What is the first country that comes to your mind when you think of an Eurotrip? France? Germany? Spain? You should never leave Portugal out and we’re convinced you’re going to fall in love with it after reading this modest selection of reasons why you should visit this beautiful country.
This is the most Western European nation, and it’s rather small in size but very rich in culture and customs. It has one of the most amazing beaches in Europe and the best food and wine for those who enjoy seafood.
1. History and Culture
Portugal emerged in 1139 with the name of “Kingdom of Portugal”, but its independence was only recognized four years later. It has now over 10 million habitants, staying at #16 in the list of European countries by population. It used to be a monarchy for 800 years, leaving behind some gorgeous castles as a rich cultural heritage.
Lisbon is actually the second oldest capital in Europe, after Athens, Greece. The largest casino in Europe, Casino do Estoril, is only 18 km from the capital. Other popular casinos are Casino de Espinho e Casino da Póvoa.
Do you enjoy music? Fado was considered in 2011 an Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO. It is a traditional music genre. The typical instruments used are a Portuguese guitar and viola and it seems to be most enjoyed by the older people.
The Portuguese ceramic tiles are a very popular architecture component and yield a great postcard. They are applied on walls, floors and even ceilings of the most diverse buildings all over Portugal, such as historical churches and railway stations (São Bento!).
2. Traditional Food and Wine
Who never heard of Port wine? Francesinha? Bola de Berlim? Those are just a few traditional food and beverages that everyone must taste at least once in their lifetime.
You can actually visit Port wine cellars to taste this sweet fortified wine from the Douro Valley. It is possible for tourists to take part in the harvest and producing process of this world-famous beverage.
If you’re into sweets and pastry, please do yourself a favor and try the famous Bola de Berlim and Pastel de Belém. The first consists of a yeast dough with a yellow cream filling made of egg-yolk called creme pasteleiro (custard) and the latter is basically a creamy, flaky custard tart. Google it and feast your eyes!
For those who want to try something different, do not miss the chance to eat a Francesinha. This is a crazy sandwich made with bread, all kinds of meat (including sausage, ham, and steak) and melted cheese, and is served on a plate with french fries on the side. The secret is in the sauce, which is made out of tomato and beer. It’s sounds like a crazy combination, but it’s indeed very tasty!
Arroz de Marisco (seafood rice) is another popular choice. Cod seems to be a must-have in every table at Christmas. You can enjoy some of the most amazing seafood in the world in the beautiful Esplanadas with a nice view to the sea or river (Douro River, in the picture).
Portugal has a vast coastline with tons of beautiful beach destinations to choose from. The best and most popular spots for tourism are Madeira, Azores, and Algarve.
Madeira and Azores are both archipelagos containing some of the most breathtaking beaches in Europe. They all get very crowded in the summer, proving that everyone loves them.
Alentejo is a different region well-known for its countryside and has a very curious particularity: the whole territory is flat!
A fun fact for the football fans: Cristiano Ronaldo is from Funchal, Madeira Island, and in December 2014 received his own statue as a tribute in his hometown.
Considered one of the 7 Wonders of Portugal, this is a natural park with 702 square kilometers located in the northwest of the country. If you want to spend some quality time with your family in a natural environment, this is the perfect spot.
Since it’s a public space, you don’t have to pay to enjoy most of the things there, but they do offer a wide range of paid services. You can choose to stay in a hotel for a few days or you can simply bring a tent and stay in the camping area for free.
The waterfalls are just breathtaking, not to mention the mountain views and the extensive river in which you can pay a small fee to use a paddle boat. It also features quite a few hiking trails for those who enjoy a good hike.
Portuguese people are very warm and festive. They are very passionate about football and the rivalry between the biggest clubs and its supporters are unbelievable. The three most important football clubs are Porto (from the city of Porto), Benfica and Sporting (both from Lisbon).
You may or may not have heard about the Festa de São João. It is a popular and lively celebration held on the night of June 23rd in Oporto. The streets get crazy overcrowded with people hitting everyone with a soft plastic hammer and garlic flowers on the head. It’s definitely something you should experience. Lisbon has its own version, but instead of celebrating São João, they celebrate Santo António on June 12th. The highlight of both parties are the fireworks set at midnight.
Have you ever been to Portugal? Would you consider to? Please share some memories with us if you’d like 🙂