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Founded in 1272, Vila Real (which means 'royal town') is a thriving agricultural centre ideally situated on an upland plateau ringed with mountains. The city has many interesting old buildings with elegant stone façades, their portals decorated with the original owners' coats of arms, with many of their descendants still in residence.
Portuguese painting first came to prominence in the 15th century. In 1428, when Jan van Eyck visited Portugal for the marriage of King João I's daughter Isabella to Philip the Good, the Duke of Burgundy, it marked the beginning of a long and close relationship with Flanders, which greatly influenced Portuguese painting.
Along with the imposing Castle of São Jorge, Lisbon's strikingly eye-catching Tower of Belém is one of the city's most iconic edifices. With its serene riverside location in the historic centre of Belém, this robust stone sentinel guarding the River Tagus was constructed during the Age of Discovery between 1514 and 1520 in honour of Lisbon's patron saint, São Vicente.
Laid out flat between the Atlantic and the Alentejo like a vast patched picnic blanket, the Estremadura region is one of the most varied in the whole of Portugal. A windswept land of lush, rolling vineyards and sprawling pine forest, not to mention long stretches of golden sandy shoreline, this idyllic garden province encompasses the Portuguese capital and stretches north well beyond Marinha Grande on Portugal's rugged Oeste coast.
Lisbon's Parque das Nações (Park of Nations) combines innovative, ultra-modern architecture with centuries of seafaring tradition. Built to host Expo '98, the last World Exposition of the 20th century, the area has metamorphosed into one of southern Europe's slickest commercial and residential districts.
One of the most inventive characters of the 18th century must surely have been Bartolomeu Lourenço de Gusmão, the Brazilian-born genius who created the earliest known flying machine he christened the Passarola, a fire-powered aircraft which he showcased to Portugal's king and queen in Lisbon's Terreiro do Paço square on the 8th of August 1709.
Having existed as a country for almost nine centuries, Portugal is one of the oldest places in Europe with strong traces of Palaeolithic and Mesolithic culture to be seen across the land. Most notable of these are the collective tombs cut out of the rock at Palmela, Cascais and Alapraia near Estoril.
With its colourful vistas, wide-open roads and dazzling whitewashed villages, the great expanse of the Alentejo is perhaps the most vivid of Portugal’s landscapes. Occupying nearly a third of the mainland, the region is most charming in springtime when wild flowers saturate the lush meadows and pastures.