Portugal Panorama Photo

Guide to Portugal

Where is Portugal?

Portugal is a European country located on the Iberian Peninsula to the west of Spain. Therefore it shares a border to the east with Spain and the western coast flanks the Atlantic Ocean. Portugal is also the most westerly country in Europe and two archipelagos of islands in the Atlantic Ocean – Madeira and the Azores.

What is Portugal?

During the 15th and 16th centuries Portugal had a massive empire based on their maritime exploration which comprised of countries worldwide including large nations in South America and Africa. Of course one of the largest Portuguese colonies was Brazil, and there is still a close connection between the two countries to this day. A major event in Portuguese history was the 1755 Lisbon earthquake which destroyed much of the city’s progress up to that time. Up until 1974 Portugal was one of the poorest countries in Europe but a change of leadership at the time led to increased prosperity. Today Portugal is one of the most developed countries in the world and is a member of the European Union.

Why go to Portugal?

Portugal is easily accessed from the rest of Europe by cheap flights and it is possible to drive there as well. The country is a favourite with European holidaymakers because it is so cheap and usually enjoys excellent weather. Many of those tourists are golfers who are aware that Portugal was voted the best golfing destination in the world in 2008. There is also a wealth of history and culture in its cities and towns as Portugal has been occupied ever since prehistoric time. The Portuguese terrain is also very varied terrain and offers everything from beaches and deserts to forest covered mountains. The south of Portugal has a very pleasant climate with average yearly temperatures of 18 degrees Celsius. 

Who lives in Portugal?

There are more than 10 and a half million people in Portugal. 96% of them are Portuguese and that includes over 30% of legal immigrants from countries such as Cape Verde and Brazil. Many of the other immigrants are from Eastern Europe and there are also around 100,000 black Africans. The majority of people in Portugal are Roman Catholics.

How do you get into Portugal

All EU members can get into Portugal. It is a member of the Schengen agreement but there are border controls between the UK, Ireland, Bulgaria, Cyprus and Romania. A number of visa requirements may apply to other countries. Furthermore nationals of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro need a biometric passport to enjoy visa-free travel.

1) By Air
Flying into Portugal is always cheap from the rest of Europe with lots of low cost flights. You can also fly to Philadelphia in America with US Airways. The main airport in the capital is Lisbon/Portela and there are also major airports at Porto, Faro, Madeira and the Azores Islands. The national carrier is TAP Portugal.

2) By Land 
There is a direct train to Lisbon from the Spanish capital Madrid, to Porto from Vigo and to Vilar Formoso from Spain, France and other parts of Europe. Otherwise the rail network is limited so you may wish to drive or take a bus. Hitchhiking is not advised in Portugal. ALSA and Auto Res buses connect Spain and Portugal as well. For more information on driving in Portugal check our Drive Smart Portugal Page.

3) By Sea
Because Portugal has a large coastline its ports receive boats from many foreign countries including the UK and Brazil. However most UK travellers will take a ferry to one of the French or Spanish ports and drive the rest of the way to Portugal.


What to do in Portugal

Visit the amazing Algarve coastline with secluded beaches tucked between inviting coves.

Play a round of golf, Portugal is considered one of the world’s top golfing locations with great courses under amazing blue skies.

Go for a romantic weekend in Lisbon, an attractive city built on seven hills which overlooks the Atlantic Ocean.

One of the most eye-catching Lisbon landmarks is the Belem Tower which is an example of the Manueline style of architecture.

is also a picture-perfect island with a stunning botanical garden, cable cars over the capital of Funchal and a high volcanic peak which rises above the clouds.

What to do in Portugal

Aveiro is known as the Venice of Portugal because of its charming architecture and canals which wind through this watery city.

Do business in the northern industrial city of Porto and take some time out from your meetings to see the UNESCO Heritage Listed city centre. Take in the Estoril Coast and the spectacular Royal Castle of Sintra.

This amazing Moorish Castle stretches across the mountains. Viano do Castelo is a very attractive municipality to visit because of its Romanesque and Renaissance architecture including a number of grand churches.

Beautiful Algarve Beach

Algarve Beach

Aveiro - the "Venice of Portugal"

Aveiro in Portugal

Visiting Portugal?
Check out our Top Ten Things to do?


Quick facts
Government  Parliamentary Republic
Prime Minister  José Sócrates
Population  10,647,763
Date Format  dd-mm-yyyy, yyyy-mm-dd
Drives on the  Right
Internet TLD  .pt
Dialling Code  351
Time Zone  WET
Currency  EUR - €

Portugal Public Holidays

Republic Day
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