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Why Would I Want To Visit Portugal - Best Portugal Tourism

Updated on April 19, 2011

Why visit Portugal? The answer is simple; it's one of the most beautiful, charming and historically romantic countries on the European continent.

The country is home to a variety of stunning beaches - forget the Algarve ... the entire Portuguese coastline is littered with hidden, almost forgotten bays, dramatic sea-scapes and inlets that are perfect for surfers and miles and miles of shoreline that's covered in sand so fine it looks as though the coastline's been dusted with a sugar frosting.

Many tourists overlook Portugal as a place of interest, a country to explore, discover and ultimately - absorb and enjoy. Perhaps it's because of its position on the global map - the country's location is just a little off the beaten track.

Portugal sits on the very edge of the Iberian Peninsula and despite it being a part of both the EU and the European continent, it's far flung Western position - and size - almost hides it from the eyes of potential tourists.

Most visit Spain, Italy or France; all countries that dwarf Portugal by comparison - and all are popular European tourist destinations.

But then - as sizeable as all are, as well known as each country is, you know what they say about diamonds ... they never comes as big as bricks.

Which is exactly what Portugal is - the diamond in the crown of Europe.

Click thumbnail to view full-size

Visit Portugal - The Jewel Of Europe

That's why you should consider a visit to Portugal - Portugal tourism is active and the country really is the jewel in the crown of Europe.

The country possesses a fascinating history, tales of seafaring heroes, venturing out into unchartered waters, discovering and conquering new lands. A rich cultural background, awash with tales of daring and adversity ... triumphs and tribulations.

Fantastic architecture, both ancient and contemporary, often existing side by side in perfect harmony.

The indigenous population are arguably some of the most passionate, warm and openly happy people the world over. They love their country with an ardour that's both personal to the people and the country. Old fashioned manners and courtesy still exist, family is ever important.

Portuguese food is a smorgasbord of delights, a true sensory overload ... some of the best seafood and fish recipes can be found within Portugal's borders and the sight, smell and taste of many of the dishes are beyond measure. For a myriad of reasons, it's a bon vivant's idea of heaven - so many dishes, so little time!

Portugal Map

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Map of Portugal, showing Porto to the North, Lisbon on the Western tip and Faro and the Algrave in the South.
Map of Portugal, showing Porto to the North, Lisbon on the Western tip and Faro and the Algrave in the South.
Map of Portugal, showing Porto to the North, Lisbon on the Western tip and Faro and the Algrave in the South.

Peniche Surfing

Portugal Tourism

The Portugal tourism industry is active, efficient and welcoming of overseas visitors. Much of the active tourist industry has been concentrated in the South of the country, the Algarve.

However, of late that is beginning to change. Portugal has a lot more to offer the world than the nightlife, activity and cheap flights you'll find in and around the Algarve. The whole country is criss-crossed with areas of outstanding beauty, fanstastic vistas for walking, cycling and horse riding.

There are many inland lakes and rivers, many of which offer a wide variety of watersports. There's rock climbing, skiing (in the winter), abseiling, diving, fishing, sailing and so much more. Around the coastline of Perniche there's fantastic surfing to be found - another little known aspect of Portugal.

On the West coast, North of Lisbon, golf courses and equestrian centres have either been built or are in the process of being so. There's a growing awareness related to horse-riding and the last two or three years has seen a marked influx of related European competitions, which is slowly beginning to encourage a secondary tourist industry in its own right.

There's a definite upswing across the country in relation to the West coast becoming more commercial re social tourism, though the powers that be are careful not to allow it to become a new 'Algarve'. Despite the slower growth and development of what's now known as the Silver Coast, from both a nationwide developmental perspective and that of a tourist one, Portugal is slowly becoming a strong contender in the European market.

Portugal does have a lot to offer and deserves a far better standing within both the European and global tourism market. The country is clean and largely untouched, the costs are incredibly low in direct comparison to the UK, France or Spain, the weather is simply fantastic, crime rates are low and family values are high.

What's more, in many of the tourist areas, Portuguese natives speak English to a conversational level and even when they don't, many have at least a fair grasp of the language. any little effort you make at greeting them in Portuguese will return a favorable response.

This is always a plus for a non-english speaking nation as vast amounts of money ploughed into tourism tends to come from the pockets of native English speakers. In the case that it's not, English is generally the common language spoken between non-English speaking nations.

Portuguese Phrases - Pronounciations

The Portuguese are very responsive to tourists that make even a little effort and you'll certainly gain their help a lot easier if you at least greet them in their own language then add something like:

  • desculpe ... eu não falo Portugûes, sou Inglês/Americano. Tu fala Inglês ou não? - excuse me ... I don't speak Portuguese, I'm English/American. Do you speak English, or not?

I know it sounds difficult but a little will go a long long way!

Basic Portuguese Phrases

There are many quick and easy to learn basic Portuguese phrases. Whilst no expects anyone to turn up for a two week vacation/holiday fluent in the language of their destination, a few words will go a long way.

Some of the more common and worth learning/using phrases are:

  • boa tarde- good day
  • bom dia - good morning
  • olá - hello
  • obrigado/a - thankyou
  • queria um/uma ... - I would like a ...
  • gostaria de ir para *insert destinatation* - I would like to go to (in a taxi)
  • tehno uma reserva ... - I have a reservation ...
  • desculpe ... fala Inglês? - Excuse me ... do you speak English
  • Como está? - how are you
  • de nada - you're welcome
  • sim - yes
  • não - no
  • até logo - see you later
  • adeus - goodbye
  • hoje - today
  • amanhã - tomorrow
  • agora - now
  • aqui - here
  • um café - coffee
  • meia de lite - coffee with milk
  • uma cerveja - a beer
  • o menu - the menu


Cascais, March 2010
Cascais, March 2010

Best Time To Visit Portugal

The best time to visit Portugal would depend on how hot you like the weather. Once you hit the back of May - it begins to get seriously hot across the entire country. We're talking thirty and forty degrees right through September, sometimes into October.

Don't rely on the average weather indicators. The last two winters have been far wetter the the indicators would have you believe, the spring and summer have been hotter than the charts suggest.

I remember February 2009 hitting 22 and 23 degrees most of the month (I'm not kidding), then it cooled off again, nearer to the 18/19 degrees mark, through March and April. This year, I was in Cascais (an area of Lisbon) at the beginning of march and it was 24 degrees. So saying, the weather in Portugal is far more good stuff than the opposite.

If you like it a little cooler, go in early summer and the fall/autumn. If you want to bake, fry, look like an old leather sandal, aim for May through September.

Portugal - What To See

Here's a list and quick summary of some of the best parts of Portugal:

  1. Lisbon: capital city, filled with historical magnificence, contemporary living and host to some of the most wonderful food in Portugal - as well as host to the hauntingly beautiful Fado and a wide variety of places to visit and things to do.
  2. Porto: Northern city, industrialized but stunning, a riverside city filled with medievil renmants of the past, accessible golf courses and a wide variety of places of interest and a vast array of superb seafood restaurants.
  3. Algarve: Southern Portugal, well known for it's nightlife, accommodation and great food. Great destination for young adults and families - perfect sandy beaches and a strong english speaking area.
  4. Central Portugal: from the unbelievable beauty of the city of Coimbra, to the wonderfully medieval Obidos, the gorgeous, little known Caldas De Rainha, the delightful towns of Cadaval and Bombarral. Breathtaking scenery and terrain, a wonderful mix of architecture, from Romanesque to Baroque, Arabic and Moorish influences.
  5. Alentejo: Agricultural Portugal, but no less beautiful. Visit Beja, a former Roman town, or Évora, a world heritage site. These are but two of the wonderfully historic towns to be found in and around the Alentejo region. There's a fantastic array of local crafts and goods produced, from leather crafts to pottery, earthenware, hand painted furniture and much more.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The Basilica at FatimaThe interior.
The Basilica at Fatima
The Basilica at Fatima
The interior.
The interior.

Figueira da Foz

Looking across the bay to Figueira.
Looking across the bay to Figueira.

Best Places To Visit Portugal

What are the best places to visit in Portugal? You have a wide variety of options:

  • city breaks
  • beach holidays
  • family holidays
  • sporting holidays
  • relaxing/cultural breaks

The above will help you determine the best places to visit - for you, or you and your family. If you're young, energetic and just want a fun week with friends, then the Algarve will more than suit.

It's also great for families, as there are lots of hotels that accommodate family groups, or provide all-inclusive deals. Shop around though - there are some great bargains to be found in the Algarve.

For those looking for something more relaxing, consider a city break. Both Lisbon and Porto have airports that have scheduled flights botn inbound/outbound, 365 days a year. What's more, besides the amazing architecture and historical sites that both cities are host to, Lisbon and Porto sit or straddle estuaries.

There are some wonderful beaches very close to both:

  • Lisbon: Cascais and Estoril
  • Porto: Espinho and Matosinhos

I don't have my own pictures of the beaches at Porto but I do have many from Lisbon's coastline and having been down to the Algarve, I can say with clarity that the Western coastline is every bit as beautiful as anything you'll find in the South - and far less developed!

There are many places to visit in Portugal, some of historical interest and importance, others that are relaxing, peaceful - places to recoup and recharge. There are religious towns/centres, such as Fatima - which is host to a shrine that attracts thousand of Catholic pilgrims, year on year.

Fatima - the town is located in the central region and though rather small, it has a certain religious significance for the Catholic faith. A shrine was created after three young children claimed to have seen a vision of Mary, or the 'Virgin of The Rosary' back in 1917.

In its own right, Fatima is worth a visit if for nothing more than its location and architecture. The Basilica is simply stunning and the Church of the Most Holy Trinity is one of the biggest Christian chruches the world over - the 4th largest, to be exact.

Figueira Da Foz - nestles some 125 miles North of Lisbon. It's another coastal town, belonging to the city of Coimbra and home to miles of gorgeous sandy coastline and a fantastic casino, which I've visited several times.

Accommodation is incredibly cheap in Figueira, my partner and I have stayed in a hotel almost next door to the famous casino for €30/$36/£25 a night which included an incredibly fresh, just baked breakfast every morning. The price was for two, not per person.

Definitely worthy of a weekend break or a day trip if you stay in or around Coimbra - which is another stunning city that nestles within the borders of this incredibly beautiful country.

 Pictures: combination of my own and courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.


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    • miscellanea profile image

      Tarik Aarbaoui 5 years ago from Morocco

      Because franckly protegual is a great country!

    • turismoenPortugal profile image

      turismoenPortugal 6 years ago

      very good hub :)

    • profile image

      Miguel Dias 7 years ago

      i come from and matosinhos and vacation in the algarve, but live in the us. i loved your article...ineed we are way too often overlooked , and indeed the crown jewel of europe.

    • frogdropping profile image

      Andria 7 years ago

      You can still find good hotels on a budget around Lisbon Norah. Pretty much anywhere in Portugal can be very reasonable. My dad did a four night stay, flights, breakfast etc in a lovely hotel for just £400 ... I'll let you convert it l0l! That was for two people. My dad and his wife were more than happy with their deal.

      And sure, shout out when you're ready. It's worth the trip. Mind you ... where are you?! I've no idea!

    • Norah Casey profile image

      Norah Casey 7 years ago from San Francisco Bay Area

      Oh, I don't think I could stay in most hostels. I know that really negates part of the "backpacking" experience, but after sharing a room with four siblings growing up, I'm done with bunk beds! :)

      I'll send you a message when it gets closer to my trip. Just have to wait for Johnny Depp to get divorced, I suppose ;)

    • frogdropping profile image

      Andria 7 years ago

      lol Norah yep - a husband will be required! As and when you bag one and set off on your honeymoon, do try a few nights in Lisbon. Wonderful city and there's some fab backpacker hostels/hotels too. Know a few and can recommend some :):)

    • Norah Casey profile image

      Norah Casey 7 years ago from San Francisco Bay Area

      I've always wondered about visiting Portugal, but the thought of learning phrases that are similar to the languages I do know is quite intimidating. I'm not much of a linguist, it was hard enough learning what I have! Thanks for sharing about this beautiful country. I'll certainly have to make a stop when I go backpacking through Europe for my honeymoon (now, I just have to find a husband!)

    • frogdropping profile image

      Andria 7 years ago

      ood to hear you lived in Portugal varonny! I haven't been to Aveiro, though I'm sure I'll get there sooner or later. Good call for those that haven't been to Portugal, I'm sure it's as beautiful there as many other parts of the country :)

    • varonny profile image

      Veronica Almeida 7 years ago from TORONTO

      Hi there! Very nice article! And you are completely right, Portugal is often forgotten among all those well known attractions, yet is one of the most beautiful things you can ever visit.

      I have lived in Portugal for about 16 years, I'm dying to go back, it's been 6 years now without going there.

      I would also suggest tourists to visit Aveiro. It is a very cultural city, one with a sprinkle of modernism but yet you can still have those amazing stone streets with a little stream of water right in the middle of the traffic, with traditional little boats and all. Amazing.

      Good hub! :P take care!

    • frogdropping profile image

      Andria 7 years ago

      Ahhh you're most welcome Ricardo :) You are a native of my adopted home, you know far more than I and your hubs about your place of birth are fabulous. One day I will get up to Obidos lagoon and take a beer with you. Or a bottle of wine!

    • funride profile image

      Ricardo Nunes 7 years ago from Portugal

      Oh my... I don´t even know where to start...

      You are the cutest and nicer frog I know! Thanks for the links to my hubs (much appreciated), thanks for your never-ending love for Portugal, and... I forgot, did I thank you already!? LOL

      Reading this hub and all the comments made me feel so proud of being Portuguese... Thank you so much! You made my day :D

    • frogdropping profile image

      Andria 7 years ago

      He'd have a great time. And trust me Candie - if he tried greeting the Portuguese IN portuguese, you know, a little effort, then asked if they spoke English, he'd have a much easier time :) One thing that annoys them is people walking up and just assuming they can speak English.

      And I don't blame them - it's arrogant. I'd be fairly annoyed if everytime a foreigner walked up to me (in the UK) and started jabbering away at me in their language. My best tip - learn a few words and have a stab - the Portuguese love it ;)

    • Candie V profile image

      Candie V 7 years ago from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure!

      I love it! Sounds like too good a vacation for him.. perfect for me!! Love ya lots!

    • frogdropping profile image

      Andria 7 years ago

      Hey Candie :) What to do lol ... fly into Porto, stay a night or two. Absorb the city, then move down to Coimbra. Do the same, fantastic place. Go west, to Figueira da Foz, stay a night, play cards at the casiono, enjoy the food and nightlife. Move down to Caldas da Rainha, beautiful town and worth stopping by - carry on to Obidos (I wrote a hub on the town), talk a walk around the medievil town, it's fairy tale pretty. Continue down into Lisbon, stay three or four nights.

      Check out Bairro Alto, Baixa, Belém, Parque das Nações, Castelo de São Jorge ... ooooo so many places, the nightlife is fab, the food wonderful, the women gorgeous!

      When he's done with Lisbon, he can catch the nostalgic night train to Spain - from Lisbon itself direct. Don't know what he can and can't do there as Spain I hardly know but - if you want more ideas, a better idea or itineray, email me :)

    • Candie V profile image

      Candie V 7 years ago from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure!

      Hey FD! Fantastic hub on Portugal! My 20 y/o son and I were talking about he and a friend going to Europe. He says.. (get this..) 'What's there to do????'. OY! I said go to Spain and lay on the beach, go to Portugal and lay on the beach, go to Italy and lay on the beach! Maybe I should just go instead.. and lay on the beach!

    • frogdropping profile image

      Andria 7 years ago

      Ethel I hope one day you do get the chance. A shame that the Algarve has spoiled your opinion, it really is a beautiful country :)

    • frogdropping profile image

      Andria 7 years ago

      De nada Ellen :) There is a whole country out there! The Algarve clouds the view, many think of Portugal as the Açgarve and nothing more. Plus it hasn't always had the most favorable view. Cheap tacky holidays, getting wrecked and falling around drunk for seven days package type tours don't give the right appeal either. Hopefully, things will change over the next few years. Portugal really does have a lot to offer the global tourist market :)

    • ethel smith profile image

      Eileen Kersey 7 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Obrigado. As you know I was not keen on Porugal as I visited the Algarve. I would love to visit other regions though.

    • EllenGraeger profile image

      EllenGraeger 7 years ago from Madrid

      Muito obrigada, frog, for this hub. And you are right, Portugal is not only the Algarve with its really marvelous beaches. It is Lisbon, Cascais, Sintra, Coimbra, Porto, the rural region of Alentejo and its great wines. Portugal has advanced a lot in the last 20 years but some places still have their flair of romance.

    • frogdropping profile image

      Andria 7 years ago

      Anolinde - so good to hear you've been and already enjoyed a great time there. Sintra is another fairy tale type place, much like Obidos! And yes, the men are pretty handsome, though I have a bias towards one only ;)

      Russel - hey :) Not a fan os sardines to be honest, though I began to like a few different seafood dishes. I remember trying a few and being pleasanlty surprised at the flavor. I have a picture somewhere of a tiled relief, I think I took it outside in Alfama. Now, my drink of choice is vinho vered - I sure do miss it :)

    • frogdropping profile image

      Andria 7 years ago

      jdavies, hopefully your hubs are showing up now. I still haven't checked - currently finishing another Portugal hub, about the history of the country :)

      lxxy - it sure is and I sure miss being at home. The city isn't my favorite part of the country, it's more a general feel I have for the country overall. Plus Simões is there, not here with me :)

    • Russell-D profile image

      Russell-D 7 years ago from Southern Ca.

      Loved Portugral, especially the huge sardines in Lisbon, the port wineries and the cruise up the Porto River into Spain. At night, a few ports down the barrel and u appreciated the sad notes of Fado. Special,the blue tiles adorning many buildings but at the height of their magnificence at the Main Train station and some Churches along the way. Loved the ones in the Port Office of the rebel vintner who thought the Church was wrong, Port was a fun drink. David

    • Anolinde profile image

      Anolinde 7 years ago

      Portugal is one of my favorite countries I've visited (okay, so actually, I like them all, but Portugal is really amazing!) :P I visited Lisbon and Sintra back in 2002. Sintra is simply breathtaking :) Oh, and the men in Portugal were pretty cute, too! ;)

    • lxxy profile image

      lxxy 7 years ago from Beneath, Between, Beyond

      You always put together some great information, interesting style, and useful resources. Portugal is just beautiful!

    • jdaviswrites profile image

      Jeff Davis 7 years ago from California

      looking forward to the smaller ones as well...congrats either way it is well deserved. i'm just wondering how to make it onto the hubtrails site in general...i completed all the steps but my hubs aren't appearing...

    • frogdropping profile image

      Andria 7 years ago

      Hey jdavis :) Thanks for that, I enjoyed writing it and yup, it does cover a lot of ground. I'll be doing some more, smaller ones - this was more of an overview of what Portugal has to offer. As for getting on the front page, don't know. Just went along with the HubTrails instructions :)

    • jdaviswrites profile image

      Jeff Davis 7 years ago from California

      awesome hub! you pretty much covered it all...i need to go back to portugal. i only spent time in the algarve coast, but still amazing. i found your hub from the hubtrails front page. how did you hub get published there so quickly? at any rate, great job...

    • frogdropping profile image

      Andria 7 years ago

      Hello, hello - hey there :) Thanks for stopping by. This is not one of my shorter hubs lol but there was a lot to try and include. I need to do more to be honest, there's so much more to Portugal than just one hub ;)

    • frogdropping profile image

      Andria 7 years ago

      Ahhh drbj I love Portugal. Not sure if that's the same or as much as the Portuguese but it's worthy of being viewed as so much more than an undeveloped or third world country - of which it's neither. I miss being there with all my heart and ... estou bem obrigada. Estou na Inglaterra agora e está tudo bem ;)

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

      Wow, frogdropping, this is definitely a comprehensive and informative hub. It is nice to know from first hand. Thank you for a very interesting read.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 7 years ago from south Florida

      What a marvelous voice for Portugal tourism you are! Your realistic descriptions and beautiful photos make me want to get on a jet plane NOW. One of the Cheap Flight versions, of course.

      I know Cascais firsthand having eaten in an out of the way restaurant there once that a tour guide recommended. And it was one of the best meals I ever enjoyed.

      Como você está? Eu perdi o seu rosto brilhante verde pulando de Hubpages. Espero que tudo esteja bem com você. Você quis fazer a mudança para o UK?

    • frogdropping profile image

      Andria 7 years ago

      suzie - thanking you very much :):)

    • suziecat7 profile image

      suziecat7 7 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Wonderful Hub about Portugal. It is a beautiful country.


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