You have three days to explore one of these destinations or relax and renew your energy for the upcoming Christmas festivities.
These 5 destinations for your next long weekend are fantastic for a getaway, alone, as a couple, or as a family!
1. Sintra, Portugal
Some people call it Monte da Lua (mount of the moon) and there is an enchanting mystique there. Perfect for couples, but this village is also a nice place for a few days alone or with the family. It is no coincidence that UNESCO considered it a World Heritage Site!
Experiences you shouldn’t miss
Go up the mountain in a carriage and/or take a walk, depending on the desire and adventurous spirit of each one.
Stroll through the old village and eat a “queijada” and a “travesseiro”! No fears, if you take a walk to compensate, you burn all those calories in an instance. 🙂
National Palace of Sintra
It is unmistakable and marks the town’s landscape with its two conical chimneys.
The current Palace of Sintra emerges out of many royal palaces. This is a set of buildings that were constructed, added, and adapted over the course of many centuries with the actual date of the founding of the country’s oldest palace a question that still remains to be resolved. In all likelihood, the first building was constructed around the 10th or 11th century when Sintra was under Moorish rule. At the end of the Middle Ages, the Palace of Sintra was at the heart of a large territory under the care of the Queens of Portugal while also one of the preferred destinations for Portuguese monarchs. The abundance of hunting in the region, the freshness of the climate during the summer months, and the need to take refuge during periods of plague in the capital all contributed to turning the Palace of Sintra into a regular destination. A guardian of memories and witnessing some of the most defining episodes in the history of Portugal, the Palace of Sintra provides its visitors with the opportunity to take a tour through time and set out in search of other lives so very different to our own.by visitportugal.com
To find out more about this palace, the oldest in Portugal, take a look here.
Park and National Palace of Pena
Enjoying the view from Palácio da Pena to the Sintra mountains is something inexplicable.
Its history begins in the 12th century and continues over the centuries. Inside the palace, we find the richness of Portugal’s history. It has been a National Monument since 1910, contributed to Sintra being considered by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1995, and is surrounded by a beautiful park that is undoubtedly worth a visit!
The colored tones of the palace, the pinnacle of Romanticism in Portugal and the eternal legacy of Ferdinand II, the King-Artist, opens the doors to the imagination of all those who cross its threshold, with the infinite shades of green painting the surrounding park establishing an idyllic scenario, frequently hidden under the veil of the mists that characterize the Sintra Hills. As if having stepped out of a fairy tale, this has been the place of dreams for all the generation who have passed here and gazed upon its magnificence.by parquesdesintra.pt
To find out more about this peculiar palace, take a peek here.
Quinta da Regaleira
One of the greatest exponents of romanticism, in the true essence of the word, Quinta da Regaleira has wonderful places to explore.
It is in this picturesque setting that we find at outskirts of Sintra historic center, the Quinta da Regaleira. Designed and built in the late 1800s, it reflects the sensibility and cultural, philosophical, and scientific interests of the principal owner, António Augusto de Carvalho Monteiro (1948-1920), together with the virtuosity of the Italian architect and scenographer Luigi Manini (1848-1936). The culture and creativity of these two personalities resulted in an eclectic-revivalist architectural ensemble, with a particular focus on the Manueline, Renaissance, Medieval and Classical styles.by Quinta da Regaleira
To learn more about this beautiful place, visit the website.
2. Nice, France
Nice, the cosmopolitan capital of the Côte d’Azur, is one of the most sought-after destinations as, despite the beaches being the most visible attraction of Nice, there is also a mystical legacy of this elite city.
Surround it you find other destinations no less interesting, such as Cannes, Saint-Tropez, and the Principality of Monaco.
Experiences you shouldn’t miss
Go to the beach – most are public beaches – try the Plage Publique des Ponchettes, one of the best known and located close to the historic town.
For those who prefer a more reserved environment, there are several private beaches, some with umbrellas and the mythical blue sun loungers (upon payment).
Stroll along the Promenade des Anglais
Be sure to take a sea tour along the historic Promenade des Anglais, taking advantage of the temperate climate – the Alps protect this coast from the north winds – that is felt in this region. Ah, a good time to walk around these parts is in the late afternoon, to enjoy the wonderful sunset.
Have lunch on the edge of the Port de Nice Lympia
It’s not something that is talked about very often, but in the Port de Nice Lympia area, there are several restaurants where you can really eat very well and the scenery looks like a postcard, in which the color of the boats and the houses contrasts with the intense blue of the waters.
There are many things to visit in Nice, but for those who just want some sightseeing and take a walk along the seafront, my advice is: “visit Monaco!”
Public transport works well, even at the weekend, with a seaside route. It’s almost like a bus tour! 🙂 Of course, you can also rent a car and make this trip more relaxed and stop along the way, when you feel like it.
The Principality of Monaco is an independent city-state on the Mediterranean coast, known for its luxury casinos, yacht-filled harbor as well as the Formula 1 Grand Prix. Monte Carlo, the main district, has an elegant complex of belle-époque casinos and the Salle Garnier opera house. Here you will also find many luxury hotels, shops, nightclubs, and restaurants. I would say it’s an experience not to be missed!
3. Évora, Portugal
Évora’s historic center has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986 and the city is considered the heart of Alentejo.
Experiences you shouldn’t miss
The gastronomy of the city of Évora is something to look forward to! Try the wines, dried cured sausages, and conventual sweets (for instance: “barrigas de freira”, “pão de rala”, “pastéis de toucinho de Arraiolos”, “filhós enroladas” or “queijadas de Évora”.
If you still have a stomach for it (I was kidding, of course, you have!) try the “cozido à portuguesa”, “açorda” or “gaspacho à Alentejana”, “ensopado de borrego”, “migas à Alentejana” and “cacholeira”. And these are just a few examples of the greatfulness of this gastromony!
Évora Historic Center
It’s a case of saying that Alentejo lives here, between the streets and alleys and walking along these paths one discovers the real Évora.
Go in search of iron details or unique tiles and stroll through the narrow streets of irregular stones – preferably in the shade, so as not to get burned in 5 minutes, especially during the Summer! Oh, and stay hydrated.
This museum city, whose roots go back to Roman times, reached its golden age in the 15th century when it became the residence of the Portuguese kings. Its unique quality stems from the whitewashed houses decorated with azulejos and wrought-iron balconies dating from the 16th to the 18th century. Its monuments had a profound influence on Portuguese architecture in Brazil.by unesco.org
Temple of Diana or Roman Temple of Évora
Built-in the first half of the 1st-century d. C., the Roman Temple of Évora, better known as the Temple of Diana, is one of the most evident vestiges of what might have been a Roman forum. According to studies carried out at the site, it is known that it occupied the entire space that goes, approximately, from the southern limit of the garden to the Cathedral and from the Palace of the Inquisition to the Cadaval Palace.
With a rectangular plan, measuring 25x15m, hexastyle (with six columns on the main elevation), and peripterus (with free columns surrounding the entire perimeter of the cell), it was built in the Corinthian style using materials from the region, marble in the column bases and in the capitals and the granite in the structure of the podium, in the shafts of the column and in the entablature. Surrounding it to the north, east, and west a tank in opus signinum (lime mortar, sand, and crushed pottery) created a water mirror certainly related to the cult.
Chapel of Bones, in the Church of São Francisco
I remember being a kid when I visited Chapel of Bones for the first time. At that time I thought it was a place unlike anything I had ever seen and, despite not being the only one of its kind, it is still a special place.
The Chapel of Bones was built in the 17th century, following a model then in vogue, with the intention of causing the image to reflect on the transience of human life and the consequent commitment to a permanent Christian experience. Both the walls and the pillars are covered with a few thousand bones and skulls from burial spaces connected to the convent. The frescoes that decorate the vaulted ceiling, dating from 1810, present a variety of symbols illustrated by biblical passages and others with instruments of the Passion of Christ. At the exit of the chapel, on the opposite wall, a tile panel, designed by the architect Siza Vieira, contrasts the allusion of death with the miracle of life.by Igreja de São Francisco
To learn more, you can visit here.
4. Madrid, Spain
Madrid’s history, architecture, and cultural heritage make it a city of choice for any getaway or even a longer visit!
Here you can live with joy, for the well-being and conviviality, for the good food at the table and a few chats with friends, in a relaxed atmosphere full of good energy. Go there and see it for yourself! 🙂
Experiences you shouldn’t miss
In Madrid you won’t be short of things to do, it depends on whether you want to run around and visit everything or whether you want to slow down and make the most of half a dozen experiences in a more intense way. You can always come back later and experience what you missed before!
Having said that, I suggest you go through Porta do Sol, Parque del Retiro, and the La Latina neighborhood (you won’t find a deeper experience, which takes you back to other times!
Oh, and the gastronomy, in particular the wines and tapas! Seriously, don’t miss this opportunity! For a more immersive experience, there are tours (some free and some paid) that show you some hidden treasures. I suggest this one: “Excursão de degustação de vinho e tapas em Madri“, but there are other options that may be more to your liking.
Plaza Mayor of Madrid
It is a 10-minute walk from the Royal Palace of Madrid and is considered the center of Madrid.
The architecture, gastronomy, street artists, light… Ah, when choosing a restaurant, pay attention to prices, since in this area there are choices for all tastes and budgets.
Strolling on the Gran Via of Madrid
The “Spanish Broadway”, as some call it, is worth a lot for the magnificence of its architecture, hotels, theaters, restaurants, and elite shops. I think we can compare it with Avenida de Liberdade in Lisbon, it’s beautiful, it has history, but it won’t make anyone sigh with emotion (but this is my opinion when you go tell me whether you agree with me or not!).
Here you can find paintings such as The Garden of Earthly Delights, by Hyeronimus Bosch, the Maja series by the incomparable Goya, and you can marvel at the museum’s most famous piece: Las Meninas, by Velázquez.
In addition, there are over 20,000 works of art by some of Europe’s most prominent artists.
You can find out more details here.
5. Coimbra, Portugal
The most recognized student city in Portugal, it has one of the oldest universities in the world and where there is no shortage of history and many things to do.
Bathed in Mondego, Coimbra was chosen by D. Afonso Henriques as the first capital of the Kingdom of Portugal and, in 2013, UNESCO recognized the University of Coimbra – Alta and Sofia as a World Heritage Site.
Experiences you shouldn’t miss
Visit the Santa Clara-a-velha Monastery or stroll through the Quinta das Lágrimas Gardens!
Ah, try the local cuisine, accompany a farmer’s wine with some snacks: there are gizzards, bones, “pica-pau”, and ” e raia de pitau”. In local restaurants, you will find “chanfana”, “leitão da Bairrada” or lamprey rice. But save a little space to enjoy some convent sweets, such as the Santa Clara pastries or the “arrufadas” (this cake has a regional certification seal), in one of the historic coffee shops in the Baixa.
The University of Coimbra and the Joanina Library
It’s one of the most interesting places in the city of Coimbra.
The Tourism Circuit of the University of Coimbra unfolds in different centers: – The Palace of Schools where you can visit the Royal Palace that includes the Grand Hall of Acts, the Private Exam Room, and the Armillary Room; The Royal Chapel of Saint Michael and the Joanine Library where you can visit the Noble Floor, the Middle Floor and the Academic Prison (with limited access for the preservation of the building). – The Science Museum where you can visit the 18 and 19 Century Physics Cabinets, the Natural History Galleries, and the Chemistry Laboratory. – The Botanic Garden is where you can travel around the world through the botanic.by TripAdvisor.com
Old Cathedral of Coimbra
The beginning of the construction of the Sé Velha, one of the most beautiful Portuguese Romanesque buildings, dates back to 1164 and is, without a doubt, a place not to be missed.
To learn more about this wonderful building, take a look here.
Portugal dos Pequenitos (Portugal of the Little Ones)
Opened in 1940 and is ideal for taking the kids, but also a very funny experience for the grown-ups, after all, there’s a kid inside each one of us.
Designed by architect Cassiano Branco, it has regional Portuguese houses and an ethnographic and monumental representation of the current Portuguese-speaking African countries, Brazil, Macau, India, and Timor, all in kids’ sizes!
To find out more about this project, under the responsibility of the Bissaya Barreto Foundation, visit the page.
Want more ideas? Take a peek here!