Our guide on what not to miss when you visit Portugal
It’s a well-known fact that when a person visits any country they have never visited before they usually gravitate towards the capital city to learn all about its culture and history. However, in a lot of cases although capital cities may be great, there’s often much more to any country than just that. In our case exploring Portugal’s Obidos region (and many other small cities) outside of Lisbon offered us a unique insight into Portugal’s rich country and heritage. Portugal may be a small island but it has such a rich culture to experience, one of which we got a taste of during our time there. Therefore I am going to recommend some beautiful places that we had the chance to visit during our stay and may they surprise you and inspire you to visit this wonderful place for yourself.
Adega Mãe Atlanic Wines
One thing that shocked me throughout our stay was the quality of Portuguese wines. They are young, innovative and incredibly underrated. Adega Mãe is popular with wine tourism and for a very good reason. This family led business compares wine to life because no one wine is the same. Traditionally wine tasting tours take you down to dusty cellars decorated with cobwebs and tales of a long and untouched way of making wine. This however was the complete opposite. Adega Mãe blows the cobwebs away and establishes a completely modern perspective and attitude towards wine. The building itself is tucked away in the vineyards and about a 30 minute drive from Lisbon. It is a hidden sanctuary where you can get a detailed and informative tour of the business and learn endless amounts about their brand and of course their wine. Naturally tasting was part of the experience and their signature ‘Dory’ wine nods to the dory fishing boats that they used in the past. Undoubtedly a brand inspired by the sea from the fresh, sometimes even salty taste of their wine to how Atlantic breeze washes over their vineyard. Despite being a relatively small company overall they are rapidly growing and placing Portuguese wine on the international map. (Which is not an easy task but with wines this good you can only see them going from strength to strength) They also have plans to branch out to the US and Canada and perhaps even open an informal wine bar tying the process neatly together, straight from the bottle to the glass. The building itself is modern and offers large open spaces and panoramic views of the vineyard, a perfect place to dust off a bottle of wine and enjoy the sunset. Adega Mãe is an untapped paradise that is well worth a visit for wine lovers everywhere.
For more information about Adega Mãe visit their website here
Hotel Areias do Seixo
Without doubt having the chance to tour this incredible charming boutique hotel was a highlight of our trip. It is truly breath-taking. It only has 14 rooms inside but it does have villas within the complex also. From the moment you step inside you can smell the eucalyptus wafting from their spa and you feel relaxed and ease. That tied in with the gentle sound of the waves (there is a direct pathway from there until the beach) it is paradise. Hotel Areias do Seixo is a contemporary place where they push boundaries with interior design so expect to see a lot of great recycled furniture placed within innovative room layouts. Unfortunately we didn’t get the chance to sleep here but we did get a chance to eat here, which is somewhere that I would highly recommend. The dining space is an eclectic mix of glimmering chandeliers, hanging plates and other ornate Instagram worthy objects hanging from the ceilings. The food is out of this world, inspired by the past flavours of Portuguese cuisine but executed with a modern flair and precision. You’re not just eating you’re getting an entire experience- the fresh bread from Azores being particularly delicious. If you get the chance to stay or eat at this amazing place, you should grab it with both hands. For more information check out their website here
Caldas da Rainha
This is a small but delightful city which offered us the chance to taste what Portugal is really like. It’s a city bursting with colour and a rich history with it’s candy colour houses and cobbled streets. Like most small cities it has a main square where all of the action happens and it also acts as a nice anchor for you to come back if you ever get lost. We experienced the colourful and vibrant fruit and vegetable market which is held every day in the main square before exploring the town and learning all about the famous Portuguese artist Bordallo Pinheiro whose ornate sculptures are scattered throughout this place. Visiting the Bordallo Pinheiro taught us a lot about this artist and how a lot of his designs were inspired by the Portuguese people themselves as well as satire and caricature. The city is small but it does offer an authentic vision of Portugal and it’s rich history.
From Caldas da Rainha it’s a quick drive to Peniche which is a seaside municipality and an area with a great deal of character and charm. If you like surfing then this may be your heaven with the crashing waves and streets upon streets of surf schools nearby. It’s not unusual that Peniche is popular with tourists and it has a nice contrast of the quaint fisherman houses against a fort that was previously used as a political prison. The building itself is imposing against the crashing waves but serves a great purpose in revealing a glimpse of Portugal’s history. On a sunny day gazing out at the sea with the ferocious wind behind you it’s surprisingly peaceful and again a haven for anyone who likes to surf.
This UNESCO world heritage site is a magnificent monastery and a fine example of preserved Cistercian architecture. Perhaps one of the best in Europe. In terms of overall style it is parred back but the beauty is in its imposing simplicity that echoes around it’s towering arched ceilings. We were given an informative tour throughout and every room is different with such a detailed history. Additionally there’s a stunning courtyard in the centre which is worth taking a few dozen photos of. It’s a place that is peaceful and centred within a charming city so without doubt it’s well worth a visit if you want to experience some of Portugal’s rich history.
Óbidos & The Literary Man Hotel
We finished off our trip in the town of Óbidos. It’s a medieval city with an old world charm to it. We actually had the chance to visit at night which made it even more charming. With it’s cobbled streets that glimmered under the light of their traditional street lamps only adding to it’s character. It is a small place with a mixture of local residents as well as tourists. (I predict a great deal more during the summer months) We learnt all about Óbidos a literary town and were fascinated to discover many hybrid bookshops and libraries placed throughout. Óbidos also hosts a number of festivals throughout the course of the year from Christmas ones to Medieval ones and the one we unfortunately missed by a week or so the International Chocolate festival. Despite being slightly heartbroken that we missed the chocolate festival we didn’t miss out on trying some delicious chocolate, in fact it was combined with Ginjinha which is cherry liquor from the region. (However it is very popular throughout Portugal.) The ginjinha is served in a chocolate cup that you get to eat after, and in the chilly night air it’s the perfect pick me up with a short, sharp hit of warmth and sweetness. Óbidos is a great place to visit to see an entirely different side of Portugal yet for me a highlight of this place is the Literary Man Hotel. We were fortunate enough to dine in their restaurant and believe me it was quite the experience! A restaurant inside of a library lounge, book lovers everywhere rejoice! This was an elegant and understated place with books at every corner, a cosy fireplace and stunning wood and glass furnishings. To top that off you have a bar where the waiter offered us tailored made gin cocktails, even for those who aren’t gin lovers. The food was incredible and it was an indulgent feast starting with black pudding and eggs with traditional Portuguese sausage. Followed by fresh octopus and tomato rice (a typical Portuguese dish) and smoked pork with spinach. (The smoky flavour was heavenly)All rounded off with a rose carved apple and compote. It was an experience that had a profound impact on me as well as the others journalists and will undoubtedly make me want to return to Óbidos a literary town sooner rather than later. A must go for anyone who loves literature and good food! It’s easy to see why finally this place is being put on the international map and it’s about time to.
For more info about the Literary Man Hotel visit their website at http://www.theliteraryman.pt/
TAP Portugal flies from London Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester to Lisbon up to 9 times a day, prices start at £124 return including all taxes and surcharges. For further information, visit www.flytap.com or call 0345 601 0932.