With it’s rugged coastline and mountainous landscapes, Portugal is a real gem. Lisbon, Portugal’s capital city, offers the perfect relaxed ambience for tourists who visit specifically to sunbath on the Algarve’s beautiful beaches and dine alfresco in the abundance of chic cafes.
Visitors can sail the river Douro, cycle across the Sintra Mountains and explore the lush green landscapes of the Volcanic Azores. Whatever you plan to do, Portugal will amaze and enthrall you and keep you coming back time and again. While here, make sure you enjoy traditional fresh seafood dishes washed down with the famous Portuguese “Port”.
Portugal Travel Info
Language: The official language of Portugal is Portuguese. In the major cities, English is spoken by some locals and by the majority of people working in the tourism industry. You will also find people from certain villages speaking Mirandese, a local language.
Visa: Portugal is a member of the Schengen Agreement, which provides a free visa to travel to any EU country as well as those approved by Schengen like America, New Zealand, and Australia for a period of 90 days. Citizens of South Africa, Asia and Russia, need to apply for Schengen Visa before traveling to Portugal.
Electricity: In Portugal the standard voltage is 230 V and the frequency is 50 Hz. You can use your electric appliances in Portugal if the standard voltage in your country is between 220 to 240 V (for example the UK, Europe, Australia and most of Asia and Africa). I recommend bringing a Universal Travel Adapter so you don’t need to keep buying new adapters for each country you visit.
Portugal Festivals & Celebrations
Festa do Senhor Santo Cristo: Festa do Senhor Santo Cristo takes place between April and May. After five weeks from Easter Sunday, Island of Sao Miguel hosts the best festival of Azores. This six-day party attracts a lot of crowd from different corners of the world as well as followers of Azores to revere the Holy Christ with flowers, lights, music, dance, and food.
Festa dos Tabuleiro: If you’re visiting Portugal in July then make a note of this festival in your calendar. Every four years, the central town draws travelers from different parts of the world for Festa dos Tabuleiro. The festival’s focus is a procession of girls adorned in tabuleiros that represents the pillar of strength and the Holy Spirit.
New Year’s Eve in Madeira: If you’re looking for a grand celebration of New Year’s Eve, this is the place to be. The Madeira Island’s New Years Eve firework display is famous worldwide and in 2006 the fireworks broke a world record for just being really awesome.
Safety In Portugal
Just like all European countries, Portugal is a safe place to travel. Bag snatching and scams are prevalent in big cities so always be careful. Major cities like Lisbon are under the constant threat of a terror attack, as with all major cities in Europe, but in Portugal the threat is low. Based on my own travel experiences in Europe I wouldn’t leave home without travel insurance no matter how safe the destination is considered. You can still miss flights, lose your luggage or break a leg, especially if you’re as accident prone as I am. For this reason I recommend checking out the travel insurance plan that World Nomads can offer you a few weeks or months before you plan to visit Portugal.
Top Things To Do In Portugal
Visit the National Palace of Sintra
This beautiful palace is located on the Central Square, and it can be recognized from far by its huge round chimneys at the top. The palace was constructed in the 14th century and is known to be the oldest well-preserved palace of Portugal. There are a few intricately adorned floors with different themes and among the most prominent features of the palace is the Sala dos Brasoes, the main hall with a sparkling dome.
Admire the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos
In Lisbon, stands one of the most outstanding buildings of Portugal called the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos. This is a church and adjoining it is a monastery, both of which are built in the Manueline style of architecture, and the interiors are beautifully adorned. It even has some splendid walkways and some monuments like the tomb of well known Portuguese poet Luis de Camoes and Vasco de Gama.
Enjoy a beach day
Towards the north of Porto lies the Matosinhos Beach that is made of miles of golden sand bordered by a walkway. This beach is frequented by locals and tourists alike, and the best thing is that it has lifeguards, which means it is safe for families arriving with young children. Here you can enjoy a game of soccer or volleyball and plenty of water sports too. When the tides allow, you can go surfing.
Visit the Castelo de Sao Jorge
This castle is located on a hill in Lisbon and rules the skyline of the city. Across the castle is the Baixa District of Lisbon. Originally, it was constructed in the 12th century and has since been renovated a few times. Most parts of the castle are open to tourists, and you can explore the ancient towers and ramparts. There is a camera installed in one of the towers that projects pictures of the city on the castle walls.
Marvel at the Oceanarium in Lisbon
This Oceanarium is among the best places to visit with children in Lisbon and aims at spreading awareness about marine conservation. It houses a large number of creatures who live in four different ecosystems. These represent the Indian, Atlantic, Antarctic and Pacific oceans. The marine animals residing here include rays, sharks, penguins, and otters.
Be wowed by the Museu Calouste
Museu Calouste Gulbenkian is amongst the most renowned museums in Lisbon having around 6000 artifacts on display. These belonged to Calouste Sarkis Gulbenkian, an Armenian national who lived in Portugal and donated all his objects to the museum before his death. His incredible collection has pieces like European, Classical and Oriental art that date about 4000 years back. The signature pieces include paintings by Rembrandt, furniture belonging to Louis XV and XVI and Roman Medallions.
Admire the Batalha
Batalha is an incredibly magnificent Gothic church, one of the most splendid in Europe and absolutely breathtaking. It is declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its gothic doorway is massive, and the interiors are equally impressive. Lose yourself in this remarkable 16th-century structure and gape at the beauty of the stained-glass windows. Spend some time just walking around the church, absorbing the positivity it oozes.
Walk around the Abbey of Santa Maria
This is the largest structure of Cistercian order in Europe, and the Abbey has something to offer to everyone who visits it. Whether you are interested in admiring beautiful places or learning about their history, the Abbey of Santa Maria will not disappoint you. Its highlights are a spectacular church, a nearby monastery, seven dormitories, five cloisters, a kitchen and lots of interesting places to explore.
Enjoy a traditional Fado Performance
Fado is the traditional folk Music of Portugal which must be experienced while you are here. In Lisbon, the style is mournful whereas, in Coimbra, it is upbeat, but whatever be the style you will surely be moved by the music. The tradition is at least 200 years old, and every performance has a lot of emotion attached to it. Something you will experience nowhere else. You can book your spot at any of the bars in any city and enjoy this unique experience over a hearty meal.
Porto is world famous for its port wine. Here you can sample a collection of port and also take a tour to the cellars of the producers of the wine. Learn about the history of the wine and the technique used to make it. When you are done with the boozing, explore Porto and the plenty of things that can be done here. Some of Porto’s highlights are the beautiful waterfront, several bars and cafes and the beautiful River Villa de Gaia.
Other than these top things to do in Portugal, there is so much more to see and experience in this amazing country. Be prepared to be flexible because sometimes other travelers that you meet on your travels will have the best suggestions for things to do in Portugal that are off the beaten path.
What To Eat In Portugal
If you are a seafood lover, Portugal is the perfect destination for you. It boasts the freshest seafood, cooked using organic ingredients. If you are in Portugal for a short time, below are a few of the must-try dishes.
Bacalhau: This national dish of Portugal is a dried, salted codfish. This dish can be prepared in several ways, and the most traditional way is cooking the fish with scrambled eggs, fried potatoes and olives and the preparation is called Bacalhau à Braz.
Sardines: During summers, the Festo de Santo Antonio takes place in Lisbon. The entire city is absorbed in a party atmosphere, and fresh sardines are amply served. This is the time if the year when you can find the juiciest and the most delectable sardines. They are grilled and served along with wine.
Whole Crab: This is an extremely famous dish where the innards of a crab are mixed with fat and a sauce made of butter, onions, garlic, peppers, white wine, and chili sauce and served in the shell. This is believed to be the best way to eat a crab where absolutely nothing is wasted.
Pastel de Nata: This is Lisbon’s most famous food whose recipe is a secret known to only three people in the world. It is a puff pastry with a round golden exterior filled with soft and rich egg custard. The best places to have it are Pasteis de Belém, Manteigaria, and Aloma.
Caldo Verde: Soup is the all-time favorite of Europeans, and most countries are perfect at making them; one among them being Portugal. Caldo Verde is a simple mix of onions, potatoes, and kale, cooked in olive oil and garlic. This is ultimate comfort food.
Where To Stay In Portugal
Portugal can be quite an expensive place to visit. Finding excellent accommodation in Portugal is easy but finding affordable accommodation, if you’re on a tight budget, is the hard part. Luckily Portugal hostels and dormitories make travel here more affordable for backpackers and any travelers on a shoe-string budget.
Don’t wait until you arrive to see what’s available or you may be disappointed to find that all the best accommodation options have already been snapped up. Portugal is a very popular year-round destination with business travelers and sight-seeing tourists alike.
Jetset Bunny recommends using Booking.com for the best accommodation deals in Portugal.
If you’re backpacking in Portugal or traveling on a tight budget then Hostel World is another great option. Staying in hostels makes travel in Europe much more affordable and is also a great way to meet new travel buddies.
Portugal Trip Planner
Best Time to Visit Portugal
The best time to visit Portugal is between April and October, this is if you want mild, reasonably warm weather. If you want to visit Portugal when the weather’s hot and the sky is blue then aim to visit between June and September. Still, expect a few rainy and cloudy days, it is still Europe after all.
Portugal Travel Budget
Portugal can be an expensive city but it’s still generally an affordable destination for travelers on a tight budget. The cost of your trip to Portugal really depends on the level of comfort you will want while here. If you’re backpacking and planning on staying in dormitories, hostels and eating fast food then budget between 35 to 50 euros a day. If you prefer to stay in 3-4 star hotel rooms and eat in mid-range restaurants you could spend anywhere between 50 to 100 euros per day. If you want to enjoy luxury 4-5 star accommodation and gourmet restaurants in places like Lisbon then budget about 250 euros plus a day.
- Budget: €35 – €50
- Mid-range: €50 – €100
- Splurge: €150 +
Meal For One
- Budget: €8 – €25
- Mid-range: €25 – €60
- Splurge: €60 +
Portugal Packing Guide
Packing for a trip to Portugal, like most other places in Europe is easy, just remember to pack lightweight and breathable clothing for Summer trips and warm, waterproof clothing for trips during Spring, Autumn and Winter.
Be prepared for the weather to get extremely cold during the winter. You will need high quality thermal wear and scarves, woolly hats, gloves and a thick winter coat. If you forget to pack something you can buy anything you need while you’re in Portugal. Prices are generally higher in smaller boutiques than they would be online so expect to pay a premium if you don’t have the option of shopping around due to time restraints on your trip.
Other essential items to pack for a trip to Portugal include a good quality travel backpack. Choose the brand carefully and make sure you find the right size backpack for your torso. Believe me, doing this will make all the difference and prevent major backache. Smaller items to pack include a padlock, sleep sheet and a money belt to keep important documents close to you.
For the full list of everything you need to pack for a trip to Portugal check out the Jetset Bunny Ultimate Europe Packing List For Female Travelers.