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Portugal travel guide

Visiting Portugal in Summer

portugalPortugal doesn’t see as many tourists as it’s neighbor on the Iberian peninsula, Spain. And therein lies part of its charm. Portugal has lots to offer a tourist – the cosmopolitan city of Lisbon with it’s iconic streetcars, the charming colonial town of Sintra, lovely beaches, fresh seafood and fine port – but with fewer crowds.

During the World Cup, Portugal may be an even better place to visit, especially if you’re a fan of the team. Pack your Portugal kits or your Ronaldo World Cup jersey and you’ll blend right in with the local fans (…or at least, not stand out so much).

In between soaking up all the culture, beautiful sights, delicious food and port wine, head to the nearest bar or pub and cheer alongside the locals when their team takes to the field. Plus, if the team wins, it’ll be an unforgettable experience to celebrate in the team’s homeland.

If you plan on rooting for the team in person while they play in South Africa, check out our guide to World Cup South Africa for all the planning information and resources you need, no matter which team you’re cheering for.

Photo by Up Your Ego

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Portugal travel guide

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas … in Lisbon

portugal-treeForget about the busy New York and the traditional Rockefeller Center Christmas tree and ice rink. Skip the Christmas Markets in Vienna as well this year. Instead, head to Portugal for a traditional Christmas.

Why you might ask? After all, Lisbon doesn’t see snow and there aren’t even Christmas markets open at this time of the year. Instead, Lisbon can offer a different way to spend the holidays, especially if you plan to focus on the religious side of the holiday.

Getting to Lisbon

So, what are you waiting for? Look for international airfare into Europe. This time of the year is considered high season so expect the flights to be crowded and the prices quite high. However, the traditional Christmas destinations don’t include Portugal so you will be able to find affordable flights.

It’s a good idea to fly into a major hub, such as London, Paris or Amsterdam. Once on European soil, look for low-cost flights to Lisbon or even plan to get there by other means of transport. The rail network is well developed in Europe and you can get to every corner of the continent quite fast and cheap. Buses, while dreaded by Americans, are preferred by Europeans, especially if time is no concern for them and the budget is on the low side.

Where to stay in Lisbon

Once you have arrived safely in Portugal’s capital, you need a place to stay. Of course, ideally, you should have booked the hotel room before you left home but fear not, you can find places once you arrive in the city.

Cheap Lisbon hotels can be found all over the town, but there are certain neighborhoods that are of particular interest for the tourists. Bairro Alto or the “high town” is where the nightlife can be found while Chiado is the shopping district.

Other choices of accommodation include the Lisbon hostels. The rooms are cheaper than in hotels and the facilities resemble those of cozy small hotels. Of course, make sure to read the reviews carefully since you don’t want to end up in a party hostel if you plan to sleep during the night.

How to celebrate Christmas like the Portuguese do

The Nativity scene is the main focus of the celebrations. Although Christmas trees are common in Portugal as well, the families gather around the Nativity scene. Now, light a yule log in the fireplace.

On Christmas it’s traditional to welcome the souls of the people who have died. Sprinkle bread crumbs and seeds in front of the fireplace as it is believed to bring fruits and grains during the harvest season.

Children should set their shoes to receive the gifts from infant Jesus in them. It’s an old tradition, still alive in Portugal. In some other European countries, children set their shoes on the night of St. Nicholas as he is believed to put the presents in the shoes but only for those children who have been good during the year.

Prepare the Christmas feast, consisting of dried codfish served with boiled potatoes. The meal is eaten right after the Christmas Eve Mass which takes place at midnight. And don’t forget to make “rabanadas” as well. It is white bread, soaked in eggs and wine. Then it’s dipped in sugar and fried until it takes a candy-like crust.