I could give you 50 reasons to travel to Portugal, but I’ll convince you in just 7 reasons. I didn’t even know Portugal had so much to offer. I don’t think I ever thought I’d travel here, ever. Spain, yes. Morocco, absolutely. Portugal?! An ABSOLUTE must for your travel list. I’ve only been here a month and it seems like forever. If you don’t know why I’m here, lean more about me here.
I’ve learned so much in this short amount of time. Narrowing it down to 7 was a hard task. None of my hours of research about Portugal prepared me for what I would truly be surrounded by when I got to actually live here.
Beautiful red rooftops, alleyways filled with the smells of food and freshly washed clothes hanging to dry, and you can’t miss the picturesque array of colorful buildings. You can walk along the Douro River and literally see where it spits out right into the Atlantic. Living in Portugal has truly been a breath of fresh air and I still have 9 more months here
So where am I actually living?? I’m based in Porto, thanks to my husband’s basketball career. We’ve lived in a different country for the past 3 years and no plans on stopping!
When people think of Portugal, they think of Lisbon, but let me tell you about the hidden gem that people need to uncover. Porto is less than 3 hrs from Lisbon by car and so worth the trip. You can also take the train.
In Porto, you can walk into centuries-old Romanesque churches and step back into Porto’s 2000 year old history. Why not wander down a cobblestone alley and look up and see the blue tiles that adorn many historic buildings? A simple look around and you’ll see architecture that embodies each historic period, one after the other from Gothic to modern. That’s almost 7 reasons in just one paragraph. No wonder it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site.
After reading this, I promise you’ll want to travel to Portugal. Porto will definitely be 2nd if not first on your list of cities to visit in Portugal. It’s smaller, affordable, historic and absolutely beautiful all while enveloping you in the ambience of European culture. You can easily get to some of the best views in the city. Not to mention, it’s home to the world-famous port wine. Get it, PORTo?! (Spoiler alert: that’s not the real reason the city is named Porto.)
On to the 7 best reasons to visit Portugal, NOW.
1. Portuguese people are very friendly
To my surprise, many people speak English very well or well enough that they can understand you if you speak slowly. I knew that the official language of Portugal was Portugese but I didn’t know how difficult it’d actually be to understand it! You might read that it’s like Spanish, and maybe a few words are. But to me, it’s a mixture of all the romance languages combined. Some words sound like Spanish, Italian, French, you name it. I’m determined to learn more than just ‘ola’ and ‘obrigada’ during my time here.
But back to the people….
I’ve had to ask someone for directions, order fresh fish from the seafood counter, ask what certain foods were, which way to go, and how to get in IKEA with a cart (fun fact: you get the carts in IKEA..but you knew that). People are willing to help and usually with a smile. They greet you with a friendly ‘ola, bom dia!’. I definitely feel comfortable asking for help.
2. Futebol runs Portugal
By now, you should know that futebol (soccer to Americans) is the king sport in Europe. Unlike America, futebol reigns supreme in most major European countries, but especially in Portugal. Imagine throngs of blue and white shirts and scarves, fans cheering, clapping in harmony, yelling, singing, and of course booing the refs! You can’t beat a true football experience. I highly suggest you go to a TRUE futebol game once in your life. Even with COVID-restrictions limiting the capacity, I certainly felt the vibrant energy of the fans. I saw almost 3 fights break out and police everywhere. It was everything I never knew I needed!
You can’t travel to Portugal and NOT go to a futebol game. Move aside FOOTBALL, futebol is where it’s at in Portugal.
3. Porto is a seafood lover's dream
What do you expect from a town that literally sits next to the ocean? You can get any type of seafood you could think of, and FRESH. Pair that with potatoes and veggies and you’ve got an amazing dinner served hot and ready.
You can try a signature Porto dish called the Francesinha. It is the MOST popular food in Porto. Imagine two pieces of bread. Slap on ham, two types of sausage, steak, cover the sandwich with cheese and drown it in a tomato and beer sauce AND THEN, add a fried egg on top. Serve it with fries. Boom, food coma and a fat belly. That’s the original sandwich.
Now, on to the seafood. In many restaurants, the fish is brought in that morning and cooked straight off the ice! I’d travel long and far just for that. You can’t get any fresher than that. You can find fish, octopus, shrimp, sardines, even lobster all around Porto. You can walk along the Duoro River and see small fishing boats anchored into the water. They do some serious fishing here and for good reason. My husband has even mastered cooking whole fish at home.
4. Porto is the capital of port wine
The Duoro Valley is the most well-known region of wine production in Portugal. You can literally visit the Duoro Valley by train, from Porto! Port wine is a dessert wine and like champagne, it can only be designated as ‘port wine’ if it is made here in Portugal. There are a plethora of wineries to get your first taste of port wine. If you don’t want to try port wine (your loss) you can always find sangria. My next project is to perfect sangria because… I have to. Some people travel to Porto just for the Port wine experience itself.
5. Public transportation in Portugal is seamless
Portugal offers a tram, subway, train, bus, Uber, taxi, you name it. It is very easy to travel around as a result, Also, again, cheap as can be. In Porto, it’s only about 30-40 euros a month for a monthly card if you’re staying for a month or longer like myself. A single trip downtown is usually less than 2 euros for example. There is always an employee down by the tracks to assist you and don’t forget to validate your metro card!
Don’t be afraid to ask the locals for help (‘Fala ingles?’) will get you a yes or no on whether they speak English. Even still, I would recommend showing them or saying the stop where you need to go, and the locals will probably at the very least, tell you which side of the tracks you need to be on to get to where you’re going.
6. Porto is inexpensive
Why travel to London or Paris when you can travel to Portugal and eat, drink and stay for much less? The grocery store is very affordable (buy fresh produce my friends) and the fish is nowhere near what fish costs in America. Most restaurants we have visited offer a variety of menu items from meat to vegetarian/vegan dishes making it suitable for vegans and carnivores alike. My husband and I are mostly pescatarian and we never have issues finding food. That fish in my dinner photo above costs 4 euros. Yes, 4.
7. Porto views are breathtaking
How, you ask? The Don Luis I bridge (the most popular iconic bridge in Porto) spans 147 ft. tall and there are a nice, long set of steps to get up to the top.
First, you can literally walk up and across the double-deck bridge over to the next town on the upper level ,while cars and people travel across the bridge on the lower level. Here you will see Porto from a bird’s eye view. Expats and travel bloggers alike can get “THE SHOT’ up on this bridge. And the best part, there are 6 massive bridges that span cross the Douro River making for a stunning travel pic.
Don’t want to walk across? Well, take a funicular (think, a closed in ski-lift) and third, you can take the tram across and catch the views out the window. Either way, you’re getting a VIEW.
It’s something about walking alongside the river under a massive bridge looking across to people doing the exact same thing on the other side…that just resonates. I recommend going to both sides, but especially the Gaia side. There, you can truly get a view of the colorful lined river walkway that is downtown Porto.
What can I say, Portugal has my heart. Out of all the places we’ve gotten to travel to, Portugal is definitely top on the list. It even trumps Greece (crazy, I know) because sadly, we returned to America before we could really enjoy the country. I’m starting to live and feel like a local as I walk along the colorful lined streets and drink sangria in the alley restaurants. I hang my clothes to dry each week and hop on the metro for quick trips.
Tourist season was in full effect in Portugal when we landed at the beginning of August, so plan accordingly. It’s always recommended to travel in the off season, however, you cannot beat the weather in August here. It’s perfect. I can’t wait to see what fall has to offer here in Portugal.
Porto is a welcoming and vibrant city rich with culture, nightlife and charm. It offers everything from the beach to stunning sunsets.
It’s time for you to book a trip to Portugal. What are you waiting for?