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15 of the prettiest villages in Europe

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15 of the prettiest villages in Europe

Almost everyone loves a pretty village, you know a place where the houses are impossibly perfect and time just seems to stand still. Well luckily Europe has plenty. From dreamy fishing villages to tiny fortifiedtowns, here are our favourite picturesque villages in Europe guaranteed to impress your travel snob friends…

Eze, France

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The ancient village of Eze – with its fabulous views over St Jean-Cap Ferrat – is a more traditional alternative to the glitz and glamour of the Côte d’Azur’s resort towns. Perched on rock 1,400 feet above sea level, the focal point of the village is the ruins of a 12th-century castle. Wander through its labyrinthine streets and then stand back to admire the gorgeous view of the villas that lead down the hillside to the Mediterranean.

Pitigliano, Italy

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Surrounded by woodland and the fabled rolling hills of Tuscany is Pitigliano – an ancient small town built on sheer cliffs. Dating from as early as 1061, the town is filled with Etruscan tombs (which locals use to store wine) which are connected by a network of caves and tunnels. An extraordinary, steep fortress surrounds the commune which ensures its status as one of the most unusual and photogenic towns in the area.

Polperro, England

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The popular English holiday county of Cornwall is filled with chocolate box pretty villages, but perhaps the most beautiful is Polperro. With its narrow winding streets and cottages perched on steep slopes overlooking a tiny harbour it seems to be everyones idea of a picturesque Cornish fishing village.

Hallstatt, Austria

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Often considered to be one of the most beautiful places in Europe, Hallstatt is very picturesque. This is mostly due to its location on a narrow rocky west bank of the Hallstättersee with the sheer rising mountains behind it. Famous for its production of salt, this tiny village was once a settlement that dates back to prehistoric times.

Wengen, Switzerland

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Wengen is an impossibly perfect example of an Alpine village where traditional timber chalets cling to the slopes of the Lauterbrunnen Valley. Yes, it does look something straight out of Heidi and although it’s a little touristy in the summer, in winter the high altitude attracts so many skiers its population increases almost ten-fold. Although Switzerland is famously expensive it doesn’t always have to be, especially if you look around for some late deals.

Obidos, Portugal

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This is an ancient fortified town located in the Estremadura Province. In the 13th century, Portuguese Queen Isabel was so enamoured by the village of Obidos that her husband, King Denis I, gave it to her as a present. Today its perfectly preserved collection of medieval architecture ensures its status as a popular tourist destination.

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Deià, Mallorca

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Deia is a renowned picturesque village – located on the northern ridge of the island – which is known for its literary and musical residents. Positioned in a valley in the shadow of the Serra de Tramuntana mountains, its home to a cluster of stone built houses complete with terracotta roofs which seem to hug the dramatic mountain range.

Ravello, Italy

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The Amalfi coast’s most peaceful and charming resort is easily worth the stomach-churningly steep drive to get to. A favourite haunt of celebrities (Greta Garbo, Jacqueline Kennedy and Tennessee Williams all holidayed here) Ravello is known for its mostly traffic-free lanes, elegant gardens, picturesque squares and its famous vertigo-inducing glimpses of the Mediterranean miles below.

Pučišća, Croatia

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Pučišća is a small and gorgeous harbour town located on the northern coast of the island of Brač. Sheltered by a protective cove and filled with attractive Mediterranean style white and terracotta houses, this kind of place is the reason why Croatia is such a popular travel destination.

Kazimierz Dolny, Poland

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This small historic town has a pre-war, precommunist charm which really draws the crowds. Besides the cobblestone streets, preserved Renaissance buildings and picturesque ruins of a medieval castle the town is also known for its superb panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.

Autoire, France

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Autoire – located in Lot, close to the border with the Dordogne department – has the honour of being titled as one of the ‘most beautiful villages of France‘. A place where little has changed in 800 years, it’s filled with a collection of attractive 16th and 17th century honey coloured houses, a pretty church and central fountain all set with a backdrop of the dramatic cliffs of the Causse.

Carlingford, Ireland

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Just an hour’s drive from either Belfast or Dublin, Carlingford Heritage Village is famous for both its attractiveness and its surrounding landscapes. It enjoys a very beautiful location on the southern shore of Carlingford Lough and at the foot of Sliabh Foye surrounded by Irish myth and legend.

Mittenwald, Germany

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Mittenwald is where ‘Old Germany’ stills exists. Traditionally very Bavarian, its has gorgeously decorated houses, painted facades and ornately carved gables. The painted buildings are exceptionally pretty so take your time to stroll around while doing a spot of shopping at the same time.

Crupet, Belgium

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Crupet is a small pretty village set in a woody valley of Wallonia and surrounded by a large moat. Dating from the 13th century its famous for its beautiful castle and its grottoes. Although the medieval Crupet castle can’t be visited (it’s privately owned) it makes for an extremely photogenic backdrop.

Fjallbacka, Sweden

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Fjallbacka is a dreamy fishing village which is also a gateway to Sweden’s most westerly islands, The Weather Islands. Soon you’ll also be hearing a lot more about this tiny village – the forthcoming feature film and TV series, The Fjällbacka Murders – are currently being filmed here.

Source: www.globalgrasshopper.com

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10 of the most beautiful places to visit in Portugal

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10 of the most beautiful places to visit in Portugal

With its cities fast becoming chic hotspots and gorgeous coastline where you still can escape the crowds, Portugal is entering a new era of cool. So what are you waiting for? Here are ten of the most beautiful places to visit in Portugal:

Lisbon

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Being the capital of Portugal, Lisbon is an obvious place to start. It receives around half the fuss of other European capitals, but can easily equal them in beauty and charm. A lot of its attraction probably lies in its deep-rooted history, coming second only to Athens in the oldest European capital stakes. It’s actually a beautiful mix of old and new, and alongside the city’s endearing old-fashioned qualities, there is also plenty to please the boutique crowds. Visit the Gothic cathedrals, historic cafes, vintage trams and narrow lanes of Lisbon’s lovely backstreets and don’t forget the vibrant coffee bars and fabulous restaurants. The city is built on a series of hills, meaning that everywhere you venture within Lisbon you are practically guaranteed to have a gorgeous view.

Sintra

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Lord Byron’s favourite Portuguese haunt is this exceptional village, ripe with richly coloured buildings and breathtaking architecture. Palaces, turrets, a romantic Moorish castle and a misty dense forest are all part of this sweet little place. The vegetation is lush and exotic due to the microclimate. There are a host of historic buildings to take a look at, as well as clusters of leafy mansions with immaculate lawns and stunningly decorative features.

Porto

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With its 14th century walls, medieval winding streets, colourfully picturesque houses, bell tower and ornate tiles there is much to see in the newly fashionable city of Porto. Sit under the arches at Placa da Ribeira (the riverfront square) and watch the boats float past. Most apartments in the area have terraces that overlook the tranquil waters. Declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, it’s a combination of old worldly charm and bustling metropolitan culture, making it a very intriguing travel destination.

Douro Valley

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The river Douro winds through Spain and Northern Portugal. It was once a wild turbulent river, but the clever introduction of eight vast dams has tamed its spirit and it is now is very tranquil and peaceful. The beauty of the area isn’t limited to these still and shimmering waters, though. Bordered by stunning sweeping hills and expanses of delicate almond blossoms, it really is a beautiful part of the world. The area remains, for the most part, unspoilt, with roads zigzagging through the mountains and cruise boats softly pressing through the water. The Douro Valley is famed for supplying grapes to the best Port companies. In fact, you can see all of the major names proudly displayed on the hillside vineyards, which change colour through the seasons as the vines mature.

Óbidos

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This is an ancient fortified town located in the Estremadura Province. In the 13th century, Portuguese Queen Isabel was so enchanted by the village of Obidos that her husband, King Denis I, gave it to her as a present. This prompted a tradition of Portuguese kings buying this picturesque village for their queens, which lasted for many centuries. When you visit this beautiful spot, you’ll understand exactly why Isabel fell in love with it.

Cascais

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Once a sleepy little fishing village, Cascais is now a chic coastal resort famed for its glorious beaches, sophisticated nightlife, water sports and adventure pursuits. Always popular with artisans, writers and artists, due to its exquisite scenery, it boasts a remarkable selection of art, proudly displayed in The Conde de Castro Guimares Museum. Another of the town’s attractions is the smart new marina filled with yachts which shimmer and glisten in the bright sunshine.

Praia da Marinha

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Because of its proximity to the overly touristy Algarve region, many dismiss the beautiful beach at Praia da Marinha. It is certainly worth visiting though, as it is considered by many to be the best beach in Portugal and is classed as one of the Top 100 beaches of the world. Ideal for snorkelling and striking rocky cliff faces, it’s no wonder that this destination is so popular for luxury 5* holidays in Portugal.

Marvão

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Marvao is a beautiful medieval mountainside town in Alentejo that still has its original 13th century walls. The streets wind seductively between the surrounding walls, making Marvao a very beautiful place to visit. As you can imagine, the views from across the town are not to be missed. The lovely hotel Pousada do Marvao, Santa Maria, is the ideal place to stay. It consists of two of the village houses that have been converted, ensuring it is in keeping with the rest of the town.

Salema

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Situated three hours South of the capital, near Cape Sagres, Salema is a beautifully tranquil beach. Although located in the package holiday favorite the Algarve, this pretty village remains comparatively untouched by the ravages of tourism, offering just a scattering of eating places, a traditional outdoor market, one small main street and clusters of pretty white stucco houses. This peaceful fishing village is located between two sharp cliffs with a glorious sandy beach rolling between.

Évora

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Évora is a Portuguese city in the municipality of Évora. The beautifully preserved historic town has been classed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and when you visit, you’ll soon discover why. It’s home to a 2000 year old Templo Romano, a 16th century aqueduct that can be followed by foot for five miles and the incredible Capela da Ossos – a sinister crypt – which displays the full skeletons of over 5000 Evora residents.

Source: www.globalgrasshopper.com

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Óbidos, a short visit with a return ticket

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Óbidos, a short visit with a return ticket

Óbidos in a flash can even recall the ominous word 'death', but actually means "walled city", and the general joy the Portuguese city lives up to its meaning. This fortress offers history, culture, beauty and peace and a good portion of tranquility for anyone planning to spend a different day away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

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Founded by the Romans, the village of Óbidos gives its first impression in a long, narrow street called  Straight Street .

The street is lined with shops of  handicrafts, where you can also taste the  cherry brandy, a wild fruit  that gives the flavor to the city's famous liqueur.

Right at the end of the street sits the Castelo de Óbidos, were mounted inside spaces that give us an idea of how daily life was the village and within the walls of the castle.

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The visitor is surprised to encounter a hostel set up inside the castle. To spend the night you need to spend 250 euros and if you want VIP treatment can opt for one quarter of kings and queens, where charges to the tune of 350 euros. Too bad I have no picture of this room to heal our curiosity. It will be so pompous and is meant to be? I heard that the kings bed is huge!

Well, back to the historical facts of Óbidos ... Walking through town is well understood because it is an asset, just crossing Porta da Vila all decorated in traditional blue and white tiles.

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Following the historic tour, the heart of Óbidos is the square of Santa Maria, a symbol of urban restructuring has gone through the city in the sixteenth century by King Catherine of Austria, wife of John III. The  Church of Santa Maria , built in 1148 during the reign of Afonso Henriques in order of S. Teotonio was also restructured in sixteenth and worth a visit!

Take a few minutes of the Solar Aboins, which for centuries was the staging point of the royal entourage at the Shed of the village built in the medieval period and the symbol of municipal powers - Pelourinho, built in 1513. If you have plenty of time to spend in the Museum Abilio de Matos and Silva (Old Town Hall Council), built during the reign of King Manuel in the sixteenth century, then visit the Manor of St. Mary's Square (the former residence of the painter Eduardo Malta in the twentieth century) and save breath for one more stop: how about tossing a coin and make a request in the beautiful Fountain of the village? It is not any one fountain was built in 1535 at the behest of Queen Catarina.

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The most important of all, go with your eyes open and look beyond the tourism atraction. Take for example the tenderness of flowery balconies, the houses painted white and blue, and the whim of manicured gardens in private homes. Forgive me if I appear in almost all the photos below, the local architecture is so inspiring that had took from my personal folder just to share with you.

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This is an invitation to visit the Obidos town.

Article by Priscilla Rios Wheel Razuk on July 18, 2011, source Myguide.pt

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Silver Coast, a different kind of place . . .

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Silver Coast, a different kind of place . . .

Summer is a great time to relax, to be with family and friends, travel around the world discovering fantastic places, different cultures and celebrating life. I’ve been in Bilbao and Pamplona in the summer and took part of Sanfirmin bull-running which is quite an experience and also in Amsterdam and London which are two beautiful cities. I’m passionate about Cultures and Architecture and the way both mark each country and its people.

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This summer is being busy as ever and I have decided to stay at home and enjoy some quality time with my family whenever the job allows. For my surprise I’m doing what I usually recommend my clients, which is enjoying the beach and this fantastic weather, visiting places and delighting myself with the local gastronomy - sea food is highly recommended.

I discovered numerous events taking place in Óbidos and other parts of the Silver Coast and they are just making this summer such a special one. I start with Golf in the morning and a light breakfast around 10AM. Beach follows and I tend to vary between Praia D’El Rey beach, Foz and São Martinho. Occasionally I pick up the jeep and discover new and isolated places, which are so perfect without a single foot print. At night Óbidos and Foz have been my favourites. Foz has a fantastic night life, the bars are crowded and Greenhill night club, who has been open to public for more than 25 years, has many surprises Óbidos is always a fun place to visit and this summer is repeating the success of previous years.

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The medieval market has invaded the village and even confined to the castle walls, in the narrow streets is common to come across with knights fitting for land or a peace of meat.

This event is undoubtedly one of the most popular organized in Obidos. Flowing vibrant banners and heraldic flags, wizards, jugglers, court jesters, wandering minstrels, musicians, mimes and thespians provide the vivacious merriment. Craft demonstrators and some 150 food, beverage and merchandise vendors recreate the customs and spirit of medieval Europe. The afternoon concludes with four jousting knights on horseback.

For half a dozen "torreoes", the fair's official coin, visitors can buy a little bit of everything from medieval clothing to shoes, jewellery, or even experience a "medieval" meal

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The Opera Festival is held every year and in its five years of existence has drawn a large audience to the many operas that have been staged. It is a unique project that mergers the cultural heritage to the promotion and valorisation of Óbidos. This summer festival is unique in the country and presents some of the most popular operas of all time, always with an exceptional backdrop of Óbidos.

The operas concerts are "9th Symphony"  - Beethoven; The Barber of Seville" - Rossini; "La Bohème" - Puccini; and Opera Gala with Elisabete Matos (for more details go to obidos.pt)

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Secrets of the Silver Coast

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Secrets of the Silver Coast

Imagine a familiar place like the Algarve, with extensive sandy beaches, valleys and plains and cliffs that touch the sea. Now imagine the sought of France with green forests, less historic heritage and a big blue ocean. If you mix it all together and take out 30 years of urban development  you will probably get a snapshot of  the Silver Coast.

Long forgotten by the major developers that invested the last 30 years in the beautiful Algarve creating spectacular sites, luxurious resorts and a fantastic lifestyle that attracts people from over the world, the Silver Coast is now gaming new dynamics with an increasing supply of premium and super-premium properties with a lifestyle attached.

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This attraction is driving curiosity to the highlands and like treasure hunter’s people drive through little roads chancing small treasures in the form of empty beaches, cultural sanctuaries or unique homes. The real Portugal is very present and a friendly one despite the language barrier that occasionally blocks communication, which is always overcomed by the simplicity of body language. Going this way is an adventure indeed specially for foreignness but I promisse you it will give you a lifetime of memories with a few laughs.

Golf has been the main driver for many tourists, followed by beaches and culture. The equestrian sector is discovering this area as well, mostly due to a state-of-the-art equestrian resort being built in this region.

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