Any Portuguese town looks like bride’s finery – something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue – said an American novelist, Mary McCarthy. Even though expressed more than 50 years ago, her words are still very true.
Portugal is though so much more than just charming little cities. For me who had spent here almost 2 years now, Portugal is a country of a never-ending surprise, dipped in lots of sun, delicious cakes and the beautiful sound of the Portuguese language. But well, why won’t you check it yourself? To already raise some expectations, here’s my list of top 10 reasons why you’d love to move there too; right now.
#10 The Beaches
With 1,794 km of coastline, much of it covered in sand, Portugal appears as a paradise for anybody who loves the summer chill by the ocean. Not only laziness is more than welcome here on those huge relaxation couches covered in sand, but lots of water sports, too. Surfing being the top 1 obviously. No matter if you’re the sporty one or ‘I’m just gonna watch’ type, there’s nothing better than enjoying the sunset when sitting on a beach with your feet in the hot sand and cold sangria in your hand.
Fado is a type of melancholic, romantic music performed by a solo singer and accompanied by a Portuguese guitar. The lyrics could be about many different topics but typically Fado melody sounds the best when tuning in with the concept of melancholic/longing/nostalgic feeling – saudade. For me each Fado performance is a beautiful story with dozens of different emotions, dancing together, looking back in the past, yet still enjoying the present, charming life. Just listen to Amália Rodrigues and try not to sink in the melancholic mood right from the start!
#8 The Azulejos
Azulejos means tiles. In Portugal, tiles are often blue and white, represent the images of history, society and culture (or more) and can be found everywhere. And I do mean EVERYWHERE; on churches, palaces, houses, schools, restaurants, railway stations or the hallways of ordinary block houses. Azulejos make every building look like from a fairytale or an art fair.
#7 The Miradouros
Miradouros – the viewing points which offer a breathtaking panorama of the city are spread around the whole country. You can find them in the biggest cities such as Lisbon or Porto, but also in smaller places such as beaches, little towns or mountain tracks. Among so many for you to visit I can definitely recommend taking a miradouro tour in Lisbon (which didn’t get the name of City of 7 Hills by coincidence). For example, start with Miradouro das Portas do Sol to have a nice cup of coffee in the sun, follow to Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara for an amazing sunset over the whole city and finish in Adamastor to enjoy the beginning of Lisbon’s nightlife.
#6 The June Festivities
You don’t know how to party on a street if you have never experienced Santos. In Portugal, it’s a long tradition that everybody celebrates the patrons of the cities. And so in Lisbon, you have a big party in the name of St. Anthony where the custom commands to go out on the streets of the old neighborhoods, decorate your house with colorful flowers and arches, eat grilled sardines and party all night long. If you were near Porto you’d probably happen to celebrate St. John where you’d get hit in the head with a plastic hammer (or leek, but that’s the old times) and watch a splendid spectacle of fireworks by the River Douro.
#5 The Narrow Streets of Porto
Imagine the shadows dancing on the walls of old houses. You look up and see an artistic chaos of drying white sheets and shirts, rustling gently as the wind moves them. A slight puff on your right calf; it’s just a cat which ran next to you, looking for some adventures. Everything seems so calm but lively, familiar but mysterious. It is no beginning to an old story – this is just how you feel when walking on the streets of Porto. This astonishing city is a must-see on your list when visiting Portugal – and a morning walk on the atmospheric narrows streets is an absolute duty for anybody who’s looking for some Beauty in life.
#4 The Yellow Trams of Lisbon
The yellow vintage trams are an old classic known by any tourist who visits Lisbon. Definitely, it gives the city this nonchalant touch of tradition meeting the modern times. The possibility of a lazy wandering through the city in a small wooden compartment, squeezing between cars, taking crazy turns on the corners and laboriously climbing another hill is one of the top touristic attractions. I love the vintage vibe of those trams but only when there are no worldwide visitors everywhere around; so if you want to enjoy a romantic, lonely yellow ride, just take it at sunrise on Monday.
#3 The Sweets
Funny fact: a lot of traditional Portuguese pastries are made based on the nuns’ or monks’ recipes. Take for example the sacred and top secret way of preparing delicious Pasteis de Belém (on the photo below), crunchy and sweet Jesuitas do Santo Tirso or super yummy Ovos Moles from Aveiro. It’s no coincidence since Portuguese sweets can take you to heaven – that’s how good they are. Almost every village, town or city has their own, a traditional pastry which makes traveling around Portugal mainly focused on eating all of those goodies. Hint: try the Brazilian Brigadeiros. Also hint: don’t forget to taste the coconut “God’s Bread” – Pão de Deus.
#2 The Mild Wildness of The North
When researching about the best places to visit in Portugal, very often you’ll come across cities like Lisbon or Porto (obviously) or southern border, Algarve. I’d suggest going a bit against what’s recommended in the tour guide. The northern region of Portugal is called Minho and it has everything you want for a happy life. Wild forests with beautiful mountains and lakes, charming little towns and cities with medieval looks like straight from “The Beauty and the Beast” and pleasantly low prices that go with ridiculously large portions of food. Just head North and I promise you won’t regret it.
#1 The Coffee
My number 1 is coffee and there’s a story behind it. Until I moved to Portugal I haven’t been the biggest fan of coffee but the moment I tried that super strong espresso I became “team coffee” right from the start. As much as I progressed with my cultural adaptation I got used to coffee so much that 4 cups per day became very normal (I’m down to 1 per day, luckily for my heart). Coffee culture is huge in Portugal and you’ll know why the moment you’ll land there. I don’t even say ‘let’s meet’ anymore but ‘let’s have a coffee’ and I think the moment I realized it was the moment when I truly felt Portugal is my second home.
I hope that as you read this post, you’d want to visit or move to Portugal one day too and maybe – who knows! – make your own top 10 list of favorite things about this country 🙂