Official language: European Portuguese with Brazilian Portuguese being widely spoken. Some Spanish is also spoken and English is spoken in the major touristic areas.
Olá! And welcome to a world filled with cobblestoned streets, abundant vineyards, old castles and pristine beaches!
Portugal might be small, but the abundance of opportunities that are on offer far exceeds what you could ever dream possible. Traveling options are as diverse as the landscapes, comprising of cosmopolitan cities like Lisbon and the traditional villages that lie nestled off the beaten tracks. While the natural landscape is awe-inspiring, Portugal’s most attractive feature is its cultural and architectural marvels.
Lisbon is the most popular base for tourists since its home to the country’s finest museums and historic buildings that integrate with the quaint old neighborhoods. But out of the main city you’ll find place lie the fairytale Palacio de Pena, ruins of Castelo dos Mouros and Costa do Sol to name but a few. Offshore from the mainland are the mystical islands of Madeira and the Azores where visitors come to willingly leave a peace of their heart behind.Portugal in all its glory is diverse, captivating, intriguing and a rich history that will captivate the soul and rejuvenate the senses.The interior melds dramatic northern mountain ranges with vast rolling plains of the sun baked central regions. The south of Portugal is home to some of Europe’s best beaches boasting breathtaking caves and warm, shallow waters. The stone villages dotted throughout the landscape, the enchanting towns, the cosmopolitan cities, the historic palaces and castles…all of these magical attraction lie waiting to be explored.
Must see places in Portugal
One of Europe’s most beautiful and cosmopolitan cities is the capital of Portugal, Lisbon. It’s set over a series of hills near the mouth of the River Tagus and is as colorful as it is vibrant. Its best known for its warm and sunny disposition, its abundance of historic monuments, world-class museums and some truly unique and captivating attractions. Whatever you decide to do here, make sure you soak up Lisbon as the locals do, at a slow and steady pace!
30 kilometers northwest of Lisbon you’ll find Sintra nestled at the foot of the wooded Serra de Sintra Mountains, and it’s a world away from the glamour of the big city life. With its verdant landscape and cooler air, Sintra is a great escape from the grueling summer heat. Sintra earned its UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 1995 thanks to its romantic allure and pristine parks and palaces. The scenic old town, Sintra Vila, lies centered in the National Palace, Palácio Nacional de Sintra. The cobbled old square in front of the palace is lined with shops, cafés and colorful houses which make for a seriously attractive destination to start exploring. You’ll definitely want to see the 8th century Moorish castle, Castelo dos Mouros, the Palace of Pena, the estate of Quinta da Regaleira that was featured in the film The Ninth Gate and the romantic and enticing gardens of Monserrate.
Azenhas do Mar
Azenhas do Mar is situated in a picturesque valley, its white houses perched on the North Slope, is one of the most appreciated and interesting beaches, with swimming pools dug out of the rock. The Miradouro das Azenhas do Mar is built on cliffs that drop fearlessly to the ocean. It is a popular place both in Summer and Winter, due to the grandeur of the view it offers. There, you can admire the Atlantic Ocean in all its splendor and, with a little luck, watch fishing trawlers sail far away.
With its lively character and seafaring traditions, Lagos is one of southern Portugal’s favorite holiday destinations. It boasts a very scenic coastline filled with beautiful beaches and stunning rock formations and the town’s cheerful vibe together with its wealth of historic attractions make it a destination you can’t afford to miss out on.
Porto is best known for its dazzling rich collection of cultural attractions. The historical heart of Oporto lies in Ribeira, a waterfront bairro that has you charmed by the maze of narrow streets and some of the city’s architectural treasures. The Old Town of Porto was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the city is abundant in features that can be described with an 18th century accent.
Albufeira is arguably Algarve’s most popular seaside resort and can be found roughly 36km west of Faro. Its home to some of Portugal’s best beaches and still has a lingering atmosphere that was inherited from the town’s fishing heritage. The original Arabic name of the town, Al-Buhera, means "Castle-on-the-Sea", and one or two buildings feature telltale Moorish arches. But as the tourist capital of the Algarve, modern Albufeira is a lively holiday hub of hotels, restaurants, and boutiques.
Beautiful lake of Sete Cidades, Azores
One of the 7 Natural Wonders of Portugal, it showcases the Green and Blue Lakes, which according to legend, were formed from the tears of a shepherd and a princess who shared a forbidden love. These lakes can be seen from the Vista do Rei (King’s View) Lookout, named after King D. Carlos and Queen D. Amélia to celebrate their visit to the island in 1901.
The charming riverside town of Tomar is dominated by the mighty castle that shields the Convento do Cristo, one of the most significant historic attractions in Portugal. The Convent of Christ is a breathtaking and mysterious old building founded in 1160 by the Order of the Knights Templar, and its masonic heritage feels like it lurks in the air. In the center of the building you’ll find the medieval Charola, the original Templar church, decorated with strange symbolism associated with the Order of Christ.
Castelo de Guimarães
Guimarães is the birthplace of the nation and also where Portugal’s first monarch, Dom Afonso Henriques, was born in 1110. This was also the capital of the ancient kingdom of "Portucale" and is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its amazing historic monuments found in and around the old town center. Castelo de Guimarães is the most iconic of them all, symbolizing the town’s role played in the defining of Portugal’s culture and traditions. It’s so symbolic that it even appears in Portugal’s coat of arms. The stronghold dates back to the 10th century and comprises of a central keep, the Torre de Menagem, which is surrounded by huge battlements and fortified towers. Just outside the castle walls you will find the chapel of São Miguel, where Dom Afonso was baptized.
The capital of Madeira, Funchal, is vibrant and energetic, and it loves tourists! The sub-tropical island of Madeira is located in the Atlantic Ocean roughly 960km southwest of Lisbon. The island is framed by cloud-tipped mountains to the south and a landmass that sees a city unfolding over a series of steep hills and flattened terraces. Funchal’s wealth of historic monuments offers visitors to the islands loads to see and do while soaking up the beach vibe. The island with its rich plant life is scenic to say the least, and the daily markets have all the succulent fresh produce you could ever dream of. Whether you plan on sightseeing or just beach bumming, Madeira and its capital has a whole new world just waiting to be explored.
As the gateway to southern Portugal, Faro is located on the coast overlooking the shallow lagoons of the protected Ria Formosa Natural Park. It’s a destination blessed with rich cultural wealth and one of the most captivating natural landscapes. Faro’s greatest historical monuments date back to the 16th and 17th centuries and are all clustered together within the walls of the Old Town. The city is a busy and colorful port and the marina is a great place from which to venture out to sea. Then there are the wetlands, among Europe’s most important natural habitats, that attract thousands of birds and other wildlife. Faro is attractive to tourists mainly for its eclectic array of entertainment, traditional restaurants and inexpensive shopping opportunities. The café-lined harbor is among the city’s favorite rendezvous points and with nearby golf courses and beaches, Faro is a destination where nothing is out of reach.
Pick the time right!
Tourists travel to Portugal from May to September
Portugal’s summers are marked by days of seemingly endless sun, June through September being the hottest months with average daytime temperatures easily reaching 30°C. July and August are the busiest seasons along the coast, and this is also the extremely hot time of the year, which means it’s not ideal for exploring. If you want to do some hiking or just sightseeing in the towns, your best opportunities would be in May or October. Portugal gets its majority of rain during the winter from November to March, although downpours in May and June are not unusual. The south of Portugal has year-round mild temperatures while the rest of the country experiences plenty of sunshine during the winter months, which makes it a great year-round destination.
Spring time is perhaps the best time to visit Portugal. From February onwards the beautiful flowery hillsides and countryside with its almond blossoms are absolutely breathtaking. Early autumn, during October month, is also a great time since the weather is warm yet not scorching and the majority of the summer crowds have departed.
Did you know?
Olá is the Portuguese word for Hello
- Bacalhau á bràs - scrambled eggs and salted cod cooked with potatoes and onions
- Lulas recheadas à lisbonense - stuffed squid
- Queijadas de Sintra - cheese tart
- Açorda de mariscos - shrimp stew coked in a bread bowl
- Caldo verde - a green kale leave soup
- Pastéis de nata - traditional custard-filled tarts
- Casual wear is widely acceptable, but you shouldn’t wear beach clothing in towns.
- Smoking has been prohibited in public indoor spaces since 2008 and the ban includes cinemas, theatres, buses and most restaurants.
- Always dress respectfully whenever you’re visiting religious buildings, covering your shoulders and knees.
- Portuguese people are very friendly, but brushing up on some common Portuguese phrases before you head over will only count in your favor