Some of the biggest reasons to holiday in Portugal include stunning beaches, glorious golf courses and, naturally, the chance to sample a glass or two of delicious port wine. But did you know the country is also a great destination if you love history?
The discoveries made by legendary explorers like Columbus and Magellan, combined with periods when Moorish, Roman and Celtic forces were in control, have resulted in many relics and treasures of the past being uncovered in Portugal. Here are just a few historical highlights you may wish to enjoy during your trip.
Situated towards the south of the country and designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Évora is a beautiful and very liveable city. As well as the modern university, it’s home to medieval walls and archaeological discoveries from various different periods of time. The fantastically preserved Old Town features a Roman temple and baths, an 18th-century cathedral and a palace built from the ruins of a Moorish castle.
The Museum of Évora also houses many interesting artefacts that span a vast period in time. Lastly, a short journey out of the city will take you to the Cromlech of the Almendres, a megalith complex that forms part of the ‘megalithic universe of Évora’.
Cerro Da Vila
If you are heading down to the Algarve coast, it’s worth checking out the ruins of Cerro da Vila in the city of Vilamoura. The site is within easy reach from popular tourist resorts like Albufeira and Faro and is perfect if you like delving into the past.
Although this part of the country has been occupied since the Bronze Age, it is the Romans that have left their mark the most. The ruins of this large villa complex have been turned into an open-air museum, showcasing the remains of salt tanks, baths, burial towers and intricate mosaics. Another indoor area displays Roman treasures that have been recovered, as well as those left by Moorish and Visigoth communities that settled here later on.
Vila Nova de Foz Côa
When carrying out research for a possible dam in the Douro Valley, close to the border with Spain, nobody expected the project to be scuppered by archaeological findings. However, this was exactly the case when a number of prehistoric rock carvings were discovered in the town of Vila Nova de Foz Côa. Today, the Museu e Parque Arqueológico do Vale do Côa exhibits the Palaeolithic art which depicts horses, humans and other figures, whilst the plans for the dam were thrown out.
Coimbra has experienced a storied history as one of the most important cities in Portugal. Formerly the Roman settlement of Aeminium, it also enjoyed a period as the country’s capital during the medieval period. Similarly to Évora, it is a historical town with a popular university, but here the university is one of the main sights for history buffs. Established in 1290, it still stands today and attracts students from all over the world who want to learn in its fabled buildings – which were, collectively, classified as a World Heritage Site in 2003.
Other points of historical interest in Coimbra include the Roman aqueduct and cryptoporticus (covered passageway), the Manueline (Portuguese Gothic) Monastery of Santa Cruz, the Romanesque Old Cathedral and many other buildings built during the Baroque, medieval and Renaissance periods.
These are just some of the many historical attractions that Portugal has to offer, and we haven’t even mentioned those found in the major cities. If you would like us to help you plan a Lisbon city break, a trip to the Algarve or any other Portuguese holiday, call us on 0800 988 3369.