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Destinations Cities

Westside actor Todd Emerson shares his 5 must-see destinations in Portugal

The Kiwi actor finds a holiday hotspot to remember.

By Todd Emerson
Often overlooked by Kiwi travellers for its larger neighbour Spain, Portugal is the perfect destination with incredible history, friendly locals and bountiful seafood.

Porto

Taking a free guided walk with Sandemans Tours around the cobbled streets of Porto is the best way to see all the sights while getting a good rundown on the city's history.
After all that exercise, what's better than heading across the Douro River to one of the many port wine cellars for a tasting?! We went to Porto Cruz, where we sipped both excellent port and top cocktails at its rooftop bar while watching the sunset.
Then a local specialty, a meat-filled francesinha sandwich, was great at soaking up the booze!
Simply delish! Todd couldn't get enough of the fresh seafood in Lisbon. Image: Todd Emerson

Lisbon

One of the most iconic images of Lisbon is of a bright yellow cable car and it's the most convenient way of getting around this city.
The number-28 tram passes through all the most popular areas for tourists and you can hop on and off as you like.
At night, the Bairro Alto district comes alive, with hundreds of people eating and drinking on the streets.
See if you can find Park, a secret bar on the rooftop of a parking building.
I had a great time at the Lisbon Cooking Academy, making the famed custard tarts my husband and I had been eating so many of and learning how to create a traditional seafood dish called cataplana.

Alfama

You haven't seen quaint till you've visited Portugal, with a sigh-worthy sight at every turn. Image: Todd Emerson
This neighbourhood is the oldest part of Lisbon, the only area that survived the devastating earthquake of 1755.
A labyrinth of tiny streets, the Alfama is peppered with little restaurants that entertaintheir guests by night with live Fado music.
The sound of Portugal, it's a traditional and melancholic but also beautiful style of song that evokes a sense of loss or longing.

Sintra

Only an hour and a half away from Lisbon by train, Sintra is like the Riviera of Portugal, with Disney-like castles and historic palaces everywhere you turn.
The Pena Palace is the most famous of these with its multicoloured turrets and ornately designed interiors. Go early to avoid the crowds!
The nearby ruins of a Moorish castle have a huge stone wall with a walkway on top and views all the way out to the ocean.
Our favourite spot was the mystic gardens of Quinta da Regaleira, with its underground lakes and grottos. Getting an audio guide here really enhances the experience.

Lagos

All those sun-worshiping tourists make it hard to find a place to lay your towel! Image: Todd Emerson
After so much history and sightseeing, we were readyfor some relaxation so headed south to the Algarve.
There are many seaside towns in this area and there is a major airport in Faro, so in the height of summer, it can be hard to find a spot on the beach between all the Brits searching for a bit of sun.
Instead we decided to splash out on a lovely hotel and spa called the Vivenda Mirandain Lagos, where we were in bliss swimming in the pool and sipping cocktails while sunbathing on the lawn.
From the hotel, we took a memorable walk around the clifftops to the lighthouse, where you can look down to see the many caves and crevices cut out by the ocean below.
Heaven!

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