When compared to other parts of Portugal the Silver Coast has a wealth of history and beautiful areas to visit.
Lourinhã is most famous for its dinosaur discoveries & 12 kilometres of coastline with many sandy beaches. Some of the first discoveries of dinosaur remains in Europe were made in Lourinhã in 1863 and since then the region has been the focus of this field with many of the exhibits now on display in the museum. The museum itself is world famous and houses some of the most important Palaeontological artefacts from the Jurassic period.
Portugal’s largest fishing port and the industry dominates the town. It is great to take a walk along the sea wall before heading to one of the many harbour-side restaurants for fresh fish grilled by the roadside. The fort at Peniche became a prison during Salazar’s dictatorship and contains many graphic reminders of the difficulties experienced by many Portuguese prior to the bloodless revolution of 1974. Leisure activities range from water sports, as this is an important surfing zone, to boating and underwater fishing.
The town, on the left bank of the River Sisandro, is well known for the Lines of Torres Vedras which, in 1810, played a decisive role in the defence of Lisbon against Napoleonic troops under the command of Marchal Massena. Nearby is the gothic convent of Varatojo with 18th century additions. In the town is the Castle and Sta. Maria do Castelo Church, 12th to 16th century. The S. Quintinho church 2 km. from Sobral do Monte Agraço has a Manueline portal and 16th century paintings by Gregorio Lopes.
Óbidos is a medieval walled town which enjoys a magnificent present-day state of repair as a result of its status as the traditional gift from Portuguese kings to their wives. Within the walls are fascinating alleys home to high-class handicraft and gift shops as well as bars and restaurants. The town is a very popular stopping-off point for tourist buses from Lisbon so it might be a good idea to take advantage of being on the doorstep and make your visit in the early evening when the crowds have gone and you can enjoy the atmosphere at leisure.
If you are visiting Lisbon, leave your car at the airport and get a cab into town. Cabs are plentiful and cheap and if you get one to the highest point in the city, Castelo São Jorge, you can save yourself a weary climb! The views from the top over the Tagus estuary and the city are spectacular. As you meander down from the castle you will come to the Alfama district with its narrow shopping alleys. If you are looking for nightlife head for the Bairro Alto which is transformed at dusk into a pulsating area of chic restaurants and lively bars and clubs.
Situated at the mouth of the north side of the lagoon Foz do Arelho has been a much-loved destination for the jaded Lisbon city-dweller. Leading inland from the enormous wave-pounded beach is the tranquil Óbidos lagoon which in days gone by stretched as far as the fortified town. Now it is the place of work of many ‘clammers’ who extract the delicious local clams which can be found in the restaurants locally. The beach-side bars offer views over the Atlantic and the lagoon and are a wonderful place to watch the sunset.
means “the queen’s baths” and was christened thus when Queen Dona Leonora came across locals bathing in the mud to cure their ailments. She became convinced of the therapeutic qualities of the local waters and founded what is now the oldest thermal hospital in the world. Caldas is also renowned nationally for its daily flower and produce market. The park has a boating lake and a children’s playground . Also visit the indoor Vivaci shopping centre which has shops, a food court and cinemas (Films in are shown in their original language and have Portuguese subtitles).
The magnificent and austere Cistercian Abbey at Alcobaça dominates the centre of the town. The austere aspect is continued within the church in which lie the tombs of King Pedro 1 and Ines de Castro, his murdered mistress. Within the Abbey is the massive kitchen with a running stream specially diverted to pass through as a supply of fresh water. The open area of the kitchen chimney is large enough to take a whole ox for roasting. The surround to the sacristy doorway is an outstanding example of Manueline decoration.
The Abbey of Santa Maria da Vitória, is a UNESCO world-heritage site. Started in 1388, and added to and enhanced by various Portuguese Kings over these next two centuries the cathedral is an outstanding example of combined Gothic and Manueline architecture. Under its naves lies some of Portugal’s most historic personalities during that period. Here you will find resting the tombs of João I, his English wife Philippa of Lancaster, and their famous offspring, Prince Henry the Navigator whose determination helped to explore the then unknown world.
The sweeping sandy beach is packed with holiday-makers in brightly coloured rented tents but it's still possible to see local women wearing the traditional seven-layered and short skirts whilst bearing immense loads on their heads and the town's fishermen sporting woollen shirts and bobble hats. The main promenade Avenida da República is lined with some excellent seafood restaurants and bars but do choose with care.
Fatima welcomes millions of devotees who come to pray at the site of the apparition of the Virgin Mary (1917). Three shepherd children had a vision of Mary, who reappeared on the 13th of May and each of six subsequent months calling for peace in the world. On the day of the final apparition a crowd of over 70,000 people gathered and claimed to witness the Miracle of the Sun, when illnesses and disabilities were cured amongst the onlookers. A vast Basilica and esplanade were completed in 1953 as a shrine for the ever growing numbers of pilgrims flocking to the town.
The historic centre of Évora is also a UNESCO world-heritage site. Situated 130 kms from Lisbon in the Alentejo district, Évora was settled by the Romans who knew it as Liberalitas Julia. There can still be seen the remains of the Temple of Diana. One of the more bizarre sights is the 15th century Capela de Ossos or Chapel of Bones which is lined with the remains of the monks who previously lived and worked there. There are a number of very good restaurants in Évora which make a suitable retreat when the Alentejan heat becomes too fierce.
City of TEmplars Tomar is a beautiful city steeped in the fascinating history of the Templar movement. The city was gifted to them in 1159 and formed the movement headquarters until dissolution in 1314 when its successor the Order of Christ was relocated to the south. The impressive Covento do Cristo dominates the city and shows power of the Templar movement. The ornamentation of the windows on the main facade form a memorial to the sailors who established the Portuguese empire. Tomar's old quarters preserve all their traditional charm, with whitewashed, terraced cottages lining narrow cobbled streets.
Described by Lord Byron as "this glorious Eden", Sintra is surrounded by greenery and is rich in different species of vegetation. It was the summer residence of Portuguese kings from the end of the 16th century. It was here that D. Ferdinand de Saxe Coburg built a revivalist palace (The Pena Palace) in the style of one of the castles of his cousin Ludwig II of Bavaria. Nowadays it is a favourite spot for visitors who like to discover it on foot or in one of the horse-drawn carriages for hire in the main square of the town. The 15th century palace in the village is well worth seeing for the painted ceilings and the Moorish patio.
In the 17th century Queluz was a small hamlet with one or two country houses of note. One of these, which led to it's development, was built by the future King Pedro III. A royal residence from 1794. The various wings of the building are surrounded by gardens in the rococo style. A pleasing combination which makes this one of the most charming of Portuguese palaces. It is now open as a museum and theatrical performances are held there as well as riding displays of Alta Escola Portuguesa. The palace is also used as an official residence for State Visits.
Mafra consists of two areas. The old town which grew up around a castle, the remains of which is almost lost amongst the houses. The 18th century part is more recent. Developed in the shadow of the majestic monastery constructed by King Joao V. It was built with gold from Brazil and in fulfillment of a promise made for the birth of an heir to the throne. Thousands of men from all over the country were used to carry the necessary stone. This impressive building, monastery, basilica, and palace has fine views from the dome and small towers overlooking the game preserve and park.