Preparing for Portugal: 5 Helpful Tips for a Memorable Culinary Journey


As you prepare for your trip to Portugal, take a moment to reconsider that shirt you purchased three years ago and still haven’t worn. Instead, focus on our list of essential items to bring with you when visiting this delightful European destination. While these items may seem obvious, we’ll explain exactly why they are necessary for your travels.

1: A hearty appetite

When traveling around Portugal, one of the most important pieces of advice we can give you is to eat everything. You simply cannot miss out on the delicious pastéis de nata, also known as Portuguese custard tarts. These mouthwatering treats are available everywhere and consist of rich egg custard encased in a buttery, crispy pastry. Trust us when we say that one is never enough. For the ultimate experience, take a short bus ride from Lisbon to visit Pastéis de Belém, a bakery that has been perfecting this recipe since 1837. And if you’re feeling particularly indulgent, pair your custard tart with a creamy hot chocolate for the perfect treat.

If you prefer something savory, Portugal has you covered with their famous sardines. Not only are these fish packed with omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B2, and B12, but they also come in a variety of delicious flavors such as garlic, hot sauce, and tomatoes. Portuguese sardines are often tinned and considered works of art, with generations of artists creating stunning illustrations on their exteriors. While you can find sardines all over the country, keep an eye out for specialty stores in Lisbon and Porto and be sure to bring a few tins home as a delicious souvenir.

2: Comfy (walking, dancing, and whatever) shoes

While there may not be any mountains to hike in Portugal, you’ll still need comfortable shoes to navigate the hilly cobblestone sidewalks found throughout the country. One neighborhood in Lisbon that particularly requires good walking shoes is Bairro Alto. Known for its vibrant nightlife, Bairro Alto offers numerous options for cocktails, fresh grilled fish, and traditional Portuguese steaks. However, to reach the top, you’ll have to conquer the uphill climb. Once at the summit, head to Park Bar for the best panoramic views of the city. This unconventional rooftop terrace, located on the 6th floor of a parking garage, is lush, vibrant, and offers breathtaking sunset vistas.

If you’re not a fan of uphill walks, don’t worry. You can still reach the top of Bairro Alto by hopping on the Glória funicular. These charming cable cars transport passengers up the incline, allowing for a quick and enjoyable trip to the top. With “funicular” literally meaning “fun”, you’re guaranteed to have a good time on this unique mode of transportation.

3: Camera and a back-up camera

While it may seem obvious, it’s worth mentioning that you’ll want to bring your camera when visiting iconic landmarks such as the Porto Cathedral, Coimbra University, and Batalha Monastery. The Porto Cathedral, located in the historical center of Porto, is a fascinating sight to behold. Construction of this cathedral began in the 12th century and it has undergone renovations throughout the centuries. Entrance to the cathedral is free, but for a small fee of €3, you can explore the cloister, which is definitely worth the extra cost.

Coimbra University, one of the oldest universities in the world, dates back to 1290 and has been in its current location since 1537. With over 25,000 students, 16 libraries, 2 museums, and even a botanical garden, this university is a treasure trove of knowledge and beauty. While you can’t take photographs inside the famous Joanina Library, it is undoubtedly one of the highlights of the campus. Be sure to obtain a ticket before exploring the rest of the university grounds.

For those who appreciate UNESCO World Heritage Sites, a visit to Batalha Monastery is a must. This Gothic masterpiece was built to commemorate Portugal’s victory at the battle of Aljubarrota in 1385. Spend a couple of hours exploring the exterior, church, cloisters, and chapels, and marvel at the intricate carved arches, stone statues, and stunning stained glass windows.

4: A few just-in-case layers

Springtime, from March to May, is the best season to visit Portugal. The weather is warming up, the country is in full bloom, and the days are getting longer. While it may not be warm enough for swimming, you should definitely explore the golden beaches in Porto. Praia dos Ingleses, Gondarém Beach, and Praia de Leça da Palmeira are just a few of the many options available. With an average of 300 days of sunshine per year, every day is a beach day in Portugal. Just remember to bring a light sweater as the ocean breeze can get a bit chilly.

The same advice applies to cool evenings spent along the Cais da Ribeira, the street that runs alongside the Douro River in Porto. This lively riverfront promenade is lined with restaurants and bars and offers some of the most spectacular views of the city. While you may have to pay a little more for a meal in this area, the ambiance and breathtaking vistas of the pastel-colored stacked houses and the Dom Luís I Bridge sparkling at night make it well worth the price.

5: Your tasting notebook

Even if you’re not a wine connoisseur, you can still appreciate Portugal’s finest Ports. Produced exclusively in the Douro Valley, Port wine is made by fermenting hand-picked grapes with a splash of Brandy to fortify the wine. There are several different types of Port, with Ruby, Tawny, and White being the most common. Take an evening to visit the cellars, learn about the history and production process, and end your tour with a delightful tasting session.

Getting there

Feeling ready to embark on a journey through Portugal, filled with delicious food, breathtaking sights, and unforgettable experiences? Check out some of our top tours:

– Highlights of Portugal
– Discover Portugal
– Hiking the Azores

Start planning your trip and create memories that will last a lifetime.

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