Let me guess, you’ve been pretty much everywhere in Europe, but never really thought of visiting Portugal.
France, Italy, Spain and the UK are on your bucket list, but you tend to forget this little country facing the Atlantic.
How dare you do this to my home country?!
Well I’m about to change your mind and give you enough reasons to make you travel to Portugal.
My goal is to make you book a flight before you even finish the list. Let’s get started!
1The sun sets in the sea.
This may sound a bit lame, but luckily Portugal has the majority of its awe-inspiring coastline and beaches facing west, which happens to be the orientation the sun sets every day.
No wonder sunsets are amongst the most lingering memories you’ll have from your stay.
2Trams make everyone happy.
Life in Portugal’s major cities has been beautified by historical trams running all over the downtown in the past century. Particularly in Lisbon it’s impossible to leave the city without a ride in the popular tram 28 which connects areas of the city still inaccessible by metro.
3The coffee is damn good.
This association might not be immediate, but if I say that back in its glorious days, Portugal colonized Brazil, Angola and East Timor – producers of some of the finest coffee – things make more sense. You’ll never find better value-for-money relation for coffee in Europe. A good quality espresso will cost you no more than 0,70EUR.
4You can live a fairytale in Sintra.
Only a 40-minute train ride from Lisbon, this little hilltop town is an impressive display of elegant palaces, castles and fortresses all in the spectacular setting of the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park. The romantic architecture of Palácio da Pena (Pena Palace) is not to be missed and should be closest you’ll ever have to your dream of being a princess.
5The fish is uber fresh.
Vegetarians can skip this one. More than 800km of coast, the biggest fishing zone in Europe and laughable prices make of Portugal one of the most fish-friendly places you’ve ever been. Dourada, Sardinhas and Robalo are always delicious options.
Don’t let the prices rise even more. Search for your accommodation now!
6Cobblestone streets are everywhere.
I’m really not a fan of mosaic floors as part of urban planning that can be found in the major cities of Portugal (and also in portuguese-influenced places like Rio de Janeiro). I think they’re crazy expensive, and I can see myself easily twisting an ankle when of the stones gets loose. Glad I’m not a woman and I don’t wear high heels!
But I’ll admit the patterns and designs in some of them are quite stunning. Walking in Portugal is literally walking on art!
7Santos Festivities will rock your world.
You can have music festivals, all kind of art events, but this is the real thing. In June, residents from both Lisboa – Santo António festivities – and Porto – São João festivities – flock to the most traditional neighbourhoods for the festivities in honour of the local saints. You don’t need to be religious though. But expect popular music, lots of dancing and party until dawn!
8It possibly has Europe’s greatest climate.
Mild winters with temperatures rarely drop below 5ºC along the coast, hot summers refreshed by the Atlantic breeze and the highest number of hours of sunshine in Europe. Hard to beat this.
9Azulejos are your next design obsession.
I reckon there’s no other place in the world where tile art is so popular. Prepare to find elaborate-painted tiles on the historical buildings, modern design instalments and even souvenirs shops. There’s even a museum dedicated to it!
10We are serious about wine.
Portugal seems to be in the second-tier in the wine world, right after France, Italy and Spain despite of the famous Port Wine and even though portuguese wines win the most prestigious awards every year. Chances are there is a great quality wine at a very reasonable price waiting for you. From my experience, wines from Alentejo tend to be specially good.
11You’ll fall in love with Porto.
Speaking of wine, the second-largest city in Portugal has renewed itself in recent years and is becoming a serious european city break destination. People are uber friendly, food is great, prices are even better and the city is settled in a serious romantic setting. What’s there not to like?
Check out my Porto travel guide for dummies to get you inspired.
⭐ My top value-for-money suggestions to stay in Porto ⭐
Decorated with a cinema theme, this hotel is located on a 1930’s art-deco building very close to the main square of Porto: Aliados. Amazing value for money!
Or search on your own
To make your life easier, start searching with my pre-selection of best value-for-money hotels in Porto. This list only includes rooms in the best areas of downtown Porto, with WiFi and good-to-excellent reviews.
12Pastéis de Nata are a feast to your taste buds.
A lot has been said about pastéis de nata (custard tarts). I’ll just say if you leave Portugal without trying this wonder of the world of pastry, something is profoundly wrong with you.
13It’s the ideal place to learn or master the art of surfing.
If you are into surf, the wild uncrowded Atlantic waves, mild climate and the huge community of surfers and surf camps should easily seduce you. Nazaré, Peniche, Ericeira and all the coast of Alentejo are amongst the hot spots of surfing in Portugal.
14We actually can communicate with you.
Portugal has more fluent English speakers than any other southern European country. Due to subtitled (and not dubbed) movies and TV series, younger generations in general are all able to speak good English and with quite a spot-on accent. Older people tend to have English and French as their second language. Anyway the point is: we get what you’re saying.
15Fado music will make you emotional.
Fado is probably the most melancholic music you’ll ever hear and still somehow makes the ideal soundtrack for every trip to Portugal. Even if you don’t understand a word, it has the power to make you introspective. The new generation of singers like Ana Moura and Mariza is making fado sexy and modern.
16We are professionals on the activity of going to the beach.
You’ll probably know Portugal’s beaches are among the country’s highlights, it’s in every postcard and travel brochure. What I particularly enjoy is their diversity. Whether you go for the wild beaches of Costa Vicentina – for a roadtrip in the beautiful Portugal’s coastline -, the volcanic dark sands of the Azores or the balmy beaches surrounded by towering cliffs in the Algarve, you can be sure to be laying your towel in a top-notch beach.
17Days are brighter.
Apart from being one of the places with more hours of sunshine per year, Portugal is also where the light is particularly impressive. With that amount of light available naturally, no wonder why the movie industry loves shooting in Lisbon. Just make sure you bring your sunglasses!
18You can back in touch with nature in the Azores Islands.
Hard to remain unbiased, because São Miguel island is the place where I was born. Located 1500km off the coast of Portugal, exploring the stunning lakes, mountains and cliffs in these volcanic islands is a truly unique experience.
I’ve put together a compilation of all the things you need to know before going to Azores – just go while they are still an hidden gem!
19Music festivals pop out like mushrooms.
Music festivals have become a huge part in the summer event calendar. There are festivals for all kinds of musical tastes all across the country. Meo Sudoeste for electronic and pop music in Alentejo and NOS Alive in Lisbon for rock and indie are amongst the most popular.
20People will welcome you like true friends.
As a general rule, portuguese are very nice and easy-going people. They will try hard to make you feel at home and this is more evident the further North you go in the country. You’ll learn that all we really care about is sun, a drink and a good chat with friends.
21Lisboa will keep you busy… and happy!
The second oldest city in Europe (after Athens!) is a trendy, cool and alternative hotspot right now. With inspiring architecture, a bustling nightlife and stunning beach day-trips around, Lisbon is the new european obsession. Find out the 7 experiences not to miss there.
🇵🇹 PORTUGAL | 🙌 Archigasm. The new Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology opened a few months ago in Belém, just a few steps away from the river Tejo. It's awesome to see Lisbon evolve into a modern and cool city with spaceship-like buildings! 👽 #Portugal #wintersun #architecture #museum #lisboalive #lisboa #Lisbon #lisbonlovers #portugaldenorteasul #visitportugal #portugal_em_fotos #instaportugal #portugal_lovers #portugal_de_sonho #super_lisboa #portugalalive #topportugalphoto #beautifulworld #wanderout #wonderfulworld #the_daily_traveller #aplacetoremember #places_wow #toplisbonphoto #worldtourists
⭐ My top hotel recommendations in Lisbon ⭐
Or… find your own!
Use this list of quality hotels and guesthouses I’ve put together to get you started. ALL of these are located in the best central areas of Lisbon, with WiFi and with a rating of 8 or higher. Just pick your favourite!
22The shellfish is to die for.
While you are in Portugal, prepare to taste the sea like never before. Like the seafood itself, the portuguese cuisine is fresh and displays delicious and original combinations. Salada de polvo (octopus salad) and Carne de Porco à Alentejana (pork with clams) are a must-try.
23It’s a golf-friendly destination.
Okay, so my knowledge of golf is close to what I know about artichokes plantations: zero. I don’t even particularly like this sport. All I know is there are close to 70 golf courses in the country – half of them classified as high standard – specially in the Algarve area. If golfing is your thing, all the conditions are met for you to have a great time in Portugal.
24You’ll learn to crave Francesinha.
Does the idea of a steak, ham, cheese sandwich with an egg on top and a gravy-based sauce seduces you? It should, even though you may want to eat a salad in the next meal for the sake of your arteries.
25You can still find authenticity.
Despite 2014 was the year of all records for portuguese tourism, you can still expect many calm and peaceful places. Many authentic restaurants, shops and experiences undiscovered my tourists remain authentic, unlike other mainstream destinations like Venice and my home-city right now, Barcelona.
26We don’t kill the bull.
I personally don’t enjoy bullfights and it amazes me how it’s still a thing in the 21st century. But at least we don’t kill the bull…in public. Also, we have forcados: a group of men who challenge the bull directly, without weapon or protection of any kind. Because if you are going to mess with an animal, that’s the way it should be, right?
Don’t let the prices rise more. Book your accommodation in Portugal now!
27Óbidos is a journey in time.
This little town is encircled by a ring of medieval walls and shows off a rebuilt Moorish castle, now a rural hotel (Pousada). Wandering around the streets of Óbidos is quite an experience and if you pair with the International Chocolate Festival in March, it’s a double win. Don’t forget to try a Ginjinha, a cherry liquor!
28The world’s best aquarium is there.
Seriously, I’m not bragging. Recently, travellers from Trip Advisor elected Oceanário as the best aquarium in the world. If you don’t go for the couple of otters, the penguins or the huge main tank, the architecture of the building is a reason to visit by itself.
29The nightlife is unique.
Like many other things, alcohol is also cheap in Portugal which makes it the ideal place to go both to celebrate something going on in your life or to forget your ex. If you are in Lisbon, there’s no way you’ll miss the trendy Bairro Alto neighborhood. Here you can drink, chat and dance literally on the street.
30There is a bakery in every corner.
There’s life beyond custard tarts in the bakery department too. Portugal produces incredible pastries and loaves of bread which I deeply miss here in Barcelona. I challenge you to enter one of the many bakeries and try to choose only ONE thing to eat. ONLY ONE.
31We have big waves. I mean REALLY big waves.
Nazaré was all over the news recently when Garret MacNamara clamed to surfed the largest wave in the world there (30 meters). Apart from an attraction for surfers and photographers, Nazaré is also the most traditional fishing village in Portugal, showing colourful traditions and of course, great fresh fish.
32It has got almost one millennium of history.
Technically a country since 1143, Portugal has kept its borders untouched since then. It may nowadays be considered one of Europe’s scum (together with Spain and Greece), but what most people don’t know is that it once was one of the most powerful countries in the world. During the Discoveries era, its empire spread out over South America, Africa, India and even Asia. This alone is a reason to visit!
33Neighborhood markets are fun.
Markets are the essence and beating heart of any town or city and Portugal is not an exception. Whether you go to the renewed Mercado da Ribeira in Lisbon, to the more classic Mercado do Bolhão in Porto or any other, you’ll have a great time in the middle of fresh fruit and vegetables, delicious restaurants and the yells of the vendors trying to catch your attention.
34There are 1001 ways to cook codfish and they’re all amazing.
Don’t care about Bacalhau (codfish)? No worries, you’ll start loving it anyway. Codfish is Portugal’s national protein and we prepare it in the most diverse ways. Try Bacalhau com Natas (with cream), Bacalhau à Brás (with scrambled egg and olives) and Bacalhau à Lagareiro (with olive oil and mashed potatoes) to start rediscovering this versatile fish in a delicious way.
35Overall, food is ridiculously cheap.
Once I start writing about food I can’t stop, but I seriously can’t stress how big this is in Portugal. A traditional meal like one of the codfish dishes in the previous point or Arroz de Pato (Duck baked with rice) in a decent average-priced restaurant will never cost you more than 9 euros.
In the northern part of the country, this drops to 6 or 7 euros (!). And I’m talking about the main portuguese cities here. Check out my post about food in Azores too.
36Alentejo’s coastline is a delight to the soul.
Man, I don’t know if it’s the Atlantic breeze or the easy going lifestyle, but there’s something about the coast of Alentejo. While the interior can get too hot in summer time, the coastline has a refreshing set of wild beaches and impressive cliffs that make a hell of a road trip. One of the best-kept secrets in Europe, if you ask me. Check out my selection of the best guest and rural houses in Alentejo.
37The outdoors activities are just endless.
Join a good climate with the most diverse landscapes and you’ll never want to be inside four walls. Hiking in the islands of Azores and Madeira, paragliding in Serra da Arrábida or zip-lining in Gerês natural park are just a small sample of what you can do in this country. Don’t even get me started on water sports!
38We are in the verge of three worlds.
Due to its strategic location as the western most country of mainland Europe in the confluence of the European, American and African continents, Portugal is directly connected by air to half of the world.
This means flights are usually cheap from half of the world! Plus, low-cost airlines like Ryanair and Easyjet fly from Lisbon and Porto to most of the major european cities for less than 100 euros.
Don’t let the prices rise even more. Search for your accommodation in Portugal now!
You’ll learn to appreciate the little details in Portugal. Clothes hanging on the windows of colorful buildings, intricate elements on Manueline style buildings, gorgeous sunsets in the sea, neighbourhoods with narrow streets, you name it! For photography lovers, it’s hard to stop pushing the shutter button.
40We are way more liberal than you think.
Despite holding off to our deepest traditions, we are very forward-thinking in some other aspects. Same sex marriages have been legal for years. Transgenders can easily change their gender. And while selling huge amounts of drugs is still illegal, drug use is admitted – and this has actually led to a decrease on the overall number of drug users in the country.
41Algarve is perfect for sun-seekers.
Probably this is the Portugal you know better, because this is where millions of tourists – including almost all portuguese families – flock every yea seeking the three Ss: sun, sea and sand. Despite the crowds, the weather is great and the beaches are renowned worldwide, specially around Lagos, Tavira and Portimão. Try this guide by Lonely Planet to get you started and check out my selection of the hotels with WiFi, breakfast and the best reviews in the region.
42Portuguese know how to keep themselves going.
I’ve already mentioned wine, but the full Portuguese alcohol experience requires for you to try the alluring diversity of spirits and liquors. The most popular is probably Ginjinha (cherry liquor) from Óbidos, but there many other flavours up to taste like Moscatel (made from a special kind of wine) and my favorite, Licor de Amêndoa Amarga (liquor made from bitter almonds).
43You’ll learn what saudade is.
After you’ve been to Portugal, something will grow on you. You’ll start missing the country and its people, weather and culture. Congrats, now you know what every Portuguese person feels when they’re away from home: saudade!
PORTUGAL MINI TRAVEL GUIDE
How to get to Portugal
The best way is by air. Lisbon and Porto are very well served by airline connections from all over Europe and also from the U.S., South America and Africa. I recommend this website to find the cheapest flight prices.
Top places to visit
Personally, I always recommend Porto, Lisbon and Alentejo‘s coast. If you are able to go to these three places, you’ll get a pretty great idea of what Portugal really is. They’re all memorable in different ways. Ideally, with a bit more time and money, hop on a flight to Azores for a few days for a true nature therapy.
Where to stay in Portugal
To make your life easier, start your search with my pre-selection of the best hostels/hotels/guesthouses/villas for each of these amazing spots:
These include only accommodations with great-to-excellent rating and a good free WiFi . You can’t go wrong with these!
Best time to go to Portugal
While summers are long in Portugal and you can expect good weather anywhere between May and October, make sure you avoid August. Unless you have a thing for packed beaches!
What you MUST do
Eat a pastel de nata. Drink wine. Get some vitamin D in your skin. It does not sound like a hard life, does it? Relax, you’re in Portugal!
Useful Portugal Resources
- The Ultimate Itinerary of São Miguel Island (Made By An Azorean)
- Porto: A Complete City Guide For Dummies
- Porto Or Lisbon: Pros, Cons and Main Differences
- Portugal Road Trip: The Best Travel Idea In 2017!
- 43 Reasons Why Visiting Portugal Is A (Really) Good Idea
- Why Are The Azores The Next Big Travel Destination
- What To Do In São Miguel Island, Azores
- My Love Letter to Porto and São João Festival
- Porto And Port Wine Culture
- The Best Beaches Around Lisbon – An Insider Guide
So, did I convince you visiting Portugal is a reeeaaaally good idea?
If not, here’s this Portuguese water dog to make up your mind.