Lisbon, Portugal’s capital, has one of the most interesting histories, hottest climates, and craziest nightlife of any major European city, thanks to its spectacular position on seven coastal hills. The Castle of St George, perched atop the 100-foot-high Tower of Belém overlooking the Tagus River, and the Jeronimos Monastery, which houses the city’s Maritime Museum representing Portugal’s golden era of exploration, are two of Lisbon’s most recognized monuments. The National Tile Museum, dedicated to Portugal’s distinctive Azulejo art, is another museum in Lisbon worth seeing.
Throughout the ages, various tribes have colonized Portugal, leaving their imprint on its unique culture. Most Portuguese place a high value on family, and many individuals mix their Roman-Catholic faith with old superstitions like evil eyes and lunar cycles.
The typically reserved and courteous Portuguese have several opportunities to let loose and rejoice. Every town has its patron saint, whose feast day is marked by church processions, dancing, music, wine, and fireworks. A Sarau is an athletic or cultural event in Portugal where people paint, perform music, read poetry, or express themselves creatively. While the majority of Portuguese holidays are religious, Carnaval in February is the most vibrant.
The Portuguese like eating as one of their favorite activities. The country’s trademark meal, dried fish, known as bacalhau, can be prepared differently every day of the year. Most traditional Portuguese dinners contain grilled meats and begin with olives, freshly baked bread, and a green soup called Caldo Verde. The national dessert is pastel de nata, a delectable and much sought-after custard tart. Its citizens first introduced many of the spices used in modern cuisine during its Asian expeditions, and salt is sprinkled on many salads. Roasted chestnuts sold from street vendors in the fall are one of Portugal’s finer pleasures. Although the food is not particularly vegetarian-friendly, popular choose-five-item salad bars and an increasing number of international restaurants provide a variety of meat-free alternatives.