#2 Trams make everyone happy.
Life in Portugal’s major cities has been beautified by historical trams running all over the downtown in the past century. Particularly in Lisbon it’s impossible to leave the city without a ride in the popular tram 28 which connects areas of the city still inaccessible by metro.
#3 The coffee is damn good.
This association might not be immediate, but if I say that back in its glorious days, Portugal colonized Brazil, Angola and East Timor – producers of some of the finest coffee – things make more sense. You’ll never find better value-for-money relation for coffee in Europe. A good quality espresso will cost you no more than 0,70EUR.
#4 You can live a fairytale in Sintra.
Only a 40-minute train ride from Lisbon, this little hilltop town is an impressive display of elegant palaces, castles and fortresses all in the spectacular setting of the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park. The romantic architecture of Palácio da Pena (Pena Palace) is not to be missed and should be closest you’ll ever have to your dream of being a princess.
#5 The fish is uber fresh.
Vegetarians can skip this one. More than 800km of coast, the biggest fishing zone in Europe and laughable prices make of Portugal one of the most fish-friendly places you’ve ever been. Dourada, Sardinhas and Robalo are always delicious options.
#6 Cobblestone streets are everywhere.
I’m really not a fan of mosaic floors as part of urban planning that can be found in the major cities of Portugal (and also in portuguese-influenced places like Rio de Janeiro). I think they’re crazy expensive, and I can see myself easily twisting an ankle when of the stones gets loose. Glad I’m not a woman and I don’t wear high heels!
But I’ll admit the patterns and designs in some of them are quite stunning. Walking in Portugal is literally walking on art!
#7 Santos Festivities will rock your world.
You can have music festivals, all kind of art events, but this is the real thing. In June, residents from both Lisboa – Santo António festivities – and Porto – São João festivities – flock to the most traditional neighbourhoods for the festivities in honour of the local saints. You don’t need to be religious though. But expect popular music, lots of dancing and party until dawn!
#8 It possibly has Europe’s greatest climate.
Mild winters with temperatures rarely drop below 5ºC along the coast, hot summers refreshed by the Atlantic breeze and the highest number of hours of sunshine in Europe. Hard to beat this.
#9 Azulejos are your next design obsession.
I reckon there’s no other place in the world where tile art is so popular. Prepare to find elaborate-painted tiles on the historical buildings, modern design instalments and even souvenirs shops. There’s even a museum dedicated to it!
#10 We are serious about wine.
Portugal seems to be in the second-tier in the wine world, right after France, Italy and Spain despite of the famous Port Wine and even though portuguese wines win the most prestigious awards every year. Chances are there is a great quality wine at a very reasonable price waiting for you. From my experience, wines from Alentejo tend to be specially good.
#11 You’ll fall in love with Porto.
Speaking of wine, the second-largest city in Portugal has renewed itself in recent years and is becoming a serious european city break destination. People are uber friendly, food is great, prices are even better and the city is settled in a serious romantic setting. What’s there not to like?
#12 Pastéis de Nata are a feast to your taste buds.
A lot has been said about pastéis de nata (custard tarts). I’ll just say if you leave Portugal without trying this wonder of the world of pastry, something is profoundly wrong with you.
#13 It’s the ideal place to learn or master the art of surfing.
If you are into surf, the wild uncrowded Atlantic waves, mild climate and the huge community of surfers and surf camps should easily seduce you. Nazaré, Peniche, Ericeira and all the coast of Alentejo are amongst the hot spots of surfing in Portugal.
#14 We actually can communicate with you.
Portugal has more fluent English speakers than any other southern European country. Due to subtitled (and not dubbed) movies and TV series, younger generations in general are all able to speak good English and with quite a spot-on accent. Older people tend to have English and French as their second language. Anyway the point is: we get what you’re saying.
#15 Fado music will make you emotional.
Fado is probably the most melancholic music you’ll ever hear and still somehow makes the ideal soundtrack for every trip to Portugal. Even if you don’t understand a word, it has the power to make you introspective. The new generation of singers like Ana Moura and Mariza is making fado sexy and modern.
#16 We are professionals on the activity of going to the beach.
You’ll probably know Portugal’s beaches are among the country’s highlights, it’s in every postcard and travel brochure. What I particularly enjoy is their diversity. Whether you go for the wild beaches of Costa Vicentina – for a roadtrip in the beautiful Portugal’s coastline -, the volcanic dark sands of the Azores or the balmy beaches surrounded by towering cliffs in the Algarve, you can be sure to be laying your towel in a top-notch beach.
#17 Days are brighter.
Apart from being one of the places with more hours of sunshine per year, Portugal is also where the light is particularly impressive. With that amount of light available naturally, no wonder why the movie industry loves shooting in Lisbon. Just make sure you bring your sunglasses!
#18 You can back in touch with nature in the Azores Islands.
Hard to remain unbiased, because São Miguel island is the place where I was born. Located 1500km off the coast of Portugal, exploring the stunning lakes, mountains and cliffs in these volcanic islands is a truly unique experience.
I’ve put together a compilation of all the things you need to know before going to Azores – just go while they are still an hidden gem!
#19 Music festivals pop out like mushrooms.
Music festivals have become a huge part in the summer event calendar. There are festivals for all kinds of musical tastes all across the country. Meo Sudoeste for electronic and pop music in Alentejo and NOS Alive in Lisbon for rock and indie are amongst the most popular.
#20 People will welcome you like true friends.
As a general rule, portuguese are very nice and easy-going people. They will try hard to make you feel at home and this is more evident the further North you go in the country. You’ll learn that all we really care about is sun, a drink and a good chat with friends.