Sunny beaches, architecturally beautiful cities, vineyards, amazing people and great food. Portugal has everything that you could possibly ask for in a dream vacation. Often overlooked by tourists to give a preference to its neighbouring countries, it wasn’t much of a surprise then that initially we planned a visit to Portugal only due to its proximity to Spain. What followed though was a trip that made me fall in love with a country like never before. Portugal has a certain aura that will leave you wonder-struck at first sight.
The central and northern parts of Portugal like Lisbon & Porto are the most visited areas, especially if you are short on time. But in order to experience the real Portugal, you need to get off the beaten track and visit the countryside areas to take in the surreal beauty that they offer. Out of the many places that we explored, here is my list of top things to experience on your visit to Portugal.
Wander through Lisbon’s Alfama district
Alfama, the oldest district in Lisbon is situated between the Castle of Lisbon & the Tejo River. It is one of the most highlighted and visited tourist attractions of Lisbon and view of the city from here is pretty awesome. Alfama is one the few areas that withstood the massive earthquake of 1755 which destroyed almost the entire city, thus giving you a peek into the old city architecture. Secluded and with upward winding roads, you can either take a tram to explore the place or get yourself a good workout before an amazing night out.
While Lisbon is the star of Portugal, Porto is the sparkle on it. Situated in the northern part of the country and known for the origin of the world famous Port wine, Porto is a UNESCO World Heritage city. Whether it’s a day trip to the famous Douro Valley and its many vineyards or a trip to the local wine cellars, Porto is the place to be. It has many interesting and unique attractions to visit including the Livraria Lello & Irmao bookstore (the famous inspiration behind the Harry Potter series), the world’s most beautiful McDonald’s and the gorgeous waterfront. Porto is just the perfect place to sit back and relax.
Take a day Trip to Sintra
A picturesque area and often termed as the fairy tale town of Portugal, Sintra is the most popular day trip from Lisbon. It has a variety of fascinating historic buildings and beautiful scenery all around. The most famous attraction here is the Pena palace. Built in the mid-1800’s, its brightly colored exteriors will outshine even the best palaces you have visited till date.
Gorge on some heavenly Portuguese cuisine
Portugal is easily one of the most undermined cuisines in Europe. Known as a foodie’s paradise, it is famous for its grilled sardines and codfish, olives, cheese, and a plethora of delectable dishes all with the freshest ingredients that you can come across. If exploring Porto, a visit to the oldest cafe in town, Cafe Majestic is a must. The Sangria that you get here is definitely one of the best in the world. Just wander around the city to get a taste of their cuisine or join one the city’s famous pub and food crawls.
Attend a Fado Performance
Whether you are roaming the streets of Alfama or checking out old-fashioned bars anywhere else, a Fado performance is something you should not miss when in Portugal. Fado is one of the oldest folk music form here and is often sung by an individual with songs, that follow a theme of loss and mourning. These performances are normally held in dining places at night accompanied by good food and wine.
Visit the offbeat destinations
While the popular destinations like Lisbon and Porto remain my personal favourites, the rustic charm of the country is best explored through a visit to the relatively lesser known places. Algarve in the south has some great beaches, Alentejo has charm, history and culture and Madeira is a beautiful island in Atlantic Ocean with gorgeous natural environment.
Get to know the Portuguese
When the country is so beautiful and scenic, it is not surprising that the people here are so friendly and warm. Whether it is a stranger guiding you to the best hidden secrets of the local area or a chat about football over some good wine, these are some of the nicest people to hang around with. Go to local events or start a conversation with someone you meet and you are sure to leave Portugal with a smile on face.
In the few days that I spent in this country, it left a lasting impression on me. Portugal is one of those few places that I would love to explore again knowing that it will offer me new experiences every time I visit.
Contact Tripoetic to plan a trip to Portugal.
Author: Neha Bhise (Guest Travel Blogger)