Attractions in Portugal

Sao Bento train station

Elaborate tile work in this train station tells the story of Portugal

The transport hub in the heart of Porto offers travelers much more than just round-trip transport. The French Beaux Arts structure is home to 20,000 magnificent ceramic tiles glazed with azulejo tin, depicting Portugal’s past – its royal rule, wars, and transportation history. Built in 1900, the beautiful station was named after a Benedictine monastery that took its place in the 16th century. In 1783 the church was destroyed by fire, but in the 19th century it was completely demolished to make way for the growing railroad system.

The intricate tile work began five years after the station was built. The blue and white tiles were placed over a period of 11 years between 1905 and 1916 by the artist and eminent azulejo painter Jorge Colaço. The first tiles were laid on August 13, 1905. On the left side of the entrance you can see a scene depicting the battle of Arcos de Valdevez and Egas Moniz before Alfonso VII of Castile. Small panels with landscape scenes can be seen on the border wall at the entrance.

Sao Bento is the main terminal of Porto’s suburban railway lines and the west terminal for the scenic Douro line between Porto and Pocinho. The train station is located near tram line 22 and is connected to the São Bento metro station on metro line D.

Douro valley

The Douro has its source in Spain (Soria) and runs a long distance along the Spanish-Portuguese border before it turns west towards Porto and there flows into the Atlantic. Only an hour and a half from Porto is the Douro Valley, one of the most beautiful wine regions in the world. Portugal vacationers experience breathtaking landscapes with green and golden slopes, covered with vineyards and wineries that stretch along the river banks.

enchanting impressions on arrival

Porto is considered the main gateway to the Douro region and can be reached by cruise ship, train, rented cars, or buses. The most popular option is probably a cruise. It is quite a time-consuming journey, however, largely due to the intersection of locks that were built to tame the river. It may take some time, but it is also the mode of transport that reveals the breathtaking landscapes of the Douro Valley in the most spectacular way. Another popular way to travel is by train from Porto Central Station, São Bento. This trip is faster and takes around two and a half hours. This travel option is also an amazing experience as the route follows a path through the Douro river bank.

Fascinating landscape in the north of Portugal

The Douro Valley has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2001. The Douro viticulture and wine exports owe their growth mainly to the port wine brand, which only emerged in the second half of the seventeenth century. However, remains of old stone tanks and wine barrels have been found that may date back to the third or fourth century. It all started when the British looked for an alternative to French wines due to a period of rivalry between the two nations. They started looking at Iberian wines and soon found the wines of the upper Douro River. They immediately began planning their transport back to England. So the wine became known as port wine, the wine from Porto.

The Douro is a natural wonder in itself, so you will likely be looking at the view most of the time. One of the most spectacular viewpoints is Galafura. Anyone who has the opportunity to watch the sunset from there will certainly never forget it. The valley’s wineries are also worth a visit. They are part of the history, tradition and culture of the Douro. Whoever visits the valley will soon see the white painted buildings along the valley slopes. Most of them offer wine tours with visits to the vineyards and production facilities, and most importantly, wine tastings. A day trip to Douro can be too short to see and visit it all, but trying at least one of the wineries is definitely recommended.

Mafra, palace

Where is the Mafra Palace located?

For the Mafra Palace or in Portuguese Palácio Nacional de Mafra, the tranquil municipality of Mafra in western Portugal not far from Lisbon is named. Construction officially began in 1717, and almost forty years later construction was finally completed in 1755. The solemn inauguration, however, took place around 1730. The ‘organizer’ of the large-scale royal project was Johann Friedrich Ludwig from Swabia, who has already made a name for himself at the Portuguese court with his talent as a goldsmith and architect. Today the magnificent palace complex in the baroque style with basilica, monastery convent and hunting park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its magic is still unbroken and attracts visitors from all over the world – for good reason.

What makes the palace so special as a sight?

The National Palace of Mafra is considered the largest of its kind among the Portuguese castles. In addition, it impresses with its baroque splendor, but also with its dual use as a royal castle and Capuchin monastery: in 1711, the Portuguese King Joao V laid it Promise to build a monastery if his wife would give him the desired heir to the throne. The king’s wish came true, so that the foundation stone for the monastery was laid around six years later. In addition to the monastery complex, the extraordinary building complex also includes a library, a basilica with two bell towers at the entrance and a botanical garden. Overall, the building takes up a considerable area of ​​around 38,000 m², the botanical garden covers over 800 hectares.

Mafra Palace