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10 Best Wine Region to Visit

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10 Best Wine Region to Visit

The corks are pulled, the votes are in, and readers of USA TODAY and 10Best have passionately voted Portugal's Alentejo the #1 'Best Wine Region to Visit,' from among 20 worthy nominees.  

Our well-travelled expert nomination panel - a wine educator and a wine buyer - made the original selections and then readers voted daily during the contest's four-week run.  While British Columbia's Okananagan Valley enjoyed an early lead, fans of Portugal's appealing Alentejo region eventually assured it took top honors.

Photo of Ronald Isarin

Photo of Ronald Isarin

"When most people think of Portugal, they immediately think of Douro," says Kerry, "but head a little further south to Alentejo and you won’t be disappointed. Boutique wineries, full service hotels, great restaurants and of course terrific wines (mostly known for hardy red wines) make for a great wine travel experience."

The vast Alentejo, stretching to Portugal's southwestern coast, is still off the radar for many travelers.  This intriguing rural region is like a trip back in time.  The diverse terrain holds olive groves and vineyards, quaint villages, flower-filled meadows and forests. 

"The Alentejo is best known for its hardy red wines made from a unique combination of indigenous varietals," says Kerry Woolard, who served on the expert panel.  "Now, more familiar vinifera such as Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot are being produced there too."

The food in Alentejo is rustic and authentic, taking full advantage of the agrarian lifestyle in the area.  You won't find a developed coastline of hotels;  instead Alentejo's beaches - considered some of the most dramatic and beautiful in Europe - require visitors to seek out lodging in independent guest houses.  The Alentejo is like a trip back in time for wine lovers.  The Faro and Lisbon airports are each less than two hours away.  

The full list of winners in the USA TODAY 10Best Readers' Choice contest for 'Best Wine Region to Visit' contest category is as follows:

  1. Alentejo, Portugal
  2. Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
  3. Maipo, Chile
  4. Marlborough, New Zealand
  5. Croatia
  6. Napa Valley, Calif.
  7. Tuscany, Italy
  8. Oregon
  9. Hunter Valley, Australia
  10. Virginia

Source: 10 best

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TOP 10 LISBON RESTAURANTS

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TOP 10 LISBON RESTAURANTS

BELCANTO

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Many have traveled to Lisbon just to dine at this restaurant. It opened in 1958, and was awarded a Michelin star in 2013, recognizing the talent of chef José Avillez, who revived the space in 2012. Avillez has other restaurants in town, but it's here that he presents his signature cutting-edge Portuguese cuisine.

FEITORIA

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Being located at the starting point of many of the Portuguese explorers' voyages, this restaurant distinguished with a Michelin star adds a touch of the exotic to Portuguese cuisine. The East is everywhere, starting with the décor, which includes an image of the Portuguese arriving in Japan. The menu changes twice a year so that only seasonal ingredients are used, and there's a wide selection of wines.

ELEVEN

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This restaurant with panoramic city views at the top of Edward VII Park is another of Lisbon's Michelin stars. It presents Mediterranean cuisine by the talented chef Joachim Koerper in an elegant dining room.

100 MANEIRAS

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Chef Ljubomir Stanisic mixes innovation and humor in his tasting menus, using products found at the Ribeira Market. That's how he guarantees freshness and surprise in every dish, without forgetting his signature creation, the "Estendal do Bairro," -- cod hanging by clothespins.

TAVARES

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Times change and so do the chefs, but what always remains is one of the grandest dining spaces in the city, and excellence in the kitchen. It's the oldest restaurant in Lisbon (and one of the oldest in the world), having opened, closed and reopened several times since 1784. Contemporary Portuguese cuisine is served surrounded by mirrors in a gilded room.

VARANDA

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This is probably the most expensive restaurant in town. It's the restaurant of the Ritz Four Seasons Hotel, with a Parisian touch in the décor and cuisine. Lunches are served in a varied buffet, while dinner is a la carte, offering international dishes with a strong French influence.

BICA DO SAPATO

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It's one of the trendiest spots in the city, and not just because it's actor John Malkovich's restaurant. It has been a "school" for many young chefs, some of whom are now some of the most promising talents in the city. It serves contemporary Portuguese cuisine at tables facing the waterfront in a stylish space.

ASSINATURA

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This restaurant follows the traditions of Portuguese cuisine, but updates them to modern tastes, and reinvents them with the chef's signature. It has maintained the excellence after the departure of the original chef, and the dining room keeps the mixture of the classic and the modern, which is also reflected in the kitchen.

ALMA

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Henrique Sá Pessoa is one of the best-known chefs in the country, and it's here that he presents his interpretations of Portuguese cuisine. Traditional dishes such as cod or suckling pig are transformed into original creations by mixing ingredients and seasonal products.

PANORAMA

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It's at the top of one of Lisbon's tallest buildings (theSheraton Hotel), so it offers a panoramic view over the city. The regularly-changing menu offers creative cuisine and a good wine selection.

Source: Lisbon Lux

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THE 10 GREAT SUMMER ATTRACTIONS IN LISBON

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THE 10 GREAT SUMMER ATTRACTIONS IN LISBON

Visiting Lisbon in the warmer months should not be just another city break to see the cultural attractions of another European capital. It’s a truly unique and diverse destination, with countless spots to enjoy the sun and the higher temperatures on the beautiful, westernmost coast of Europe.

1. GUINCHO BEACH

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The largest and sandiest beach on the Lisbon riviera is windy but beautiful and never crowded. It also has some of Portugal’s best restaurants such as the Michelin-starred Fortaleza do Guincho and Porto de Santa Maria which has attracted celebrities like Brad Pitt and Bill Clinton. They all face the ocean, as do a couple of luxury hotels: Fortaleza do Guincho and the Quinta da Marinha resort.

2. PENA PARK

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When temperatures rise, cool down in the magical Pena Park in Sintra, home to Portugal’s most spectacular palace and to the haunting ruins of a Moorish castle. In between those two monuments are mansions and refreshing vegetation overlooking Europe’s westernmost coastline.

3. TAMARIZ BEACH

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Perhaps Portugal’s most famous beach in the 1950s when its castle illustrated countless postcards, it now suffers from overcrowding from tourists and suburban teenagers. The fact that it’s so easy to reach (with the train station right behind it, across from Europe’s biggest casino) doesn’t help, but it should still be your starting point for a search for a calm spot by the Atlantic. Walking west past the bars you’ll eventually find plenty of sand and calmer waters all for yourself, and just may end up following the pleasant boardwalk all the way to Cascais.

4. COSTA DA CAPARICA

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It’s not easy to reach by public transportation and in order to get to the best beaches on this 30-km coast south of the capital you’ll need a car. It’s Europe’s largest unbroken expanse of sand and you should avoid the overcrowded area around the town of Caparica, following the dunes to the beautiful and wild Fonte da Telha or Praia da Morena instead.

5. COMERCIO SQUARE

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Years of renovation gave Lisbon’s biggest square more pedestrian areas and new café terraces. Opening to the river and a wharf, it’s also where tourists sit to admire the estuary and 25 de Abril Bridge, with some even getting their feet wet. For refreshments and prolonged meals in the sun there are the cafés and restaurants.

6. THE WATERFRONT

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You could walk for about 45 minutes from Comércio Square, past Cais do Sodré to Belém along the waterfront, and find several cafés, restaurants and spots to sit in the sun. In between you’ll find the "beach" of Ribeira das Naus, and Docas de Santo Amaro, the docks with warehouses-turned-restaurants under 25 de Abril Bridge. Those who don’t feel like going to the beach but still want some time in the sun should simply follow the water.

7. THE TERRACES

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The top of Lisbon’s seven hills offer postcard-worthy views of the city and allow you to catch some sun. See this list of the best spots:The 10 Best Rooftop Bars and Terraces in Lisbon

8. PARQUE DO TEJO

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Created between 1995 and 1999 as a leisure area by Europe’s longest bridge, this waterfront park has the shade of over 15,000 trees and a large area for sitting in the sun. Perfect for a picnic or to rest after a walk along the waterfront past the city’s best contemporary architecture, it’s also used for working out, soccer games and open-air yoga

9. THE BIG PARKS

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Even locals don’t know about most of the green paradises in their city. Just above the main avenue is Edward VII Park which is much bigger than it looks at first sight, hiding a wonderful greenhouse by a lake. Then there are the secret gardens of Necessidades Park, usually mostly deserted with lots of space to lay in the sun. Even better is Europe’s largest urban forest on the edge of town, Monsanto. See the best green spots in the city here: 10 Beautiful Parks and Gardens

10. THE LONG NIGHTS

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Because the sun doesn’t set until just before 9PM in the summer, dinners in Lisbon often start at 10PM and drinks at way past midnight. The traditional nightlife neighborhood has been Bairro Alto but it now has serious competition down the hill in the seedy-cool Cais do Sodré district. Once the place for sailors to meet ladies of the night, it’s now where Lisbon meets for alternative music and lots of drinking on the street. The starting point for it all is Camões Square.

Source: Lisbon Lux

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BEST ROOFTOP BARS IN LISBON

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BEST ROOFTOP BARS IN LISBON

SILK CLUB

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This club at the top of a building in the Chiado district is one of the most exclusive addresses in Lisbon since it opened in 2008. It offers a nearly-360º view of the city’s historic center, and has a minimalist decor and a sophisticated-yet-chilled-out ambience. It serves Mediterranean dinners from Tuesday to Saturday from 7:00PM to 11:30PM, and after that it’s time for music by the resident DJ, and cocktails late into the night.

SKY BAR

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Found at the top of the Tivoli Hotel, this is a lounge area with sofas where you may gaze out to the river, to the castle and downtown. It offers a good list of cocktails (including non-alcoholic) and there is also a choice of snacks. It opens late in the afternoon, but only in the warmer months, usually between May and September.

MEMMO ALFAMA TERRACE

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This bar is on the first floor and not on the rooftop of the building of the Memmo Alfama Hotel, but it is at the top of an entire neighborhood -- picturesque Alfama. It has some of the best views of the Tagus and of Lisbon’s oldest district, and a contemporary décor. It’s by the hotel’s outdoor pool, offering a selection of Portuguese wines and tapas, to be enjoyed along with the magnificent views. It opens every day, from 6PM to 11PM.

TERRACE

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It's not spacious but it's already been considered one of the most beautiful terraces in the world. The reason is the view that goes over the rooftops to 25 de Abril Bridge, and a comfortable, cozy atmosphere. Relax amid cushions and wicker chairs, and enjoy a glass of wine or a refreshing drink.

ROOFTOP BAR

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Be blown away by the view from this terrace on the 9th floor of Mundial Hotel. The castle is so close you can almost touch it, and you can see almost all of downtown and Chiado. It opens for pre-dinner drinks but also invites you to end the night with a cocktail to the sound of jazz.

ENTRETANTO

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The terrace on the 7th floor of Hotel do Chiado offers a breathtaking view of Lisbon. You may admire the old city and the Tagus, while enjoying a tea in the afternoon or a cocktail at night.

PARK

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The top of a car park at the doorstep of Bairro Alto instantly became an afternoon and night hotspot when it opened in the summer of 2013. Wooden tables and small potted trees facing 25 de Abril Bridge create the feeling of a garden suspended above the city, serving a variety of drinks and burgers into the night, to the sounds selected by a DJ.

LOST IN

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This colorful terrace faces east, also through its exotic décor inspired by India and zen ambiences. A Hindu goddess is illustrated on a wall, observing the service that includes light meals and drinks for a relaxed afternoon or evening.

VARANDA DO CASTELO

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The rooftop bar of the Vintage Lisboa Hotel opens during the spring and summer months for evenings of views over Lisbon to the sound of music. It serves tapas and a variety of cocktails every day, from 5PM to midnight.

UPSCALE

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While most other rooftop bars are in the historic center of town, this one is in the modern city, at the top of a luxury hotel. It's essentially a summer destination, with an infinity pool and fruity cocktails. While there's a charge for the use of the pool, anyone is welcome to sit on the lounge chairs and try the variety of cocktails together with snacks as they overlook the city. In the background there is always a mix of pop hits for a chill-out atmosphere.

Source: Lisbon Lux

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