Regime: Unitary semi-presidential constitutional republic
Area: 92 212 km2
Population: 10 427 301 (2014)
Currency: Euro (EUR)
Time Zone: GMT +0 (winter) / GMT +1 (summer)
Official language: Portuguese
Calling Code: +351
GDP (PPP per capita): $ 27 624
Along the banks of the Tagus River, the capital of Portugal and its largest city winds upward among seven steep hills. The town is split into various zones, each with their own character. Belém is known for the royal palaces, gardens and historic monuments as well as sites such as the Jeronimos Monastery. Almafa, an old Moorish sector, is the oldest district with cobblestone streets, rustic architecture and St. George’s Castle. Theatres, museums and concerts can be found in the culturally rich Chiado, while the most modern district is Parque das Nações. Those in search of entertainment can find nightclubs, bars and more in Bairro Alto.
A place where natural beauty and architecture are mixed together to provide perfect beaches with castles that are all brimming with flowers and birdlife. The traditional whitewashed houses combined with a sunny Mediterranean climate make this the perfect holiday location. The countryside is covered in roman ruins to be explored, while towns such as Lagos providing activities for those not yet tired when the sun sets.
Obidos is a town which was historically used as a wedding gift from the kings of Portugal to their queens. For this trend to catch on the town required certain qualities, but with its medieval castle and numerous churches containing hand painted tiles there was clearly no problem. The beauty and character that attracted Queen Isabel in the 13th century can still be seen when visiting today. Every July within its impressive walls you will find knights, jugglers and medieval food, a fascination travel back in time.
If Lord Byron thought it was the most beautiful city in the world, it clearly needs to be seen. Villas, palaces and castles make up this mesmerising town that is nestled among the hills with forests, parks and gardens surrounding everything. The historic individuality of Sintra and its architecture allowed it to find a place in the UNESCO world heritage list. For the history buffs, and the little child within all of us, the Toy museum displays more than 20 000 historical toys which date back to ancient Egypt.
Madeira, or The floating Garden of the Atlantic is aptly named with its parks, gardens and forest. This archipelago, measuring less than 1 000 km2, was one of the first finds of the Portuguese discoverers and has today become a year round resort reputed for its natural beauty, wine and enduringly mild weather. The island boasts a magnificent coastline that offers crystal clear water, surfing and underwater wildlife, such as dolphins.
This is the second largest town in Portugal and its cram packed with monuments, baroque churches, and bell towers. The old centre is a UNESCO World Heritage site, with its historic storefronts and quant plazas. All held up on some pretty solid Roman foundations. From wine cellars to live music, Porto provides a culturally rich atmosphere to enjoy one of the national dishes.
Find a Flight
Find a hotel
Find a holiday
Weather/ When to leave:
With all year sun, travelling to Portugal has to be choses in terms of how much heat you can handle. For this reason the months of spring, which start in February allow you to witness the countryside covered in flowers while escaping the sweltering heat of summer. The summer months, however, provide access to the outdoor pools and beach facilities.
As with much of Europe, Portugal was occupied by the Romans until the 5th century, after which the moors invaded. The moors ruled the majority of the country until Aonso Henriques pushed them back and named himself the first king of Portugal. At the same time, however, the Spanish became increasingly present in the east, and conflict continued until the treaty of Windsor in 1386. With this new freedom the Portuguese set out exploring the world, which turned out to be particularly profitable until 1578 when Philip the II claimed the throne due to the lack of an heir after the death of King Sebastian. This Spanish rule was overcome, Portugal was recognised as an independent state through the Treaty of Lisbon in 1668. Numerous problems were encountered between 1668 and today, but all of these development s shaped the culture and beauty of the Portugal we have today.
Portugal has many folk dances including circle dance, vira, Tau-Tau, Ciranda and many more. Some of these are region specific with not only the moves changing, but also the apparel, which ranges from work clothes to bright costumes. The majority of the dances are accompanied by a relatively slow music, while others such as the Chula, fandango or the Corridinho are danced by couples in a lively fashion with fast music.
With many regions comes many specialities, and Portugal has a rather impressive menu. Traditional dishes are often made with seafood, which can be both fresh and dried. Thanks to the portugeause god of wine Bacchus, and some impressive winemakers, Portugal has become known for its many world class wines such as Vinho do Douro or Vinho Verde. But it’s not all about the wine and drinks such as Super Bock or Sagres, two makes of beer, or liqueurs like Licor Beirão or ginjinha are wided consumed and equally test-worthy.
Dishes to try:
- Cozido a portugeusa – a stew that combines as many different kinds of meat as possible
- Caldo Verde – a soup made of onions, potatoes and kale accompanied by a slice of smoked sausage
- Bacalhau a bras – salted cod that has been shredded and sautéed with onions and potatoes
- Arroz de pato – duck cooked in red wine, then roasted with rice and topped off with slices of smoked sausage
Places not to miss:
Convento de Cristo
What was originally a Templar stronghold from the 12th century, later became a convent and was placed on the UNESCO World heritage list. Many of the kings of Portugal helped in the evolution of theis construction through the continued addition of raised tribunes, Italian influence and cloisters. The Convento de Cristo is one of the few examples of Templar architecture that exist today.
In central Portugal lies the roman ruins of Conimbriga. This ancient city is classified as a national monument as is the largest roman settlement in Portugal. The majority of the city walls remain intact, and structures such as the heating duct installed below the floors and artwork are still intact. But all that has been excavated and is currently visible, is only the beginning, with new discoveries continuing to arrive.
Quinta da Regaleira
Located near the historic centre of Sintra lies a palace, chapel and park full of lakes, grottoes, wells and fountains. This UNESCO World Heritage Site belonged to the Barons of Regaleira and makes use of Roman, Gothic Renaissance and Manueline architecture, all which spans over 4 hectares. This collection of stunning architecture is often excluded from the “all inclusive” tour packages, which is a shame as this mix between history, nature and fantasy can be explored for hours as you find your way through secret tunnels and mazes.
Things to do:
Follow the very footsteps of Vasco de Gama as you wander through the old part of Lisbon and explore the monument along the way.
Take a cruise along the river of gold as you travel through a wine region that has been in production for more than 2 000 years.
Find you very own piece of paradise along the coast with its many beaches, and diving opportunities
- Festa dos Tabuleiros (Festival of the Trays) only takes place once every four years (July)
- Obidos Medieval market (July)
- Ponte de Lima International Garden Festival (May – October)
- Pera International Festival of Sand Sculptures (March – October)
Passport and Visa:
Holders of European passports will not require a visa in order to enter Portugal. Added to these visitors, are the countries that are not required to apply for a visa:
Andorra; Antigua E Barbuda; Lichtenstein; Argentina; Malaysia; Australia; Mauricio; Bahamas; Mexico; Barbados; Monaco; Brazil; Nicaragua; Brunei; New Zealand; Bulgaria; Canada; Panama; Chile; Paraguay; Costa Rica; Romania; Croatia; San Marino; Cyprus; Seychelles; El Salvador; St Kitts And Nevis; Estonia; Singapore; Guatemala; South Korea; Holy See; Honduras; United States Of America; Ireland; United Kingdom; Israel; Uruguay; Venezuela; Japan
All other visitors require a Schengen visa.
For the majority of the town in Portugal, the sight and wonders are within walking distance. This means that getting around town is quick and easy; plus you’re outside in the fresh air no win-win. For the larger towns such as Lisbon, there is a metro system that is efficient and still busy growing, which means more and more stops. If, however, the idea of walking everywhere scares you, there are buses and taxis. The taxis will be marked with either an A or a T, the first of these indicates that it is a normal metered taxi (A = aluger), the second type of taxi can be hired from private companies for excursions (T = turisimo).
Health and safety:
Portugal has a relatively low crime rate and the greatest risk while exploring this wonderful country is an opportunistic pickpocket that notices you are a tourist. For this reason, you should pay attention to you valuable while being pushed around in crowded places as this is when things go missing.
- Emergency (fire, police, ambulance): 112
- Crime victims assistance program – APAV: 116 006
- Sea Rescue – Lisbon: 214 401 919
The standard electric supply in Portugal is 220 volts; although certain older accommodations may have a mix of 220V and 110V sockets. The socket is of the usual European type, which means a two prong adapter may be required.