Portugal packs a real punch with its diverse experiences, stunning landscapes, friendly locals and so much more. Lots of sunshine, good food, tradition, intriguing history and culture are all reasons why you’ll love a visit to Portugal.
The Portuguese are warm and friendly and really do like to help visitors. To this day I still remember being on the Metro in Lisbon. I don’t remember where we were going, but we were doing our best to read the maps and pronounce the cities or neighborhoods correctly (can’t say we ever got that right). Though we did get a few laughs, everyone around us quickly helped point us in the right direction and helped with the pronunciations. They enjoyed the conversation with us as much as we with them!
Food and Wine
A country with amazing culinary delights.
Portuguese wines - reds, whites and even green wines – are well known, delicious and inexpensive. And don’t forget about their port wines which originated in Porto.
In Porto, the Francesinha sandwich is very popular (made with ham, sausages and steak covered with melted cheese and an egg). Pastéis de Belém are the iconic and famous dessert that originated in Belém in 1837. Bacalhau, Portugal’s national dish, is salted cod often served with some type of potato. Seafood, especially octopus is very popular.
Wherever you are in Portugal, be sure to ask what the local specialty is. Fish, seafood, a variety of meats and sausages, soups and stews, cheeses and of course desserts – all on the menu.
Portugal is quite the opposite weather-wise from the rest of Europe. It is one of the warmest countries and boasts over 3000 hours of sunshine a year. Most certainly a sun kissed country, which is why people are drawn here.
Portugal has stunning and diverse landscapes – expansive beaches, rugged cliffs overlooking the ocean, rolling hills, deep river valleys and lakes and forests in the mountains, many contained within national or natural parks.
Portugal’s Algarve region draws people from all around the world to its wonderful beaches that stretch as far as the eye can see. A lot of hidden gems are tucked in and around the coast. With 516 miles of coastline though, Portugal has a countless number of beaches along the coast up to Porto and beyond. If you love watching world-class surfing, Nazare, about an hour’s drive north of Lisbon, is one of the top big wave destinations in the world.
With all this coastline it isn’t surprising that Portugal boasts its share of charming coastal towns and fishing villages. To name a few: Tavira and Ferragudo in the Algarve still show their Moorish and Roman histories. The high end resort towns of Cascais and Estoril, just outside of Lisbon, are known for their cafes and restaurants. The sleepy fishing town of Azenhas do Mar, located near Sintra, offers amazing ocean views and delicious seafood. Just south of Porto is the town of Aveiro, known as the Venice of Portugal with its network of canals.
Centuries of History
Lonely Planet’s description of Portugal - “ghosts of the past” – is spot on. From cobblestone villages to medieval hilltop castles, palaces and great monasteries, the Celts, Romans, Visigoths, Moors and Christians have all left their mark on this nation. Portugal is home to 14 amazing cultural UNESCO sites.
The Age of Discovery and empire expansion began in the 15th century, continuing for 3 centuries. Many of the achievements by Portuguese explorer are celebrated through museums and monuments in Belem.
Portugal’s most famous and visited city is of course Lisbon. Portugal’s capital since 1255, it is the second oldest capital city in Europe (the oldest being Athens) built on a series of 7 hills on the north bank of the Tagus estuary. An alluring city, you can easily spend a week exploring the neighborhoods, museums, top landmarks and marveling at the architecture and tile facades.
Just outside of Lisbon is the magical town of Sintra, home to two castles, Pena Palace and Castelo dos Mouros (a Moors castle built in the 9th century) and Quinta da Regaleira (where you’ll see the famous inverted tower spiral stone staircase).
Porto, Portugal’s second largest city, sits near the mouth of the Douro River and has been occupied for at least 3000 years. The country name of Portugal was actually derived from the county name Portucale (which included Porto and the settlement across the river, Cale) after the country was captured away from the Moors.
Today, Porto is well known for the production of Port wine and where Douro Valley river cruises start and end.
Lisbon and Porto are the best known. However Portugal has many more fascinating towns to explore, from the south to the north. Places to consider include Faro, the gateway to the Algarve, Obidos, a 9th century medieval town, Elvas, a well preserved military fortress near the Spanish border, Guimaraes (touted as the birthplace of Portugal) and Braga, Portugal’s 3rd largest city.
Portugal is one of Europe’s most affordable places to visit (and live). A lower cost of living means other things will also cost less, ie meals, cars, etc. Your dollar will go further here.
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