Portugal is located in south-western Europe, bordered to the east by Spain and to the west and south by the Atlantic Ocean. It is well-known for its rich history, stunning coastline, and delectable cuisine. Portugal is a popular tourist destination, with attractions including the capital of Lisbon, the historic city of Porto, and the Algarve beaches. Lisbon is well-known for its vibrant nightlife, colorful architecture, and historical monuments. Are you planning a trip to Portugal? Then this is the article for you. We’ll give you some general information about what you should know before visiting Portugal.
Some interesting facts about Portugal
- Portugal is the oldest country in Europe: Portugal has had the same borders since 1139, making it the oldest country in Europe.
- The Vasco da Gama Bridge in Lisbon is the longest bridge in Europe, stretching 17.2 kilometers across the Tagus River. It was finished in 1998.
- Portugal is the world’s leading cork producer, producing more than half of the cork used for wine bottle stoppers and other products.
- The world’s oldest bookstore is in Portugal: Bertrand Bookstore in Lisbon, which has been open since 1732, is considered the world’s oldest bookstore.
- Portugal is the birthplace of the pastel de nata: Monks at the Jerónimos Monastery in Lisbon first made the famous Portuguese custard tart, known as Pastel de Nata, in the 18th century.
- Portugal has a strong sea connection: Portugal’s long coastline has resulted in a strong sea connection and maritime history. Portuguese explorers such as Vasco da Gama and Ferdinand Magellan were among the first to explore the world’s oceans.
- The University of Coimbra is one of Europe’s oldest universities, dating back to 1290.
- The largest artificial wave in the world can reach 100 feet in height at the Nazaré Canyon in Portugal.
- Portugal has a long wine-making history: the Douro Valley is famous for producing port wine. Other wines produced include Vinho Verde, Madeira, and Bairrada.
- Portuguese is spoken by over 220 million people worldwide; it is the world’s sixth most spoken language and the official language of Portugal, Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, and other countries.
When is the best time to visit Portugal?
The best time to visit Portugal is determined by your preferences and the activities you intend to participate in. Portugal has a Mediterranean climate in general, with mild winters and hot summers. The summer months of June to August are the busiest for tourists, as the weather is hot and sunny, but it can also be crowded and expensive. If you prefer to avoid crowds, the best times to visit Portugal are during the shoulder seasons of spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November) (September to November).
The weather is still mild and pleasant during these months, and there are fewer tourists, making it easier to explore the sights and attractions. Furthermore, prices tend to be lower during these months, making it an ideal time to attend local festivals and events. If you want to go to the beach and do water sports, the best time to go is in the summer when the water is warmest. If you intend to visit cities, museums, and historical sites, however, the cooler months of spring and autumn may be more comfortable for walking and exploring.
Things to Know before visiting Portugal?
- The official language of Portugal is Portuguese. While English is widely spoken in tourist areas, it is beneficial to learn some basic Portuguese phrases to aid communication.
- The Euro is the currency used in Portugal. ATMs are widely available, and credit cards are widely accepted.
- Tipping is not required in Portugal, but it is appreciated. In restaurants and cafes, a typical tip is around 10% of the total bill.
- Portugal is a safe country for tourists in general. However, you should always be aware of your surroundings, especially in tourist areas where pickpocketing is common.
- Portugal has a well-developed transportation system that includes trains, buses, and metros. Taxis are also widely available, but to avoid scams, only use licensed taxis.
- Food: Fresh seafood, grilled meats, and delectable pastries characterize Portuguese cuisine. Make sure to try the famous Pastel de Nata custard tart
- The climate in Portugal is Mediterranean, with mild winters and hot summers. Make sure to pack appropriate clothing for the season and activities.
- Festivals: Throughout the year, Portugal hosts numerous festivals, including the well-known Carnival in February and the Lisbon Book Fair in May. Check out the local events calendar to see what’s going on during your stay.
- Historical sites: Portugal has a rich history that can be explored, such as the Jeronimos Monastery in Lisbon and the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza in Guimaraes.
- Beaches: Portugal has a beautiful coastline with numerous beaches. The Algarve region has some of the best beaches, but there are also many secluded coves and hidden beaches to discover along the coast.
What is the best gift from Portugal?
In Portugal, you can find a wide range of one-of-a-kind and traditional gifts that make ideal souvenirs or presents for friends and family. Here are some popular alternatives:
- Port wine: Port wine, a sweet fortified wine produced in the Douro Valley, is famous in Portugal. It is available in many wine shops and supermarkets across the country.
- Cork: Portugal is the world’s leading producer of cork, and you can find a wide variety of cork products in local markets and shops, including handbags, wallets, coasters, and other souvenirs.
- Handmade ceramics: Handmade ceramics with traditional patterns and designs abound in Portugal. Colorful plates, bowls, and vases can be found at local markets or pottery shops.
- Portuguese tiles, also known as azulejos, are a popular souvenir. They are available in a variety of designs and colors, ranging from traditional to modern, and are the ideal complement to any home décor.
- Traditional pastries: Many delicious traditional pastries, such as the famous Pastel de Nata, can be found in bakeries and cafés throughout Portugal.
- Ginja is an old Portuguese liqueur made from sour cherries. It is typically served in glasses and is sold in bars and liquor stores across the country.
- Embroidery: Portugal is well-known for its intricate embroidery patterns, particularly in Madeira and the Azores. Look for embroidered tablecloths, towels, or handkerchiefs in specialty stores or local markets.
- Sardine tins are a popular souvenir, particularly in Lisbon. In local markets or souvenir shops, look for beautifully decorated tins of sardines.
- Sea salts: Portugal, particularly the Algarve region, produces high-quality sea salt. Look for artisanal sea salt in specialty markets.
- Fado is a traditional Portuguese music genre distinguished by melancholy and soulful vocals. In music stores, look for CDs or vinyl records of well-known Fado singers.
Things to Do in Portugal
There’s a lot to do in Portugal, and here are some must-see attractions and activities:
- Discover Lisbon: Lisbon is the capital of Portugal and one of the oldest cities in Europe. Stroll through Alfama and Bairro Alto’s historic districts, see the famous Belem Tower and Jerome’s Monastery, and take in the breathtaking views from Miradouro da Senhora do Monte.
- Visit Sintra: Sintra is a charming town just outside of Lisbon known for its magnificent castles such as the Pena Palace and the Moorish Castle. It’s an excellent day trip from Lisbon, and it’s easily accessible by train or bus.
- Relax on the Algarve’s beaches: The Algarve, located in southern Portugal, is famous for its beautiful beaches and crystal clear waters. Praia da Rocha, Praia de Alvor, and Praia do Vau are among the best beaches.
- Visit Porto: Porto is the second largest city in Portugal, known for its historic center, the Douro River, and the famous Port Wine. Stroll through the Ribeira district’s narrow streets, see the magnificent Sao Bento train station, and take a river cruise for a different perspective on the city.
- Portuguese cuisine is delicious and diverse, with fresh seafood, grilled meats, and pastries. Try the famous pastel de Nata, a cream pastry, as well as other traditional dishes like Bacalhau (salted cod) and Cozido (meat stew).
- Visit Coimbra: Located in central Portugal, Coimbra is a charming university town. It is home to one of Europe’s oldest universities, and the Biblioteca Joanina is a must-see.
- The Douro Valley is a beautiful wine region in northern Portugal known for its terraced vineyards and traditional wine-making methods. Take a scenic train ride or a river cruise to admire the valley’s beauty and sample the famous port wine.
- The Azores are a group of nine volcanic islands located in the mid-Atlantic. The islands are well-known for their breathtaking scenery, natural hot springs, and whale watching.
- Madeira is a beautiful island off the coast of Morocco known for its lush greenery, flower gardens, and wine production. It’s ideal for hiking, exploring Funchal’s historic city, and relaxing on the beaches.
- Attend festivals: Throughout the year, Portugal hosts numerous festivals, such as the Carnival in February, the Lisbon Book Fair in May, and the Saint Anthony Festival in June. Check out the local events calendar to see what’s going on during your visit.