Portugal has been a favorite holiday destination in Europe for many years, and slowly international travellers are discovering the charms of this beautiful country too. Offering a rich history, beautiful architecture, friendly people, amazing food, unspoilt beaches, and for those insisting on an island holiday, well, Portugal has those too!
Being quieter than Spain and Italy means you can still travel around without having to fight off crowds, making Portugal truly one of the best destinations in Europe. Grab your passport, ensure you have appropriate travel insurance for Portugal, and explore a true hidden gem of Europe.
What to do in Portugal:
The City of Seven Hills, as Lisbon is affectionately known, is Portugal's capital and one of its main tourist attractions. Lisbon's climate is probably the best of any European city with average annual temperatures of 15 degrees, making it perfect for a winter getaway.
The best place to start exploring Lisbon is its center, the famous Praça do Comércio. From here roads extend in all directions, but head towards the main square Rossio.
Around this area is downtown (baixa) which was completely rebuilt after the earthquake of 1755 and features a very distinct style of architecture.
Other great places to visit in Lisbon include the city's oldest district, Alfama, as well as the spectacular and underrated Lisbon Botanical Gardens.
Food and Culture:
To combine a food and culture trip though, you need to head to Belem. Here you will find the:
- Famous Belem Tower,
- Jerónimos Monastery, and
- Museu Colecção Berardo, which houses a fantastic collection of modern and contemporary art
Belem is also the most famous area in Portugal to have one of their favorite foods: pastéis. These are delicious pastries that come with any topping and filling imaginable with perhaps the national favorite being pastéis de nata, which is a flaky pastry topped with custard and sugar.
UNESCO World Heritage sites:
Heading north from Lisbon you should make a point of stopping in Batalha.
This is the location of one of the greatest Gothic masterpieces in Europe - a UNESCO World Heritage monastery built in 1388.
If you happen to come here on a Monday, check out the local farmers market - eating is one of the favorite past times in Portugal after all!
The city of Sintra is home to the Royal Palace and Gardens, which were used until the revolution in 1910, as well as the ruins of a castle built in the 9th century by Moors; this entire region is one big heritage site. Not only are the buildings themselves spectacular, but the surrounding scenery gives this area something magical that should not to be missed.
The beaches of the Algarve are a great place to head if you need to unwind and relax.
Arguably Portugal's favorite holiday destination, here you will find over 100 beaches distributed over a coastline of approximately 200 kms.
Before exploring the beaches though, buy travel insurance for Portugal.
Just in case you need some culture, you can also visit the city of Lagos and its charming old inner city, or check out the red stone castle at Silves. Obviously, make sure you try the local seafood!
The best places for wild life observation are the remote islands of Madeira and the Azores in the Atlantic Ocean. Madeira is known as 'Garden Island' and offers captivating nature views both on land and in the water.
There are some absolutely spectacular hiking routes around the island that can be done in a couple of hours and they are truly the best way to see this spectacular place. The Azores is a bit remoter still, but offer the unique chance of going whale and dolphin watching.
Portugal is generally very safe for travellers, it is advisable to have Portugal travel insurance sorted before you embark on your journey. In bigger cities be aware of pickpockets and the usual purse-snatchers, but otherwise there is little to worry about.
For more information on Portugal, visit the Portugal Tourism Website