THINGS TO DO IN PORTUGAL: THE ULTIMATE BUCKET LIST
PORTUGAL’S TOP ATTRACTIONSA longtime favourite of vacationers in Europe, there are many reasons Portugal has become the darling destination of the travel world. Here are the must-sees, must-eats and must-dos of a country that captures us all.
ADMIRE THE ARCHITECTURE1. Bom Jesus do Monte: A Baroque stairway that zigzags towards the heavens, pilgrims still travel to this monument outside of Braga to climb 116 metres on their knees.
2. Mosteiro de Santa Maria da Vitória: This monastery in Bahalta is a prime example of Gothic architecture in Portugal and took over a century and seven monarchs to build.
3. Vasco da Gama Bridge: The longest bridge in the European Union, this impressive engineering feat allows visitors to cross the massive Tagus River into Lisbon.
4. São Jorge Castle: A medieval masterpiece, this historic Lisbon landmark has watched over the city since the 12th century.
5. Palácio Nacional da Pena: A colourful palace atop the Sintra Mountains that has all the flair and style of Romanticism.
6. Portuguese National Pavilion: This stone archway was designed by the renowned Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza Vieira to welcome the world in Expo ’98.
7. Art deco diner: Dubbed “the most beautiful McDonald’s in the world,” this masterpiece in Porto once housed a famous café and now serves up burgers underneath stained glass and chandeliers.
Recommended tour packages: Highlights of Portugal and Luxury Historical Portugal.
GET CULTURAL1. Fado music: A famous, evocative genre known for its melancholy and yearning. Most venues throughout the country, especially in Lisbon, will feature fado alongside your meal or drink.
2. Football: O jogo bonito or “The Beautiful Game” has a religious following in Portugal. Catch a club game in Porto or Lisbon, or cheer on the national team in the World Cup or Euro Cup competitions.
3. Folk dancing: Scaramouche Scaramouche, can you do the fandango? This tap-like jig, and other traditional Portuguese dances, vary by region.
4. Art history: Located in Porto, Serralves is one of the most visited (and pinkest!) art museums in the world. Take your time wandering through the surrounding park.
5. Modern museum: The Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology is in Lisbon and will give visitors a high-tech take on creativity. The white structure juts out onto the water, making the exterior just as interesting as what’s inside.
6. Literary wonders: In Lisbon, retrace the steps of Portugal’s most prolific writer Camilo Castelo Branco and the renowned José Saramago. In Coimbra, browse the shelves of the University of Coimbra General Library. In Porto, don’t miss the Lello Bookstore!
7. Festival fun: Although Brazil might have made it famous, Carnival is also quite the party here. There’s also Santos Populares in the summer, which celebrates the most important saints.
Recommended tour packages: Lisbon: Capital of Cool, Portugal’s Delightful Duo, Portugal North to South.
EAT (+DRINK) YOUR HEART OUT1. Port: Of course, at the top of the list is the aptly named sweet red wine, often paired with dessert or a cheese and nut plate.
2. Ginjinha: This liqueur infused with sour cherries is best enjoyed as an aperitif or over ice on a hot day. Try this or a cold beer at one of the many quiosques de refrescos “refreshment kiosks” throughout Lisbon.
3. Pastéis de nata: Those egg custard tarts that you’ve definitely seen and have hopefully tasted. Although imitated all over the world, the secret recipe is kept in a locked room in the original bakery in Lisbon that opened its doors in 1837.
4. Fresh seafood: Many seafood dishes are traditionally cooked and served in cataplana, a copper cookware shaped like clams. Grilled sardines are a common street food.
5. Preserved seafood: The foodie canned seafood trend that’s made its way to top kitchens everywhere started in Portugal. Conservas also make a great souvenir. Bacalhau (salted cod) is the country’s national dish.
6. Bifanas: Thin slices of pork marinated in a white wine and garlic sauce, stuffed between fresh bread. Basically, the perfect sandwich.
7. Caldo verde: This warming combination of kale, sausage and potatoes is perfect on a cool day, if such a thing exists in Portugal.
Recommended tour packages: Flavours of Portugal, Luxury Portuguese Culture & Wine, Tastes of Northern Portugal.
ANSWER NATURE’S CALL1. Douro Valley: No trip to Portugal is complete without seeing the iconic Northern wine country.
2. Serra da Estrella: This natural park has the highest mountain on the mainland and Portugal’s only ski resort. The green and granite terrain is dotted with small lakes and herds of grazing sheep, which give the region its famous cheese and wool.
3. Nazaré’s Waves: An underwater canyon off the coast of this fishing village creates the biggest waves in the world. See professional surfers attempt to conquer these 100-foot giants while safely perched at the São Miguel Arcanjo lighthouse.
4. Flower Fields in Alentejo: Drive south of Lisbon to this lesser-known region, where you’ll see farmer’s fields of blooming sunflowers and lavender and can stop for a jar of fresh honey from a beekeeper.
5. Berlengas Islands: Take a quick ferry from Peniche, a seaside town outside of Lisbon, to these towering rock islands. Human history here dates back to before the Middle Ages, where classical civilizations believed the islands were sacred.
6. Praia de Galapos: The prettiest beach in Lisbon, and maybe all of Portugal, can be found in Arrábida natural park. The surrounding cliffs shelter the water, making it calm and clear. For more beaches, head to the Algarve!
7. Arouca Geopark: What is it with Portugal and long bridges? This park outside Porto has the world’s longest pedestrian suspension bridge. If you dare to look down, see the Rio Paiva river below.
Recommended tour packages: Adventurous Portugal, Heart of Portugal Motorcycle, Portugal City and Coast, Sunny Portugal.