Portugal is a country that has it all: so many historical places for you to explore, extraordinary culture, gorgeous beaches, and natural surroundings, cuisine and wines you’ll love, and its home to warm and welcoming people that will make your stay even better! Exploring the country of fado and saudade was one of the best decisions we ever made, and we bring you a few tips before you decide to travel there as well — here are the 8 things you need to know before you visit Portugal.
Before we start, be sure to check out our Cultural Places platform and discover the amazing tours that will help you explore your destinations at your own pace.
So, let’s get to know the Portuguese culture!
Locals are Super-nice
Portugal is a very tourist-friendly country. The locals are really nice and friendly people, that will definitely make sure that you feel welcomed once you get there. So, never hesitate to talk to the locals, and even make new friends.
… but Still, Learn a Little of Portuguese
Even though in larger and more popular destinations locals will most probably have no problem with talking to you in English, they will be happy to hear you speak a little bit of Portuguese. Portuguese is a beautiful and melodic language, we’re sure you’ll enjoy listening to locals talking, and it is sure fun to try it for yourself. Just be sure not to mix it up with Spanish — it can be a bit insulting.
Consider learning the following phrases in Portuguese:
- Olá – Hello
- Bom dia – Good morning
- Boa tarde – Good afternoon
- Boa noite – Good night
- Adeus – Goodbye
- Por favor – Please
- Obrigado (if you are a male); Obrigada (if you are a female) – Thank you
Enjoy Local Cuisine Like a Local
Portugal has wonderful local cuisine, and your visit to this lovely country won’t be complete without experiencing it. But you have to experience it in the right way! Locals never visit mainstream, super-famous restaurants, and it’s for a couple of reasons: they’re too expensive and they can be a little crowded. So, wander a little bit around the streets of your destination and find some lesser-known, local restaurant, and enjoy the famous local food.
When in Portugal, it would be a shame not to try their local specialties — which is basically any seafood. Order either famous codfish or mariscada — mixed seafood platter, and enjoy it with a glass of some of their award-winning local wines. Oh, take your time when enjoying a meal — locals tend to enjoy their dinner or any meal on weekends sometimes even for three hours! So, just relax and take it easy…
Seafood & Wine — Traditional Dinner in Portugal
Listen to Fado
Just from listening to the locals speaking their lovely native language, you can imagine how amazing traditional music might be! The most famous Portuguese music is fado, music that often sings about saudade — longing, love, loss, and sadness. This musical genre is the most characteristical sound of Portugal and is popular worldwide. Fado started to stand out in the 19th century but got really famous in the 1930s and 1940s, when it got into cinema, theatre and onto radio channels. Fado is so specific and interesting that UNESCO considered it as Immaterial Heritage of Portugal.
Visual Arts are Amazing
Portugal is a country where you’ll see some pretty amazing artworks! It mostly dates back to the time between the 15th and 18th centuries, when sculptures made of rocks became especially popular. Also, at the beginning of the 16th century, a special painting style was developed in Portugal, called Manueline (just as the architectural style that we’ll talk about later), that was followed by romanticism, naturalism, and realism. You will stumble upon many museums all around the country where you’ll be able to learn a little more about these styles in visual arts. Also, Portuguese architecture is so stunning and is often considered a visual art, but we’ll talk about it separately.
Architecture is Extraordinary
As Portuguese culture, in general, was very affected by various cultures that have either inhabited Portugal at some point, you will stumble upon some very interesting buildings and landmarks. The most interesting architectural style came from Moors — that’s where all of those oriental-looking buildings and castles came from, as well as numerous mosques.
What makes most of the Portuguese buildings stand out are the blue-white tiles, that also came from the Moorish period, and stayed as a constant feature in Portuguese architecture. You will see many of gorgeous-looking tiled buildings in Portugal, and especially on the streets of Lisbon. There is even the National Tiles Museum in Lisbon, where you will learn more about this special artsy architectural feature.
Gorgeous Tiled Façade in Lisbon
Besides these features, please appreciate Manueline architecture from the 15th century, which brought elements inspired by the sea and the symbols of royal power, such as armillary spheres. One of the most known examples of Manueline architecture is the gorgeous Belém tower in Lisbon, Jerónimos Monastery, also in Lisbon, and Batalha Monastery.
Belem Tower in Lisbon
Also, you will see quite a lot of Baroque architectural wonders, such as the Convent of Mafra, the “Aqueduct of Free Waters” in Lisbon and the University of Coimbra Library.
There are so Many of Cultural Heritage Sites
There are 24 UNESCO listed World Heritage sites in Portugal, and they’re all worth visiting. Those include various monuments, historic city centers, landscapes, and intangible heritage. We’d pay special attention to Sintra — a small town nestled in the foothills of the Sintra Mountains, that was the first site listed in the category called “Cultural Landscape”.
Pena National Palace, Sintra
You should definitely check out the official UNESCO website for the full list of cultural heritage sites in Portugal.
Lesser-known Locations are Lovely
If you’re traveling to Portugal, please don’t focus only on Lisbon or Porto, which are the most famous destinations, but explore smaller towns and little fisherman villages. Yes, Lisbon is a city that you must explore once in a lifetime, but there are so many other locations around Portugal that you will love, so don’t be afraid to investigate a little before booking your trip.
Now that you know a little about Portuguese culture it’s time to look for your perfect destination. We recommend you check out one of our previous blog posts and read about our favorite destinations before you decide where you want to go: “7 Most Beautiful Places to Visit in Portugal“