Get on Board in Portugal
Portugal trains might not enjoy the best reputation, but well deserve a second look. Though its network has historically not developed as fast as its European counterparts, Portugal (like its neighbor Spain) has recently launched state-of-the-art services on the main line linking Lisbon to Faro in the south (Algarve) and Porto in the north.
Just under three hours away from Lisbon, and with modern high-speed Alfa Pendular peak trains running every hour, Porto is ideal for a day trip. As a matter of fact, the Sao Bento station is a destination in itself: its interior is decorated with 20,000 azulejos (blue-painted ceramic tiles). The panels, painted from 1905-1916, depict the city’s history. And, it’s conveniently located in the rua dos Clerigos, one of the most beautiful streets of this ancient district, and just a few minutes walk from Torre dos Clerigos, a 220-foot high bell-tower built in the 18th century.
It’s also worth exploring off-the-beaten-track Portugal, and that’s what often makes train travel a journey all its own. Apart from the Alfa Pendular, Portuguese trains are relatively slow but offer a good level of comfort. Morever, they provide a unique opportunity to experience a true luxury – taking time to watch the landscape pass by, while getting to know your fellow travelers. Most Portuguese speak several languages (the elderly tend to speak French, younger generations all speak English), so conversation is easy. But, if a lunch-time snooze seems more your style, by all means. The trains are quiet and folks very much respect each other’s wishes.
For more information on Portugal contact the Portugal Tourist Board.