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I had the privilege of taking a grown up gap year to travel.
Yes, I’m Team Quit Your Job. I visited 12 countries over 12 months from France to Japan. Since I got home in September, people always ask me “Which country was your favorite?” I usually give a long answer, because I figure they’re only asking so they can get some travel ideas of their own. And different people have different travel preferences. I’m a museum junkie, but I had a “friend” who LOL’d when I told her my trip plans included museum time. I’ve even heard of people who don’t like beaches.
Normally, I’d say that the Philippines had the most beautiful islands, Vietnam had the best food, Australia had the best beach towns, Cambodia had the best cultural attractions and Budapest, Hungary was the prettiest city.
There. I covered all the travel bases. Whatever you’re into, you have a place to start Googling and Pinning.
Yes, I love giving the long-winded answer so people can be inspired to check out places they may not have been considering. And who doesn’t like to talk about their trips when they get back home? I definitely do! That’s why I have a travel blog. But I’ll try to be less obnoxious than your co-worker who talked for months about his trip to Italy and how you’ve never had pizza until you eaten it in Napoli.
But wait…there’s an easier answer. And because you’re my favorite Travel Buddy, I’ll tell you my secret.
Portugal was my favorite destination. It wins every category in one reasonably priced, holiday-sized package. Yes, really!
Get yourself prepped for Portugal!
1. Portugal Has Gorgeous Islands and Beaches…and 300 Day of Sunshine.
I haven’t yet visited the Azores, because I assumed it would be too expensive to fly there from Lisbon. WRONG! Round-trip flights from Lisbon to Ponta Delgada are as low as $120 USD. And accommodation on the island is on par with mainland prices. Even on my hilariously-small backpacker budget, I could’ve swung this. I also didn’t get to the showstopper of Portugal beaches on the Algarve peninsula. I was rushed for time and almost broke by the time I got to Portugal.
But I did see dynamite beaches up and down the coast. The sand was gorgeous and powdery with miles of boardwalks.
These pictures are from Praia Costa Nova near Aveiro, Portugal, midway between Coimbra and Porto.
2. And Good Food.
Food-wise, Portugal is the Delaware of Europe. Don’t laugh! I’m a proud Delawarean, and our food is one of our best assets. Delaware is where Maryland crabcake territory meets the the home of the Philadelphia Cheesesteak. In Delaware you won’t go hungry.
The same’s true for Portugal. I ate my weight in Bacalhau à Brás (cod with potatoes casserole) and meat croquettes. I spent less than 10 Euros for each meal without even searching for the cheapest places.
Do you prefer seafood or steak? Inexpensive wine or inexpensive beer? Doesn’t matter. You’ll love Portugal. (Although Port wine — Portugal’s pride and joy — is not my fave.) And that’s before you even try the pastéis de nata. This is a super-delicious custard tart. AND IT’S BREAKFAST! I always ate mine too quickly to take a picture. I ain’t sorry.
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3. The Cities are Beautiful.
Here’s something I learned during my travels. All sunsets are not created equal. Smog and cloud cover robs Vietnam of the stunning sunset show their neighbors in the Philippines get to watch every day.
Portugal is sunset central. And they know it. It’s like they intentionally painted and tiled their buildings to reflect that glow. In both Lisbon in the south and Porto in the north, people took the time to stop and watch the sunset like we’d watch a baseball game. I went to a lookout in Lisbon called Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara that had live music at sunset. And the view was spectacular.
Sunset at the beach was ok too. 🙂
See stunning sunrise pictures from around the world.
Every time I visit a city outside of the US, I’m surprised by how clean it is. Except for that dirty city which shall remain nameless. Ok, it’s Manila.
But Portugal’s cities aren’t just clean, they’re lovely. The Portuguese tile the outside of buildings in the most beautiful azulejos (tiles). It’ll have you just snapping pictures of random homes until you battery dies.
And the churches!
Portugal is serious about its adornment. And it doesn’t stop with tile. The town of Águeda had the coolest street art. Umbrellas in the sky!
Portugual is super hilly. So why not rainbow steps!
I know nothing about architecture, except that sometimes when I walk by certain buildings, I stop and stare. I did a ton of that in Portugal. Outside.
Yeah, this stairwell was J.K. Rowling’s inspiration for Hogwart’s library. Really!
4. Rich culture and history
You know how when you’re traveling to someplace new and you suddenly realize just how old the place is? And how many generations of people have stood right where you’re standing? That feeling really struck me in Portugal. I’d recently been to Australia where everything looks so new. You can tell that the cities were built for driving, not walking. That’s not the case in Portugal.
The cities are full of tiny alleyways that end at churches and outdoor cafes.
And when you walk down that alley, you might find a cafe where the Port wine is free and musicians are singing Fado.
History nerds, rejoice!
Coimbra was Portugal’s original capital, and University of Coimbra is the second oldest university in the world. Coimbria students have been wearing black capes as part of their uniform since the 16th century. It looks pretty cool when you’re on campus people-watching, but I’ll admit it’s a little terrifying when you’re walking down the street late at night and you run into a pack of caped kids.
5. Trains in Portugal are Affordable and Convenient.
I took a two-hour train once from Wilmington, DE to New York City. It cost me $56. Yuck. A two hour train trip from Lisbon to Porto is around $20. With WIFI.
Or you could probably fly for about that much before the baggage fee.
Travel Buddy Tip: I don’t pay airline baggage fees. My favorite travel hack is using packing cubes so I travel with carry-on luggage only. They compress your clothes to fit into a smaller bag. Get these, and you’ll thank me later. Preferably with some pasteis de nata.
Transportation in Portugal is so cheap that I went to Coimbra just to see a fancy old library. And they didn’t even allow pictures. You know that’s not like me as a picture-loving cheapskate. Whether you’re looking to spend your holiday exploring one city or the whole country, Portugal’s easy to get around.
Find out how to not lose money on airline ticket changes.
Second most common question I get asked: “Do they like Black people in Portugal?”
I didn’t stand out in Portugal like I did in Southeast Asia, because there are Black Portuguese people. In fact, it’s the first non-English speaking place I’ve been to where people assumed I was a local and spoke their language. Important note: I do not. I didn’t have any conversation on race with anyone to get the low-down on life in Portugal for Black people. But I never felt mistreated. And my Tinder matches were constantly buzzing. So I’ll call that a “Yes.*”
I know you’ll love it too. Now go ahead and save this post on Pinterest for later. I hope you’ll need it soon!
Now leave a comment below.
55 Comments Add yours
Agreed – I love Portugal! And the people are superfriendly and helpful too.
It’s true! The people were very helpful. I really appreciated that.
I really like the tile work in Portugal. I even took a souvenir tile home from Alcobaca.
Isn’t the tile just beautiful, Rhonda? Great souvenir idea. I didn’t think to bring a tile back this time…maybe next time.
OMG I am in LOOOOVE with the beach in the Azores! PINNED! 🙂
I know, right!! Thanks CG! 🙂
Currently planning on a return to Lisbon. I cannot wait.
Worth a Thousand Words
I’m jealous! I miss Lisbon already. Bon viagem! And eat a pastel de nada for me. 🙂
I’ve never been to Portugal, but I’m sure I’ll visit this country someday. In the meantime I admire your photos. It looks like Portugal has a lot of things to offer.
Klara, Portugal has it all!
I’d love to visit Portugal! It’s definitely on my bucket list! 🙂
I TOTALLY recommend it!
Portugal seems gorgeous! I love your pictures of the beach and that umbrella alleyway is just so cool!
Isn’t that the cutest? I saw someone else post a picture on Instagram and I HAD to get there! It’s called The Umbrella Sky Project.
I have developed a recent fascination with learning Portugese (which is strange having never been to Portugal) Your pictures are beautiful – Portugal is nothing like I expected! Lovely Post #WanderfulWednesday
Ooooh, learning Portugese means “educational” trips to Brazil and Portugal and Mozambique and Cape Verde… 🙂
These are such fabulous shots of a wonderful city! How diverse and fun and interesting a place.
It’s all those things Betty! I can’t wait to go back. 🙂
Your photos are stunning! You have me convinced! 🙂
Beautiful photos. Portugal is my favourite destination also. And you touched on something very special about Portugal – its people. They really are the friendliest, chattiest, most welcoming people that I have ever had the privilege of meeting on my travels. What a wonderful country.
Greetings from Luxembourg (which is nice too!) #WanderfulWednesday
Thanks for your kind words, Daisy. I hope you’re having a beautiful December in Luxembourg. (I imagine it’s all beautiful there!)
And sorry for calling you Daisy, Joelle. 🙂
So much yes!! Portugal was my favorite destinaiton this year!
Oh my goodness, Isabel. Portugal really surprised me in the best way! I hope you can get back there if that’s your plan. 🙂
I had tons of fun reading your post. I am already sold on Portugal but I enjoyed reading your perspective. It is one of those countries in Europe I am dying to go. I would love to talk to with you about your trip. And, I have to visit Delaware now! #citytripping
Thanks Ruth! I really hope you get to spend time in Portugal. It’s the perfect place to recuperate from the Delaware food coma. 🙂
I’m going! So pleased to read this as we are off to Portugal next month. We are visiting Lisbon, Coimbra and Porto and travelling by train between each one so this post of yours has really whetted my appetite. I’ve experienced the beaches in the Algarve but not the cities and I can’t wait. And that bookshop has been on my to do list for years!
Good, Trish! I know you’ll have an amazing trip. The trains in Portugal were problem-free, and the cities are so colourful. Make sure you go to a Fado house in Coimbra!
I absolutely loved Portugal! I plan on going back to explore some more! #CityTripping
Oh I’m with you here – I’ve been to Portugal multiple times, different ends of the country (although not Porto, that’s still on my wishlist) and I’ve always loved it. Lisbon is one of my favourite cities, full stop, the beaches are all incredible, the food is just as good and cheap as you say, the culture, the history, the tiles… well, I’m preaching to the converted! Love your photos too, it’s making me crave another trip back there. Maybe finally to Porto! Thanks for linking up with #citytripping
Portugal is already my second favorite destination (after Spain), for all the reasons you’ve mentioned. I can’t wait to visit again next year, this time I’ll finally make it to the beautiful Azores 😀 #citytripping
When you get to the Azores, lots of pictures please!!
It makes me so happy to hear how much you loved Portugal – we get to visit every year as my parents live near Coimbra and I can’t stop writing about the place too #citytripping
Oh, Coimbra is just the cutest! I have a feeling I’ll do more writing about Portugal also. Thanks for stopping by, Alex!
Yes! I totally agree. Portugal stole my heart. Loved Porto and the Duoro region then we went to the Algarve and was genuinely surprised at how beautiful the beaches were, the food, climate and the price too. Those tiled houses are just incredible too! Reading this is making me want to go back. Pronto! Thanks for linking to #citytripping
Thanks for stopping by! I’ve got to take a second trip too; I totally skipped the Algarve beaches the first time.
Portugal is a fantastic country, temped by the Azores but haven’t been. Maybe the should shift up the list! # CityTripping
I want to get to the Azores, too. I hope you get there sometime soon. 🙂
Wow! Great pictures from Portugal! I want to go there 🙂
I hope you get there soon, Birgitta! I loved it. 🙂
as a portuguese (and traveller) I had a great time reading your post. it is very complete and sincere, as it says a lot about us and our cities 🙂 thanks for sharing your impressions and hope you have the chance to visit Portugal again! best regards PedroL
I’m glad it’s Portuguese Approved. 🙂 I’ll definitely get back Pedro!
🙂 hope you have fun!! regards PedroL
OMG you are so very good, and i put your link in my followed blogs to follow anywhere you go! But the truth is i want to physically go with you because i am not good with directions! hahaha
Thanks for becoming my travel buddy, Andrea! Even the directionally challenged can come along. lol. 🙂
I stumbled upon your blog today after seeing you in a comment section in Oneika’s blog. I love your commentary on Portgual. I had never thought about visiting there before, but you give lots of insight. I’m interested now in visiting Coimbra University and potentially getting an inexpensive ticket to the Azores. Thanks!
Welcome, Lisa! I’m so glad you enjoyed my post. I really do think Portugal is Amazing, so I hope you get there soon. When you go, let me know how much you loved it! And share some Azores pics. 🙂
Enjoyed the read- definitely have to put the umbrella sky on my to see list