If you are interested in the cultural and historical traditions of your holiday destination, it is a good idea to check if there are any UNESCO World Heritage sites in the vicinity. Short for The ‘United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’, UNESCO’s mission is to identify and protect natural heritage around the world. Sites that have been selected to appear on its lists feature rich culture worth preserving and naturally such locations make a wonderful place to visit.
The Guimarães and Minho Region:
Those visiting the Minho region, for example, can start their tour with a trip to the lovely town of Guimarães, which has always played a significant role in Portugal’s past and present. In 2012 it was chosen to be the European capital of culture, which further increased the interest towards the town’s rich historical background. UNESCO acknowledged the town’s importance in 2001, when its historical centre was included in the World Heritage List. It houses well-preserved examples of characteristic and emblematic Portuguese architecture and offers excellent possibilities for exploring its development and progress in the period between 15th and 19th century. Most of the buildings in the historical centre were built between the years 950 and 1500. During your tour you will see many beautiful half-timbered houses, which elegantly combine wood and granite. The most impressive building is probably the Castelo de Guimarães, which is more than 12 centuries old and kept in an impressive condition. The castle is considered to be one of the most important monuments not only in Guimarães, but in Portugal too.
Next on your places to see list should be the Palace of the Dukes of Bragança, which was most likely built between 1420 and 1422. It was partly ruined during the years, but after a careful restoration and renovation, became one of the town’s most treasured attractions. The Church of Nossa Senhora da Oliveira is another important monument that deserves a visit, especially its interior, famous for the silver altar.
The Porto Region:
The historical centre of Porto (50 kilometres from Guimarães) became part of the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1996. Porto or Oporto is an amazing, modern and busy town that has also managed to preserve its rich and diverse historical heritage. The historical core is best explored on foot and is located within the famous Fernandine walls that were built in the 14th century. One of the centre’s symbols is the Clérigos Church, which is a beautiful example of baroque architecture. Its most visited part is the tower (Torre dos Clérigos) which offers sweeping views towards the town. It takes more than 200 steps to climb to get to its top, but the effort is worthwhile.
The Church of São Francisco is a spectacular combination of gothic (main facade and South portal) and baroque (West portal and interior parts) art. The church’s interior impresses with the outstanding gilt wood decorations, which cover a massive part of the building. Close to the church you can see the magnificent Palácio da Bolsa, a fine example of neoclassical architecture, built in the 19th century. The tour around the palace includes a visit to the splendid Tribunal, Assembly, Golden and Arab rooms decorated with remarkable works of art and furniture. Other interesting monuments that you should see during your tour include the Prison da Relação, Ferreira Borges Market, Porto’s Cathedral, São João Theatre, etc.
If you are contemplating visiting Portugal, make sure to visit the UNESCO’s sites mentioned here.
Information by Affair Travel (http://www.affairtravel.com/). UK based holiday villa agents in parts of Europe from Croatia (http://www.affairtravel.com/Croatia/) to Portugal.