Portugal is a small European country on the Atlantic Ocean, sharing Iberian Peninsula with Spain. The country’s position at the sea has shaped its past and present and will inevitably shape its future. Portugal was major maritime power during 16th to 19th century and this has left deep impact into its culture and history. Overseas colonization did not only bring Portuguese language and culture to distant countries, but brought other cultures back to Portugal, which made it richer and unique.
Before Portugal became empire, between 8th and 12th century, it was influenced by Muslim culture, bringing to the area specific, Moorish style.
Throughout Portugal, from Lisbon to Porto, many landmarks testify about culture mixing and glorious past, whether it is Castle of the Moors in Sintra or Palácio da Bolsa in Porto.
Additional to the mainland, Portugal also have Azores islands and archipelago of Berlengas with high mountains of Madeira.
Position at the sea and great climate also influences quality of local food and wine, which is yet another reason to visit Portugal.
1. Quick facts
- Official name: Portuguese Republic
- Capital: Lisbon
- Population: 10.7 million
- Area: 92,345 sq km (35,655 sq miles)
- Major language: Portuguese
- Major religion: Christianity
- Life expectancy: 78 years (men), 85 years (women)
- Currency: Euro
2. Where is it?
Portugal is country in Europe, located on the Iberian Peninsula and sharing border with Spain. It’s relatively small country – based on its size, Portugal is 111rd country in the world and 19th in Europe.
3. Visa requirements
As with many countries, your passport must be valid for at least three months after you complete visit to Portugal, so please plan ahead. Portugal is part of Schengen agreement and visa for any of the countries from the Schengen group is also valid for Portugal. List of countries requiring visa can be found here.
4. Getting there
Getting to Portugal is the best via Lisbon Airport (LIS) or other, smaller airports: Faro (FAO) or Porto (OPO). Driving from Spain is also a good option as many visitors travel to both Spain and Portugal as they are neighboring countries.
Check flights and hotel offers for Portugal:
5. Where to stay in Portugal
Depending on where you want to go in Thailand, your options for accommodation vary from standard hotels or an AirBnB or cheaper accommodations, such as guest houses or hostels,
It is up to you and your budget and personal preferences. For budget (and young) travelers, there are plenty of cheap accommodation to choose from in Portugal.
6. Moving around
Moving around Portugal is easy using public transport, especially trains. Train system is comprehensive and reliable and there are several types of trains, such as urbanos – for traveling within cities; regionais – regional, less expensive option between cities; intercidades – more expensive but faster option between major cities; and one special train line called Alfa Pendular (AP), which connects entire Portugal, from the north to the very south.
Buses are also an option to move between places, although in more rural areas they might be infrequent and unreliable.
If you prefer to drive, you can rent a car and move between cities on your own, roads are in good condition and safe and car rentals are affordable.
Transport within Lisbon is provided by buses, trams, metro and elevators (yes, Lisbon is built on hills!). For some seaside locations, there is also a ferry service. For quick commute between sites, you can also use taxi which can be effective way of transportation, but be careful about fares as they vary from day of the week and time of the day.
7. Food in Portugal
Portugal food revolves around country’s rich sea exploration history, so it is based on fish and seafood mostly, although cheese is popular as well.
Let’s start with Peixe Grelhado, basically a grilled fish, made on charcoal in whole and sprinkled with coarse sea salt; speaking of fish, Sardines are also very popular, served with plain bread; Açorda de Marisco (seafood stew), rich taste stew made out of shellfish, served with soaked bread and cilantro; Bacalhau (cod fish), with more than 1000 recipes on how to prepare it; Carne de Porco Alentejana (pork and clams), somewhat strange but tasty mixture of two different types of food, and many more from seafood/fish variety.
From non-fish/seafood area, there are: Frango no Churrasco (BBQ chicken), made with spicy condiments (such as piri-piri); Rojões à Moda do Minho & Papas de Sarrabulho (pork/smoked meat stew & mixed meat and bread paste), pork cuts marinated in wine and Queijo Serra da Estrela (mountain cheese), one of many varieties of cheese n Portugal.
From the sweet side, we recommend Pastel de Nata (custard tarts) and to try Portuguese desert Port Wine. Enjoy!
How safe is Portugal for tourists and to move around? Portugal is quite safe; it is ranked as number 13 the world safest country list. Tourist areas are generally safe, both for single tourists and groups or families, but extra caution for mugging in dangerous areas is advised.
Portugal has moderate prices for tourists, and you can always find great deals on accommodation, meals and attraction tickets. For detailed pricing information for various items, click link below.
Prices throughout Portugal are almost the same, with slight variation, but Lisbon and Evora are the most expensive for general tourism.
Portugal has a moderate climate, as it is surrounded by the sea, its temperature ranges are never in too hot or too cold area, which is great when visiting.
Lowest temperatures are in January and they go down to only 8 C (46 F) and with summer temperatures in August to up to 28 C (83 F).
Rain is quite common during autumn and winter.
11. Best time to visit Portugal
Due to moderate climate, the best time to visit Portugal is in summer, so you can enjoy many seaside attractions, but you can visit any time on the year and especially in spring and autumn.
12. Money matters
Portugal is part of the European Union and Euro zone and official currency is Euro. You should always pay attention when paying bills if you are coming from non-Euro countries and mind the exchange rate. (Xe.com). Major credit cards are accepted almost everywhere, but please do check card charges from your bank in foreign countries before the trip.
It is always good to have some cash on you, especially when leaving a tip in the restaurant or for taxi ride. There are ATMs and banks on every corner and cash withdrawals are in Euros with a fee. Major banks don’t charge ATM fees to foreigners, but privately operated ATMs may sometimes charge high fees. However, machine should warn you about the charge so you have a choice to cancel the transaction before committing to it.
13. What to see in Portugal?
Portugal is relatively small country but there are plenty of attractions to visit, so we are just providing you with the selection of top things to see.
Belém Tower. Also known as ‘Tower of St Vincent’, this landmark defensive tower in Lisbon dates back from medieval times in Portugal’s ‘Age of Discoveries’. It is UNESCO heritage site and offers great views form the top.
Pena Palace. A 19th-century, Romanticist palace above city of Sintra, west from Lisbon. Located on a rocky hill surrounded by park.
Jerónimos Monastery. Former monastery, now a world heritage site, hosting archaeology and maritime museums. Built during 16th century, this magnificent example of late Gothic architecture is located in Lisbon municipality.
São Jorge Castle. This hilltop Moorish castle and palace ruins dating back from 11th century, dominates Lisbon’s city view. Guided tours and visit to archaeological museums offered.
Cabo da Roca. Western cape in municipality of Sintra, offering coastal viewpoint with a lighthouse, housing tourism office. It’s a part of Sintra-Cascais Natural Park.
Bairro Alto. A central district of Lisbon, consisting of several neighborhoods, full of life in the evening with authentic restaurants and Fado music performances.
Rossio Square. A Pedro IV Square in Lisbon, popularly known as Rossio Square. Large square with statue of Pedro IV, a fountain and several shops and restaurants. Popular meeting place.
Praça do Comércio. A public square in Lisbon near Tagus River, dominated by arch and statue. Filled with cafes and shops.
Castle of the Moors. A 10th century hilltop Moorish fortress in Sintra. Offering panoramic view of the city and the sea alongside hiking paths leading to the castle.
Quinta da Regaleira. Palace and gardens, enlisted as a cultural heritage by UNESCO. Located in historic center of Sintra, this early 20th century built estate is often hosting cultural events and hosts a chapel and a museum.
Dom Luís I Bridge. Built in late 19th century, this iconic metal bridge is connecting city of Porto and Vila Nove de Gaia over Douro River. It is arched bridge with two level traffic, a road and metro line.
Peneda-Gerês National Park. Hilly nature reserve and walking trails, home to deer, wolves and golden eagles. Features prehistoric remains, Roman era roads, and campsites.
Lisbon Oceanarium. A waterside aquarium with ocean ecosystems in Lisbon. Located in Parque das Nações, originally the exhibition grounds for the Expo ’98. Features sharks, rays, penguins and tropical fish.
Santa Justa Lift. Built early 20th century, this lift (also called Carmo Lift), in Lisbon’s historical city, connects the lower streets of the Baixa with the higher Largo do Carmo with Carmo Square.
Padrão dos Descobrimentos. A concrete monument to maritime explorers (‘Monument of the Discoveries’), built in 1940 and inaugurated in 1960 for 500 years anniversary of death of Henry the Navigator (Infante Dom Henrique, o Navegador).
Cape St. Vincent. Geographically, it is the southwesternmost point of Portugal and of mainland Europe, located in municipality of Vila do Bispo, in the Algarve, southern Portugal. Features a lighthouse and scenic views.
Nature Park of Arrábida. A Nature Park, founded in 1976 and covering an area of more than 100 square kilometers, located between town of Sesimbra and the city of Setúbal, south Portugal. Features chalk cliffs, caves with bats, medieval forts.
Clérigos Church. An ornate church with an iconic bell tower, symbol of city of Porto.
Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park. About 200 km strip of wild coastal nature park on the Atlantic coasts of the Algarve and Alentejo.
Sintra National Palace. Also known as Town Palace, this Moorish palace from 11th century features tile collection, ornate courtyards and lavish rooms.
Christ the King. Inspired by Rio de Janeioro’s Christ the Redeemer Monument, this shrine and monument is overlooking city of Lisbon from Almada.
25 de Abril Bridge. More than 2 km long, this suspension bridge opened in 1966 and it is similar to famous Golden Gate. It links Lisbon with municipality of Almada.
Avenida da Liberdade. The main avenue in Lisbon, refer to by locals simply as ‘Avenida’. Great for walking and shopping.
Praia da Rocha. Popular beach on Atlantic Ocean, south Portugal, lined up with hotels and restaurants. Featuring famous limestone rock formations on the west side of the beach.
Livraria Lello. A 19th century ornate bookstore featuring iconic red stairway, in an art nouveau styled building, located in Porto.
Palácio da Bolsa. A 19th century built in a neoclassical style, was originally a stock exchange palace in city Porto. Now it hosts various events and offers guided tours.
Batalha Monastery. A Gothic monastery built between late 14th and early 16th century (over 150 years) located in central Portugal in municipality of Batalha. Listed as UNESCO Heritage Site since 1983.
Carmo Convent. Ruins of medieval church featuring archaeology museum. A 14th century built convent and a church, destroyed in an earthquake in 1755, located in Lisbon.
Ria Formosa. Natural park in Algarve, south of Portugal, and west of city of Faro, consisting of barrier islands featuring scenic hiking and cycling routes.
Praia da Marinha. Scenic beach in south of Portugal on Atlantic Ocean. Surrounded by cliffs and pit caves and rock formations n the water.
Benagil. A small village on the Atlantic Ocean coast in the municipality of Lagoa, Algarve, in south Portugal. Formerly known for fishing tradition, now popular tourist destination with its scenic beaches.
Convent of Christ. Ornately decorated, Manueline style, this hilltop Roman Catholic convent was initially a Templar dwelling in the 12th century until the order was dissolved in 14th century. Located in Tomar, central Portugal.
Pico do Arieiro. Mountain peak on the island of Madeira. Reachable by road, this 1,818-meter high peak features scenic views, cafe and a gift shop.
Vasco da Gama Bridge. Longest bridge in Europe, this 17km road bridge is spanning over Tagus River, with stunning views, located in Lisbon.
Lisbon Cathedral. Referred by locals simply as ‘Sé’, this 12th century cathedral is a landmark of Lisbon. Since it was damaged by several earthquakes, it was rebuilt in various styles.
Sanctuary of Fátima. A shrine and pilgrimage complex where, according to a story, the Virgin Mary appeared to three children. Located in the municipality of Ourém, central Portugal.
Capela dos Ossos. A 16th century chapel decorated with human skulls and bones, and even with desiccated corpses hanging by the ropes. It was estimated that approximately 5000 skeletons were used to decorate the chapel. Located in town of Evora, east from Lisbon.
Church of São Francisco. A 14th-century Franciscan church and one of the main landmarks of Porto. Located in the historic center of the city and listed as UNESCO Heritage Site.
Monserrate Palace. Located near city of Sintra, this 19th century mansion is built in a mixture of Arabic, gothic and Indian architectural styles. Features botanical gardens.
Rua Augusta Arch. A triumphal arch with a viewing platform in Lisbon’s Praça do Comércio Square. Built in late 19th century to commemorate earthquake in 1775 and city’s revival.
Palace of Queluz. A 18th century built royal summer palace and gardens with ornate rooms, located in the municipality of Lisbon, west from Portugal’s capital.
Sintra-Cascais Natural Park. The newest addition (since 1994) to the total of 13 national parks in Portugal. Located between Sintra and the Atlantic Ocean, this park features many species of rare flowers and animals.
Church of Santa Engrácia. Originally built in 17th century, this baroque church was turned into modern-day mausoleum and resting place for Portugal’s notable citizens.
Berlengas. A small archipelago of islands 10 to 15 km off the coast of Portugal, west of the town of Peniche. Declared as natural reserve in 2011.
Casa da Música. A contemporary landmark concert hall in Porto. A 12 floor high featuring top floor restaurant, built in 2005.
Palace of Mafra. Baroque palace and religious complex with ornate monastery, church, convent and a library. Building completed mid-18th century, located in Mafra, 30 km north of Lisbon.
14. Interesting facts about Portugal
- The oldest bookstore in the world is located in Lisbon – Livraria Bertrand.
- Portugal has the longest bridge in Europe – famous Vasco da Gama Bridge in Lisbon is 17 kilometers (10.5 mi) long.
- Portugal was the first colonial power to abolish slavery, they did it in 18th century.
We hope you enjoyed reading about Portugal!
Portugal is a small European country on the Atlantic Ocean, sharing Iberian Peninsula with Spain. The country’s position at the sea has shaped its past and present and will inevitably shape its future. Portugal was major maritime power during 16th to 19th century and this has left deep impact into its culture and history.