With captivating cites, beautiful beaches and a world-renowned food and wine scene, charming, picturesque Portugal attracts millions of visitors every year.
Located on the Iberian peninsula in southwest Europe, Portugal has been continuously occupied and fought over since prehistoric times. Today, mainland Europe’s westernmost country is a diverse nation with a spectacular coastline and a strong cultural identity. From sleepy fishing villages to stylish surf towns, verdant hills dotted with olive groves and vineyards to rocky coves and golden sands, Portugal’s variety is what makes it such a unique and compelling travel destination. Visit the cosmopolitan capital of Lisbon with its abundant charm, deep-rooted history and vintage number 28 tram, spend a few days exploring the ancient second city of Porto with its meandering medieval streets and colourful houses, or take a wine tour through the Douro Valley and drink in the stunning views with a glass of local Port.
Options for both adventure and relaxation are plentiful here and with such a vast array of attractions, Portugal is unsurprisingly a year-round destination. Arguably the best time to visit though is the spring when the countryside abounds with colour, or the late summer months when the crowds have dispersed but the weather remains warm. The accommodation offer in Portuguese towns is reliably good across all star ratings with the major cities being home to everything from budget B&Bs to five star boutiques. From Porto’s famous Yeatman Hotel with its two star Michelin restaurant and revered 25,000 bottle wine cellar, to Lisbon’s iconic Lumiares in the Barrio Alto district, the country’s luxury sector is particularly strong.
Portugal’s rich culinary and viticultural heritage are two of its unique selling points as a tourist destination. From local food markets and al fresco coffee houses to elaborate gourmet dining experiences, Portuguese cuisine is renowned for its simple, fresh, local ingredients, powerful flavour combinations and longstanding love affair with the sea! Many restaurants here serve a unique blend of traditional and contemporary cuisine which showcases the bounty of each region, from Petiscos (traditional bar snacks often referred to as Portuguese tapas) to Michelin star tasting menus and everything else in between. Some dishes to try beyond the obvious Pastel de Nata and Sardinhas Assadas (grilled sardines), are Caldo Verde - a delicious, hearty soup of cabbage and chouriço sausge, Bacalhau à Brás - a traditional dish made with salted cod, fried potato and onion bound together with scrambled egg, and Francesinha - an iconic sandwich originating in Porto which comprises toasted bread, pork, smoked sausage and beef steak topped with cheese and a fried egg!
As a wine nation Portugal has been historically synonymous with its prestigious bottle-aged Port and its cork production. However, having been somewhat rejuvenated in recent years, the Portuguese wine scene is diversifying with smooth, aromatic red wines from Alentejo and crisp whites from Vinho Verde also making headlines. This growth and variety in production has led to an explosion in wine bars popping up all over Lisbon and Porto as well as in the nation’s smaller cities. Ranging from casual, cosy taverns to elegant, rooftop bars, these venues are bound by the common thread of championing Portuguese produce, with local, regional and national labels dominating the wine lists.
So if you’re looking for a diverse destination with a wealth of historical, cultural and culinary credentials, look no further than Portugal. From the cobbled streets of Lisbon’s old town to the breathtaking, rugged landscape of Madeira, from wine-tasting in the Douro to whale-watching off the coast of the Azores, this relatively small country packs a big punch as a tourist destination.
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