Portugal – 3 windows on medieval history

Portugal attracts millions of tourists every year. Bordering on Spain in the east, Portugal stands guard over the vast North Atlantic Ocean, at the western end of the European continent. It provides tourists with enthralling opportunities to discover and with many hours of laid-back relaxation. Sunshine and sea, architecture and agriculture, history and nature, food and wine, and exceptional leisure tourism have brought Portugal no less than 77 nominations and 14 tourism ‘Oscars’ at the World Travel Awards last year!

Portugal, view of Lisbon from Castelo de S. Jorge

The history of Portugal dates far back to the 3rd century BC, when the area was under the influence of Carthage and later Rome. However, the Portugal of today is territorially the same as it has been since the mid-twelfth century – a stable country! Moving around in Portugal by car does not cause any difficulties as a well-developed network of highways allows the tourist to get from the north to the south coast with ease.

Fountain on Plaza de Rossio, Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon: the only European capital with a view on the Atlantic Ocean

After Barcelona, Lisbon is the European city attracting the biggest number of tourists. With its strategic location where the river Tagus mouths out in the ocean, Lisbon was inhabited since Roman times. It was occupied by the Moors in the 8th century, ruled by Alfonso 1 the Conqueror, the first Portugese ruler, and has been the capital of Portugal since the middle of the 13th century. The remnants of this fascinating history is still evident in the city, with the Arco da Rua Augusta as a good example. From the ornate triumphal arch, adorned with sculpted figures, you have magnificent views over the city centre.

Arco da Rua Augusta, Lisbon, Portugal

Wide thoroughfares create convenience of movement and communication, narrow streets and centuries old buildings lend a feeling of timelessness, while all the green spots, parks and monuments make Lisbon a beautiful city.

Street scene in Lisbon, Portugal

Above the town rises the Moorish São Jorge Castle. From its commanding hilltop setting, the fortified citadel has been patiently keeping watch over the city since medieval times. No tourist should skip a visit to this icon of Lisbon.

Canon at Sao Jorge Castle, Lisbon, Portugal

In the city there are two UNESCO World Heritage sites, both dating back to the early sixteenth century. The Monastery of Jeronimos (Mosteiro dos Jeronimos) dates back to the beginning of the 16th century and it houses the tomb of the famous sailor-discoverer, Vasco de Gama.

portugal-lisbon-monastry-jeronimos

Not far from the monastery, stands the other one: The Tower of Belem (Torre de Belem), a military building. Lisbon’s icon was built as a fortress to guard the entrance to Lisbon’s harbour at the mouth of the Tagus River. Many a discovery voyage started at the Tower and for the brave sailors who sailed into the unknown, this was the last sight of their homeland. If Belem Tower could speak, it would tell many heart-wrenching stories! UNESCO considers the Belem Tower as a “reminder of the great maritime discoveries that laid the foundations of the modern world.

Porto (Oporto): city of the famous blue tiles

Founded by the Romans as an important seaport at the mouth of the River Duro to the Atlantic Ocean, Porto dates back to the 5th century. The medieval district of Porto in its entirety has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Narrow and steep streets of the inner city centre contrast with the wide streets outside. Tourists flock to Porto to see the blue ceramic tiles that cover the interior of many houses.

Portugal, Oporto,blue tiles1

Particularly impressive is the lobby of the railway station with beautiful ceramics illustrating events from the history of Portugal. And do not forget the wonderful Port wine that Oporto is famous for!

Portugal, Oporto, blue tiles 2

Fatima: town with a spiritual ambience

Fatima is a town in the central part Portugal with a mystical aura. The spiritual ambience enfolds you when you enter the Sanctuary of Fatima, a Catholic pilgrimage site. The Capelinha das Aparicoes marks the spot where our Lady Fatima, Catholic name of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, allegedly appeared to three children, on separate occasions in 1917. The authenticity of her manifestations was recognized by the Catholic Church a few years later.

Sactuary Lady Fatima at night, Fatima, Portugal

Since then, pilgrimages from other countries have been arriving in a steady stream and the number has grown to 5 million pilgrims per year! Later the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary was constructed on the spot where the three shepherds were buried.

Sanctuary Lady Fatima, Fatima, Portugal

Lisbon, modern metropolis with majestic ancient World Heritage sites; Oporto, with the unique blue ceramics, and Fatima, shrouded in mystic history, need to be on every world traveler’s itinerary!

Celine Renaud is Head of Sales for Leo Trippi.

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Comments (1)

  1. Hugh says:

    Celine, this is a great post. This year I am going to visit Oporto as part of a trip on the old silver trail from Marbella. Thanks for all the great info!

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