By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi
Here’s a fun fact: did you know that Portugal may be the oldest country in Europe? Its name first appears in 868, during the Reconquista over the Muslims, and Phoenicians settled in its capital around 1200 BC, using Lisbon for its transport possibilities offered by the River Tagus.
Flash-forward to today, and this beautiful country is cherished by celebrities such as Alicia Vikander and Michael Fassbender, who have elected Lisbon are their new home. And then there’s Madonna, who has moved to the Quinta do Relogio estate to advance her son David’s dreams of being a professional soccer player.
To encourage more celebs to move here and to stimulate more film production, Pic Portugal, backed by the Portuguese Tourism Board, has recently unveiled plans to launch one of the most competitive film cash rebate systems in Europe to attract global filmmakers to the country.
Movie location scouts have been blown away by some of the stunning, yet relatively hidden gems in Portugal, and Hollywood producers, have been impressed enough by Portugal’s beauty to fund the shooting of films here, including The Promise, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, A Family Vacation and more.
Most visitors will end up in Faro, the Algarve or Lisbon, and whilst those places are wonderful, we’d recommend visiting one of these must-see places off the beaten track, too.
1. The Livraria Bertrand – The world’s oldest book shop
Livraria Bertrand first opened its doors in 1732 in Rua Direita do Loreto, Lisbon. As the country surged in popularity with French booksellers in the eighteenth century, the bookshops founder Pedro Faure set up his shop in what is known today as the cultural itinerary of the city, with famous literary figures visiting the store over the decades.
The Livraria Bertrand was devastated by the 1755 earthquake, which forced the owners to relocate temporarily out of the city, but they returned 18 years later to Rua Garrett where it has been standing tall since 1773, and is recognised by the Guinness World Book of Records as being the world’s oldest book shop.
2. The ancient university city of Coimbra
Coimbra used to be the country’s capital during the Middle Ages, and is home to Europe’s second oldest university and has some of the most beautiful architecture. Coimbra is filled with literally awesome Gothic buildings and two stunning cathedrals, which have withstood the tests of time.
The town mixes the old with the new through its many cafes, bakeries, restaurants, and other shops leading to Comercio Square. Here, you’ll also find the Santa Cruz Monastery, which has been around since 1131 and which contains the tombs of the first two kings of Portugal.
3. Costa Nova do Prado
If you want to grasp the old-world charm of Portugal, you really must visit this quaint fishing village, located just one hour south of Porto.
Costa Nova do Prado is known for its beguiling striped houses that line the main street, providing an explosion of colour under the Mediterranean sun. The picturesque designs are an enthralling variation to the hustle and bustle of big cities and are ideal for relaxation, whether you want to fish, windsurf or simply doze off on the beach.
Bragança is a medieval city that can be found off the border from Spain, and is drenched with historical charm and lush nature. Its 12th century castle forms the centre of its historic city, and the nearby Montesinho Natural Park is a wonderful place to wander and get lost in this enchanting north-eastern city. Bragança is one of the most untouched areas and traditional towns in Portugal, allowing visitors to enjoy an authentically organic cultural experience.
5. Praia de Benagil (‘The Eye’)
The Algarve is by no means a hidden gem, since tourists continuously flock in Portugal’s southernmost region to experience its golf courses and sun-soaked beaches. But that’s not to say there’s nothing special to see here: if you wander beyond Lagoa beach, you’ll come across the incredible cave known as ‘The Eye’. The sea outside the cave glistens like a crystal as you find yourself hiding away from the unrelenting sun in this sublime setting.
6. Troia Peninsula
Located in the municipality of Grandola in the Setúbal District, the Troia Peninsula is home to some of the most luxurious and prestigious places in Portugal. Known for offering some of the tastiest cuisine in the nation, the Troia Peninsula also allows travellers to get up close and personal with dolphins that live just off the coast. The boats depart from the marina and several aquatic tours offer incredible opportunities to see these animals in their natural habitat.
All images: Wikicommons or Pixabay unless otherwise stipulated
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