What is Portugal known for?
I asked myself the exact same question when planning my move to Portugal in early 2020.
Back then, I didn’t know much about Portuguese history or culture, apart from extremely obvious things, such as Ronaldo, so-called “egg tarts”, and beaches in the Algarve.
But, after living here for three years, I’ve discovered something of the Portugal beyond the stereotypes.
Let’s discover some of the many things Portugal is known for. You’ve probably heard of a few, but others may surprise you.
In no particular order, here are 31 people and things Portugal is known for.
What is Portugal Known For? [31 Famous People & Things]
#1. Pasteis de nata
Pasteis de nata (pastel de nata in the singular form) are Portugal’s most famous pastries, as integral to Portuguese food culture as sushi is to Japan or pizza to Italy.
You can find them in practically every bakery or coffee shop in Portugal. Locals typically eat them washed down with a small, strong cup of coffee (bica).
The tarts themselves are made from puff pastry, filled with a custard made from egg yolks, sugar, and cream.
They’re baked until the pastry turns golden and flaky, and the custard sets with a slight wobble and a few spots of caramelization on top. The result is a contrast of textures: crispy, buttery pastry combined with smooth, sweet custard.
The creation of pasteis de nata traces back to the 18th century, specifically to the Jeronimos Monastery in Lisbon’s Belém district.
Traditionally, monks and nuns used egg whites for starching clothes, leaving an abundance of leftover yolks. To make use of these, the clever religious inhabitants started making these tarts, which became a culinary legend.
#2. Port wine
Portugal has earned itself a well-deserved reputation for producing this world-class fortified wine.
The heart of Portugal’s port wine production lies in the Douro Valley region, an area famous not just for its picturesque beauty but also for the vineyards that line its terraced hills.
What makes port wine so special? It’s fortified, meaning that a distilled grape spirit, similar to brandy, is added during fermentation. This process halts fermentation, leaving residual sugar in the wine and boosting its alcohol content.
The result is a rich, sweet, and robust wine that you can enjoy as a dessert wine, paired with cheese, or sipped on its own.
#3. Maritime exploration
Portugal was once home to some of the world’s most notable seafaring explorers.
These pioneers navigated uncharted waters and opened up new routes during the Age of Discovery, a period in history stretching from the 15th to the 17th century.
The most well-known Portuguese explorer is Vasco da Gama, recognized for his significant voyage from Europe to India by sea.
This journey was pivotal, as it unveiled a new channel for trade and cultural exchange between the continents.
Another key figure in the Age of Discovery was Ferdinand Magellan, who led an expedition to the East Indies, resulting in the first known circumnavigation of the Earth.
Although Magellan didn’t survive the entire journey, his strategic planning and leadership skills led to Portugal achieving this historical milestone.
Bartolomeu Dias was the first European to navigate around the southernmost tip of Africa.
His voyage unlocked a sea route from Europe to Asia, bringing great benefits for European merchants.
And lastly, there’s Pedro Álvares Cabral. He was initially aiming for India, but ended up in Brazil by mistake.
This unforeseen discovery led to Portugal claiming and later colonizing Brazil.
#4. Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo is a legendary football player and Portugal’s most famous athlete, who has achieved immense success and worldwide recognition. He has numerous awards and records to his name, including multiple FIFA titles.
Ronaldo was born into a modest background in the city of Funchal, on the island of Madeira.
He grew up in a working-class family, so his journey from humble beginnings to becoming a global football superstar is inspiring.
Even now, Ronaldo maintains a strong connection to Madeira, owning several properties on the island.
Madeira’s international airport is named after him, and there’s a Ronaldo-themed museum and hotel (CR7) located on the marina in downtown Funchal.
We can’t talk about Ronaldo without also talking about Portugal’s long-standing love of football.
Football holds a special place in Portuguese culture, captivating the nation and igniting passionate support.
The sport has a massive following and plays a central role in the lives of many Portuguese people.
Portugal has several football clubs that elicit fierce rivalries among supporters.
The most prominent are between the “Big Three” clubs: S.L. Benfica, Sporting CP, and FC Porto. Matches between these clubs, known as “derbies,” generate intense excitement among fans.
Portuguese football matches are known for their lively and passionate atmosphere.
Supporters bring colorful flags, banners, and scarves to create a vibrant visual spectacle. Chants, songs, and drumming echo throughout the stadiums, contributing to the electric ambiance.
What’s more, Portugal has produced exceptional football talent, with many Portuguese players (most notably Cristiano Ronaldo) achieving success on both domestic and international stages.
#6. Cork products
Cork production is a significant part of Portugal’s economy and culture, and it’s one of the things Portugal is known for globally.
Cork is harvested from the bark of the cork oak tree, a species that thrives in the Mediterranean climate found in many parts of Portugal.
Portugal is home to around 34% of the world’s cork forests, which provide the raw materials for its flourishing cork industry.
The local cork industry is rooted in sustainability and tradition. Its products are used in many different ways, from wine bottle stoppers to floor tiles. It’s also popular in the fashion industry, for accessories like handbags, wallets, and shoes,
One of the unique things about cork production is the environmentally friendly way it’s carried out.
The process of harvesting cork doesn’t harm the tree. In fact, the bark regrows over time, and can be reharvested every nine years.
This sustainable approach to production has made Portugal’s cork industry an important player in the global drive for more environmentally conscious business practices.
#7. Iconic trams (elétricos)
Lisbon is renowned for its charming and iconic tram network, which has become an emblematic symbol of the city.
The vintage yellow trams traverse Lisbon’s narrow streets, winding through historic neighborhoods and hilly terrain.
The trams have become a beloved mode of transportation and a popular attraction among visitors, capturing the essence and charm of Lisbon’s rich cultural heritage.
The number 28 tram is typically the most popular with tourists.
This historic line dates back to the 1930s and is known for its distinctive yellow trams, wooden interiors, and the nostalgic rattling sound as it navigates Lisbon’s narrow streets and steep hills.
Tram 28 passes by many of Lisbon’s must-see attractions, including São Jorge Castle, the Alfama district, the Baixa neighborhood, and the Estrela Basilica.
The last stop on the route is right by my old apartment, in the Campo de Ourique neighborhood next to the Prazeres cemetery.
#8. Fado music
Next up, let’s talk about Fado, one of Portugal’s best known cultural offerings.
Originating in the early 19th century in the working-class neighborhoods of Lisbon, Fado was traditionally performed in ‘Fado houses’ or ‘Casas de Fado,‘ where people would gather to listen to these soulful tunes while enjoying a meal or a glass of wine.
Today, these Fado houses are still a major part of Portugal’s cultural scene, particularly in Lisbon and Coimbra.
A typical Fado performance involves a singer, or ‘fadista,’ and a couple of musicians playing Portuguese guitars, known as ‘guitarras.’
The guitarras often play a central role in the performance, providing the mournful chords over which the fadista sings.
Fado lyrics are usually about the harsh realities of daily life, unrequited love, and a yearning for better days, expressed with raw emotion and intensity.
Notable Fado performers include Amália Rodrigues, who is often referred to as the ‘Queen of Fado,’ and more contemporary artists like Mariza and Ana Moura, who have brought the genre into the 21st century while staying true to its roots.
#9. Antonio Variações
We’ve talked about fado, now let’s talk about rock.
While Portugal has perhaps always been more famous for its fado than its rock ‘n’ roll, Antonio Variações was one of the latter’s most pioneering figures.
Variações started his career as a barber and quickly became known for his flamboyant and unconventional appearance.
With his androgynous fashion sense, vibrant hairstyles, and theatrical stage presence, he challenged societal norms and pushed boundaries in 1980s Portugal, a deeply conservative era.
Musically, Variações blended elements of pop, rock, new wave, and traditional Portuguese music, creating a sound that was fresh, energetic, and distinctly his own.
His debut album, “Anjo da Guarda,” released in 1983, introduced a new wave of Portuguese music, and his songs became instant hits.
What set Variações apart was his ability to authentically express himself through his lyrics.
His songs often explored themes of love, longing, identity, and the search for freedom. With emotional and heartfelt performances, Variações resonated deeply with audiences. He soon gained a loyal following.
Sadly, Variações’ life was tragically cut short. He passed away on June 13, 1984, at the age of 39, due to complications from AIDS-related pneumonia. Despite his untimely death, his impact on Portuguese music and culture remains profound.
In recent years, António Variações has experienced a resurgence in popularity, with a biographical film released in 2019 titled “Variações.”
The film explores his life, music, and the challenges he faced as an artist during a time of social conservatism.
#10. The Moors
The Moors, who were of Berber and Arab descent, brought with them a rich cultural heritage and left an indelible mark on the architecture, arts, and traditions of the region.
Moorish influences in Portugal trace back to the period of Islamic rule on the Iberian Peninsula, which lasted from the 8th to the 13th centuries.
One of the most iconic examples of Moorish influence in Portugal is the Moorish architecture found in cities like Lisbon and Sintra.
The Moors introduced intricate decorative elements, which can be seen in many historical buildings.
Beyond architecture, the Moors made significant contributions to agriculture and introduced new crops and irrigation systems.
The agricultural practices they brought, such as terracing and water management, played a vital role in transforming arid landscapes into fertile areas.
The cultural exchange between the Moors and the Portuguese people extended beyond architecture and agriculture.
The Moors also brought advancements in mathematics, astronomy, medicine, and literature, contributing to the intellectual development of the region.
#11. The University of Coimbra
Founded way back in 1290, the University of Coimbra holds a distinguished place in the world of academia.
It’s one of the oldest universities in continuous operation worldwide.
Located in the heart of Portugal, in the city of Coimbra, the university has grown from humble origins into a renowned educational institution. It’s a symbol of academic excellence, attracting students from around the globe.
The university campus is steeped in history. From its grand Baroque library, Biblioteca Joanina, filled with ancient texts, to the 12th-century St. Michael’s Chapel with its beautiful azulejos (traditional Portuguese tiles), each corner of the campus is a reminder of its deep-rooted past.
The presence of the university has greatly shaped Coimbra, making it into a vibrant student town.
The students bring energy and diversity into the city, contributing to a lively cultural scene with many different activities and events throughout the year.
#12. Lisbon’s Alfama district
The streets in Alfama are narrow and winding, designed in a time before cars.
They snake their way up and down the hillside, creating an almost labyrinth-like layout with plenty of steep uphill climbs.
That’s all part of Alfama’s charm. It’s a neighborhood that’s meant to be explored on foot, strolling at your own pace and finding hidden gems around each corner.
Alfama is characterized by its colorful houses, often adorned with traditional Portuguese azulejos.
These unique tiles have intricate designs and vibrant colors, plus they tell stories of Portugal’s history and culture. The azulejos are a distinct and beautiful part of Portugal’s architectural heritage.
Alfama is also home to historic landmarks like the Se Cathedral and the Castelo de Sao Jorge, a castle that offers panoramic views over the city and the Tejo River.
All in all, the Alfama district isn’t just a neighborhood. It’s a living, breathing snapshot of Lisbon’s history and culture.
A visit here offers you the chance to slow down, soak up the atmosphere, and experience the traditional side of Lisbon.
#13. Azulejo tiles
These colorful ceramic tiles are more than just eye-catching decorations.
They’re an important part of the country’s architectural fabric, showcasing intricate designs and historical scenes that tell stories of Portugal’s past and present.
Blue is the most common color, but azulejos come in a wide range of colors and patterns.
Some feature geometric designs, while others depict landscapes, religious scenes, or historical events.
Whether they’re adorning the façade of a building, lining the walls of a church, or decorating the interior of a home, azulejos add a unique and beautiful element to any space they inhabit.
Originating from the Arabic word ‘az-zulayj’, which means ‘polished stone’, azulejos first appeared in Portugal in the 15th century, influenced by Moorish culture.
Over time, they became a staple in Portuguese art and architecture.
Azulejos aren’t just used for aesthetic purposes, but also a practical function of temperature control, keeping buildings cool during the hot summer months.
#14. The world’s oldest bookstore
Lisbon’s Livraria Bertrand holds a prestigious title from the Guinness World Records. It’s the world’s oldest bookstore in continuous operation.
The bookshop’s roots go all the way back to 1732. Two brothers, Pedro and João Bertrand, first opened it in a different part of Lisbon.
The bookstore moved to its current location in the Chiado neighborhood following the destructive earthquake of 1755. From that point onwards, it has become one of the city’s enduring landmarks.
Stepping into the Livraria Bertrand is like stepping into a piece of history. It has witnessed many literary trends, seen the rise of renowned authors, and has consistently been a place for book enthusiasts to gather.
Bertrand carries a wide variety of books in several languages, including English, Portuguese, Spanish, and French, spanning all types of genres.
From latest bestsellers to classics, from children’s books to academic texts, there’s a high chance you’ll find what you’re looking for, and maybe even discover new titles to add to your reading list.
Bertrand isn’t just a place to buy books, it’s also a place to talk about them. Over the years, it has regularly hosted events, such as book signings, author meet-and-greets, and literary discussions.
It’s a place where the community comes together to share their passion for reading and writing.
#15. Piri-piri chicken
That’s right, we’re back to food again! This time it’s piri-piri chicken, a standout dish in Portuguese cuisine.
Piri-piri has gained a worldwide reputation for its tantalizing blend of flavors.
It’s a dish that embodies the spirit of Portuguese cooking – simple ingredients, expertly prepared, resulting in a satisfying meal that’s full of character.
The name “piri-piri” comes from the type of chili used in the dish. Also known as African bird’s eye chili, piri-piri is a small but fiery pepper that brings a kick of heat to the dish.
The pepper is combined with other ingredients like garlic, lemon juice, and oil to make a marinade that’s packed with flavor.
The chicken, traditionally a whole bird, is marinated in this mixture for several hours, allowing the flavors to deeply penetrate the meat.
The marinated chicken is then grilled, a cooking method that imparts a smoky flavor and creates a crispy skin while keeping the inside juicy and tender.
Piri-piri has roots in both Africa and Portugal, but the way it’s prepared in Portugal is distinctive.
The emphasis is on the balance of flavors – the heat of the chili, the tanginess of the lemon, the punch of the garlic – all blended together.
#16. The Francesinha
The Francesinha is a classic dish and a big local favorite in Porto.
If you’re a food enthusiast (and not vegetarian!), you’ll want to put this on your list. Be careful though, it’s certainly not one of the healthiest options around.
Bread is the foundation of the Francesinha, but that’s just the starting point.
Inside the sandwich, you’ll find a hefty portion of cured meats like ham and sausage. Steak is usually included as well, making this dish a carnivore’s delight.
The sandwich doesn’t end here though. It’s covered with slices of melted cheese that wrap the sandwich like a gooey blanket.
But what truly sets the Francesinha apart is the beer-based sauce that it’s served with.
Recipes vary, but you can expect a blend of beer and tomatoes, with a few secret ingredients that each restaurant guards closely.
The sauce is poured over the sandwich, adding warmth and complexity to the dish.
It ties together the flavors of the meats and cheese and elevates the Francesinha from a sandwich to a gastronomic experience.
Due to its richness, the Francesinha is often served with a side of fries, which helps balance out the meal.
And since the dish has its roots in the local pub culture, you’ll often find it accompanied by a chilled glass of beer or Porto’s signature drink, vinho verde (green wine).
#17. The Algarve’s beaches
The Algarve, Portugal’s southernmost region, is home to an array of beaches, each offering golden sand, crystal-clear waters, and dramatic cliffs.
The variety on offer is what sets the Algarve’s beaches apart.
From wide sandy stretches that seem to go on forever, to secluded coves surrounded by towering cliffs – you’re sure to find your perfect beach.
But it’s not just the sand that draws visitors. The azure waters along the Algarve coast are known for their exceptional clarity.
They’re perfect for a refreshing swim, a snorkeling adventure, or just dipping your toes in.
The Algarve’s dramatic cliffs add another layer of natural beauty to the scenery. In some places, the elements have sculpted these rocky formations into impressive caves and grottos.
You can take boat tours to explore these hidden gems, giving you a close-up view of the Algarve’s unique geology.
The region is also popular with nature lovers. Many of the beaches are located near nature reserves, providing great opportunities for bird watching and hiking.
#18. Madeira Island
No article on “what is Portugal known for” would be complete without a section on Madeira Island. At least, not if I were the one writing it.
Having moved to Madeira in late 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, this beautiful island will always hold special memories for me.
Known as the “Pearl of the Atlantic,” Madeira is a breathtaking archipelago located in the Atlantic Ocean.
It consists of four islands, but the main attraction, Madeira Island, is a lush, volcanic island with stunning natural landscapes, including dramatic cliffs, verdant mountains, and picturesque valleys.
Madeira offers visitors a ton of outdoor activities, such as hiking along levadas (irrigation channels in the mountainside), exploring the Laurisilva Forest (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), and enjoying breathtaking viewpoints like Pico do Arieiro.
The island is also celebrated for its exquisite Madeira wine, charming coastal villages, and lively festivals, including the world-famous Madeira Carnival.
In Funchal, the capital, you’ll find a vibrant hub of activity. The city’s historic center has charming cobbled streets, colorful buildings, and traditional markets like the Mercado dos Lavradores, where you can find a range of fresh produce, flowers, and local crafts.
Funchal is also a popular stop on many cruise ship itineraries, and during the autumn and winter you’ll find the harbor is brimming with cruise ships.
#19. Madeira wine
We already talked about port, but Madeira wine is yet another delicacy that Portugal is known for.
Madeira wine, produced from grapes grown on the island’s steep terraced vineyards, has a centuries-old tradition and unique aging process.
We can trace the origins of Madeira wine back to the 15th century when the Portuguese began exploring new trade routes. Historians believe that the wine gained its distinctive character by accident.
During long sea voyages, casks of wine were often loaded onto ships to sustain the sailors during their journeys.
The wines, exposed to the heat and movement of the ship, underwent a transformation due to oxidation and high temperatures.
Madeira quickly gained popularity throughout Europe and became a favorite of American colonists. It was even used to toast the signing of the United States Declaration of Independence in 1776.
Today, Madeira wine continues to be produced and appreciated, with several wineries and cellars located across the island.
Visitors can explore wine estates, join guided tours, and participate in tastings to gain a deeper understanding of the wine’s production process and its rich history.
The cellars often showcase a vast array of aged Madeira wines, including rare and prized vintages.
As a visitor, you can explore the cellars and vineyards, tasting a variety of Madeira wines ranging from dry to sweet.
#20. Porto Santo
Porto Santo is a picturesque island located in the Madeira archipelago, just off the coast of mainland Portugal.
The island is renowned for its stunning golden sand beaches that stretch for nine kilometers along the southern coast.
The soft, fine sand is believed to have therapeutic properties, attracting visitors seeking relaxation and well-being.
Porto Santo’s laid-back atmosphere is one of its greatest charms. Unlike the neighboring island of Madeira, Porto Santo is relatively untouched by mass tourism, offering visitors a quieter and more intimate experience.
The island’s natural beauty is showcased in the Porto Santo Nature Reserve, a protected area that encompasses a diverse range of habitats, including sand dunes, salt marshes, and unique plant and animal species.
Porto Santo also holds historical significance as the birthplace of Christopher Columbus’ wife, Filipa Moniz Perestrelo.
Visitors can visit the Columbus House Museum, which displays artifacts and information about the explorer and his connections to the island.
#21. The Azores
Like Madeira, the Azores islands are well-known for their volcanic origins, visible in their mountainous terrain and hot springs. These nine islands were recently featured as the setting for the 2023 Netflix series Turn of the Tide (Rabo de Peixe).
Because of their fertile volcanic soil, the Azores islands are really green.
The landscapes are filled with different shades of green, from the hydrangeas on the roadsides to the pastures where cows graze. The contrast with the blue Atlantic ocean that surrounds the islands makes for some super stunning views.
There’s also a lot of wildlife in the Azores, so it’s a good place if you love nature. You can go hiking, watch birds, or even go on a boat tour to see dolphins and whales.
And if you’re into history or food, you can explore the old towns, check out the local museums, or try some of the local dishes.
Seafood is a big thing here, but you can also find great cheese, butter, wine, and tea (my favorite is the Gorreana green tea, which comes from Europe’s only tea plantation).
The best thing about the Azores is that it’s not as crowded as some other island destinations.
You can enjoy everything the islands have to offer without having to deal with lots of other tourists (as would be the case in Madeira or the Algarve).
#22. Europe’s longest dictatorship (and its peaceful end)
The period from 1926 to 1974 marked a dark chapter in Portuguese history, because of the Estado Novo (New State) dictatorship led by António de Oliveira Salazar.
During the Estado Novo, Portugal experienced widespread censorship, restricted freedom of speech, and limited political participation.
The regime favored rural and traditional values, while suppressing urban development and stifling cultural expression.
This period of autocratic rule deeply impacted Portuguese society, leading to political repression and economic stagnation.
But discontent with the regime began to grow, fueled by Portugal’s colonial wars in Africa, which drained resources and resulted in the loss of human lives.
The Estado Novo’s grip on power started to weaken as opposition movements gained momentum.
The turning point came on April 25, 1974, with the Carnation Revolution (Revolução dos Cravos).
It was a peaceful military coup initiated by left-wing military officers known as the Armed Forces Movement (Movimento das Forças Armadas).
The revolution was named from the symbolic act of placing carnations in the muzzles of soldiers’ rifles as a sign of peace.
The Carnation Revolution quickly gained popular support. Civilians took to the streets in large numbers to celebrate and demand democratic reforms. The peaceful takeover led to the fall of the regime and Portugal’s transition to democracy.
The revolution brought significant changes to Portugal, including democratic institutions, a new constitution, and free elections.
Political exiles and prisoners were released, and freedom of expression and civil liberties were restored.
The newly-formed democratic government soon embarked on an ambitious program of social and economic reforms to modernize the country and promote European integration.
Portugal joined the European Union in 1985.
#23. Decriminalization of all drugs
In 2001, Portugal made a groundbreaking and progressive move – decriminalizing the possession and use of all drugs.
Under the new law, possession and use of drugs for personal consumption were no longer considered criminal offenses.
Instead, individuals found with small quantities of drugs would face administrative penalties, such as fines, mandatory health assessments, and referrals to treatment or support services.
The aim of this policy shift was to address drug addiction as a public health issue rather than a criminal offense.
It aimed to remove the stigma and barriers that often prevent individuals from seeking help, plus freeing up law enforcement resources to target drug trafficking and organized crime.
Portugal’s approach has become a notable example of harm reduction and drug policy reform.
Since the policy began, Portugal has witnessed a significant decrease in rates of drug-related deaths, HIV infections, and drug-related crimes.
What’s more, the number of people seeking treatment for drug addiction has increased, as individuals feel more comfortable accessing support services without fear of legal repercussions.
It’s important not to confuse decriminalization with legalization.
The possession and use of drugs for personal consumption are no longer treated as criminal offenses, but the production, sale, and distribution of drugs are still illegal in Portugal.
#24. The Golden Visa
The Portuguese government launched the Golden Visa program in October 2012, with the goal of attracting inward investment to reinvigorate the Portuguese economy after the 2008 financial crisis.
The program was a resounding success, raising billions in funds for Portugal, while granting EU residency to over 10,000 investors.
Unlike most other golden visa programs, and residencies in general, Portugal’s program allows investors a lot of freedom, as it only requires them to spend around 7 days per year actually in-country.
So far, the program has attracted thousands of investors and provided a significant boost to the Portuguese economy.
Investors can choose from one of many routes, including real estate, investment funds and capital transfer.
Chinese citizens have been the main adopters of the program, followed by Brazilians, South Africans, Turkish and Russians.
On February 16, 2023, the Portuguese government announced its intention to cancel the Portugal Golden Visa program.
However, as of September 2023, the program remains in place under the existing rules. It’s still possible to apply for any of the investment options.
Sintra, a town on Portugal’s coast near Lisbon, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It feels like it’s been lifted straight out of a storybook.
One of Sintra’s defining features is its assortment of castles and palaces.
For example, the Pena Palace is a whimsical creation perched high on a hill. Its vibrant colors and unique architecture are a sight to behold and a favorite among photographers.
The Moorish Castle, with its stone walls and towers, offers panoramic views over the town and surrounding countryside.
Sintra is also home to several palaces, including the National Palace of Sintra, with its two massive white chimneys.
Inside, you’ll find ornate rooms and stunning tile work, which give you a peek into the town’s royal past.
Another must-visit, the Quinta da Regaleira, is a grand house surrounded by gardens dotted with grottoes, wells, and other ornate structures.
Beyond the impressive architecture, Sintra has plenty of natural beauty to draw in visitors.
The town is nestled in the Sintra Mountains and surrounded by Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, which presents many opportunities for hiking and exploring.
#26. Digital nomads
Whether for better or for worse, Portugal (and especially Lisbon) is becoming synonymous with digital nomad culture.
People mainly in their 20s and 30s working from coffee shops with laptops have become a common sight all over Lisbon.
The digital nomad movement is also on the rise on the island of Madeira.
Portugal’s appealing combination of vibrant cities, affordable cost of living, pleasant climate, and a welcoming atmosphere has made it an attractive hub for this growing community.
Major cities have seen a surge in co-working spaces catering to the needs of digital nomads.
Portugal’s high quality of life is a significant draw for digital nomads.
The country offers a favorable work-life balance, with a relaxed and friendly culture, vibrant arts and culture scene, and a strong focus on well-being.
What’s more, Portugal has fostered a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem, with support networks, incubators, and startup communities that encourage innovation and collaboration.
Digital nomads with entrepreneurial ambitions can tap into this ecosystem, connect with local professionals, and explore business opportunities in Portugal.
Various meetups – such as the weekly Lisbon Digital Nomads meetup – and co-working initiatives provide opportunities for networking, knowledge sharing, and socializing with like-minded individuals.
These communities help foster a sense of belonging and provide valuable support for digital nomads settling into Portuguese life.
Portugal also offers several residency visa options that cater to digital nomads, making it easier for them to legally reside and work in the country.
#27. Nazaré (and surfing)
Nazaré, a coastal town in Portugal, has caught the world’s attention for a phenomenon that thrills adrenaline seekers – its gigantic waves.
The town, once a quaint fishing village with a beautiful sandy beach, has now turned into a world-class surfing destination.
What’s the secret behind Nazaré’s giant waves?
It all comes down to a deep underwater canyon, known as the Nazaré Canyon, that funnels the Atlantic swell towards the shore.
This canyon, one of the deepest in Europe, creates the perfect conditions for mammoth waves that can reach around 100 feet in height during peak season.
Surfers from all corners of the globe now flock to Nazaré, especially during the winter months, to ride these monster waves.
They include some of the most accomplished names in big wave surfing, chasing the thrill and the challenge that Nazaré’s waves present.
The town also retains much of its traditional charm, with its picturesque lighthouse and the cliff-top neighborhood of Sítio offering breathtaking views over the beach and the Atlantic Ocean.
For those who prefer to watch the action from the shore, there’s nothing quite like seeing the spectacle of a surfer riding a towering Nazaré wave.
#28. Livraria Lello
Livraria Lello, situated in the heart of Porto, is far more than just a bookstore.
It’s an architectural marvel and a paradise for both book lovers and history enthusiasts. Its iconic status and stunning design make it one of Porto’s most celebrated landmarks.
As you enter, one of the first things you’ll notice is the grand staircase.
This stunning, curvaceous stairway, made from richly polished wood, dominates the interior. It splits into two as it ascends, creating a dramatic effect and making it a focal point of the bookstore.
Equally captivating is Livraria Lello’s Art Nouveau architecture.
Every detail, from the stained glass skylight to the ornate bookshelves and intricate ceiling carvings, reflects the finesse of this artistic style.
Another reason for Livraria Lello’s global fame is its link to J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series.
Rowling lived in Porto during the 1990s, and it’s said that she was a regular visitor to Livraria Lello.
Many believe that the bookstore’s unique interior served as inspiration for some of the magical locations in her Harry Potter books, notably the Hogwarts Library and the Flourish and Blotts bookshop.
#29. Estoril Casino
The Estoril Casino is one of Europe’s largest casinos and a prominent symbol of sophistication and upscale entertainment.
What makes Estoril Casino particularly attractive is its size and wide array of entertainment options.
You can find a large selection of table games like blackjack, poker, and roulette, alongside an impressive array of slot machines.
Beyond the gambling, Estoril Casino has made a name for itself as a destination for entertainment.
It houses an auditorium that regularly hosts national and international performances, ranging from concerts to ballets to theater shows.
The casino is also home to several restaurants and bars, which adds another layer of experience for visitors.
You can grab a drink at one of the stylish bars or enjoy a meal at a restaurant. The offerings range from casual to fine dining, so you can choose based on your mood and preferences.
There’s one intriguing piece of trivia that links Estoril Casino with the world of espionage and international intrigue. The casino is known to have served as inspiration for Ian Fleming, the creator of the iconic spy James Bond.
At the time, Fleming was a British naval intelligence officer during World War II. He was reportedly fascinated by the mix of glamour, danger, and tension that he experienced at the casino.
Many people speculate that his first James Bond novel, “Casino Royale”, was inspired by his time in Estoril.
#30. World War Two neutrality and spies
Portugal joined forces with the Allies in the First World War, but decided to remain neutral throughout the second.
This decision was guided by several factors. Firstly, António de Oliveira Salazar, Prime Minister from 1932 to 1968, played a crucial role.
Salazar was determined to keep Portugal out of the war to preserve its independence and protect its overseas colonies.
But Portugal’s policy of neutrality didn’t mean complete disengagement from wartime events. Portugal continued to trade with both Axis and Allied powers.
In particular, its decision to sell wolfram (tungsten ore) to both sides drew criticism, but the revenue generated from these sales was a great benefit to Portugal’s economy.
Also, Portugal’s strategic location on the Atlantic Ocean made it a crucial player during the conflict.
The far-flung Azores, part of Portuguese territory, were leased to the Allies, providing a critical air and naval base in the Atlantic.
Portugal also served as an escape route for thousands of refugees fleeing the Nazi regime, including many Jews.
Despite strict immigration policies, several Portuguese consulates, particularly the one in Bordeaux under the direction of Aristides de Sousa Mendes, issued thousands of visas to those escaping persecution.
As the capital of neutral Portugal, Lisbon quickly became a hotbed of espionage activity.
Many spies from both sides were stationed in Lisbon, spying on each other and jostling for information via a range of clandestine methods – from code-breaking to secret meetings.
Lisbon’s hotels, casinos, and cafes often served as the backdrop for these activities.
This unique situation made Lisbon a real-life setting for the type of intrigue and mystery usually found in spy thrillers.
Historically, bacalhau (salted codfish) has played a significant role in Portugal, dating back to the Age of Discovery when Portuguese sailors embarked on long sea voyages.
The preservation of cod through salting gave sailors a reliable source of food during their long journeys.
As a result, bacalhau became a staple in Portuguese cuisine and remains highly valued to this day.
Some popular dishes include Bacalhau à Brás (shredded cod with eggs, onions, and potatoes), Bacalhau com Natas (codfish gratin with cream), Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá (a casserole with codfish, potatoes, onions, and eggs), and Bacalhau à Lagareiro (grilled codfish with roasted potatoes and olive oil).
Bacalhau is not only cherished for its taste but also holds cultural significance in Portugal.
It’s a common feature on holiday tables, especially during Christmas Eve and Easter. These festive occasions often bring families together to enjoy a bacalhau meal.
Different regions of Portugal have their own unique bacalhau preparations.
Each region brings its own culinary traditions and interpretations to the table, from the hearty Bacalhau à Minhota in the north to the flavorful Bacalhau à Alentejana in the south.
In the town of Ílhavo, near Aveiro, an annual Bacalhau Festival is held to celebrate this culinary gem.
The festival includes various bacalhau dishes, cooking demonstrations, and cultural activities.