A lot can be said of living in a country like Portugal. You could talk for hours about the beautiful nature and the awesome architecture displayed in most buildings you’d find there. The country is also extremely rich in culture and history, and you’d find yourself completely immersed in their habits and traditions after just a little while. While Portugal is a popular tourist destination in Europe, it certainly can’t compare with much more sought after countries like France or Germany. Yet, with the hundreds of thousands of tourists that pour into the country every year to explore its richness and beauty, there are still plenty of misconceptions about the country. It could be possible because many people’s information about the country is the fact that it gave us “Cristiano Ronaldo.”
Whether you like the country for the athletes it gave us or its breathtaking nature, there are some myths and conceptions that you need to get off your head before visiting the country.
They speak Spanish
The people of Portugal don’t speak Spanish; the Speak Portuguese. While there are similarities between the 2 languages, there are enough difference between Portuguese and Spanish for them to be considered separate languages. The pronunciation is where you’ll find plenty of differences, for the most part.
English is not widely spoken
Another misconception that surprisingly many people have is assuming that English is not widely spoken in Portugal, which is definitely a mistake. This might even lead some people to change travel plans in fear they might not be able to deal with locals because they don’t know a word of English. In fact, locals understand more English than you would imagine. English is taught at schools at a very young age. So, don’t worry about being stuck in an awkward situation just because you can’t speak the language. Whether it’s Lisbon or any other city in Portugal, odds are you’ll find someone –– that doesn’t necessarily work as a tour guide –– who can speak and communicate in English with you just fine.
The cuisine is bad
People in Portugal love food. Whether we’re talking steak, fish, veggies, cheese, or anything else, you’ll definitely find someone to help you indulge in your culinary conquest. The Portuguese cuisine is also renowned for relying on healthy ingredient; yes, they like to eat healthy there. Some people make the mistake of thinking the Portuguese cuisine is bad; it actually is quite good. It’s well known for several delicious dishes.
These are some of the tastiest plates you could have in Portugal.
- Alheira- this is a type of sausage and one of the trademarks of the Portuguese cuisine. It’s also amongst the cheapest and most available dishes you could find at any street corner. It even has a very interesting backstory. The Jews in Portugal in the late 14th century were forced to either convert to Christianity or practice their religion in secret. One of the most common things to do back then was to hang sausages usually made of pork. They started making alheira from other types of meat like veal, duck, chicken, and so on, to avoid anyone suspecting they were eating kosher.
- Bacalhau- this plate means cod (a type of fish) and it’s more than a national dish. It’s the dish the Portuguese hold in such high regard, they even name it “the loyal friend.” It’s one of the tastiest dishes you could eat in Portugal and is made by adding onions, eggs, olives, and chips to cod, or a million other different recipe.
- Francesinha- this one’s for the serious eaters. It’s made of bread that has ham, steak, sausage, cheese, tomato, and occasionally beer sauce.
Now, go try these dishes and tell us how bad the Portuguese cuisine is!
The sea is ice cold
Yes, there is the occasional cold breathe when you’re swimming in the sea and you’re not exactly swimming in the Mediterranean. However, despite the cold, it’s actually much warmer than plenty of other places like taking a swim in a London beach or something. The average temperature is around 21 Celsius, so it’s not that bad really. Yet, the further north you go, the colder it gets. So it’s advisable to get a wet suit if you’re going swimming that far.
There’s not much to do but go the beach and play golf
Yes, the beaches in Portugal are a major attraction, and thousands of tourists come every year to visit them. This is probably because the beaches in Portugal are world renowned for their beautiful scenery, gorgeous weather, and excellent water to swim in. yet, there’s much more than that to do in Portugal. The architecture in Portugal is beyond amazing. The museums are a history-buff’s dream come true. There are historic castles that’d make you feel like you’re living in a motion picture instead of real life. Also, the wildlife in Portugal is a marvel to behold. There are plenty of parks, reserves, nature parks, and wonderful landscapes.
These are some of the places you could visit in Portugal.
- Biscainhos Museum- also known as The Residence of Biscainhos, this museum is a seigneurial residence located in Braga.
- Sacred Art Museum- this museum is part of the Braga cathedral in Braga. It is home to different treasures and precious items like clothing from 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, religious artefacts, and gold and silver objects.
- Lisbon Astronomical Observatory- this is an astronomical observatory located in Lisbon and is an architectural masterpiece.
- Beau-Séjour Palace- this is a 19th century Portuguese manor-house in Benfica.
- Electricity Museum- this is a cultural centre focusing on the evolution of energy. They host workshops, exhibits, and cultural events.
- Ephemeral Museum- this is the first ephemeral art museum in the world and it’s located in Lisbon.
- National Archaeology Museum- this is the largest archaeological museum in Portugal and one of the most significant ones in the world that is focused on ancient art. It’s in Lisbon.
- Litoral Norte Natural Park- this gorgeous park overlooks the Atlantic. This natural park has a strange mixture of sand and green and it’s the very definition of ‘untamed nature’
- Alvao Natural Park- if you Google the pictures of this park, you’ll feel like you’re looking at a fake picture. It’s so beautiful and serene that you will want to spend an entire day there. Picture rocky hills, waterfalls, and lots of green
- Douro International Natural Park- another piece of nature that feels taken out of a cinematic universe, this park is on the borders with Spain. You’d find there a river cutting a path between giant mountains and cliffs, and you’ll get to watch the gorgeous scenery from above.
Still think there’s not much to do in Portugal? This is but a taste of the many things you could end up doing in this wonderful country. By the end of your Portugal trip, you’ll want a Lisbon real estate or a studio in Porto.
Portugal is underdeveloped
There is some truth to Portugal being a little bit less developed than its neighbouring European countries, mostly in rural areas. But that doesn’t mean it’s all peasants and axes. If you think about, it’s simply genuine and authentic. Who wants more cities and skyscrapers in the countryside? Portugal is actually more sophisticated than you could possibly imagine. It doesn’t have talking robots (Japan style), but it’s a modern, yet authentic city. There are a few places in the world where you’d get that feeling of authenticity and yet modern day vibe. A wine and dine night in Portugal is something taking out of a romance flick or a novel. Picture yourself have a stroll on stone cobbles in a beautiful, archaic city with locals passing you by. It’d probably be the best meal you ever had in your life.
They all listen to Fado
If you’re unfamiliar with the term, Fado is a type of music that originated in Lisbon a couple of hundred years ago. And it’s considered the soul of Portugal. It’s the people’s music and it has been popular for them for so many years. Yet, not everyone enjoys this type of music. In fact, you’re sure to stumble upon plenty of locals who’d rather enjoy some pop or rock tunes. So, if you find yourself in Portugal and you stumbled upon some Fado music and didn’t enjoy it, don’t give up. Chances are you’d find some awesome music playing somewhere else.
Algarve is just about golf courses
The Algarve is an area in the southernmost region of Portugal. It’s known for the golf courses and Atlantic beaches. Some people make the mistake of assuming the area only has golf courses and that’s pretty much all you can do. There’s actually much more to do. All you need to do is escape the crowd and go the edges. You’ll find some awesome fishing villages where you could get your sailor act on. There are also some of the world’s most beautiful beaches in that area.
There’s lack of culture
Maybe your entire experience in Portugal consisted of staying at 4-star hotels and playing golf in your free time. This can lead to the misconception that this is what Portugal is all about. The country is so much more than that. The castles alone on Portugal are worth the plane ticket. This is a country that is proud of its heritage and legacy, and works hard to maintain it. You can quite easily really get the real Portugal experience; you just need to look in the right places. These are some of the cool castles you could visit while in the country to get a feel on how Portugal came to be.
- National Palace of Pena- this is probably the most well known castle in all of Portugal. It has an amazingly colourful exterior that you could see from much afar. It was first then a monastery and then it was turned into a castle. If you find yourself in Portugal, do yourself a favour and go check the National Palace of Pena. It’s so well designed that you could see it from any of the surrounding gardens or forests, resting on a hilltop.
- Castle of the Moors- Over a thousand years old, the Castle of the Moors is one of the oldest preserved castles in Portugal and the world. You can find it on a steep hill in the forests, surrounded by an erect wall. You could see from the castle a breathtaking view of the forest and the Atlantic.
- Guimarães Castle- this one is considered to be one of the most important medieval fortresses in all of Portugal. Its design is not something you see every day. The walls are built in the shape of a pentagram with eight towers. It was built in the 10th century and was home to the father of the first king of Portugal.
Tomar Castle: ever heard of the Knights Templar? Well, this castle once belonged to them. It’s also a convent that dates back all the way to the 12th century. It was built at first to hold back the Arab attacks hundreds of years ago.
This is only a brief glimpse of some of the magnificent castles and fortresses you can find in Portugal and the history behind them. The country’s culture and history and so rich and diverse that you won’t have time to visit all cultural hubs out there. You could spend weeks just going from one corner of the country to another, and in each you’d find something interesting to learn and something cool to see. So, the next time you find a person telling you Portugal doesn’t have culture, just laugh silently and walk away.
Portugal isn’t Paris or Berlin or Prague, and more importantly it doesn’t try to be. Its personality is so unique and special, words can’t do it right. You’ll hear plenty of stuff said about the country from people who visited briefly or didn’t have enough knowledge to make use of their visits. Don’t let that deter you. If you do end up going there, it’d be the experience of your life.