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Top cultural trips in Portugal

Portugal has a really fascinating history and culture, so there's always plenty to see and interesting places to explore when you visit. The popular areas of the Algarve and Madeira are no exception.


So, if you're planning to take a holiday in these regions take a look below at some of the top cultural highlights and places of interest that you could enjoy while you're there.


The impressive architecture of Loule Castle

Picturesque Loule Castle is just a 10-minute taxi ride from the coastal resort of Acoteias.

The site was originally occupied by the Romans who built the castle as a military fortification in the 2nd century. It has been remodelled several times including during the 12th and 13th centuries and was also damaged during an earthquake in 1969.

Despite its transformations over the years, you'll see impressive remains including stunning towers and high walls that are gradually being integrated into the modern buildings of Loule town.

Admire the beauty of Faro Cathedral

Stunning Faro Cathedral in the city of Faro is within a 20-minute drive from the resorts of Albufeira, Vilamoura and Tavira. The original site was a Roman settlement and over time it became a mosque and, in 1249, a Christian church.

Despite having suffered damage from attacks and an earthquake in 1755, you can still see magnificent examples of Renaissance and Baroque architecture. It has magnificent carved arches, beautiful paintings and intricate frescoes created from hundreds of hand-painted Portuguese tiles.

The history of Portimao on show at Museu de Portimao

If you're in Portimao it's definitely worthwhile making a trip to this interesting and modern museum. Located in a restored 19th century fish-canning factory it charts the history and culture of the region including its industrial roots and maritime past.

The main permanent exhibition is 'Portimao, Territory and Identity' which takes you on a fascinating journey with realistic reconstructions and original artefacts. When you come out it'll give fresh new meaning to the rest of your stay in Portimao and the places you see.


A prehistoric site at the Monumentos Megaliticas de Alcalar, Alvor

As well as superb beaches, the Alvor area is home to the amazing Monumentos Megaliticas de Alcalar ancient site, which is believed to have been built between 2,000 and 1,600 BCE.

The mostly megalithic monuments were originally built as a necropolis consisting of several corridor tombs and are located in several points in the hills surrounding the original ancient settlement. These ancient remains give a fascinating peek into the prehistoric past of the region.

Discover exotic plants and birds at Madeira Botanical Gardens

On the Portuguese island of Madeira, located a five-minute taxi ride from the capital, Funchal, Madeira Botanical Gardens are a real treat. Covering over a kilometre and half of land with more than 2,000 plants and tress, it's also a national Science and Culture Centre.

The gardens have several different types of plants, including tropical, cultivated, aromatic and medicinal varieties.

As well as plants, in the Loiro Park area you'll find a collection of exotic and rare birds such as cockatoos and dwarf parrots. It also has its own cable car ride which takes you high up over the gardens and provides superb views over Funchal Bay.


Take a guided tour of Santa Clara Convent, Funchal, Madeira

Some of the impressive collection of buildings at the Santa Clara Convent date back to the 15th century when a small convent was built for a chapter of Franciscan nuns.

A larger site was developed in the 16th century in the small Our Lady of Conception chapel. Following this, the convent became hugely important socially during the 16th and 17th centuries as a secure place of refuge for the daughters of noble families and widows.

You can take guided tours around this architecturally-splendid site, take a look as some of the stunning relics and find out more about the fascinating history and continuing work of the nuns.

These are just some of the amazing cultural and historical options available. As you explore Portugal you'll discover much more to see, including charming churches, lighthouses perched high on cliffs and interesting remains of several old Roman settlements.

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