What is it About Portugal?

by | Feb 14, 2022 | Portugal | 1 comment

After nearly two years in Portugal, with half of that time during the COVID-19 pandemic, I continue to be fascinated with living here. A few factors that have made it such a pleasant experience are:

Food in Portugal & Portuguese Wine

Cafés are plentiful and offer a wide variety of home-style options that can include beef, pork, chicken, seafood, and fish. Two of my favorite traditional Portuguese dishes are Bacalhau à Brás and Polvo à Lagareiro.

Pastéis de Nata, traditional Portuguese custard tarts - Carmen Melseth
Pastéis de Nata, traditional Portuguese custard tart – Carmen Melseth

The first is shredded codfish, onions, and thin fried potatoes bound by scrambled eggs. It’s homey and comforting. Served with a slightly bubbly vinho verde (green wine) on draft and the day just gets better and better. The second Portuguese dish, Polvo à Lagareiro, is braised and roasted octopus with smashed potatoes, garlic and loads of olive oil. If you have access to fresh octopus and would like to try making it at home, Chef Marco is a great teacher.

On the sweet side of things, Pastel de Nata, traditional Portuguese custard tarts, are as good as people say. In fact, I recommend ordering two, so start practicing, “Gostaria de dois pastéis de nata, por favor.”

Prior to living here, I associated only Port wine with Portugal. Was I ever wrong? There are fourteen distinct wine regions with their products readily available and rather inexpensive. I am currently sipping on a nice vinho branco (white wine) that I picked up at my local market for under 3 Euros.

And these are just the beginnings of what can be enjoyed in Portugal. Portuguese food has good olive oil as a basis, garlic and onions in many dishes, and the herbs of the Mediterranean and other European countries. It also has the influence of North Africa and, being an Atlantic seafaring nation, the rich flavors and spices of the far-east. Portuguese cuisine is truly varied.

Things to Do

A trip to a museum is not required to appreciate Portuguese history. In my own neighborhood, I frequently come across old traditional Portuguese tile murals that tell stories of times gone by. A couple of train stops from my home are gardens and ruins that I can wander through freely during a lunch break.

Pena Palace in Sintra, Portugal - Carmen Melseth
Pena Palace in Sintra, Portugal – Carmen Melseth

However, only forty-five minutes away is the incredible town of Sintra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s one of my favorite places to spend an entire day. There are castles and massive gardens, and views of the Atlantic throughout the town.

For the sports-minded, surfing, kayaking, paddle boarding and other water sports are popular activities throughout the year.

Interestingly, a new Guinness World Record was set last year in Nazaré (about 1.5 hours from Lisbon) for the largest wave surfed by a female. If you aren’t athletic, these are all fun to watch.

Entry Point to Europe

While there is so much to do within the country, it is also ideally located as an entry point for the rest of Europe. And for those of us who need to fly back to the States for work or family obligations occasionally, it’s about an eight-hour flight to New York.

Easily accessible Roman ruins in Mérida, Spain - Carmen Melseth
Easily accessible Roman ruins in Mérida, Spain – Carmen Melseth

My family and I had just begun venturing out of the country in January 2020.

We visited the Roman ruins in Mérida, Spain. It was a beautiful four-hour road trip through the Alentejo region of Portugal with its rolling hills, cork trees, stork nests, castles and more.

Our last destination did not disappoint. The ruins in Spain were spectacular and accessible, with only a few fellow tourists in sight (it was in January, after all.)

We can’t wait for the day when it is safe to travel again.

Is Traveling In Portugal Easy?

Yes, getting around Portugal is easy. There is a program where for 40 Euros a month (20 Euros for ages 65+), we can use all the metros, trains, and buses in the Lisbon/Cascais region. I have gotten a little lost on occasion, and most of the time there is someone who speaks enough English to help me get back on track.

Other than that, car services like Uber and Bolt can be used at prices comparable to the taxis.


Yes, Portugal is worthy of the hype. There is plenty to do, great food to enjoy, and general ease of getting around. I highly recommend it.

Would you consider moving to Portugal? Please let me know in the comment section. 

by: Carmen Melseth


Learn more about Portugal from the same author

Article : Are We There Yet? A Journey to Live a Dream

Video : Expat Life In Portugal