Home to spectacular architecture, well-lit streets and heart-stopping natural charm, Portugal is a visual treat like no other.
Tucked away in its own corner of Europe along the wild shores of the Atlantic Ocean, Portugal was once thought to be the end of the world. The traditional culture of this compact nation revolves around the bountiful ocean and today this lively coastline epitomizes good living with its golden beaches, world-class waves and fresh seafood. For Belgium-based photographer Kevin Faingnaert, it’s the breathtaking coastal scenery that makes Portugal a one-of-a-kind travel destination. “Most of Portugal’s towns and cities along the coast are blessed with beautiful light which reflects onto the white-tiled streets,” he recalls. “Everything plays off luminosity, shade and shadows.”
The natural beauty in Portugal spans far beyond lovely beaches and crashing waves. Mountains make up the bulk of the frontier with Spain, with the rushing waters of the Minho and Guadiana rivers adding to this natural divide. In between these two extremes, you’ll also find verdant valleys and rolling hills that make your head spin.
From world-class cities like Lisbon and Porto to remote fishing settlements steeped in age-old tradition, Portugal has over 800 km of pristine coastline and more than enough spots to soak up the splendour. The hilly landscape of Lisbon has even birthed its seven trademark miradouros, or terrace viewpoints, which spread across the cityscape and offer no-filter-necessary views of the horizons. Among the most popular of these hillside viewpoints are Miradouro da Garça, Miradouro de Santa Catarina and Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara, rounding out a few of the best scenic views and horizons that Lisbon has to offer.
While dramatic end-of-the-world cliffs and stupendous views are special, another dimension of Portugal’s beauty lies in its picture-perfect architecture. As one of Europe’s oldest existing nations, the landscape is still dotted with hilltop castles and dramatic walled towns. From the Celts and Romans to the Moors and Christians, many different kingdoms have left lasting imprints on this compact nation. It seems that the coastal beauty is only heightened by the cobblestone streets and medieval churches.
Bustling locations like Porto and Lisbon are a photographer’s paradise for their natural riches, but it’s the mish-mash of old and new architecture that really draws you in. In the modern-day, cities like Porto and Lisbon have become hubs of cultural and technological innovation, yet the area remains home to soaring gothic castles, medieval cathedrals and ancient ruins. This is contrasted nicely against the vibrant graffiti art and public murals, a direct product from the art scene that is thriving among the nation’s youngest generation.
Closer to the coast, the crisp light facade of the buildings seems to blend together, while the burnt orange spanish tiles complement the backdrop of the ocean in a postcard-esque manner. The subtle charm meshes with the bustling and busy streets where mustard yellow trams cruise on by. “Every town, almost every street, is different in architecture, although it all fits together,” Faingnaert exclaims.
Flanked by the Douro River, Porto offers equally breathtaking views that seem to be drawn in by reflection and quiet moments of daily life. With a similar mix of storied and 21st century architecture, the backdrop offers an ordinary glimpses of laundry hanging in the coastal winds, the uneven streets and subsequent ocean views of the hillside slanted landscape and the sound of wine glasses clinking nearby.
From the golden beaches and medieval architecture to the well-lit cobblestone streets, the Portugal experience, if nothing else, is a visually stunning one, with its favourable location along Europe’s Atlantic coast making for breathtaking views year-round. Whether the day calls for Porto’s on-trend rooftop bars or the miradouros, the Atlantic breezes offer an inescapable feeling of paradise.