Travel Guide: Portugal
Portugal Travel Guide: General Travel Guide Information about Portugal
This is a concise travel guide for Portugal. We have written this travel guide on Portugal to help you to develop an understanding for Portugal and all of the beautiful points to travel. We also want you to understand the nuances of traveling to Portugal such as how to be safe, what places to see, and much more. We assure you that our travel guide to Portugal will be a very helpful tool when visiting this beautiful country. We also offer interpreters in Portugal whenever you need. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you need an interpreter in Portugal or assistance in any way.
As a special service to our clients and readers, we at World Interpreting are working hard to offer you something different aside from our language translation and interpretation services. As we actively pursue excellence in our services, we also want you to experience what it will be like to travel to other countries by providing you with concise country and city profiles and other interesting tidbits of information about each country. Travel Guide Portugal is just one of these innovations we are introducing. We will be coming up with more.
Travel Guide Portugal is our initial offering to you. It will take you to different fantastic places in Portugal as well as some of the famous landmarks and notable cities, so you will already have a general idea about Portugal if and when you decide to actually travel and explore this fascinating and laid-back country in Europe.
Travel Guide Portugal will assist you in getting a bird’s eye view of the country’s geography, language, the places of interest, landmarks and things you can do in Portugal as well as give you travel safety tips. We do hope you will come back often to travel with us to other destinations around the world.
:: Introducing Portugal ::
Portugal has historically been one of the most powerful and influential nations in the world. In its heyday, it was an empire that encompassed many colonies in Africa, Asia and in many parts of Europe. Today, Portugal is a culturally unique nation, resplendent with rich biodiversity and remains a top tourist destination for many travelers. This is because Portugal has much to offer tourists looking for a beautiful place to visit in Europe. Travelers looking for culture, history, relaxing beaches, pristine forests, untouched towns, cosmopolitan cities, an exciting nightlife and a fun loving people won’t go wrong with a trip to Portugal.
The Portuguese Republic has a population of over ten million people spread out in a land area of 91,951 square kilometers. The country is located in southwestern Europe, on the Iberian Peninsula. On the north and east is the country of Spain, while to the west and south is the Atlantic Ocean. It is this location that gives Portugal its sunny, warm and pleasant climate all year round. It is even known as one of the warmest countries in Europe, making it a perfect destination for beach goers and sun worshippers alike. With its 900-year old history, Portugal has much to offer travelers looking for a taste of culture, history and biodiversity.
Travelers going to Portugal can expect to be amazed by the country. Our Portugal pocket travel guide is an excellent resource for those looking for an interesting overview on what the country is like. At the same time, it provides a list of fascinating places to see and enjoyable things to do. As an added plus, you’ll also get some useful insight on practical travel safety tips as you make your way around this European country. This allows travelers to better plan activities while at the same time mapping out the most ideal itineraries to help you create the most enjoyable vacation possible.
Whether it’s tasting the world famous Madeira or vinos that Portugal is known for, or catching some sun on the many coastal beaches of the country, Portugal is sure to excite the senses and thrill the most avid travelers. To make things easier during your trip, you can refer to the section on useful Portuguese words and phrases that you will most likely encounter during your trip to Portugal. This way, you can order like a local or shop like a pro during your stay. Our Portugal travel guide is conveniently written into sections, making it the perfect travel companion for the busy traveler. It makes it easy for you to look up the information you need and get the details you want as you make your way around Portugal.
Portugal is divided into several regions. The capital city of Lisbon, as well as Ribatejo, Estremadura and Upper Alentejo are located in South Central Portugal. In Northern Portugal, the second largest city of Porto is located. This is also where the country grew from, since the founding city of Guimarães, one of the most important historical cities in the world is located here. Southern Portugal is where the sunny beaches of Algarve are located, as well as Lower Alentejo. The other regions are North Central Portugal, as well as the islands of Madeira and Azores.
The first stop of most travel itineraries to Portugal is the capital city of Lisbon. It is known as the city of seven hills. About two million people reside in Lisbon or Lisboa. The old and the new come together in this grand city. At the center of town is Avenida da Liberdade. The Rossio is where everything and everyone comes together. Here, travelers can find the obelisk and sculpture of the “Spirit of Independence”. Travelers will also enjoy the mosaic-inlaid streets at Baixa. The Alfama is the oldest district in the city. For shopping in Lisbon, head down to Bairro Alto. For those looking for some nightlife fun, then the place to be is Chiado.
Say a few prayers at the Basilica da Estrela or enjoy an outdoor stroll at the Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara, a wonderful garden in geometric patterns where you can find statues of Minerva and Ulysses as well as other Greco-Roman gods and goddesses. If you are interested in tasting some of the wonderful port and rare vintage wines, the Port Wine Institute or the Solar do Vinho do Porto is just across the street. For some art, stop by the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga to view some of the finest collections of artworks from the Middle Ages, Museu Calouste Gulbenkian where you can spend hours looking at its large collection of masterpieces from western Europe’s best masters. A separate building houses Portuguese modern and contemporary art. A must see is the Castelo de Sao Jorge, an imposing structure and a fine example of a Moorish castle. It sits atop the highest point in Lisbon, thus it overlooks the city. The Parque das Nações or Park of Nations near the Tegus estuary located in the northeastern side of Lisbon is a top draw, which is a result of the 1998 World Expo. Here, travelers will enjoy the views afforded atop the Torre Vasco de Gama. For those with children, spend some time locating several of the volcano fountains before stepping inside Europe’s largest aquarium, the Oceanário de Lisboa for a great adventure.
The beaches of Cascais, a resort area that the royal family of Portugal favors is located west of Lisbon. Meanwhile the secluded beaches at Sagres in Algarve are always a top draw for many travelers. Since it’s warm just about all year round, this coastal town of Algarve is popular with tourists. In the months of July and August, the beaches of Lagos are littered with people from all walks of life taking advantage of the warm Mediterranean waters and the hot summer sun.
Many Catholic devotees head to Fatima every year, to see the site where Virgin Mary appeared to young children. The city of Fatima is located north of Lisbon in the municipality of Ourém and is the destination of many pilgrimages. The Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary is the center of religious tourism in the country. Most of the faithful, numbering up to a million, come on May 13 and October 13 in celebration of the dates of Fatima’s apparitions.
Another popular destination is the beautiful city of Aviero. This is known as Portugal’s answer to Venice with its canals, beaches, cathedrals and the porcelain and glass manufacturing plant. Braga is known as the city of Archbishops with one cathedral and seven churches in the city alone. In Tenoes, near Braga is Bom Jesus do Monte or Good Jesus of the Mount, a sanctuary that is a favorite pilgrimage site. Located atop a hill, it has zigzagging stairway done in the Baroque style, with the steps climbing up to 116 meters. One of the regional capitals of Alentejo is Evora. This is a charming city where various monuments from the different periods of its history can still be seen and where parts of the old walled city are still intact. Some famous landmarks here include the Igreja de Sao Francisco or St. Francis Church where the Chapel of Bones is located; Palace of Vasco de Gama, the Roman Temple of Evora and the Cromeleque dos Almendras, a megalithic monument spread across a wide area.
In Porto or Oporto, which is Portugal’s second most populous city, travelers can enjoy seeing granite church towers, while ending the day sipping the famous sweet alcoholic drink of its namesake. If you want to go wine tasting, this is the place to do it, where it is usually free and only a minimal gratuity is appreciated. Some of the port wine cellars can be found at Vila Nova de Gaia where they are stored and aged in lodges or caves. Travelers will appreciate the old world elegance and authentic architecture of the city, from the Palacio da Bolsa to the church of Serra do Pilar and monastery of São Salvador. For some art, head to the Museu Nacional Soares dos Reis housed in the old Carrancas Palace in Porto, which is home to a number of fabulous art pieces and sculpture representing Portuguese art and the major collection of works of the man after whom the museum is named, Antonio Soares dos Reis, including his finest work, the hauntingly beautiful O Desterrado or The Exiled that was carved in Carrara marble.
The climate in Portugal is one of the reasons why this remains a popular tourist destination for many travelers. As one of the warmest countries in Europe, travelers looking to enjoy the outdoors, sunbathe on the beach or indulge in some water sports activities find that the coastal cities in Portugal are a must visit.
The average temperature in the mainland of Portugal is a cool 15 degrees C or about 65 degrees F. Over on the coastal side, the breeze makes the temperatures much cooler, especially during the summer season. The water temperature is at 22 degrees C or a comfortable 72 degrees F. During the summer months of July and August, travelers can enjoy up to twelve hours of sun a day, with temperatures ranging between 35 degrees C to 40 degrees C. This makes it perfect to go swimming, go hiking or to play water sports. Travelers can also enjoy some golf, since Portugal has been ranked as one of the best golf destinations in the world. In Amareleja, a parish in Beja, the other regional capital of Alentejo, some of the highest temperatures have been recorded, spiking up to 47 degrees C or 117 degrees F. In contrast, there is only about four to six hours of sunshine during the winter season. In the winter, it snows in the north, especially in Serra da Estrela, part of the highest regions in Portugal .
Travelers to Portugal should pack lightweight clothing. Pack along some sun protection especially if you plan to be outdoors most of the day. Dressing in layers in a practical option. Flip flops and sandals are acceptable when going around, but have a shawl or some coverup when entering a church and other places of worship. During the wet winter season, it’s a good idea to pack along a waterproof raincoat or a small travel umbrella. The spring and autumn season are the best times to go, but the summer season is also popular for travelers.
Portugal is often overshadowed by the neighboring country of Spain. However, its contribution to the world is vast. During the 15th and 16th century, Portugal led the way in discovering the new world. As a colonizer, it established a sea route leading to Asia via India. In Africa, Portugal colonized Cape Verde, Mozambique and Angola. In Asia, it colonized Macau and East Timor in Oceana. In South America, Portugal colonized Brazil.
It is this fervor of exploration and the need to feed the nation’s wanderlust that has led to the rise of many Portuguese explorers. These are Prince Henry the Navigator; Vasco de Gama, who made the first journey from Europe to Asia via India; Pedro Alvares Cabral, who discovered South America, particularly Brazil; Ferdinand Magellan, the first European who crossed the Pacific Ocean; Joao Cabrilho, the first European to explore the North American West Coast and founded the city of Oaxaca, Mexico; Jorge Alvares, who is noted to be the first European to reach China and secured Macau as a Portuguese colony; Antonio de Abreu, the first to reach East Timor; Diogo Cão, who discovered the Congo River while Pedro Teixeira discovered the Amazon River; Miguel Corte-Real, who reach Newfoundland; and Lopes Gonçalves, who in 1473 was the first to cross the equator.
In modern history, there are also a number of famous people from Portugal or are of Portuguese descent. Some of the notable ones are Nobel Prize author Jose de Sousa Saramago, artist Paula Rego, scientist Antonio R. Damasio who wrote Descartes’ Error and soccer star players Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Figo. Saint Anthony of Padua is actually Portuguese and comes from Lisbon, not Italy. St. Anthony is also the Patron Saint of Portugal and has devotees who believe him to help in marriages. Entertainer Carmen Miranda is another famous Portuguese personality who was mistakenly labeled as the Brazilian Bombshell since her family moved to Brazil. American band composer John Philip Sousa is of Portuguese descent, as well as architect William Pereira, who is best known for being the designer of the Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco. Other famous personalities of Portuguese ancestry are actors Tom Hanks, James Franco and Keanu Reeves, director Sam Mendes, journalist Meredith Vieira, Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry, Journey lead singer Steve Perry and celebrity chef Emeril John Lagasse.
The Age of Discovery in Portugal during the 15th Century led to many inventions and innovations in the country, especially in terms of navigation and mapping technology. They found better ways to interpret stars and other astronomical data. This allowed them to explore more countries and undiscovered territories. The ship Caravel was a nautical sailing masterpiece during its time. They redesigned sword making and the making of cannons. It is Portuguese immigrants who introduced the musical instrument ukulele to the people of Hawaii. Today, it is Portugal that the RFID or radio frequency identification system was first introduced called the Via Verde, the electronic toll collection system, which paved the way for toll automation in many countries. Multibanco is a technological development in the banking system relating to ATMs.
Historically, Portugal had a monarchy. However, this was abolished in the early 20th century. Today, the country is a republic run by an elected President who appoints a Prime Minister. The country is a founding member of NATO and the OECD. It is also a member of the European Union. At the same time, Portugal is also a member of the Latin Union, as well as the Organization of Ibero-American States.
Legally, Portugal is quite liberal. The country is one of the first to remove the death penalty from its penal code. The maximum sentence for crimes is only up to 25 years. Also, drug possession of marijuana, LSD, cocaine, and heroin are not illegal in the country, although drug trafficking is. As of May 2010, Portugal also recognizes same sex marriages, only the 6th country in Europe to do so and the 8th country in the world.
Today, Portugal is a top wine producer, with about 750 million bottles of wine produced annually. As a European destination, it is also more affordable compared to other European countries, further adding to the value of Portugal as a tourism draw. The euro is the official currency used in the country.
Most of the population is employed in industry as well as in the service sector. Tourism is big business in Algarve, while agriculture is what sustains the economy in Madeira and Azores. Portugal is one of the twenty most visited countries in the world, receiving about 13 millions travelers a year. The fishing sector is also alive and well, as the country has one of the highest fish consumption per capita. Compared to its European neighbors, the standard of living and salaries in Portugal are lower. The unemployment rate in Portugal is at over seven percent. Corruption is a problem, although Transparency International has ranked Portugal at number 31 in terms of perceived corruption on the list.
The Portuguese are laid back and proud of their distinguished heritage and history. The 10.6 million residents are mostly Roman Catholic. They come from a diverse lineage of Celtics, Iberians, Romans, Germanic tribes, Jews and Moors, yet the population is homogenous. They are largely superstitious, with their religious beliefs intermingling with beliefs in the evil eye and other traditional superstitions. As a whole, the people are friendly and helpful. Kissing on both cheeks is an acceptable way to greet each other, while a handshake is also common.
Portuguese is the national language in the country. Portuguese is also one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. While it may be very similar to Spanish, Portuguese is often pronounced differently. In many tourist spots, English is widely spoken. English is taught in schools, although Portuguese is used in media. There are some people who do speak French, German and Italian, though travelers are more likely to find English speaking personnel in hotels and other tourist spots. Travelers will find that attempting to learn some basic Portuguese words and phrases will make locals treat them with more respect and friendliness.
When it comes to food, the Portuguese like to eat well seasoned seafood. Olive oil is heavily used in the preparation of a number of dishes. It’s probably why Portugal has an annual per capita olive oil consumption of 7.1 kilograms. Much of the food is grilled and seasoned with sea salt, such as chocos grelhados or grilled cuttlefish, peixe espada or swordfish and linguado grelhado or grilled sole. The country is also known to make delicious cheese or queijos, made from the milk of ewes, goats and cows. For something sweet, flan or pudim is a must try. Travelers should also try vinho do porto or port as a dessert in itself. Wine drinkers will savor the rich unique flavor of Madeira wine.
Travelers to Portugal should schedule their trip with the holidays in mind. Most museums and other public places may be closed. Recognized holidays are New Year’s Day, Good Friday, Easter, Liberation Day (April 25), Labor Day (May 1), the Feast of the Assumption (August 15), Republic Day on October 5, All Saint’s Day on November 1, Feast of the Immaculate Conception on December 8 and Christmas Day. Carnival is also celebrated to mark the start of the Lenten Season, as well as Holy Week.
Over at Coimbra, the Burning of the Ribbons festival is celebrated in the month of May. If you’ll be in Coimbra during the second week of July, then stay for the Feira Popular. If you’re planning to go to Lisbon in June, don’t miss the Feira Internacional de Lisboa.
Our Travel Guide Portugal is a convenient pocket travel guidebook that many travelers will find useful when they plan a trip to Portugal. There is much information on various activities and things to do, as well as interesting places to see. Travelers will also appreciate the wind number of interesting facts and figures about Portugal.
These can give you more insight and a better appreciation of the country you are visiting.
Travel Guide Portugal is designed to be your travel companion during your stay at one of the most charming and relaxing tourist destinations of Europe. Many travelers will find themselves enthralled by the natural beauty of the landscape, the diversity of the people, the quaint towns suspended in time, the excitement of the major cities and the relaxing atmosphere of the sun-kissed beaches of the coast. Portugal has delicious food, world class wines, an amazing history, friendly people and a culture that is uniquely its own. Use our Travel Guide Portugal to help you discover this European gem that was once the seat of power of one of the most powerful empires in the world, and is today one of the best tourist destinations in travel to.
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