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A land of opportunity at the edge of Europe

Portugal is a land of infinite potential. From its bustling cities steeped in history to its wild Atlantic beaches and idyllic inland landscapes, there should be a part of this country to pique everyone's interest. Add to this the fact that the Portuguese are known for their excellent food and drink and you have the perfect destination for a holiday. Whether it's a weekend away or a longer trip, or whether you want to stay in top-class, full-service seaside hotels or simple, traditional hostels in the middle of a culturally rich city, Portugal has it all.


With a relatively low population density for its size, Portugal is ripe for exploration and offers plenty of opportunities for inland travel. Discover a wide range of landscapes, from mountain ranges to bright, colourful beaches to lowlands populated with charming villages and towns. Renting a car is a huge advantage, as you can use the country's well-developed motorway network to get around quickly and easily.


Tips for your holiday in Portugal

  • Central Portugal is as varied as a region can be. Around the cosmopolitan capital of Lisbon, there are plenty of exciting experiences to be had. For starters, there are the incredible Atlantic beaches where you can try a surf lesson in Europe's leading surfing region. Other regions aren't far away either, so a day trip to the Serra da Estrela mountains or the fantastic interior of the Alentejo, often referred to as Portugal's Tuscany, will certainly be worthwhile.


    The cities of northern Portugal represent the country's historic heartland, as it was here that the country itself was born centuries ago. A boat trip through the Douro Valley will give you a taste of Portugal's heritage while you plan the next stage of your holiday. How about the magnificent nature reserve of the Northern Mountains? They're on the route to Santiago de Compostela, which would also be an excellent addition to your itinerary.

  • Clothing - Prepare yourself according to the season. Always bring enough sun cream and make sure you use it. The sun can be particularly strong from midday to 3pm. And, if you're planning to show off your fashion sense, beware: cobbled streets are everywhere, whether in small towns or large cities, so don't underestimate the value of comfortable shoes, as you'll be putting them to good use here.


    Use of English - Although you'll have no trouble getting by in English in most tourist areas, don't think you'll be that lucky every time. A few useful expressions in Portuguese will take you a long way. There's no denying the value of an obrigado/obrigada (thank you) or a desculpe (sorry). For greetings, you say olá, bom dia/boa tarde/boa noite (hello, good morning/afternoon/evening) and for goodbyes, you put adeus in front (example: adeus, boa tarde), or you simply say xau (pronounced like the Italian ciao).


    Restaurants - Good food is very important in Portugal and you'll have no trouble finding it, but there are always overpriced tourist traps. Some local conventions you may not be aware of are that entry is cheap but never free. If you're a vegetarian, make it very clear, as entirely meat-free recipes are rare. And if you order a coffee, you'll actually get an espresso. Large coffees are called either meia de leite (half milk, half coffee) or galão (espresso with triple hot milk).


    Getting around - Don't be surprised if you feel like you've run a marathon by the end of the first day of your city trip, Portugal can be quite hilly. These steep walks can certainly be an enjoyable workout, but don't be afraid of public transport either - just remember to pay, as fines are high, even for tourists. If you're planning to visit several cities, it's definitely worth considering hiring a car.


    Exploring - While the main cultural and historical sights are well worth a visit, Portugal's true charm often lies off the beaten track. Whether it's inside a city or out in nature, getting off the beaten track a bit can help you discover a hidden gem that's less frequented. Sometimes tourist guides also have a few secret tips. Nature is not to be underestimated, but strong Atlantic currents can be deceptive and you should always be wary of forest fires in the dry summer heat.

  • There's plenty to do, even on a short holiday. Museums often have free admission for students or on certain days of the week, so if you're interested in some, plan your visit accordingly. Most churches and cathedrals, especially the more iconic ones, also have their doors open to the general public most of the time. Steeped in the opulence of the Baroque period, they are a must-see for any art or architecture lover. Another unmissable activity is a visit to a wine cellar. From the sweet fortified Port wines of the Douro Valley to the many different flavours that the Tagus and Alentejo have to offer, a trip down to a wine cellar is an experience in itself. Here's an extra tip for you: in a restaurant, ask for the house wine - it's almost guaranteed to be a blessing for your senses and your wallet!

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