21 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 for visiting Portugal will make you want to pack your bags right now. Wait until you read all these reasons to visit Portugal; you’ll be putting it on your bucket list pronto.

Why Visit Portugal

reasons to 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. I bet it’s hard to say ‘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, allow me to change your mind with 16 (totally unbiased) reasons to visit Portugal and give it a chance this year.

1. The Architecture

reasons to visit portugal architecture

Portugal’s architecture is a rich tapestry of history, culture, innovation and beauty. Several elements make it distinct and special:

Manueline Style: Unique to Portugal, the Manueline (or Portuguese Late Gothic) style of the 16th century is characterized by intricate and ornate motifs incorporating maritime elements such as ropes, shells, and sea creatures, reflecting Portugal’s Age of Discovery. Notable examples include the Jerónimos Monastery and the Belém Tower in Lisbon.

Moorish Influence: The 700-year Moorish occupation left an indelible mark on Portuguese architecture, especially in the south. This is evident in the arched windows and doorways, courtyards, and the decorative tilework seen in many buildings.

Azulejos: These are hand-painted tiles often adorned with intricate patterns or scenes. A significant decorative element in Portuguese architecture, azulejos can be seen on walls, floors, and ceilings of various buildings, from train stations to churches, offering both aesthetics and functionality by helping regulate indoor temperatures.

Pombaline Style: After the devastating 1755 Lisbon earthquake, the Marquis of Pombal spearheaded the rebuilding of Lisbon with an innovative architectural style that incorporated early seismic protection methods. The buildings in the Baixa district of Lisbon are prime examples of this

2. The Picturesque Town of Sintra

why 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.

The history of the area dates back to the 1400s when a single monastery was placed on a hilltop in Sintra during medieval times. Sintra is located just 45 minutes north of the capital city of Portugal, Lisbon. The town attracts tourists with its rich history and culture which is reflected in its many ancient castles and palaces, such as the Pena Palace and the Moorish Castle. These buildings are known for their ornate decoration, history, and beautiful locations, which offer panoramic views of the surrounding area.

While visiting Sintra, you can stop at the beach town of Cascais for a little fun in the sun.

3. There are too many ancient castles to count

why 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 santos
Barrio Alto during the Festival of Santo Antonio in Lisbon

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. Going on a European Vacation? You’ll want to read our Packing Tips for Europe.

5. In fact, all Festivals

why visit portugal festivals

The Portuguese people really like their festivals. 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 2023), 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 and incredible Coastlines

why visit portugal coastlines
The beaches of Portugal

Portugal has over 100 beaches, but not all of them are located in the Algarve. Along the country’s west coast, you’ll find some of Portugal’s most beautiful beaches, such as Comporta and Figueirinha. Read more: Best Things to do in Lagos.

Sure, the water here will be a little colder (you are, after all, bathing in 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

Port Wine Portugal Food
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. Portugal’s Douro Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage site with terraced vineyards lining the steep banks of the Douro River, is the birthplace of Port. This fortified wine, often associated with rich, sweet flavors, is made by adding grape spirits (aguardiente) to halt fermentation, retaining residual sugar in the wine. The result is a high-alcohol, often lusciously sweet wine.

Vinho Verde

Directly translated as “green wine,” Vinho Verde doesn’t refer to the color but rather to the wine’s youth. Hailing from the Minho region in the verdant northwest of Portugal, Vinho Verde is best consumed young. The most distinctive feature of these wines is their light, spritzy nature.

Port Wine

Apart from Vinho Verde and Port, Portugal offers a plethora of other wines, from the aromatic whites of the Dão region to the hearty reds of Alentejo. The country’s wine legacy, deeply intertwined with its history and culture, provides wine enthusiasts with a vast palette of flavors, styles, and stories to explore.

If you’re a true wine enthusiast, you can explore the Douro Valley and the Alentejo region on a wine tour when you visit Portugal. Check out some tasty food from this region at Food from Portugal.

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

why visit portugal harry potter
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 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

visit portugal for the great outdoors
You can even ski in Portugal!

Portugal is a small country, but you can enjoy just about every kind of outdoor 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

visit portugal fado
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 Portuguese cuisine accompanied by excellent Fado singers.

11. A Gondola Ride, just Like Venice in Portugal

why visit portugal gondolas
Take a gondola ride in Portugal.

Venice isn’t the only city intertwined with 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. Adventures on Madeira

why visit portugal madiera

Emerging from the deep blue of the Atlantic Ocean, the Madeira Islands beckon travelers with a harmonious blend of tropical vibrancy and Old World charm. Situated southwest of Portugal, this archipelago, often referred to as the “Pearl of the Atlantic,” is a tapestry of lush forests, terraced vineyards, and rugged coastlines, all bathed in a year-round balmy climate.

Lava pools, charming villages, and incredibly 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 pairs beautifully with a strong Madeira wine will make you want to stay forever.

But Madeira is more than just its landscapes. It’s a melody of traditional Fado tunes wafting through the air, the rich aroma of aged Madeira wine, and the timeless streets of Funchal that brim with history and culture. Whether you’re hiking the levadas, tasting the culinary delights of Espetada and Bolo do Caco, or simply watching the sunset from a seafront café, the Madeira Islands promise an adventure where every sensation is intensified, and every experience is a gateway to the heart and soul of island life. Dive in and let Madeira’s enchantment wash over you.

13. You’ll love Portuguese beer

visit portugal beer

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

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

why visit portugal nightlife

If there’s one thing Portuguese people know how to do well (besides the 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 nightclubs in Vilamoura, the party starts early and, well, ends early too (early the next day, that is).

15. The Instagram-ready design

visit portugal design
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

best day trips from lisbon portugal
You can save money in Portugal.

Portugal has repeatedly been named one of the best budget destinations in Europe. Basically, it offers all the European history and charm 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. Landscapes of the Algarve

why visit portugal algarve

Golden cliffs descending into azure waters, hidden coves adorned with sun-bleached sand, and a tapestry of traditions that span centuries—welcome to the Algarve. Tucked away in the southernmost region of Portugal, the Algarve isn’t just a destination; it’s an experience that beckons with a promise of endless sun, vibrant culture, and a laid-back Mediterranean charm.

Whether you’re craving the allure of its pristine beaches, the thrill of its coastal hikes, or the warmth of its local tavernas, the Algarve envelops visitors in a sunlit embrace of natural beauty and rich heritage. As you set out to explore its picturesque towns, rugged coastlines, and aromatic orange groves, prepare to discover a region where every turn is a new invitation to marvel and every moment a cherished memory in the making.

18. The incredible Azores

visit portugal sao miguel azores

Perched in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, the Azores archipelago emerges as a breathtaking ensemble of volcanic islands sculpted by nature’s most potent forces over millennia. These islands, often regarded as Europe’s best-kept secrets, unfurl a panorama of craggy peaks, azure crater lakes, and verdant pastures, presenting an ever-changing tableau of land, sea, and sky. Read more: Top 10 Things to do in Sao Miguel, The Azores

At the center of this natural symphony is São Miguel, the largest of the Azores, often dubbed the “Green Island” for its resplendent landscapes. São Miguel is a masterpiece of geothermal wonders, from the steaming fumaroles of Furnas to the mesmerizing blue and green hues of the twin lakes of Sete Cidades. Beyond its natural splendor, the island is enticed by its vibrant Azorean culture, tantalizing cuisine, and a history that resonates in every cobblestone and chapel. Embarking on a journey to the Azores means stepping into a world where nature and culture converge in harmonious rhythm, and São Miguel stands as the pulsating heart of this captivating symphony.

19. The mouthwatering Pastéis de Nata

why visit portugal pasies de nata
You must try the Pastéis de Nata

I’ll be honest with you: The Portuguese do food very well. The pastéis de Nata (custard tarts) 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 Manteigaria (in Largo do Camões). Read more: Portuguese Food: 26 Traditional Dishes to try in Portugal or at home

20. The Food

why visit portugal food

Portugal, with its vast coastline and rich seafaring history, has always been intimately connected with the flavors of both land and sea. A journey through its culinary landscape reveals an intriguing blend of age-old traditions and innovative gastronomic techniques, making Portugal an absolute delight for food lovers.

At the heart of Portuguese cuisine lies the humble codfish, or “bacalhau” in Portuguese. Revered as the Portuguese’s “faithful friend,” codfish has deep cultural and culinary significance, with locals proudly claiming to have 365 different ways to prepare it — one for each day of the year. From the savory “bacalhau à bras,” where the fish is shredded and mixed with finely chopped straw fries and bound together with scrambled eggs, to the classic “bacalhau com natas,” a creamy oven-baked dish, each recipe tells a story of regional influences and familial traditions. Read more: Portuguese Food: 26 Traditional Dishes to try in Portugal or at home.

But the allure of Portuguese food goes beyond codfish. The country offers a smorgasbord of gastronomic experiences: from the rich and aromatic stews of the Alentejo region, the spicy piri-piri chicken reminiscent of its African influences, to the delectable pastries like the world-renowned “pastéis de nata.”

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

21. The amazing people

Portugal is a beautiful country with great food, stunning scenery, and a lot 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.

How to Get to Portugal

Getting to Portugal primarily depends on your starting location and the mode of transportation you choose. For most international travelers, flying is the most efficient way to reach Portugal. Here’s a general guide:

By Air:

  1. Main Airports:
    • Lisbon Portela Airport (LIS) – Located in the capital city, it’s the largest and busiest airport in Portugal. Most major airlines from around the world operate flights to and from LIS.
    • Porto Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport (OPO) – Serving the northern part of the country, it’s another major entry point, especially for those visiting Porto or the northern regions.
    • Faro Airport (FAO) – Located in the Algarve region, it’s a primary entry point for tourists heading to the southern beaches.
    • Madeira and Azores Airports: For those traveling directly to the islands of Madeira or the Azores, there are airports on the main islands like Cristiano Ronaldo Madeira International Airport (FNC) and João Paulo II Airport (PDL) in São Miguel, Azores.

Travel Planning Resources

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

Book Your Flights: Start planning your trip by finding the best flight deals on Skyscanner. We have used them for years and have found that they have the best flight deals.

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:

  • Safety Wing - Occasional Travelers.
  • Medjet - Global air medical transport and travel security.

Book Your Activities: Looking for walking tours, skip-the-line tickets, private guides, and more? Then we recommend Get Your Guide.

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 “21 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.

    • 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:)

  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!

  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!

  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!!

  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.

  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
    woow .. really lovely ya trernyata tourist place Portugal save a lot of beauty, hope I can stop there ya . Bogor Indonesia Greetings Administrator travel

  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 🙂

  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!!