|Population||10.4 million (2013)|
|Electricity||230±0 volt / 50±0 hertz (Europlug, Schuko)|
|Time zone||UTC−01:00 to Western European Summer Time and Europe/Lisbon|
|edit on Wikidata|
|Northern Portugal |
A historic region that is considered the birthplace of the nation. Includes the second largest city, Porto. The region is also famed for its natural reserve of Gerês, Vinho Verde (green wine), the Douro river valley steep slopes covered in stepped in wine cultivations, isolated mountain regions and archaeological prehistorical sites around the Mogadouro area.
|Central Portugal |
Includes Coimbra, which houses one of the oldest universities in Europe, the Catholic pilgrimage site of Fátima, and also Serra da Estrela, the highest mountain in continental Portugal, serra da Lousã and Caramulo, São Pedro do Sul thermal spas, Bairrada and the Dão wine region, the Mondego river system as well as most of the Estremadura coast and a major access road to the rest of Europe via the Vilar Formoso border crossing into Spain.
The south of central Portugal, formerly Ribatejo and Estremadura, is home to the "Campino" or Portugal cowboys. The region main city's are Santarém, Vila Franca's de Xira and Nazaré on the Atlantic coast. The old cattle ranching way of life go hand in hand with the Lusitano horse breeding traditions that can be traced thousands of years back in history. The town of Golegã is the main horse trading center in the country. It organizes a yearly horse and cattle trade fair and festival every November, with roots going back to the pre-Punic War period.
|Lisbon Region |
Much more than just Lisbon, the capital and largest city, the densely-populated region around the mouth of the river Tagus at the Atlantic Coast includes such famed tourist destinations as Sintra or Cascais as well as the South bank regions of Montijo, Barreiro, Setúbal, Palmela and the beach resort town of Tróia. Access to the Southern side can be through the 25 de Abril suspension bridge on the West side or via the Vasco da Gama bridge in East, spanning the Tagus estuary over 15 km in length, as well as on boats, known as the "Cacilheiros"
The region literally called "beyond the Tagus river" is sparsely populated, known as the warmest in the country with the flatest terrain, celebrating its slow pace of life. While largely rural with large agricultal estates amidst rolling prairies, cork oak forests and olive tree groves, interesting cities and towns like the regional capital Évora dot the country side. Also, there are some prehistorical, Celtic-Iberian and Lusitanean culture archeological sites and monuments like menirs and "Antas".
The beaches and sun of Southern Portugal.
A group of islands in the Atlantic Ocean. Pico, the highest mountain in Portugal, stands on the island with the same name.
A sub-tropical archipelago that is made up of two populated islands, Madeira and Porto Santo, and two groups of unpopulated islands called the Desertas and Selvagens Islands.
- 1 Lisbon (Lisboa) – national capital, city of the seven hills
- 2 Aveiro – the "Venice" of Portugal
- 3 Braga – city of Archbishops
- 4 Coimbra – home of the ninth oldest university in the world.
- 5 Évora – "Museum City", Alentejo regional capital
- 6 Funchal – the capital of Madeira
- 7 Guimarães – the founding place of the nation
- 8 Porto – the northern capital, "Invincible City", along the river Douro and the Atlantic Ocean
- 9 Viana do Castelo – famous for the Nossa Senhora da Agonia Festival
- 1 Fátima – the world-famous city due to the phenomenon of the Virgin Mary apparitions
- 2 Nazaré – the village that entered in the Guinness Book of Records by its gigantic sea waves.
- 3 Cabo da Roca – the westernmost point of mainland Portugal and European continent, near Cascais
- 4 Côa Valley – Prehistoric archaeological area and a registered UNESCO World Heritage Site
- 5 Óbidos – a popular destination due to its walled hilltop medieval castle
- 6 Peneda-Gerês National Park – Portugal's only national park
- 7 Serra da Estrela – Portugal's highest mountain range
- 8 Sintra – A UNESCO-listed village with several old palaces and fortresses
Portugal's people today have a heritage drawn from many parts of the globe. The oldest known Iberian peoples left markings and cave paintings more than 50,000 years ago. The Celts and Iberians mixed with North Africans, Phoenicians, Middle Easterners and Greeks and according to academic research, these people being accomplished seafarers and traders, spread as far afield as the British isles among other European places, leaving traceable links with the Irish, Cornish and Welsh people's heritage. The later Lusitanian tribes dominated large areas of Western Iberia for over a thousand years and were noted for their high quality iron and steel working expertise and excellent horse rearing and riding capabilities until the Romans arrived during the Punic Wars and colonised most of the peninsula, almost eradicating all traces of the previous civilisations through genocide and assimilation practices.
After the fall of Rome, Germanic and Frankish people moved west and also settled in Iberia and Northwest Africa. After the arrival and spread of Christianity, conflict between Pagan tribes and new Christian chieftains allowed the much better organised Moorish Muslims to invade and gain control of approximately three quarters of the peninsula for about seven hundred years.
Starting at the end of the 9th century, Iberian Christians begin to regain some control over their ancestral domain, thus opening the way for the "reconquista" era that culminated in the formation and expansion of the Portuguese state as it is known today, as well as that of Spain to the east, and expulsion or forced conversion of Jews and Muslims.
Today, Portugal, although sharing close ties with the Spanish people, has a distinct cultural and linguistic heritage. These days it is an acclaimed international tourist and vacation destination due to the many beautiful beaches and long warm summers, historical and cultural heritage as well as the fabulous golf courses and religious pilgrimage to Fátima all being highly popular with visitors. Surprisingly, in winter several ski resorts are open for business in the Serra da Estrela region.
Portugal is 900 years old, and even though it has a relatively small area, it played a crucial role in world history. Its borders have remained the same longer than any other European country's, and it maintains the longest existing alliance in the world (since 1386) with the United Kingdom, known as the "Treaty of Windsor". This alliance was invoked during World War II, allowing the British to establish military bases in otherwise neutral Portugal, and during the Falklands war, when the Azores islands served as staging point for British troops headed to fight the Argentinians.
From the end of the 14th century, Prince Henry the Navigator promoted and sponsored the maritime exploration of the Atlantic Ocean and west coast of Africa. After his death, his successors continued to go further and further throughout the 15th and 16th centuries, enabling Portugal to begin a major chapter in world history with the New World Discoveries (Descobrimentos) and dominance of the oriental trade market and importation of its goods into western Europe.
Portugal established the Cape Route to India, and colonised the Madeira and Azores archipelagos. To consolidate imperial supremacy, Portugal established a chain of fortified military towns and trading outposts that eventually linked in Africa (Ceuta, the Canary Islands, the Ivory Coast, Zaire, Angola, Mozambique, Zanzibar, Cape Verde, São Tomé and Príncipe, Guinea Bissau, etc.), South America (Brazil, parts of Uruguay), Asia (Hormuz, Goa, Bombay, Macau, Ceylon, Malacca, Phuket), and Oceania (East Timor, Flores, Moluccas), creating an empire covering most of the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean and parts of the South China Sea and Southwest Oceania. The Portuguese language continues to be the biggest connection between many of these countries, and Roman Catholicism remains the dominant religion throughout much of the former Portuguese Empire.
During the second half of the 16th century, the Portuguese Crown entered a succession crisis with the loss of the young heirless king, Dom Sebastião, at the battle of "Alcacér-Quibir". As a result of the crisis, the Portuguese nobility reluctantly agreed to unify Portugal with Spain under the crown of King Phillip II, thus creating the period of "Iberian Union" which lasted from 1580 to 1640. During the union period, the Portuguese Empire interests were negatively affected, because of the rivalry between Spain and England, as well as Madrid's disinterest in Portugal's overseas matters. Furthermore, much of Portugal's overseas maritime/naval capacity and resources were disrupted with the commissioning and redirection of its vessels towards the Great Armada preparations for the invasion of Britain, which had disastrous consequences for Spain. By then, the Treaty of Windsor had been suspended as a result of the belligerence.
Portugal regained its independence from Spain in 1640, and to re-enforce its world position, the wedding of the British King Charles II to Princess Catherine of Bragança was celebrated. However, this royal wedding marked the beginning of a slow decline in Portugal's scientific eminence and domination of world affairs. The expulsion of the Jewish community also played an important role in this decline. Nevertheless, at the end of the 17th century, a period of stabilisation followed and gained momentum after the discovery of large deposits of gold and diamonds in Brazil, during the early 18th century. As a result of the wealth flowing into the national treasury, the Portuguese Crown was able to finance many major projects to develop and modernise the country and some overseas possessions.
Amidst this new period of rejuvenation, in 1755, on the 1st of November, the Great Lisbon Earthquake and subsequent tsunami devastated the Portuguese Empire's capital. The effects were such that victims were recorded as far afield as Morocco. Of the estimated more than 200,000 Lisbon inhabitants, at least some 40,000 perished. Between the initial quake (estimated to be of around 8.5 degrees) and subsequent aftershocks, flooding and fires, about 60% of all buildings and structures were lost together with art, archives, libraries, factories, businesses, etc. The national GDP dropped an estimated 40%, marking the start of another national crisis compounded by the expelling of the Jesuit and other religious orders and with it much of the academics and scientists of the day.
At the beginning of the 19th century, as a result of France's European wars and expansion conflicting with the British Empire and their allies, the country was invaded by Napoleon's army, throwing the Portuguese monarchy and rest of the country into chaos at all social and economic levels. The Royal Family and most of the nobility left Lisbon and settled in Rio de Janeiro, in self-imposed exile. Even after the Peninsular War ended in defeat for the French, the country nevertheless didn't manage to recover and went from crisis to crisis almost continually until the beginning of the 20th century, with the loss of Brazil in 1822 and the scramble for Africa in the 1880s severely curtailing the Portuguese Empire's size and power.
In 1910, the republican movement overthrew the monarchy and established a republic. However, the new republic continued to lurch from crisis to crisis, reaching a near collapse by the mid 1920s. At this time, the military intervened and asked Professor Oliveira Salazar, a well-reputed economist from Coimbra University, to take control of the nation's economy and help guide the country to prosperity. By the early 1930s, Portugal had stabilised and Salazar's role was reinforced by the establishment of a corporatist authoritarian one-party state which prioritised balancing the books over social needs.
Although Portugal registered phenomenal economic growth from the 1950s onwards, the corporatist regime or Estado Novo (New State) gradually became unpopular due to its undemocratic handling of government affairs. In response, the New State implemented a regime of repression against any opposition which resulted in independence movements appearing in Portugal's overseas colonies, culminating in a prolonged colonial war. Coupled with a growing discontent within its own continental metropolitan population, the regime's authority was further undermined. By April 1974 a military left leaning coup d'état organised mostly by junior army officers managed to depose the regime, and after a brief period ruled by a military junta, Portugal eventually became a free democracy. During that period, the overseas colonial wars in Guinea-Bissau, Angola and Mozambique come to a sudden end culminating in the independence of all former Portuguese African possessions. However, as a result of poor and uncoordinated political and economical leadership in the post revolutionary period, the country quickly stagnated again. After the wave of state nationalizations came to an end and more liberal and balanced economical policies begun to be implemented in the late 1970's, Portugal gradually began to get used to a more democratic way of life. The decision to join the EEC, now the EU, enabled the country to approach European standards of development after 1986. Since then, Portugal and its people has managed to modernize and develop itself despite some serious set backs like the sovereign debt crises of 2007/8.
Portugal is one of the warmest European countries. In mainland Portugal, yearly temperature averages are about 15°C (55°F) in the north and 18°C (64°F) in the south. Madeira and Azores have a narrower temperature range as expected given their insularity, with the former having low precipitation in most of the archipelago and the latter being wet and rainy. Spring and Summer months are usually sunny and temperature maximum are very high during July and August, with maximums averaging between 35°C and 40°C (86°F - 95°F) in the interior of the country, 30°C and 35°C in the north. Autumn and winter are typically rainy and windy, yet sunny days are not rare either. Temperatures rarely fall below 5°C (41°F) nearer to the sea, averaging 10°C (50°F), but can reach several degrees below 0°C (32°F) further inland. Snow is common in winter in the mountainous areas of the north, especially in Serra da Estrela but melts quickly once the season is over. Portugal's climate can be classified as Mediterranean (particularly the southern parts of the Algarve and Alentejo, though technically on Atlantic shore).
Portugal is regulated by the Western European Time Zone (WET), the same time as in the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Minimum validity of travel documents
Portugal is a member of the Schengen Agreement.
- There are normally no border controls between countries that have signed and implemented the treaty. This includes most of the European Union and a few other countries.
- There are usually identity checks before boarding international flights or boats. Sometimes there are temporary border controls at land borders.
- Likewise, a visa granted for any Schengen member is valid in all other countries that have signed and implemented the treaty.
- Please see Travelling around the Schengen Area for more information on how the scheme works, which countries are members and what the requirements are for your nationality.
Portugal has five airports with scheduled international passenger traffic:
- Lisbon Portela Airport (LIS IATA) is the main aviation hub, with many intercontinental connections with the Americas and Africa (mainly operated by flag carrier TAP Air Portugal and its Star Alliance partners), as well as a dense network of connections within Europe operated by both full-service and low-fare airlines
- Porto Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport (OPO IATA), serving Portugal's second-largest city and the entire northern part of the country, also has some intercontinental connections with Americas and Africa, and has a comparably dense network of connections within Europe, with a sizeable presence of low-fare carriers
- Faro Airport (FAO IATA) serves Algarve in the south of the country, one of Europe's favourite holiday regions. Therefore, it sees the most traffic in the warmer months, mainly from charter carriers carrying package holiday customers, as well as low-fare flights from many European cities. A limited number of flights to major European destinations are operated year-round.
- Madeira Airport in Funchal (FNC IATA) serves the green island in the Atlantic, and is notable for its spectacular runway extending into the ocean and a scenic approach requiring much skill from the pilots. Like Faro, the airport is dominated by holiday flights and sees high seasonality.
- João Paulo II Airport in Ponta Delgada (PDL IATA) serves the Azores archipelago, and has a surprisingly wide network of connections operated mainly by local carrier Sata International and from 2014. also low-cost flights from Ryanair and Easyjet. Some holiday flights also reach Ponta Delgada from Europe.
While arriving in Portugal from Europe or from across the Atlantic one can choose between a variety of options, there are no direct connection with Asia or Oceania. One needs to either rely on one of the European majors and their Asian partners to find a connection via one of the major European hubs, or take advantage of the daily Emirates flight to Dubai, where one can connect with their network of flights across the Indian Ocean.
Trains reach most larger cities from Lisbon to Porto, Braga, Aveiro, Coimbra, Évora, and Faro.
- Lisbon is connected to Madrid, Spain;
- Porto is connected to Vigo, Spain;
- Vilar Formoso is connected to Spain, France and the rest of Europe.
In the South, it is not possible to enter Portugal from Spain. There are no train connections from e.g. Seville to Faro. The only option is to use buses, of which there are many.
Southeast Portugal is connected by international train (linha do Leste and linha de Caceres) [Elvas/Caia, Portugal & Badajoz, Spain] or [Marvão-Beira, Portugal & Valencia de Alcantara, Spain.] For more information, contact: CP, Portuguese Railways.
- Spain/Portugal: ALSA  and Avanza Grupo 
- Oporto/Portugal: Porto Airport Taxi
- Lisbon/Portugal: Lisbon Airport Taxi
- Also from Madrid/Paris: Aníbal 
The country is served by numerous seaports that receive a lot of foreign traffic, mostly merchant but also passenger boats (mainly cruisers).
Portugal's only land border is with Spain. The major national roads connect with Spain's road network, enabling road travel into mainland Europe. The main border crossings are at Vila Real de Santo António, Elvas, Vilar Formoso and Valença do Minho.
Rail travel in Portugal is usually slightly faster than travel by bus, but services are less frequent and cost more. The immediate areas surrounding Lisbon and Porto are reasonably well-served by suburban rail services.
The rail connections between the main line of Portugal, i.e. between Braga and Faro are good. The Alfa-Pendular (fast) trains are comfortable, first class is excellent. The Alfa-Pendular train stops only at main cities stations and often requires advance reservations (recommended) between Braga, Porto, Vila Nova de Gaia, Aveiro, Coimbra, Lisbon and Faro.
Intercity trains will take you to further destinations, specially in the interior, such as Évora, Beja and Guarda.
Timetables can be found and tickets can be purchased online at Comboios de Portugal (Trains of Portugal).
You get 40% off the regular ticket price for Alfa Pendular and Intercidades trains if you book five days or more in advance. There are only a limited number of these advance tickets per train. The earliest advance purchase is 60 days before the day of travel.
If you book a long distance ticket to or from Oporto-Campanhã, you can travel between that station and Oporto São Bento (city centre) on urban trains for free.
Unfortunately the rail network is limited, so you may find yourself busing about to get anywhere off the beaten path. Rede Expressos is one of the largest inter-city bus companies.
Lisbon and Porto, the two largest urban cities, have clean modern and air-conditioned Metro systems (underground/subway and light railway).
Road traffic in Lisbon and Porto is pretty congested all day round and gets completely stuck in the rush hours, at least in the main roads to exit or enter the city. Car travel is the most convenient or only method to reach areas outside the main cities, however (car rental is not too expensive, but the associated insurance is - unless you book the total package abroad). An important aspect when renting a vehicle; DO NOT accept a dirty vehicle under the pretext there was no time to make it ready from the last customer before you. Whatever happens insist you have time to wait until it is given to you in proper order. Once that is done, conduct the inspection with the agent and make sure that every little defect and damage is noted down thoroughly from the interior to the exterior, engine bay and trunk, when your copy of the report is handed over for signing, first insist on comparing it with the agents copy in case the carbon transfer didn't match the two copies exactly. It's been known for unscrupulous agents to try hide previous damage and let you drive off and upon returning the vehicle claiming the insurance excess payment by swearing the car was perfect when you got it. Also, many major freeways are tolled and fuel/gasoline prices are above average, therefore if you are traveling on a budget, hire smaller and economical motorcars and avoid tolled freeways whenever possible. Heed the advice about the quality of some people's driving skills mentioned below. Avoid at all costs driving during peak traffic hours within major urban centers, try to enquire about this if possible. On open roads keep your eyes peeled for speed limits and abrupt changes of speed signage. Rather be driving conservatively and admiring the scenary. Traffic officers tend to speed trap with radar in unusual places like entering or exiting a freeway, down hills and curves.
Generally speaking, Portugal is not a good country for hitchhiking. In the deserted country roads in the South, you might wait for many hours before you are offered a ride. Try to speak with people on gas stations or parking lots etc. Drivers tend to be suspicious, but when you show them that they should not be afraid, they will probably accept you and mostly also show their generosity. Try to look neat and clean. The hippy style will get you nowhere. As with everywhere in the world, two males hitchhiking together will not get a ride from anyone.
You can reach almost all major cities in Portugal with ease, either by motorway or by good, modern roads. The biggest cities are well served by modern highways (most have tolls), and you can travel the full North-South length of the country without ever leaving the highway, if you choose to.
However, some secondary roads are poorly maintained and care is required. Also, Portuguese driving can seem erratic and, frankly, scary to the uninitiated. The country shares with most southern European countries something that the successive Portuguese governments have been trying to fight: terrible road behaviour from some drivers. In order to fight this, road laws punish with great severity speeding, driving without license, driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics, etc.
The motorways with the most reckless driving are those surrounding Lisbon and Porto, the A1 and A2 and the Algarve. You can be on a 2-lane toll highway and be unable to see any other traffic except the car you're overtaking at 30 kph over the speed limit and the car about 6 feet from your back end flashing its headlights to get past you. Merging manners when slip roads come on to fast roads are also pretty poor. On other roads, you'll get used to two classic Portuguese experiences: suicidal overtaking attempts and the resultant absurdly overdone signs indicating when you can and can't overtake - sometimes all of 5 yards apart, and the "penalty stop" traffic light as you enter the 50 kph zone in each small town, with camera to decide whether you're over the speed limit. Rather absurdly, once you're through this, your speed isn't checked again.
It is probably unwise for those unfamiliar with Portuguese driving to try to drive in Lisbon or Porto - be aware if you do that city drivers give no quarter and have limited respect for lane markings (where lane markings exists!). If you do want to try, choose a weekend or an hour outside the rush hour periods. These are early mornings (8AM - 9.30AM) and late afternoons (5PM - 7.30PM). Other Portuguese cities are much better, but often have very narrow roads.
Portugal has a system of electronic tolls, and you need to make arrangements to register you licence plate or to obtain a tag for tolling if you are going to use the main motorway system. Arrangements can be made to register your licence plate at the border, if entering by car. If hiring a car in Portugal, it is likely the rental car company has an arrangement for the payment of tolls.
Drunk driving is a controversial issue and still rather common. The tolerated limit is 0.49 g/L in blood (0.05% BAC); being above this limit is thus illegal and can result in a fine of up to €1250 and licence suspension for one to twelve months. If you are tested and found with between 0.8 and 1.2 g/L, the fine may reach €2500 and you'll be facing licence suspension between two months and two years. Driving with levels above 1.2 g/L is a criminal offence punished with up to one year in prison and a three year driving ban.
- See also Portuguese phrasebook
The official language of Portugal is Portuguese (português). Portuguese is today one of the world's major languages, ranked 6th according to number of native speakers (approximately 240 million). It is the language with the largest number of speakers in South America, spoken by almost all of Brazil's population. It is also an official language in Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, São Tomé and Príncipe, Guinea-Bissau, East Timor and Macau.
Portuguese is a Romance language. Although it may be mutually intelligible with Spanish to a wide extent, with about 90% of lexical similarity (both in vocabulary and grammar), it is far from identical. Portuguese are a proud people and are uneasy when foreigners from non-Spanish-speaking countries speak that language when travelling in Portugal. While many words may be spelled almost the same as in Spanish (or Italian), the pronunciation differs considerably. This is because Portuguese has several sounds not present in those languages. Although most Portuguese people are able to understand Spanish to a certain degree, only a minority can speak it fluently. If you're a Spanish speaker, if you speak slowly, chances are you'll be able to understand each other without an interpreter for the most part.
The Portuguese spoken in Portugal differs significantly from that in Brazil. The difference in pronunciation and vocabulary differences makes it tricky for Brazilians to understand the European Portuguese accent, although not vice versa, because Brazilian pop culture is popular in Portugal.
English is spoken in many tourist areas, but far from ubiquitous. The Portuguese are taught English in school, and are also exposed to American and British films and television shows with the original English soundtrack and Portuguese subtitles. English is generally more widely spoken than in Spain, and many younger locals are able to communicate in basic English. In the main tourist areas you will almost always find someone who can speak the main European languages. Hotel personnel are required to speak English, even if sketchily. French was the most widely-studied foreign language among the older generation, but has largely been supplanted by English these days.
Portuguese people are of generally excellent humour when they are talking with someone who cannot speak their language. This means that all types of shop owners, salespeople, and people curious about you will take time to try to carve out any means of communication. Helping a foreigner is considered a pleasant and rewarding occasion and experience. If you attempt to speak correct Portuguese, especially if slightly beyond the trivial, with locals, you will be treated with respect. This might encourage travellers to learn the very basics of Portuguese, such as daily greetings.
In Miranda do Douro, a town in the North East, and its vicinity some people speak a regional language called Mirandese, in addition to Portuguese, although rarely in public.
Foreign television programmes are almost always shown in their original language with subtitles. Only children's programmes are dubbed into Portuguese.
Historic towns & architectureEdit
Once a mighty colonial nation, many of Portugal's lively cities still have an atmosphere reminding of those Old World times. They're packed with remarkable monuments and with just a little bit of effort, you'll discover traditional cafés and craftsmen who's families have run their businesses for generations.
Head to the delightful harbour town of Porto to linger along the picture-perfect Cais da Ribeira. Recognized as a Unesco World Heritage Site, this beautiful riverfront area is characterized by ancient buildings and streets and of course the views of the Rabelo boat filled harbour. The country's scenic capital, Lisbon, is bustling with contemporary culture but also boasts countless monumental limestone buildings. Don't miss the gorgeous cloisters of Jerónimos Monastery and make sure to climb up the battlements of Saint George's Castle for some excellent panoramic views of the city. For a royal daytrip from Lisbon, head to the surroundings of Sintra and its famous castles, including the Romanticist Pena National Palace, and finish visiting the village of Cascais in the luxurious Estoril Coast (also called the Portuguese Riviera). Visit also the Christ the King monument in Almada. Then there's the enchanting medieval university town of Coimbra, considered by many to be the most romantic city in Portugal. Get lost in its labyrinth of ancient alleys and don't skip the university building and its fine views over the river. For a more intimate experience, head to the romantic and very well-preserved village of Óbidos, once a traditional personal gift from Portuguese kings to their beloved wives. Go to monument-heavy Tomar or follow tens of thousands of religious pilgrims to the Marian shrine of Fátima one of the most visited religious shrines in Europe. Not far away from there, you may not want to miss the Batalha Monastery a Manueline inspired magnificent monument to assert Portuguese independence at Aljubarrota. The 12th century Portuguese capital Évora is an excellent place for ancient architecture, combining Roman ruins with Moorish and Portuguese architecture, or head to Guimarães, the cradle of Portugal. If you can't get enough of Portugal's towns, the list of places worth visiting continues. Try Viana do Castelo, Braga, Aveiro, Amarante, Bragança, Chaves, Lamego, Viseu, Vila Real, Lagos, Silves, or Ponta Delgada.
Natural beauty and beachesEdit
The most popular beaches are in the Algarve, which has stunning coastlines and gobs of natural beauty. For decades, it's been a major holiday destination. The water along the southern coast tends to be warmer and calmer than the water along the west coast, which is definitely Atlantic and doesn't benefit of the Gulf Stream. For surfing, or just playing in the surf there are great beaches all along the west coast, near Lisbon and Peniche. Don't forget also some of the almost deserted beaches along the Costa Vicentina, in Alentejo.
If you want to spend your holidays in the countryside, you might want to visit Viana do Castelo, Chaves, Miranda do Douro, Douro Valley, Lamego, Tomar, Leiria, Castelo Branco, Guarda, Portalegre, Évora, Elvas or even Viseu.
And even if you wish to observe wild life in its natural state, Madeira and Azores Islands are places to remember, not forgetting of course the Peneda-Gerês National Park, the Douro Valley and Serra da Estrela Natural Park.
Portugal has a rich cultural tradition, and gained fame for its art in the country's Golden Age, the late 15th and early 16th centuries. A number of world-class museums offer an insight in both domestic and foreign riches, and not only in the form of paintings. The best ones can be found in Lisbon. The Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian Museum holds an impressive collection of both Asian and European sculptures, paintings, carpets and more. The Museu Nacional dos Coches showcases wonderfully decorated state carriages and the Marinha Museum, nicely housed in a wing of the Hieronymites Monastery, is considered one of the most prominent maritime museums in the world. Sintra is home to the Museu do Brinquedo, a remarkable toy museum, and the Sintra Museum of Modern Art. For religious treasures, try the museum about those in Évora, or head to Coimbra for another excellent arts collection, in the National Museum Machado de Castro.
Surrounded by the Atlantic sea in almost its entirety, the Portuguese beaches are well worth visiting. A lot of activities are offered, from surfing, to kite-surfing, and during the summer months the most frequented beaches offer sand based activities such as aerobics. If you're not the type of breaking into a sweat during holidays, almost every single public beach will have a bar where locals sit. Some of the most popular beaches are (from north to south):
- Espinho, near Oporto, in Green Coast (Costa Verde), Northern region.
- Figueira da Foz, near Coimbra, in Silver Coast (Costa da Prata), Central region.
- Berlengas islands, Peniche, Nazaré, also in Central region.
- Praia das Maçãs and Praia Grande (in Sintra), Carcavelos and Estoril (in Cascais), near Lisbon, in the Portuguese Riviera.
- Zambujeira do Mar, in the Alentejo Coast (Costa Alentejana e Vicentina).
- Marinha Beach (Praia da Marinha) and Carvoeiro, near Lagoa, in the Algarve.
The climate, combined with investments in the golfing infrastructure, has turned the country into a golfing haven. Portugal was named "Best Golf Destination 2006" by readers of Golfers Today, a British publication. Fourteen of Portugal's courses are rated in the top 100 best in Europe. Portugal is also a great location to learn the game and perfect technique. Many resorts offer classes with the pros. Courses can satisfy the most demanding golfer, while newcomers won't be intimidated, unless they find the beautiful landscapes and stunning vistas distracting to their game. Locals have mixed feelings about golf courses, namely due to the huge amounts of water required to maintain them and their apparent pointlessness.
The countryside also offers a great deal of possibilities, although you will have to incite the travel agent's advice a little more than usual, as they tend to just sell beach holidays. Cycling through the mountainous terrain of Geres or white-water rafting in the affluents of river Douro is an exhilirating experience.
There are several Fairs, specially in the Summer months, particularly in Northern Portugal. During the summer, music festivals are also very common. In the north of the country two of the oldest festivals such as Paredes de Coura and Vilar de Mouros. The regions chosen for the festivals are most of the time surrounded by beautiful landscapes and pleasant villages. In the south, the most famous one is Festival do Sudoeste, in the west part of the south cost with a summer landscape and never ending beaches.
Major events of the year are listed at tourist board's official site, .
Exchange rates for Euros (€)
As of update 01 March 2018:
Portugal uses the euro, like several other European countries. One euro is divided into 100 cents. The official symbol for the euro is €, and its ISO code is EUR. There is no official symbol for the cent.
All banknotes and coins of this common currency are legal tender within all the countries, except that low-denomination coins (one and two cent) are phased out in some of them. The banknotes look the same across countries, while coins have a standard common design on one side and a national country-specific design on the other. The latter side is also used for different designs of commemorative coins. The design on the national side does not affect the use of the coin.
ATMs accepting international cards can be found everywhere, and currency conversion booths spring up wherever there is a steady flow of tourists (although typically, the closer they are to tourist attractions, the worse the rates they offer).
In smaller (non-high-street) shops you can try some haggling, especially if you offer to buy multiple items. You might want to check your change, though: although not a widespread practice, some shopkeepers might "accidentally" overcharge tourists.
Tipping in restaurants is optional. Waiters earn wages in Portugal and a 'tip' is considered a note of appreciation, not a means to make up for a tiny salary - if you are not too happy with the service, don't tip. Keep in mind that whilst tipping, most people in Portugal would just round up the total bill to the next euro. Even in expensive restaurants more than 2 to 3 euro would be hardly justified.
Tipping taxi drivers and daily tips for hotel staff are not customary in Portugal.
What to buyEdit
There is an amazing number of other things you can buy, either at sophisticated commercial facilities or at fairs and more popular places.
- Designer clothes and accessories - Although not widely known internationally, Portugal has a very well established high quality leather goods industry producing belts, shoes, hand bags, luggage and jackets, fashion accessories etc as well as several independent fashion designers. The list includes Fátima Lopes and Maria Gambina. Some of them have dedicated shops in Lisbon, Porto and other major regional cities.
- Luxury goods - Other areas of high quality products made in Portugal are Marinha Grande for decorative glass pieces, Vila do Conde for furniture, Ílhavo for traditional porcelain tableware, Guimarães cutlery, Viana do Castelo and Gondomar silver and gold smithery, São João da Madeira for pure wool felt hats, Arraiolos rugs and tapestry, and Madeira's linen embroidery and wicker crafts. Almost all major brands and luxury articles can be bought in major cities, but there is not a clear advantage in doing so as prices are equivalent to all other places.
- Handmade regional products - There's a popular tradition of regional handmade clothes, toys, home utensils, glass items and decoration. You can find them at popular tourist places or at better prices in fairs and cheap shops in small towns.
This is potentially the most varied experience to have in the country and is clearly a favourite local hobby.
Portuguese cuisine evolved from hearty peasant food drawn from the land, the seafood of the country's abundant coast and the cows, pigs and goats raised on the limited grazing land of its interior. From these humble origins, spices brought back to the country during the exploration and colonisation of the East Indies and the Far East helped shape what is regarded as 'typical' Portuguese cuisine which, conversely, also helped shape the cuisine in the regions under Portuguese influence, from Cape Verde to Japan.
Soup is the essential first course of any Portuguese meal. The most popular is the Minho speciality, caldo verde, made from kale, potatoes and spiced, smoked sausage. It's here in the Minho that you can sample the best vinho verde, which rarely is bottled. In many places, especially near the seashore, you can have a delightful and always varied fish soup, sometimes so thick it has to be eaten with the help of a fork.
You will see another Portuguese staple bacalhau (salt cod) everywhere. Locals will tell you that there are as many ways to cook this revered dish as there are days in the year, or even more.
The most common of Portugal's delicious fish (peixe) dishes revolve around sole (linguado) and sardines (sardinha) although salmon (salmão) and trout (truta) are also featured heavily, not mentioning the more traditional mackerel (carapau), whiting (pescada), rock bass (robalo), frog fish (tamboril) and a variety of turbot (cherne). These are boiled, fried, grilled or served in a variety of sauces.
A peculiarity of Portuguese cuisine the love of rice and rice-based dishes and desserts, a fondness perhaps grown from the Portuguese travels to the East. Among the most popular rice dishes are "Arroz à Bulhão Pato", essentially a juicy rice and clam dish. Another famous rice dish, "Arroz de Cabidela" consisting of a saucy dish made with rice, chicken and its blood. Besides those already mentioned, there are many varieties of rice-based specialities, such as frog fish rice, octopus rice, duck rice and seafood rice.
In most places you will easily find fresh seafood: lobster (lagosta), lavagante, mussel (mexilhão), oysters (ostras), clam (amêijoas), goose barnacle (perceves).
Depending on how touristic the area you are in, you'll see grills, thick with the smoke of charring meat, in front of many restaurants during your stay. Other than traditional sardines, Portuguese grilled chicken -- marinated in chilli, garlic and olive oil -- is world famous, although people tired of tasteless industrial poultry farm produce might opt for a tasty veal cutlet (costeleta de novilho) instead, or simply grilled pork.
In the North, you can find many manners of kid, and in the Alentejo, lamb ensopado and many types of pork meat, including the tastier black pork; the best considered parts of pork being the secretos and the plumas. In the Alentejo, you are likely to be served pork instead of veal if you ask for the ubiquitous bitoque (small fried beef, fried potatoes, egg). A widely found traditional dish is pork and clam, Carne de Porco à Alentejana, as well as fried, bread-covered cuttlefish slices (tiras de choco frito). Sometimes you can also find wild boar dishes.
Definitely a major speciality is Mealhada's (near Coimbra) suckling pig roast (leitão) with the local sparkling wine and bread. Much like the pastel de nata, you shouldn't miss it.
Vegetarians may have a tough time of it in Portugal, at least in traditional Portuguese restaurants. In most restaurants, vegetables (usually boiled or fried potatoes) are simply a garnish to the main meat dish. Even 'vegetarian' salads and dishes may just substitute tuna (which locals don't seem to regard as a 'meat') for ham or sausage. Usually, a salad is just lettuce and tomato with salt, vinegar and olive oil. However, the Portuguese really like their choose-5-items salad bars, and restaurants serving Indian, Chinese, Mexican, or Italian fare can be found in most cities. At any rate, just mention you're vegetarian, and something can be found that meets your preference although in the long run you might be unable to thrive on it.
In many Portuguese restaurants, if you order a salad it will come sprinkled with salt - if you are watching your salt intake, or just do not like this idea, you can ask for it "sem sal" (without salt) or more radically "sem tempero" (no seasoning).
A few restaurants, particularly in non-tourist areas, do not have a menu; you have to go in and ask and they will list a few items for you to choose from. It is wise to get the price written down when you do this so as to avoid any nasty surprises when the bill comes. However, in this type of restaurants, the price for each one of the options is very similar, varying around from €5 to €10 per person.
Most restaurants bring you a selection of snacks at the start of your meal - bread, butter, cheese, olives and other small bites - invariably there is a cover charge on these items, around €5. Do not be afraid to ask how much the cover charge is, and get them to take the items away if it is too much or if you are not planning to eat as much. It can be quite reasonable, but occasionally you will get ripped off. If you send them away, still, you should check your bill at the end. Better restaurants can bring you more surprising, nicely prepared and delicious small dishes and bites and charge you more than €5 for each of them; you can usually choose those you want or want not, as in these cases the list is longer; and if the price is this high and you make an acceptable expense, opt for not ordering a main course.
If you have kitchen facilities, Portuguese grocery stores are surprisingly well-stocked with items such as lentils, veggie burgers, couscous, and inexpensive fruits, vegetables, and cheeses. If you like hard cheese, try "Queijo da Serra", if you prefer soft cheese, try requeijão. Unfortunately, the success of the "Queijo da Serra" also allowed the proliferation of industrial and taste-devoid varieties, unrelated to the real thing. On larger shops mostly found in the principal cities, you can also find many unusual items such as exotic fruits or drinks.
In some grocery stores and most supermarkets the scales are in the produce section, not at the checkout. If you don't weigh your produce and go to the checkout, you will probably be told Tem que os pesar or Tem que pesar, tem que ser pesado ("You have to weigh them"/it(they) must be weighed).
Portugal is famous for its wide variety of amazing pastries, or pastéis (singular: pastel). The best-loved pastry are the pastéis de nata (called just natas further north), a flaky pastry with custard filling topped with powdered sugar (açúcar) and cinnamon (canela). Make sure you try them, in any "pastelaria". The best place is still the old Confeitaria dos Pastéis de Belém in Belém, Lisbon, although most "pastelarias" make a point of excelling at their "pastéis" - here they're called pastéis de Belém. For once, all the guide books are right. You may have to queue for a short time, but it'll be worth it. Some people like them piping hot and some don't.
Also nice, if a bit dry, are the bolo de arroz (literally, "rice cake") and the orange or carrot cakes.
From the more egg-oriented North to almond-ruled South, Portuguese pastry and sweet desserts are excellent and often surprising, even after many years.
On October/November, roasted chestnuts (castanhas) are sold on the streets of cities from vendors sporting fingerless gloves tending their motorcycle driven stoves: a treat!
The Portuguese madly love their thick, black espresso coffee (bica, in Lisbon), and miss it sorely when abroad.
Specialities found in individual regionsEdit
Portuguese people tend to have a sweet tooth. Among the many national favourites perhaps " Pudin Flan", a caramel type pudding and "Arroz Doce" or "Aletria" should be mentioned. Both Arroz Doce (Rice Pudding) or Aletria (fine spaghettini) are made by simmering with milk, sugar, some cinnamon and lemon rind either the rice or fine pasta. Some regions specialise in one or the other while adding something special to make it identify with the area.
- Aveiro: special cake from the town: "Pão de Ló". Desert: "Ovos Moles"
- Fátima: Pastéis de Fátima, are custard tarts in the shape of heart, dedicated to the so-called Immaculate Heart of Mary
- Porto: "Francesinha", a special grilled cheese sandwich; "Tripas" or tripe stew and "Papas de Sarrabulho", ask the locals what it is made from...
- Sintra: queijadas de Sintra or the travesseiros
- Mafra: specialty bread, Pão de Mafra; special cake from the town: "Fradinhos"
- Serra da Estrela : "Queijo da Serra" a soft goat cheese, "Requeijão" a fresh spreadable cheese and "Broa de milho" a tasty round shape corn bread.
- Alentejo: "Açorda com coentros", a delicious stale bread soup and Caracois or broiled snails.
- Algarve: the Morgadinhos, the almond cakes of Doce Fino and the Dom Rodrigo
- Madeira: "Bolo de Mel" or honey cake.
When travelling in Portugal, the drink of choice is wine. Red wine is the favourite among the locals, but white wine is also popular. Portugal, along with Spain, has a variation of white wine that has greenish tint (vinho verde). This is a very crisp wine served cold and goes best with many of the fish dishes. Drinking wine during a meal is very common in Portugal, and also after the meal is finished people will tend to drink and talk while letting their food digest.
Port wine (vinho do Porto) may be an apéritif or dessert. Alentejo wine may not be known worldwide like port, but is easily as good, and Esporão is one of the most reputed brands of the Alentejo region. Portugal also has other defined wine regions (regiões vinhateiras) which make also some of the very best of wines like Madeira, Dão, Sado and Douro. The Bairrada region produces some delightful sparkling wines, Raposeira being a well known brand.
People might find it a bit difficult to refrain from drinking, even if there are very good reasons to do so. Nowadays the "I have to drive" excuse works OK. The easiest way is to explain that one can't for health reasons. The Portuguese aren't as easily insulted as others when it comes to refusing the obvious hospitality of a drink, but a lie such as "I'm allergic" might make clear a situation where one would have to otherwise repeatedly explain a preference in some regions of Portugal; but it won't work in other regions where obviously made-up excuses will tag you as unreliable ("I don't want to, thanks" might then work). Drinking is considered almost socially intimate.
Be careful of 1920 and Aguardente (burning water), both pack a mighty punch. Macieira brandy offers a more palatable kick for those who prefer a slower acting effect.
Beer (cerveja) is also an option. Apart from some imports, the best known brands are the lager type Super Bock and Sagres. On a limited scale Cristal, a Pilsner type beer is also available mostly in the Porto region. The only drawbacks are the small bottles and caneca(jug) sizes at tap beer selling establishments, snack-bars and cervejarias
The legal drinking age in Portugal is 16. For nightlife Lisbon, Porto and Albufeira, Algarve are the best choices as they have major places of entertainment.
Porto is famous for the eponymous port wine, a fortified wine (20%) made by adding brandy to the wine before fermentation is complete. According to EU laws, port wine can only be named as such if the grapes are grown in the Douro valley, and the wine is brewed in Porto. The end product is strong, sweet, complex in taste and if properly stored will last 40 years or more.
There are many, many grades of port, but the basic varieties are:
- Vintage, the real deal, kept in the bottle for 5-15 years, can be very expensive for good years. It is, nevertheless, worth it.
- Late-Bottled Vintage (LBV), simulated vintage kept in barrel longer, ready to drink. Nice if you are on a budget.
- Tawny, aged for 10-40 years before bottling, which distinguishes itself by a more brownish red color and a slightly smoother bouquet and flavor. As with any wine, the older it gets, the more rounded and refined it will be.
- Ruby, the youngest and cheapest, with a deep red "ruby" colour.
- White port is a not-so-well-known variety, and it is a shame. You will find a sweet and a dry varietal, the latter of which mixes well with tonic water and should be served chilled (if drunk alone) or with lots of ice (with tonic), commonly used as an aperitif.
- Another good choice is the ubiquitous vinho verde (green wine), which is made mostly in the region to the north of Porto (the Minho.) It's a light, dry and refreshing wine (approx. 9% -9.5% in volume), made from region specific grapes with relatively low sugar content. Mostly white, and sometimes slightly sparkling. Very nice, and very affordable.
- The Setúbal Peninsula, is home to some of the best national cultivars but the Moscatel sweet wines are World class. Information on the variety and brands available can be sourced from the national or local wine producer lists.
- From north to south and east to west, Portugal seems to have a liqueur maker in every corner of the country. Licor Beirão enjoys some prominence but by asking around wherever you go, you will find good quality liqueurs made from local fruits, herbs and/or nuts, some secret ingredients and a good splashing of aguardente (firewater).
- In Lisbon and further south, make sure to sample Ginjinha, or simply Ginja, a liqueur made by infusing ginja berries (Prunus creases austera, the Morello cherry) in aguardente with sugar and other ingredients. Ginjinha can be served in a shot form with a piece of the fruit in the bottom of the cup, sometimes on a cup made of chocolate. It's very popular, and a typical drink in Lisbon, Alcobaça and Óbidos.
- In Coimbra, for example, a certain gentleman produces over 90 varieties of liqueurs including one named Licor da Merda (shit liqueur!). However, it is widely believed, the name has more of a humorous effect than offensive substance.
The youth hostel network has a great number of hostels around the country . There are also many camping places. 'Wild camping' (camping outside camping parks) is not allowed, unless you have the land owner's agreement. Holiday Villas are another option to investigate.
There's a wide and abundant hotel offering all through Portugal.
If budget is a concern, and you want a true 'typically Portuguese' experience, gather your courage and try a residencial and pensões, the home-like inn's ubiquitous in cities and most towns. In many places you can get a double or triple room with private bathroom for €25-€35 off season or €35-€40 in season (2016). Be sure, however, of the quality of the rooms.
On the luxury side, you might try the 'Pousadas de Portugal', a network of hotels managed by the Pestana Group remarkable for using very beautiful ancient buildings like Palaces and Castles and also for having excellent service, consistent all over the country. You will do well in eating out eventually, as the cuisine of Pousadas is frequently both expensive and boring, although it appears the trend is changing for the better (mid-2008).
The "Casas de Campo" (Turismo de Habitação, Turismo Rural, Agro-Turismo), when travelling through the countryside, are also an affordable, picturesque and comfortable B&Bs. Don't expect them to be open all year round, and try to contact them beforehand if your itinerary depends on them.
For all emergencies, dial 112
This is the national call center dial in number for any emergency or to report an accident, fire etc etc. Ensure you have this number registered in your means of communication or noted down somewhere in case it becomes necessary to notify authorities or emergency response entities.
Portugal is a relatively safe country to visit, and some basic common sense will go a long way. There are no internal conflicts, no terrorism-related danger and violent crime is not a serious problem, as it is generally confined to particular neighbourhoods and is rarely a random crime.
There are three main police branches. In major urban areas the PSP or Policía de Segurança Pública (Public Security Police) are in charge of law enforcement. Outside major urban centers and in rural areas, the GNR or Guarda Nacional Republicana (National Republican Guards) take over the law enforcement.
Both the PSP and GNR are also responsible for road traffic supervision and enforcement within their respective jurisdictions. The third branch is the PJ or Policía Judiciária (Judicial Police). These are a crime investigation branch composed of plain clothes detectives. In general, the Portuguese police officers are well trained, educated and polite. Many that are posted in tourist popular areas, have basic communication skills in foreign languages and some are fluent speakers of French, German, English and Spanish, therefore, easy to approach if the need arises.
When visiting Portugal, there are however, some areas of Lisbon and Porto that you might want to avoid, like in any big city, especially at night. Also, you might want to have in mind that pickpockets do tend to target tourists and tourist-frequented areas more frequently. Wear a money belt or keep your documents and money in an inside pocket. Metro and large rail stations, shopping areas, queues and crowded buses are the most usual places for pickpockets. Many are under 18 and take advantage of the non-harsh laws on minors. If you try to run them down, a fight may be necessary to get your items back.
On the subway or on trains try to sit with other people and avoid empty carriages. Non-violent pickpocket is the most common crime so always watch any bags (purses, luggage, shopping bags, etc.) you may have with you. A voice message reminding that is played in most of the metro and train stations.
Since the disappearance of Madeline McCann, many families have become wary of taking their children to Portugal, especially if they are very young. However, as long as they have a basic understanding of stranger danger and you keep them with you at all times, then you have nothing to worry about.
Illicit drug useEdit
On July 1, 2001, a nationwide law in Portugal took effect that decriminalized the recreational use of drugs. Note that drug possession for personal use and drug usage (up to 2.5 grams of cannabis for instance) itself are still legally prohibited, but violations of those prohibitions are deemed to be exclusively administrative violations and are removed completely from the criminal realm. In some locations, like Bairro Alto you might be offered drugs on the streets. You will want to avoid buying like this because the drugs are often fake and the sellers are sometimes undercover policemen.
Drug trafficking continues to be prosecuted as a criminal offense.
Driving while impaired by drugs is a criminal code offense and is treated in the same way as driving under the influence of more than 1,2 g/l of alcohol, with severe penalties.
Portugal adheres to all international protocols and guidelines concerning consumer products and health care.
Major cities are well served with medical and emergency facilities and public hospitals are at European standards. The national emergency number is 112.
Bottled/spring water (água mineral) is recommended for use but the network's water is perfectly safe. In so far as restaurants and other food and drink establishments or outlets are concerned, Portugal has a vigorously enforced system of national high standards to ensure a healthy chain of supply from producers to consumers, therefore the risk of food or drink poisoning is negligible. Star ratings are ascribed for levels of establishment luxury (5* to 1*) and not the quality of food or beverage, since those are strictly governed anyway.
Citizens of the European Union are covered by Portugal's National Healthcare System as long as they carry the free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), obtainable from their own national health care authority. Non European Union travellers are advised to purchase traveller's basic medical insurance to cover serious physical injury treatment costs, in case of an accident.
Portuguese people feel a sincere happiness when helping tourists so don't feel ashamed to ask for help. If you make an effort to speak some Portuguese with the people there, it can go a long way. A large percentage of the younger population speaks English and many Portuguese understand basic Spanish.
Portuguese is a romance language directly linked to Latin. Attentive portuguese speakers can make out many words and grammar of other strongly Latin based languages like Spanish, French, Italian, Romanian and even English, whereas in turn, those languages speakers battle to understand basic portuguese due to its pronunciation and sounds.
However, although Portuguese people do understand some basic Spanish vocabulary, try to use it only in emergencies, since it is generally seen as disrespectful if you are a not a native Spanish speaker. If you do use Spanish, be prepared to hear something like "In Portugal, people speak Portuguese, not Spanish", or they may simply tell you that they don't understand you even if they do. Most probably they will not say anything and will still help you, but they will not appreciate it, due to the historical rivalry between Spain and Portugal. It is best to speak in English or your native language with the resource of hand signs or at the very least starting a conversation with Portuguese, then switching to English can be a successful technique to obtain this type of help.
It is not unusual for women to sunbathe topless on the beaches of Portugal, and there are several nudist beaches too. Thong bikinis are acceptable throughout the country's beaches.
There are no serious political or social issues to be avoided. However, in more isolated remote traditional places, too liberal or open sexuality behaviour is frowned upon even if the locals do not say so openly out of prudishness.
Although nominally a Catholic country, since almost 90% of Portuguese consider themselves to be Roman Catholic, only about 19% actively practise this faith, and modern Portugal is generally a rather secular society. As a result, when discussing religion with a Portuguese person don't expect much knowledge about church practices or support towards some of their beliefs and opinions (e.g. use of condoms, abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia, etc.). In Portugal, religion is not seen as a valid argument when discussing politics. Abortion in Portugal was legalised in 2007 and same sex marriage in 2010.
Although there are no strict rules, when visiting churches or other religious monuments, try to wear appropriate clothes. That means shoulders and knees should be covered.
Portugal in general is a gay-friendly country, but don't expect the same openness in rural areas and small towns that you get in the bigger cities like Lisbon or Porto. Public displays of affection between gay couples can be seen as a curiosity and in some cases as inappropriate depending on the place and the kind of display. Gays and lesbians in Lisbon are respected as the city itself has a big gay scene with lots of bars, night clubs, restaurants, cafes, saunas and beaches. Most of the “gay-friendly” places are located in the quarters of Bairro Alto, Chiado and Princípe Real.
Since September 2007, the legal age of consent in Portugal is 14 years old, regardless of sexual behaviour, gender and/or sexual orientation. Although the age of consent is stipulated at 14, the legality of a sexual act with a minor between 14 and 16 is open to legal interpretation since the law states that it is illegal for an adult to perform a sexual act with an adolescent between 14 and 16 years old "by taking advantage of their inexperience".
Smoking in public enclosed places (taxis and transport, shops and malls, cafés and hotels, etc.) is illegal and is subject to a fine, unless in places showing the appropriate blue sign.
Some cities in Portugal still stage bullfighting events. In Portugal it is illegal, contrary to what happens in Spain, to kill the bull during the bullfight. However, it is totally wrong to assume that all Portuguese people support or even faintly like bullfights. Many Portuguese are indifferent to bullfighting or are offended by acts of cruelty. You might also end up offending someone if you make generalisations or insist that bullfighting is part of today's Portuguese culture. The Municipality of Barrancos (a border town with Spain) actively defies the law and law enforcement agents and kills the bull in the arena.