Every year there are thousands of users of digital platforms who share their opinions, evaluations and ratings about almost everything they do, see, taste or discover. It is these ordinary people who, through their personal experience, help to choose the best in the world. They are not propaganda or professional specialists with a biased eye, because they are paid to do so. They are simply citizens who enjoy travelling, eating, living, getting to know what was previously unknown to them, and who then freely give their opinion. This is how Portugal, a country in the south of Europe which for decades was kept a secret from almost every nationality in the world (with the exception of the British, who very early on fell in love with the Algarve), became the destination of choice for all age groups in various parts of the world. Even the Portuguese themselves find themselves enchanted with the country of their birth. For one simple reason: this territory with ten million inhabitants and little more than 840 years of independence is not exhausted in a single quality or competence.
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The North of Portugal of hospitality and small, affectionate towns, such as Porto, Gaia or Matosinhos, and the South of the sun, beaches and heavenly sands are separated by around 700 kilometres, which translates into 218 km wide, 561 km long, 832 km of Atlantic coastline and 1,215 km of land border with Spain. It may not seem like much, but in terms of culture, climate, economy, gastronomy, lifestyle, real estate, everything is different. And that's why the two most recent elections on digital platforms call for a trip from one extreme to the other: according to the score of millions of users of TripAdvisor's "Travelers Choice Awards", Praia da Falésia, in Olhos de Água, in the borough of Albufeira, is the sixth best beach in the world. For the readers of the British magazine "Food and Travel", a publication dedicated to food, wine and travel, the best city in the world is Porto. For these voters, the city that has at least five Michelin stars is the "City of the Year". It should be noted that Porto and the Algarve are repeat entries in most of the contests and elections of varying size and recognition that are held everywhere: where they are present, they stand out.
In the list of the best beaches of 2023, the Algarve beach of Falésia, defined by one of the TripAdvisor users as being "a stunning beach, with the sun beating down on the different shades of orange and yellow sand of the cliffs that reflect a warm colour", dethroned four destinations that until then seemed impossible to surpass: Radhanagar beach in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands between India and Southeast Asia; the tiny beach of Spiaggia dei Conigli in Sicily, Italy (it was named the most beautiful in the world in 2013), the popular Varadero beach in Cuba (it's actually not one beach but six), and Ka'anapali beach in Hawaii, considered one of the best beaches in America.
Ahead of Falésia beach - 5.5 kilometres of sand framed by impressive high cliffs of earth-coloured sand -, which for several years has appeared in the travellers' preferences, there is Sancho Bay, in the archipelago of Fernando de Noronha, in the state of Pernambuco, Brazil; the trendy Eagle Beach, in Aruba, a small island of the Dutch Caribbean off the coast of Venezuela; Cable Beach, in Australia, no less than 22 kilometres long; Reynisfjara Beach, in Iceland, a unique black sand beach; and Grace Bay beach, world-renowned for its crystal blue water, located in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
In the Algarve, the quality of all its beaches (there are over 130!) plays out in the absurdly clean blue of their waters, the purity of the sand, the ease of access, the awe that the landscape provokes and the comfort of the houses with sea views. "As a big beach fan, I know the irresistible lure of sun and turquoise waters, and there's certainly plenty of that in this year's list," admitted Sarah Firshein, editor-in-chief of Tripadvisor. And it's worth noting that tens of millions of reviews from travellers around the world were analysed over 12 months. Praia da Falésia stood out for its "dramatic landscape", consisting of "stunning, colourful cliffs in shades of red, orange and white", its "golden sandy beach that stretches for several kilometres" and for being an "ideal place for long walks".
Related: Praia da Falésia is one of the 25 best beaches in the world
In a very different league, that of urban territories, the city of Porto, also full of beaches (in all, there are 15 with a Blue Flag), was distinguished with the award for "City of the Year" at the Food and Travel Reader Awards gala, ahead of undisputed places like Barcelona, London, New York and Paris, but also less obvious places like Vienna, Vancouver, Edinburgh or Melbourne. The decision is, as already mentioned, the responsibility of the readers of the British magazine "Food and Travel", which is published ten times a year. "This is yet another award that recognises the value of the Porto brand in the international context," reacted, in a statement, Luís Pedro Martins, president of Turismo do Porto e Norte de Portugal. "The city of Porto is once again to be congratulated," stressed the official, quoted by the newspaper "Público", noting that the award "strengthens the city's positioning in the world".
It should be remembered that in late 2022, Porto was also distinguished as "Best City Destination in the World" at the World Travel Awards 2022. Earlier this year, the North American magazine Forbes elected the city as one of the "50 must-see places to visit in 2023".
The Food and Travel Reader Awards have been presented every year since 2012 and cover 23 categories: restaurants, chefs, destinations, hotels, airlines, cruises, etc. "Readers voted in their thousands, which makes it very special for all the winners and everyone who made the shortlist," said Alex Mead, editor-general of Food and Travel magazine. "These awards are completely unique because both the shortlist and the winners are voted for by readers and not by a panel of judges," he insisted.
Winners include the English Angela Hartnett, considered a protégé of Gordon Ramsay, (Chef of the Year), The Ritz in London (Best Restaurant), the Connaught Bar (where the Portuguese Pedro Paulo, voted best bar manager in the UK in 2019, has worked) or Grantley Hall (Best Hotel). Italy won as best short-haul destination and Maldives as best long-haul destination. Emirates was named best airline. The Portuguese luxury hotel Six Senses Douro Valley, located in the parish of Samodães, in the municipality of Lamego, competed in the category of best hotel outside the UK, was in the list of finalists but lost to the Greek resort Sani.