Even though Portugal is under the top 15 most visited countries in the world, it’s not a front-runner as one of the most visited countries in Europe. Countries like France with nearly 90 million travellers, and Spain, right next door, with more than 70 million travellers have long been at the top of the list. But the number of tourists that visit Portugal each year rose to nearly 13 million last year, and it’s growing.
Portugal is a country that’s best known for port, pastries (pasteis de nata!), pork dishes and pearly beaches. Yes, vacation-worthy in every sense of the word. And even though everyone should travel to the iconic and most famous destinations in Europe, everyone should also really consider treading off the beaten path to countries like, southern Europe’s Portugal. It holds its own magic…
The locals are welcoming
You will have to travel far to find people as friendly and hospitable as the Portuguese. In fact, Portugal has just ranked first place as the most welcoming country out of 188 countries in the world! In an annual expat insider survey by Internations 2018, 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’ demeanor 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 will find the locals peaking Portuguese to you as if you understand, which instantly makes you feel right at home.
The cost of travelling around Portugal is cheaper than you think
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 the independence of Brazil in 1822. Portugal has been playing catch up with its European neighbors since the early 19th Century. Today, it’s known to be one of the most affordable European destinations and Lisbon is the lowest priced Western European capital. 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!
The weather is amazing most of the year
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 western 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.
Food you won’t find anywhere else
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, like cod fish – 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 only in Belhem, 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 comes 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.
The Portuguese win at life
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.