Portugal Car Rental
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So what takes you to Portugal? Digging up your European roots and looking for long-lost relatives? Tracking down Cristiano Ronaldo to help polish your soccer skills? Or maybe you’re touring the winelands on a business trip?
Whatever your reason, we’re envious. Nestled next to Spain on the Iberian Peninsula, Portugal has a windswept Atlantic coast and a culture that’s influenced by the Mediterranean – pretty much a perfect blend then. As well as its lush mainland, it also boasts lots of awesome archipelagos (like Ronaldo’s homeland Madeira) and beautiful beaches in the Algarve and Silver Coast. Furthermore, cities like capital Lisbon and historic Porto are brimming with character and culture, yet somehow feel more human and relatable than some of their counterparts elsewhere in Europe. The urban areas are captivating, but things get even more dramatic beyond their bounds, as the scenery sweeps between vertiginous peaks and sprawling cork forests, sultry sand dunes and clifftop villages, rushing rivers and idyllic islands.
Portugal’s art and architecture showcase the Celtic, Roman, Moor and Christian cultures that dominated down the ages, and there are several UNESCO-rated heritage sites where you can take an immersive step back into the past. The cuisine is wonderful (all the way from excellent egg custard tarts to ocean-fresh seafood) and the cultural calendar is packed with colorful festivals that satisfy all the senses.
Rent a car in Portugal and roll through one of the world’s most interesting nations. What are you waiting for?
Guide to Portugal
We don’t have time to unleash all of Portugal’s history right here. But let’s take a quick skip through to get a feel for it. Turns out humans have been here since the Ice Age, when things were decidedly more chilly than they are now! By 5000BC farming was on the go, Bronze arrived in 5000BC and then those clever Celts entered about 700BC, bringing iron with them. By the 1st Century BC, the Romans dominated, then when their empire collapsed in the 5th Century AD, Visigoths took over, followed by a long period of Moorish dominance. By the time Alfonso Henriques ruled the roost in the 12th century, Portugal began to assert its independence, with Lisbon becoming capital from the mid-13th century. Several tumultuous centuries followed, but today Portugal takes its place as a nation on the edge of mainland Europe and at the crossroads to the New World.
As you might have guessed, Portugal’s culture is a blend of lots of different influences from various tribes and empires, from Europe and beyond. One unifying factor is that it’s still a predominantly Catholic country where family comes first – so good manners, values and ethics will take you a long way. It’s also a very creative place and Lisbon, Porto, Braga, Coimbra and other cities and towns have a host of galleries and museums. You’ll find local artists and craftspeople showcasing their wares even in small villages, but Arte AFK just outside Lisbon is the place to go for impressive, large-scale photography and painting exhibitions. It’s a brilliant place for booklovers too – the Lisbon Book Fair is held annually each June and Lello bookstore in Porto has an ornate interior that’s totally stunning. The country’s Fado folk music (and its accompanying performance) is probably the peak of Portugal’s culture and the Fado style is actually listed by the UN for its global cultural significance.
Want to include a few iconic Portuguese tourist spots in your itinerary? It’s wise to prioritize, especially if you only have a few days. The striking 12th century Alcobaca Monastery in central Portugal is one must-see. This monastery and surrounding buildings were pioneers of the gothic architectural style and the site has been intimately connected with royalty since it was founded by Alfonso Henriques, the nation’s first king. Meanwhile, Capela dos Ossos in Evora is a slightly more macabre attraction – it's a bone chapel where monks used 5,000 skeletons (and their skulls) to decorate the interior. Of course, the sunny Algarve is a magnet for locals and incomers alike and cities like Porto also have their unique charms.
Things To Do in Portugal
Fond of sunbathing, surfing or just generally splashing around and chilling out on soft sand? If you’re nodding your head, the good news for you is that Portugal has an 850km coastline packed with some of Europe’s prettiest beaches. The Algarve’s lovely beaches have transformed towns like Albufeira, Tavira and Lagos in to tourist magnets and this 200km stretch of prime powdery real estate has everything from expansive, sweeping beaches to intimate, sheltered coves. Alternatively, the beaches around Sagres and Southwestern Alentejo are characterized by their rugged beauty and surfers travel from all around the world to catch a big one at windswept Nazare, Peniche and Ericeira.
So where are the best spots when it’s time to party in Portugal? Well, the Algarve resorts of Vale do Lobo, Almancil and Quinta do Lagos are packed with everything from swish cocktail bars to regular pubs and pulsating clubs. So that’s a pretty good place to start. Meanwhile, Lisbon’s Bairro Alto district is bursting at the seams with social venues – there are well over 100 restaurants, bars and clubs. And if you want to let your hair down in high-end venues, try trendy clubs like Plateau or Lux. Alternatively, downtown Porto has some really cool venues, and the Industrial Area is the place to go if you want to bust a few moves – especially bass-heavy house music.
If you like to stay active on your vacay, Portugal is a prime spot for sports tourism too. Golf is big here and the Algarve is home to several high-end courses that host professional tournaments – book ahead and you can pit your wits against some of the challenges that the pros tackle – amidst some amazing scenery. Alternatively, if football (soccer) is your thing, Lisbon is home to the famous Benfica club and (as we intimated earlier), Madeira is home to Cristiano Ronaldo – there’s a statue to him at the airport and he even has his own upmarket CR7 hotel and restaurant down at the harbor. We’ve touched on this already too, but this nation really is one of the world’s surfing capitals – Ericeira might be the pick of the bunch but there are lots of other beaches blessed by big waves.
Eating Out in Portugal
Yearning for authentic Portuguese food? We hear you. If divine seafood gets your belly rumbling, try Ramiro in Lisbon for the likes of shrimp in garlic sauce, lobster, and artisan steak sandwich. Alternatively, the Algarve has hotspots like Restaurante-Bar O Marinheiro in Albufeira (surf, turf, and veggie fare), and Restaurante O Sargo in Aljezur (stunning views and Portuguese/international fusion dishes). And if you fancy some old-school cuisine in Porto? A Capoeira is a good pick – simple, hearty classics like cod and tongue stew served in generous portions.
Lisbon is probably the best place to find international food and there are several tasty choices in the capital. If sushi gets you going, try Sakura Restaurante Japones or Sushian, there are amazing dishes from Mozambique and Angola at Zambeze, and there are several Brazilian steakhouses, but Fogo de Chao is a good pick. For something a little different, you can also sample flavorful Nepalese cuisine at Nepalesa.
One word for Portuguese street food? Delicious. There are lots of delicious snacks to try, including Bifana (pork sandwiches with spicy salad), Francesinha (toasted meat sandwich with meat and cheese, served with egg and French fries), Prego (steak slices served on ciabatta) and pastel del nata (those wonderful egg custard tarts, usually served warm with strong coffee). There are lots of excellent local markets across the nation too, where you can try various snacks as well as picking up fresh produce if you want to cook for yourself. For instance, Lisbon’s LX Factory Sunday Market is great for healthy snacks and fancy coffee, while Loule Municipal Market in the Algarve is the perfect place to grab high-quality organic ingredients.
Transport in Portugal
There are lots of airports in Portugal to choose from. And here at Enjoy Travel, we make it easy to rent a car at all the major hubs. The busiest airports are Lisbon (LIS), Porto (OPO), Faro (FAO), Madeira (FNC) AND Ponta Delgada (PDL).
Portugal has a mixed public transport network, and the quality is fairly good, especially in bigger towns and cities. The train network is cheap (although its coverage isn’t complete), there are lots of long- and medium-distance coaches and local buses too.
You drive on the right-hand side of the road in Portugal and overtake on the left. Speed limits are 20-30km/h in certain urban areas (often near schools), 50 km/h in other urban areas, 90km/h outside built-up areas and 120km/h on motorways.