This blog post was updated on July 12, 2021.
Every June 10th, Portugal, and those who have fallen in love with the small nation in Europe, celebrate Portugal Day. The day commemorates the death of Luís de Camões, revered Portuguese poet. The significant Portuguese figure famously penned Lusiadas, a poem that highlighted the golden age of the country’s exploration and discovery. If you have never been to Portugal and need a few reasons to sway you to that side of the Atlantic, here are a few favorite Portugal offerings.
While those tiles at your home improvement store wouldn’t inspire any sort of awe and wonder, Portugal’s tiles do. A big part of Portuguese architecture, tiles adorn houses, churches, palaces, buildings, train stations and even metro tunnels. Tiles became a part of the country’s makeup in the late 15th century but it wasn’t until the 18th century that Portugal saw the widespread use of its classic blue and white tiles. While you can appreciate Portugal’s tiles all over the country, from Porto to Lisbon, the National Tile Museum in Lisbon is a good place to start your appreciation. The museum details five centuries of decorative ceramic tiles, called azulejos. Visitors can trace the history and production of these stunning artistic additions, integral pieces of Portugal’s puzzle.
If you wander the streets of Lisbon’s Alfama neighborhood, you are bound to hear fado, a type of Portuguese music and song. The expressive Portuguese offering is also the country’s most famous music. Just like with Lisbon’s Tile Museum, you can learn even more about this intangible World Heritage addition at the Fado Museum in Lisbon. There are also many designated fado cafes in Portugal where you can hear the real thing.
Portugal might be a small country, but it packs in the punch with several compelling islands to visit. If you are trying to stick closer to shore, you can head to the Berlengas Archipelago just off the coast. Easily reachable from the mainland, the island group provides a fine place to swim and see Portugal’s sea life. In addition, yet further out in the Atlantic is the Azores. The group of nine islands lends a variety of landscapes and volcanic scenery. With its otherworldly settings, some legends believe the Azores were once the lost city of Atlantis.
Portugal’s wine offerings often get swept under the rug when compared to French and Italian wines in Europe. However, the country is home to the world’s oldest wine region. Officially demarcated in 1756, the Douro Valley boasts a bit of a secret wine destination. While known for its ports, wine aficionados are starting to recognize the Portuguese wine region. Portugal also boasts a large variety of grapes. Visitors can sip on many indigenous and not widely grown grapes when compared to its European neighbors.