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Portugal is the best European destination to visit: what to expect from traveling to Portugal

Picture of Portugal

Portugal is the best European destination to visit! It provides authentic Portuguese experiences while also attending to tourists' needs with modern tourist facilities and services.

It's unique architecture, attractive climate and delicious cuisine, its inexpensiveness, its stunning beaches and natural wonders, helps visitors to Portugal to find many unforgettable experiences there.

The Portuguese architecture is possibly the most attractive in the world. It's highly influenced by the rich history of Portugal, with the 8th century occupation by Moors and later becoming the major stronghold of Christianity. The use of azulejos everywhere, even for street pavements, creates great beauty.

There are many wonderful beaches from which to choose from, from some with some of the best surf in the world to more serene and relaxing.

The cuisine is one of the most diverse and tasty in Europe, with some dishes including, but not limited to, squid ink pasta, octopus salad, and codfish stew.

Portugal is relatively cheap compared to other European countries. It’s affordable for travelers, looking for more economical travel.

Portuguese culture is rich in tradition, with fado music and cherry liqueur shot - ginja, among many other things.

Portuguese museums are unlike anything you can find anywhere else because of the 15th Century Age of Discovery that brought many exquisite objects of arts from all over the world.

Portugal has a wide range of climates that are all distinctly different. From the rainy summer months to the sunny winter months, you’ll find perfect weather for your taste.

It is very easy for tourists to get by without knowing the language.

Because of all that and more, Portugal is a best destination for any traveler! There are many things to do in Portugal and you will have the time of your life, even if you are on a tight budget!

Hello, I am Tatiana - nice to meet you!:)

If you would like to know more about me, you can read it here.

Central Portugal:

Lisbon:

a link to Sintra National Palace
National Coach Museum
Pena Palace in Sintra Portugal
Colorful tiles in Cascais Portugal
a medieval narrow street in Portugal

Table of Contents.

11. Reasons Portugal is the best place to visit.

Where to go in Portugal: 19 Best places to visit.

10 top Famous Landmarks in Portugal.

13 best Coastal Towns in Portugal.

9 best Beaches of Portugal. Best time to visit Portugal.

Portugal Tourism. Portuguese Architecture.

Azulejos in Portugal.

Eating and drinking like a local in Portugal.

How To Get Around Portugal. Portugal’s History.

Museums in Lisbon.

Lisbon city card.

The ways to save in Portugal.

What are the people of Portugal Like?

Is Portugal Safe? The Most Common Scams in Portugal.

What Not to Do in Portugal.

A gold glowing pavement  on a street in Faro
Old houses in Portugal
azulejos in  Cascais Chapel Sao Sebastiao alonga travel_2

Azulejos in Chapel Sao Sebastiao Cascais Portugal

11 Reasons Portugal is the best place to visit

There are many reasons Portugal is the best place to visit! Here are 11 most important reasons:

1. Uniquely beautiful towns and architecture.

2. Unspoiled charm.

3. Reasonably priced and affordable accommodations, food and drinks.

4. Friendly and helpful locals.

5. Beautiful beaches, perfect both for sunbathing and best surfing in the world.

6. Fantastic food and irresistible Pastels de Nata!

7. Azulejos

8. The unique and majestic museums due to Age of Discovery of around the world treasures.

9. Portugal is safe.

10.Frequent sighting of storks in Algarve area.

11. Great climate with almost endless sunshine.

Pasteis de Nata
Lisbon square with azulejos pavement

Azulejos pavement in Lisbon, Portugal

Where to go in Portugal: 19 Best places to visit

1. Lisbon

2. Sintra

3. Porto

4. Madeira

5. Tavira

6. Evora

7. Obidos

8. Lagos

9. Coimbra

10. Elvas

11. Braga

12. Parque Nacional da Peneda-GerêsGuimarães

13. Bragança

14. Mértola

15. Faro

16. Aveiro

17. Beja

18. Parque Natural da Arrábida

19. Nazare.

Church Santo Ildefonso Porto, Portugal

Church Santo Ildefonso Porto, Portugal

Sintra town centre

Sintra town centre

13 best Coastal Towns in Portugal

  1. Tavira

  2. Cascais

  3. Peniche

  4. Aveiro

  5. Ferragudo

  6. Viana do Castelo

  7. Aljezur

  8. Azenhas do Mar

  9. Carvoeiro

  10. Azeitao

  11. Ponta Delgada

  12. Nazare

  13. Santana of Madeira Island

Cascais bay

Cascais, Portugal

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10 top Famous Landmarks in Portugal

1. Top Famous Portugal Landmarks – Dom Luis Bridge

2. Benagil Sea Cave

3. Pena Palace 

4. Sao Bento Train station Porto

5. Jerónimos Monastery

6. Castle of São Jorge

7. Óbidos Castle

8. Belem Tower

9. Alcobaca Monastery

10. Quinta da Regaleira

dom luis bridge at night Porto Portugal

Dom Luis bridge Porto Portugal

Praia de Sao Rafael Portugal one of the best beaches  in Portugal

Praia de Sao Rafael Portugal

 

9 Best Beaches of Portugal

1. Praia de Tavira, Algarve, Ilha de Tavira island

2. Praia da Marinha

3.  Nazaré, Ribatejo - the surf beach with famously huge surf.

4.     Benagil in Algarve

5.     Praia de Sao Rafael

6.     Praia da Figueira, Algarve

7.      Praia Galapos, Parque Natural da Arrábida

8.     Porto Côvo, Alentejo

9.     Foz de Minho, Minho on the north side.

Best time to visit Portugal

It is a wonderful place to visit any time of the year. Portugal has over 300 days of sunshine on average year.

Portugal has the best climate in Europe

Portugal quite possibly has the best climate in Europe.

It is a wonderful place to visit any time of the year.

However, some months of the year can be more preferable for your visit. Here is why I think spring – when everything is in bloom and temperatures are mild- is the best time to visit.

Alternatively, you could also go in fall, mid-September through October, when the sun is still shining, the weather is warm, but crowds are thinner. Since it’s off season, it’s also more economical to go during that time.

Winter in Portugal is time to escape cold.

Portugal has a warmer climate compared to the majority of other European countries, so many Europeans and anyone who leaves in colder climates in winter, love to visit Portugal in winter to escape cold!

 Madeira is an all-year-round destination

Madeira is a beautiful, all-year-round destination that offers lush landscapes and stunning views. The island has an amazing climate with warm temperatures throughout the year. Madeira is also home to some of the world's best wine, making it a perfect destination for those looking to relax.

When is the rainy season in Portugal?

 November and December are the wettest months in Portugal, with the rainy season lasting on average for 2 weeks a month. However, Portugal has still more sunshine on average than other countries in Europe.

And the Algarve usually remains sunny and pleasant and attracts many European visitors looking for a winter getaway.

Tourism in Portugal.

Tourism in Portugal is the major trade and is taken seriously. You will be well attended to in every way. And you will most likely pay less than in the other European countries. You will find an abundance of things to do, places to eat and guides to offer you their personalized services if you wish so.

Moorish influence on Portuguese architecture

An example of influence of Moorish culture on Portuguese architecture.

Portuguese Architecture

The architecture in Portugal is absolutely stunning and exciting.

It was deeply influenced by the 8th century occupation by Moors and later becoming the major stronghold of Christianity with resulting religious architecture.

The Azores Islands, the ruins of Roman baths, and the Roman bridges. The Baroque monasteries of Alcobaça and Batalha. The Romanesque jewels in the Santa Maria da Feira and the convent of Covilhã.

And the architecture of Lisbon, Porto, and Sintra is most likely the most interesting in the entire world!

Influence of Portuguese history and Moorish culture on architecture of Portugal.

Portuguese architecture reflects the artistic influences of the various cultures that have either inhabited Portugal, conquered Portugal ( Moors), or come in contact with the Portuguese people throughout the rich history of Portugal.

Various artistic styles have dominated Portuguese architecture throughout the ages, including Romanesque, Gothic, Manueline, Portuguese Renaissance, Portuguese Baroque, Rococo, Neo-Manueline, Soft Portuguese style and, later—contemporary style.

Some places in Portugal, for example—Sintra National Palace — have many of the listed above architectural styles intervened together as an organic architecture, peacefully and gracefully coexisting together in the same building. That creates such a uniquely beautiful experience that these remarkable buildings are must-visit places! You can find quite a lot of them in Portugal!

Another example of influence of Moorish culture on Portuguese architecture. Modern day Portugal’s architecture Modern day Portugal’s architecture can be seen in modern-day territory in Continental Portugal, the Azores and Madeira.

another example of Moorish influence on Portuguese architecture

Another example of influence of Moorish culture on Portuguese architecture.

Moorish azulejos in Portugal

Moorish azulejos in Portugal

Azulejos in Portugal

Azulejos in Portugal are deeply embedded in history and culture and they are now a symbol of Portugal. They are also a huge part of an attraction of Portugal's architecture and practical decorations.

And they are one of the main reasons I am absolutely in love with Portugal! Azulejos are everywhere you look in Portugal.

You will see them on the streets of Portuguese cities. You will admire them on the houses, restaurant’s facades, making every building unique and pretty. You can find them on the walls of train stations and public murals. They decorate fountains and even churches!

And churches in Porto are the most beautiful churches in the world, as many of them are decorated with azulejos as well!

What are azulejos?

Azulejos are glazed decorative ceramic tiles.

Because the majority of older azulejos are blue, many people think that the word–azulejo—came from azul (the Portuguese word for blue). But that is not true.

Azulejos have orientated from the Arabic term for a small, smooth polished stone. Azulejos also DID NOT ORIGINATE IN PORTUGAL BUT go back on time to ancient Assyria and Babylon.

azulejos on a house in Lisbon Portugal

azulejos on a house in Lisbon Portugal

Eating and drinking like a local in Portugal

You can find detailed information on how to eat like a local in Portugal here.

There is a list of the 10 Most Popular Portuguese Dishes with the descriptions. You will also find the information on the food cost in Portugal and examples of different price ranges restaurants and on how to eat on a budget in Portugal

bolinho bacalhau in a restaurant  in Porto

How To Get Around Portugal

Renting a car in Portugal Portugal is the perfect European destination for a traveler who wants to explore cities, culture, and nature. It is one of the few European countries that does not suffer from traffic congestion caused by urban sprawl, which means you can get around at your leisure.

But renting a car is not the best option for the tourist traveling alone or the tourists on a budget.

A car is expensive, and it requires a lot of gas money to get around the country (especially in 2022!), and you need to pay for parking and worry about 2 hours limits most times. More here or why not to rent a car, if you're traveling solo is here .

public transport metro in Porto Portugal

Public transportation in Portugal.

Portugal's public transport system is extensive and well-developed. The country has bus routes that run through major cities, as well as out to surrounding suburbs. You can even reach the nearing Spain by a 3-4 bus ride. As an example-a bus ticket from Faro, Algarve to Seville, Spain takes 3 hours and only costs 10 euros!

Zapping ticket Portugal

There are three main public transportation methods in major cities of Portugal, Lisbon and Porto: the bus, the train, or the underground. The rest of the country mostly relays on buses and trains.

The cheapest way of traveling in Lisbon is to get Zapping tickets, which work similarly to SmarTrip cards in Washington DC, Clipper cards in San Francisco, Oyster Cards in London, saving you around 30% on all public transportation. They work on all types of transport, automatically choosing the cheapest ticket price.

Unlimited daily ticket Lisbon or Porto

If you plan on traveling a lot using public transportation, then a daily €6 ticket will give you full access to Lisbon or Porto’s public transport grid.

Train station Portugal

CP train company daily tickets

Alternatively, CP is the train company in Portugal, and they provide Tourist Tickets valid for 1-3 days, €6 for one day and €13,50 for three consecutive days, which includes unlimited travel in Sintra/Azambuja, Cascais, and Sado lines. You can also use them to get to the main Lisbon’s beaches and attractions.

There are also trains connecting major cities with each other and smaller towns.

Another way to pay for public transportation is to buy Lisbon card at the airport or on-line. It is included for free, but you still have to swipe the card each time you enter you mean of transportation. More information is below.

public transport tram 28 Lisbon Portugal

Trams in Lisbon - public transport the fun way!

Now, even if you don't like using public transport, you can't miss a fun ride on trams number #28 and #25- they're famous for a reason! For the price of a regular ticket on public transportation grid, you get to experience something very fun!

Note: make sure to get in on the last stop (to go back toward the castle) to avoid crowds trying to get in and try to secure a window sit. Enjoy!:)

 funicular car wagon in Lisbon

Funiculars in Lisbon

This is another special treat, when you are in Lisbon! The price is separate from public transport grid, and the ride is usually very short, but very pleasurable!

Uber

Ridesharing: Uber is available in Portugal's larger cities but it's not much cheaper than the taxis. It Is still cheaper. But you will have more opportunities to find a taxi.

FLIX BUS

https://www.flixbus.com/

Budget Airlines are available for exploring the Azores.

Lisbon to Madeira Island

Starting price is about 35 EUR for Lisbon-Madeira Island

Ancient golden figurine of Jesus  Chris

Museums in Portugal

Portuguese museums are very unique because of the 15th century age of discovery and as a result the object of art brought to Portugal. Add to this Portugal being the stronghold of Christianity early on and exquisite objects of religious art it created, and you get museums like nowhere else in the world.

I can guarantee you that even if you're typically not into museums, Portuguese museums will excite you!

Lisbon has the largest concentration of the best Portuguese museums.

5 best museums of Lisbon

National Museum of Ancient Arts (Museu de Arte Antiga)

The most famous is the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga is the largest museum in Portugal. The principal collection of this museum comprises pieces from different archaeological sites, including Neolithic settlements and Bronze Age tombs.

It also has paintings, sculptures, furniture, ceramics, textiles, gold, and silverware reflecting Portugal’s history from the Middle Ages through the 19th century.

The was my favorite museum! I highly recommend visiting, but keep in mind that this museum keeps some rooms closed on rotating schedule. So you may or may not the most interesting pieces when you're visiting.

National Museum of Ancient Arts

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a horse-drawn carriage at National Coach museum

National Coach museum

The National Coach Museum hosts over a 100 horse-drawn vehicles, called coaches (carriages), that were in service of transporting people in style from 16th century to the beginning of the 19th century (the first cars).

It's located in Belem and it is the must-see museum. Here is my post for more details about this museum!

 The National Azulejo Museum

The National Azulejo Museum of Lisbon. It was established as a museum in 1975. I enjoyed this museum a lot.

The museum houses the largest collection of azulejos in Portugal, with more than 3,000 pieces from all corners of the country and much documentation about their history and technique.

A horse-drawn carriage at National Coach museum

Ajuda national palace museum or royal palace of Ajuda in Lisbon Portugal

Ajuda national palace museum

The National Palace of Ajuda (or Palácio Nacional da Ajuda)

Nacional Palace of Ajuda is a magnificent former home of the Portuguese royal family. It is housed in a neoclassical building and you can see very impressive classical, renaissance and Asian collections.

Describing this museum in a few words won’t do it justice. You have to see it to understand the magnificence of this museum. I will write a post with a video about it soon.

Museu Nacional de Machado de Castro

The Museu Nacional de Machado de Castro is a museum of national archaeology and art . The collection includes works from the Neolithic to Contemporary periods, with many objects from the Roman, Visigoth and Moorish periods.

There are many other museums, including the Royal Palace, National Archaeological Museum and Maritime Museum.

Museums are free on Sundays, but usually only for the locals.

Lisbon city card or Lisboa card

Lisbon city card gives you an excess of 26 different museums, monuments and points of interest in Lisbon and around. The Lisboa Card is the official tourist pass of Lisbon. The card is a 3-in-1 transport card, museum pass and discount card.

What is the best way to see Lisbon attractions without breaking the bank?

 If you re looking to squeeze in a lot of sites around Lisbon in a short amount of time, the Lisbon Card is a great option and money saver. You will be able to see many museums without breaking the bank and you will have free public transportation for you to get there, included in the card.

Lisbon city card is affordable, it starts from 20 euro for 24 hours. Plus, if gives you free public transport during the days you activated your card for.

The best value is to get a 72 days card. The price of 2021 was 40 euros. You will really enjoy all amazing places you can excess for free.

You will see as many attractions as you can handle per day. Considering most attractions charge 6-10 euros, you save a lot of money.

https://www.lisboacard.org/

 What is a tourist card?

A tourist card will allow you to receive discounts on museums and transportation.

Lisbon city card is a tourist card.

Is Portugal Safe?

Portugal is a very safe country to visit, and you can feel secure exploring the cities of Lisbon and Porto. Portuguese people are warm and friendly and make great hosts.

However, as with any country, it is important to be aware of any potential dangers and scams. If you follow some simple tips, like avoiding visiting some of the poorer neighborhoods after dark, not wearing expensive jewelries you will be just fine.

It always pays to be aware, careful, and prepared!

Is Portugal a safe destination for a solo traveler?

I highly recommend Portugal for a solo traveler, as you will feel safe, have an easy and reliable access to public transportation and great hotels and the best in Europe public hostels. Besides, if you are a solo female traveler, I can guarantee you the local ladies will help you without being asked! The fact that many won't speak English won't be the problem, as they're good at explaining without any languages!:)

The Most Common Scams in Portugal

Scams to avoid in Portugal:

The scams you might encounter in Portugal are about the same as in any other European city. The only one that is specific to Portugal has to do with the confusing legal status of marihuana in Portugal. This leads to the next topic.

Is weed legal in Portugal ?

Cannabis in Portugal is decriminalized because of the decriminalization of all drugs in Portugal in 2001. However, that doesn't mean that weed is legal! Confusing, isn't it?

Medical use of cannabis-based medicines was legalized in 2018.

The non-medical use of marihuana is decriminalized, which means you won't go to jail for weed (or any other type of drugs) or get in any serious trouble. The charge would typically vary from no charge at all to having to attend a rehabilitation program and maybe some fine. However, the use is not legal!

So, here comes a common scam.

Marihuana (or any other type of drugs) scam:

Here is how Marihuana (or any other type of drugs) scam work:

You can often notice guys, mostly in Lisbon and Porto, who offer marijuana, hashish or cocaine as you walk past. Most people heard something about drugs being decriminalized in Portugal, so they might assume that this offer is legitimate. Especially since there are usually police officers presented not far away.

What they sell, though, is bay leaves and other harmless household ingredients.

And if you wonder why the police have done nothing about it, it is because these people are technically not selling drugs.

However, this has become such a nuisance to everybody that the government is expected to step in soon.

New 2021 change to medical cannabis-based medicine

Since the April 2021, the Portuguese government has approved the first-ever cannabis-based medicine in the country. If you have medical conditions, you are allowed to buy the cannabis-based medicine in approved stores.

Disclaimer: All this provided information has the only purpose; to help you avoid being scammed and, in no way or form, advocates the use of any drugs.

Portugal History

Portugal’s History is Fascinating and rich!

In fact, Portugal history is so rich that it would take too long to post even a short version here. So here is a link with more details https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Portugal

What are the people of Portugal Like?

The people of Portugal are welcoming and are warm hosts who love to share their culture with travelers. Portuguese people are also friendly and patient, and they will do their best to make sure that you have a good time during your visit.

One of the most memorable moments for me was having conversations with Portuguese grandmas without knowing more than a few words in Portuguese (me) and in English (them). And yet, we had many animated memorable conversations with lots of smiles and hand gestures.

They were also kind and initiative, and helpful to me in figuring out which direction to go to or which bus to take, as it’s slightly less obvious in smaller cities like Cascais, with worse mobile coverage for my free in Europe T-Mobile service.

It's important to note that while most Portuguese people are very friendly, they may not be the best at English, so it is helpful to know some basic phrases in Portuguese. I knew about 5 sentences, and they have really helped me to get the answers.

Do you speak English in Portuguese

Note: Don't forget , when asking a Portuguese person, if he speaks English, ask this IN PORTUGUESE! Don't just ask; do you speak English? Say - Você fala inglês? This guarantees a person will get more relaxed and helpful.


What are the ways to save in Portugal?

Some of the best advice for the budget travel tips in Portugal includes traveling during off-peak season (winter) so you can get more bang for your buck without having too many tourists around.

Additionally, not staying at hotels - but rather renting apartments or staying in hostels - will help give you a more authentic experience on way less money.

Budget travel tips for Portugal

When traveling to Europe, it is possible to save money while still enjoying time in Portugal and visiting other countries or cities throughout the continent.

Use public transportation. Taxis add up so use the metro system for transportation needs

Avoid tourist traps at restaurants and bars. As long as you're not splurging on a lot of booze or eating at overpriced tourist restaurants, your food will be affordable.

Buy Lisbon city card. Lisbon city card is a great card, if you're on a budget!

Portugal is a country that's perfect for those who want to travel and have an authentic European experience. There are a number of food, accommodation, wine options available in Portugal which will ensure you can eat well without breaking the bank.

Is tap water safe to drink in Portugal?

The tap water is safe to drink so bring a reusable water bottle. Bring reusable water bottle to save money and reduce your plastic use.

LifeStraw has built-in filters to ensure your water is always clean and safe

What Not to Do in Portugal

Do not ask locals in Spanish! Spanish and Portuguese, while similar in some ways, are two different languages!

When visiting churches, make sure your shoulders are covered!

Don't discuss local politics - the same with visiting any country.

Portugal is amazing and beautiful country - go, visit and enjoy!

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