Feasting on Portugal

Portugal is the oldest country in Europe - it has had the same defined borders since 1139 - and it has an impressive and diverse splendor.

Photo: James Merithew

Within the country are historic cities such as Porto and Coimbra, villages like Óbidos, the forest and waterfalls of the Peneda-Gerês National Park, and the perfect collaboration of man and nature in the magic fantasy of Sintra and verdant Douro Valley.

Photo: James Merithew

The two main cities, Lisbon and Porto, are buzzing with history, art and music. It would be difficult to match the scenic beauty of their grand riverside settings. Lisbon's ancient medieval village-like neighborhoods mix with contemporary architecture and monuments from a golden age. The historic hillside city of Porto is a maze of steep and narrow cobbled streets, and is home to beautiful plazas, churches and houses with colorfully tiled façades.

 Photo: James Merithew

Toward the mainland, Portugal has mystical hills and valleys, creating a serene atmosphere that inspires and seduces.

The mountain ranges - Serra dos Candeeiros and Serra da Estrela - have astonishingly beautiful landscapes, bizarrely shaped crags and gorges, mountain streams and lakes, beautiful forests and magnificent views. The Douro Valley is stunning. Its vertiginous granite slopes, each one divided into rows of narrow terraces topped by vines and supported by dry-stoned walls, sweep up from the wide Douro river as it meanders toward Porto.

Photo: James Merithew

And what would Portugal be without food? Portuguese cuisine varies from region to region. On the coastline, the country is known for its fresh fish and seafood like sardines, mackerel, crab, shrimp and lobster. In the mainland and in the north, the ingredients come from the land or the river so it is easy to find young goat or pork sausages, a variety of stews, lamprey or delicious cheese made with sheep or goat’s milk from Serra da Estrela.

Photo: Feitoria Restaurant

Desserts vary from each region, but the outstanding pastries called "convent sweets," which were created by nuns in the 18th century as a means of supplementing their incomes, are the country's favorite. The nun’s creations have funny names like “barriga de freira” (nun’s belly), “papos de anjo” (angel’s chests), and “toucinho do céu" (bacon from heaven).

Photo: Miguel Andrade

Is your mouth watering yet?

Cover Photos: Flickr/ Mariusz Kluzniak

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