A Visitor’s Guide To Portugal

The Western European country of Portugal is home to the westernmost point of continental Europe, and shares its land border with its larger neighbor Spain. Having once been a formidable colonial power with territories in Africa, Asia and particularly the large country of Brazil in South America, Portugal was a wealthy and powerful seafaring nation, but as its colonies eventually diminished and became independent nations, its international influence also waned. Today the country is one of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations, with some stunning beaches on the Atlantic and a wealth of historical buildings in its cities, and offers sunshine and culture in equally generous measures.

The US State Department does point out that the country is currently experiencing regular demonstrations against the austerity cuts after the financial crisis of 2008, and advises visitors to avoid any such demonstrations.

Top Sites To Visit In Portugal

The Algarve – One of the most popular areas of the country to visit is the Algarve coast which covers the southern corner of the country, and offers stunning beaches such as those at Albuferia and Marinha, while historic towns such as Lagos and Silves are well worth visiting.

The Historic Sights Of Lisbon – The capital of Portugal was once one of the world’s most important trading ports, and the superb Belem Tower was built in the sixteenth century to defend the city, while historic buildings such as the Jeronimos Monastery and the Castelo de Sao Jorge are stunning.

Sintra – A short drive from Lisbon this charming town has been the retreat of Portuguese royalty for centuries, with the historic Castle of the Moors dating from the eighth century through to much more recent masterpieces such as the Sintra National Palace and the Pena National Palace.

Porto – The second city of Portugal is to be found on the north west coast of the country, and has been occupied by humans since the fourth century, meaning that the beautiful historic city center is well worth exploring, while it is also worth tasting the excellent Port wine named after the city.

Guimaraes Castle – This superb tenth century castle was built to defend against the Norman and Muslim invaders in the region, and was where Count Dom Henrique held his court, while today visitors can see this lovely yet enduring symbol of Portugal’s military history.

The Rock Art Of The Coa Valley – Located in north east Portugal, this valley is home to some ancient rock carvings dating from over twenty thousand years ago, with depictions of animals and other figures that have been left in the remote area over a period of several thousand years.

The Statue Of Cristo Rei – Taking inspiration from the spectacular statue of Jesus Christ in Rio, this statue is nearly eighty meters tall, and has a prominent position overlooking the beautiful city of Lisbon.

The Historic Sites Of Evora – Right at the heart of the town is a huge Corinthian temple dating from the first century when Roman influence dominated the area, while the thirteenth century Cathedral is a great example of Gothic architecture, while there are also several palaces and religious sites.

Aveiro – Located on the central west coast this city is often called the ‘Venice of Portugal’ because of the network of canals running through the city, while visitors can also enjoy some great beaches and a lovely old cathedral.

Fatima – This town has largely been created following the reputed appearances of the Virgin Mary to three young children in the area in 1917, and is one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in Europe, with people from across the world coming to the site and visiting the large church and sanctuary there.

Where To Stay In Portugal


Lisbon Marriott Hotel – Offering wonderful luxury rooms that have been tastefully designed with comfortable furnishings and attractive bathrooms, this hotel also offers a swimming pool and a great location just a short journey from the city center.

Luxe Hotel By Turim Hotels – This hotel has comfortable and attractive rooms that have been stylishly designed with large welcoming beds and pleasant bathrooms, while an excellent view over the city is to be had from many rooms, as well as a nice location near the city center.


Bessa Hotel – From the stunning rooftop terrace to the relaxing steam room and games room, this hotel is a great place to stay in this northern city, with the hotel designed to look great throughout as well as offering comfortable accommodation that is within easy reach of the city center.

Hotel Vice Rei – Providing a nice balance between price and luxury, this hotel offers rooms that are comfortable and well designed, with lovely communal areas and offering wireless internet access, while being within walking distance of some of the main sights of the city.


Vila Gale Cerro Alagoa Hotel – This wonderful holiday hotel is just a short walk from the beach and offers a great place to relax with comfortable and nicely designed rooms with their own balcony, and access to lovely indoor and outdoor pools and a nice kids club.

Oura View Beach Club – Offering rooms with stunning sea views and great facilities including a lovely outdoor swimming pool, hot tub and a sauna, guests here can enjoy rooms that are spacious and airy with large flat screen televisions and wireless internet access.


Pestana Palms Ocean Aparthotel – Relaxing features at the hotel include an outdoor pool overlooking the Atlantic, a hot tub and steam room, while the nicely decorated rooms offer comfortable accommodation with lovely views from the balcony.

Terrace Mar Suite Hotel – A great choice for those looking for an inexpensive room in this popular beach destination, guests have clean and simple rooms within walking distance of the beach and offering a hot tub and outdoor pool.

Portuguese Cuisine

Portuguese cuisine is one that is famous for using herbs and spices to add flavor to their dishes including the hot piri piri chilli peppers, and does take many Mediterranean influences to make the most of the ingredients available in the country. With access to the fishing grounds of the Atlantic, bacalhau is a form of salted cod which is a regular staple of the Portuguese diet, with Bacalhau a Gomes de Sa a common salted cod casserole with potatoes, olives and eggs originating from the city of Porto. Combining the excellent seafood and great meat available in Portugal, Carne de Porco a Alentejana is a lovely dish of marinated pork and clams that is served with French Fries of baked potatoes.

Currency And Visa

The local currency in Portugal is the Euro, which usually exchanges with the US Dollar for around 1.37 US Dollars per Euro. It is worth noting that since the financial crisis Portugal is among the least expensive countries in Europe for visitors. Portugal is also a member of the Schengen Agreement, meaning that visitors can stay in the European countries who are members of the agreement for up to ninety days without needing to arrange a visa.

Further Reading

The city of Lisbon is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Portugal, combining heritage and culture, which makes for a heady mix that is explored in this article. Another interesting aspect of the architecture of the city is that it has taken many African influences including the use of tiles to decorate the exterior of many buildings, which is looked at here.