In recent years, Portugal has broken all records for receiving tourists from all over the world. So why should you go there? What awaits you in this westernmost European country?
Portugal – the world’s famous tourist destination
Portugal is a small country that impresses with a turbulent history, magnificent beaches and marvelous nature. The land of bright contrasts skillfully combines the ancient architecture of medieval cities with modern culture. A trip to Portugal is a combination of the abundance of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and the extraordinary beauty of nature, which delights all tourists who have visited this wonderful and amazing country at least once.
Small and proud Portugal made many geographical discoveries, after which Lisbon became one of the main port cities in Europe. This city with its numerous historical monuments and sights, hospitable people and excellent climate is dreams come true for any tourist.
Somewhat isolated geographically and culturally, Portugal has a rich, unique culture, lively cities and beautiful countryside.
Due to its outstanding landscape diversity and rich history, now Portugal is becoming one of the best value destinations in Europe. In a single day you can travel from covered with vines green mountains in the North, to rocky mountains, with spectacular slopes and falls in the Centre, to a near-desert landscape in the Alentejo region and finally to the glamorous beach holidays destination Algarve.
10 reasons to visit Portugal
The oldest country in Europe
Do you know that Portugal is the oldest country in Europe with the same borders for 900 years?! Portugal played a crucial role in world history. During the 15th and 16th centuries it established a sea route to India, and colonized areas in Africa, South America, Asia, and Oceania creating an empire. The Portuguese language continues to be the biggest connection between these countries.
Mysterious charm of Lisbon with its delightful gothic architecture
Located on the seven hills of the Tagus River, Lisbon is the Portugal capital. “The most western, the greenest, the warmest, the most modest” – this is what the Portuguese say with love about their capital. And everyone who has visited Lisbon agrees with this assessment. Lisbon is one of the oldest cities in the world, and the oldest in Western Europe, predating London, Paris and Rome by centuries.
There are numerous historical landmarks – Jeronimos in Belém, the Belém Tower, the Monument to the Discoverers, Eduardo Park V11, Rossio Square, and the Statue of Christ, which is a copy of the monument in Rio de Janeiro.
Being located on the edge of the Atlantic, Lisbon is one of the rare Western European cities that faces the ocean. Lisbon enchants travelers with its white-bleached limestone buildings, intimate alleyways, and an easy-going charm that makes it a popular year-round destination. The city is the 7th-most-visited city in Southern Europe with about 2M tourists annually. Lisbon enjoys a Mediterranean climate. Among all the metropolises in Europe, it has the warmest winters, with average temperatures 15°C (59°F) during the day and 8°C (46°F) at night from December to February.
Lisbon is also a delicious city, where you can try a huge variety of fish, meat and seafood dishes, stop at every cute café (at least for a cup of aromatic coffee with a traditional cake) or drink a glass of wine with delicious cheese.
Fantastically delicious monastery cake at Lisbon Confeitaria de Belem
Simply called as “Pastéis de Belém,” it is the most popular pastry shop in Lisbon. Its pastries fame has crossed borders, known as the Portuguese custard tarts or Pastéis de Nata. The original and ultra-secret recipe was created by the nuns from Jerónimos Monastery in the 17th century. Since then, many other pastry houses have tried to discover and copy the recipe, however even the most successful ones are still different from the originals.
The stunning castles of Sintra
In the midst of the pine-covered hills of the Serra de Sintra lies the picturesque city of Sintra. It is one of the most beautiful and most unique places in Portugal, the Crown Jewel of the Portuguese Riviera, and is absolutely worth a visit. Since ancient times, the elite of Portugal have chosen this place because of its less hot climate. Thanks to this, exquisite palaces, luxurious villas and magnificent gardens appeared in the city. The fantasy of the aristocrats was the most extravagant, so that Sintra turned out to be similar to the creation of a storyteller: mountains, castles and fortresses of magical beauty.
The Pena Palace: The most fantastic castle in Sintra is the Pena Palace – the residence of the Portuguese monarchs.
The Quinta da Regaleira: sitting right next to Sintra’s downtown, the Quinta da Regaleira is a stunning Romantic-period palace and chapel.
With fairytale-like castles and the most enchanting gardens, a visit to Sintra is worth your time even if you are coming from the other side of the world!
Unique Fado bars
Fado bars are the unique charm of Portugal. At the heart of Portugal’s musical tradition is Fado, a distinctive form of song that is predominantly slow, humble and sad. This lyrical and soulful music is performed to the accompaniment of a pear-shaped guitar. You can witness live performances in special Fado bars.
Incredible Norwegian cod
With all the variety of seafood from the Arlantic, the national dish of the Portuguese is bacalhau – Norwegian cod, which is transported from distant lands. The Portuguese claim that they have as many cooking recipes for Norwegian cod as there are days in a year.
The End of the Earth
The Portuguese were not mistaken when they called this gloomy rocky cliff the End of the Earth. Cape Cabo da Roca is the westernmost point of the vast Eurasian continent. At the end of the world, you feel like a grain of sand in the earth’s space – the power of nature paralyzes. Take your time and enjoy the fantastic sunset as the sun sets right into the ocean.
Porto – “Unvanquished City”, along the river Douro and the Atlantic Ocean
Built along the hills overlooking the Douro river estuary, Porto and its historical center were awarded World Heritage status by UNESCO in 1996. It has been continuously inhabited since at least the 4th Century, when the Romans referred to it as Portus Calle. The city is extremely hilly, with many buildings built into a cliff face that overlooks the river. Stairs cut into the stone run up and down the cliff face and offer a laborious but rewarding walking tour. The Old Town is granite and monumental. Tripe stew is a specialty of the city: it started in 1415, when the city went without meat in order to provision the capital and the fleet that departed to Ceuta. Porto is home to port wine of course, and there are many wineries around the city where port wine is matured.
The Algarve is the beautiful southern coastline anchoring the south of Portugal. It is famous for its cliff-backed beaches, picturesque fishing villages, and mouthwatering seafood. It’s also a remarkably easy-going region, with a welcoming vibe for every kind of traveler. In the off-season, the Algarve is a beautiful, peaceful corner of Southern Europe with plenty of sun bleaching the white-washed town with Iberian and Moorish-influenced architecture.
Strictly speaking, port wine can only be called port wine if the grapes are grown in the Douro valley, and the wine is produced and bottled in Porto. Port wines come in many styles, with vintage port being the most expensive.