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Portugal’s food, wine and history will have you spellbound

Overlooking  Sao Lourenco church and rooftops in the Porto region.

Overlooking Sao Lourenco church and rooftops in the Porto region. Photo: Viking Cruises

Portugal may not be one of the headliners when it comes to European travel, but this country is definitely worth exploring.

Its rich history, outstanding food and wine, and charming culture make it a must-see for anyone considering a trip to Europe.

Many choose to see it in style by taking an ocean cruise, stopping in at the country’s famous ports, including the capital city of Lisbon.

But a river cruise, such as Viking’s 10-day Portugal’s River of Gold takes in the famous Douro Valley wine region and opens doors to some of the most exclusive experiences, beyond to coastal capital of Lisbon.

Here are five reasons to visit Portugal

Douro Valley

Douro Valley vineyards, Portugal. Photo: Viking

1. Incredible wine

Once you’ve tasted Portuguese wine, it’s hard to turn back.

Sample some of the finest of the Douro Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage-listed site owing to it being the world’s oldest demarcated wine region.

Take a tour of the ancient craft of wine making by exploring a wine cellar in Vila Nova de Gaia and sample several styles of its famed fortified wine and port.

Bread-making

Bake bread the traditional Portuguese way. Photo: Viking

2. Mouth-watering food

If you’ve ever tasted a Portuguese tart or pastel de nata, you already have an appreciation of the skill of the food producers in this country.

Cuisine in Portugal is renowned for its simple, yet flavoursome tastes.

Cod, cheese, smoked sausage and sardines are popular ingredients in many dishes, while bread making is an art in itself.

Take a look at a traditional bakery for yourself and see how bread is made the traditional way with wood and old grapevines.

3. History everywhere

Portugal’s history is so deep and varied, it can be hard to know where to start.

Lisbon, one of Europe’s oldest cities, is home to the Belém Tower and the Jerónimos Monastery, a landmark dating back to the Age of Discovery in the 1400s when Portuguese caravels set sail searching for new worlds.

The wealth that explorers brought back for church and state remains reflected in buildings like the monastery today.

The historic town of Guimaraes was Portugal’s first capital in the 12th century. The medieval old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with palaces and monasteries dating back to the 10th century to be found in the main square.

Azulejos Tiles Railway Porto

Azulejos tiles in Porto Railway Station. Photo: Viking

4. Culture abounds

Within just a few days of your Portugal travels you’ll notice the distinctive blue-and-white ceramic tiles known as azulejos adorning buildings throughout the city.

Take a tour of Lisbon’s National Tile Museum to understand how these tiles illustrate everyday Portuguese life and events.

Another cultural touchstone is fado music, which originated in Portugal in the 1800s and centres around the themes of life, struggles and passion.

5. Charismatic villages

Away from the cities you’ll find charming villages in every direction. Think quaint cobblestone laneways and 16th century houses with their intricate Manueline-style windows.

The medieval fortress town of Castelo Rodrigo earns a spot on any traveller’s itinerary thanks to its historic castle, which is listed as a national monument.

It’s also home to Sinagoga Street, a tribute to the Jewish community established there in the wake of the Spanish Inquisition.

Explore Portugal in comfort with Viking.

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