacio da Pena and the Palacio de Monserrate. The luscious hills which surround the town offer the visitor wonderful views of its’ magical castles and historic mansions.
(80km north of Lisbon)
The medieval town of Obidos, once the wedding present of the Queen is a maze of narrow cobbled streets, which lead you up to the castle that sits atop this walled city. The Moorish influence of this town can be see in the shining towns white buildings that have changed little over the centuries.
(124km north of Lisbon)
In the foundation of Portugal, the King donated the land to the Cistercian monks. Here they built the simplest yet most spectacular building in Portugal, the 12th Century Monastery of Alcobaça, which today is a world heritage site and has a magnificent untouched beauty.
(175km from Lisbon)
The largest Roman settlement in Portugal is one of Europe’s great archaeological discoveries. Conimbriga dates back to the first Iron Age in the 9th Century B.C. The Romans arrived in the 2nd Century A.D., conquering the Celtic inhabitants and establishing a city that grew and flourished. On display are examples of early Roman architecture, with bases of columns, fountains, paving stones and mosaics that are in near perfect condition.
(194km north of Lisbon)
Portugal’s second largest city, also known as Oporto, is gloriously located on a steep hillside above the River Douro. Visit the Cais da Ribeira, the quayside of the fascinating Ribeira district, where some of the city’s most beautiful monuments include the opulent 19th Century Stock Exchange, the cathedral and Bishop’s Palace. Drive out to the bustling suburb of Vila Nova de Gaia, which lies on the opposite side of the Douro River, and take a tour of one of the many Port wine lodges, followed of course by wine tasting.
Clare Haward is Marketing Manager for Europe Luxury Car Hire.