Beautiful beaches, delicious wine and seafood, stunning countrysides, and rich history. If Portugal isn’t the first place that pops into your mind when thinking of these features, it should be! Portugal is known for a wide variety of different reasons. It’s the birthplace of both Christiano Ronaldo and Port wine, home of the Algarve’s sunny beaches and the Alentejo region’s vast cork forests.
The Algarve is the spectacular Southern coastal region of Portugal. Here, you can spend all day relaxing on gorgeous beaches, exploring the cave-filled coastline, or experiencing the thrills of water sports such as surfing and scuba diving. Albufeira is the largest city in the Algarve region, though Tavira is also a popular destination.
Lisbon was once a city of immigrants. This breathtaking city is full of rich history. The architecture has a mixture of Spanish and Arabic influences, and within the city you can find castles, museums, shops, and lots of delicious food. Just outside the city is Sintra, where you can find the esoteric Quinta da Regaleira, built to invoke the owner’s beliefs in alchemy, Masonry, the Knights Templar, and the Rosicrucians.
The stunning riverside city of Porto (Oporto) is the second largest city in Portugal, and the home of Port wine. Here, you can enjoy the calming scenery of the Douro River while exploring mouth-watering cuisine and Port wine tastings.
Located in the heart of the Alentejo region, Evora is full of historic Roman architecture, including a still-standing temple to the goddess Diana. It’s also home to the University of Evora and a growing aerospace sector, combining the city’s history with modern innovation.
Perhaps one of the most famous things Portugal is known for, Port is a rich dessert wine, and comes in several styles. The most popular, red Port, has notes of chocolate and assorted berries. Tawny Port, in contrast, has a flavor that hints at nuts and caramel. There are also white and rose Ports, though these are not as common.
Frango Piri Piri is probably the most popular chicken dish in Portugal. The meat is barbecued after marinating in a spicy Piri Piri sauce. Its skin is often crispy, but the marinade keeps the chicken from drying out.
Caldo Verde is a tasty soup made with potatoes, chorizo, and collard greens. The greens, usually kale, are what lend the dish it’s name, which translates to green broth.
No Portuguese food tour would be complete without some of the coastal country’s fresh seafood. Bacalhau is the Portuguese word for cod, and chefs prepare the fish a variety of different ways across the country.
These Portuguese custard tarts originated in the Jeronimos Monastery in Lisbon, and quickly became a popular pastry throughout the country. You can still get the original pasteis de nata from the monastery itself, though almost any bakery in Lisbon will have them.
A bifana is a hearty pork sandwich popular especially in Lisbon. The pork marinates overnight in Piri Piri sauce. Then it is cooked and served on bread with grilled onions and sweet mustard.
Francesinhas are another type of sandwich, but vary greatly from bifanas. These sandwiches are stuffed with an assortment of meats, slathered in melted cheese, and soaked in a tomato and beer sauce. They can be found mainly in Porto, and are best accompanied with fries and beer.
Caipirinhas were supposedly created as a treatment for flu patients in the Alentejo region, though a few changes turned the potent beverage into a tasty drink that gained popularity as the national cocktail of Brazil. Now, you can find the sweet, lime flavored cocktail in many bars across Portugal.
Though Sangria is typically a Spanish beverage, this fruity red wine drink is also popular throughout the Algarve region and up Portugal’s coastline.
One of Portugal’s biggest celebrities is Cristiano Ronaldo. Born in Madeira, he is now one of the most famous soccer players of all time. He played for both Manchester United and Real Madrid, and currently plays for Juventus, an Italian club team. Ronaldo also captains the Portugal national team.
Vast forests of cork trees populate the Alentejo region of Portugal. These forests produce over half of all the cork used worldwide. Harvesters strip the outer bark of cork trees, then boil and purify it. The cork harvesting process does not prevent the tree from continuing to grow, making cork a sustainable, biodegradable, and renewable product.
These stunning blue ceramic tiles are a distinctive feature on many historic Portuguese buildings. The name comes from the Arabic for “polished stone,” and the intricately painted tiles adorn entire walls in many Portuguese castles.
In the music world, Portugal is known best for Fado. Fado is a soulful Portuguese music genre, often with lyrics about mourning, longing, the sea, or life for the hardworking lower class. One of the most famous Fado singers is Amalia Rodrigues.
The Barcelos Rooster is one of the unofficial symbols of Portugal. The brightly colored bird supposedly represents the Portuguese love of life, and designers use it to decorate almost anything you can think of.
Let’s be real: If you’re thinking of Portugal, you’re probably also thinking of Brazil. This former Portuguese colony is now the largest country in South America, and the fifth largest country in the world.