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Updated 2024: Cost of Living in Lisbon


Residing in Lisbon comes with advantages, including its closeness to beaches, access to culture, and incredible food scene. What sets it apart from other European capitals is the affordability of living, though the cost has been noticeably increasing, posing a challenge for the residents on a local Portuguese salary. Still, Lisbon is around 30% cheaper than Paris and 50% cheaper than London. 

Keep in mind that the highest cost for anyone moving to Lisbon is the rent. The average price for an apartment in Lisbon is 21€/m2 (December 2023), a 17% increase in comparison to December 2022. Let’s take a look at the average monthly budget in Lisbon for expats without children, families, and digital nomads in 2024. 

Guide to Lisbon

Cost of Living in Lisbon for an Expat

  • Housing: For a one-bedroom apartment that’s around 60 m2, expect to pay over €1200. Alternatively, you can also find studios for €700 to €900 a month but expect cramped conditions. Rooms in shared homes tend to go for around €600 at the moment.
  • Utilities: You need to budget at least €100 to €150 for bills such as electricity and gas, but this can go up in the winter with a lot of use of your heating. Also, keep in mind that your internet and phone bill should run you around an extra €50.
  • Groceries: The price of groceries depends on your lifestyle, diet, choice of products, as well as where you shop. But for a safe bet, budget at least €100 a week for groceries for one person. 
  • Eating Out: Full meals for €10 are a thing of the past in Lisbon. While you can still find a few bargains, prices this low are rare and hard to find. A meal out will cost you at least €20 without alcohol at most mid-range restaurants but can be a lot more expensive. If you eat out twice a week, for example, you will need to budget at least €160 a month, but this amount is still pretty conservative. 
  • Transportation: Lisbon has new transport passes for €40 called Passe Navegante which allows you to use all public transport companies in the 18 municipalities in greater Lisbon.
  • Healthcare: Much like the UK’s NHS, Portugal’s public healthcare system provides essential medical services free of charge to residents, though certain state healthcare services may necessitate standard user fees. These fees range, with examples including €15 for Accident and Emergency Department visits and €5 for basic GP appointments. If you want to go private for easier access to appointments and a wider range of services available (dermatology and dentistry, for example), health insurance will cost you anywhere between €40 to €100 a month.

Cost of Living in Lisbon for a Digital Nomad 

  • Housing: If you are looking for a short stay of less than a year, you might still be able to rent a place with a rental contract and pay around €1200 for a one-bedroom. However, it’s more likely that you will have to book a place on Airbnb. This will cost you at least around €1500 for a small apartment during the low season, and anywhere from €2500 to €3000 during the summer. Alternatively, renting a bed at a hostel for around €30 could help you save some money. 
  • Groceries: Digital nomads tend to want to explore the food scene since they might be staying in Lisbon for shorter periods of time. However, if you are keen on making most of your food at home, budget €100 a week for groceries for one person. 
  • Transportation: Lisbon has new transport passes for €40 called Passe Navegante which allows you to use all public transport companies in the 18 municipalities in greater Lisbon. Uber and Bolt also offer quite affordable fares in Lisbon.
  • Eating Out: A meal will cost you around €20 at an average mid-range restaurant without alcohol. But you can easily spend €40+ on a meal for one at certain restaurants in Lisbon.
  • Sightseeing & Leisure: Make the most out of Lisbon while you’re here. The city has plenty of museums, theaters, cinemas, and bars to explore. Budget around €30 to €50 a week for these kinds of activities. 
  • Coworking: Coworking spaces in Lisbon are becoming more expensive, matching other European cities. Renting a desk for a month can cost around €200 or more.

Cost of Living in Lisbon for a Family of Four

  • Housing: A 3-bedroom apartment in Lisbon will cost you around €2,100 but can easily go up to €3,000. You can find more affordable apartments in areas just outside Lisbon like Odivelas (13,2 €/m2), Amadora (13,4 €/m2), and Loures (12,9 €/m2), but then having a car is recommended. 
  • Utilities: You need to budget at least €200 for bills such as electricity and gas, but this can go up in the winter with a lot of use of your heating. Internet and phone bills will depend on the amount of phones, but budget at least €100 for a family package.
  • Groceries: The price of groceries depends on your family’s lifestyle and food choices. But for a safe bet, budget at least €200 to €250 a week for groceries for a family of four.
  • Transportation: Lisbon has new transport passes for €40 called Passe Navegante which allows a person to use all public transport companies in the 18 municipalities in greater Lisbon. But for families, the deal is even better! Each family only needs to pay a maximum of two passes for €80 and the whole family gets transport included. If you have children under 12, they can also get a pass for free.
  • Eating Out: A meal out will cost you at least €20 without alcohol at most mid-range restaurants but can be a lot more expensive. If you eat out once a week with your family, for example, you will need to budget at least €300 a month, but this can be a lot more depending on the choice of restaurants.
  • Education: Schools can easily be the largest portion of your budget unless you opt for free Portuguese public schools. If you are looking for an international environment and English-speaking schools, private international schools can cost you anywhere between €7,000 and €20,000 a year per child. A private Portuguese school will cost you around €6,000. 
  • Healthcare: Portugal’s public healthcare system provides medical care for free to residents, though certain state healthcare services include standard user fees (like €5 for basic GP appointments). At this moment, however, your family is unlikely to be given a family GP as there are none available, making access harder. Therefore, if you want to go private, you should get health insurance for your whole family which can cost at least €200, depending on factors such as age and previous illnesses. 

Portuguese Public Holidays in 2024


In 2024, Portugal, a nation rich in religious, historical, and cultural days will experience a series of national public holidays recognized by the government. These holidays play a crucial role in the Portuguese calendar.

The general rule is that every worker is entitled to 22 working days off for vacation. However, with public holidays that might lead to extended weekends, you can maximize your time off. 

Keep in mind that not only do you get days off, but expect shops and businesses to be closed as well. Moreover, Portugal’s public holidays, known as feriados, come with an interesting twist.

Unlike in some other countries, if a holiday falls on a Sunday, it doesn’t extend to the following Monday. The country features a range of both mandatory and optional holidays, with some being celebrated nationwide and others holding regional importance.

Let’s explore the list of national public holidays set for 2024. 

Nationwide Public Holidays 2024

  • January 1: The first day of the year, on a Monday.
  • February 13: Carnival Tuesday, and businesses might still decree a “ponte” (bridge) where Monday is also off.
  • March 29: Saint Friday
  • March 31: Easter Sunday 
  • April 25: Carnation Revolution, celebrated this year on a Thursday
  • May 1: Labour Day, which falls on a Wednesday
  • May 30: Corpus Christi Day on a Thursday
  • June 10: Camōes Day on a Monday
  • August 15: Day of the Assumption of Our Lady, the only holiday in August which falls on Thursday
  • October 5: Republic Day on Saturday
  • November 1: Day of All Saints on Friday, allowing for a long weekend
  • December 1: Restauration for Independence Day
  • December 8: Day of the Immaculate Conception
  • December 25: Christmas Day on a Wednesday

Local June Holidays

In the month of June, many cities in Portugal celebrate public holidays related to Catholic saints. These lead to celebrations all over the country, often known as Santos Populares. 

June 13: Lisbon’s Saint Anthony Day on Thursday

June 24: Saint John’s Day in Porto, Braga, and Tavira

June 29: Saint Peter’s Day in Évora

Lisbon City Hall approves requalification of palace into housing instead of tourist accomodation


According to CNN Portugal, the Lisbon City Hall finally approved the requalification of an old palace (Palacete Touzet) located in Alcântara, Lisbon.

Dating back to 1888, Palacete Touzet served as the headquarters and atelier of the Touzet construction company, which was funded by the French constructors Charles Vieillard and Fernand Touzet, the authors of a large amount of the industrial patrimony that was built in Lisbon. The Central Tejo complex is one example of that patrimony.

This beautiful old palace, which can be considered a historic and patrimonial building, has been closed for years. Its conservation state has been deteriorating, and today, only the facades and the stairs remain.

The proposal for the new project has been around since 2017, but it was only approved very recently. Initially, according to the first proposal the property was going to be transformed into accommodation for tourists, but now it will be used for housing.

Given the characteristics and the value of the property, in terms of urban space, the Lisbon City Hall chose to approve the requalification under the condition that the facades are maintained. This decision aims at preserving that same value.

This type of requalification, which has been called ‘demolition’, is somewhat polemic. According to the article published by CNN Portugal, the property will be demolished but the facades will be preserved. However, considering that there is nothing but ruins inside, calling it a ‘demolition’ may induce the wrong idea.

What is rotten will be taken down, but the image will be preserved. Within the facades, a new building will emerge. One that considers and preserves the value of what it once was.

When the project is complete, Palacete Touzet will regain its image (not the old ruins), and its inside will be transformed into one studio apartment, one T1, five T2s, three T3s, and five T4s.

50 radio stations boycott the Portuguese elections


Around 50 radio stations from all over the country joined to boycott the upcoming legislative elections, in protest against the dying out of the sector.

According to a statement released by the Portuguese Broadcasting Association, the recent changes to the radio law, which added to the inexistence of favorable measures taken by any of the last governments, were the last stroke.

The boycott officially started with the European elections in 2019, extended to the legislative elections of that same year, and will last, at least, until the end of this year’s election cycle. There will be no broadcasting of any material related to the elections. No interviews, no debates, and no campaign time.

Hopefully, with the boycott, the current and future decision-makers understand that things cannot keep going as they are. In the last years, the government has not only not accepted any measure proposed by the sector, but also has not kept any of the promises made and approved within the State Budget.

Furthermore, earlier this month, the Portuguese President of the Republic promulgated the new radio law. The new law increases the minimum broadcasting amount for Portuguese music (now 30%) and adds even more obligations to the radio operators. According to the Association, this is unbearable.

As a result, a considerable number of radio stations chose to protest, hoping they will make enough noise to be heard, and considered.

Cacilhas – A Great Lisbon Day Trip

Staying in Lisbon for a few days and looking for something new to do? I’ve got a great place for you to visit just a 10-minute ferry ride from Cais do Sodré, one of the largest transportation hubs in the city and right in the middle of all the tourist action. It’s called Cacilhas!

Taking the Ferry to Cacilhas

Ferries leave from Cais do Sodré to Cacilhas every 15 minutes from 5:35 am to 1:40 am. These are commuter ferries so taking a ride will make you feel like one of the locals. The last train back from Cacilhas is at 11:30 pm. You can try to get a photo of the Ponte 25 de Abril during your crossing, but it’s honestly best to save your pictures until you reach the other side.

A couple with the Cacilhas ferryboat in the background, Pedro Ribeiro Simões, Flickr

The ferry drops you off right at the intersection of all the fun. Locals often connect to a regional train here that travels further into Almada while a lively mix of tourists and Lisbon residents either turn right and begin walking down the Tagus along the pier or head towards Cacilhas’s main street known as Rua Cândido dos Reis.

When I got off the ferry for the first time in Cacilhas, I honestly wasn’t that impressed with the immediate surroundings. It looks like the pauper compared to the prince across the Tagus in Cais do Sodré. But, as you start walking down the pier and watch the fisherman stare out at the river holding their poles or peek into the abandoned factories and warehouses on your left-hand side, the water just far enough away to not spray up into your face, you will discover the raw charm of Cacilhas. This place feels like a rough-and-tumble adventure with plenty of jaw-dropping beauty along the way.

Fisherman, Matt Leys, Flickr

Let me bring you back to where we got off the ferry because this is the order that I would do things on your day trip to Cacilhas.

1) Lunch First on Rua Cândido dos Reis

There is nothing quite like Cacilhas’s main street in the center of Lisbon. Each time that I visit Cacilhas, I feel like I’m visiting a Greek Island that packs all of its restaurants closest to the harbor in order to make the biggest impression on hungry tourists. Unlike Greece and even the center of Lisbon, the variety of different cuisines on Rua Cândido dos Reis is impressive for a single street and leaves visitors spoiled for choice.

So do you go local and try Portuguese cuisine or do you try one of the many different ethnic cuisines? Of course, it’s entirely up to you, but I prefer Portuguese fusion, which I will recommend in the list below. The great news here is that there is something for everyone. If one of you feels like pizza, another wants octopus, and someone else wants sushi, no one will go home hungry! Let’s take a look at some of the best restaurants on this street.

Restaurante Farol de Cacilhas

“Farol” means “Lighthouse” in Portuguese and sits at the edge of Cacilhas, as the name might suggest, close to where you alight from the ferry. It offers a range of traditional Portuguese dishes including bacalhau assado à lagareiro (codfish with olive oil and baked potatoes) and other fresh seafood dishes. This restaurant provides adequate service, but it is not the best Cacilhas has to offer, in my opinion. So, if you’re looking for something more unique, keep walking down the main thoroughfare.  

Os Cunhados

Os Cunhados stands out for its delicious roasted chicken with homemade sauces. Roasted chicken served with piri piri sauce is a favorite meal for the Portuguese people. If you’re a chicken fan and also love a bit of spice, tuck in for some of the best chicken in Lisbon.


When I mentioned Portuguese fusion earlier, this is actually one of the places that I had in mind. You can choose from a selection of tapas served with an interesting mix of ingredients from friendly, knowledgeable staff. Be sure to try the ceviche, sardines, and a dessert called brigadeiros. The menu changes slightly every day and the staff can explain each dish to you. Try to book ahead if possible.


So your friend that wants sushi? This is the place. Mind you, it’s not great sushi, but it will do the job. Pad Thai here is another favorite, but it’s not going to taste exactly like you expect in Thailand. Still, it’s impressive that sushi has made it to Cacilhas and you have the option.

Pita Gourmet

This is a Greek chain in Lisbon that has its own branch next door to Kamikaze. Perhaps it opened here because the owners also felt like they had just landed on a Greek Island when they first walked up Rua Cândido dos Reis. If walking around Cacilhas has made you hungry for Greek food, this is the place.

Máfia das Pizzas

If you passed on the Japanese and the Greek, why not try something even more familiar right next to Pita Gourmet – Máfia das Pizzas. That’s right – the mafia have also made it to Cacilhas – and they brought the pizza. Choose from a number of different pizzas and pastas here and have a familiar favorite. I do like the name and, hey, there’s always that moment when you feel like pizza.

Arco Bistro

Keep walking a few buildings past Máfia das Pizzas and you will find Arco Bistro on the right-hand side, one of the newest and highest-quality restaurants on the street. Ladies and gentlemen, we have returned once again…to Portuguese fusion. If you like your food inventive and delicious while also keeping it local, this is the place for you. Try the seabass or octopus with potatoes. You can’t go wrong with the price/quality ratio and the friendly service here.

The Corkman Irish Pub

At the other end of the spectrum and also at the end of the line of restaurants on Cacilhas’ main street lies the Corkman Irish Pub. What more can I say except that they have typical Irish pub food and drinks along with a cheery pub quiz on Sundays? This recommendation is more for those staying in Lisbon for a while. I wouldn’t stop in if it was my first time in Cacilhas.  

2) Time to Put on Your Walking Shoes

Once you’ve finished lunch on Rua Cândido dos Reis, it’s time for a walk and some gorgeous views. Walk back towards where you arrived on the ferry and head down the path along the pier. This is where you will see a few fishermen and a line of abandoned warehouses.

Archway, Cacilhas, Achim, Flickr

In case you’re wondering, the area where these warehouses sit has been deemed unsafe for new construction so the buildings remain as remnants of times gone by. Some enterprising people have set up small shops inside these buildings including one vintage/antique shop with a man often trying to bring people in to make a donation. Keep walking and you will reach two restaurants at what appears to be the end of path. Walk past these restaurants for the next stop in our itinerary. We will come back to them later for dinner.

A walk through Cacilhas, forever_carrie_on, Flickr,

Elevador Panorâmico da Boca do Vento

Just beyond Ponto Final, which you have now discovered is not the Final Point, you will see a huge elevator called the Elevador Panorâmico da Boca do Vento. It is free to take the elevator although there can sometimes be a wait. Once at the top, you are greeted with breathtaking views of the river and Lisbon’s skyline. The elevator’s upper platform is an ideal spot for capturing the beauty of Lisbon from a unique perspective.

Elevador Panorâmico da Boca do Vento with Jardim do Rio at the bottom, Colin Hepburn, Flickr

From the top of the elevator, it is possible to walk to Cristo Rei, the famous statue of Jesus Christ with his arms outstretched facing Lisbon. This statue of Christ was patterned after the more famous one in Rio de Janeiro and expresses gratitude for Lisbon and its people escaping the perils of WWII.

Cristo Rei Lisbon, David Lurie, Flickr

Be forewarned, however, that the walk to the statue is around 2 km one way and takes longer than you think. You might want to stop at the elevator itself and arrange to take a car later from the ferry point to reach the statue.

Jardim do Rio

 After you get back down the elevator, sprawl out in the lush grass of the Jardim do Rio at its base. Take a break and watch the boats go by along the Tagus River, pull out a book, or enjoy a quiet conversation. You might even be offered a caipirinha by a street vendor or hear a guitarist practicing a new song.

3) Time for Dinner with Beautiful Sunset Views

After you’ve recovered from your walk in Jardim do Rio, it’s time for dinner and the biggest attraction in Cacilhas – the gorgeous sunset views. There is something so relaxing and inspiring about enjoying a glass of Portuguese wine sitting at the edge of the Tagus with the incredible Ponte Abril de 25 in the background. Let’s dive into your two dinner options.  

Atira-te ao Rio

The first is called “Atira-te ao Rio,” which translates to “Throw Yourself in the River.” While it has the opposite of a romantic name compared to its more famous neighbor “Ponto Final” (Final Point), the views here are still quite nice and it’s easy enough to walk around the edge of the restaurant and see the views that everyone is getting at Ponto Final. The insider tip here is that it’s much easier to get a reservation at Atira-te ao Rio, which can be done on their website compared to Ponto Final, which only takes phone calls and books out well in advance.

Atira-te ao Rio is celebrated for its rustic charm and dining here feels like a serene escape, with the gentle sounds of the river complementing the tasty dishes. Although you can see Lisbon on the other side of the river, you feel like a world away.

Atira-te ao Rio, encantadíssim, Flickr

Ponto Final

A short walk beyond Atira-te ao Rio leads to Ponto Final, a restaurant with one of the most romantic sunset views of Lisbon. The terrace seating of Ponto Final juts directly over the river, offering diners a unique experience as they enjoy the fresh local cuisine. While the food is delicious, the incredible views and element of discovery when you first turn the corner along the path and spot this restaurant are what give it its cachet. Try to book at least two weeks in advance if you’re trying for the golden hour, which is usually around 8:00-8:30 pm in summer. You might have more luck on a weekday or a slightly earlier dinner time.

Ponto Final, Udo Steinkamp, Flickr

Final Thoughts

Cacilhas is so close to the heart of Lisbon and yet seems like a world away. It has a raw yet traditional vibe that brings you much closer to the river and provides a different experience to the tile-lined narrow streets of central Lisbon. Although it is touristy in its own right, the journey on the ferry and the walk along its abandoned piers will make you feel like one of the locals. I would recommend that you wait for a sunny day to enjoy this day trip to the fullest. For those looking to explore beyond the well-trodden paths of Lisbon, Cacilhas is a destination that should not be missed.

Arouca 516: Breathtaking Views over Arouca Geopark


Arouca 516 is the second-longest pedestrian suspension bridge in the entire world. It stands at a height of 175 meters, directly above the Paiva River. The pedestrian suspension bridge is a must-see for those who enjoy adventure and adrenaline, as well as nature in a pristine form.

There are no buildings around, nothing that disrupts the serenity of nature. One noticeable manmade structure, however, is called Passadicos do Paiva (Paiva Walkways). These take you to the mountaintops that grant access to Arouca 516.

Without any further ado, let’s discover more about Arouca 516!

Some Details About Arouca

Arouca is a Portuguese municipality located in the Aveiro District (in the North Region of Portugal). Don’t worry, it’s not too far inland, as Arouca is still within the Metropolitan Area of Porto.

Certainly, the most interesting aspect about Arouca is the fact that the entirety of its territory is considered a geopark. The city is part of the official global and European geopark networks and is well known for its geological heritage.

This might also be the reason why Arouca 516 was built in the area. On the one hand, it favors educational projects/programs being deployed in the area. On the other hand, it heavily promotes geotourism. For example, according to Câmara Municipal de Arouca, the Paiva Walkways, since their opening in 2015, have been traveled by more than one million tourists.

The city of Arouca is riddled with history, especially Christian settlement influence. While you must discover it on your own, we should at least mention the village of Tebilhão. It stands on the terraced foothills of Arouca and makes for an impressive view over the valley and the hills that guard it.

Who Built Arouca 516?

There are two parties involved in the construction of Arouca 516 – ITeCons, a Portuguese research institution, and Conduril Engenharia, S.A. ITeCons designed Arouca 516, whereas Conduril Engenharia, S.A. built it. The approximate total costs for this impressive suspension bridge were north of 2 million Euros – 2.3 million, to be precise.

The construction of the Arouca 516 began in May 2018 and was finished two years later, in April 2021. Then, on the 2nd of May 2021, the suspension bridge was officially opened to the public.

As you may have already guessed, Arouca 516 is 516 meters long. It takes under ten minutes to cross it at normal walking speed, but trust us, it will take a bit longer!

It doesn’t matter if you’re scared of heights – if you want to take as many pictures as possible or suspend yourself at the moment for as long as you can, you will most likely spend more than just ten minutes on the impressive Arouca 516!

How to Get to Arouca 516?

Two ways can get you to the Arouca 516 suspension bridge. One starts in the parish of Canelas, and the other one in the parish of Alvarenga, both of the Arouca municipality.

The Canelas route takes up to one hour and involves experiencing the Passadicos do Paiva, which we strongly recommend. However, if you don’t feel like going up 500 stairs, the Alvarenga route is the ideal choice, as it takes only 20 minutes to complete.

  • Canelas Route – for this route, you can rely on your car until you reach the Areinho River. There, however, you must start traveling on foot – you’ll be roughly 1200 meters away from Arouca 516. Shortly after you start walking, you’ll have to access and then conquer the Passadicos do Paiva – 500 stairs, an 8-km-long route with an incredible view from each turning point (the stairs are not in a straight line), and almost one hour of somewhat intense exercise.
  • Alvarenga Route – the shorter route implies traveling to Albisqueiros, the place where you’ll also trade your wheels for a pair of comfortable shoes. Albisqueiros is 1000 meters away from Arouca 516. This route is straight and to the point – you’ll find a marked route that will take you to the entrance to the suspension bridge. If you’re fast enough, you’ll be there in less than 20 minutes.

Arouca 516 is great for impromptu visits, especially if you find yourself traveling through the region. The municipality of Arouca makes sure that you won’t have the chance to miss it by keeping the bridge open all year round, except for Christmas Day.

Arouca bridge. Photo by Bruno Alves (Unsplash)

What Can You See in Arouca, Possibly Even From the Suspension Bridge?

As mentioned above, Arouca is a fully-fledged geopark – every inch of this municipality’s territory holds significant geological importance. As such, it’s no surprise that there are 41 geosites to be witnessed in Arouca.

Some of the most impressive geosites are as follows:

  • The Detrelo da Malhada viewpoint – is constructed over metasedimentary rocks; it offers a panoramic view over the northern side of Freita Mountain and the valley, where Arouca is located.
  • São Pedro Velho – a granite dome overlooking the incredible natural gems of the region, including the Montemuro mountain range..
  • Frecha da Mizarela – the highest waterfall that you can find in mainland Portugal; it flows over 60 meters high; the location also offers an excellent view of the granite of Freita Mountain and the impressive green steep slopes surrounding the waterfall.
  • Pedras Parideiras – it showcases a geological phenomenon in which a type of mineral emerges from a mother rock, resembling nodules. The phenomenon known as Perdas Parideiras can be seen only in Portugal and Russia, in Saint Petersburg.
  • Castanheira Fold Field – a beautiful display of geological folds, a testament to the Earth’s long history.
  • The Paiva Gorge – an enchanting haven of nature, isolated in between hills where the Paiva River narrows; the bridge dates from the 18th century, from where the Aguieiras waterfall can be seen.

Out of the 41 geosites, we strongly recommend visiting the Castanheira Fold Field and the Frecha da Mizarela waterfall. Don’t forget to check out the Canelas Geological Interpretation Center as well. It features an impressive fossil collection, notably the largest trilobites in the world – gastropods, cephalopods, brachiopods, and many others.

What Is the Longest Pedestrian Suspension Bridge in the World?

Arouca 516 once was the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in the world. However, in May 2022, the Czech Republic opened Sky Bridge 721, a pedestrian suspension bridge located roughly 3 hours away from the country’s capital.

Sky Bridge is, as the name implies, 721 meters long and stands 95 meters above the ground.

It is worth mentioning that there has been some uncertainty and disputes regarding Arouca 516’s standing as the longest pedestrian bridge in the world even before the construction of Sky Bridge 721. Specifically, there’s a bridge in Nepal that was, at the time, considered the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in the world, measuring 567 meters long.

In response to this, officials from Arouca affirmed that various details were taken into account when attributing this slogan (length, altitude, construction scope, and capacity). As such, they stand by the bridge’s attribution as the largest pedestrian suspension bridge in the world and consider it accurate.

Either way, don’t let these technicalities stand in your way! Arouca 516 is definitely worth a visit if you’re anywhere near Porto. You must not skip any of the 516 meters that make one of the most impressive pedestrian suspension bridges in the entire world! Who knows, maybe you’ll even want to return to Arouca someday, possibly during a different season, to enjoy nature at its best!

The Castle of Marvão: Echoes of History in Stone


“From Marvão one can see the entire land… It is understandable that from this place, high up in the keep at Marvão Castle, visitors may respectfully murmur, ‘How great is the world’.” – words signed by the famous Portuguese author José Saramago.

Located on a hilltop at the border with Spain, the Castle of Marvão greets thousands of tourists yearly, offering them a glimpse into Portugal’s history.

Although most people visit Portugal for its oceanside cities and unbelievably charming beaches, they do not regret distancing themselves from the busy coastal areas. That’s how many travelers end up at the Castle of Marvão (and other castles as well – the country is actually filled with them!) and fall in love with the place on the spot!

Let’s discover some facts about the Marvão municipality, the castle’s history, and details about visiting the area! Enjoy your trip!

A Little About Marvão

Marvão is located in the Portalegre District in the east of Portugal. It is quite a small municipality, with a total area of 154 sq km and a population of only 2,972 people, registered in 2020.

The region is a gem for anthropology enthusiasts, as it is surrounded by several carved tombs and burial chambers, suggesting that it was once home to small farming settlements. Furthermore, archaeologists discovered a necklace in the region dating from the 3rd millennium BCE, as well as decorative objects like ceramics and deity sculptures.

Without getting into too many details because we want you to have the privilege to discover them by yourself, we’ll just say that Marvão is a dream destination for anyone looking for an authentic, history-rich town to enjoy on a one-day getaway.

Marvão should also be a top pick for travelers keeping an eagle eye on aesthetic treasure – it overlooks the Tagus basin and the Serra de Estrela, making for stunning views!

Marvao. Photo by Elvira Nimmee (Flickr)

History of the Castle of Marvão

It is believed that the Castle of Marvão dates back to the 9th century, having been built by Ibn Marwan, also known as al-Jillīqī, a Muwallad (Muladi – population native to the Iberian Peninsula who adopted Islam in the aftermath of the Muslim conquest). Allegedly, he built the castle between 876 and 877. In the 10th century, the settlement acquired the name Amaia de Ibn Maruan or Fortaleza de Amaia.

Between 1160 and 1166, the region was conquered from Moorish forces by Christian forces loyal to Afonso I of Portugal. Years later, Afonso III donated the settlement to the Order of Malta, which would later be awarded to D. Afonso Sanches, his son.

When King D. Dinis, the eldest son of Afonso III, rose to power, the settlement found itself trapped in a dispute between the sovereign and D. Afonso. In 1299, it was conquered by the forces of the sovereign.

Ferdinand I of Portugal, who ruled between 1367 and 1383, named Marvão a sanctuary place. Over the next century, Marvão underwent works of reinforcing the walls and expanding the settlement. The region’s castle was remodeled multiple times – first, it acquired the turrets, then the corbel, and, lastly, the reinforced bastions.

In 1641, after the castle had been named a primary line of defense, it was attacked by the Spanish forces, who left the fortress in ruins, and required serious repairs. Not long after, the army commanded by the Duke of Berwick conquered the fortification, only to surrender it a year later to the army commanded by Count of São João.

Over the next several hundred years, the Castle of Marvão continued to stand as a defense fortification, having suffered multiple attacks. Its location was probably its key strength – it could only be accessed from a narrow, very steep road.

However, it wasn’t only the attack of foreign forces that took a toll on the castle’s majesty. In 1997, the Southern Barbican (a fortified gateway) was struck by lightning and completely destroyed.

Although many details of this castle’s long-standing history spanning over several centuries were omitted in our article (we’d have to write a book to share everything!), we can definitely state that its contribution to the country of Portugal is undeniable and substantial.

Visiting the Castle of Marvão

Carrying proof of won and lost battles, the Castle of Marvão lies at an altitude of 800 meters on a rocky, steep hill, overlooking the whole region. Its extensive walls enclose the medieval town, further adding to its charm and value. The cistern in one of the castle’s courtyards is among the things that impress visitors the most. The fact that it is still functional stands as evidence of the region’s authenticity.

As you walk through the area, you’ll delight in the picturesque, out-of-this-world views that will take your breath away. You’ll probably start envisioning yourself spending all your evenings there, wondering how it would be to live in such a serene place…

As such, taking your time to visit the Castle of Marvão should definitely make it to your must-do list. However, we must warn you – the roads are quite narrow, so you should drive very carefully.

On the positive side, although the region has become quite a popular tourist destination in recent years, its location (far from the ocean and more difficult to access) doesn’t make it to the top of the list for all travelers. That’s why it is usually very quiet, without the busyness of other popular tourist spots. Therefore, you can enjoy a peaceful evening watching the sunset over Europe’s most beautiful lands.

The Castle of Marvão is open daily and the entrance fee is 1.5 EUR. In the winter, visiting is allowed from 10 am to 7 pm, while in the summer, the castle is open from 9 am to 9 pm. We strongly recommend checking the hours and entrance fee beforehand to ensure nothing has changed.

Marvao Castle. Photo by Alvaro Rodriguez (Flickr)

Other Landmarks to See in Marvão

Since you’re already in Marvão, take your time to check out some other landmarks in the area. Visit the Santa Maria Church and the Municipal Museum located within it. The museum is home to rich collections of sacred art and archeological pieces outlining the region’s history.

You can also visit Antiga Casa do Governador, which opens the doors to 17th-century architecture and decor. Don’t forget to add Capela do Calvario and Capela do Espirito Santo to your list as well.

During your stay, don’t hesitate to enjoy lunch or dinner in Marvão. This way, you’ll be able to try some of the region’s specialties. In addition, souvenirs are truly unique there (and at excellent prices!). So if you haven’t had time to buy anything yet, we’re sure you’ll pack your bags with lots of ceramics from Marvão!

The Best Time to Visit the Castle of Marvão

Naturally, you should schedule your visit depending on your preferences and availability. However, we recommend checking the weather forecast beforehand. Bear in mind that the castle is at a higher altitude, and you definitely don’t want strong winds on the day you get there!

During the winter, the weather in Marvão may be slightly colder than in Lisbon, for example. It may also rain frequently. Sometimes the rain showers are frequent but short, interspersed with sunshine, while other times they are more constant, making it quite unpleasant to walk around the city.

If you haven’t decided on a season yet, we recommend visiting the Castle of Marvão in the spring, preferably May, or in the autumn, preferably September. If you’re looking for a magical destination for your next Christmas, you can give Marvão a chance as well. The holiday atmosphere is truly enchanting in the region!

Life After NHR: Latest 2024 Update


Well, there is no doubt that 2023 was a rocky year in Portugal’s rich political history. The year saw changes to the very popular Golden Visa program, the withdrawal of the fantastically popular NHR (non-habitual residency scheme), and the eventual resignation of Prime Minister Antonio Costa.

As we now settle into a new year and a fresh start, it is time to start thinking about life after NHR. For people who are already registered on the scheme, the benefits will continue. For those who made it into the grandfathering period, the same luxury will apply.

The government-approved budget for 2024 saw no significant changes to the tax regime. Income tax bands increased with inflation and the tax bands for the first five income bands were reduced, to help lower to middle-income earners.

That aside, a new regime will be introduced to replace NHR but will be focusing mainly on employment with no benefit to those retiring in Portugal. Those who qualify will benefit from a flat 20% rate on employment and self-employment income.

NHR was introduced back in 2009 to enable qualifying professionals to enjoy beneficial tax planning for a period of 10 years. Portugal will now be divided by those who are on NHR and those who are not. One thing as sure as death and taxes is that the number of people on NHR will reduce year on year until around the year 2035 when there will be no beneficiaries left.

Want to become part of the large community of US expats in Portugal? Sign up for Holborn Assets’ live webinar on the challenges facing US connected clients moving or living in Portugal. Find out all about the financial perks of moving to Portugal and have all your burning questions answered. The event is scheduled for March 27 at 5 pm (Lisbon Time) / 12 pm EST. If you would like to schedule a one-on-one call instead, you can book one here.

Register Your Spot

There are more than 11,000 NHRs in Portugal but whether you are lucky enough to be one of them, or missed the boat in applying, there will be a point where NHR will end for everyone. For those who are finishing their 10-year period, the decision will then be made as to whether to stay or go.

Portugal still offers many hidden gems, not just in its beautiful scenery but also in its financial structure. There are investment wrappers designed to dovetail with NHR (or standalone) that can provide an increasing tax benefit the longer they are held. This investment can reduce tax liabilities by up to 60%, providing a significant reduction in tax on investment or pension income.

People who are benefiting from NHR need to be looking at these long-term strategies. By putting plans in place now, you can reduce the tax you will need to pay after NHR ends. Significantly reducing the impact and making the transition far smoother.

For those who do not qualify for NHR, it is important to structure your finances in a way that protects you long-term. There are many benefits to be had in Portugal, it’s just essential that you identify these early to reap the rewards.

Portugal will always be a popular destination for people seeking a life in the sunshine. There are few other countries that can offer the same climate, scenery, and relaxed pace of life. The changes over the last year should not detract from this, but instead should just act as a further incentive to do your planning and make sure that you position yourself in the best possible way to live the life you always dreamed of.

A Guide to Sines, Portugal’s Port of Entry


What to visit in and around Sines? Beaches, many will say. It’s true, this little piece of Alentejo coastline is one of the most popular summer vacation destinations because of its cove beaches, especially the Porto Covo beaches which are some of the most beautiful in Portugal.

But it is also history, nature, and a source of pleasure. Birthplace of the navigator Vasco da Gama, one of the gateways to the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park, a crossing point on the unmissable Rota Vicentina, and home to a cuisine that combines the best of the sea and the Alentejo, visiting Sines is always a good idea for a getaway, even better for a relaxing vacation.

To help you plan your summer getaway or vacation in Sines and Porto Covo, I bring you this article, focusing on what to visit, what to see and do in Sines, the best beaches, and activities. I’ve also included our suggestions for trails, restaurants, and a lot more, so you don’t miss a thing about a territory that brings together the best of the Alentejo coast.

Where is Sines

Sines is a Portuguese port city in the Setúbal district, Alentejo region, and Alentejo Litoral sub-region, more precisely at the tip of Cape Sines. From São Torpes it is part of the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park and a small portion of the north of the municipality belongs to the Santo André Lagoon Nature Reserve.

Sines is 160 km from Lisbon and 130 km from Setúbal. Its neighboring municipalities are Odemira and Santiago do Cacém.

To get there by car from Lisbon, all you need to do is follow the A2 highway for about an hour. Once you reach Grândola, you’ll need to leave the highway and take the IP8 for a bit before joining the A26 highway, which will take you directly to Sines.

By bus, you’ll need to head to the Sete Rios station. There are several direct buses daily, so all you need to do is pick the time that works best for you.

Unfortunately, Sines doesn’t have a train station. But there are multiple daily trains to nearby Grândola. From there, a short bus ride will then take you to Sines.

When to Visit

Because of the fantastic beaches, summer is the best time of year to visit Sines. However, there is no shortage of reasons to visit Sines and Porto Covo all year round:

  • Sines Carnival (February/March): Sines is one of the Portuguese cities with the longest carnival tradition.
  • Spring Fair (April/May): Shows, entertainment for families and a traditional market to color the historic center for a weekend.
  • World Music Festival (July): The castle and its surroundings become an alternative universe, with eclectic music from the four corners of the world. This festival is already an international reference and, since 1999, the most important event in the municipality.
  • Tasquinhas Sines (July): Restaurants and stalls fill Avenida Vasco da Gama with flavor (and mouth-watering smells) to showcase the best of local cuisine.
  • Feast of Nossa Senhora das Salas (August 14 and 15): Although the patron saint of Sines is São Salvador, Nossa Senhora das Salas is the patron saint of the fishermen of Sines and the saint with the greatest popular cult.
  • Feast of Our Lady of Solitude (August 30): Porto Covo is celebrating.
  • Municipal Day celebrations (November 24th): Municipal holiday.
  • Natal no Largo (December): The magic of Christmas brought to the historic center with lights, color, and sparkle, a traditional market, and lots of street entertainment.

What to See and Do in Sines

Vasco da Gama Statue Sines Portugal
A statue of Sines’ proud son, Vasco da Gama. Photo by Vitor Oliveira (Flickr).

Find out what you’ve been missing by not visiting Sines. Get away from the preconceived image that Sines is just a container port (the largest in Portugal) and give a chance to a city that was shaped by the sea. No Portuguese land is so closely linked to Vasco da Gama, Sines’ most illustrious son, and the picturesque historic center revives the memory of the great navigator at every opportunity.

On a visit to Sines, here are the places and experiences you can’t miss:

  • Wander around the picturesque historic center. The main points of interest in the historic center of Sines are around Rua do Muro da Praia, Largo Poeta Bocage and Largo do Castelo. Take the opportunity to stroll along the shopping streets of Rua Teófilo Braga (formerly Rua Direita) and Rua Cândido Reis.
  • Climb up to Sines Castle, a fortification built to defend the coast from corsairs shortly after the conquest of the Algarve. It is still the best viewpoint overlooking the Bay of Sines. Walk along the ramparts and discover the Sines Museum, which includes the Keep, Vasco da Gama’s House, the Palace of the Military Governors, the Old Stables, the Old Barracks, and the Garrison House.
  • Visit the Church of the Savior, the parish church of Sines. Right next door is the Misericórdia Chapel, and opposite is the Emmerico Nunes Cultural Center.
  • Take a coffee break at Vela D’Ouro and treat yourself to the famous traditional sweets: Two Vasquinhos and two Al-Bertos for table 7. And a slice of the “Worst Chocolate Cake in the World”.
  • Right next to the castle walls and the main church, the statue of Vasco da Gama, the first man to make the sea voyage to India, still looks out to sea. But you can go down the famous Escadinhas do Muro da Praia, the main access to Vasco da Gama Beach.
  • Few people know about it, but follow this tip: go around the castle and discover the Roman Factories, a museum space with archaeological remains of fish factories that were only discovered in 1990 on the east side of the castle walls.
  • Take a stroll along the Sines waterfront to the Forte do Revelim or Forte de Nossa Senhora das Salvas where the Observatório do Mar (Museum of the Sea and the Port of Sines) is located, and take in the fishing port of Sines, a centuries-old tradition, with the fishing boats, the Bay of Sines and the hustle and bustle of the work coloring the historic center of Sines in the background.
  • Don’t miss out on the Penedo das Índias Walkways, climbing back up to the historic center while enjoying one of the best panoramic views of the bay.
  • The Church of Nossa Senhora das Salvas (or das Salas) goes unnoticed by many visitors, but it’s well worth a visit if only to contemplate the Manueline portico built by Vasco da Gama himself. If it’s open, don’t hesitate to go inside and admire the Treasure of Our Lady of Salas inside.
  • Take the car and head for Cabo de Sines, stop at the Lighthouse, extend the views over the long sandy beaches to Troia at the viewpoint on the north coast, or stretch your legs on the North Coast Walkway.
  • Take a stroll through the Alameda da Paz Garden and discover the history and life of the fishermen of Sines in the beautiful tile panels that decorate the walls of the Old Sines Railway Station.
  • Dare to discover the many secrets of this stretch of the Alentejo coast by heading to the village of Porto Covo. Head south along the M1109 and be dazzled by the first cove beaches in the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park. Get your bathing suit or camera ready because you won’t be able to resist the charms of these intimate and wild beaches sheltered by wonderful cliffs.

What to See and Do around Sines

Porto Covo Sines Portugal
Porto Covo’s main square seems right out of a postcard. Photo by Giovanni Prestige (Flickr).

Porto Covo

If Sines sounds appealing, pace yourself because just 13 km south is the crown jewel of the municipality: Porto Covo.

Porto Covo is a village of beaches, snacks, walks, and peace. Lots of peace! It will always be one of our favorite destinations for a getaway from the city to the Costa Vicentina. If you’re looking for a haven of choice, Porto Covo has to be on your list. The village is small, cozy and charming. But time is always short here. Here’s what you really can’t miss while you’re there:

  • Start your visit at the charismatic Largo Marquês de Pombal, centered on a pleasant garden, surrounded by houses so quaint that you feel like living inside them.
  • Enter the church, and admire the polychrome gilded altarpiece and the image of Nossa Senhora da Soledade, the patron saint venerated by the people of Porto Covo and the surrounding area for centuries.
  • From there, follow the Vasco da Gama pedestrian street towards the sea.
  • Once on the coast, enjoy a scenic stroll along the cliffs of Porto Covo with Pessegueiro Island and the iconic Porto Covo Lighthouse marking the horizon. On one side you’ll discover a handful of small beaches, including Praia dos Buizinhos, Praia Pequena, Praia do Banho and Praia do Espingardeiro. The views are simply magnificent! On the other side, Porto Covo Bay hides, with its small fishing port full of colorful boats.
  • Finish your walk along the cliffs at Praia Grande, the best “urban” beach for bathing in Porto Covo – it has everything you need.
  • A “real” walk along the cliff top leads to viewpoints with brutal views and two handfuls of sandy beaches. In addition to those mentioned above, there is also Praia da Gaivota, Praia da Cerca Nova, Praia do Salto (naturist), Praia do Serro da Águia, Praia de Porto Covinho and the beautiful Praia da Samoqueira.

Best Beaches in and around Sines

Porto Covo Beach Sines Portugal
Beaches with a countryside atmosphere. Can’t get more relaxing than that! Photo by Giovanni Prestige (Flickr).

It’s impossible to visit Sines without visiting its beaches. When you visit Sines, put on your explorer’s clothes and set off to discover the treasures, as small as they are precious, that are the hidden coves along the 30 km of jagged coastline.

There are wider stretches of beach, but the majority are small beaches with fine sand and transparent water, sheltered by large rocks, which seem to have been made on purpose to create a feeling of intimacy and exclusivity. Of these, Morgável, Navalheira, Vale Figueiros, Serro da Águia, Oliveirinha, Foz and Canudos are names that only ring bells for those who know the coast like the back of their hand.

Vasco da Gama Beach

In the center of the Bay of Sines is the wide Vasco da Gama Beach, nestled between pontoons. The riverside promenade offers kilometers for jogging sessions or pleasant walks all year round. In summer, the calm sea invites you to take a dip and the sand invites you to sunbathe – the best guarded and accessible beach in Sines.

São Torpes Beach

São Torpes used to have the warmest water of the beaches on the Costa Vicentina, but the closure of the Sines thermoelectric plant at the beginning of 2021 put an end to the tropical waters. But the charms of São Torpes beach, put on the map by surfers, are all still there: the regular, gentle waves are simply perfect for getting started in the sport.

Samouqueira Beach

One of the most beautiful beaches in Porto Covo is Praia da Samoqueira. You’ll want to get to know every nook and cranny of this wild beach that meanders between the cliffs: caves, snacks, natural pools (a delight for the kids at low tide), and even a freshwater waterfall (if you’re very lucky!). The paradisiacal setting, golden sands, usually calm sea, and crystal-clear emerald waters are worth a visit. Fill up your cooler and go and (vi)see it in situ because no photo can do justice to all its attributes.

Porto Covo’s Praia Grande

The Praia Grande in Porto Covo is one of the most popular beaches on the Alentejo coast. It is guarded, sheltered, and has all the facilities to support bathers, but access is via a staircase in the cliffs. The white sands and clear waters of Praia Grande’s sandy beach are the delight of kids and adults alike who enjoy their summer vacations in Porto Covo. Bodyboarders and surfers the rest of the year.

Pessegueiro Island Beach

The most famous island in the Alentejo, Ilha do Pessegueiro, gave its name to the beach that stretches south of Porto Covo. Let’s face it, not everyone knows the beach that inspired Rui Veloso’s song. As such, it remains a less populated stronghold. In the summer, there are boats that cross to visit the ruins of Santo Alberto Fort on Pessegueiro Island, with its unique flora and fauna.

In addition to the beach, there is the Fort of Nossa Senhora da Queimada and unique sand cliffs under a giant stone slab facing the sea.

Best Trails in and around Sines

As I mentioned at the beginning, Sines is a crossing point on the Rota Vicentina, one of the best major routes in Europe, certified as a Leading Quality Trail.

Of the network of hiking and mountain bike trails that make up the Rota Vicentina, the Fishermen’s Trail is one of the most beautiful coastal trails in the world and the section that runs through the municipality of Sines goes from São Torpes to Vila Nova de Milfontes, passing through Porto Covo. Add two days to your itinerary to visit Sines and Porto Covo and discover one of the most beautiful pieces of coastline in the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park.

Where to Eat in Sines

Of all the reasons to visit Sines and Porto Covo, gastronomy is one of the main ones.

It took the açordas and feijoadas from the Alentejo countryside and gave them a special taste of the sea. Directly from the Sines fish market and directly from the Alentejo plains come the fresh ingredients that the restaurants transform into delicacies, many of them combining the pure pleasure of food with breathtaking views of the ocean.

Sines Winery

A typical restaurant in the heart of Sines’ historic quarter, where the service is fast, in the old tavern style, and the food is comforting.

Cais da Estação

An old railway station warehouse has been converted into a restaurant that focuses on quality. We went for the house specialty, razor clam rice with fried cuttlefish, and left converted.

Zé Inácio (Porto Covo)

At Zé Inácio, grilled fish is king and master. But the polvo à lagareiro, fish cataplana, fried cuttlefish, and monkfish rice are not far behind. For dessert, the sweet migas reign supreme.

What to Visit around Sines

Vila Nova de Milfontes Portugal
Vila Nova de Milfontes. Photo by Vitor Oliveira (Flickr).

Vila Nova de Milfontes

Less than 20 km from Porto Covo, Vila Nova de Milfontes is a gem nestled between the sea and the River Mira. Wander through the charming streets of the historic center, where you’ll find the Church of Nossa Senhora da Graça and the Fort of São Clemente. Enjoy the tranquillity of Praia da Franquia, on the banks of the River Mira. Take a stroll along the promenade that connects the fort to the Vila Nova de Milfontes Lighthouse and end the day watching the sunset at Praia do Farol.

Cape Sardão

Another 20 km and you’ll discover the majestic Cabo Sardão, the westernmost point of the Alentejo coast and the only place in Europe where storks nest on the coastline. A towering lighthouse, a silent sentinel guiding the brave men of the sea, welcomes you, but it’s the overwhelming views from the cliff tops and the omnipresent peace, interspersed with the crashing of the waves on the cliffs and the whispering of the wind, that will win your heart.

Zambujeira do Mar

Like a glittering tiara, Zambujeira do Mar crowns the high cliffs that line Zambujeira Beach, one of the best beaches on the Alentejo coast. Perched on top of the cliffs, the white houses, lined up along streets full of Alentejo atmosphere, are brightened up by the diadem that is the Chapel of Nossa Senhora do Mar, located in a square whose views would make any soul praise the heavens. It’s the perfect place to watch the sunset!

Santiago do Cacém

Santiago do Cacém, a Templar land, is a peaceful and pleasant town crowned by the Moorish Castle, the Mother Church, and the imposing walls. Down the hill are the manor houses that impress and hint at the glory of the city of yesteryear. And on the outskirts, the fascinating Roman ruins of Miróbriga. The territory is a mixture of Alentejo, hills, sea and pine forest. From the hills of Cercal, 346 meters high, you can see the vastness of the sea to the west. But head to the Lagoas de Santo André and Sancha Nature Reserve to get a closer look and get to know this sanctuary of flora and fauna.

Santo André Lagoon Nature Reserve

Between the Atlantic Ocean and the placid waters of the brackish lagoons, the Santo André and Sancha Lagoons Nature Reserve is a nesting ground for thousands of birds and a paradise for birdwatching enthusiasts, especially in the cold months. Good winds bring birds and kitesurfers and windsurfers. In the summer, the birds give you license and give up “pallets” of space on the long sandy beach of Praia da Costa to dry off in the sun after dives with and (more or less) without salt. Don’t miss a stroll along the walkways, on the sand or on the shores of the lagoon at sunset.

Off We Go

So, what do you say? Explore the charming historic center of Sines, where Vasco da Gama’s legacy echoes through cobbled streets. Follow the cliffside trails, discover secret beaches, and savor the fusion of sea and Alentejo flavors in local eateries.

Don’t stop there — extend your adventure to nearby gems like Vila Nova de Milfontes, Cape Sardão, Zambujeira do Mar, Santiago do Cacém, and the Santo André Lagoon Nature Reserve. Each destination unfolds a unique tapestry of history, landscapes, and wildlife.

Whether you time your visit with lively festivals or opt for a quiet retreat, Sines promises (and delivers!) a journey through the heart of the Alentejo coast. I hope this article was your guide to a getaway filled with awe, discovery, and the warm embrace of Portuguese hospitality. Happy trips!

Northeast’s Forgotten Capital – Visiting Bragança

Bragança Cityscape Portugal
Bragança is capital of Portugal’s second least populous district. Photo by Pedro Nuno Caetano (Flickr).

Let’s face it, exploring Bragança is an absolute must, even though it’s a destination often postponed due to perceived distance. From a distance, it miraculously comes closer, revealing the untapped tourist allure of the Municipality of Bragança, situated in the Northeast of Portugal. Here, I present a curated itinerary for your journey through Bragança, featuring notable attractions, recommended accommodations in and around Bragança, culinary landmarks in local restaurants, and an interactive map to ensure you don’t miss a beat during your visit.

This northern Portuguese municipality, nestled in Trás-os-Montes, played a pivotal role in safeguarding the Portuguese border, carrying a historically significant legacy in the nation’s formation. Various civilizations, including Celts, Romans, and Arabs, once occupied this land, and even neighboring Castile coveted this piece of Transmontana Cold Land. Its strategic importance has been acknowledged since 1187, earning a special charter from Portuguese monarchs, and in 1464, it achieved city status.

Bragança’s district forms part of the UNESCO-recognized Transboundary Biosphere Reserve of the Iberian Plateau. The region boasts a natural heritage of rare beauty and diversity, encompassing two natural parks within its boundaries: the lush mountain vegetation in Montesinho Natural Park and the majestic cliffs of the river canyon in the International Douro Natural Park. Additionally, the Terras de Cavaleiros Geopark showcases rock formations unique in the world, and a significant portion of the Regional Natural Park of the Tua Valley contributes to the area’s natural splendor.

Given these remarkable features, it’s no surprise that the latest tourism promotion campaign proudly declares, “Naturally Bragança.” Beyond being a mere phrase, “naturally” perfectly encapsulates this remote region where inhabitants maintain an intimate and respectful relationship with nature, viewing it as sustenance, shelter, and inspiration.

The reality is this: Bragança is much closer than anticipated and stands as a compelling destination for a getaway, a cultural excursion, or even an extended vacation.

How to Get There

Bragança stands as the capital of the northeasternmost district of Portugal, forming, along with Vila Real, the Trás-os-Montes region in the North of Portugal. Positioned along the border, this borderland district shares boundaries with Spain to the north and east, specifically with the provinces of Ourense, Zamora, and Salamanca.

For those journeying by car, it is the preferred means of reaching Bragança. The primary and swiftest routes into the city are the A4 and IP2. It takes less than 5 hours to cover the approximately 500 km between Lisbon and Bragança. This is attributed to Bragança’s well-connected road infrastructure. From Porto, the 200 km separating the two cities can be covered in just over 2 hours. Bragança also enjoys a strategic location in proximity to major Spanish cities such as Zamora, Salamanca, and Madrid.

Traveling by bus is another option, with daily services to Bragança departing from major Portuguese cities. Although the journey is lengthy and time-consuming, it offers an economical solution for solo travelers.

It’s worth noting that Bragança does not have a train connection.

A Bit of History

Bragança Castle Portugal
Bragança’s castle is one of the oldest in Portugal. Photo by José Antonio Gil Martínez (Flickr).

The history of Bragança traces back to ancient times, with evidence of human settlement in the region dating back to the pre-Roman era. The Celts, an ancient Indo-European people, were among the early inhabitants of this land. Their influence and cultural imprint have left a lasting legacy in the historical tapestry of Bragança. As different civilizations ebbed and flowed, the Celts played a crucial role in shaping the identity of the region.

With the rise of the Roman Empire, Bragança became part of the vast Roman territory. The Romans, known for their engineering prowess and strategic vision, recognized the geographical significance of Bragança. The region served as a crucial point in the defense of the northern frontier of the empire. The Roman presence left an indelible mark on the landscape, and remnants of their occupation can still be found in archaeological sites scattered throughout the area.

During the Moorish period in the Iberian Peninsula, Bragança witnessed cultural interactions and influences. The Moors, with their advanced knowledge in various fields, contributed to the development of agriculture, architecture, and arts in the region. The coexistence of different cultures during this time laid the foundation for the rich diversity that characterizes Bragança today.

As the Middle Ages unfolded, Bragança emerged as a key player in the defense of the Portuguese border against neighboring Castile. The strategic location of Bragança made it a focal point in the territorial disputes between the two kingdoms. In 1187, recognizing its strategic importance, Bragança was granted a special charter by Portuguese monarchs, solidifying its role as a fortified stronghold.

In 1464, Bragança reached a significant milestone when it was elevated to city status. This period marked a Renaissance influence, bringing advancements in arts, architecture, and governance. The city’s skyline began to evolve with the construction of notable landmarks, reflecting the prosperity and cultural vibrancy of Bragança during this era.

As Portugal entered the modern era, Bragança continued to evolve. In contemporary times, Bragança gained international recognition with its inclusion in the UNESCO-recognized Transboundary Biosphere Reserve of the Iberian Plateau. This acknowledgment underscores the city’s commitment to preserving its natural and cultural heritage.

When to Visit

Autumn Bragança Portugal
Autumn in Bragança is a spectacle of color. Photo by Libânia Pereira (Flickr).

The optimal time to visit Bragança hinges on individual preferences and interests. If your aim is to delve into the rich historical and cultural heritage while savoring regional gastronomy, any season is perfect.

In the local Transmontano vernacular, the phrase “nine months of winter and three of hell” is commonly used to describe the climate of the Cold Lands and Transmontano plateaus prevailing in the Bragança district. It’s true that the region is renowned (and thrives) for its prolonged cold winters and short, hot summers.

Temperatures are milder in late spring and early autumn, making these times ideal for leisurely walks.

In spring, rain and thaw fill rivers, streams, and brooks that run wild. The rolling hills are adorned with floral hues dominated by cistus, broom, heather, and more. Almond trees in bloom, from March to April, create a rare spectacle, blanketing the territory in a white cloak, distinct from the winter snow that makes the city glisten.

Autumn brings the long-awaited freshness after hot summer days, which can be unforgiving here. The landscape is painted in enchanting warm autumnal tones: stubble fields turn rural landscapes to gold, plowed earth presents a complete palette of reddish hues, alder trees trace yellow lines along watercourses, oranges, browns, and Bordeaux dominate vineyards and adorn oaks, the golden foliage of beech trees…

Amidst the two distinct intense greens of chestnut trees, extending as far as the eye can see: the dark green of the foliage and the light green of chestnut husks. With the falling leaves, nature “weaves” plush carpets of multicolored foliage, inviting one to roll around.

Low temperatures don’t deter the locals, known as brigantinos, from celebrating the cycle of life and nature, a central theme in their most distinctive traditions and customs. In fact, a variety of popular and cultural events fill the Winter Festivals (usually from November to February/March), perhaps unknown to most Portuguese but lived more intensely by the locals.

Make a note of these dates in your calendar if you plan to visit Bragança during one of its most significant events:

Bragança Festival (August): The peak time to visit Bragança is in the summer when days are long and the events calendar is brimming with festivals and activities. The highlight is undoubtedly the Festas de Bragança, dedicated to the patron saint, Nossa Senhora das Graças, culminating on the municipal holiday of August 22.

December/January: From Saint Stephen’s Day to Epiphany, there is no lull in the villages of Bragança during the Festas dos Rapazes. After all, the Caretos don’t only hit the streets during Carnival. Each village has its ancient traditions to celebrate the winter solstice, whose origins are lost in memory but intertwine Celtic solstice rites, Zoelas customs, juvenile revelry, and Roman calends.

Burning of the Devil (Carnival): Carnival is always an excellent time to visit Bragança and its surroundings. On the Saturday before Carnival, the city streets fill with Caretos from neighboring villages, and even from León and Zamora. Adorned in their traditional costumes and reviving ancient customs, they run, jump, jingle, and play through the streets, culminating at Bragança Castle with the Burning of the Devil. In the following days, until Ash Wednesday, you can catch them in their respective villages.

Deer Rut Season (September and October): Okay, it’s not a festival, but it’s an experience, and nature enthusiasts appreciate the unique spectacle of the Red Deer Rut (mating season). With some luck, you can hear a dozen males from the red deer population of the Montesinho Natural Park bellowing loudly to attract females.

November: As the harvest season concludes, attention turns to numerous markets and fairs, chestnut-themed festivals and gatherings (a fundamental product in Trás-os-Montes), and mycological routes (for those eager to learn more about wild mushrooms).

What to See

Now it’s time to dive in and embark on an enchanting journey through Bragança, where history unfolds amidst architectural wonders, revealing the city’s rich tapestry.  The Historical Center, a relatively compact area, beckons exploration on foot, offering three essential nuclei for first-time visitors: the Bragança Castle and Citadel, Museums Street, and Sé Square.

Bragança’s Historical Center

Bragança Castle Portugal
The shape of Bragança’s castle is so distinct that any Portuguese is able to recognize it from just a glance. Photo by José Antonio Gil Martínez (Flickr).

Bragança, a city with heart, symbolized by the embracing walls of Bragança Castle around its oldest and still thriving borough, the Citadel. Your journey begins here, at the elevated part of the city. Whether entering through the Sun Gate (east) or the Village Gate (west), the Castle Square is sure to leave you in awe. Bragança Castle, one of Portugal’s most beautifully preserved castles with stunning Gothic windows, stands tall. Explore the 15th-century Keep, housing the distinguished Military Museum of Bragança. Immerse yourself in fantasy at the legendary Princess Tower and ascend one of the turrets for breathtaking views of Bragança and its surroundings.

Discover other must-see attractions within the Citadel, including the Church of Santa Maria (or Nossa Senhora do Sardão), the oldest originally Romanesque church in Bragança, now adorned with Baroque and Renaissance elements revealing astonishing three-dimensional paintings. Adjacent to it, find the enigmatic Domus Municipalis, a unique pentagonal Romanesque building, believed to be a meeting place for the “good men,” some of whom convened in secrecy.

Explore the Iberian Mask and Costume Museum within the Citadel, a captivating collection of traditional Caretos masks. Stroll along the castle walls, unraveling more charms of the Citadel, such as the medieval Pillory mounted on a boar, a zoomorphic representation of a carved granite sow, bearing witness to the city’s Celtic origins. Lose yourself in narrow, cobbled streets, ancient and full of character, lined with picturesque houses that seem to have forgotten the passage of time.

Outside the walls, take time to wander through the Castle Garden, and discover the Queen’s Fountain, and the Chapel of Our Lady of Health. Marvel at the aesthetic beauty of the Mudéjar ceiling in the Church of São Bento and the mannerist facade of the Convent and Church of São Francisco, significant on the pilgrims’ route to Santiago de Compostela, where recent discoveries unveiled medieval frescoes.

Museum Street

Museum Street Bragança Portugal
Bragança’s Museum Street is one of the coolest and most underappreciated in Portugal. Photo by Pedro Nuno Caetano (Flickr).

Continue your exploration, descending to Museum Street, officially Abílio Beça Street. In just 500 meters, encounter five noteworthy museums, attracting history, archaeology, ethnography, and art enthusiasts: the Abade de Baçal Museum, the Graça Morais Contemporary Art Center, the Georges Dussaud Photography Center, the Bragança Sephardic Memorial and Documentation Center, and the Northeast Transmontano Sephardic Culture Interpretation Center.

As you stroll down Museum Street, explore the Churches of São Vicente, Mercy, and Santa Clara in the former convent, where the patroness of Bragança, Our Lady of Grace, is venerated.

Main Square

No Bragança itinerary is complete without a visit to the Sé, in the main square, a spacious and airy square centered around a cross, presided over by the Old Cathedral of Bragança. Dating back to the 16th century, the Old Cathedral was initially intended as a convent for the Clarisse nuns. Eventually handed over to the Jesuits, it became one of the most prestigious colleges in the region. In 1764, the episcopal seat was transferred from Miranda do Douro to Bragança, and the convent complex and church, dedicated to Saint John the Baptist and the Holy Name of Jesus, became the diocesan cathedral. Set aside time to explore the church; it is well worth it!

The remaining architectural complex of the convent was renovated in 2004 by the municipality, transforming it into the Municipal Cultural Center Adriano Moreira, the Municipal Library, the Adriano Moreira Library, the Trás-os-Montes Academy of Letters, the Music Conservatory, exhibition halls, and a city memory space. Most cultural spaces are accessible through Camões Square, a vast square used for major city events and the location of the old market.

The Unseen Bragança

Snow Night Bragança Portugal
Dusk at a snowy Bragança is something out of a fairytale. Photo by Luis Mota (Flickr).

Bragança’s charm extends beyond its architectural heritage and historical and cultural landmarks. A visit to Bragança becomes truly fulfilling when leisurely strolling through its streets, alleys, and squares, appreciating the details and facades of old buildings—some humble, others opulent.

These wanderings unveil hidden gems like the Green Corridor, a sequence of boardwalks flanking the Fervença River (applauded for its riverbank restaurant scene) leading to the Bragança Science Center, Casa da Seda, the viewpoint of the Chapel of Our Lady of Pity, and the lush Urban Park.

In line with the city’s ecological consciousness, emphasizing green space beautification, there’s also a commitment to street art. Drawing inspiration from the region’s identity, Bragança is making its mark on the international street art map. From remarkable murals and installations by globally recognized artists like Bordalo II (whose “Chameleon,” “Genet,” and “Wild Boar” adorn the streets), to subtle decorative motifs with messages, Bragança is earning a spot in the global street art scene.

Challenge yourself to see Bragança with fresh eyes after exploring the vibrant heart of the city. Change your perspective and take in the marvelous views of the city, castle, walled citadel, and colorful houses from the São Bartolomeu Sanctuary Overlook. It’s the perfect vantage point to bid farewell to this “beautiful Transmontana,” whose enchantment captivates like a spell, leaving a desire to return.

Around Bragança

Explore the wealth of the Transmontana region, where Bragança stands as a testament to secular honors and royal favor for its role in the nation’s construction. This journey goes beyond the city’s invaluable heritage, encompassing two additional treasures: the people of Bragança and the natural heritage.

Montesinho Natural Park

Montesinho Park Portugal
Often overshadowed by the neighboring Peneda-Gerês Park, the Montesinho Park is a natural wonder well worth a visit. Photo by Wolf Gang (Flickr).

The lush green expanse of the undulating Montesinho Natural Park awaits just beyond Bragança’s gates. Enhance your Bragança itinerary by immersing yourself in pure, untouched, and wild nature. A significant portion of Portugal’s terrestrial fauna, including the Iberian Wolf and Red Deer, finds sanctuary here. September and October bring the fascinating (and spine-chilling) experience of hearing the Red Deer’s Roar, one of the planet’s unique mating calls. Montesinho’s beauty was even visited by a Cantabrian Brown Bear in 2019. Who knows, maybe the next visit will bring a friend to settle in Portugal.

The green palette adorning Montesinho’s mountains is dominated by oak groves, cork oak forests, and chestnut groves (Bragança is the largest chestnut producer in Portugal). The trail opportunities are virtually infinite and surprising. Idyllic waterfalls and river beaches provide refreshing spots after hikes. If walking isn’t your forte, embark on a 4×4 adventure to explore the natural sanctuary that is Montesinho Natural Park.

Rio de Onor

One of the 7 Wonders of Portugal Villages, Rio de Onor is a village literally traversed by the invisible line of the border with Spain and the river it shares its name with. Nestled in Montesinho Natural Park, the village seamlessly integrates into the landscape of this remote Trás-os-Montes, where its greatest heritage is its people. The rhythmic dialect of Rio de Onor still resonates from the flowery balconies of the typical shale houses. Twin sisters, Rio de Onor and Rihonor de Castilla, form a single community with fifty Portuguese and Spanish residents, maintaining the true spirit of communal life, akin to a family. Beautiful and captivating, Rio de Onor rightfully secures a place on our list of the most beautiful villages in Portugal.


Gimonde Bragança Portugal
Gimonde is a hidden gem, very close to Bragança. Photo by Pedro Nuno Caetano (Flickr).

Gimonde is a must-stop village in any Bragança itinerary, renowned for its gastronomic delights. Beyond the excellence of Mirandese Steak and the quality of Porco Bísaro smoked products, there’s a rural charm that captivates everyone. This charm emanates from the typical shale houses, the towering church, life set to the rhythm of the countryside, and the rivers that traverse it—the Igrejas River and the Sabor River. With bridges crossing them—the old shale bridge, the new granite bridge, and stepping stones that we can’t resist hopping across (one day we might misjudge the distance and impulse and end up in the water).

Montesinho Village

The mountain village of Montesinho lends its name to the natural park in its heart. Invisible until the last moment, those arriving by road are surprised by a vibrant, colorful, beautiful, and lively shale village, especially when visitors fill the two squares in front of the village cafes. Recognizing its tourism potential, the village underwent revitalization, offering astonishing Rural Tourism accommodations for a village of this size—a perfect refuge from urban hustle and bustle.

Monastery of Castro de Avelãs

A mere 5 km west of Bragança lies what could be Portugal’s sole example of Mudéjar Romanesque architecture—the Monastery of Castro de Avelãs. The church’s brick masonry apse, likely predating the 12th century, still stands.


Passersby on the road would never suspect that this unassuming village harbors one of Portugal’s greatest treasures of religious architecture—not a church but a basilica. The only village basilica in Portugal belongs to the municipality of Bragança and more than deserves a visit. After marveling at the Basilica of Santo Cristo do Outeiro, wander through the village’s streets and squares, ascending to the hilltop where remnants of the Outeiro Castle, like an imperfect crown, still remain.

Where to Eat

From traditional dishes to innovative creations, these dining establishments promise a delightful experience for every palate.

Taberna do Javali

Nestled within the citadel of Bragança Castle, Taberna do Javali offers a refreshing and intriguing culinary experience. Whether you opt for tapas or a full meal, the enticing names on the menu are surpassed only by the flavorful dishes. Named after the wild boar, the restaurant crafts succulent boar steaks and burgers that stand out. While the wait time might test your patience, every dish is prepared on the spot, ensuring a slow but rewarding service. Take your time, savor the moment, and indulge in the innovative offerings that continually emerge from the kitchen.


  • Crispy chicken strips with spicy sauce
  • Ham with tomatoes
  • Chouriça sausage
  • Game burger
  • Wild boar steak sandwich
  • Wild boar loin
  • Pork loin
  • Veal loin
  • Transmontana salad
  • Ham and avocado risotto
  • Mixed sweets
  • Chestnut tart
  • Chickpea tart
  • Lemon mousse
  • White chocolate

Restaurante O Careto

Situated in the heart of Varge village, Restaurante O Careto pays homage to traditional Transmontana gastronomy in a meticulously crafted rustic setting. Amidst the acclaimed Mirandese steaks and chops, discover age-old flavors that almost slipped through time. Indulge in generous servings of grilled cod with mashed potatoes, and a surprising open-grilled conger eel. Delight in tastes of yesteryear, such as the homemade Potted Iron Pot Rooster.


  • Cheese, ham, and chouriço appetizers
  • Grilled cod with mashed potatoes
  • Open-grilled conger eel
  • Veal steak
  • Veal chop
  • Homemade Potted Iron Pot Rooster (available by reservation)
  • Cheese with pumpkin jam
  • Cheese with cherry jam
  • Egg custard

Restaurante O Abel

A must-stop in the village of Gimonde, Restaurante O Abel beckons with over thirty years of dedication to authentic regional flavors and traditional dishes. From a humble tapas joint, it transformed into a renowned restaurant, witnessing its space expand as the clientele multiplied. Despite the transition from “tripe with beans in a bowl” to the finest grilled Transmontana meats, the family atmosphere has remained unchanged. Abel’s Steak has no rival, and the secret lies in the sauce infused with local aromatic herbs, bringing the essence of the region to the palate. Arrive hungry and early, as reservations are not accepted, and you might have to wait your turn.


  • Regional smoked sausage, ham, and grilled chouriço
  • Sheep cheese
  • Abel’s Steak
  • Veal Chop
  • Rodeão (beef cut)
  • Lamb
  • Picantone (grilled chicken)
  • Grilled cod with olive oil
  • Chestnut pudding
  • Cheese pudding
  • Chocolate mousse
  • Caramelized pumpkin

Solar Bragançano

Reserved in advance yet unreserved in the art of hospitality and culinary excellence, Solar Bragançano, located in Praça da Sé, is an embodiment of nobility. The true aristocracy lies not only in the garden, salons, fine woods, and decor but in the kitchen, elevating game, meat, and fish dishes to unparalleled heights. The menu, a seductive poem to the palate, features carefully selected wines and a culinary experience that is nothing short of captivating.


  • Regional smoked sausage
  • Fried trout
  • Mushrooms
  • Ham, cheeses
  • Trout with ham sauce
  • Solar’s grilled cod
  • Sole
  • Sea bass
  • Congo fish
  • Solar’s Veal steak
  • Mirandese Veal Sirloin
  • Montesinho Kid
  • Canhono Mirandês (lamb)
  • Partridge, Pheasant, Wild boar, Deer, Hare
  • Golden pumpkin
  • Burnt custard
  • Cherry soup

Off We Go

Street Bragança Portugal
What are you waiting for? Bragança is waiting for you! Photo by Pedro Nuno Caetano (Flickr).

As you can see, the journey through Bragança unfolds as a captivating exploration of history, culture, and natural wonders. This northeastern Portuguese gem, with its rich historical tapestry dating back to ancient civilizations, stands as a testament to the resilience and strategic significance of the nation’s formation.

As you wander through the Historical Center of Bragança, the heart of this enchanting city, we are transported through time. The well-preserved Bragança Castle and Citadel, the intriguing Museums Street, and the serene Sé Square offer a glimpse into the diverse layers of Bragança’s past. The Unseen Bragança reveals hidden gems, from the Green Corridor along the Fervença River to the burgeoning street art scene, adding a contemporary flair to the city’s charm.

Venturing beyond Bragança’s boundaries, you’ll discover Montesinho Natural Park, a haven of biodiversity and tranquility. The villages of Rio de Onor, Gimonde, and Montesinho each contribute a unique flavor to the region, blending natural beauty with cultural richness. Culinary delights further enhance the Bragança experience, from traditional dishes to innovative creations, these establishments reflect the region’s gastronomic prowess.

Bragança is not just a destination; it’s an immersion into a world where history whispers through the cobblestone streets, nature beckons with open arms, and the warmth of the people adds a touch of genuine hospitality. Whether you come for the festivals, the Red Deer Rut, or the winter celebrations, Bragança invites you to discover its allure—”Naturally Bragança.” So, whether it’s a brief getaway, a cultural excursion, or an extended vacation, Bragança awaits, closer and more captivating than one might imagine.