Interesting Cities to Visit in Portugal
Lisbon is the capital of Portugal and the country’s largest city. One of Lisbon’s claims to fame is that it’s the sunniest capital city in Europe. In Lisbon you’ll find the city bursting with color, and each turn down a winding hilly street you’ll find another ornately-decorated façade covered in azulejo tilework. When you’re tired from wandering the winding streets of Alfama and Barrio Alto, pop into a pastelaria, where you’ll find rows of sweet little egg tarts called pasteis de nata — which just might be the most amazing thing you’ll taste on all of your Portugese adventures.
Porto is Portugal’s second largest city and is to the birthplace of the world-famous port wine. Travellers looking for an authentic Portuguese flair, buildings covered in azulejos, lush beaches within a 10-minute ride, and amazing views cannot miss Porto. Make sure to experience the old quarter of the city, the Ribeira District. The district is filled with walkable streets lined with restaurants, shops and galleries, and is particularly lovely in the early evening.
Faro is the capital city of the southernmost Algarve region of Portugal. While Faro is quieter than its larger siblings, it’s known for access to beautiful beaches, stunning national parks, and winding city streets lined with cafes that turns into vibrant nightlife after sunset.
Interesting Attractions to Visit in Portugal
Lagos is a small beach town, known for its Instagram-famous walled old town, cliffs and Atlantic beaches. Visually stunning, the steep wooden steps leading down to the sandy cove of Praia do Camilo are one of the most beautiful sights in Western Europe — only to be rivaled by the nearby cliffs of Ponta de Piedade and its lighthouse with sweeping views.
In the middle of the Atlantic, the Azores are an archipelago made up of 9 volcanic islands. They’re often compared to the Hawaiian Islands because of their similar natural beauty and emphasis on giant sweeping waterfalls and gorgeous beaches. While the islands each have their own unique characteristics, they are all amazing for outdoor activities and water-based fun.
While wine tourism is dominated by the vineyards of France, Italy and Spain, Portugal’s wine selection is nothing to pass over. Because of Portugal’s history of political and social isolation from the trinity of wine countries, they were forced to develop their own wine-making techniques and grape varietals. While Port is the most famous wine from Portugal, a glass of vinho verde is nearly mandatory when visiting. The "green wine" is created from young unripe grapes grown on the cooler slopes of northwest Portugal. The grapes are harvested before their peak, resulting in a unique acidic and floral wine. If you’d rather stick to the classics, Portugal’s Douro Valley is where most of the wineries producing port are located.
In Sintra you’ll find Pena Palace, which was designed in bright red and yellow hues and makes a lasting impression. It’s one of the most unique palaces in Europe, with its intricate tile work, vivid primary colors, and sprawling views.
Experiencing Portuguese Food
It will come as no surprise that in a country with this much coastline, seafood dominates much of the culinary scene. Cod is certainly a favorite — especially the bolinhos de bacalhau, or little balls of cod. Made by frying cod, potatoes, onions and parsley, these cod balls are super easy to find. If fried food isn’t for you, look for the many fish and shellfish options cooked straight in the grill. This cooking style utilizes simple seasonings, allowing the seafood to be the star.
Cured meats meats and rich cheeses are also an important part of the culture. Finding places that offer charcuterie boards with wine pairings make for blissful afternoons. Portugal being the land of meat and fish can make things challenging for vegetarians and vegans alike. In most cases the Portugese come from “the more meat the better’’ camp. That’s not to say it is impossible to travel there while vegan, just go into it knowing you’ll have to plan ahead.
The Time Out Market Lisbon is a can’t-beat culinary experience in the heart of the city. Some of Lisbon’s finest chefs have come together to run this upscale food hall. The recommendation is to go hungry and order each course from a different vendor.
Tips and Safety Considerations for LGBTQ+ Visitors to Portugal
Portugal as a country is incredibly LGBTQ+ friendly from both a cultural and legal perspective. Marriage equality, LGBTQ+ adoption, and nondiscrimination policies have been the law of the land for many years. LGBTQ+ travelers will experience respect and should run into very few issues related to their identity. That being said, in more rural and remote areas, expect to see a heavy Catholic influence and be mindful of the country’s religious roots.
LGBTQ+ Travel Tips and Events
PRIDE IN LISBON AND PORTO
Officially known as Arraial Lisboa Pride, Pride in Lisbon is a two-day event in late June starting with the parade and finishing with roaring street festivals and parties. Pride in Porto, while much smaller than Pride in Lisbon, is still a great occasion for the community to come together in solidarity and celebration of the community. Generally, Pride in Porto is held the first week in July — which means you can celebrate back to back Pride in both cities on your summer visit to Portugal.
LASGETS QUEER FILM FESTIVAL: QUEER LISBOA
Queer Lisboa and Queer Porto are two film festivals dedicated to international LGBTQ+ cinema. The festivals are dedicated to elevating films with LGBTQ+ themes, or subjects or aesthetics related to gender, identities or bodies related to the queer experience. The festivals take place each year in September and October.
Lindsay Cale is a down to earth thrill seeker who values the simple things in life. Lindsay and her wife Meg run the number one lesbian travel blog, DopesontheRoad.com. They create marketing campaigns and conduct professional development training for brands working with the LGBTQ+ community. Together, they also serve as consultants for best practices in LGBTQ+ marketing campaigns. Lindsay maintains the day-to-day operations of the site and focuses heavily on the visual side of their work. They are also the international brand ambassadors for Contiki. Since starting DotR in 2013, They have visited 55 countries, appeared on red carpets, and had their blog read by more than a million people. Follow her on Instagram @LindsCale
Featured image by @yoshiandray via Instagram