Why does it feel like everyone is choosing to travel to Portugal right now? Could it be the delicious pasteis de natas, stunning weather and friendly people? The famous Portuguese custard tarts do taste better when you’re looking at colourful tiled buildings, watching the sunset over the ocean or eating them warm from the oven as an old yellow tram rattles past. Whether you have a sweet tooth or not, this small southern European nation offers everything from history and culture to world-class wines and fresh seafood. Here are 10 reasons why we think people are choosing to return to Portugal year after year.
The sunkissed city of Lisbon
Portugal’s sunny capital can’t be skipped. With its cobbled streets, colourful tiled buildings and charming hilly neighbourhoods, Lisbon is a must-visit destination that draws visitors back again and again. One trip to Lisbon will give you just a taste of Europe’s second oldest capital city, after Athens. Yes, Lisbon’s ancient history dates back further than Rome’s (by about 400 years!) and you’ll hear all about how its golden age came to an end with the tragic natural disasters of 1755.
But modern Lisbon is a city on the rise again. Its vibrant streets, charisma and enviable climate have drawn a young crowd of cool Europeans who now call the coastal city home. Hop from traditional restaurants and fado shows to natural wine bars and specialty coffee shops all in an afternoon.
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The magic of Sintra
Sintra’s mystery and magic has to be seen in real life. Centuries ago the royals and rich built grand summer palaces on the hillside, crafting a destination so splendid that it now has UNESCO protection. While it makes the perfect day trip from Lisbon, Sintra is home to so many palaces (and an ancient 10th-century Moorish castle) that you need more than a day to explore this brilliant destination where nature and man combine. Now that sounds like a good excuse to travel to Portugal again and again to tick off more grand palaces.
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The relaxed pace of life
In picture-perfect Portugal the hard-working locals know the key to a good life is plenty of rest and making time for small joys each day. There’s no need to rise and shine early here. Linger a little longer with your morning coffee and don’t stress if you’re running five minutes late. Of course, there’s always time for an extra pastel de nata.
The charms of Porto
Wandering about Portugal’s second-largest city and you’ll see where J.K. Rowling found her inspiration for Harry Potter. From the university students wearing long black capes to the narrow streets and tall skinny houses, Porto is a medieval city full of magic. Explore the steep hills and colourful streets, then cross the river to Gaia where the famous port wine is cellared. You could travel to Portugal year after year to taste your way through dozens of port wine houses.
The fresh seafood
With 832km (517miles) of coastline, Portugal’s history, culture and food is defined by the sea. Set against the wild Atlantic Ocean, for centuries local fishermen have ventured out in search of fresh seafood, helping define Portuguese cuisine. Book a table at a local seafood restaurant or marisqueira to taste local delicacies like goose barnacles, razor clams and whelks, or order grilled fish and clams cooked with white wine, olive oil and garlic where you can.
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The beautiful beaches and World Surf Reserve
Portugal has some of the most gorgeous golden sandy beaches in all of Europe. Travellers return to Portugal for stunning days frolicking in the sand or taking brisk ocean swims. The more adventurous can join a surf lesson or hire a stand-up paddle board or sea kayak along the coast. Keen surfers can visit the whitewashed village of Ericeira, an official World Surf Reserve, and Nazaré, which is known for its giant seasonal waves.
The gorgeous smaller cities
Portugal’s smaller cities are packed with charm and history. When deciding where to travel in Portugal, don’t skip over small cities and towns. Make time for medieval Guimarães (once the capital of Portugal), whitewashed Évora (with its bone chapel), or academic Coimbra (home to one of the oldest universities in the world, founded in 1290). Or drop into quaint Óbidos (a walled village given as a royal wedding gift), and the Templar city of Tomar (home to the Knight’s Templar).
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The brilliant unknown wines
You’ve not heard much about Portuguese wines? That’s because the locals are keeping it to themselves! Per capita, the Portuguese are among the top wine drinkers in the world. Once you taste the local vinho you’ll understand why. From table wines that go down like water, native grape varietals you’ve never heard of, to crisp, fresh and effervescent “green wine”, there’s a whole new wine world to unlock in Portugal. Soon you’ll know the difference between a light red wine from the famous Douro Valley and the hearty rich Alentejo red. But there’s so much more to explore…
Why travel to Portugal? For blue skies and sunshine. Expect warm sunny days almost year-round, especially in the summer months when it simply doesn’t rain. During the shoulder seasons, expect cooler weather and sunny days that are still appropriate for the beach. In winter Portugal gets the majority of its rain, but between showers you’ll find those famous blue skies. In the cold months you can even go skiing at Portugal’s highest mountain, Serra da Estrela.
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The great value
Your dollar or pound goes much further in Portugal. The cost of travelling through the small country is less than its neighbours, plus you can enjoy the simple things in life – like sunny days by the beach and a beer or white wine in the sunshine – for very little.
From learning about the beautiful Lusitano horse breed with Be My Guest hosts Vera and Tiago, to visiting iconic sites and tasting Portugal’s famous port wine, there’s so much culture to uncover when you travel to Portugal with Trafalgar. Take a look at the video below for a taster of what you’ll experience…
That’s why people travel to Portugal. Have you been or are you planning a trip? Let us about your Portugal travel plans in the comments….
This article was created in partnership with Visit Portugal