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Portugal travel guide - Travel S helper


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Portugal, formally the Portuguese Republic, is a nation in Southwestern Europe located on the Iberian Peninsula. It is the westernmost nation on the European continent. It is bounded on the west and south by the Atlantic Ocean, and on the east and north by Spain. The Portugal–Spain border is 1,214 kilometers (754 miles) long and is regarded the European Union’s longest continuous border. Additionally, the republic encompasses the Azores and Madeira archipelagos, both of which are independent entities with their own regional administrations.

Since prehistoric times, the area of modern Portugal has been continually inhabited, invaded, and fought over. Following the Pre-Celts, Celts, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and Romans, the Visigothic and Suebi Germanic peoples invaded. In 711, the Moors conquered the Iberian Peninsula, and for the next centuries, Portugal would be a member of the Muslim Al Andalus. Portugal was established as a consequence of the Christian Reconquista, and in 1139, Afonso Henriques was crowned King of Portugal, thus securing Portugal’s independence.

Portugal created the world’s first empire in the 15th and 16th centuries, becoming one of the world’s main economic, political, and military powers. Portuguese explorers pioneered maritime exploration during this period, most notably under the royal patronage of Prince Henry the Navigator and King Joo II, with such notable discoveries as Vasco da Gama’s sea route to India (1497–98), the discovery of Brazil (1500), and the reaching of the Cape of Good Hope. During this historical period, Portugal monopolized the spice trade, while the Portuguese Empire grew via military operations in Asia. However, Lisbon’s devastation in a 1755 earthquake, the country’s occupation during the Napoleonic Wars, Brazil’s independence (1822), and the Liberal Wars (1828–34) all left Portugal wounded by conflict and reduced in global influence.

After the monarchy was overthrown in 1910, the democratic but unstable Portuguese First Republic was formed, only to be succeeded by the right-wing authoritarian dictatorship of the Estado Novo. After the Portuguese Colonial War and the 1974 Carnation Revolution, democracy was restored. Shortly afterwards, virtually all of its foreign colonies gained independence, thus ending the world’s longest-lived colonial empire. Portugal has a significant cultural and architectural impact on the rest of the world, as well as a legacy of over 250 million Portuguese speakers.

Portugal is a developed nation with a developed economy and a good quality of life. It is the world’s fifth most peaceful nation, with a unitarysemi-presidential republican system of government. It ranks 18th in the world in terms of social progress, surpassing other Western European nations such as France, Spain, and Italy. NATO and the Community of Portuguese Language Countries are also founder members, and it is also a member of a number of other international organizations, including the United Nations, the European Union, the eurozone, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

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Portugal - Info Card




Euro (€) (EUR)

Time zone



92,212 km2 (35,603 sq mi)

Calling code


Official language


Portugal | Introduction

Weather & Climate in Portugal

Portugal is one of the hottest country in Europe. On the Portuguese continent, the average annual temperatures are around 15°C in the north and 18°C in the south. Madeira and the Azores, as might be expected, have a lower temperature range due to their island location, the former having low rainfall in most parts of the archipelago and the latter being humid and rainy. The spring and summer months are generally sunny and maximum temperatures are very high in July and August, with peaks between 35°C and 40°C (86°F – 95°F) inland and 30°C and 35°C (86°F – 95°F) in the north.

Autumn and winter are generally rainy and windy, but sunny days are not uncommon. Temperatures rarely drop below 5°C (41°F) near the sea and average 10°C (50°F), but can reach several degrees below 0°C (32°F) further inland. In the northern mountainous regions, especially in the Serra da Estrela, snow often falls in winter but melts quickly once the season is over. The climate in Portugal can be categorized as Mediterranean.

Geografy Of Portugal

The Portuguese territories comprise an area of the Iberian Peninsula and two archipelagos in the Atlantic Ocean: the archipelagos of Madeira and the Azores.

Continental Portugal is divided by its main river, the Tagus, which comes from Spain and flows into Lisbon at the Tagus estuary before flowing into the Atlantic Ocean. The landscape in the north is mountainous towards the interior, with several plateaus interspersed with river valleys, while the south, which includes the Algarve and Alentejo regions, is characterized by undulating plains.

Portugal’s highest peak is the eponymous Mount Pico on the island of Pico in the Azores. This ancient volcano, 2,351 m high, is a landmark in the Azores, while the Serra da Estrela on the mainland (the peak is 1,991 m above sea level) is a major seasonal attraction for skiers and winter sports enthusiasts.

The archipelagos of Madeira and the Azores are scattered across the Atlantic Ocean: the Azores lie on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge at a triple tectonic junction and Madeira along a mountain range formed by the geology of the plate’s hot spots. From a geological point of view, those islands have been formed due to volcanic and seismic events. In 1957-58, Capelinhos was last volcanic eruption on land and sporadically smaller earthquakes occur, generally of low intensity.

Portugal’s Exclusive Economic Zone, a maritime area in which the Portuguese have special rights for the exploration and exploitation of marine resources, covers 1,727,408 km2. The Portuguese Exclusive Economic Zone is the 3rd biggest in the EU and the 11th biggest in the world.

Demographics of Portugal

The Portuguese Statistical Office (INE – Instituto Nacional de Estatística) estimates the population at 10,562,178 inhabitants (52% women and 48% men) according to the 2011 census. This population has been relatively homogenous for most of its history: a single religion (Catholicism) and a single language have contributed to this ethnic and national unity, following the expulsion of the Moors and Jews. Nevertheless, a considerable number of Moors and Jews remained in Portugal, provided they converted to Catholicism.

They were later called Mouriscos (former Muslims) and Cristãos Novos (new Christians or former Jews), some of whom may have continued to practice rabbinic Judaism in secret, as in the case of the secret Jews of Belmonte, who now openly practice the Jewish faith. The distinction between old and new Christians was abolished by decree after 1772. Famous Portuguese New Christians include the mathematician Pedro Nunes and the physician and naturalist Garcia de Orta.

The Portuguese are an Iberian ethnic group whose ancestry is very similar to that of other peoples of Western and Southern Europe and the Mediterranean, particularly the Spanish, followed by some French and Italian regional people, with whom they share a common ancestry, history and cultural proximity.

The most important demographic influence among the modern Portuguese seems to be the oldest; the current interpretation of Y chromosome and mtDNA data suggests that the Portuguese have their origins in the Palaeolithic peoples who began arriving on the European continent around 45,000 years ago. All subsequent migrations have left an impact, genetically and culturally, but the main source of population of the Portuguese is still the Paleolithic. Genetic studies show that Portuguese populations are not significantly different from other European populations.

The total fertility rate (TFR) in 2015 has been estimated at 1.52 children born/woman, which is below the replacement rate of 2.1. Like most western countries, Portugal also faces a low fertility rate: since the 1980s, the birth rate has been below the replacement rate.

The structure of Portuguese society is characterised by increasing inequality, which currently (2015) places the country in the bottom third of the European Union’s social justice index.


Portugal’s colonial history has long been a cornerstone of its national identity, as has its geographical location in south-western Europe, facing the Atlantic Ocean. It was one of the last colonial powers in Western Europe to renounce its overseas territories (including Angola and Mozambique in 1975), handing over the administration of Macao to China at the end of 1999. As a result, it has been both influenced and affected by the cultures of the former colonies or dependencies, leading to immigration from these former territories for both economic and personal reasons. From being a country of emigration for a long time ( the large majority of Brazilians have Portuguese origin), the country became a source of net immigration, not only of the last overseas territories of India (Portuguese until 1961), Africa (Portuguese until 1975) and Far East Asia (Portuguese until 1999). Approximately 800,000 Portuguese returned to Portugal after the country’s African colonies became independent in 1975. In 2007, Portugal had a population of 10,617,575, of which approximately 332,137 were legal immigrants.

Several new waves of Ukrainians, Brazilians, people from the former Portuguese colonies in Africa and other Africans have moved to the country from the 1990s, alongside a construction boom. Romanians, Moldovans, Kosovars and Chinese have also chosen Portugal as a destination. Portugal’s Roma population is estimated at around 40,000.

In addition, a number of EU nationals, mainly from the United Kingdom, other Northern European countries or Nordic countries, have settled permanently in the country (the British community being mainly composed of retired people who have chosen to live in the Algarve and Madeira).

Religion in Portugal

According to the 2011 census, 81.0% of the Portuguese population is Roman Catholic. The country has small communities of Protestants, Latter-day Saints, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Eastern Orthodox, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Baha’is, Buddhists, Jews and Spiritualists. The influences of traditional African religion and traditional Chinese religion are also felt by many people, especially in areas related to traditional Chinese medicine and African sorcerers. About 6.8% of the population reported being non-religious, and 8.3% did not specify their religion.

According to a 2012 study conducted by the Catholic University, approximately 79.5% of the Portuguese population declared that they consider themselves Catholics, while 18% regularly go to church. These figures represent a decrease from the 86.9% of Catholics in 2001, while in the same period the number of people who declared that they had no religion fell from 8.2% to 14.2%.

Many Portuguese festivals, celebrations and traditions have a Christian origin or connotation. Although relations between the Portuguese state and the Roman Catholic Church were generally friendly and stable from the early years of the Portuguese nation, their relative power has fluctuated.

The growth of the Portuguese overseas empire made its missionaries important agents of colonisation, playing a major role in the education and evangelisation of the populations of all inhabited continents. The growth of liberal and aspirational republican movements in the periods leading up to the establishment of the first Portuguese Republic (1910-26) changed the role and importance of organised religion.

Portugal is a secular state: Church and state were formally separated during the First Portuguese Republic and later reaffirmed in the Portuguese Constitution of 1976. Apart from the Constitution, the two most important documents concerning religious freedom in Portugal are the Concordat of 1940 (later amended in 1971) between Portugal and the Holy See and the Religious Freedom Law of 2001.

Language in Portugal

The official language in Portugal is Portuguese (português). Portuguese is one of the main languages in the world today and ranks 6th in terms of the number of native speakers (about 240 million). It is the language with the largest number of speakers in South America, spoken by almost the entire population of Brazil. It is also an official language in Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, São Tomé and Príncipe, Guinea-Bissau, East Timor and Macao.

Portuguese is a Romance language. Although it is largely intelligible with Spanish, with about 90% lexical similarities (both in vocabulary and grammar), it is far from identical. The Portuguese are a proud people and are uncomfortable with foreigners from non-Spanish speaking countries speaking the language when they travel to Portugal. While many words can be written almost the same as in Spanish (or Italian), the pronunciation differs considerably. This is because Portuguese has many sounds that are not present in these languages. Spanish is widely spoken, but it is not always the best language unless you come from a Spanish-speaking country.

It should also be mentioned that the pronunciation in Portugal differs significantly from that in Brazil. The difference is mainly in pronunciation and some differences in vocabulary, which makes it difficult even for Brazilians to understand the European Portuguese accent, but not vice versa, as Brazilian pop culture (e.g. soap operas and pop music) is very popular in Portugal. Nevertheless, today’s media have made this difficulty in understanding each other’s accent a side issue.

English is spoken in many tourist areas, but it is far from ubiquitous. Portuguese learn English at school and are also exposed to American and British films and TV shows with original English soundtracks and Portuguese subtitles, so most young people, although shy, have at least a basic knowledge of English. To improve your chances of being understood, speak slowly and stick to simple sentences. In fact, it is very likely that you will speak more English in Portugal than in countries like Spain or France. In the main tourist areas, you will almost always find someone who speaks the main European languages. Hotel staff are obliged to speak English, even if it is only briefly. French has almost disappeared as a second language, except perhaps among older people. German or Italian speakers are rare. About 32% of Portuguese can speak and understand English, while 24% can speak and understand French. Although Spanish is mutually intelligible in the sense that most Portuguese understand it in writing and/or orally, only 9% of the Portuguese population can speak it fluently. If you are a Spanish speaker, chances are you can understand each other very well for the most part, even without an interpreter.

Portuguese people generally have an excellent sense of humour when talking to someone who doesn’t speak their language. This means that all kinds of shopkeepers, vendors and people who are curious about you will take the time to try to find a way to communicate, often with amusing and unexpected results. Helping a stranger is seen as an opportunity and an enjoyable and rewarding experience. If you try to speak Portuguese correctly with the locals, especially if it is a little more complicated, you will be treated with respect and often the locals will apologise for the ‘difficulty’ of learning Portuguese or the ‘difficulty’ of the language and almost adopt you. This can encourage travellers to learn the basics of Portuguese, such as daily greetings and common “thank you, please” expressions.

In Miranda do Douro, a town in the northeast, and its surroundings, some people speak a regional language, the Mirandais, in addition to Portuguese, although rarely in front of people who do not know it.

Foreign television programmes are almost always broadcast in the original language with subtitles. Only children’s programmes are dubbed into Portuguese.

Economy of Portugal

Portugal is a developed, high-income country whose GDP per capita was 78% of the EU27 average in 2014, compared with 76% in 2012. Portugal’s currency is the euro (€), which replaced the Portuguese escudo, and the country was one of the first member countries in the euro area. The Portuguese central bank is the Banco de Portugal, which is part of the European System of Central Banks. Most industries, companies and financial institutions are concentrated in the metropolitan areas of Lisbon and Oporto – the largest economic centres outside these two areas are Setúbal, Aveiro, Braga, Coimbra and Leiria. According to the World Travel Awards, Portugal was the top golf destination in Europe in 2012 and 2013.

Since the Carnation Revolution of 1974, which marked the end of one of Portugal’s most remarkable periods of economic expansion (which began in the 1960s), the country’s annual economic growth has changed considerably. After the turbulence of the 1974 Revolution and the PREC period, Portugal has sought to adapt to a changing modern global economy, a process that will continue into 2013. Since the 1990s, Portugal’s economic development model, based on public consumption, has slowly been transformed into a system focused on exports, private investment and the development of the high-tech sector.

In the second decade of the 21st century, the Portuguese economy suffered its worst recession since the 1970s, leading the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund to bail out the country. The rescue plan, agreed in 2011, required Portugal to implement a series of austerity measures in exchange for €78bn in financial support. In May 2014, the country emerged from the rescue plan but reaffirmed its commitment to maintain its reform momentum. By the time the rescue plan was withdrawn, the economy had contracted by 0.7% in the first quarter of 2014 and unemployment, although still high, had fallen to 15.3%.

The average wage in Portugal is 910 euros per month (net), excluding the self-employed, and the legal minimum wage is 530 euros per month (paid 14 times a year).

The Global Competitiveness Report for 2014-2015, published by the World Economic Forum, places Portugal in 36th place in the economic index, a sharp increase from the 51st position Portugal held in 2013-2014.

In 2005, the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Quality of Life Index ranked Portugal 19th among the countries with the best quality of life in the world. This is despite the fact that Portugal remains one of the countries in Western Europe with the lowest GDP per capita.

Entry Requirements For Portugal

Visa & Passport for Portugal

Portugal is a member of the Schengen Agreement.

  • There are normally no border controls between the countries that have signed and implemented the treaty. This includes most countries of the European Union and a few other countries.
  • Before boarding an international flight or ship, there is usually an identity check. Sometimes there are temporary checks at land borders.
  • Similarly, a visa issued for a member of the Schengen area is valid in all other countries that have signed and implemented the treaty.

How To Travel To Portugal

Get In - By plane

Portugal has five airports with regular international passenger traffic:

  • Lisbon Portela Airport (IATA: LIS) is the main hub with numerous intercontinental connections to the Americas and Africa (mainly operated by the national airline TAP Portugal and its Star Alliance partners), as well as a dense network of connections in Europe operated by full-service and low-cost airlines.
  • Serving Portugal’s second largest city and the entire northern part of the country, Porto Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport (IATA: OPO) also has some intercontinental connections with America and Africa and a relatively dense network of connections in Europe, with a significant presence of low-cost airlines.
  • Faro Airport (IATA: FAO) serves the Algarve in the south of the country, one of the most popular holiday destinations for Europeans. As a result, it has the most traffic during the hottest months, mainly from charter companies transporting clients on package holidays, as well as low-cost flights from many European cities. A limited number of flights to major European destinations operate throughout the year.
  • Madeira Airport in Funchal (IATA: FNC) serves the green island in the Atlantic and is characterised by its spectacular runway jutting out into the ocean and a scenic approach that demands a lot of skill from pilots. Like Faro, the airport is dominated by holiday flights and experiences strong seasonality.
  • Ponta Delgada’s João Paulo II Airport (IATA: PDL) serves the Azores archipelago and has a surprisingly extensive route network, served mainly by the local airline Sata International and, since 2014, also by low-cost flights operated by Ryanair and Easyjet. Some holiday flights also reach Ponta Delgada from Europe.

Arriving in Portugal from Europe or the other side of the Atlantic, one can choose between several options, but there is no direct connection with Asia or Oceania. One can either rely on one of the major European airlines and their Asian partners to find a connection via one of the major European hubs, or use the daily Emirates flight to Dubai, where one can connect to their flight network across the Indian Ocean.

Get In - By train

Trains connect most major cities from Lisbon to Porto, Braga, Aveiro, Coimbra, Evora, Faro. Lisbon is connected to Madrid, Spain; Porto to Vigo, Spain; Vilar Formoso to Spain, France and the rest of Europe. In the south, it is not possible to enter Portugal from Spain. There is no rail connection between Seville and Faro, for example. The only option is to use the buses, of which there are many. The south-east of Portugal is connected by international train (linha do Leste and linha de Caceres) [Elvas/Caia, Portugal & Badajoz, Spain] or [Marvão-Beira, Portugal & Valencia de Alcantara, Spain]. For more information, contact CP, Portuguese Railways.

Get In - By bus

  • Spain/Portugal: ALSA [wwwand Avanza Grupo [www].
  • Porto/Portugal: Taxi from Porto Airport
  • Lisbon/Portugal: Taxi from Lisbon Airport
  • Also from Madrid/Paris: Aníbal [www]

Get In - With the boat

The country is served by many seaports that receive a lot of foreign traffic, mainly merchant ships but also passenger ships (mainly cruise ships).

How To Travel Around Portugal

Get Around - By plane

In Portugal, the train is generally slightly faster than the bus, but the connections are less frequent and cost more. The immediate surroundings of Lisbon and Porto are quite well served by suburban trains.

Rail connections on Portugal’s main line, i.e. between Braga and Faro, are good. Alfa-Pendular (fast) trains are comfortable, first class is excellent. The Alfa-Pendular train only stops at the main city stations and often requires advance booking (recommended) between Braga, Porto, Gaia, Aveiro, Coimbra, Lisbon and Faro.

Intercity trains take you to other destinations, especially inland, such as Évora, Beja and Guarda.

Timetables are available and tickets can be purchased online on the Comboios de Portugal website.

If you book five days or more in advance, you will receive a 40% discount on the normal ticket price for Alfa Pendular and Intercidades trains. Only a limited number of these tickets are available in advance per train. Advance booking must be made no earlier than 60 days before the day of travel.

If you book a long-distance ticket to or from Porto-Campanhã, you can travel for free on local trains between this station and Porto São Bento (city centre).

Get Around - By bus

Unfortunately, the rail network is limited, so you may have to travel off the beaten track by bus. Rede Expresso [www] is one of the largest intercity bus companies.

Lisbon and Porto, the two largest cities, have a clean, modern and air-conditioned metro system (underground/metro and light rail).

Road traffic in Lisbon and Porto is quite congested throughout the day and gets completely blocked at peak times, at least on the main roads to get in and out of the city. However, a car is the most convenient or only way to get to areas outside the major cities (rental cars aren’t too expensive, but the associated insurance is – unless you book the full package abroad). Note the advice below about the quality of some people’s driving skills.

In general, Portugal is not a good country for hitchhiking. On the deserted country roads of the south, you can wait many hours before you are offered a lift. Try to talk to people at petrol stations or car parks, etc. Drivers tend to be suspicious, but if you show them not to be afraid, they will probably accept you, and most of the time they will be generous. Try to look neat and clean. Hippie style will get you nowhere. Like everywhere else in the world, two men hitchhiking together won’t get a ride from anyone.

Get Around - By car

You can easily reach almost all major cities in Portugal, either by motorway or by good modern roads. The major cities are well connected by modern motorways (most of which are toll roads) and you can, if you wish, travel the entire north-south length of the country without ever leaving the motorway.

However, some secondary roads are in poor condition and need maintenance. Also, Portuguese driving can be unpredictable and, frankly, scary for the uninitiated. The country has something in common with most southern European countries that successive Portuguese governments have tried to combat: the appalling behaviour of some drivers on the roads. To combat this phenomenon, the road traffic law was recently amended to punish with great severity speeding, driving without a licence, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and so on.

The motorways where driving is most reckless are those around Lisbon and Porto, the A1 and A2, and the Algarve. You can be on a two-lane toll motorway and not see any other vehicles, except for the car you overtake at 30 km/h over the speed limit and the car about 1.80 m from your rear that passes you with its headlights flashing. The behaviour when junctions turn into fast roads is also pretty bad. On other roads, you will get used to two classic Portuguese experiences: the suicidal overtaking attempts and the resulting absurdly outdated signs indicating when you can and cannot overtake – sometimes 5 metres apart – and the “penalty stop” traffic lights when you enter the 50 km/h zone in every small town, with a camera that decides if you are exceeding the speed limit. It is quite absurd that your speed is no longer monitored once you have exceeded the speed limit.

It is probably unwise for those unfamiliar with Portuguese driving to attempt to drive in Lisbon or Porto – be aware that if you do, drivers in the city will give no quarter and show little respect for lane markings (where they exist!). If you want to try it, choose a weekend or off-peak time. These are early morning (8am – 9.30am) and late afternoon (5pm – 7.30pm). Other Portuguese cities are much better, but their streets are often very narrow.

Toll motorways

Portugal has an electronic toll system and you must make arrangements to register your number plate or get a toll stamp if you want to use the main motorway network. If you are entering by car, you can register your number plate at the border. If you rent a car in Portugal, it is likely that the car rental company will have a toll payment agreement.

Driving under the influence of alcohol

Driving under the influence of alcohol is a controversial topic and still quite common. The tolerated limit is 0.49 g/L in the blood (0.05% BAC), so exceeding this is illegal and can result in a fine of up to €1,250 and the revocation of your driving licence for one to twelve months. If you are tested and your blood alcohol level is between 0.8 and 1.2 g/l, the fine can be up to €2,500 and you risk a driving licence suspension of between two months and two years. Driving with levels above 1.2 g/L is a criminal offence punishable by up to one year in prison and a three-year driving ban.

Get Around - With the boat

The country is served by many seaports that receive a lot of foreign traffic, mainly merchant ships but also passenger ships (mainly cruise ships).

Destinations in Portugal

Regions in Portugal

  • Northern Portugal
    A historic region considered the birthplace of the nation. Includes the second largest city, Porto.
  • Central Portugal
    These include Coimbra, home to one of Europe’s oldest universities, and also the Serra da Estrela, the highest mountain in mainland Portugal, and most of the Extremadura coast.
  • Lisbon Region
    The densely populated region around the mouth of the Tagus on the Atlantic coast includes not only the capital and largest city of Lisbon, but also such well-known tourist destinations as Sintra or Cascais.
  • Alentejo
    Literally called “beyond the Tagus”, this region is sparsely populated, known as the hottest region in the country and celebrated for its slow pace of life. Although it is largely rural, there are also interesting towns and villages, such as the regional capital, Evora.
  • Algarve
    The beaches and sun of southern Portugal.
  • Azores
    A group of islands in the Atlantic Ocean. Pico, Portugal’s highest mountain, is located on the island of the same name.
  • Madeira
    A subtropical archipelago consisting of two inhabited islands, Madeira and Porto Santo, and two uninhabited island groups, the Desertas and Selvagens Islands.

Cities in Portugal

  • Lisbon (Lisboa) – national capital, city of the seven hills
  • Aveiro – the “Venice” of Portugal
  • Braga – City of the Archbishops
  • Coimbra – home of the ninth oldest university in the world.
  • Évora – “museum city”, regional capital of the Alentejo
  • Funchal – the capital of Madeira
  • Guimarães – the founding place of the nation
  • Porto – the capital of the North, “Invincible City”, along the Douro River and the Atlantic Ocean
  • Viana do Castelo – famous for the feast of Our Lady of the Agony

Other destinations

  • Óbidos
  • Peneda-Gerês National Park
  • Douro & Coa – River Valleys
  • Cabo da Roca – the westernmost point of the Portuguese mainland and the European continent, near Cascais
  • Serra da Estrela
  • The Coa Valley is a World Heritage Site.

Accommodation & Hotels in Portugal

The youth hostel network has a large number of hostels throughout the country. There are also many camping sites. Wild camping” (camping outside camping parks) is not allowed unless you have the landowner’s permission. Holiday villas are another option to consider.

The hotel offer is large and plentiful throughout Portugal.

If budget is an issue and you want a “typical Portuguese” experience, take your courage in both hands and try youth hostels, those hostels that are ubiquitous in the cities and most villages. In most places you can get a double room for 25 to 35 euros (October 2006). Make sure, however, that the quality of the rooms is good.

On the luxury side, you can try the “Pousadas de Portugal”, a network of hotels run by the Pestana Group, which is characterised by the use of beautiful old buildings such as palaces and castles and by excellent and constant service throughout the country. The cuisine of the pousadas is often both expensive and boring, although there seems to be an upward trend (mid-2008).

The “Casas de Campo” (Turismo de Habitação, Turismo RuralAgro-Turismo) are also inexpensive, quaint and comfortable guest rooms when travelling in the countryside. Do not expect them to be open all year round and try to contact them in advance if your itinerary depends on them.

Things To See in Portugal

Historic Cities and Architecture

Once a powerful colonial nation, many living Portuguese towns still have an atmosphere reminiscent of Old World times. They are full of remarkable monuments and with a little effort you will discover traditional cafés and craftsmen whose families have run their businesses for generations.

Make your way to the charming port city of Porto to linger at the Cais da Ribeira, a perfect spot. Recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, this beautiful waterfront area is characterised by old buildings and streets and, of course, the view of the harbour full of Rabelo boats. Lisbon, the country’s capital, is very lively with contemporary culture, but also has countless monumental limestone buildings to offer. Don’t miss the magnificent cloister of the Jeronimus Monastery and don’t forget to climb the battlements of St George’s Castle for excellent panoramic views of the city. For a royal day out from Lisbon, head to the environs of Sintra and its famous castles, including the romantic Pena National Palace. Then there’s the charming medieval university town of Coimbra, considered by many to be the most romantic city in Portugal.

Get lost in the maze of old streets and don’t miss the University Building with its beautiful view of the river. For a more intimate experience, head to the romantic and well-preserved village of Óbidos, once a traditional personal gift from Portuguese kings to their beloved wives. Make your way to the monumental city of Tomar or follow the tens of thousands of religious travellers to Fátima, the most visited pilgrimage site on the Iberian Peninsula. The 12th-century Portuguese capital Évora is a great place for ancient architecture, combining Roman ruins with Moorish and Portuguese architecture, or head to Guimarães, the birthplace of Portugal. If you don’t tire of Portuguese cities, the list of places to see goes on. Try Viana do Castelo, Braga, Aveiro, Amarante, Bragança, Chaves, Lamego, Viseu, Vila Real, Lagos, Silves or Angra.

Natural beauty and beaches

The most popular beaches are those of the Algarve, which has stunning coastlines and landscapes of breathtaking natural beauty. It has been a major holiday destination for decades. The waters of the south coast are generally warmer and calmer than those of the west coast, which is distinctly Atlantic and does not benefit from the Gulf Stream. For surfing or just playing, there are great beaches all along the west coast, near Lisbon and Peniche. Don’t forget some of the almost deserted beaches on the Costa Vicentina in the Alentejo.

Si vous souhaitez passer vos vacances à la campagne, vous pouvez visiter Viana do Castelo, Chaves, Miranda do Douro, la vallée du Douro, Lamego, Tomar, Leiria, Castelo Branco, Guarda, Portalegre, Évora, Elvas or même Viseu.

And if you want to observe wildlife in its natural environment, the islands of Madeira and the Azores are also places worth seeing, not forgetting, of course, the Peneda-Gerês National Park, the Douro Valley and the Serra da Estrela Nature Park.


Portugal has a rich cultural tradition and became famous for its art during the country’s golden age in the late 15th and early 16th centuries. A number of world-class museums offer a glimpse of national and foreign riches, and not only in the form of paintings. The best of them are in Lisbon. The Museu da Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian has an impressive collection of sculptures, paintings, carpets and other Asian and European objects.

The Museu Nacional dos Coches displays beautifully decorated state carriages and the Museu de Marinha, housed in a wing of the Jeronimus Monastery, is considered one of the most important maritime museums in the world. Sintra is home to the Museo de Brinquedo, a remarkable toy museum, and the Sintra Museum of Modern Art. For religious treasures, visit the museum in Evora, or head to Coimbra, where you’ll find another excellent art collection at the Museu Nacional Machado de Castro.

Things To Do in Portugal


The Portuguese beaches, almost completely surrounded by the sea, are well worth a visit. There are many activities on offer, from surfing to kite surfing, and during the summer months the most popular beaches offer activities on the sand, such as aerobics. If you’re not the type to sweat on holiday, almost all public beaches have a bar where locals sit. Some of the most popular beaches are (from north to south) :

  • Espinho, near Porto, on the Costa Verde/Côte Verde, northern region.
  • Figueira da Foz, near Coimbra, on the Silver Coast / Costa de Prata, central region.
  • Peniche
  • Praia das Maçãs and Praia Grande [Sintra], Carcavelos and Estoril [Cascais], near Lisbon, on the Lisbon coast.
  • Zambujeira do Mar, in the Alentejo/Costa Alentejana and Vicentina region.
  • Salema, Praia da Rocha, in the Algarve.


The climate, combined with investment in golf infrastructure in recent years, has transformed the country into a golfer’s paradise. Portugal was recently voted “Best Golf Destination 2006” by the readers of Golfers Today, a British publication. Fourteen of Portugal’s golf courses are listed in the top 100 in Europe. Portugal is also a great place to learn the game and perfect technique. Many resorts offer courses with the professionals. The courses can satisfy the most demanding golfers, while newcomers are not intimidated unless they find the beautiful scenery and breathtaking views distracting to their game. Local residents have mixed feelings about golf courses, mainly because of the enormous amounts of water needed to maintain them and their apparent uselessness.

The campaign also offers plenty of options, although you’ll have to get the travel agents to advise you a little more than usual, as they usually only sell beach holidays. Cycling in the mountains of Geres or rafting in the tributaries of the Douro is an exhilarating experience.


There are several fairs, especially in the summer, especially in the north of Portugal. During the summer, music festivals are also very frequent. In the north of the country there are two of the oldest festivals such as Paredes de Coura and Vilar de Mouros. The regions chosen for these festivals are usually surrounded by beautiful landscapes and cosy villages. In the south, the most famous is the Festival do Sudoeste, in the western part of the south, with a summer landscape and endless beaches.

The main events of the year are listed on the official website of the Tourist Office [www].

Food & Drinks in Portugal

Food in Portugal

It is possibly the most diverse experience one can have in the country and is clearly a favourite pastime of the locals.

Portuguese cuisine has evolved from a hearty peasant diet of the countryside, with seafood from the country’s abundant coastline and cows, pigs and goats raised on the limited pastureland inland. From these humble origins, the spices brought into the country during the exploration and colonisation of the East Indies and the Far East helped shape what is considered “typical” Portuguese cuisine, which conversely has also shaped the cuisine of regions under Portuguese influence, from Cape Verde to Japan.

Soup is the first essential dish of any Portuguese meal. The most popular is the Minho speciality, caldo verde, made with kale, potatoes and spicy smoked sausage. Here in Minho you can enjoy the best Vinho Verde, which is rarely bottled. In many places, especially near the coast, you can enjoy a delicious fish soup, always varied, sometimes so thick that you have to eat it with a fork.

You will see a different Portuguese bacalhau (salt cod) everywhere you go. Locals will tell you that there are as many ways to cook this revered dish as there are days in the year, if not more.

The most common fish dishes in Portugal (peixe) are sole (linguado) and sardine (sardinha), but salmon (salmão) and trout (truta) are also very common, not to mention mackerel (carapau), whiting (pescada), sea bass (robalo), angler fish (tamboril) and a variety of turbot (cherne). They are served boiled, fried, grilled or in various sauces.

There are many different rice specialities, such as angler fish rice, octopus rice, duck rice and seafood rice.

In most places you can easily find fresh seafood: lobster (lagosta)lavagante, mussels (mexilhão), oysters (ostras), clams (amêijoas), barnacles (perço).

Depending on the level of tourism in the area you are in, you will see grills outside many restaurants during your stay, with the smoke of charred meat emanating from them. Besides the traditional sardines, Portuguese grilled chicken – marinated in chilli, garlic and olive oil – is world famous. However, if you are tired of the tasteless industrial products of the poultry farms, you can opt instead for a tasty veal escalope (costeleta de novilho) or simply grilled pork.

In the north, there are many types of kid, and in the Alentejo, lamb ensopado and many types of pork, including black pork, which is tastier; the most prized parts of the pig are the secretos and plumas. In the Alentejo, if you ask for the ubiquitous bitoque (small roasted beef, fried potatoes, egg), they will probably serve you pork instead of veal. A popular traditional dish is pork with clams, carne de porco in Alentejana, and slices of fried and breaded squid (tiras de choco frito). Sometimes there are also wild boar dishes.

One of the main specialities of Mealhada (near Coimbra) is undoubtedly the roast suckling pig (leitão) with local sparkling wine and bread. Just like the pastel de nata, you shouldn’t miss it.

Vegetarians can have a hard time in Portugal, at least in traditional Portuguese restaurants. In most restaurants, vegetables (usually boiled or fried potatoes) are just a side dish to the main meat dish. Even salads and “vegetarian” dishes may replace ham or sausage with tuna (which the Portuguese don’t seem to consider “meat”). Generally, a salad is just lettuce and tomato with salt, vinegar and olive oil. However, the Portuguese are very fond of their salad bars, and most cities have restaurants that serve Indian, Chinese, Mexican or Italian dishes. Be sure to mention that you are vegetarian and you will be able to find something that suits your preferences, although you may not thrive in the long run.

When you order a salad in many Portuguese restaurants, it will be sprinkled with salt. If you are watching your salt intake, or if you just don’t like the idea, you can ask for “sem sal” (without salt) or more radically “sem tempero” (without seasoning).

Some restaurants, especially in non-touristy areas, do not have a menu; you have to go in and ask and they will give you a list of some items to choose from. It is a good idea to have the price written down at the time of asking to avoid unpleasant surprises when the bill arrives. However, in this type of restaurant, the price for each of the options is very similar and varies between 5 and 10 euros per person.

Most restaurants will bring you a selection of snacks at the beginning of your meal – bread, butter, cheese, olives and other small bites – they always charge extra for these, around 5 euros. Don’t be afraid to ask how much they charge and ask them to take these things away if it’s too much or if you don’t plan to eat that much. This can be quite reasonable, but sometimes you can get ripped off. If you send them back anyway, make sure you check your bill at the end. The best restaurants can offer you more surprising, well-prepared and delicious snacks and charge more than 5 euros each for them; usually you can choose what you want and what you don’t, because in these cases the list is longer; and if the price is so high and you make an acceptable expense, decide not to order a main course.

If you have a kitchen, Portuguese grocery shops are surprisingly well stocked with lentils, vegetarian hamburgers, couscous and cheap fruit, vegetables and cheese. If you like hard cheese, try the “Queijo da Serra”, if you prefer soft cheese, try the Requeijão. Unfortunately, the success of “Queijo da Serra” has also allowed the spread of industrial and tasteless varieties that have no relation to reality. In the big shops, mostly located in the main cities, you will also find many unusual items, such as exotic fruits or drinks.

In some grocery shops and most supermarkets, the scales are in the produce aisle and not at the checkout. If you do not weigh your products and do not go to the checkout, you will probably be told Tem que os pesar or Tem que pesar, “tem que ser pesado” (“you have to weigh them”/you have to weigh them).

Portugal is famous for its great variety of amazing pastries, or pastéis (singular: pastel). The most popular pastry, pastéis de nata (called just natas further north), is a puff pastry filled with a custard cream and sprinkled with icing sugar (açúcar) and cinnamon (canela). Don’t forget to try them in any “pastelaria”. The best place is still the old Confeitaria dos Pastéis in Belém, although most “pastelarias” make a point of topping their “pastéis”. For once, all the guides are right. You may have to wait in line for a short while, but it will be worth it. Some people like them, some don’t.

The bolo de arroz (literally: “rice cake”) and the orange or carrot cakes are also pleasant, even if they are dry.

From the north, which is more egg-oriented, to the south, which is more almond-oriented, Portuguese pastries and sweet desserts are excellent and often surprising, even after many years.

In October/November, roasted chestnuts (castanhas) are sold on the streets of the towns by vendors wearing fingerless gloves to maintain their motorbike ovens: a delight!

The Portuguese love their thick, black espresso coffee (bica, in Lisbon) and regret it very much when they are abroad.

Special features of the individual regions

  • Aveiro: Special cake of the city: “Ovos Moles
  • Port wine: “Francesinha”, a special sandwich; “Tripas”, pork tripe.
  • Sintra: Queijadas de Sintra or the Transvestites
  • Mafra: special bread, Pão de Mafra; special cake of the city: “Fradinhos”.

Drinks in Portugal

When travelling in Portugal, the drink of choice is wine. Red wine is the locals’ favourite, but white wine is also popular. Portugal and Spain also have a variety of white wine that is actually green wine (Vinho Verde). It is a very crisp wine that is served cold and goes well with fish dishes. Drinking wine during a meal is very common in Portugal, and once the meal is over, people tend to drink and talk while they digest their food.

Port wine can be an aperitif or a dessert. The wine from the Alentejo may not be as well known worldwide as port, but it is just as good. Portugal also has other defined wine regions (regiões vinhateiras) that also produce some of the best wines, such as Madeira, Sado or Douro.

It can be difficult for people to abstain from drinking, even if they have very good reasons for doing so (like the behaviour mentioned above). Today, the excuse “I have to drive” works well. The easiest way is to explain that you can’t do it for health reasons. Portuguese are not as easily offended as others when it comes to refusing the obvious hospitality of a drink, but a lie like “I’m allergic” might illustrate a situation where a preference has to be explained over and over again in certain regions of Portugal; however, it won’t work in other regions, as obviously made-up excuses will mark you as unreliable (“I don’t want to, thank you” might work then). Alcohol consumption is almost considered socially intimate.

Beware of 1920 and aguardente (burning water), both have a strong effect.

The legal drinking age in Portugal is 16. For nightlife, Lisbon, Porto and Albufeira in the Algarve are the best choices as they have great entertainment options.

Port wine

Port is famous for the eponymous port wine, an alcohol fortified wine (20%) obtained by adding brandy to the wine before the fermentation is completed. According to European legislation, port wine can only be called such if the grapes are grown in the Douro Valley and the wine is brewed into port. The final product is strong, sweet and complex in flavour and can last 40 years or more if properly stored.

There are many different qualities of port, but the basic varieties are:

  • The vintage, the real bargain, aged 5 to 15 years in the bottle, can be very expensive in good years. Nevertheless, it is worth it.
  • Late-Bottled Vintage (LBV), simulated vintage, aged longer in cask, ready to drink. Nice if you have a budget.
  • Tawny, matured 10 to 40 years before bottling, characterised by a browner red colour and a slightly sweeter bouquet and aroma. As with any wine, the older it gets, the rounder and finer it becomes.
  • Ruby, the youngest and cheapest, with a deep red “ruby” colour.
  • White port is a little-known variety, and that’s a shame. There is a sweet and a dry version. The latter mixes well with tonic water and should be served chilled (if drunk alone) or with plenty of ice (with tonic), usually as an aperitif.

Vinho Verde

  • Another good choice is the ubiquitous vinho verde (green wine), produced mainly in the region north of Porto (the Minho). It is a light, dry and refreshing wine (about 9 to 9.5 per cent by volume) made from grapes specific to the region and has a relatively low sugar content. It is mainly white and sometimes slightly sparkling. Very good, and very affordable.

Money & Shopping in Portugal

Currency, ATMs, exchange

Portugal uses the euro. It is one of the many European countries that use this common currency. All euro banknotes and coins are legal tender in all countries.

One euro is divided into 100 cents.

The official symbol of the euro is € and its ISO code is EUR. There is no official symbol for the cent.

  • Banknotes: The euro banknotes have the same design in all countries.
  • Standard coins: All euro area countries issue coins that have a distinctive national design on one side and a common standard design on the other. The coins can be used in any euro area country, regardless of the design used (e.g. a one-euro coin from Finland can be used in Portugal).
  • Commemorative €2 coins: These differ from normal €2 coins only in their “national” side and circulate freely as legal tender. Each country can produce a certain amount of these coins as part of its normal coin production, and sometimes “European” 2-euro coins are produced to commemorate special events (e.g. anniversaries of important treaties).
  • Other commemorative coins: Commemorative coins with other amounts (e.g. ten euros or more) are much rarer, have very special designs and often contain significant amounts of gold, silver or platinum. Although they are technically legal tender at face value, their material or collector’s value is usually much higher and therefore you are unlikely to find them in circulation.

ATMs that accept international cards are everywhere, and bureaux de change pop up wherever there is a constant flow of tourists (although generally the closer they are to tourist attractions, the lower the rates).


In small shops (off the main streets) you can try to haggle a little, especially if you offer to buy several items. However, you can check your change: Although this practice is not very common, some shopkeepers may “accidentally” overpay tourists.


Tipping in restaurants is optional. In Portugal, waiters earn a salary and a “tip” is considered a sign of appreciation, not compensation for a ridiculous salary. If you are not too happy with the service, do not tip. Remember that most Portuguese round up the total amount of their bill to the nearest euro. Even in expensive restaurants, more than 2 or 3 euros would hardly be justified.

In Portugal, it is not customary to give a tip to the taxi driver and a daily tip to the hotel staff.

What to buy?

Branded clothing Although little known internationally, there are several independent fashion designers in Portugal. The list includes: Fátima Lopes, Maria Gambina. Some of them have specialised shops in Lisbon. There are an amazing number of other things you can buy either in sophisticated commercial establishments or at more popular fairs and events. Craftsmanship is a good example. Handmade leather bags or clothes, toys, household appliances, glassware, decorations, etc. You can find them in popular tourist spots or at cheaper prices at fairs and popular festivals in small towns. Almost all major brands can be bought in the big cities, all luxury items are available, but there is no obvious advantage to buying them here as the prices are the same as in all other places.

Regional speciality puppets in Nazaré, including the Galo de Barcelos.

Festivals & Holidays in Portugal

Holidays in Portugal

Date English name Portuguese name Notes
1 January Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God Solenidade de Santa Maria, Mãe de Deus
mobile Carnival Carnival Carnival in Portugal is an annual celebration that ends on Shrove Tuesday (called Fat Tuesday in Madeira – Terça-feira Gorda in Portuguese), the day before Ash Wednesday (the first day of Lent). It is an optional holiday, although it is usually observed. 47 days before Easter Sunday.
mobile Good Friday Sexta-feira Santa Friday before Easter Sunday
mobile Easter Domingo de Páscoa Sunday, the date varies.
25 april Freedom Day Dia da Liberdade Celebrate the 1974 coup d’état that ended the dictatorship and introduced democracy.
1 May Labour Day Dia do Trabalhador Similar to Labour Day, which is celebrated all over the world.
mobile Corpus Christi (Feast) Corpo de Deus Thursday, the date varies. 60 days after Easter Sunday. It is based on religion.
1 June Azores Day Dia dos Azores Celebrated in the Azores
10 June Portugal Day Portugal, Camões and the Day of Portuguese Communities National Day
1 July Madeira Day Dia da Madeira Celebrated on Madeira Island
15 August Hypothesis Assumption of the Virgin Mary A religious account of Mary’s Assumption.
5 October Republic Day Implementation of the Republic Celebrates the end of the monarchy and the beginning of the Portuguese Republic
1 November All Saints’ Day Dia de Todos-os-Santos In the spirit of Christian occidental theology, the feast commemorates all those who have attained the beatific vision in heaven.
1 December Restoration of independence Restoration of independence Celebrates the end of the Philippine dynasty (1580-1640)
8 December Immaculate Conception Immaculate Conception According to Roman Catholic dogma, the conception of the Virgin Mary is without any stain of original sin
25 December Christmas Day Natal
Boxing Day Boxing Day Segunda Oitava The “Segunda Oitava” is part of the centuries-old Christmas celebrations in Madeira, which have been recognised as a public holiday by the regional government of Madeira.

Local holidays

Date English name Portuguese name Notes
19 March St Joseph’s Day Dia de São José Celebrated in Santarém
13 June St. Anthony’s Day Dia de Santo António Celebrated in Lisbon, where the Marchas take place on Avenida da Liberdade, a parade of folklore and costumes from different traditional parts of the city, with hundreds of singers and dancers and a large audience applauding their favourite participants. As Saint Anthony is the holy matchmaker, it is still a tradition in Lisbon to celebrate several marriages (200 to 300).
24 June Midsummer’s Day Dia de São João There are celebrations in Porto, Braga, Figueira da Foz and Almada. Porto and Braga celebrate with a big party and fireworks on the Douro River (in Porto) and on the Avenida da Liberdade (in Braga). Everywhere in the country, a traditional bonfire is also lit in the middle of summer and, according to an old pagan tradition, revelers try to jump over the fire to protect themselves for the rest of the year.
29 June St. Peter’s Day Dia de São Pedro Celebrated in Alfândega da Fé, Bombarral, Castro Daire, Castro Verde, Évora, Felgueiras, Macedo de Cavaleiros, Montijo, Penedono, Porto de Mós, Póvoa de Varzim, Ribeira Brava, Ribeira Grande, São Pedro do Sul, Seixal and Sintra. Like Saint Anthony’s Day and Saint John’s Day, Saint Peter’s Day is also celebrated with a traditional bonfire in the middle of summer, over which people jump and perform a tradition known as “Queimar a Alcachofra” (Burning the Artichoke), symbolising the “good that is done”.
4 July St. Elizabeth’s Day Dia de Santa Isabel Celebrated in Coimbra
21 September St Matthew’s Day Dia de São Mateus Celebrated in Viseu, and in Elvas

Traditions & Customs in Portugal


The Portuguese feel genuine pleasure in helping tourists, so don’t be ashamed to ask for help. If you make the effort to speak a little Portuguese with locals, it can help you a lot. A large percentage of the young population speaks English and many Portuguese understand basic Spanish.

Although Portuguese people understand some basic Spanish vocabulary, you should only use it in emergencies, as it is generally considered disrespectful if you are not a native Spanish speaker. If you do speak Spanish, be prepared to hear something like “In Portugal, people speak Portuguese, not Spanish”, or they may simply tell you they don’t understand you even if they do. Chances are they won’t say anything and will still help you, but they won’t appreciate it because of the historical rivalry between Spain and Portugal. It is best to speak in English or your mother tongue with hand signals or at least start a conversation in Portuguese.

Morality and social issues

It is not uncommon for women to sunbathe topless on Portugal’s beaches, and there are also some naturist beaches. Thong bikinis are allowed on all beaches in the country.

There are no serious political or social problems to avoid.


Although it is theoretically a Catholic country, as almost 90% of Portuguese consider themselves Roman Catholics, only about 19% actively practice this faith. So if you are discussing religion with a Portuguese person, do not expect them to be familiar with church practices or to support some of their beliefs and opinions (e.g. the use of condoms, abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia, etc.). In Portugal, religion is not considered a valid argument for discussing politics. In Portugal, abortion was legalised in 2007 and same-sex marriage in 2010.

Although there are no strict rules, you should try to wear appropriate clothing when visiting churches or other religious monuments. This means that shoulders and knees should be covered.


Portugal is generally a gay-friendly country, but do not expect the same openness in rural areas and small towns as in big cities like Lisbon or Porto. Public displays of affection between gay couples can be considered curious and in some cases inappropriate, depending on the location and type of display. In Lisbon, gays and lesbians are respected as the city itself has a large gay scene with many bars, nightclubs, restaurants, cafés, saunas and beaches. Most “gay-friendly” places are located in the Bairro Alto, Chiado and Princípe Real neighbourhoods.

Since September 2007, the legal age of consent in Portugal is 14, regardless of sexual behaviour, gender and/or sexual orientation. Although the age of consent is set at 14, the legality of a sexual act with a minor between 14 and 16 is subject to interpretation, as the law states that it is illegal for an adult to engage in a sexual act with a young person between 14 and 16 “by taking advantage of their inexperience”.


Smoking in enclosed public places (taxis and transport, shops and shopping centres, cafés and hotels, etc.) is prohibited and punishable by a fine, except in places with an appropriate blue sign.


Bullfights are still held in some towns in Portugal. In Portugal, unlike in Spain, it is illegal to kill the bull during the bullfight. However, it is completely wrong to assume that all Portuguese support or even reject bullfighting. Many Portuguese are indifferent to bullfighting or are offended by the cruelty. You might also offend someone if you make generalisations or insist that bullfighting is part of contemporary Portuguese culture. The community of Barrancos (a town on the border with Spain) actively defies the law and the law enforcers and kills the bull in the bullring.

Culture Of Portugal

Portugal developed a specific culture while being influenced by different civilisations that crossed the Mediterranean and the European continent or were introduced when it played an active role in the era of discoveries. In the 1990s and 2000s (decade), Portugal modernised its public cultural institutions, in addition to the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Lisbon, established in 1956.

These include the Belém Cultural Centre in Lisbon, the Serralves Foundation and the Casa da Música, both in Porto, as well as new public cultural institutions such as municipal libraries and concert halls that have been built or renovated in many municipalities across the country. Portugal has fifteen UNESCO World Heritage Sites, ranking 8th in Europe and 17th in the world.


Traditional architecture is distinctive and includes Manueline, also known as Portuguese Late Gothic, a sumptuous, composite style of Portuguese architectural ornamentation from the first decades of the sixteenth century. A twentieth-century interpretation of traditional architecture, the soft Portuguese style, is widespread in major cities, especially Lisbon. Modern Portugal has produced world-famous architects such as Eduardo Souto de Moura, Álvaro Siza Vieira (both Pritzker Prize winners) and Gonçalo Byrne. In Portugal, Tomás Taveira is also notable, especially for stadium design.


Portuguese cinema has a long tradition dating back to the birth of this medium at the end of the 19th century. Portuguese directors such as Arthur Duarte, António Lopes Ribeiro, António Reis, Pedro Costa, Manoel de Oliveira, João César Monteiro, Edgar Pêra, António-Pedro Vasconcelos, Fernando Lopes, João Botelho and Leonel Vieira are among those who have achieved fame. Among the most famous Portuguese film actors are Joaquim de Almeida, Daniela Ruah, Maria de Medeiros, Diogo Infante, Soraia Chaves, Ribeirinho, Lúcia Moniz and Diogo Morgado.


Portuguese literature, one of the first western literatures, developed through text and song. By 1350, the Portuguese-Galician troubadours extended their literary influence over most of the Iberian Peninsula. Gil Vicente (c. 1465-c. 1536), was one of the founders of the Portuguese and Spanish dramatic tradition.

The adventurer and poet Luís de Camões (c. 1524-1580) wrote the epic poem “Os Lusíadas” (The Lusiades), with Virgil’s Aeneid as the main influence. Modern Portuguese poetry is rooted in neoclassical and contemporary styles, as the example of Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935) shows. Modern Portuguese literature is represented by authors such as Almeida Garrett, Camilo Castelo Branco, Eça de Queiroz, Fernando Pessoa, Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen, António Lobo Antunes and Miguel Torga. José Saramago, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1998, is particularly popular and distinguished.


Portuguese cuisine is very diverse. The Portuguese eat a lot of dry cod (bacalhau in Portuguese), for which there are hundreds of recipes. There are more than enough bacalhau dishes for every day of the year. Two other popular fish recipes are grilled sardines and calderada, a potato-based stew that can be made with different types of fish. Typical Portuguese meat recipes, which can be made from beef, pork, lamb or chicken, are cozido à portuguesafeijoadafrango de churrascoleitão (roast suckling pig) and carne de porco à alentejana. The arroz de sarrabulho (rice cooked in pig’s blood) or the arroz de cabidela (rice and chicken cooked in chicken’s blood) are very popular dishes in the north.

Typical fast food dishes are Francesinha (Frenchie) de Porto and the sandwiches Bifanas (grilled pork) or Prego (grilled beef), which are famous throughout the country. The art of Portuguese pastry-making has its origins in the many medieval Catholic monasteries scattered throughout the country. These monasteries managed to create a spectacular range of different pastries with very few ingredients (mainly almonds, flour, eggs and a little liqueur), of which the pastéis de Belém (or pastéis de nata), which originated in Lisbon, and the sheep moles from Aveiro are examples. Portuguese cuisine is very diverse, with different regions having their own traditional dishes. The Portuguese have a culture of good food and there are myriads of good restaurants and small typical tasquinhas throughout the country.

Portuguese wines have enjoyed international recognition since the time of the Romans, who associated Portugal with their god Bacchus. Today, the country is very well known among wine lovers and its wines have received several international awards. Some of the best wines of Portugal are: Vinho Verde, Vinho Alvarinho, Vinho do Douro, Vinho do Alentejo, Vinho do Dão, Vinho da Bairrada and the sweet ones: port, Madeira wine, Moscatel de Setúbal and Favaios. Port and Madeira Wine are particularly appreciated in many parts of the world.


Portuguese music encompasses a wide variety of genres. The best known is fado, a melancholic urban music from Lisbon, usually associated with the Portuguese guitar and saudade, nostalgia. Also notable is the fado of Coimbra, a unique kind of “serenade” fado. Internationally renowned performers include Amália Rodrigues, Carlos Paredes, José Afonso, Mariza, Carlos do Carmo, António Chainho, Mísia and Madredeus.

Besides fado and folk, the Portuguese also listen to pop and other types of modern music, especially from North America and the UK, as well as a wide range of Portuguese, Caribbean and Brazilian artists and groups. Internationally known artists include Dulce Pontes, Moonspell, Buraka Som Sistema, Blasted Mechanism and The Gift, the latter two of which were nominated for an MTV Europe Music Award.

There are several summer music festivals in Portugal, such as Festival Sudoeste in Zambujeira do Mar, Festival de Paredes de Coura in Paredes de Coura, Festival Vilar de Mouros near Caminha, Festival Boom in the municipality of Idanha-a-Nova, NOS Alive, Sumol Summer Fest in Ericeira, Rock in Rio Lisboa and Super Bock Super Rock in Greater Lisbon. Outside the summer season, Portugal has a large number of festivals aimed more at an urban audience, such as Flowfest or Hip Hop Porto. In addition, one of the biggest international trance festivals is held every two years in Goa, Boom Festival, which is also the only festival in Portugal to have won international awards: European Festival Award 2010 – Green’n’Clean Festival of the Year and the Greener Festival Award Outstanding 2008 and 2010. There are also the student festivals Queima das Fitas, which are big events in several cities in Portugal. In 2005, Portugal hosted the MTV Europe Music Awards at the Pavilhão Atlântico in Lisbon.

In the field of classical music, Portugal is represented by names such as the pianists Artur Pizarro, Maria João Pires, Sequeira Costa, the violinists Carlos Damas, Gerardo Ribeiro and, in the past, the great cellist Guilhermina Suggia. Among the best-known composers are José Vianna da Motta, Carlos Seixas, João Domingos Bomtempo, João de Sousa Carvalho, Luís de Freitas Branco and his pupil Joly Braga Santos, Fernando Lopes-Graça, Emmanuel Nunes and Sérgio Azevedo. Similarly, contemporary composers such as Nuno Malo and Miguel d’Oliveira have achieved international success in writing original music for film and television.

Visual arts

Portugal has a rich history of painting. The first known painters date back to the 15th century – like Nuno Gonçalves – from the period of Gothic painting. José Malhoa, known for his work Fado, and Columbano Bordalo Pinheiro (who painted the portraits of Teófilo Braga and Antero de Quental) were both references in naturalistic painting.

In the 20th century came modernism and with it the greatest Portuguese painters: Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso, who was strongly influenced by French painters, especially the Delaunays. Among his most famous works is the Canção Popular a Russa e o Fígaro. Other great modernist painter/writers include Carlos Botelho and Almada Negreiros, a friend of the poet Fernando Pessoa, who painted his portrait (that of Pessoa). He was strongly influenced by Cubist and Futurist tendencies.

Among the outstanding international personalities in the field of visual arts today are the painters Vieira da Silva, Júlio Pomar, Helena Almeida, Joana Vasconcelos, Julião Sarmento and Paula Rego.


Football is the most popular sport in Portugal. There are several football competitions, ranging from the local amateur level to the world-class professional level. The legendary Eusébio is still an important symbol of Portuguese football history. Luís Figo and Cristiano Ronaldo, winners of the FIFA World Player of the Year award and the FIFA Ballon d’Or, are two world-class Portuguese footballers. The leaders of Portuguese football are also outstanding, with José Mourinho and Fernando Santos among the best known.

Portugal’s national football team – Seleção Nacional – won a European Championship, UEFA Euro 2016, with a 1-0 victory in the final against tournament hosts France. Portugal also finished second at Euro 2004 (hosted by Portugal), third at the 1966 FIFA World Cup? and fourth at the 2006 FIFA World Cup? At youth level, Portugal have won two FIFA Youth World Cups (1989 and 1991) and several UEFA European Youth Championships.

S.L. Benfica, Sporting CP and FC Porto are the biggest sports clubs in terms of popularity and number of trophies won, often referred to as “the big three”. They have won eight titles in UEFA European club competitions, have appeared in numerous finals and have been in the finals almost every season. In addition to football, many Portuguese sports clubs, including the “Big Three”, participate in a number of other sporting events with varying degrees of success and popularity, including roller hockey, basketball, futsal, handball and volleyball. The Portuguese Football Federation (FPF) – Federação Portuguesa de Futebol – organises the annual Algarve Cup, a prestigious women’s football tournament held in the Algarve, part of Portugal.

The Portuguese national rugby team qualified for the 2007 Rugby World Cup and the Portuguese national rugby team participated in the Rugby World Series.

In athletics, the Portuguese have won numerous gold, silver and bronze medals at European, World Championships and Olympic Games. Cycling, of which the Volta a Portugal is the most important race, is also a popular sporting event and includes professional cycling teams such as Sporting CP, Boavista, Clube de Ciclismo de Tavira and União Ciclista da Maia.

The country has also excelled in sports such as fencing, judo, kite surfing, rowing, sailing, surfing, shooting, triathlon and windsurfing, winning several European and world titles. Paralympic athletes have also won numerous medals in sports such as swimming, boccia and wrestling.

In motorsport, Portugal is internationally renowned for the Rally Portugal and the re-established Estoril, Algarve and Porto road circuits, which host a stage of the WTCC every two years, as well as a number of internationally renowned drivers in various motorsports.

In equestrian sport, Portugal has won the only World Championship in Horseball and Potato (2006), placed third in the first Horseball World Championship (2008 in Ponte de Lima, Portugal) and has several victories in the European Working Equitation Championship.

As for water sports, there are two major sports in Portugal: swimming and water polo. Northern Portugal has its own original martial art, Jogo do Pau, where fighters use sticks to compete against one or more opponents. Other outdoor sports activities popular with thousands of enthusiasts across the country include airsoft, fishing, golf, hiking, hunting and orienteering.

Portugal is one of the best golf destinations in the world. It has won several awards at the World Golf Awards. Its climate makes it possible to play all year round.

Stay Safe & Healthy in Portugal

Portugal is a relatively safe country to visit and a little common sense will get you far. There are no internal conflicts, no danger from terrorism, and violent crime is not a serious problem as it is usually confined to certain neighbourhoods and rarely committed randomly.

However, there are certain areas in Lisbon and Porto that you should avoid, as in any big city, especially at night. You should also bear in mind that pickpockets are more likely to target tourists and areas frequented by tourists. Wear a money belt or keep your documents and money in an inside pocket. Subways and large train stations, shopping areas, crowded buses and lines are the most common places for pickpockets. Many of them are under 18 and take advantage of soft underage laws. If you try to run them down, you may have to fight to get your items back.

On the underground or in trains, try to sit with other people and avoid empty carriages. Non-violent pickpocketing is the most common crime. So always be aware of the bags (purses, suitcases, shopping bags, etc.) you have with you. A reminder announcement is broadcast in most metro stations and railway stations.

Since the disappearance of Madeline McCann, many families have been reluctant to take their children to Portugal, especially when they are very young. However, as long as they have a basic understanding of the danger posed by a stranger and you always have them with you, you have nothing to worry about.

Illicit drug use

On 1 July 2001, a national law decriminalising the recreational use of drugs came into force in Portugal. It should be noted that the possession of drugs for personal use and the consumption of drugs (e.g. up to 2.5 grams of cannabis) itself are still prohibited by law, but violations of these prohibitions are exclusively considered administrative offences and are completely removed from the criminal sphere. In some places, such as Bairro Alto, drugs may be offered on the street. You should avoid buying drugs this way, as they are often fake and the sellers are sometimes plainclothes police officers.

Drug trafficking continues to be prosecuted as a criminal offence.

Driving under the influence of drugs is a criminal offence under the Criminal Code and is treated in the same way as driving under the influence of more than 1.2 g/l alcohol, with severe penalties.



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