16 Totally Unbiased Reasons You’ll Want to Visit Portugal

Written By: The Planet D

I bet you’ve probably checked most European destinations off your travel bucket list by now: the UK, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Ireland, Austria, Switzerland… Have I missed any? Oh yeah! You should visit Portugal.

Originally written by Portuguese native Ines Campos Pinto, these reasons to visit Portugal will make you want to pack your bags right now.

Wait, don’t tell me Portugal isn’t even on your travel bucket list.

Why Visit Portugal

Portugal is a country where you can spend the morning surfing awesome waves and the afternoon skiing down snowy slopes?

Plus, it is a place that is home to hundreds of award-winning wines.

With centuries-old cities and castles, Portugal is a country where you can hike up a 7,000ft tall peak and where you can taste one of the world’s best kept culinary secrets?

This post was originally written by Ines Campos Pinto who has since closed down her travel blog, and it has now been updated by The Planet D.

visit portugal building
16 Reasons to Visit Portugal

I bet it’s hard to say to ‘no’ to all of that.

But I mean, what do I know – I was only born there and all.

Just in case you’re not convinced yet though, allow me to change your mind with 16 (totally unbiased) reasons to visit Portugal and give it a chance this year:

1. The mouthwatering Pastéis de Nata

visit portugal food
You must try the Pastéis de Nata

I’ll be honest with you: The Portuguese do food very well.

The pastéis de nata arguably take the prize for Portugal’s most delicious pastries.

Only five people in the entire world know the recipe for these scrumptious egg-cream tarts, so you’ll want to enjoy these authentic treats in Lisbon.

You’ll find the best ones at Pastéis de Belém (in Belém) and at Manteigaria (in Largo do Camões).

Love trying different food? Read Why I travel for food and so should you. 

2. The picturesque town of Sintra

visit portugal sintra
Visit the town of Sintra

If you like your fairytales real, you’ll absolutely love Sintra.

Quaint narrow alleyways, picturesque façades and glamorous palaces and gardens are just some of the things that make Sintra one of the most enchanting towns in Portugal.

3. There are too many ancient castles to count

visit portugal castles
The castles in Portugal are beautiful.

Did you know that Portugal has had the same borders since the 11th century? That makes it one of the oldest countries in Europe.

Thankfully most of the history has been beautifully preserved.

That means today you can roam through centuries-old castles and historical sites all over the country.

Guimarães is where Portugal’s first king was born, Coimbra is home to one of the oldest universities in the world, and, of course, who can forget the sweeping views from Castelo de São Jorge in Lisbon?

4. The Santos Festivities

visit portugal festivities
It’s fun to be in town for the festivities.

Every year in June, Portugal’s towns and cities come alive with festivities in celebration of three Catholic saints (The Portuguese refer to these as the Popular Saints).

Parades, weddings, traditional street dances and fresh sardines fill the streets of Portugal for days on end.

The festivities start early in the evening and continue well until the night.

5. In fact, all Festivals

visit portugal dance
Make sure to check out the local traditions!

The Portuguese people really like their festivitals.

As a historically Catholic country, Portugal celebrates many saints year-round with lots of music, parades and (of course) great food. If you love festivities, it’s yet another reason to visit Portugal.

In Tomar, locals have been giving thanks to the Holy Spirit since the 17th century at Festa dos Tabuleiros (Trays Festival).

During this festivity, which takes place every 4 years (the next will be in 2019), women parade through the town’s main streets carrying half a kilo (1lb) of trays decorated with flowers and bread on their heads.

And Portugal has a Carnaval as well.

The most impressive parades are in Torres Vedras and Sesimbra, where the processions feature some very interesting political satire.

6. The gorgeous beaches

visit portugal beaches
The beaches of Portugal

Portugal has over 100 beaches and, no, not all of them are located in the Algarve.

All along the country’s west coast, you’ll find some of Portugal’s most beautiful beaches like Comporta and Figueirinha.

Sure, the water here will be a little colder (you are, after all, bathing on the Atlantic Ocean).

But, at the end of the day, you’ll be rewarded with a romantic pink-and-orange sunset right on the ocean.

7. The award-winning wine

wine dinner things to do in portugal
Nothing like wine with a view.

Wine production is one of Portugal’s most ancient traditions.

And Portuguese wine is becoming increasingly recognized worldwide for its exquisite flavor and rich quality. I

f you’re a true wine enthusiast, you can explore the Douro Valley and the Alentejo region on a wine tour when you visit Portugal.

8. Portugal inspired J.K. Rowling – and it will inspire you too

harry potter was written in Portugal
Harry Potter fans will love visiting Portugal.

True Harry Potter fans probably already know this, but Portugal was actually a great source of inspiration for J.K. Rowling while she was writing the earlier volumes of the magical saga.

Specifically, in Porto, the author spent many afternoons writing at Café Majestic and at Palácio de Cristal (Crystal Palace).

And if you visit the sumptuous Livraria Lello (Lello Bookstore) in the city, it might look eerily familiar to you: that’s because this 100-year-old bookstore was Rowling’s inspiration for creating the Hogwarts Library.

9. The great outdoors

ski hill
You can even ski in Portugal!

Portugal is a small country, but you can enjoy just about every kind of outdoors activity here.

Ride the world-renowned waves in Ericeira, ski down the mountain hills at Serra da Estrela, or camp out under the stars at Parque Nacional do Gerês.

The volcanic islands of the Azores are also becoming an increasingly popular place to hike dramatic cliffs, discover stunning lakes and swim in natural pools.

10. One word: Fado

fado house
Spend an afternoon at a Fadho House.

If you want to understand the heart of the Portuguese (and learn what saudade really means), head to a Fado house and listen to this melancholic music.

Sr. Vinho and Clube de Fado are just two great places in Lisbon where you can enjoy some delicious traditional Portugal cuisine accompanied by excellent Fado singers.

11. A Gondola Ride, just Like Venice in Portugal

gondola ride
Take a gondola ride in Portugal.

Venice isn’t the only city intertwined by pretty canals.

On a smaller scale, the northern Portuguese city of Aveiro is also filled with picturesque waterways that you can discover on a relaxing gondola ride.

Read about our experience in Exploring the Canals of Venice

12. You’ll Love Everything about Madeira

madeira ocean
You’ll never want to leave the town of Madeira.

Lava pools, charming villages and incredible scenic views are just some of the things that will make you fall in love with Madeira.

The fresh seafood (grilled limpets are the specialty here) that pair beautifully with a strong Madeira wine will make you want to stay forever.

13. You’ll love Portuguese beer

visit portugal beer
You’ll want to get a beer with your meal.

Beer has a long history in Portugal. And there’s a whole on-going national debate here pitting the two major breweries against each other (namely, Sagres and Superbock).

What better way to settle this dispute than to try them for yourself? (I’m sure you’ll soon realize Superbock is the superior beer.)

Love Beer? Check out our visit to the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin

14. The nightlife lasts until morning

night life portugal
The party never stops in Portugal!

If there’s one thing Portuguese people know how to do well (besides delicious food, obviously) it’s partying. And there’s a party scene for everyone in Portugal.

From Lisbon’s street bars in Bairro Alto to the selective night clubs in Vilamoura, the party starts early and, well, ends early too (early the next day, that is).

15. The Instagram-ready design

visit portugal architecture
Be sure to bring your camera to take pictures of the building!

Picture-perfect tiles (The locals like to call them azulejos) decorating picturesque façades and impressive designs on cobblestone streets (calçada, if you will) make Portugal one of the most picturesque places in the world.

Just about any town, village or city is ready to be immortalized on your Instagram feed (#nofilter).

16. Portugal is just so cheap

tram portugal
You can save money in Portugal.

Again and again, Portugal has been named one of the best budget destinations in Europe.

Basically, Portugal offers the whole European history and charm thing for half the price.

So whether you’re choosing to stay in a city center hostel or a luxe hotel on Avenida da Liberdade, you’ll get more out of your hard-earned pennies here.

Want to learn more about Budget Travel? Read How to Travel on a Budget

17. The amazing people

portugal locals
The people are so friendly in Portugal!

Sure, Portugal is a beautiful country with great food, stunning scenery and lots of history. But what truly sets it apart (and what keeps travelers coming back for more) is the hospitality of the locals.

Portugal hosting people and making new friends: They’ll make sure you’re eating well (you’re sure you don’t want seconds?), go out of their way to show you around, and guarantee you have a fun time however you choose to spend your days here.

16 Reasons to Visit Portugal

Read More:

7 Stunning Off The Beaten Track Places to Visit in Portugal

Lisbon Portugal for Under 5 Euros a Day

How to Make the Most of 3 Days in the Algarve

Travel Planning Resources

Looking to book your next trip? Why not use these resources that are tried and tested by yours truly.

Flights: Start planning your trip by finding the best flight deals on Skyscanner

Book your Hotel: Find the best prices on hotels with these two providers. If you are located in Europe use Booking.com and if you are anywhere else use TripAdvisor

Find Apartment Rentals: You will find the cheapest prices on apartment rentals with VRBO

Travel Insurance: Don't leave home without it. Here is what we recommend:

  • World Nomads - Digital Nomads or Frequent Travelers.
  • Allianz - Occasional Travelers.
  • Medjet - Global air medical transport and travel security.

Need more help planning your trip? Make sure to check out our Resources Page where we highlight all the great companies that we trust when we are traveling.

About The Planet D

Dave Bouskill and Debra Corbeil are the owners and founders of The Planet D. After traveling to 115 countries, on all 7 continents over the past 13 years they have become one of the foremost experts in travel. Being recognized as top travel bloggers and influencers by the likes of Forbes Magazine, the Society of American Travel Writers and USA Today has allowed them to become leaders in their field.

Leave a Comment

21 thoughts on “16 Totally Unbiased Reasons You’ll Want to Visit Portugal”

  1. The wording is totally clear. I get that you’re comparing the northern Portuguese city of Aveiro to Venice, but this photo should be of Aveiro, right?

    “On a smaller scale, the northern Portuguese city of Aveiro is also filled with picturesque waterways that you can discover on a relaxing gondola ride.”

    Except the photo isn’t Aveiro, it’s Porto and these are called rabelos, which are traditional Portuguese cargo boats used to transport people and goods along the Douro River in the olden days. Aveiro does have gondolas, but these aren’t it.

    Reply
    • We’re saying, Ride a gondola just like in Venice. We’re letting people know that you don’t have to go all the way to Venice to ride a gondola. Maybe my wording wasn’t the clearest:)

      Reply
  2. I went for a long weekend in Lisbon last year and loved it. Ate far too many pastel de nata, and visited Sintra for the day – so beautiful. I would love to visit more of this country!

    Reply
  3. LOVE Portugal – it has high-end, quality food & wine similar to Italy, eccentric gypsy characteristics of Spain and at a fraction of the cost! Was happy to spend 2 weeks there last summer and looking forward to going again this July with Drishti Yoga!

    Reply
  4. I am hoping to finally go to Portugal in November, for the Web Summit. My sister has been there a few years ago and she fell in love with it!!

    Reply
  5. I love the architecture, but I think it might just be the wine and festivals that get me there. And I had no idea that you could ski in Portugal!? What a diverse country.

    Reply
  6. woow .. ya realmente adorável lugar turístico trernyata Portugal guardar um monte de beleza, espero que eu possa parar lá ya . Saudações de Bogor Indonésia administrador viajar
    Translation:
    woow .. really lovely ya trernyata tourist place Portugal save a lot of beauty, hope I can stop there ya . Bogor Indonesia Greetings Administrator travel

    Reply
  7. Great post. You have mentioned various reasons to visit Portugal. I have already heard about this country that it is home to some of the oldest architecture and best place for history buff(like me). Great info.. Will bookmark this post for planning my next trip 🙂

    Reply
  8. Ah I love destinations where the images and scenery from one spot to the next are so diverse!!! It looks beautiful there! Wish I could travel to more of Europe!!

    Reply