We have been traveling and writing about our travels to Africa, Asia, and Europe. Yet, we almost forgot to write and inspire you to visit our home country! It seems that everyone is coming to Portugal and every blogger is writing about Portugal! Shamefully, we have only written 3 posts about Portugal… Now we will fix that and create a blog series focused on Portugal, the Portugal Travel Guide. As locals, we want to inspire everyone to visit Portugal. We will write about the cities, the beaches, the hikes, the culture, the food and everything else about Portugal
Why should you visit Portugal?
#1 You want to learn History first hand
We know you love to visit historic sites and Portugal is full of them. Portugal is one of the oldest state/nations in Europe (declared independence in 1139) and while Lisbon is considered the second oldest capital city in Europe. Portugal ascended to the status of a world power during Europe’s “Age of Discovery” as it built up a vast empire, which lasted 5 centuries. This obviously left Portugal with a rich history that you can explore and enjoy!
Who doesn’t love to discover history in the places where it happened?
#2 Portugal is one of the safest countries in the world
Every year the Institute for Economics and Peace calculates the Global Peace Index and Portugal ranked 3rd in this list in 2017, only behind Iceland and New Zealand. Portugal has a very small crime rate and even smaller violent crimes rate, together with the improvement of both political and economic stability made Portugal one of the most peaceful countries in the world.
Despite being incredibly safe, we always advise you to travel with insurance. You never know something unexpected can happen…
#3 We have the best weather
Portugal is one of the warmest and sunniest countries in Europe, which gives the ideal opportunity to enjoy a break no matter what month of the year. While the interior has more extreme temperatures than the coast and the south is hotter than the north, overall the weather is considered Mediterranean. The long hours of sunshine, particularly in the south, are very pleasant for any traveler during a trip to Portugal.
#4 You will love Algarve Beaches
Algarve, in southern Portugal, is famous for its marvelous beaches with soft yellow sand and warm turquoise water… Although technically this is the Atlantic, the weather and atmosphere are Mediterranean! There are more than 100 great beaches in Algarve, but our favorites include:
- Praia da Marinha in Lagoa;
- Praia da Rocha in Portimão;
- Praia de Odeceixe in Aljezur;
- Praia da Armona (island) in Olhão;
#5 And many other beaches outside Algarve
Algarve is a well-known beach holiday! Both Portuguese and foreigner head to Algarve to enjoy the heat and soak in the sun! And yes, Algarve has probably the best weather and warmest waters, though there are many other great beaches! We will share with you a few of our favorites:
- Beach of the island of Pessegueiro – Beautiful beach in Porto Covo, Alentejo, with the island of Pessegueiro right in front of it, creating a unique scenery;
- Beach of Nazaré – known to be home of the biggest wave ever surfed;
- Arrábida Natural reserve beaches – in our opinion these are the most beautiful beaches in Portugal, rivaling with any other beach in the world!
- Beach of Porto Santo (Madeira) – 9 Km long yellow sandy beach in the almost tropical paradise of Porto Santo Island;
- Moledo beach, Caminha – this beach, in the north of Portugal, has 2 km of soft yellow sand and it’s situated next to a national forest. In the sea, you can see an island with a fortress that served as a prison.
Remember Portugal has more than 800 km of coastline, more than 300 blue flag beaches and an uncountable number of other beaches! There’s something for everyone. From quiet, secluded beaches to party ones… there are great beaches for families, couples or solo travelers…
#6 You want to surf
Due to the geographical position, Portugal is blessed with some great swells throughout most of the year! One can just drive up along the coast and discover them. The whole coast is teaming with unknown spots begging to be found. In Portugal, all you need is a car, a little will and you’ll be rewarded. Though, we have to highlight the World surfing reserve of Ericeira, the beaches of Peniche and of course the giant waves of Nazaré.
#7 All the UNESCO world heritage sites
Portugal is home to 15 UNESCO world heritage sites, 14 cultural sites and 1 natural. Here’s the full list and their year of listing:
- Central Zone of the Town of Angra do Heroismo in the Azores (1983)
- Convent of Christ in Tomar (1983)
- Monastery of the Hieronymites (Jeronimos) and Tower of Belém in Lisbon (1983)
- Monastery of Batalha (1983)
- Historic Centre of Évora (1986)
- Monastery of Alcobaça (1989)
- Cultural Landscape of Sintra (1995)
- Historic Centre of Oporto, Luiz I Bridge and Monastery of Serra do Pilar (1996)
- Prehistoric Rock Art Sites in the Côa Valley and Siega Verde (1998)
- Alto Douro Wine Region (2001)
- Historic Centre of Guimarães (2001)
- The landscape of the Pico Island Vineyard Culture (2004)
- Garrison Border Town of Elvas and its Fortifications (2012)
- University of Coimbra – Alta and Sofia (2013)
- Laurisilva of Madeira (1999)
#8 Lisbon will become your new favorite capital
Lisbon is the capital city of Portugal and the center of the Portuguese world. It’s one of the oldest capital cities in Europe, full of history and beautiful buildings. There are big shopping avenues and intimate alleyways. The easy-going charm of Lisbon enchants travelers from everywhere.
Belem is home to the most famous attractions like Monastery of Jerónimos, Tower of Belem or even the contemporary art museum Coleção Berardo. And, obviously, you can’t miss the Pastel de Belem in its original pastry. But there’s so much more to Lisbon…
Apparently, the tourism world has just discovered Lisbon because it’s booming in the last years with tourists coming from everywhere. They love Lisbon’s trams and Funiculars (and rightfully so). In Alfama, we can still see the signs of Moorish presence in Portugal. Chiado is the shopping district to go if you are a shopping lover. Parque das Nações is an excellent spot for people watching and home to one of the world’s largest oceanariums.
Do you prefer traveling as a group? Search for the perfect tour with tour Radar.
#9 You like real authentic food
Portuguese cuisine has been somehow forgotten or overshadowed by French, Italian or even Spanish Cuisine… but trust us, you don’t know what you are missing! Generally, it’s considered Atlantic and Mediterranean food. Olive oil is the basis of our food, but parsley, garlic, onion and bay leaves are also used very widely. It’s usually very strong and fulfilling but if you are a real foodie, then northern Portugal is the place to go! Ok, maybe Alentejo too 🙂
#10 You want to eat fresh Fish and Seafood
Portugal is one of the top fish and seafood consumers in the world… We eat it in almost every possible way: grilled, boiled, fried or deep-fried, stewed, roasted, or even steamed… However, the best thing is how much cheaper than in most of the western world it is and how fresh and therefore tasty it is! Make the most of your visit to Portugal and eat all the fresh fish and seafood you can!
You’ll also want to try the Portuguese salted cod
As said above Portuguese eat a lot of fish, however, we have a particular fetish with Codfish (Bacalhau) 🙂 Cod is almost always used dried and salted because the Portuguese fishing tradition in the North Atlantic developed before the invention of refrigeration. It is said that we have more than 1000 recipes of Cod… If you don’t know where to start… try these three Portuguese favorites:
- “Bacalhau à Lagareiro”
- “Bacalhau com Natas”
- “Bacalhau à Bras”
#11 Visit Porto and fall in love with it
Porto is Portugal’s second city and the capital of the north. It was forgotten by tourists until a few years ago, but now is one of Europe’s most trending destinations! Downtown Porto is a lively place full of attractions, restaurants, cafes, and bars that both locals and tourists enjoy. Here, you will find a full Local’s guide to Downtown Porto.
However, Porto isn’t just about its charming downtown. If you are coming to Porto, don’t miss Casa da Musica, the beachfront, the Port wine caves, the lovely city Park…
#12 You want to visit the pearl of the Atlantic
Madeira is known as the pearl (or the garden) of the Atlantic! If you compare something to a pearl or a garden, it must be good! The natural beauty, the year-round spring-like weather, and the warm seawater make it one of the most tempting destinations in Europe. In this volcanic island, you can walk in the famous levadas, visit the Laurisilva forest, dive and game fishing in the Atlantic, or simply rest and enjoy the quietude, gastronomy, and wines.
#13 To get away from it all in Azores archipelago
The Azores archipelago is formed by 9 breathtaking islands in the middle of the Atlantic, far from everything else! Portugal is 2.5 hours away and the USA roughly 5 hours. If you want to get away, Azores is your new best friend! Though don’t think you will be bored or without anything to do, Azores is a paradise for active people! You can hike and backpack through the islands, surf in the Atlantic, explore the islands on a bike, game fishing, canyoning, kayaking, whale watching, paragliding… and so on!
Don’t forget to enjoy the volcanic nature of the archipelago (particularly in S. Miguel) by bathing in natural hot springs and pools, enjoying the tradition of cooking in the hot ground (Cozido das Furnas) and visiting the Capelinhos volcano!
#14 Sintra is a real-life fairy tale
Sintra is a picturesque town, only 30 kilometers north of Lisbon! It’s a favorite day trip from Lisbon or an excellent long weekend getaway. Sintra and its surrounding mountains are classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Pena Palace, built in mid 19th century is the standout attraction of Sintra with its colorful walls, tiles, and statues. If you have time don’t miss Quinta da Regaleira (and its inverted tower), the National Palace and Monserrate Palace, a palace combining Neo-Gothic, Indian and Arabic influences, and the idyllic ruined moors castle “castelos dos mouros“.
#15 You are a wine connoisseur
The most famous Portuguese wine is obviously the Port wine, but there’s so much more than Port Wine in Portugal. Tourists and foreigners are just discovering them and good they are… Madeira, Alentejo, and Dão are the 3 other main regions you should look for! They are also much cheaper than you’d expect…
Note: We produce Rosé, we sell Rosé, We export Rosé… We don’t drink Rosé, you do 🙂
#16 Party in June
Come in June and celebrate with us the Popular Saints festivities. In 12th and 13th of June Lisbon celebrates St. Anthony with a parade filling Avenida da Liberdade with colorful characters in costume, folk music, and throngs of spectators!
In the night of 24th of June Porto (and many other cities) celebrates St. John, the old tradition is for revelers to beat each other on the head with a leek, but now we mostly use plastic hammers!
Finally, St. Peter is celebrated in Évora and Sintra (and other smaller cities) in the 29th of June. In all these festivities we eat grilled sardines and offer to our girlfriend or boyfriend pots of aromatic basil!
#17 If hiking and trekking is your thing
Portugal offers a great range of trails spread all over the country, many of them well marked. There are mountain trails in Peneda Geres National Park and Serra da Estrela, volcanic trails in the Azores, the amazing levadas in Madeira and great coastal hiking in Algarve and Alentejo.
Check our Peneda Geres National Park Guide, where we explore the hikes and much much more!
The best time to hike is in April and May before the hot summer comes along 🙂
#18 The Douro valley
The Douro valley is where the famous port wine is produced, but it’s so much more than that. The vineyards planted in the steep hills and the Douro river create breathtaking landscapes. This is a big region that goes from Porto city to board with Spain and the main Douro tributaries. It’s possible to have a day trip from Porto or stay a slow week long of resting and relaxing.
The Douro Valley is also very easy to visit. You can take a cruise up the river, or take a historic train that snakes in the river banks or if you are into independent travel drive up yourself and discover every corner of the region!
#19 Indulge your sweet tooth
If you are a sweet tooth then visiting Portugal is in your destiny! With pastry shops in every corner, the Portuguese deserts and pastries could be your ruin… Besides sugar, the main ingredient for these pastries is egg yolks. These pastries were mainly created by nuns and monks, and that’s why we usually call them conventual pastry. The most famous pastry is obviously Pastel de nata (Portuguese custard tart) but there are so many other national and regional delights… We will just name a few:
- Pudim flan
- Fios de ovos
- Arroz doce (sweet rice)
- Toucinho do céu
#20 You like trying weird food
If you are one of those travelers that love to dive into other countries weird food then you are in for a treat 🙂 Portugal has its fair share of crazy food! The most notable is probably tripes, which are famously eaten in Porto! There are countries where you can’t eat pork, others where some parts aren’t eaten, in Portugal, we eat everything, even the tripes, and stomach…
There’s also arroz de sarrabulho and arroz de cabidela, they are both rice dishes made with blood! Sarrabulho with pork’s blood and cabidela chicken’s! Oh, and we almost forgot about the snails… It’s more of a southern thing, but it’s considered a big “delicacy!
#21 You love football
If you love football then you shouldn’t miss the opportunity of coming to Portugal and watch a game! We love football and our clubs. The atmosphere in the home games of our biggest clubs is unbelievable! As SL Benfica fans we highly suggest you go to Estádio da Luz in Lisbon! 🙂
#22 You will discover azulejos, the Portuguese tiles
Azulejos are a form of Portuguese (and Spanish) painted tin-glazed ceramic tilework. They are clearly inspired by Arabian art and are found in the interior and exterior of churches, palaces, houses and even schools or train/subway stations. Azulejos still constitute a big feature of Portuguese architecture. They weren’t only an ornamental art but also had the capacity of temperature control in buildings.
Tourists love Portuguese tiles and so will you 🙂
#23 You want to explore old castles
The Portuguese learned the art of building fortifications from the Romans and the Moors. The Portuguese territory is full of old castles and fortifications, most of them built by the Moors, during the Reconquista or shortly after to defend the country from other Iberian Kingdoms. These are well spread around the country, you could easily make a full road trip exploring these architecture fortresses, discovering new places and taking hundreds of Instagram worthy pictures. Some of our favorites include Almourol Castle, Guimarães castle, Moors Castle and Óbidos Castle…
#24 Listen to Fado
Fado is our most traditional music and the one that better reflects Portuguese culture and way of being. It’s known for how expressive it is, as well as being profoundly melancholic. Fado was added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage! Fado’s origin and by far the best place to listen to Fado is Lisbon. In other cities, it may be difficult to find Fado shows.
#25 Go to Fatima
Fatima is the destination of thousands of Christian pilgrims. Mostly Portuguese but also some foreigners. If you enjoy religious tourism Fatima is a good option! Fatima is the Portuguese version of Santiago de Compostela or Lourdes in France. There’s even the Portuguese version of El Camino de Santiago where (mostly) Portuguese walk from all parts of Portugal to Fatima’s Sanctuary.
#Bonus Portugal is a great value for money!
Portugal is quite a cheap country to visit! It’s probably the cheapest in western Europe and one of the cheapest developed countries in the world. In Portugal, you get all the things of a developed country (and everything in this list!) at a really cheap price for a traveler thus a great deal for a budget traveler!
After all this, our only question is: have you already booked your next trip to Portugal ??
Our Recommended Travel Guide Books For Portugal
Lonely Planet Portugal (Travel Guide)
Rick Steves Portugal
DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Portugal