The Algarve - Paradise in Southern Europe
With 300 days of sunshine each year and 125 miles of breathtaking coastline, it’s not difficult to see why the Algarve is such a popular destination for tourists and expats alike. The scenic coastline of the Algarve boasts 87 blue flag beaches, an award given based on safety, cleanliness, and water quality. Amongst the golden cliffs, there are also a myriad of smaller beaches, caves and coves, which look particularly beautiful against the turquoise waters of the Algarve. Perfect for Nature Lovers Beyond just beaches, the Algarve is home to a diverse range of natural landscapes and wildlife. There are five different natural parks in the Algarve, the most famous of which is Ria Formosa Natural Park. These natural parks not only offer a wonderful scenic escape but are also crucial for maintaining the biodiversity of both flora and fauna in the Algarve. Just a 40-minute drive from the coast you’ll find the mountain range Serra de Monchique. From Foia, its highest point, you have spectacular uninterrupted views across the Algarve. Monchique is famous for its wonderful nature and the highly alkaline water of the spa town Caldas de Monchique. The waters of Caldas de Monchique have attracted people since Roman times, due to their supposed healing properties. Thousands of Years of History The region of the Algarve has a rich and important history spanning over 3000 years. The south coast of Portugal was occupied by many different groups over this time period, including the Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans and Moors. As such, the Algarve is home to many historical cities and sites. The diversity of cultures over the history of the region have had a lasting effect on the region, and the influence from different groups can be seen in the architecture, cuisine and traditions. Silves, Faro, Tavira and Castro Marim offer some of the best historical sites in the area. A Popular Holiday Destination The region is peaceful and the population density is quite low, but obviously increases in the summer due to seasonal tourism. With this, more bars and restaurants open up and events take place, which is a nice change of pace from the quieter winters. The boost in visitors is fantastic for those investing in properties to rent. Tourist rentals offer high returns. Whilst the cities in the region aren’t as big as Lisbon or Porto, you’ll still have access to the majority of the same services and amenities, including access to good public and private healthcare and public services. Faro airport has direct connections to many European cities. From Faro, you are just a two and half hour drive from Lisbon and less than two hours from the Spanish border. Life in the Algarve The Algarve is far more than just beaches and golf resorts and many expats choose to reside here full time. From Faro, Lisbon is only a three-hour drive and the Spanish border is only an hour away. There are great transport connections to the rest of Portugal and to Spain, and you can fly to numerous different cities across Europe from Faro airport. For those with children, the Algarve has many excellent international schools with a variety of different curriculums, so you are sure to find somewhere to suit your family's needs. There are also many excellent private healthcare clinics across the region, where you can find English, German and French speaking medical professionals as needed, and if you obtain residency then you are able to access public healthcare in Portugal as well. Despite the region becoming quieter in the winter months, life still very much continues in many towns across the region. Many bars, restaurants, and shops remain open out of the high tourist season, especially outside of resort towns, so there will still be plenty of places to choose from in the quieter months. Whether you’re looking for a full-time home or an investment property, you are sure to find something to suit in the Algarve. There are plenty of wonderful towns and cities both further inland and across the coast to choose from. Check out our properties in the Algarve here
Alentejo - From the Heat of the Lowlands to the Freshness of the Mountains
Characterised by wonderful sprawling countryside, rolling hills, and wild coastline, the Alentejo is the largest region in Portugal, covering nearly one-third of the country. Despite its size, it is home to only 5% of the permanent population, making it ideal for those seeking peace and tranquility in a wonderful, rural setting. The South The south of the Alentejo region (Baixo Alentejo) is characterised by open countryside and vast stretches of unspoiled coastline. The southern Alentejo is more sparsely populated, but there is plenty of wonderful nature to explore. This region is home to Parque Natural do Vale do Guadiana, a natural park in Serpa, and Mértola in the valley of the River Guadiana, one of Portugal’s most important rivers. Rich in flora and fauna, this protected zone houses several rare and endangered species including the black stork and Bonelli’s eagle. The park even has prehistoric remains and there are several walking trails that you can follow to explore this zone of natural beauty. In Mértola you can also visit one of the best, fortified castles in the Alentejo region, Castelo de Mértola. The region of Mértola has been hugely important historically, principally due to its location and access to the Guadiana River. The site of its castle dates back to 318 B.C but most of the castle was constructed in the middle ages. The site was very important during the Islamic rule of Portugal. Its hilltop location was historically essential for defense and today provides some wonderful views across the town and region. The city of Beja is the capital of Baixo Alentejo. Like Mértola, the city of Beja has a rich history and is a wonderful place to explore. The name Beja comes from the word peace, as the city was named after the peace accord between Julius Caesar and the Lusitani tribes around 48 BC. The Roman ruins in Beja are open to the public and there are many examples of Roman architecture in the town and surrounding areas. The North The northern Alentejo (Alto Alentejo) has a slightly cooler and more humid climate, meaning that the countryside is richer than the vast plains of open land in the south. In the mountain regions, you can even spot some rare wildlife and birds such as the griffon vulture, eagle owl, and Bonelli eagle. Up in the hills of São Mamede close to the border of Spain, you’ll find Portalegre and the Parque Natural da Serra de São Mamede. Portalegre was strategically very important in the Middle Ages due to its location up in the hills and its proximity to the Spanish border. The city, however, dates back far further than the Middle Ages which is reflected in the large amount of Roman ruins and architecture in the region. Up in one of the highest points of the São Mamede mountain range you can gaze over views of the countryside from one of the finest examples of military architecture in the region, Castelo de Marvão (Marvão Castle). The castle underwent a lot of alterations in the 15th century but still retains its 13th Century cistern, doorway, keep and gates. The city of Évora is one of the most important cities in the Alentejo region, dating back more than five millennia. Its rich history is reflected in the city’s architecture, design, and monuments. Due to its historical and cultural significance, Évora became a UNESCO World Heritage site. Évora was conquered by the Romans in 57 B.C and expanded into a walled town, elements of which can be seen in the city walls and Roman baths that remain, including the famous Roman temple in the city. As well as the Roman ruins, impressive Gothic cathedral, and historic centre, another particularly impressive prehistoric site just west of Évora, is the Almendres Cromlech. This is a neolithic era monument that predates even Stonehenge, despite only being discovered in 1966, and is well worth a visit. Elvas, a city close to the Spanish border, is another great place to visit in Alto Alentejo. Just like Évora, the city of Elvas has a rich history and as such is a wonderful place to visit and take in the scenic surroundings and thousands of years of history. The Coast The natural park of the Southwest Alentejo and Costa Vicentina extends up from the Algarve into the Alentejo and offers some breathtaking scenery. The Alentejo coast (Alentejo Litoral) is known for its wild, yet well preserved, coastline that is home to a variety of flora and fauna. An excellent way to explore this region is to take a hike along one of the many trails in the Rota Vicentina. The most popular coastal trail is the Fisherman’s Trail. It is a single track that spans over 226km, broken down into 13 main steps. Not only does it offer some breathtaking views of the countryside and Atlantic ocean but also allows access to fishing grounds and a multitude of stunning beaches. The Historic Way is another fascinating hiking trail to follow, encompassing several centuries of history in its scenic route. The coastal cities of Odemira, Sines, Porto Covo, Zambujeira do Mar and Milfontes are well worth a visit. Odemira is known for its beautiful beaches and rural scenery. It is situated on top of a hill, meaning that the city has many viewpoints from which you can take in some scenic views of the Alentejo and its coast. Zambujeira do Mar is another fantastic coastal town, known for its beautiful beaches and nature. Milfontes has a wonderful historic centre that has been well preserved despite an increase in development. Its narrow winding streets and whitewashed houses all add to its charm making it a wonderful choice for an escape to the Alentejo. Whether you enjoy relaxing on the beach, long walks along the coast, taking part in water sports, or even dolphin and whale watching, the Alentejo coast has it all. It is the perfect place to escape into nature and enjoy the wild Atlantic coastline in a tranquil, rural setting. Life in the Alentejo Life in the Alentejo is more laid back than in other regions of Portugal, and the pace of life is a little slower. If you are feeling drawn to the region and the charm of the Portuguese countryside then it’s well worth visiting the region and getting to know different towns better. The Alentejo is not only a region of beauty, but also a region known for its food and wine, and there are plenty of opportunities for you to sample the local cuisine and produce. From culinary tours to fresh food markets, the Alentejo has something to satisfy even the biggest foodies. Many of its most famous and popular dishes came about as a result of the creativity of those with very little and these recipes were passed down over generations. The Alentejo cuisine focuses on using local produce and simple ingredients to create hearty, flavourful family dishes. The family values of those that live in the region are apparent. The population in the Alentejo is known for being hugely welcoming and friendly and always ready to share the breathtaking region of the Alentejo with visitors and newcomers. Have a read of our blog post about purchasing rural property here and for any further assistance, please get in touch and we will be happy to help you out.
Lisbon - Europe's Meeting Point
Lisbon is a city distinguished by its lively colors and architecture. It’s situated on the northern banks of the river Tejo, the longest river in the Iberian Peninsula, just before it flows into the Atlantic Ocean. To fully take in the charm of Lisbon, you need to explore the city on foot. A great place to start is to take a stroll along the Tejo river. You can walk from Belém all the way to Parque das Nações, and enjoy an array of cultural landmarks and heritage spaces along the way. Exploring Portugal’s Capital Belém is home to some of Lisbon’s most famous sights including Torre de Belém and Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, the birthplace of the famous pastry Pastel de Belém (Pastel de nata). Pastéis de Belém is a great spot to try these pastries and is in fact the only establishment allowed to refer to them as Pastéis de Belém, as the café uses the closely guarded, original recipe from the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos. Elsewhere in Lisbon and Portugal, the pastries are sold as Pastéis de Nata. Up in the hills, you can explore Lisbon’s oldest neighbourhood, and the home of Castelo São Jorge, Alfama. Work up an appetite by making your way up through the medieval cobbled streets, ready to enjoy dinner alongside a Fado performance. Fado is a melancholic musical style of storytelling with huge historical importance to the neighbourhood of Alfama, as well as the port districts of Mouraria and Bairro Alto. Rooftops and River Views A trip to Lisbon truly isn’t complete without taking in the city from one of its viewpoints. The river Tejo and the city’s terracotta rooftops and colourful houses look particularly impressive against the blue skies Portugal is so often blessed with. Being on one of Lisbon’s seven hills, Aflama has several spots where you can see the city from above, but there are many viewpoints across Lisbon. Miradouro das Portas de Sol, Miradouro de Nossa Senhora do Monte, Miradouro São Pedro de Alcântara, Miradouro da Graça offer some fantastic views. Lisbon also has some of Europe’s best nightlife, with a range of bars, restaurants, and music venues to suit all tastes. Bairro Alto and the surrounding areas are home to some of Lisbon’s most famous bars and clubs. Whether you’re looking to enjoy a full night out or you just want an evening meal, some drinks with live music or with a view from a rooftop bar, Lisbon has a range of great spots to choose from. The city also has plenty of green spaces and parks including Jardim da Estrela, Parque Eduardo VII and Jardim do Torel. You are also only a short distance from the coast, the closest beaches being those along the Oeiras-Estoril-Cascais coastline. Monsanto Ecological Park and the Tejo river nature reserve are close to Lisbon and are great places to enjoy the scenery of central Portugal. Beyond the City Just across the Tejo river, you’ll find the so-called "south bank" and the Setúbal Peninsula, a beautiful region with wonderful nature including the Arrábida Mountains and the beaches of Costa da Caparica. This is a region that many chose to live in, as it’s just a short train ride away from the capital of Portugal but offers a quieter and more relaxed atmosphere. From Lisbon, you’re also just a short trip away from the coastal city of Cascais, famous for its beaches and historic monuments. Serra de Sintra is another popular choice for day trips from Lisbon. The town of Sintra is a world heritage site and has huge cultural and historic importance to Portugal. There is evidence of human presence in Sintra as far back as the early Paleolithic period, around 20,000 years BC. Sintra is home to some of Portugal’s most lavish and culturally important tourist attractions including Palácio da Pena, Palácio Nacional de Sintra, Castelo dos Mouros and Monserrate. Life in Lisbon Lisbon is becoming a very popular choice for expats. As European capitals go, Lisbon is very affordable and the quality of life here is high. You’ll be able to afford a much higher quality of life on a more sustainable budget than in many capital cities. One great advantage of Lisbon is that it is not far from the coast, meaning the nearest beach is only a short journey from the centre of the city. The coastal city of Cascais is also only a short distance from the city itself, so for beach and city lovers, Lisbon is a great option. For those with children, Lisbon has some fantastic international schools with a variety of different curriculums to suit all backgrounds. It also has some great universities, particularly in the areas of science and technology. The city has all the amenities you could need including several transport hubs, connecting you to cities across Portugal and numerous countries globally. The public health system is good and with healthcare insurance you can visit many of the private healthcare centres in the city for a reduced price. Get in touch with us to have a chat about buying property in Lisbon and check out the properties we have in our Portfolio in Lisbon here
Centre - Where Everything Happens
Central Portugal is the region that covers the 300km between Lisbon and Porto. The central region of Portugal is famous for its natural parks and nature reserves, historical towns, and the Silver Coast. Its rich history means it is home to many of the country’s most important cultural monuments and historical sites. Portugal’s central region is also filled with breathtaking nature and coastline. The towns of Nazaré and Peniche boast some incredible beaches, which are among some of the favourite surfing spots in Portugal for those looking to catch the Atlantic ocean waves. The region is also home to Portugal’s highest mountain range, Serra da Estrela and the famous waterfall Poco do Inferno in Manteigas. Exploring Central Portugal Coimbra is perhaps one of the most famous towns in central Portugal. It was the capital of Portugal during the late middle ages and has one of the oldest universities in Europe. In 2013, the university was listed as a UNESCO world heritage site given its unique role in the history of Portugal and its architecture and traditions. The city of Coimbra is steeped in history with pretty streets and a wonderful atmosphere. Tomar is another town in central Portugal that is not to be missed. This charming town is brimming with history and is especially famous for its connection to the Knights Templar. Tomar was said to be home to the Knights Templar during the 13th century and there are plenty of monuments to show the town's connection to the famous organisation. Castelo Branco is another city closely connected to the Knights Templar. The town is also home to a Templar castle and its history can be seen just by wandering the streets and looking at the 15th-century houses and distinct architecture of the town. Not far from Tomar you can visit Figueiró dos Vinhos where you’ll find the walkways of Fragas de São Simão. Here you can follow the wooden trail across the various landscapes in the area including forest and valleys and gaze over breathtaking views of the region. Aveiro is another of central Portugal’s most popular towns. It’s often referred to as the "Venice of Portugal", given the canals that run through its urban centre and the colourful boats (barcos moliceiros) that sail down them. Just a short trip away from Aveiro is the coastal village Costa Nova, which has a long golden beach that’s particularly popular with surfers. Here you’ll also find the famous colourful striped houses featured in many tourist guides exploring central Portugal. A little closer to Lisbon you’ll find one of the country’s most picturesque and well preserved medieval cities, Óbidos. This city held huge strategic importance throughout various periods of history, and truly flourished after being chosen by the royal family. Tucked away in the maze of cobbled streets and white-washed houses of the city is the beautifully preserved Castle of Óbidos, one of the most important historical monuments in Portugal. Nature Reserves and Ancestral Landscapes Central Portugal is home to a variety of different landscapes with the vast majority of the land rugged and unspoiled. Within central Portugal, you’ll find the highest mountain range and largest natural park in Portugal, Serra da Estrela. Not only can you witness some incredible scenery here, including glacier valleys and many types of wildlife, it’s also the only place in Portugal where you’re able to ski. The famous Serra da Estrela cheese comes from this mountainous region. It is the oldest cheese in Portugal and was made for centuries by shepherds in the mountains of Serra da Estrela. The spectacular Grutas da Moeda (Coin Caves) can also be found in the central region of Portugal, close to Fátima. The caves were discovered purely by accident in 1971, when two hunters chasing a fox happened to stumble upon these caves filled with spectacular limestone formations. The coastline of central Portugal is the famous Silver Coast, well known for its rugged coastline and historic towns. Not only does this region offer some of the best beaches in the country, but is also home to many natural parks and mountains. The Silver Coast also has some of the country’s best golf courses. If the beautiful beaches and nature of the Silver Coast sound good to you, make sure to check out our latest project on the coast, in the vicinity of Caldas da Rainha. Life in Central Portugal Life in central Portugal is relatively laid back. Away from the bigger cities and tourist towns, things happen at a slower pace. Whilst town populations are smaller in this region, you’ll find that the sense of community is particualrly strong. For those looking to settle in a tranquil location surrounded by beautiful scenery, central Portugal might just be the way forward. Whether you are looking at living in one of the region's charming towns or are wanting to be in a more rural setting, you're sure to find something to suit. As long as you don’t mind that life is generally that bit quieter and things might not happen as quickly as they would in larger cities, this region might just be what you’re looking for.
Oporto and the North - Portugal's roots
The roots of Portugal lie in its northern region, with the city of Guimarães considered to be the country’s birthplace. Given its historical importance, it’s unsurprising that the northern region of Portugal has so many historic sites and cultural monuments, both within the bigger cities and smaller towns. Northern Portugal is also home to the country’s second biggest city, Porto, and the oldest demarcated wine region in the world, the Douro Valley. Exploring Portugal’s Northern Region Porto is the second largest city in Portugal and thanks to investment in the city over recent years, Porto has gained a huge amount of interest from both tourists and foreign investors. Porto’s old town is very pretty, with winding cobbled streets and colourful houses. A lot of money has been poured into Porto’s Ribeira district (old town) to help rejuvenate it. The Ribeira has been Porto’s commercial centre since Roman times, and is home to some of the city's oldest buildings, including the house where the renowned Portuguese explorer Henry the Navigator was born in 1394, The historic centre of Porto was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1996, due to its medieval architecture and baroque buildings. Porto, like Lisbon, is hilly. An advantage of this is that there are many incredible viewpoints from where you can gaze over the city and the Douro river. Despite being such a historic city, Porto has all the modern facilities and services you could need, including a large, international airport and a fantastic university. Porto, and the northern region of Portugal as a whole, is famous for its hearty cuisine and rich wines. You can try out the local cuisine for a reasonable price in many of the eateries in the city or take a browse around the city’s local shops and markets. Braga is another fascinating city in northern Portugal. It’s regarded as the religious centre of the country and is Portugal’s oldest city. The first cathedral in Portugal was built in Braga, with construction starting at the beginning of the 11th century, and the city to this day has the highest number of religious buildings of any city in the country. The centre of Braga is full of charming plazas, busy shopping streets and pretty city gardens. There are also plenty of bustling outdoor markets to browse, dotted around the city. The University of Minho is one of the largest universities in Portugal and has the majority of its campuses in Braga. The university is one of the best in the country and the relatively high student population brings a lively and youthful energy to this historic city. Slightly south of Braga you will find Guimarães, which is one of the country’s most historically important cities. Guimarães is considered the birthplace of Portugal as it is where Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal, was born. Afonso Henriques was born in the city’s 10th century castle, considered one of the city’s and country’s most important cultural and historical attractions. The city itself has plenty of pretty streets, cafés and medieval plazas. The Natural Wonders of the North The northern region of Portugal, like the centre, offers some incredible scenery and dramatic landscapes. The region is very mountainous and is home to several natural parks including the Douro Valley, famous for its wine production, and the picturesque Peneda-Gerês National Park, home to a diverse array of wildlife including deers, wolves and golden eagles. The Douro Valley is not to be missed out on in northern Portugal. Beyond just being famous for its rich red and porto wines, the Douro region is home to diverse flora and fauna. The region has a variety of hiking trails you can follow through vineyards, olive groves and charming villages all the way up panoramic viewpoints including Casal de Loivos, São Leonardo de Galafura, or São Salvador do Mundo. From these viewpoints, you can look out over northern Portugal’s countryside and take in the incredible nature of the region. Life in Northern Portugal The north of Portugal is full of charm. It is perfect for those looking for a slightly cooler climate, in a place with plenty of culture and history. Porto and Braga are wonderful options for those looking for slightly bigger and livelier cities, but there are plenty of smaller towns in rural areas for those looking for a tranquil setting.
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