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Four Reasons to Visit Portugal Right Now

Portugal has something to prove to the world in 2016: It’s done being overshadowed by its neighbors.

A new bolt of artistic fervor, mixed with boutique hotel openings, a growing wine scene, and well-traveled Portuguese chefs, has made it Europe’s newest capital of cool. 

1) Lisbon Ups Its Food Game: Locals love Principe Real for its row of new eateries that elevate the city’s dining scene.

2) The Central Coast Shines

The Algarve region gets most of the love these days for its dramatic beaches, but the oft-overlooked 200-mile stretch of coast between Lisbon and Porto offers the perfect excuse for a slow drive, with plenty of worthy detours. Start in the coastal town of Nazare, home of the largest wave ever surfed, in 2013. (You can learn to surf much smaller breaks with Nazare Surf School.) From there, continue south to Peniche, where you can hop a short ferry to the Berlengas archipelago, three rocky islands that offer crystal-clear waters, sea caves, and barrier reefs teeming with marine life. Go now, before the guidebooks catch on.

3) Porto Goes on Display: The city’s new art epicenter, Rua de Miguel Bombarda, soars several blocks above Porto’s cellar-dotted riverbank. The very strollable street is dotted with dozens of cool vintage shops and eclectic art galleries.

4) You can weekend like a local

From Porto, hop a nonstop flight to the Azores (via Ryanair or SATA International), a cluster of rugged volcanic islands in the Atlantic. Of the nine islands, São Miguel is the largest and greenest, and a new highway that traces the island’s craggy edges makes for a perfect road trip. From the airport, head toward the town of Nordeste, passing cliffs, bucolic farms, and old fishing villages. Continue on and you’ll hit Furnas Valley, where the signature dish, cozido das furnas, is a reminder that you’re sitting in a volcanic crater: It’s a rich, meaty stew cooked for up to six hours underground by heat from volcanic vents.Try it at Restaurante Tony’s. Also in Furnas, locals gather in the tiered natural hot springs at the recently renovated Poça da Dona Beija baths. Go in the evening—it’s open until 11 p.m.—when the crowds are gone and stars serve as natural mood lighting.

Next>> Three New Ways to See Ireland

See our full list of Where to Go 2016