- One way to experience Portugal like a local is by walking to most of your destinations.
- You’ll also want to taste a variety of cuisines, including some Portuguese favourites.
- When travelling, you’ll want to wear comfortable shoes.
Portugal is full of delicious food, stunning beaches, tiny and charming streets, colourful building, and tons of history.
Here are some tips for experiencing the country for your first time.
Walk to as many places as possible.
Whether you’re in Porto, Lisbon, or another part of the country, Portugal is full of interesting narrow streets, beautiful buildings, and gorgeous views.
The best way to experience all of it is to walk everywhere you go – it allows you to really see everything that you might miss when zooming around in a taxi. You’ll notice that many locals walk to most places as well.
Try local foods like francesinha and cod.
No matter where you go, take advantage of the incredibly fresh seafood, especially codfish (or “bacalhau”), which is basically, as Culture Trip describes it, “a national obsession.” You’ll notice it on the menu almost anywhere you go in Portugal.
If you’re in Porto, you should try the francesinha, one of the most typical dishes of the city. It’s a fairly large sandwich: layered in between two slices of bread is steak, ham, sausage, and chorizo, then it’s covered in melted cheese and drizzled with a spicy tomato-based sauce. It’s also usually topped with a fried egg.
Be sure to try other cuisines, too.
You should absolutely eat Portuguese cuisine while in Portugal, but the city also offers plenty of other cuisines. Cities like Porto are known for their gastronomy, with some dubbing it the gastronomic “grand dame” of Europe.
Use a Porto or Lisbon card to get around.
No matter how authentic you want your experience to be, if you’re in Portugal for the first time, you’re probably going to want to check out some popular tourist spots. If you’re staying in Lisbon or Porto, be sure to pick up a Lisboa Card or a Porto Card right away.
These are city passes that give you free or discounted admission to lots of major museums, sights, and tours, as well as free transportation on the Metro, public buses, the trams, the funiculars, and some trains.
Get used to the meal times.
Portugal is authentically European, meaning that their meal times may be different than what you’re used to if you’re from somewhere like the US or Canada. Although you might be used to eating lunch around noon, many Portuguese people eat lunch around 1 p.m or later.
Most restaurants (and stores) in Portugal close around 3 p.m. and don’t reopen until 7:30 p.m. But if you go out that early, expect there to be few crowds – most locals don’t eat dinner until around 8:30 p.m. or 9 p.m.
Make sure you have euro on you.
If you were thinking you would pay for everything with a credit card, think again, especially if you’re visiting Porto: a lot of places only accept cash in the form of euro and that includes restaurants.
Take advantage of affordable wine and beer.
If you love to drink, then you’ll probably love Portugal. The country is known for producing fantastic wines and much of the alcohol is quite affordable.
If you’re in Porto, be sure to check out some of the places that feature low-priced beers, like Espaco 77. You might also want to try port wine, a sweet dessert wine that originated from and is made in Porto.
Wear comfortable shoes in anticipation of cobblestones.
One of the most charming things about cities like Lisbon and Porto is that they feature old cobblestone streets, but these can make walking around in any kind of heel extremely difficult.
Be sure to pack comfortable shoes in anticipation of the cobblestone streets.
Enjoy pastel de nata.
One of the best parts of Portuguese cuisine is all of the super sweet pastries and desserts that even locals indulge in on a regular basis. Probably the most popular one is pastel de nata, a small egg tart pastry made of a creamy custard in a flaky crust. Pasteis de nata are enjoyed any time of day.
According to Eater, the recipe dates back to the 16th century when sweets were made by nuns in convents.
Be careful about your belongings.
Lisbon is a beautiful city with so much to offer, but it’s important to be aware that there is a pretty big pickpocketing issue in Lisbon – even some hotels will warn you about it before you head out for the day.
This shouldn’t deter you from visiting, but it should encourage you to be mindful of your belongings. Keep your bag close and in front of you rather than behind you and remember to be aware of your surroundings.
Avoid comparing the country to Spain while you’re there.
According to Matador Network, Portuguese people generally do not like being compared to Spanish people, or Spain in general, and they really hate to be reminded of all the attention Spain gets over Portugal. Try not to compare the two while you’re there.
Be mindful of what you’re wearing.
Like much of Europe, Portugal is a country where people go out dressed nicely. Locals typically don’t walk around in sweatpants or super casual clothing.
According to Expatica, the Portuguese dress relatively conservatively, with women mainly wearing skirts or dresses and men in business casual jackets and ties. You don’t need to get totally dressed up to walk around, but dressing up a bit could help you to embrace the culture during your trip.
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