8 reasons to visit Portugal

8 reasons to visit Portugal

We just got back from a week in Portugal. There is so much I want to say and write about. I thought I’d start with 8 reasons to visit Portugal. Whether you need convincing or not, whether you want to go in spring, summer, fall, or winter — I hope these reasons inspirate you to choose Portugal for your next trip.

For other Europe content, check out the following:

8 reasons to visit Portugal

Portugal was a place that we thought to ourselves, we could keep coming back here. We would LOVE living here.

Okay, we do say that about a lot of places we travel… 😉

BUT, we might be the most serious about Portugal. And here’s why:

The people (and culture) are outwardly warm and welcoming

The people are what makes experiences in a place so magical. And for so many places I’ve been, the people are wonderful.

With that said, sometimes the culture is that you will be welcomed with open arms in a home or with a family, but maybe not on the street by a stranger. Meaning, in some of my experience, not all places will be helpful if you have a question or need help getting somewhere.

We only had positive experiences with people while we were in Portugal. It was a highlight of our time. We kept saying to ourselves, we have only been having positive interactions.

This can go a long way when you’re traveling, exhausted, don’t understand the norms or language, and just want a little support.

This is the number 1 of reasons to visit Portugal. And this reason makes it a great country for first-time travelers, especially to Europe.

Fado

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably heard me say this a million times already: have you heard of Fado??

I was exposed to Fado when I was in Lisbon for three weeks for a college course (over a decade ago!!), and I fell in love with it. I’m not a music-buff by any means, but there’s something about Fado that gives you an understanding of life and the past of this little country.

In 2011 was added to the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity with UNESCO. It’s a music genre that’s speaks of melancholy and every-day tribulations. My husband calls it a mix of opera and folk.

Imagine a woman singing with a beautiful voice along with a couple guitars (traditional and Portuguese) in a tavern with dim lights and candles while you sip your port wine and process your day.

There’s some controversy about when exactly Fado was created and where it stems from. Some say it stems from colonial past in Africa. Fado was even used by the dictator government up until the 1970’s as propaganda. There’s so much unique history to this special Portuguese music genre.

While in Portugal, we did two Fado little concert/experiences (one in Porto and one in Lisbon) and they were a highlight of our trip. I highly recommend other’s take advantage of that while in Portugal. I specifically recommend an amazing one in Lisbon, which you can book through a travel advisor (aka me!).

Architecture

Perhaps one of my favorite things about traveling in Europe is the old architecture. I’m such a sucker for it!!

And Portugal is no different. Particularly the Mediterranean architecture in Portugal (and southern Europe) is my favorite.

Unique past that makes Portugal one of the most diverse and vibrant places in Europe

Like I mentioned above with Fado, Portugal has a unique past. Portugal is celebrating 50 years this year (2024) free of dictatorship. This is actually a really short amount of time to be free of control for a country in Europe.

And due to it’s colonial past (which comes with lots of issues), Portugal saw a phenomenon they call retornados which basically translates to the returnees or returned. Many Portuguese colonies were decolonized in the 1960’s and 1970’s (Mozambique, Cape Verde, Angola, Goa India, etc.). When Portugal colonization ceased, many people left and settled in Portugal. This has brought a strong multi-cultural feel. The immigrant experience is a part of life in Portugal.

Some of the people that we interacted with the most in Portugal were actually Brazilians, many young Brazilians now moving to Portugal for better work opportunities.

These waves of immigration give cities like Porto and Lisbon much more depth and diversity of experiences, culture, and language.

Food and wine

This goes without saying. One of 8 reasons to visit Portugal is the food and wine (don’t forget port wine!). The food is delicious and the wine is some of the best (and super affordable!).

Some iconic dishes and drink you must try include bacalhau, port wine, port wine tonic, and pastel de nata (some of the most creamy pastries everrrrr!!).

Alfama

Alfama is an iconic neighborhood in Lisbon. After spending much time here in college learning about it, and then again walking here every day on this trip, Alfama has a special place in our hearts!! It’s one of the only neighborhoods that survived the 1755 earthquake in Lisbon.

If you do a tour in Lisbon, you can be sure you will hear about the 1755 earthquake that shaped much of this city (and country!).

Train travel

Train travel is so easy in Europe!! It’s not just easy, but it’s the preferred mode of transportation through much of the continent.

This is how we traveled through Portugal and I highly recommend it!

You don’t have to worry about parking your car in narrow streets or navigating with Google Maps. Just buy an inexpensive train ticket, pack a picnic lunch (and even wine) to bring with, and enjoy while the beautiful scenery passes you by.

In addition, Portugal is a small country. So you can get from some of the most iconic parts within a few hours. Porto to Lisbon is about 3-3.5 hours. Porto to the Douro Valley is 2-3 hours via train, and Lisbon down to the Algarve is also just a few hour train ride.

Natural beauty

My final of the 8 reasons to visit Portugal is the natural beauty!

Portugal is green, lush, hilly, and beautiful along the ocean shores. I tend to gravitate towards natural beauty that’s green and hilly. This is Portugal (at least the northern half).

I promise you will have your camera (or phone) out all the time.

There are so many other reasons to visit Portugal, but I hope this list inspires you to plan your trip there.

And — as always — if you want help planning your trip there, let me know!!

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