Three Idyllic Portuguese Cities

After my first visit to Portugal on the breathtaking Southern coast near Lagos, I knew I needed to come back to see more of what the country had to offer. Fortunately, our ISA program provides us with a free trip to Lisbon and I was able to explore some new cities including Sintra and Évora over the weekend. Firstly, Lisbon is the second oldest European capital city (after Athens) but unfortunately there are not many remains left from these ancient times. In 1755 there was a disastrous earthquake that shattered not only many buildings and constructions but also the state of the economy and society. As you wander through the different neighborhoods, it isn’t difficult to distinguish between the newer structures and what survived the earthquake. Overall, I’d highly suggest making a trip to Lisbon with its beautiful views, plethora of art museums and the large presence of young people and their unique nightlife.

As explorable as Lisbon is, a few of us decided to escape the large city to explore a smaller, more fairytale-like destination just outside of the capital. Only a 45 minute train ride away sits Sintra, a city situated on a hill containing 8 castles. Our sights were set on reaching the highest possible altitude to view the sunset and therefore ended up at the colorful Palácio Nacional de Pena. This truly was the peak (no pun intended) of the weekend; there is nothing so satisfying as spending the day walking the terrain of new places and being rewarded an unforgettable sight at the end. Sintra was the perfect wooded escape we needed after the innumerable concrete walking tours that were taken earlier in Lisbon that day.

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Pena Palace view

After two nights in our Lisbon hotel, we started our journey back home to Southern Spain. On the way, we stopped in Évora, a small town known for its Roman ruins which were unfortunately being restored during our visit. In place of the ruins, we went to a church (Chapel of Bones) that was lined on the inside with human remains, a gory visit but worth the 3 euros. To finish off our Portuguese visit, we feasted on codfish or ‘Bacalhau’, the national dish, and the famous green wine of the region.

ALL human bones!

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All in all, Northern Portugal was as beautiful as the Southern part of the country and this trip confirmed it as one of my favorite places I’ve seen while abroad.