The Minho is famous for its sprawling outdoor markets, but the largest, oldest and most celebrated is the Feira de Barcelos, held every Thursday in this ancient town on the banks of the Rio Cávado. Most outsiders come for the yellow-dotted louça de Barcelos ceramics and the gaudy figurines à la local potter Rosa Ramalho, while rural villagers are more interested in the scrawny chickens, hand-embroidered linen, hand-woven baskets and hand-carved ox yokes.
Some of Portugal’s most captivating works of art are out on the streets – free viewing for anyone who happens to stroll past. A great legacy of the Moors, the azulejo (hand-painted tile) was adopted by the Portuguese and put to stunning use over the centuries. Exquisite displays cover Porto’s train station and iconic churches, with larger-than-life stories painted on the ceramic surfaces. Lisbon has even more eye candy, with azulejo-adorned buildings all over town. The best place to start the hunt: Museu Nacional do Azulejo, home to azulejos dating back 400 years.
Parque Nacional da Peneda-Gerês
The vast, rugged wilderness of Portugal’s northernmost park is home to dramatic peaks, meandering streams and rolling hillsides covered with wildflowers. Its age-old stone villages seem lost in time and, in remote areas, wolves still roam. As always, the best way to feel nature’s power is on foot along one of more than a dozen hiking trails. Some scale peaks, a few link to old Roman roads, others lead to castle ruins or waterfalls.
Portugal’s third-largest city is blessed with terrific restaurants, a vibrant university and raucous festivals, but when it comes to historic sites it is unparalleled in Portugal. Here’s the remarkable 12th-century cathedral, there’s a 14th-century church. Braga has not one but two sets of Roman ruins, countless 17th-century plazas and an 18th-century palace turned museum. Then there’s that splendid baroque staircase: Escadaria do Bom Jesus, the target of penitent pilgrims who come to make offerings at altars on the way to the mountaintop throughout the year.
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