Dating from the Middle Ages, the district of Alfama is the ‘Old Town’ of Lisbon. Like most historic quarters, it has a unique old-world charm that makes one feel like they have stepped back in time. Situated on a picturesque knoll, this was originally where the Jews and Moors of Lisbon settled, before fishermen decided to move in. It was the one part of the city that was not razed by the earthquake of 1755; a testament to the quality of its buildings. The best way to explore this district is to get lost in its maze of narrow streets, soaking up the atmosphere as you stroll.
Avenida da Liberdade is the main thoroughfare in Lisbon, and as a result is where you will find the greatest concentration of shops (both high end and high street), cafés and theatres. There are also many stylish buildings along here; the most acclaimed are numbers 206-218. Some boast art nouveau windows, while others house a branch of Prada. The middle of the avenue is very attractive, as it is decorated with water features, sculptures and flowers.
Funchal, capital of Madeira, began life as a pirate town, cultivating fennel. Nowadays, it is a vibrant city, with a host of upmarket hotels and restaurants. It is very popular all year round with tourists, as it is sunny whatever the season. Here, one will find sun, sea, sand, history, culture and easy access to nature reserves and mountains. With all this to offer, it is little surprise that those who visit here return time and time again.
For some decades now, Funchal has been a stop-off point for Atlantic cruise ships. This is because the centre of the old town, with all its heritage, shops, eateries and coffee shops, is easily accessible from the harbour. The view from deck as the ship sails into Funchal Harbour is considered to be amongst the most impressive in the world; rivalled only by Rio de Janeiro. It is customary for the majority of European cruise ships on their maiden voyage to stop here.
Albufeira’s location on the coast means that it is relatively easily accessible by a number of different nationalities. First came the ancient Romans, who established a settlement that they named Baltum. The Romans were great administrators; they brought to the newly founded Baltum innovative farming methods, as well as establishing mines and businesses. Even today, one can still see evidence of the streets, bridges and aqueducts that they built. Over the millennia, Baltum’s citizens were also heavily influenced by the Greek, Carthaginian and Phoenician peoples, who gave them the concepts of money, preserving food with salt, and the alphabet.
As Baltum began to trade with coastal North African countries, the Moors migrated here, quickly spreading along the Algarve. They referred to the town as Al-Buhera; meaning Castle of the Sea. It is thought that this was a reference to a fortress then in existence. At that time this fortress stood on top of an imposing rock, which overlooked the lagoon in the town’s low-lying section. Over time, the name ‘Albufeira’ came into being. The Moors also made their own contributions to farming practices in the region, as they introduced new methods of cultivating the land, ploughs, fertilizers and water wheels (used to bring water up from wells deep under the ground).