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Portugal is a truly spectacular country, and there’s so much more to it than just Lisbon, yet many visitors never get past the capital or begin to scratch below the surface of the culture. In light of the country’s growing popularity, travelers are looking to check “visit Portugal” off their bucket lists, but may be sharing the same experiences and capturing the same Instagram photos as everyone else. Bear in mind the following tips to get more out of your trip to Portugal.
Rather than racing around the country to see as much as possible, slow down and truly experience each place you do visit. Pay as much attention to the tastes, sounds, and smells as you do to the sights and take the time to learn something about each landmark. Portugal’s rich history and traditions may surprise you.
The Portuguese truly value gastronomy and take much pride in their local cuisines. Skip the tourist-filled restaurants, duck into one of the locals’ spots, and try something different.
The outdoor markets are usually full of energy and are often the best places to buy treats, gifts, and souvenirs.
A good bottle of Portuguese wine can cost as little as €2 in the market, while a glass at a restaurant can cost less. Ask a local for some advice, and try wines from the different regions such as Alentejo, Tejo, Douro, and Vinho Verde. Winemaking is taken seriously in Portugal and the locals will love explaining the different varieties to you.
Everyone should visit Lisbon, Porto, and the Algarve at least once, but that doesn’t mean you should stay in these areas. The smaller cities and rural districts will offer a more traditional side of the culture that may be missed in the larger, metropolitan cities.
The north of Portugal is home to the oldest, and many of the most beautiful, areas of the country. From the Minho’s rolling green hills to the ancient villages, flora, and fauna of the country’s only national park, this region is one of the country’s treasures.
While everyone else is swarming to the beaches around Lisbon and in the Algarve, go north and find your own spot under the sun along a different stretch of the coast.
This may seem like a no-brainer but many visitors forget to enjoy their seafood at the seaside. A fantastic experience in Portugal is ordering a mariscada (mixed seafood platter) by the beach in one of the fishing villages and washing it down with a local wine or beer.
No one is expecting fluent Portuguese to roll off the tongues of visitors, but knowing the small things such as obrigado (“thank you”) and bom dia (“good morning”) can make a big difference. Before visiting, learn a few commonly used phrases to help you communicate.
Enjoy your time in Portugal, but remember to respect the local culture and people. It’s your holiday; for locals, it’s their home.
Visiting the Azores and Madeira will never be easier than when flying from mainland Portugal, so look into flights and try hopping over to one or more of the islands if time allows. The two national airlines, TAP Air Portugal and Azores Airlines, regularly fly to the islands; there are also low-cost options such as Ryanair.