Top 7 Reasons to Visit Portugal
Portugal has recently become one of the hottest tourist destinations in Europe. It’s easy to see why: it has a near-perfect climate with ample sunshine from March till October, everyone speaks excellent English, and the costs of travelling in Portugal are very low. But the true reasons for traveling to Portugal all relate to its wonderful culture, nature, and cuisine.
Read on to learn why you should immediately add Portugal to your list of travel destinations…
The Buzzing Capital of Lisbon
Lisbon has been undergoing a massive revival in recent years, with neighborhoods that were once in disrepair now becoming favorites among tourists and locals alike.
A typical weekend itinerary has you spending a day exploring the old cobblestone streets of Alfama, a traditional neighborhood with beautiful views of the Tejo river, and another day in the museum quarter of Belem. However, culturally buzzing Lisbon has more than enough sights to see to spend an entire week, and you’ll find plenty to discover beyond the main tourist sites.
If you enjoy strolling aimlessly around a city and just enjoying the good vibe, you’ll find that Lisbon is the perfect destination for you. And there are more places to see in Lisbon than you can cover in one trip!
The Beautiful Coastline
While Spain is more known for its beach destinations, Portugal has much to offer too – and for the most part it’s without the commercial development which you’ll find along Spain’s Costa del Sol. The waters may be a little colder around Portugal than in the Mediterranean, but this makes for a more refreshing summer dive.
The southern coast of the Algarve has most of the beach resorts, but to escape the crowds in high summer you only need to drive two hours further north. In the off-the-beaten-path Alentejo region you’ll find cute coastal towns giving you access to laidback beaches lined with rocky cliffs and coves.
The Amazing Seafood
Portugal’s long coastline makes it the perfect place to enjoy some fantastic seafood. The local cuisine specialises in seafood dishes, with fresh squid, bream, snook and fried cuttlefish found all along the coast.
Oddly enough it’s the codfish (bacalhau) that makes a local’s heart beat faster… and possibly yours too. In what is a centuries-old tradition, the salted codfish gets imported from the north of Europe, before finding its way into many Portuguese signature dishes. Be sure to try the bacalhau a bras.
To accompany the great food, Portugal also has some terrific wines. There are of course the famous Port wines from Porto, but a local favorite is the vinho verde (green wine).
The Beautiful Tiles
Portugal developed a wonderful obsession with patterned tiles – a lasting gift from the Moorish occupation over a thousand years ago. You can find them adorning many buildings both old and new. Wander the streets and you’re sure to find a picture book worth of multi-colored facades, with pastel colors most prominent in Lisbon and deep reds accents often favored in the city of Porto.
The tiles, or azulejos, give the Portuguese cities an artisan flair, with some tiled walls depicting beautiful historical scenes. Lisbon has a museum entirely dedicated to this artform, the Museu Nacional do Azulejo.
The Country that Inspired J.K. Rowling
Famed author J.K. Rowling lived in Portugal for many years, and some sites and customs from Portugal are said to have inspired her while creating the Harry Potter universe.
It’s easy how she was inspired; Portuguese students wear black caped robes as their official uniform, which will give you an instant reminder of Hogwarts. You will get similar echoes from a few specific locations, such as the 100-year old bookstore of Livraria Lello in Porto, as well as the beautiful old university grounds and old library in Coimbra.
The Castles at Sintra
Sintra is a fairytale-like land of castles just 40 minutes outside of Lisbon. You can find a Moorish castle set on a steep hill guarding over the surrounding landscape, as well as some fantastically colorful palaces that once housed Portuguese royalty. These pastel-colored palaces are unlike any other in Europe with a unique style all of their own.
Even more interesting are the gardens around Sintra, such as the Quinta da Regaleira. These strange gothic-style gardens were created by a rich patron in the early 1900’s and include a series of hidden tunnels as well as an underground tower. You can easily fill an entire afternoon exploring the grounds with all of it’s strange nooks and crannies.
The Azores Islands
Not yet well known, but filled with adventure, the Azores islands off the coast of Portugal are the place to go for a more active holiday. Climb volcanoes, go on whale watching tours, explore caves, or take a rest after a long day of hiking at one of the many volcanic thermal baths on Sao Miguel Island. Some people say these volcanic islands in the middle of the Atlantic are similar to Iceland, and although many of the Azores islands remain firmly off the beaten track, there are now some very affordable budget flights there from Lisbon and Porto – making this a compelling addition to a trip to Portugal.
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