Wall covered with azulejos in Chapel of the Souls in Porto, Portugal.

Why Travel to Portugal?

13 min read

Discover Portugal, a hidden European gem where age-old traditions blend seamlessly with modern charm, from the sun-kissed beaches of the Algarve to the historic streets of Lisbon and Porto.

13 min read

Portugal, a country located in southwestern Europe, is a fascinating destination that should be on every traveler's radar. With its unique appeal, rich history, diverse landscapes, vibrant culture, and exquisite cuisine, Portugal has something for everyone. Its cities are filled with charm and historic significance, while its language and traditions leave a lasting impression. In this article, we will explore why Portugal is a must-visit destination and what makes it so captivating.

Understanding Portugal's Unique Appeal

When it comes to uniqueness, Portugal stands out for its rich history, diverse landscapes, and vibrant culture. Let's delve deeper into what makes this country so special.

The Rich History of Portugal

Portugal has a history that spans thousands of years. From the days of the ancient Lusitanians to the Roman and Moorish occupations, this country has seen it all. Its historic sites, such as the Tower of Belem and the Jeronimos Monastery, are testaments to its glorious past. Exploring these landmarks allows you to step back in time and appreciate the historical significance of the country.

Palace of Pena in Sintra Portugal.
Courtyard in the Palace of Pena in Sintra Portugal.
Palace of Pena, Sintra, Portugal

As you wander through the narrow cobblestone streets of Lisbon, you can't help but feel the weight of history. The city's architecture tells stories of conquests and discoveries, with each building showcasing a unique blend of styles influenced by different periods. From the medieval São Jorge Castle to the elegant Pena Palace in Sintra, Portugal's architectural heritage is a testament to its rich and diverse history.

But it's not just the grand monuments that hold historical significance. Even the smaller towns and villages have their own stories to tell. Take a stroll through the charming town of Évora, and you'll find yourself surrounded by ancient Roman ruins, medieval walls, and a beautiful 16th-century aqueduct. Everywhere you turn, Portugal's past comes alive.

Roman temple of Diana in Évora Portugal.
Courtyard with ancient ruins in Évora Portugal.
Évora, Portugal

Portugal's Diverse Landscapes

Despite its relatively small size, Portugal boasts a remarkable range of landscapes. From the lush vineyards of the Douro Valley to the rugged beauty of the Algarve coastline, there is something for every nature enthusiast. The Azores, a group of islands in the Atlantic Ocean, offer dramatic volcanic landscapes and breathtaking hikes. Whether you prefer mountains, beaches, or rolling countryside, Portugal has it all.

View on Cabo da Roca in Portugal.
Cabo da Roca, Portugal

Imagine yourself standing at the edge of the world, overlooking the vast Atlantic Ocean from the cliffs of Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point of mainland Europe. The salty breeze brushes against your face as you take in the breathtaking view. Or picture yourself hiking through the mystical forests of Peneda-Gerês National Park, where ancient oaks and granite peaks create a fairytale-like atmosphere.

For those seeking sun and sand, the Algarve region beckons with its golden beaches and crystal-clear waters. From the popular resorts of Lagos and Albufeira to the hidden coves of Sagres and Tavira, the Algarve offers a coastal paradise for beach lovers.

View on Praia da Bordeira in Algarve, Portugal.
Estrada da Ponta da Piedade in Lagos, Portugal.
Algarve, Portugal

The Vibrant Culture and Traditions

Portugal is known for its warm and welcoming people who are always ready to share their culture and traditions. From lively festivals to traditional fado music, Portugal's cultural scene is vibrant and diverse. Exploring the narrow streets of Lisbon's historic neighborhoods or mingling with the locals in Porto's traditional taverns gives you a glimpse into the authentic Portuguese way of life.

As you wander through the colorful streets of Porto, the birthplace of port wine, you'll find yourself immersed in a lively atmosphere. The city's historic Ribeira district is a UNESCO World Heritage site, with its narrow alleys, charming houses, and bustling riverside cafes. Join the locals in a traditional tasca, where you can savor delicious petiscos (Portuguese tapas) and listen to the soulful melodies of fado music.

Church tower in town of Monsanto in Portugal.
Small town of Monsanto in Portugal.
Monsanto, Portugal

But it's not just the big cities that showcase Portugal's vibrant culture. In the charming village of Monsanto, perched atop a granite hill, you can witness the unique tradition of houses built between giant boulders. And in the picturesque town of Nazaré, you can witness the daring feats of surfers as they ride some of the world's biggest waves.

Man standing on the beach in Nazaré Portugal.
Nazaré, Portugal

The Allure of Portuguese Cities

Portugal's cities are a major draw for tourists. They offer a perfect blend of history, architecture, and modern charm. Let's explore some of the most captivating cities in Portugal.

The Charm of Lisbon

Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, is a city that effortlessly combines tradition with modernity. Its colorful neighborhoods, such as Alfama and Bairro Alto, are a pleasure to explore on foot. As you wander through the narrow streets, you'll encounter charming cafes, local shops, and vibrant street art. The aroma of freshly baked Portuguese pastries fills the air, tempting you to stop at a local café and indulge in a sweet treat.

One of the iconic symbols of Lisbon is the yellow tram, which has been transporting locals and tourists alike since the 19th century. Hop on board and enjoy a leisurely ride through the city's hilly streets, taking in the sights and sounds of Lisbon.

Historical yellow tram in Lisbon.
Praça do Comércio in Lisbon, Portugal.
Colorful buildings in Lisbon.
Lisbon, Portugal

No visit to Lisbon would be complete without visiting the historic São Jorge Castle. Perched on a hilltop, this ancient fortress offers breathtaking panoramic views of the city and the Tagus River. As you explore the castle's walls and towers, you'll be transported back in time, imagining the battles and conquests that took place within its walls.

Another must-see attraction in Lisbon is the picturesque Belém Tower. This UNESCO World Heritage site is a symbol of Portugal's maritime past and is located on the banks of the Tagus River. Take a stroll along the riverfront and admire the tower's intricate architecture, or venture inside to learn more about its history.

Lisbon is also a perfect destination for traveling solo - read also our guide on solo traveling in Lisbon.

The Historic Significance of Porto

Porto, located in the north of Portugal, is famous for its historic center, Ribeira. This UNESCO World Heritage site is a maze of narrow streets, colorful houses, and stunning views of the Douro River. As you wander through Ribeira, you'll feel like you've stepped back in time, with its medieval buildings and charming squares.

Wine lovers will appreciate the cellars of Vila Nova de Gaia, located on the opposite bank of the Douro River. This is where port wine is produced and aged, and you can take a tour to learn about the wine-making process and sample some of the finest ports.

Wall decorated with azulejos in Porto, Portugal.
View on Porto city in Portugal.
Porto, Portugal

For a bird's-eye view of Porto, cross the majestic Luís I Bridge. This iconic double-deck iron bridge connects Porto with Vila Nova de Gaia and offers stunning panoramic views of the city and the river below. As you walk across the bridge, you'll be captivated by the architectural beauty and the bustling atmosphere.

Another architectural gem in Porto is the São Bento train station. Step inside this beautiful station and be mesmerized by its intricate azulejo tiles, which depict scenes from Portuguese history. Take a moment to appreciate the craftsmanship and the historical significance of this stunning building.

The Hidden Gems of Faro and the Algarve

Faro, the capital of the Algarve region, is often overlooked but offers numerous attractions. Its charming old town, with its cobblestone streets and traditional houses, is a pleasure to explore. As you wander through the narrow alleys, you'll stumble upon hidden squares, quaint cafes, and local shops selling traditional crafts.

Just a short distance from Faro lies the Ria Formosa Natural Park, a haven for nature lovers. This protected area is home to a diverse range of bird species and offers stunning lagoons, marshes, and sand dunes. Take a boat tour or go hiking along the nature trails to fully appreciate the beauty and tranquility of this natural paradise.

Boats on the coast of Ponta da Piedade.
Praia da Marinha
Ponta da Piedade and Praia da Marinha

And when it comes to beaches, the Algarve coastline boasts some of the most stunning in Europe. From the golden sands of Praia da Marinha to the dramatic cliffs of Ponta da Piedade, the Algarve offers a variety of breathtaking coastal landscapes. Whether you're looking for a secluded cove or a lively beach with water sports, you'll find it along the Algarve's coastline.

Portuguese Cuisine: A Gastronomic Adventure

No trip to Portugal is complete without indulging in its mouthwatering cuisine. Portuguese gastronomy is a true delight for food enthusiasts. Let's dive into some of the highlights.

The Seafood Delights of Portugal

Given its long coastline, it's no surprise that Portugal excels in seafood dishes. From grilled sardines to succulent lobster, the variety and freshness of seafood here are unparalleled. Don't miss the opportunity to try bacalhau, a traditional salted codfish dish, or arroz de marisco, a flavorful seafood rice. The coastal cities of Lisbon and Porto are particularly renowned for their seafood restaurants.

Oysters for sale in Porto in Portugal.
Local oysters in Porto

The Sweet Treats and Desserts

Portugal is also famous for its sweet treats and desserts. Pastel de nata, a creamy custard tart with a flaky pastry, is a national treasure. You can find these mouthwatering delicacies in local bakeries, but nothing beats enjoying them in the iconic Pastéis de Belém bakery in Lisbon. Another sweet delight is arroz doce, a delicious rice pudding infused with cinnamon and lemon zest. Indulging in Portuguese desserts is like taking a sweet journey through the country's culinary heritage.

Pastel de nata on a plate.
Pastel de nata

The World of Portuguese Wines

Portugal is a paradise for wine enthusiasts. The country's unique terroir and grape varieties produce exceptional wines that are enjoyed both nationally and internationally. The Douro Valley, home to the famous port wine, offers breathtaking vineyards carved into steep hillsides. The regions of Alentejo and Vinho Verde also produce excellent wines worth exploring. Visiting local wineries and tasting the different varietals is an unforgettable experience.

In conclusion, Portugal offers a unique and captivating travel experience. From its rich history and diverse landscapes to its vibrant cities, exquisite cuisine, and influential language, there is no shortage of reasons to visit this enchanting country. Whether you are a history buff, a nature lover, a food enthusiast, or simply seeking a new cultural adventure, Portugal has it all. So pack your bags, immerse yourself in the beauty of this Mediterranean gem, and create lifelong memories.

LZ

Lizzie Z.

As a top level corporate executive, Lizzie embarked on a soul-searching journey of adventure and slow living, passionately sharing her insights as the founder of RLM.

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