Dazzling coastlines, vibrant cities and rich history complete with charming villages and medieval coastlines; Portugal has all of this and more. The country, which is nestled on the west coast of Europe, neighbours Spain and is one of the most exciting and dynamic countries travellers can visit on a European trip!
Portugal is a country that’s best known for port, pastries (pasteis de nata!), pork dishes and pearly beaches. Yes, it is vacation-worthy in every sense of the word. Portugal holds its own unique magic and it definitely deserves a top spot on your European travel bucket list. Here are a few reasons to travel to Portugal on your next vacation:
You will have to travel far to find people as friendly and hospitable as the Portuguese. In fact, Portugal ranked first place as the most welcoming country out of 188 countries in the world! Travellers that have lived in Portugal for a while state that the Portuguese ‘look after each other’, share a wonderful sense of community and the locals’ demeanour are polite, welcoming and down to earth.
As you travel through big cities and small towns you will find them trying to show you the way, serving you with a smile and making sure you cross the road safely. Even though it’s relatively easy to find someone that can speak English, you may find the locals speaking Portuguese to you as if you understand, which instantly makes you feel right at home.
Portugal has been subject to countless settlements since prehistoric times. It eventually began to claim its position as a major western power in the 15th and 16th centuries, where it grew its political, economic and cultural power. Much of its power was lost when Lisbon was destroyed in the 1755 earthquake, the Napoleonic Wars, and after the independence of Brazil in 1822. Portugal has been playing catch up with its European neighbours since the early 19th century. Today, it’s known to be one of the most affordable European destinations and Lisbon is one of the lowest priced western European capital cities. It’s like western Europe, for eastern Europe prices!
The Portuguese are serious about tourism. It’s not hard to find a walking tour for free in the major cities; perhaps even a port tasting experience in Porto for a basic fee. Many of the local museums are free on Sundays, and meals in an inexpensive restaurant can come in at below €7. Or coffee and pastries for €2-3. Yes, please!
From early April the weather starts turning. Spring and summer are alive with possibilities. People take in the sun along the Algarve, sit outside in street cafes in Porto or go hiking in Sintra. The locals love being outside and that invites travellers to do the same. In winter, it doesn’t cool down anywhere as much as in central or Eastern Europe. And if it does get a bit nippy, the Portuguese food makes up for it. Think spicy Portuguese chicken or warm pastries in el café with a fresh cup of Meia de Leite.
Talking about food… Yes, we know that in some way all European countries revolve around food. In Portugal, however, the food scene has a life of its own. There are a couple of delicious staples that you will find everywhere in Portugal, such as codfish – which is prepared in over 300 different ways! But for the most part, cuisine in Portugal is faithfully regional. You can find robust meat dishes in the north, peculiar seafood dishes in the Mediterranean south, and the real original pastel de Nata in Belem, outside of Lisbon.
Food is an important subject in Portugal. It’s served in big portions and is affordable. You’ll often find that saucers of olives, cheese, fresh bread, garlic butter and sometimes tuna spread come standard when you sit at any good, local restaurant. Pastry shops are on every street, the market culture still very much alive with fresh farmed fruit, veggies and fish from available daily in almost any town. There’s also the gourmet foodie scene with Michelin Star-winning chefs.
Fact is, from pork to port, there’s a lot of exploring and tasting to do when in Portugal.
Family is central to the Portuguese way of life. In fact, it takes priority over other relationships, even business. Everything about this community is tapped into the local culture. Late afternoons you will see them gather on street corners and on pavements for a beer or a cup of coffee. The older people stand in groups on the sidewalk to gossip or discuss politics. The life expectancy of people living in Portugal currently stands at 81 years; one of the highest in the world.
It must be because the overall quality of life in Portugal is so high. The lifestyle is something that speaks to any traveller and explorer at heart. No surprise with great climates, pastries sprinkled with cinnamon and fado music streaming out of windows decorated in glazed tiles.
If a trip to Portugal isn’t on your travel bucket list already, its time to add it! See the buzzing capital of Lisbon, experience historic Porto and discover the beauty of the Algarve coast. Explore this diverse and welcoming destination on its own or you can combine it with more amazing European destinations.