The end of a year is the perfect time for a review, to stop and think about all the choices, decisions and attitudes that made up the passing year, and which ones we will drop or carry forward. The year of 2022 has been a fulfilling year with plenty of surprises, some for the worse yet many of them for the best. The fact that the Portuguese economy has been relaunching - and much of it due to the return of tourists to Portugal - is an undeniable sign of the country’s strength and will to move forward. We have been through hardship, that is for sure, but we are ready to face the new challenges in a much wiser way now. It is very humbling to see that in a world where you could go anywhere, you still choose to come to Portugal. So, we count our blessings and move on, keeping up with the good work. All thanks to you. Therefore, we thought it would be nice if we could give something back.
Going through the year’s review, we found some places to be recurrently sought-after by our travelers, so we compiled a list of favorite places from our past and present customers for you. If it is your first time in Portugal or if you can’t help but keep coming back, here’s a list of the most requested and most visited locations in Portugal in 2022. Hopefully, inspiration will start flowing, and 2023 will be the year that you will come to see for yourself why these destinations are on this list. Eventually you might end up contributing for next year’s favorites list!
Portugal’s capital, located in the center of the country, is the most visited city in Portugal. In the past year, Lisbon was the 4th most searched city in Portugal, and Portugal was the 5th most searched country on tourist booking platforms. With a population of roughly half a million people, the city welcomes an impressive number of 4.5 million tourists per year, which means it gets nine tourists for every resident. The charms of a millennia-old capital like Lisbon never cease to impress visitors, and most people return to the city for a second (or even more) time.
Lisbon sits calmly on the hills next to the banks of the River Tagus, the longest in the Iberian Peninsula, very close to the Atlantic Ocean. Its mild climate and the many hours of sun throughout the year, along with a rich historical past, turned the city into one of the most popular capitals in Europe. The excellent quality of the food, especially fresh fish, and of locally produced wines also had their share in creating the city’s long-lasting fame. When visiting Lisbon, one might decide to visit the old sites like Castelo de São Jorge (Saint George’s Castle), Sé Catedral de Lisboa (Cathedral of Lisbon) and the neighborhood of Belém, and sitting back, relaxing, watching passersby coming and going, while enjoying a nice glass of red or white wine from the Vale do Tejo (Tagus Valley) or the Peninsula de Setubal (Setubal’s Peninsula).
With a proven record of having well received visitors throughout the centuries, the city accommodates to everyone’s taste and to different travelers’ profile. You will find many families, some with children, but also solo travelers walking the streets in different times of the year. Many expats too, as Lisbon has been modernizing and consistently recognized as one of the best places to work and to retire in Europe. The people of Lisbon are proud of their city and like to share the best that it has to offer. At every restaurant, hotel and store you will very likely find people willing to tell you more about the city’s history and traditions or about the “best places to go” and the “best things to see”. Every Lisboner has their own personal list of favorites and you will soon find out that everyone in the city is more than happy to share it with you. Take our suggestions and walk the ancient streets of Lisbon, and let yourself be surprised at how colorful, cozy and welcoming the capital city can be!
Porto is the second city of Portugal and the unofficial capital of the Northern region. Located on the North West of Portugal, it overlooks the estuary of the River Douro, the third longest water course in the Iberian Peninsula. Porto is a city of hard-working yet extremely warm people. The houses and cobbled streets are built in dark stone, but then given beautiful designs, lively colors and glazed tiles in a game of contrasts following a unique sense of style, typical of Porto. Grand boulevards like Avenida dos Aliados, Avenida da Boavista or Rua de Santa Catarina live side by side with traditional neighborhoods like Baixa or Ribeira. Grand monuments, historic stores and magnificently decorated cafes dot the streets everywhere, reminding us constantly that Porto has been a city of merchants and international commerce since the beginning of times.
Walking the streets of the “Capital of the North” will prove to be an unrivaled experience of true “Portugueseness” hard to match anywhere else. The local people will let you know where to go and it is irrelevant if you speak the language, as arm gestures and smiles put you on the right track every time.
If you are passionate about food, then the chances are that you will absolutely love Porto and the region around it! Porto people live for the moments with friends and family around the table! Think of the most honest food made with the best ingredients and served in family-friendly portions! A visit to Porto can only be completed after trying the most famous sandwich in Portugal, the francesinha, an upgrade from a cheese-toast or a club-sandwich, served with many types of charcuterie meats, cheese, sometimes even shrimp, poured over with a delicious liquor-based gravy, baked in the oven and served with a fried egg. This is probably the richest sandwich you will have in your life and you might get addicted to it, which is alright, as every restaurant and bar has their own version of it, and you can decide which one you like the best!
A trip to Porto is very much about golden sunsets over the river; about taking a sip of wine in the old quarters; about finding unexpected friendships in unexpected places; thriving art and culture and an incredible feeling of being at home.
The small town of Sintra is one of the jewels at the heart of the Lisbon region. With a privileged location (only 30 minutes away from the capital), at the foot of a small mountain range, in between the woods and the Atlantic Ocean, lies the quaint, historic center of Sintra, which is one of the most visited sites in Portugal.
Due to the fascination that the town’s magical aura always seems to have exerted over kings, queens and other royals, Sintra was repeatedly chosen as a place of leisure and even of residency of the royal families in Portugal. Along with monarchs, came all the noblemen and clergymen who settled in town, building their own palaces and manor houses. The pretty little town became even prettier because of that, and there are dozens of former residences open for visitors nowadays, like the Pena Palace and Park, a romantic extravaganza from the 19th century by King Fernando, located on top of the mountain; or the Quinta da Regaleira, a curious maze-like garden crowned by an ornate, fairy-tale palace that belonged to a rich businessman of the beginning of the 20th century.
Sintra has been referred to more than once as the “Museum Town” of Lisbon, given its impressive, well-preserved collection of noble homes and gardens, of which we highlight the Monserrate Gardens (and Palace), an incredible well-designed park with several themed gardens with a stunning view of the mountains. The ocean is very close and the detour by car or by the old tram to Praia das Maças or Praia Grande is very much worth doing, whether it is summer or winter. Before you leave town, make sure you try the iconic travesseiros and queijadas, two delicious sweets that have been for many years another great reason to visit Sintra!
Évora in the region of Alentejo (about 90 minutes driving from Lisbon) has always been a favorite: a favorite of the Roman Emperors, the Arab rulers, the Christian Kings in Medieval times, a favorite of UNESCO since 1986 and now a favorite of Europe, as the city was recently classified as the European Capital of Culture in 2027! There are so many reasons why our travelers love Évora and the surrounding region that we are sure that the town will remain on the podium at least for a few years more.
To visit Évora properly you need to do it on foot, so leave the car parked outside the walls of the historic center and head to the maze of narrow cobbled streets, ending in grand squares like Praça do Giraldo or Largo da Graça. Surrounding them are impressive one-of-a-kind monuments, such as the Roman Temple, the richly decorated São Francisco Church or the eerie Bones Chapel! Visit the ancient University grounds and stop for a glass of the region’s wine at one of the many nearby outdoor terraces. If you are looking for a good, hearty lunch, then Évora’s center is the place to be. Many restaurants can be found serving local food with the freshest ingredients: from fragrant soups sprinkled with herbs and locally produced extra virgin olive oil, to lamb stews and fresh water fish specialties. The goat and sheep milk cheeses are to die for, as is the wine which is worldly renowned.
Évora is a city where time takes a different meaning and hours seem to stretch much longer. The hot summer days and cold winter nights require a slower pace and a patient personality. The region’s people are extremely hard-working and somehow shy, but you will be sure to find the most honest folk with deep-rooted traditions.
One recurrent favorite of our travelers in the past year was the Douro Valley wine region and the encircling road N222. It is in the Douro Valley in the North of Portugal (about 90 minutes driving from Porto) that some of the most exquisite Portuguese table wines and, most of all, Port Wines are produced. Wine has been produced in the region for centuries, if not millennia, on the slopes cascading towards the River Douro, created exclusively for that purpose, and the reason why the landscape here is considered protected Cultural Landscape by UNESCO.
On September 10, 1756, only months after the most destructive earthquake in human history took place in Lisbon, the Foreign Secretary and Minister of the Kingdom, Marquis of Pombal, came up with a plan to save the Portuguese economy from the devastating after-effects of the tragedy. He founded the Companhia Geral da Agricultura das Vinhas do Alto Douro (General Company of the Vineyard Farming of High Douro). By defining the production area and regulating the production and sale of Port Wine, he created the oldest demarcated and regulated region in the world. The region was delimited with granite landmarks that defined the boundaries of the areas authorized for the production of Port Wine. These landmarks are now known as the "Pombaline landmarks". The Marquis of Pombal, with his innovative and insightful vision, was the first to outline the terms of intellectual property rights relating to a territory, thus planting the seed of the concept of a Denomination of Origin, which today fits in a variety of products, from clothes, to cheese, meats and even local recipes.
Nowadays, the Douro Valley region is one dream destination for wine lovers or for those who quite simply enjoy stunning views and excellent food. Some wine estates now have their own hotels and tours and it is possible, when organized well in advance, to participate in the harvest and in the wine production. This is a place to make memories, and to hold on to the images and landscapes that will stay with you for life.
The most sought-after region of Portugal by both national and international visitors was once again one of our travelers’ favorites in 2022! This is hardly surprising given the many attractions of the southern-most region of Portugal, the Algarve. When in the 1960’s the first international flights started to arrive in Faro, the capital of the region, hardly did the Algarvians knew that their modest and authentic lifestyle and the beautiful landscapes of the region were going to be their best-selling points as one of the main tourist destinations in Europe.
The clear turquoise water and sand beaches scattered along the coast of the Algarve provide for much more than just brief summer entertainment, and there is an increasing number of “low-season” visitors looking forward to discover the wonders of the region throughout the year. Some of them are coming back for good, as a lot of Northern Europeans and North Americans are settling there.
Fresh fish and shellfish directly from the ocean in Portimão, Lagos and Vila Real de Santo António; sunsets over the sea in Tavira and Faro, hikes along the trails on the cliffs in Sagres and Vila do Bispo, water sports in Aljezur and Albufeira and superb views everywhere - these are just some of the reasons to keep coming back to the Algarve Coast, the best place to live life to the fullest!
Mi Casa, Su Casa
It makes us so happy and proud to learn about this year’s favorites because these six locations totally capture the essence of Portugal and of the Portuguese. To know that we work every day to provide our customers with the best of what Portugal has to offer and then have that recognized by the people we work to, is a tremendous honor. We are sure that your trip of Portugal will include many more favorites of your own; however, while you are still planning your holiday, use this list to inspire you. Draw your itinerary and come along, our home is your home!