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JOSÉ SARAMAGO – Celebrating the Centenary of Portugal’s Nobel Prize for Literature

“Unemployed again and bearing in mind the political situation we were undergoing, without the faintest possibility of finding a job, I decided to devote myself to literature: it was about time to find out what I was worth as a writer.”  Lisbon, 1976. 45 years down the line, over two million copies of Saramago’s books have been sold only in Portugal; his work has been translated into 25 languages so far.

If he were alive today, José Saramago would have celebrated his 99th birthday last November 16th. Born in small Azinhaga do Ribatejo, aged two he moved to Lisbon, where he spent most of his life. Forced by a stern family situation to quit grammar school in favour of technical studies, he changed professions several times – car mechanic, civil servant, editor, translator, assistant editor of Diário de Notícias, was even unemployed at a stage for political reasons. He would attend the local library in his free time to quench his thirst for literature, which for many years he had to set aside. In 1947 his first book, a novel, the first of many.

“If you can see, look. If you can look, observe” (Blindness)

Due to his “parables sustained by imagination, compassion and irony [with which he] continually enables us once again to apprehend an elusory reality”, Saramago was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1998. He was an atheist, believing only love could help humankind improve its condition, which he shows great empathy for. Identity and isolation are recurring themes in this work, with characters showing their struggles and need to connect with one another and bond as a community, finding meaning outside the political and economic structures. His writing is complex yet elegant, witty and experimental: in “Blindness” (Ensaio Sobre a Cegueira – also brought to the big screen along with other novels by the author) he makes no use of proper nouns, the sentences follow one another often using only commas as punctuation, dialogues flow merging with the narrator’s voice.

“Even death, faced with the option of death or life, she would choose life.” (Death with Interruptions – As Intermitências da Morte)

Saramago died in 2010 in Lanzarote, where he had chosen to exile a few years earlier with his Spanish wife and translator due to his work being censored by a conservative government, which deemed it offensive to the catholic community. José Saramago created the José Saramago Foundation in 2007 at Casa dos Bicos, in Lisbon: his goal was to defend and promote the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to protect the environment. Through his work and foundation, Saramago played an essential role in promoting culture in Portugal as well as disseminating the Portuguese language and culture all over the world. 

Throughout the year until November 2022, a whole programme of events dedicated to José Saramago is scheduled in both Portugal and other countries. “Reading is probably another way of being in a place” he wrote in “The Double” (O Homem Duplicado): why not dive into one of his novels while you plan your next Portuguese stay?

Madeira

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It’s not surprising that over 1 million tourists travel to Madeira every year. Not only is it one of the safest travel destinations in the world, but tourists can also enjoy an all-year-round summer climate even in winter, gorgeous landscapes, and tropical-like beaches. Madeira was elected the  “World’s Leading Island Destination” from 2015 to 2021 by the World Travel Awards.

Madeira is an autonomous region of Portugal, like the Azores. It’s an archipelago in the North Atlantic Ocean, 400 kilometers to the north of the Canary Islands. The archipelago includes the islands of Madeira, Porto Santo, and the Desertas. Around 250,000 people live on the island and the capital is Funchal. For soccer fans, Funchal is the hometown of Cristiano Ronaldo. The airport is actually named after him!

Things to do in Madeira Portugal

Let’s take a look at the best things to do in Madeira.

1. Enjoy the Views from Miradouros

Madeira has plenty of miradouros (viewpoints) that provide gorgeous views. The best way to get to these are definitely by car. The most famous viewpoints in Madeira are Miradouro Pico dos Barcelos in Funchal and in Porto Santo, Miradouro da Portela. If you have time, also stop by these miradouros: Balcoes, Veu da Noiva and Eira da Achada.

Photo by Dimitry B (Unsplash)

2. Take a Ride on a Cable Car

The cable cars in Madeira are a great way to see the island and ocean views. This is the perfect activity for the whole family. The best cable car is the one in Funchal, a 20-minute ride that goes up to 560 meters high. We also recommend the Achadas da Cruz cable car, on the Northern part of Madeira in Porto Moniz. This cable car is around 450 meters high and passes through the Fajã da Quebrada Nova where you can see crystal clear waters.

Photo by Daniele Franchi (Unsplash)

3. Madeira Dolphin and Whale Watching

Madeira is known all over the world for dolphin and whale watching. There are over 20 dolphin species and around 3 whale species you can spot. The best time to see whales, in particular, is between April and October, although the pilot and sperm whales can be seen at any season. You won’t have any problem spotting dolphins as these are around all year. You must book a tour to go dolphin and whale watching, where you will learn more about these amazing marine life animals. We recommend the following tours:

Photo by adege (Pixabay)

See more dolphin and whale watching experiences in Madeira

4. Best Beaches in Madeira Portugal

Madeira and Porto Santo are a hotspot for tourists for many reasons, but predominantly its quality beaches. You have beaches all over the island that feature gorgeous rock and mountain views. Water temperatures are warm all year round, rating between 19°(66°F) in the winter and 24°C (75°F) in the summer. The best month to visit for warm water and the perfect beach days is in September. The beach options in Madeira are endless so luckily we have selected the best beaches in Madeira Portugal:

  • Porto do Seixal beach (sandy)
  • Porto Santo Beach (sandy)
  • Praia do Vigário (pebbles)
  • Machico Bay Beach (sandy)
  • Prainha Beach (sandy)
Photo by Daniele Franchi (Unsplash)

5. Experience the “Basket Cars”

A quirky transportation method in Madeira are the “basket cars”, with more than one hundred years of history. These cars are made of wood and wicker and can carry two to three people. The most fun part is that these basket cars are literally a big basket going down a two kilometers hill with no mechanical breaks, only controlled by two specialized men who make this experience unforgettable.

6. Take a Guided Tour

Madeira has a lot to offer and discovering the island with the help of an expert local provides a unique experience. No more spending time in touristy attractions filled with people, it’s time to visit Madeira like a local! Here are the best guided tours in Madeira for a memorable trip:

See All Tours in Madeira

5 Best Restaurants in Madeira Portugal: Where to eat in Madeira?

Let’s take a look at the best restaurants in Madeira.

1. O Celeiro Restaurant

Highly praised by locals, O Celeiro is located in downtown Funchal and was founded in 1986, making it one of the oldest restaurants in the region. Its interior is decorated with dark woods, regional tapestries, and Portuguese tiles. This typical restaurant has a variety of Portuguese food as well as dishes specific to Madeira. You can enjoy their regional dishes on this place’s outdoor terrace. We recommend their codfish and octopus, as well as their steaks. A meal here is around €15.

2. Restaurante Il Gallo D’Oro

This restaurant has two Michelin stars and is part of the 5-star hotel in Funchal called The Cliff Bay. Il Gallo d’Oro was the first restaurant in Madeira to receive a Michelin star in 2009. It is also known for sustainability in its gastronomy and was awarded a “Green Star” by the Michelin guide for this reason. Chef Benoît Sinthon produces aromatic cuisine that is inspired by Iberian cookies and sources many ingredients from the PortoBay garden. The cuisine showcases regional products from Madeira. You can get a meal here for €75.

3. Quinta do Furão

Located in the Quinta do Furão hotel in Santana, this restaurant opened in 1993 and features regional dishes from Madeira, as well as international cuisine. The restaurant has two main spaces: an interior room with high walls, a wooden ceiling, and two fireplaces, as well as an outside area with a terrace offering a breathtaking view. We recommend the oxtail soup and the slow-cooked lamb leg. This restaurant also has plenty of vegetarian options. You can get a meal here for €20.

4. Zarcos

Known for its large portions, Zarcos, located in Funchal, offers Madeirense dishes and traditional Portuguese food. The interior is decorated in an authentic Portuguese atmosphere, with wooden touches and stoned walls. The restaurant also has a terrace where you can try some food and enjoy a sea view. They specialize in meat dishes cooked in a fire barbecue. We recommend their sauce pepper steak. You can get a meal here for €10 to €15.

5. The Snug

The Snug is a modern smokehouse located in the Old Town that has an inviting atmosphere and is well-known for its friendly hospitality. They serve international food like American burgers, as well as traditional Portuguese food and Madeirense dishes. They also offer vegan and vegetarian options. We recommend trying their tasty milkshakes, burgers, and sardines. You can get a meal here for €15.

Best Clubs Madeira

  • Vespas Club
  • Copacabana
  • Mini Eco Bar
  • Dubai Club

Top Bars Madeira

  • 23 Vintage Bar
  • Dash Cocktail Bar
  • Bananas Pub
  • Taberna Popular
  • Venda Velha
  • FugaCidade

Transportation in Madeira Portugal: How to get around Madeira

The best way to get around Madeira is by renting a car. You can pick up and return a car at the airport. You can rent a car starting at €35 for 3 days. Are Madeira roads safe to drive on? Definitely. There are three types of roads in Madeira: highways, uphill double lane roads, and narrow steep roads. Make sure to drive slowly on the latter and you will be safe.

You can also make use of public transportation in Madeira. The bus system in Madeira is affordable and very reliable. There are four transport companies in Madeira: Horários do Funchal, SAM, Rodoeste and EACL (Empresa de Autocarros do Caniço). They all offer cheap prices and can get you around the island easily.

Photo by Lili Kovac (Unsplash)

Frequently Asked Questions about Madeira, Portugal

Madeira Location: Where is Madeira Portugal?

Madeira is an archipelago located in the Atlantic Ocean, in the African plate, over 900 KM south of Portugal and over 700 KM west of the African coast. Even though it is quite far from Portugal, it is considered an autonomous region of Portugal, like the Azores. 

Madeira Weather: What is the weather like in Madeira Portugal?

 

Weather in Madeira Average daytime temperature

 

Madeira Weather in January

  • Average temperature 16°C (61°F)
  • High temperature 18°C (64°F)
  • Low temperature 14°C (57°F)
  • Rainfall 108 mm
  • Rainfall days 13 days

Madeira Weather in February

  • Average temperature 16°C (61°F)
  • High temperature 18°C (64°F)
  • Low temperature 14°C (57°F)
  • Rainfall 72 mm
  • Rainfall days 10 days

Madeira Weather in March

  • Average temperature 16.5°C (62°F)
  • High temperature 19°C (66°F)
  • Low temperature 14°C (57°F)
  • Rainfall 52 mm
  • Rainfall days 10 days

Madeira Weather in April

  • Average temperature 16.5°C (62°F)
  • High temperature 19°C (66°F)
  • Low temperature 14°C (57°F)
  • Rainfall 60 mm
  • Rainfall days 10 days

Madeira Weather in May

  • Average temperature 18.5°C (65°F)
  • High temperature 21°C (70°F)
  • Low temperature 16°C (61°F)
  • Rainfall 15 mm
  • Rainfall days 8 days

Madeira Weather in June

  • Average temperature 20.5°C (69°F)
  • High temperature 23°C (73°F)
  • Low temperature 18°C (64°F)
  • Rainfall 9 mm
  • Rainfall days 5 days

Madeira Weather in July

  • Average temperature 21.5°C (71°F)
  • High temperature 24°C (75°F)
  • Low temperature 19°C (66°F)
  • Rainfall 6 mm
  • Rainfall days 4 days

Madeira Weather in August

  • Average temperature 22.5°C (73°F)
  • High temperature 25°C (77°F)
  • Low temperature 20°C (68°F)
  • Rainfall 3 mm
  • Rainfall days 4 days

Madeira Weather in September

  • Average temperature 22.5°C (73°F)
  • High temperature 25°C (77°F)
  • Low temperature 20°C (68°F)
  • Rainfall 36 mm
  • Rainfall days 9 days

Madeira Weather in October

  • Average temperature 21°C (70°F)
  • High temperature 23°C (73°F)
  • Low temperature 19°C (66°F)
  • Rainfall 90 mm
  • Rainfall days 12 days

Madeira Weather in November

  • Average temperature 19°C (66°F)
  • High temperature 21°C (70°F)
  • Low temperature 17°C (63°F)
  • Rainfall 90 mm
  • Rainfall days 12 days

Madeira Weather in December

  • Average temperature 17.5°C (64°F)
  • High temperature 20°C (68°F)
  • Low temperature 15°C (59°F)
  • Rainfall 81 mm
  • Rainfall days 16 days

Is Madeira expensive? What is the cost of living in Madeira Portugal?

Madeira is a cheap place and the cost of living is quite low. Let’s go through the prices of most products and services in Madeira.

  • A meal for two people will cost you around €15 to €30
  • A half a liter beer costs €2.
  • A one-way ticket for local transportation will not cost you more than €2.
  • A mid-range bottle of wine costs €3.
  • A one-bedroom in the city center to rent as housing costs between €300 and €700 a month.

Retire in Madeira: Is Madeira Portugal a good place to retire?

Madeira is a good place to retire. The retirement community in Madeira is quite large, with expats coming from all over the world, but mostly from the US and UK. Madeira is not only an affordable place to be, but expats can also access the public healthcare system, as well as other services at a great price. It’s a great place to purchase a house and the climate is mild, making Madeira the perfect place to retire for a slow-paced life.

Travel to Madeira from the UK: How can you travel to Madeira Portugal from the UK?

You can easily and affordable travel to Madeira Portugal from the UK. You can travel from various cities in the UK directly to Madeira. The flight is around 4 hours and costs a minimum of €60 usually. The following airports have flights to Madeira:

  • Birmingham Airport
  • Bristol Airport
  • East Midlands Airport
  • Gatwick Airport
  • Glasgow Airport
  • Leeds Airport
  • Luton Airport
  • London Heathrow
  • Manchester Airport

Is Madeira Portugal family-friendly?

Madeira Portugal is a family-friend vacation place. The whole family can enjoy natural pools, beaches, playgrounds, and gardens that are suitable for all ages. Madeira is also incredibly safe and has low crime rates, making it a great place to visit with kids.

Fanciest Hotels in Lisbon

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When planning a trip, one of the first and most important decisions is where to stay. Lisbon is the capital, the largest city in Portugal and also the country’s biggest tourist centre. Therefore, the accommodation options are immense and varied – from large international hotels and boutique hotels to guest houses, tourist flats and cheap hostels. In this article focus on luxury hotels, we will gather the best options, taking into consideration some hotel characteristics such as: price and value for money, location, quality of service, comfort, design/characteristics, and other amenities.

 

Ritz Four Seasons Hotel Lisboa

Ritz Four Seasons Hotel LisboaIf you are looking for the most authentic way to discover the city of the seven hills with a touch of class, then the Ritz Four Seasons Hotel Lisbon is an option that will satisfy you. It was founded in 1959 with a lavish opening party and the refinement of French hotels in the exuberant decor and exemplary service. The luxury has been maintained and this five-star hotel is still one of the most popular in the capital. The building itself is a city landmark and inside there are halls with marble floors, huge chandeliers, gilded furniture, flower arrangements that take up entire tables and collections of ancient and contemporary art.

Situated in the heart of Lisbon, this historic hotel reflects the soul of Portuguese culture. Inside, Art Deco notes blend with an updated Louis XVI style, and a collection of important modern artworks by Portuguese artists decorates the atriums. Outside, views of the city’s hills and bright tiled façades spread out before you. After a day exploring the city’s sights, many of which are within walking distance of the hotel, we invite you to enjoy a seasonally inspired artisanal dining experience at the CURA restaurant. Guests who wish to take care of themselves can also enjoy treatments such as acupuncture and lymphatic drainage or Ayurvedic rituals at the spa. The indoor pool overlooks the hotel gardens and Lisbon’s Parque Eduardo VII.

 

The Lumiares Luxury Hotel & Spa

Located in the bohemian and cultural heart of Lisbon, Bairro Alto, , the luxurious but relaxed The Lumiares is an oasis of tranquillity. The rooms are designed to be your 5* home away from home, which are divided between loft-studios, 1-bedrooms, 2-bedrooms and penthouses with a view, are spacious and have a fully-equipped kitchen with Nespresso coffee machine, toaster and SMEG water boiler, crockery service and dishwasher.

 

The rooftop overlooking the river and the castle serves breakfast in the morning and cocktails in the evening. The top floor is also home to the Lumni restaurant, which is run by Chef Miguel Castro e Silva, you can’t miss the unique gastronomical experience that they are able to provide. There is also the spa: it is not exclusively for guests and has aromatherapy treatments to die for. Enjoy your staying in Lisbon with panoramic views of the Tagus River on one side and São Jorge Castle on the other.

 

Corpo Santo Lisbon Historical Hotel

This Hotel is located in Largo do Corpo Santo in Lisbon, 400 metres from Chiado, Corpo Santo Lisbon Historical Hotel offers accommodation with on-site dining options. This 5-star hotel features a piece of the historic 14th-century Fernandina Wall and offers views of the houses of 17th-century noble families. The hotel has 75 rooms of which 8 are suites.

In the “Porter” restaurant, chef Artur Roldão presents a gastronomy with a strong influence on Portuguese roots and in bar 146 you can find some of the best cocktails in the capital.

 

 

Pestana Palace Lisboa

Imagine a hotel that was the main residence of a member of the 19th-century nobility, the Marquês de Valle Flôr, a well-travelled man of refined tastes. After his death, the building languished abandoned for over 60 years, until it was bought by the Pestana Group, which saw the Petit Trianon as a diamond in the rough. Only in 2001, after being elevated to National Monument status, opened to the public as Pestana Palace, the jewel in the crown of the hotel group and already considered one of the best luxury hotels in the world.

 

It has 193 rooms and four suites all elegantly decorated and equipped with a flat-screen TV and a minibar. Many rooms open out onto a furnished balcony overlooking the lush garden, and some have a seating area with a comfortable sofa.

The D. Carlos suite, the largest in the hotel, in honour of the penultimate Portuguese monarch, is exactly what you’d expect from a royal quarters: luxurious, elegant, spacious and comfortable, with a 33 square metre terrace overlooking the Tagus and the hotel’s pool and tropical gardens, two living rooms, dining room, bathroom with foot bath and king-size bed, as it should be.

 

InterContinental Lisbon

Few hotels can boast such a broad framework as the Intercontinental Hotel. The terrace of this hotel overlooks Marquês de Pombal and Av. da Liberdade, the Parque Eduardo VII right outside the door, with Baixa, the Tagus and Christ the King (no longer very clear but still visible) in the background. It is managing to bring together in the same field of vision the various faces of Lisbon: the urban, of the pure and tough city, the parochial of the historic centre and the cosmopolitan, with the bustle of one of the largest green parks in the city right in front.

 

The building itself is 30 years old but it has recently had a facelift that has given the hotel back its rightful glow, with an airy, welcoming decor and the addition to the rooms of the technology necessary for life in the 21st century. InterContinental Lisbon offers elegant and spacious rooms. Many of the rooms offer panoramic views of the park’s green areas. They all include flat-screen TVs and access to satellite channels. Wi-Fi access is free throughout the hotel.

The hotel’s Restaurant, Akla, is open daily and serves a wide variety of international dishes along with a wide selection of Portuguese specialities. You can also visit the UpTown Bar, it’s the perfect place to enjoy a drink in a relaxing and cosy atmosphere.

 

Still looking for the perfect hotel?

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Your Guide to the Lisbon Metropolitan (Lisbon, Sintra, Estoril, Cascais)

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Michael Sothan Profile

Michael Sothan is a 4 time expat and 4 year resident of Lisbon, Portugal, originally hailing from the US. He moved to Portugal on his own as an entrepreneur, speaks fluent Portuguese, and currently runs basedinportugal.com, a turnkey concierge service that helps foreigners interested in moving to Portugal throughout the relocation and integration process.  

Intro

The City of Seven Hills, The City of Light. These are some of the nicknames for this magical place known as Lisbon, or Lisboa in Portuguese. While the historic center of Lisbon – what is usually marketed when you see an ad for the city – feels small and quaint, the metropolitan of Lisbon is actually quite large and boasts great diversity in climate, scenery, architecture, and people. 

This guide is written with the potential expat in mind. If you’re eyeing your next home, this article should shed some light on what greater Lisbon has to offer. 

Intro to Lisbon

Lisbon is the capital of Portugal and the country’s largest city. Greater Lisbon spans 18 municipalities with a population of around 2.9 million. One of Europe’s oldest cities, Lisbon’s history dates back to BCE when the city bounced around from the Celts to the Phoenicians to the Carthaginians to the Romans. From 711 to 1147 CE Lisbon was controlled by the Moors, whose cultural imprint can still be seen in the city’s architecture and language. In the Renaissance period, Lisbon’s port became one of the world’s most significant, serving as the point of disembarture during the Age of Discovery when Portugal’s empire extended from Brazil to India to the Far East. The city survived one of the world’s worst recorded earthquakes in 1755. Two centuries later, its occupants survived the tumultuous authoritarian period known as the Estado Novo spanning from 1933-1974. Since then, especially from 2011 onwards, when Portugal received an EU-funded economic recovery package, Lisbon has re-emerged, recapturing some of its regality, as one of modern Europe’s greatest financial recovery stories. Lisbon is now a top destination for tourism, an up-and-coming tech hub, and a great option for expatriation or retirement. 

Central Lisbon

The majority of expats have adopted Lisbon’s historic center as their home. It’s easy to understand why with it’s array of historic buildings, azulejo tiles reflecting Lisbon’s divine sunshine, winding cobblestone roads, trams, tascas serving Portugal’s trademark dessert – the pastel de nata, and tons of options for wining, dining, and entertainment. 

Lisbon Transport Map
Metropolitana de Lisboa Map

The most traditional neighborhoods of central Lisbon are: Belém, Alcântara, Santos-o-Velho, Cais do Sodré, Chiado/Bairro Alto, Principe Real, Lapa/Estrela, Alfama, Graça, and Avenida. The liveliest being east of Lisbon’s iconic 25th of April bridge – from Santos over to Graça.

If you venture a little further north, still very much central Lisbon, you will hit other major neighborhoods – Campo de Ourique, Praça de Espanha, Amoreiras, Saldanha, Anjos, Alameda, Alvalade, etc. This area will be highlighted below, where I refer to it as ‘outer central Lisbon’. On the city’s east side, following the Tagus river north you have industrial zones in the process of being renovated with what some have termed a ‘Berlin-esque’ warehouse vibe, namely Beato and Marvila. Northern still, bordering the airport, you have the modern Parque das Nações, also referred to as Expo, since it was designed for the World Expo in 1998. 

Apartment hunting in central Lisbon, and especially in the historic center, or what I’d refer to as ‘southern central Lisbon’, is not easy. Many of the best places were snatched up by developers for renovation, and have been either converted into high-priced modern apartments for sale, often as part of Portugal’s Golden Visa program, or utilized as Airbnbs. Meanwhile, many buildings lay vacant due to tax incentives and legacy ownership regulations. Buying prices are high at over 2000€ a square meter ($200 a square foot) and rents ranging from 850€ – 1600€ a month for a single bedroom. 

However, if you’re willing to fork out the cash to settle in the southern section of central Lisbon, you will enjoy no shortage of things to do. These areas are increasingly filled with great restaurants, cafés, bars and clubs, pop-up galleries, street art, lovely river views, historic architecture, and a cosmopolitan array of inhabitants (not to mention an endless stream of tourists buzzing by on rented scooters and tuk-tuks). Basically, this is where it’s ‘popping’ in Lisbon. 

Recounting all that the city of Lisbon has to offer and deep diving on each neighborhood would require a series of long articles, so I’ve attempted to summarize each major neighborhood in a phrase below:

Alcântara – a bit sleepy, but great to be by the bridge

Santos – tatted, fedora cladded flat-white drinking hipsterville

Cais – drunken bachelorette parties and the best place to be harassed to buy fake drugs

Alfama – a living museum serenaded by Fado

Graça – bohemian Italian and French artists living 8 to a flat walking amongst 85 year old Portuguese people

Saldanha – flat, central, and campy

Avenida – luxurious

Principe Real – hippie-chic posh

Chiado – tourists

Barrio Alto – rowdy university students drunk on 2€ beers

If you’d like to deep dive on any of Lisbon’s many neighborhoods, I’d suggest you check out the hoodpicker resource, compiled by long-standing Lisbon expat and OG digital nomad Peter Fabor.

Outer Lisbon

The ‘up and comer’ in the forward thinking real estate investor’s toolkit, the more northern parts of Lisbon, which border the airport to the east and extend deep beyond the main highways to the west, are primarily home to locals. This is a great option if you are looking for the convenience of large stores, parking, and much more down-to-earth housing prices. However, if you are newly arrived to Lisbon and looking for excitement, culture, other expats, and to walk the romantic images of Lisbon you see online, it’s not the place. Replace Moorish-style architecture and trams with dense, block housing and traffic. If you’re looking to live like a local, it’s here.

Outer Central Lisbon

In between the culturally dull outer limits of Lisbon mentioned above (basically beyond the 2a Circular highway, or in terms of the metro, think beyond the Green Line or past Colégio Militar/Luz on the Blue Line) and the bustling south, you have a special area you could consider ‘northern central Lisbon’. This is geographically the dead center of the city, but a bit north of the most popular tourist and nightlife destinations further south. This would include areas like São Sebastião, Campo Pequeno and Campo Grande, Praça Espanha, and Alvalade. Here, you have well-groomed and quieter neighborhoods with more housing options, great car access, tons of commercial convenience, a nice mix of foreign and locals, and flatter terrain that’s easier to navigate. Housing here is pricey, but you’ll find it a bit more like a modern city and less like a tourist hotbed. Still, it boasts less of the picturesque Lisbon of promotional campaigns and is not where the majority of culture and nightlife occur. 

The ‘Linha’

Spanning the southern coast of Lisbon, paralleling the Tagus river delta until it meets the Atlantic ocean, is what’s known as the ‘linha’, or the ‘line’. This is due to the train line that runs from Cais in central Lisbon all the way to Cascais in the western end of the country. The linha is dotted with communities that offer a more US suburban feel to juxtapose the urban chaos of central Lisbon. The benefit is, you have great proximity to the ocean. Living on the linha is great if you are looking for space (think family or pets) or if you want easy access to surf. Although the train service is good, reliable and affordable, I wouldn’t suggest settling here unless you own a car. The train service stops at 1:30am to 5:30am, and wait times get long later into the night. The main area north of the ‘linha’ is known as Oeiras. Oeiras is reminiscent of major suburban cities in the US – think Naperville to Chicago, Overland Park to Kansas City, or Glendale or Sherman Oaks in LA. There are tons of office parks, lots of large stores, many families, and it’s designed for driving. If you’re thinking ‘house’ this is a great area. It’s perfectly situated between the scenic destinations of Sintra and Cascais to the West and bustling Lisbon to the East. 

linha
Comboios de Portugal Map

But again, if you’re looking for a culturally vibrant, urban lifestyle of drinking wine on sidewalk eateries –  not here. However, you can definitely enjoy some ‘vinho verde’ at beachfront restaurants!

Cascais / Estoril

Sometimes referred to as the ‘Portuguese Riviera’, this is ‘fancy’ Portugal. Cascais, and maybe even more, its neighboring Estoril, is where the Portuguese go when they’ve ‘made it’ and feel like they’ve matured beyond the chaotic Lisbon lifestyle. Think a slightly less posh Beverly Hills, Greenwich, etc. 

Cascais Pretty Little Beaches Praia da Rainha
View of the crowded pretty little beach named Praia da Rainha along the beach promenade between the towns of Estoril and Cascais, nearby Lisbon, Portugal

Estoril is home to Europe’s largest casino, the Casino Estoril, rumored to be Ian Fleming’s inspiration for James Bond and Casino Royale. It also offers some trendy beaches full of sun-kissed Portuguese ‘betas’, slang for the posh Portuguese female elite, as well as golf courses, private schools and a more conservative crowd. Cascais is similar, but a bit more urbanized. It has a large expat community, but one leaning more towards retirees than the youth of Lisbon. 

Real estate here is similar in price to Lisbon, but leans more towards larger homes serving the upscale market. 

If you are looking to move with a family and want less chaos and traffic than Lisbon, yet still want some semblance of a city and easy beach access, then Cascais and Estoril are fantastic choices.

Sintra

Sintra is magical. It borders Cascais to the north and is on the far western edge of the greater Lisbon region. It’s a forested, hilly land shrouded in mist that feels like it’s straight out of Harry Potter (did you know JK Rowlings did much of her writing of the series while in Portugal?). Specifically, there is the mystical Quinta da Regaleira and its underground tower, as well as the lavishly decorated Pena Palace. Sintra is definitely not urban. It has a small, charming downtown, but it’s very slow and tranquil. This is a great place to find a home with lots of green space and spend time doing yoga, art, and hiking in nature. It’s not where you go for a city life. One important drawback of Sintra is that it possesses a microclimate which makes it rainier and colder than the rest of Lisbon. 

It’s worth noting that if you’re a surfer, Cascais-Sintra puts you in proximity to good surf breaks, including Guincho and Praia Grande. Living in Lisbon means your closest breaks require you to drive to Carcavelos on the ‘linha’ or to cross the river to Costa da Caparica. 

View on Initiation Well of Quinta da Regaleira in Sintra, Portugal
The Initiation Well of Quinta da Regaleira in Sintra, Portugal

Caparica and Ericeira

Speaking of surf – Caparica and Ericeira are two areas neighboring Lisbon that also serve as great living options providing excellent surf. Caparica is a short drive across the bridge from Lisbon. Ericeira, a world renowned surfing destination, is a slightly longer trek to the Northwest of the city (~50km, 30 miles). However, neither are considered metropolitan Lisbon, and thus not detailed in this article. 

In Summary

Lisbon offers a ton of options – from the historic and touristic central Lisbon to the elegant hillside homes of Estoril. Bear in mind, if you’re thinking of buying, Lisbon’s housing prices are red hot. Many say it’s a bubble, soon to correct. With that being said, the influx in demand in this historic and exciting city means it continues to become more cosmopolitan, more commercially viable, and basically ‘better’, every year. It’s a fantastic time to move here. Trust me, you’ll find that almost everyone here is loving life and very proud to call Lisbon their home.

If you’d like to join in on the fun, or at least learn more to make a more informed decision, please visit basedinportual.com and book a consultation with me to deep dive on your questions.

Azores

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Looking for an island adventure in Europe? Between Lisbon and New York, the Azores are an archipelago of nine volcanic islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The islands are located around 850 miles west of mainland Portugal, but as the Portuguese island of Madeira, the Azores are an autonomous region of Portugal.

This archipelago might be a part of Portugal, but its rich biodiversity and unique scenery will make you feel like you are far from Europe. This is a place where time slows down and the true Azorean way is to enjoy every moment of the day, without any rush. The Azores are home to breathtaking mountain views, tropical greenery, colorful hydrangeas, and incredible waterfalls.

These islands are the product of the forces that forever shape our planet. Formed around 36 million years ago, the Azores are the result of volcanic and seismic activity associated with the European, American, and African tectonic plates. The landscape is reflective of these events, from volcanos to caverns and large blue lakes.

From whale watching and diving to breathtaking hikes with secret waterfalls, these islands paint a picture suitable for a fairytale. The Azores are a perfect destination for those looking to connect with nature and flee the hustle and bustle of a large city.

The Azoreans are known for sustainability and are proud to protect the nature that is theirs. The Azores are the first archipelago in the world to achieve an international certification of a sustainable destination by the Global Council for Sustainable tourism. The Azores are committed to keeping its urbanization low to protect natural heritage sites, marine life, and their 13 caldera lakes. Azoreans appreciate that tourists are also mindful of the environment when they visit. And please do visit! The tourism industry is probably the largest in the Azores, along with fishing and agriculture.

The Azores is now a growing tourist destination, but also the birthplace of many Americans. About a million North Americans were born or descend from the Azores, four times the current population of the islands! Every year, thousands return to the Azores in May for the Holy Christ of Miracles festival. This religious event happens every fifth Sunday after Easter in the island of São Miguel where the streets get decorated with flowers.

What are the Best Islands to Visit in Azores?

While the whole archipelago is known for its natural beauty, each island in the Azores has its own unique characteristics and something that makes them special. The 9 islands were settled at different times over two centuries so their culture and traditions are all different. Throughout the years, the Azores have been settled by the Flemish, French, and Spaniards.

The nine islands cover up to 906 square miles of land. The largest island is São Miguel at 293 square miles. The eight other islands are Faial, Flores, Graciosa, Pico, São Jorge, Santa Maria, Terceira, and Corvo, the smallest one. Click on any island to read our detailed guide on each island of the Azores.

Although all islands are worth a visit, let’s take a look at our top 3 islands to visit in the Azores.

1. Flores

A UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Flores is one of the most remote islands in the Azores. This island is quite small at around 142 kilometers squared and is home to only 4,000 inhabitants. This island is best explored by car so you can reach remote areas like hiking trails and natural pools. Flores translates to “flowers” and the island is filled with colorful hydrangeas everywhere you go.

The island has some impressive crater lakes like Lagoa Negra and Lagoa Comprida that you can hike around. Flores is also waterfall central! The most famous one is on the road to Faja Grande, where you can find Ribeira Grande with the largest waterfall on the island. You can also visit Poço do Bacalhau, where you can take a swim under an incredible waterfall.

Photo by Mr Xerty (Unsplash)

2. Pico

An island that feels like Hawaii, Pico is an iconic island to visit. In the middle of this island stands “Pico Mount”, the highest point in all of Portugal at around 8,000 feet above sea level. If you’re feeling brave, you can hike up to the highest point. The terrain is quite hard to hike through, particularly on the way down. The hike takes around 8 hours and is quite difficult. It is best to do the hike with a Certified Pico Mountain guide to avoid any injury or challenges. You can book a guided hike here where you will also learn about the geology, fauna, and flora of the mount.

If you’re not feeling active enough to do the hike, Pico island has a lot more to offer. The island is famous for its whale watching. You can find the whaler’s museum in Sao Roque, a marina area where you can learn about the history of whale hunting and conservation on the island. Whale hunting has been banned since 1986 and ever since the islands and biologists have been committed to their conservation.  You can book a dolphin and whale guided tour with a biologist here. If you’re lucky, you might spot an incredible Blue whale that is 25 meters long. This is a once in a lifetime experience!

Photo by Daniele Franchi (Unsplash)

3. São Miguel

Nicknames “The Green Island”, São Miguel is the largest island in the Azores. This island is the best of both worlds: you get the iconic Azorean natural landscapes, as well as a city life that other islands don’t have. Over 140,000 people live on this island. Since it’s the largest, we recommend staying for at least 4 days.

Our favorite spot in São Miguel is Sete Cidades, on the West side of the island. If you’ve seen a postcard of Azores, you’ve probably seen the Lagoa das Sete Cidades, a big lake divided by a bridge into two parts: one green and one blue. Head to the Vista do Rei viewpoint where you can enjoy a beautiful view of the lagoon.

Another famous lagoon to visit is Lagoa do Fogo or Fire Lake. You can hike through a trail down to the lake beach for 30 minutes. But don’t swim in the lake! Also, make sure to visit Caldeira Velha, the natural park full of natural thermal pools and hot springs. At the end of the park, you can find the famous waterfall spring, a larger pool with warm water of around 25 degrees celsius.

What to do in the Azores?

The Azores are the perfect place to explore nature and are a suitable destination for all kinds of travelers, including families with children. From exploring the unique islands’ cultures and cuisines to hiking through trails with breathtaking views, the Azores are a special place with activities for all. Here are our top 3 things to do in the Azores.

1. Hiking

Every Azorean island is filled with hiking trails amidst lakes, cliffs, and gorgeous fairytale-like forests. There’s a hike for everyone. The shortest hike is in Graciosa at a little over 2 kilometers long, while the longest is in Santa Maria at 78 kilometers long for the bravest.

If you are a beginner and new to an island, make sure to hike on “official” trails that are taken care of by the Azores Tourism Broad. These are properly maintained and signed with hiking markers throughout so people do not get lost. You can look up the official hike trails here. You can find the routes on a map, the duration of the hike, as well as the elevation levels, and more.

There are over 80 hiking trails in Azores, spanning 800 km. The options are endless, so we’ll help you out. Here are our favorite hiking trails on each Azorean island:

Photo by Anne Zwickermann (Unsplash)

2. Whale watching

If you are a whale lover, the Azores are the top place to visit. The Azores are home to 24 different species of whales and are considered one of the best places in the world for whale-watching. The reason the islands have so many whales is that the waters are incredibly deep, nearly 3 kilometers deep in some areas. While for hundreds of years until the 80s these whales were hunted by Azoreans, today they are an incredible tourist experience.

You’ll be out in Atlantic ocean waters enjoying the majestic presence of sperm whales and orcas, as well as dolphins. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see a whale coming up to the water surface for air and expelling “the blow”. This is when they expel air through their blowhole and you witness an intense water spray reaching the air.

Whale-watching season in the Azores is from April to October, but you can usually see the sperm whales all year round. Sperm whales are the largest of the toothed whales and can reach 20 meters in length.

Don’t worry, you’re safe in your boat if you go with the right people. The best way to see some whales is to book a tour with a marine biologist, who will be mindful of the whales and tell you all about these creatures.

Book a whale-watching tour in the Azores

Photo by Mayte Garcia Llorente (Unsplash)

3. Natural pools

The volcanic nature of the Azores results in incredible natural pools, many with waterfalls. The solidification of the lava from the volcanic eruptions created new rocky formations such as these. The archipelago has hundreds of natural pools. You can find some warm natural pools like the 35ºC yellow pool in Terra Nostra, São Miguel. However, be aware that most other natural pools are quite cold, even in the summer. It’s still the perfect way to relax after a long day hiking though. You can also enjoy a nice picnic with wine next to one of these natural pools. Many natural pools come with a picnic area and come with free showers. They do not, however, have lifeguards working there.

Photo by Carloisporto (Pixabay)
Photo by Alano Oliveira (Unsplash)

What is the weather like in the Azores?

Azorean weather is very unpredictable. Azoreans say that the islands get four seasons in one day. The islands might look like a tropical paradise, but not in terms of the weather. However, they are still beautiful all year round. In fact, the foggy atmosphere and rainy days add to the Azorean charm.

The best times to travel are definitely between May and September. Temperatures are more moderate at this time, rarely getting higher than 30ºC. During the winter, it usually doesn’t get colder than 7ºC. The Azores rarely get heat waves in summer or cold waves in winter. 

The temperatures are usually not the issue, but it does rain quite a lot. This is why the Azores are so green! To avoid the rain, travel during the summer. From June to August, it only days for 5 to 7 days on average. From December to April the Azores get the most rain, around 15 days per month.

What to eat in the Azores?

You can’t travel to Azores without trying the local peasant-based style cuisine. We have yet to encounter a bad restaurant in Azores. The fertile soil of this green land leads to unique crops, vineyards, and high-quality dairy cattle and livestock. The Azores are known for a variety of dishes, which we will get to in a bit.

However, our favorite that you cannot miss out on is “Cozido das Furnas” which you can get in São Miguel. This is similar to the classic Portuguese cozido, a meat stew with cabbage, carrots, potatoes, blood sausage, pork and beef. But this is no regular stew – its cooked by a volcano. This dish is placed in a metal pot and buried in volcanic soil to be slow cooked by the natural heat of the caldeiras.

There are many other dishes to also try in the Azores. Don’t know what to order at an Azorean restaurant? Here are the best local Azorean dishes to try:

  • Octupus cooked in wine
  • Fried mackerel
  • Locally-grown Azorean pineapples
  • Pico cheese
  • Black sausage
  • Cherry-red pepper (“Pimenta da terra”)
  • Sweet azorean bread (“Bolo levedo”)
  • Limpets (“Lapas”)
Photo by Marta Ortigosa (Unsplash)

Final Thoughts

Pack your bags! And a waterproof jacket! A sustainable tourist destination, the Azores are a once in a lifetime experience. We recommend doing some island hopping to make the most out of your travel. From hiking with views of large blue lakes to witnessing the largest sea life creatures on earth, visiting the Azores is an unforgettable experience. It is truly a peaceful place, perfect for destressing and letting go of the anxieties of everyday life. Live like an Azorean local for a few days and enjoy every moment of your day without worry.

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Portugal, The Country of Azulejo Tiles

Like Fado and codfish, blue and white azulejo tiles are a Portuguese classic. These glazed blue ceramic tiles from the 14th century decorate the streets, buildings, and monuments of Portuguese cities. The azulejo is also commonly displayed in Portuguese homes, as well as train stations, restaurants, and fountains.

They are not just decorative, they usually tell a story and chronicle major cultural aspects of Portuguese history. Traditionally, the azulejo told stories of Portuguese navigators and their voyages around the world. Churches also used azulejo to tell stories about saints, as being able to buy a book was a privilege to many. Even though the iconic ajuzelo is Portuguese, the style has been heavily influenced by Islamic and Italian cultures.

More modern depicts images of animals such as tigers or the geometric expressions of Portuguese artist Maria Keil who passed in 2012. Maria Keil made the iconic ajulezo that cover the walls of Lisbon’s metro stations in the 1950s.

Where to Find Portuguese Azulejo Tiles

Porto

Azulejo tiles are an iconic part of Porto‘s culture and history. There are many places across the city where you can find these. One of the best is Porto’s cathedral from the 18th century. Although the cathedral is dark and gothic, inside the cloisters you can find beautiful blue and white azulejo. São Bento Railway Station is another classic place to find this ancient art. The station was built in 1903 and is covered with over 20,000 azulejo tiles, made by Jorge Colaço. His work covers an area of over 550 m2 and depicts important moments of Portuguese history including the Discoveries. The Church of Saint Ildefonso, built in 1739, is another must-see decorated in Jorge Colaço’s tiles. These tiles were only added to the church by the artist in 1932. There are over 11,000 white and blue tiles covering the church’s exterior. There are many other places where you can find azulejo tiles in Porto such as Casa da Musica and Ribeira Negra panel.

Photo by Kévin et Laurianne Langlais (Unsplash)
Photo by Yana Marudova (Unsplash)

Lisbon

Azulejo tiles decorate the streets and corners of the Portuguese capital of Lisbon. Probably the most famous place to find these is in Fronteira Palace. Built in the 17th century, it belonged to a noble family and now has certain wings open to the public. This palace is filled with gorgeous azulejo tiles that wrap around the main garden and decorate walls. You must also visit the National Azulejo Museum, housed in a 16th-century convent. Here you can learn how azulejo is created and all about its history. Last but not least, wander the streets of Bairro Alto. Here you can see modern street art inspired by the azulejo style, as well as azulejo tiles of all colors.

Photo by Natalia Y (Unsplash)
Photo by Maxine Ficheux (Unsplash)

Sintra

The crown jewel of the Portuguese riviera, Sintra is less known for its ajulezo tiles, but the city also has the ancient art all over. Head to the National Palace of Sintra, a building with a mix of Gothic-Renaissance and Islamic influence. What many don’t know is that inside, there are many rooms filled with blue and white azulejo tiles. If you walk around the city you’ll find these on buildings, but mostly on the outside of large houses.

Photo by Julia Solonina (Unsplash)

Alentejo

The charming region of Alentejo has some of the most magnificent azulejo tiles. In November of 2021, the Alentejo created an itinerary of exhibitions to display the best azulejo tiles by Jorge Colaço in the region. The exhibitions will be open until April 22, 2022, to honor the artist who died in 1942 and will display the “Portugal” theme.

7 Things You Didn’t Know About Azulejo Tiles

There’s so much tourists don’t know about this ancient art. Here are a few fun facts you didn’t know about azulejo tiles.

1. Azulejo tiles are not only a tradition in Portugal today, but also in former Portuguese colonies in South America, Goa, Africa, and Macau.

2. Tiles were originally created to protect the walls of houses from low temperatures, not for aesthetic purposes.

3. The tiles are blue and white because European artists fell in love with Chinese porcelain. However, the ingredient to make this porcelain did not exist in Europe, making Chinese porcelain a rarity. In the 17th century, the Dutch began copying this style. The Portuguese loved this affordable option and ordered tiles from the Dutch to decorate buildings. The Portuguese, later on, began manufacturing their own in white and blue at a large scale.

4. The word azulejo comes from Arabic and means “polished stone”.

5. The Portuguese azulejo tiles are heavily influenced by Arab cultures such as the geometric style and flower motifs.

6. Azulejos have had a large influence on local street art. Many have created street art that is inspired by classic azulejo styles with a modern twist.

7. Since 2013, it’s been forbidden to demolish buildings with tile-covered façades in Lisbon to protect their cultural heritage.

Top 22 Things to do in Lisbon in Winter 2022

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Editor’s Note: Please be careful, safe and follow all regulations regarding the covid-19 pandemic issued by the government.

Winter is a great time to celebrate life and there is currently at least one city in Europe that is keen on dancing till the morning. 

Lisbon, the capital of one of the world’s most vaccinated countries has become a European destination of choice for party-starved tourists by keeping parties and mass events like Christmas markets & Carnivals going. 

Head to this jovial city to immerse into the magical atmosphere of Winter 2022 and check out our top twenty things to do in Lisbon this winter. Read on and pack up to enjoy the Portuguese capital’s festive vibe.

1. Go Partying in Lisbon

Lisbon is one of Europe’s topmost party capitals. It is known for its Bairro Alto, a charming area by day that turns into a partying monster throbbing with pleasure-seeking at night.

Even though tiny in size, the district numbers over 100-night establishments and has one of the world’s highest shares of nightspots per capita. It is by right considered one of the best places to party in the winter of 2022.

Keep in mind that even though the Portuguese capital has stayed out of lockdown the EU digital certificate will be required for you to attend a public event like a party, for example.

2. Head for Dinner and a Shopping Spree in Lisbon’s hip LX Factory

LX Factory

One of Lisbon’s secret places LX Factory is a cluster of shops, restaurants, cafes, and creative spaces. It is known for its tasty food, cute hipster ambiance, designer stores, and a Sunday market that draws in the most “plugged-in” Lisbonites.

The Lx Factory is situated at 103, Rodrigues de Faria Street. To get there from Cais do Sodré you need to jump on the 15E tram or hop on the 714 Bus.

3. Go to a Techno Party at the Kremlin, Lisbon

Kremlin Lisboa

Housed inside an old convent in the area of Santos, the club with this somewhat menacing name is something to be afraid of.

Going to the 350 square meters party-den can induce a highly acute dancing frenzy, which can be exacerbated by the presence of Lisbon’s most incorrigible techno fiends. 

Note that even in winter you will feel hot, which makes it a great alternative to mulled wine on Lisbon’s quay to cheer the New Year in.

Keep in mind that the club has a truly unique interior, with a rough stone floor, many imposing arches among other anachronistic décor elements.

Sadly, it is open just on Friday and Saturday and even then only from midnight. If party-minded on Thursdays and Sundays go to LuxFragil, another great techno spot in Lisbon.

4. Kick back and listen to reggae in the Groove Bar

Sitting on the notorious Rua de Rosa in Barro Alto, the reggae joint is known for its chilled rhythms and a laid-back feel. It also features great DJs performances, punchy cocktails, a trippy inside, and a wall painting of charismatic Commandante Che Guevara, a symbol of Lisbon’s nightlife’s resilience this winter.

5. Meet New Year at Ribeira Esplanade

Once a place for building and repairing ships sailing for Portuguese India’s Spice Coast, Ribeira Esplanade is one of the best places to celebrate New Year in Lisbon. Dance your way to Ribeira Esplanade to look beyond the horizon and think of all the adventures that the year 2022 is promising you.

Party in the year 2022 by uncorking this heady Dao right at the water edge. Or if abstinent, go for a coffee at a riverside café; but don’t forget a sprinkle of cinnamon to make the New Year ever more spicy and fragrant.

6. Head to Cascais for a Christmas Family Dinner

Cascais

Known as one of Europe’s most chic seaside resorts for its luxurious casinos (one of which inspired a James Bond movie, Casino Royale), hotels, and restaurants, Cascais is one of the best places to celebrate New Year and Christmas.

Feel like a true royal in Cascais’ beautiful setting made so famous by the Portuguese, British and Spanish kings, who relished spending their time here.

Bear in mind that the beaches between Cascais and Lisbon are the best for a winter seaside walk, while those further North may feel windier.

7. Shop at its en vogue boutiques

Lisbon is a fashion magnet whose pull has inexorably grown. Apart from trendy places such as LX Factory, it boasts many designer boutiques such its Embaixada, a cult-like store housed in a stunning Ribeira de Cunha Palace; Luvaria Ulisses, one of Lisbon’s choicest historical boutiques specialised entirely in selling limited edition unique leather gloves; FORA, selling vintage-inspired sunglasses to sport in the sun-lit Lisbon; Baixa, a tribute to all milliners and one of the best hand-made hat-stores; or 88 Retro, one of the Lisbon’s most exquisite vintage clothing boutiques, which even sells some home ornaments.

8. Head for a rooftop swim at White Lisboa Hotel

Open till midnight, the roof-top infinity pool is one of the nicest places to sip on your cocktail while floating starfish-like in warm water under the impeccably blue skies, delighting in the warm sunshine.

Note that it is best to laze about on the paradisiac rooftop as a guest of White Lisboa Hotel, one of the best places to put up in in Lisbon.

Lisbon Funicular Cable Car

9. Use a funicular (cable car) for a great selfie opportunity

Go to the bohemian Bairro Alto by day to have a look at its street art, ride a funicular to take great pics, and gaze at the eye-pleasing facades of its centuries-old houses. Keep in mind that you can stay here beyond sunset for you to check out the area’s unleashed partying vibe.

10. Revel in communal carnivalesque frenzy on Fat Tuesday, 1st of March 2022

One of the best times to visit Lisbon is the end of February – the beginning of March when both locals and visitors put on dashing and extravagant dresses and parade down its streets.

The festivities leave no place for escape and draw in thousands of ordinarily quiet folk that turn into merry revelers who know no sense of inhibition and engage in frenzied feast-making, often disguised as someone else.

Note that a Brazilian beach-side carnival takes place in Sesimbra, while a more Lusitanian celebration unfolds in Torres Vedras.

11. Sample the heavenly seafood at Invicta

Christmas and New Year’s time are synonymous with good food and champagne drinking. What can be more festive than oysters washed down with this effervescent tipple?

To sample what is arguably Lisbon’s best oysters head to Invicta, one of Lisbon’s top-secret places. It is prized not only for oysters but also great prawns and other seafood delicacies, not to mention the non-pareil atmosphere that inevitably leads to the New Year carousal.

Note that the restaurant’s address is 140 Rua da Esperanca, close by Museu da Marioneta.

12. Head for 1/8 finals UEFA champions league games played by Sporting and Benfica

The winter of 2022 is truly special for the Lisbonites who are truly enraptured by football. The joga bonito lovers will for sure spend a sleepless night in February when Sporting and Benfica will play in the city in the knock-out stage of the UEFA Champions League tournament.

Head to the stands to root them on to the quarter finals and maybe see one of them winning the UEFA champions trophy in the future.

Note that it was as far back as 2003 when it happened last time. Then, Porto carried off the title of Europe and hence the world’s strongest club, and revived Portugal’s football glory.

 

13. Go on a Lisbon Pub Crawl

Pub crawling is one of locals & foreigners in Lisbon’s favourite pastimes. Hop from one Lisbon bar to another and meet a lot of new friends, which is bound to make your winter holiday in Lisbon ever more pleasant and memorable.

14. Pay a visit to its museums

Lisbon is known as one of the most “cultural” cities in Europe. A museum buff will for sure spend at least half of their time in Lisbon going to the likes of rather unique Museu da Marioneta, Portugal’s first museum dedicated to puppetry or splendid Asia-focused Museu do Oriente; or more mainstream art-treasure-houses such as Museum Nacional do Azulejo, devoted to azulejo, a traditional Iberian tilework; Museu Coleção Berardo, a contemporary art museum, and Museu Calouste Galboukian, a major encyclopedic art museum, featuring stunning paintings and other art objects.

Keep in mind that the Museu da Marioneta, situated at 146 Rua da Esperanca, is home to unique South-East Asian puppets, including those used in the Shadowy Theatre Art of Wayang originating on Java Island in Indonesia.

Making your way to Museu da Marioneta is one of the ways to remind oneself that Portugal was one of the first European empires to build its presence in the Southern Seas.

15. Amble around its kinetic downtown

One of the best things to do in Lisbon in winter is to stroll around its picturesque historical centre. Here, you can find not only magnificent palaces, cathedrals and churches but also leafy gardens and narrow lanes that will make it your heart’s refuge.

Set aside 2 or 3 hours for a thorough search of this terrain for its hidden gems such as Museu de Marinha and other nautical landmarks like 16th century Tower of Belem and the sail-shaped Discoveries Monument.

Also don’t miss out on Pasteis de Belem patisserie frequented for its custard tarts, or another tropics-related site such as Jardanico Tropical.

16. Sail around to see its eye-appealing cityscape from water

 


Have you been thinking how to celebrate New Year and toast the year 2022 in? Think no longer, and book a private champagne-fueled sail along the picture-perfect Lisbon riverside. 

Whatever the watercraft you will charter, such a maritime adventure will for sure become the main part of your Lisbon holiday since it is the sea-faring genius of the Portuguese that made the capital what it is, one of Europe’s greatest cities.

17. Go to one of the world’s most beauteous cathedrals

Lisbon CathedralThe somewhat austere Lisbon Cathedral is a grand structure highlighting the importance of Christian faith for Lisbonites. Here you can attend a Christmas mass, and see for yourself its strikingly beautiful interior. 

Don’t miss out on the beautiful rose windows, the one-of-its-kind altarpiece and the super-high vaulted ceiling.

Keep in mind that you can celebrate your Christmas in other places of worship in Lisbon and don’t forget that the festive mood is not only inside but also outside.

18. Go to the TNSC National Opera House of Portugal

What can be more Christmas-like than going to listen to an Opera. Head to the Sao Carlos National Theatre to attend Sebastian Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, one of the best theatre shows for Christmas.

Opened to the public in 1793, the grand opera house is one of Europe’s most venerable theatres. Its opulent & spacious interior is matched by the superb quality of the Opera performances and its characteristically Portuguese exterior.

So whether you are spending Christmas here or not don’t forget to pay a visit to this great theatre and sense the grandeur of Lisbon’s soirees.

19. Buy books at Sa Da Costa in Chiado

If no usual souvenir shop can satisfy your yearn for something special to give to your loved ones for Christmas, head to this antiquarian bookstore. Located in Chiado, it offers all kinds of ancient books, whose value will for sure increase with time.

Note that as a result of censorship of Salazar’s dictatorial regime, and formerly hefty costs of book manufacturing, Portugal and Lisbon took to reading second-hand books and have a lot of antiquarian book shops: so never cease hunting for new treasures.

20. Sample the best Portuguese wine

 


Known for its wide selection of Portuguese wines, expert staff and highly delectable wine snacks NOVA bar is one of the best wine stores to start navigating the alluring world of Portuguese national brew. But it is by no means unique, and there are many other boutique wine stores selling not only regular Portuguese wine but also its organic varieties.

Keep in mind that winter makes mulled wine especially tasty. You can try the Portuguese mulled wine at Kaffeehaus, Trobadores, Fabulas, Dona Tilia, Remi Coffee & Wine.

21. Indulge in juicy Leitão at Estadio Dom Leitão

The Portuguese signature Christmas dish is Leitão, a roasted piglet that came to stand for Christmas celebrations. It is best to order a Leitão with friends or family at one of Lisbon’s restaurants specialised in serving roasted-suckling-pigs. One of those is Estadio Dom Leitão, a great spot to celebrate Christmas and the New Year

22. Go to Lisbon’s one-of-its-kind Christmas Market

Lisbon is one of Europe’s topmost Christmas destinations not only because of its great nightlife, church ceremonies, ambrosial food but also thanks to the magical atmosphere one can find at its many Christmas markets and fairs, such as Cascais Christmas Village (December 5-January 1) situated in Parque Marechal Carmona.

It boasts a skating rink, a spell-binding Christmas tree, an enchanted forest, a zippy merry-go-round, a Santa Claus House and a dynamic Christmas market pulling in about 160,000 visitors every year.

Conclusion

Head to Lisbon to indulge in its unique winter charm and uncover its myriad attractions such as its one-of-its-kind Christmas markets, bustling food & drink scenery, scenic old town, and some of the world’s best museums. Make your winter holiday in Lisbon full of memorable moments and pack up for your one-of-its-kind Lisbon winter escapade.

Funchal

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Around 1000km from Lisbon and 700km from the Moroccan coast stands a green mountain that has risen from the sea. The Portuguese, the colonizers of this mountain, called it ‘Madeira’, meaning ‘wood’, because of the abundance of trees on the island.

Now, more than 600 years after it was inhabited by Portugal, it boasts a population of about 250,000 people, divided into 10 cities, among which stands the grandest of them, the capital Funchal.

Funchal, meaning ‘the place of fennel’ in Portuguese, has a population of around 111,000, making it the sixth-largest Portuguese city and the main center of Madeira. With an amazing view to the Atlantic Ocean and built between cliffs and the mountain, the city is a great place to stay on the island, since it has the most things to do and see, and it’s well connected to the rest of this incredible island. It also enjoys more hours of sunlight and a more temperate climate, since it is on the South coast of the island, allowing for a more relaxed and enjoyable time outside!

Funchal is one of the best destinations in Portugal, being so different from the mainland and Azores! You will see a great seaside city that continues to grow through the mountain as if it was a huge amphitheater facing the sea. It perfectly incorporates the breathtaking nature that surrounds it, in the city itself. With its great climate, utopian location, 600 years of history, amazing foods and drinks, incredible cultural parties, and its exotic smells and colors, the city is will definitely win a spot in your heart if you take a chance to visit it.

Guide to Madeira

Getting to Funchal

There are direct flights from Lisbon (1:50h) and Porto (2:10h), while the flights from Faro have a stopover, usually in Lisbon. You can also get a flight from the Azores or from outside of Portugal, like Amsterdam, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, London Gatwick, Madrid, Manchester, Milan, Munich, and Paris.

You can get relatively cheap tickets, at around 50/75€ with a return ticket, maybe even less if you can get a good discount! To get a good price, do several simulations and buy the ticket 3 months ahead, at least.

From the airport to the Center of Funchal, you would take around 20 minutes by car or taxi (this last one will cost you no less than 20€). 

If you prefer to go by bus, the Aerobus is the cheapest option and you can get it on Floor 0, at the Arrivals area. It stops near various hotels and it’s on every day, between 4:45h and 18h. It takes around 30 minutes and you can buy the ticket straight from the driver for a cost of 5€ (8€ with a return ticket).

Finally, you can get a transfer service, which has more attractive prices than the taxi, for example, and can drop you off exactly at your destination. You can book a shuttle to meet you at the airport and take you to your hotel starting at $17.61.

Getting around Funchal

Bus

The city buses, run by Horários do Funchal, are fairly frequent and you can reach any part of the city pretty quickly. As for outside of the city, they are less frequent and run by other smaller bus companies.

There is no central bus station in Funchal, so you will have to get your bus in different stations. The Avenida do Mar is a good place to find city bus (Horários do Funchal). While for other places you might have to look for the different schedules,  but in Rua Dom Carlos I and the Hotel Zone (Lido) are good stops.

Fares for the city buses are 1.95€ for a ride. You can also get a 1-day pass for 4.50 €, a 3-day pass for 11.50€, a 5-day pass for 16.50€ or a 7-day pass for 21.50€.

Rent a Car

You can also drive around the island using a rental car or taxi, if you prefer to have more privacy, flexibility and to drive around the small villages and hidden natures spots.

You should take in mind that the city is surrounded by mountains, so if you have more than 2 people in the car, you might want to get a car with more power. Besides this, you shouldn’t worry about the roads, as they are in great condition. Just be careful out there!

Rent a Car in Funchal

What to do in Funchal?

In Funchal, you will be able to see the rich history that marks Madeira from its founding, in 1424, until today.

Book Tours & Experiences in Funchal

The City Center

The city can roughly be divided into 2 parts: East and West Funchal. In the East, it’s the Old Zone of the city, the part that used to be a fisherman’s neighborhood and then became a lifeless zone. Nowadays it was turned into the trendiest part of the city, filled with bars, galleries, shops, and restaurants! There are even walking tours to learn about the history. This is the place you want to be when the night comes!

West Funchal is the new part of the city, with the best shopping places, cafés, and museums. This is where you will find the typical squares and old roads that the city is known for. It’s the busiest part of the island, where the hustle and bustle starts in the morning and only ends when the sun sets.

Mercado dos Lavradores (Farmer’s Market)

This market, in the East part of the city, is a huge and full of life market where you can find the best homegrown vegetables, fresh fish, and wonderful smelling flowers.

Praça do Município

The wide main square, called the Municipality Square, with the typical ‘calçada portuguesa’, is filled with beautiful and historical buildings. The City Hall is one of them, a built in the 18th century, as is the Museum of Sacred Art.

Museu CR7

The city has lots of museums that you can check, like the Sacred Art Museum, the Photography Museum, or the Madeira Story Center, where you can see the interactive history of Madeira. But the CR7 Museum is a world-known museum that every sports aficionado should visit. The museum is made in honor of Cristiano Ronaldo, the famous Portuguese (more specifically, Madeiran) soccer star. There you will find photos from Cristiano’s childhood up until now, as well as the trophies and medals he won and even soccer balls from matches he played!

Book Private Cristiano Ronaldo Tour with CR7 Museum

Monte Cable Car

To visit the upper part of Funchal, situated in the mountain and where the Church of Nossa Senhora do Monte is located, the best way is probably through the cable car. The ride usually takes about 15-20 minutes one way, and you can enjoy the wonderful views of the city, the mountains, and the ocean.

The car is open from 9h to 17:45h, with the probability of a change of schedule in the high season.

Book Cable Car

Jardim Botânico (Botanical Garden)

This garden, formerly a private garden but now administered by the Regional Government of Madeira, opened in 1960.

It is divided into various parts, such as an area dedicated to indigenous and endemic plants from all of Macaronesia, this is, Madeira, Azores, the Canary Islands and Cape Verde. Definitely, a wonderful place to visit and feel like walking into the old uninhabited Madeira.

Besides this, you can see the French and Japanese gardens, for example, and get transported to a whole different country!

It is open from 9h to 18h and can be easily accessed through the Monte cable car.

Book Botanical Garden Private Tuk-Tuk Tour

Monte Palace Tropical Garden

Having more than 100,000 plant species, this garden is definitely worth a visit. It has several levels, with one of them dedicated solely to Madeira’s plants and 2 of the gardens being Oriental-inspired. It also has ponds and a mineral museum.

It is open daily from 9:30h to 18h and is located close to the Botanical Garden and the Cable Car.

But besides these two, there are many other gardens and parks that you can visit, as the island is in no shortage of these.

Carro de Cesto

You HAVE to try these cars! They are wickerwork sleds on wooden runners on which you will be seated on. They will descend through the hills of the mountains with two men, called ‘carreiros’ or sled drivers, on each side of the car controlling it.

You will definitely fill the adrenaline while experiencing a traditional Madeiran cultural activity.

Book Traditional Sledge Ride

Madeira Wine Caves

Like the Port Wine, this wine is also much loved by the British, which used to let the taste of the wine improve throughout the long sea journeys from Madeira to their colonies.

Today, you can visit the wine lodges of some of the wine companies and learn about the history, the process of making, and the incredible taste of Madeira Wine.

 

Historic Churches

History enthusiasts will love the 16th-century Sé (Cathedral), built at the peak of the Portuguese Discoveries era. Its beautiful ceilings, made out of wood from Madeira (or in Portuguese, “Madeira da Madeira”), are considered the most beautiful in all of the Churches in Portugal!

The Church of Nossa Senhora do Monte is another beautiful sight to see. Built in 1471, this amazing church is placed in the mountains and, besides its wonderful chandeliers, it features a statue and the tomb of Charles I of Habsburg, the last Emperor of Austria who was exiled in Madeira.

There are many other Churches from which to pick, like the Convent of Santa Clara, also an amazing tour. These are just some suggestions and the ones I thought would be more relevant.

Book Funchal Food Tour

Eating and Drinking in Funchal

Funchal has a great number of local traditional restaurants, as well as more modern and international ones (even having two Michelin-starred restaurants, one with 2 stars and another with 1).

Seafood, as one would expect, is a specialty in the city gastronomy, with ‘espada’ (scabbard fish) served with bananas being a must.

Bananas are one of the brands of the island of Madeira, as are many other exotic fruits, such as blueberries, cactus figs, cherries, custard apples, grapes, passion fruit, pears and watermelons. These fruits are available pretty much everywhere on the island when their season comes.

‘Bolo do Caco’ is also mandatory, being a traditional type of bread made from sweet potatoes.

The city has also lots of bars that make the city live throughout the night on the weekends! There you can get a sample of the famous ‘poncha’, a very sweet traditional alcoholic drink from Madeira made out of sugar cane, orange or lemon juice, and honey. It is said to cure a common cold, so be sure to try it!

Another famous drink that I have mentioned in the last category, is the ‘Madeira wine’, known worldwide as the wine that the American Founding Fathers used to toast after they declared independence, due to it being the wine of choice of Thomas Jefferson. It’s a fortified wine, meaning it is stronger than conventional wines, and it is usually used either as an aperitif or a digestif, depending on the style.

When to Visit Funchal

The subtropical climate of the Island makes it a year-round destination, without extreme temperatures and stable humidity levels.

Summer is a hot and dry season, with about 25/26°C (about 77-79°F) while winter is much more pleasant, with temperatures of 17/18°C (around 62-64°F). As for rain, it is usually from October to May, but it can happen sporadically in other months. The seawater is usually the same throughout the year too, with 23°C (73.4°F) in summer and light drops in the winter to 18°C (64.4°F).

So it’s up to you to choose the best time to visit Funchal! You may decide to go in the summer for the vacations, during the Carnival season for the amazing festivities that the city has, the spring for the ‘Festa da Flor’ (or Festival of the Flower’), where the city decorates itself with beautiful flowers and the people make a parade of flower-decorated cars, the time of the Wine Fest in September, or even for Christmas or New Years, for which the city is really well-known for. According to the Guinness Book of Records, the city has the biggest New Year’s fireworks show in the world! That is really a sight to see!

Where to Stay in Funchal: 7 Best Hotels in Funchal

I would suggest you stay closer to the center of the city, so you can stay within a good walking distance of most things. You can choose to stay in a hotel in the most touristic areas, which would be a very good and safe option, or to stay in a local neighborhood, closer to the ‘real’ Funchal. It all depends on the type of trip you have planned! However, to make it easier, here are the 7 best hotels in Funchal. 

1. Three House Hotel

Three House Hotel is a trendy 4-star hotel in Funchal that does not disappoint. The gorgeous interior features family rooms, a bar, a front desk, and a restaurant. The hotel also has an outdoor swimming pool with views of the ocean. All units come with a private bathroom and kitchen. You can even play table tennis at the Three House Hostel! This place is only 10 kilometers from the airport and is super close to Marina do Funchal. A room here costs around €120.

 

2. Savoy Palace – The Leading Hotels of the World – Savoy Signature

Savoy Palace offers one of the best seaside views of Funchal. This 5-star hotel has an outdoor swimming pool, a gym, as well as a shared lounge, restaurant, bar, and terrace. What more could you need for a luxury vacation? Each room is equipped with a flat-screen TV, a relaxing seating area, and a large private bathroom. Some units also feature a kitchen with all the necessary appliances. A double room with a buffet breakfast included starts at €200 here. The presidential suite, the most expensive in the whole hotel, costs around €5,000.

 

3. Pestana Churchill Bay

Located in Câmara de Lobos, Pestana Churchill Bay offers panoramic views of the bay which guests can enjoy from the outdoor swimming pool. This 4-star hotel by Pestana also has a well-renowned restaurant that features traditional Portuguese food, as well as vegan options. Every room is decorated by an interior designer and is equipped with a flat-screen TV, a private bathroom, and a balcony. You can book a room here for €150.

 

4. Hotel Cajú

Hotel Cajú is a 4-star hotel, located in Funchal that is well-reviewed by guests in the region. This hotel is only a few minutes away from Madeira Casino and the Funchal Cathedral. The perfect place to enjoy some room service in bed, this hotel also features an in-house restaurant, a gym, and a bar. Every unit is equipped with a flat-screen TV, a private bathroom, and air conditioning for those hot summer days. You can book a room here for €130.

 

5. ARTS IN Hotel Conde Carvalhal

A 4-star hotel, ARTS IN Hotel Conde Carvalhal, is situated in a modern mansion, a few minutes from Funchal’s Old Town. This hotel features peaceful botanical gardens and terraces that offer a view of the sea. The modern rooms have beautiful wooden floors and flat-screen TVs. Some of their studios even offer a balcony and a small kitchen for guests to enjoy. The hotel has one of the best breakfasts on the island featuring local and organic products like fruits, pastries, and eggs. You can book a high-quality massage at the spa, as well as book a scooter or bicycle rental to explore the island. You can get a room here for €100.

 

6. Pestana Casino Park Hotel & Casino

Pestana Casino Park Hotel & Casino is a 5-star hotel that has a view overlooking the Bay of Funchal. A 5-minute walk from the center, this Pestana Hotel features a spa, a casino, and even a disco for dancing. This large hotel has 6 restaurants, the most well-known being the Panoramic Restaurant which provides views of the Bay and pool, as well as the Sunset Restaurant which features a cocktail bar. Each room has a private balcony, a setting area, and a satellite LCD TV. You can get a room here for €110.

 

7. Vila Camacho Guest House

An affordable guest house in Funchal, Vila Camacho is located close to the Funchal Marina. This quaint Guest House has a communal garden, terrace, and an outdoor swimming pool for guests to enjoy. Each room features a flat-screen TV, a private bathroom, and a balcony or terrace. Guests are also served a large continental breakfast that is included in the room rate. You can book a room at Vila Camacho for €50.

 

Booking.com

Explore the Funchal surroundings!

Ilhas Desertas

If you are a nature enthusiast, the Desertas Islands (literally ‘Deserted Islands’) are a great trip. Just 16 km southeast of Madeira, the Nature Reserve was made to protect the unique life of the islands’ birds, seals, and poisonous spiders. You can get a boat trip to the islands directly from Funchal.

Ilhas Selvagens

Still technically a part of Funchal, the ‘Savage Islands’ are the southernmost point of Portugal and are a very important bird nesting point, making them a closely protected natural reserve. The only manmade structures in the islands are a little house for the caretakers, the only people who live here year-round, and a lighthouse. The reserve is of great interest to scientists who routinely do research on the islands.

If you enjoy seeing pure nature and learning more about it, the Selvagens are a great trip!

Porto Santo

The other inhabited island in the Madeira archipelago definitely deserves a visit from you! Just 14km by 5km (8.7 mi by 3.1 mi), the island is fairly quick to see.

The island is known for its golden beaches, something that the island of Madeira lacks, and for its lack of big vegetation, which Madeira has in abundance. It has many hotels and resorts in its territory, as well as golf courses.

There is also a story that tells that Cristopher Columbus lived on the island, having married the daughter of the first Capitan of the island. You can learn more about this in Casa Colombo, a museum in Porto Santo dedicated to the stay of the navigator.

To get there, you can get a plane or ferry from Funchal.

Other Places of Interest in Madeira

You might want to visit the northern part of Madeira, home of villages like Porto Moniz, a place with natural swimming pools made by cooled-down lava filled with seawater, and Santana, that houses the traditional Madeiran cottages, the palheiros. [Book a day trip to Porto do Moniz]. Or maybe do some trekking on the ‘Levada das 25 Fontes’ that will take you to an amazing waterfall.

The incredible Laurissilva forest that once covered the whole island is also a great tour to make. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999 due to its rich plant and animal diversity.

You can also go golf at the 2 courses that the island has, go to the Casino, go bird-, whale- or dolphin-watching, diving, sailing or fishing, all great activities that this island provides to you.

Final Remarks

The incredible city of Funchal is a great jumping spot to visit the whole of the Madeira Islands! With fast connections to any part of the Island and even to the more secluded Selvagens, Desertas, and Porto Santo islands, you can get the whole Madeiran experience while always going back to the same hotel.

This diamond in the Atlantic is really a good visit at any time of the year, with activities always happening and weather that will almost make you think you are in Hawaii.

I would more than recommend this wonderful city… You will be delighted by its food, amazed by its festivals, and in awe by its scenery…

⬇️Please share your favorite activities and things to do in Funchal in the comments below⬇️

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What happened at the Miracle of Fátima?

The First Five Apparitions

Why does Fátima, a city in Santarém get over 8 million religious visitors every year? Home to the Sanctuary of Fátima, the city is the site of a world-renowned Catholic miracle.

The story of the Our Lady of Fátima miracle begins on May 13, 1917. Three peasant children, Francisco, Jacinta, and Lucia were tending to their family’s sheep. The children under 10 years old were blessed with the presence of the Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus. In Portugal, she is also known as Fátima. The children saw this beautiful woman, dressed in white and standing above a bush. The Virgin Mary told the children that world peace would occur if they spread the godly message of prayer.

She visited the young children on the 13th for the next six months. She revealed to the children three secrets. We will go through them and their Catholic interpretations in the next section.

The children were told to make sacrifices to save sinners. They were tight cords around their wrists and did not drink water on hot days. Lucia told the villagers that Mary asked them to say the Rosary every day in order to keep world peace.

News of the apparitions spread throughout the village, some believing the children and some not so much. The Blessed Virgin Mary promised the children that one day a prophecy would occur that would show the village people that they were being truthful. These events culminated in the sixth final apparition “Miracle of the Sun”.

Let’s go through a quick summary of the first five apparitions.

The first apparition on May 13, 1917:

The Blessed Virgin Mary tells the children that she will be visiting on the 13th of each month for 6 months. She tells the children in the tiny village they will need to commit sacrifices and suffer, but that they will end up in heaven. She tells the children to say the rosary prayer every day to bring about peace and to devote themselves to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

The second apparition on June 13, 1917:

Mary asks the children to add the Fatima prayer to the end of the Rosary. The children ask her to take them to heaven, but she says that it’s too soon. She says she will soon take Jacinta and Francisco, but Lucia will stay on earth for longer.

The third apparition on July 13, 1917:

Mary reveals the Three secrets. She shows the children that Hell is a horrible place. She also predicts the Second World War and the persecution of Christians in Russia. She goes on to want that there will be further persecution of Christians.

The fourth apparition on August 19, 1917:

This apparition doesn’t happen as planned. The three children were kidnapped and imprisoned by the police. The police believed they were making up these apparitions and wanted the children to state that it was all a hoax. The children stood their ground and were later on released. Six days after the 13th of the month, Mary appeared again and told the children to pray for sinners.

The fifth apparition on September 13, 1917:

On this day, people gathered to see if Mary would show and white rose petals fell from the sky. As the witnesses touched them, they disappeared. Sister Lucia asked Mary to cure the sick and she responded that God could not cure those who were not healed.

Travel Guide to Fatima: Hotels, Tours, Restaurants, & Things To Do

The Final Apparition: The Miracle of the Sun

What was the Fátima Miracle of the Sun?

The sixth and final miracle, the Miracle of the Sun, occurred on the 13th of October, 1917. This was essentially in response to the prophecy made by the three children. The children told the people in the village to come out and witness it, even the skeptics. There are reports of over 70,000 people being in attendance.

According to various witness accounts, the rainy sky cleared up, and the ground that was wet from the rain became dry. The sun appeared “dancing around” and “zig-zagging” in the sky within broken clouds, giving it the name of the Miracle of the Sun. Some say that the dancing sun even appeared to fly closer to the earth and then jump back into its place quickly. Others also mentioned multicolored light and radiant colors all over the sky. They said the Miracle of the Sun lasted for at least 10 minutes. The children were then finally believed by the people of Fátima.

Catholic Response to the Miracle of the Sun

There was an investigation conducted by the local bishop in November to review these reports and analyze whether they were congruent with Catholic theology. The Miracle of the Sun was declared “worthy of belief” and of a supernatural character by Bishop Jose da Silva in 1930.

Pope Pius XII also approved the miracle in 1940. Interestingly, the Pope also declared that he witnessed the same miracle in 1950. On October 30, 1950, the Pope was walking through the Vatican gardens where he witnessed the Miracle of the Sun near the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes. He saw the same miracle again on October 31, November 1, and November 8.

In 2017, Pope Francis went on to officially recognize the Miracle of the Sun and even canonized two of the children, Francisco Marto and Jacinta Marto, over 100 years after their death. This means that Pope Francis made the children officially saints! Lucia, the cousin of Jacinta and Francisco Marto passed away in 2005 and is being considered for possible beatification. This is the step right before sainthood and essentially signifies that she is blessed in heaven. However, this process could only legally start in 2010, at least five years after her death, and is not yet finished. Pope Francis has visited the shrine of Our Lady of Fatima multiple times.

The Three Secrets

The Three Secrets were a series of apocalyptic visions and prophecies that the Virgin Mary revealed to the children, the first one on May 13, 1917. Two of these secrets were revealed in a document written by sister Lucia in 1941.

Mary told the children the first secret in July of 1917. The first secret described Hell as a horrible place where sinners’ souls burned. Mary said that to save these souls, acts of prayer and sacrifice were necessary.

The second secret prophesized the end of the First World War, but also the outbreak of the Second World War if sinning was to continue. Mary also called for the Consecration of Russia or else peace would not occur. Many say she also predicted the rise and fall of Communism.

The third secret was not revealed that easily. In 1943 Lucia was ill and asked by the Bishop to reveal it, but she said God had not authorized her to do so. The Bishop still ordered her to write it down. Lucia decided to write it in a sealed envelope that could only be opened in 1960. In 1960, the Vatican issued a press release stating that the third secret would remain sealed forever. For years, Christians around the world speculated on the content of the third secret and some even feared it could refer to worldwide nuclear annihilation.

However, the secret was released in 2000 by Pope John Paul II. The Vatican said the secret spoke of the 20th-century persecution of Christians, leading to the failed assassination attempt of Pope John Paul II in 1981.

The text revealed said that Mary spoke of a “Bishop clothed in white” who prays faithfully. In her vision, he was making his way towards the cross passing through the bodies of those who were martyred, like priests and other religious people. This speaks to the prosecution of Christians. He then falls to the ground dead after hearing gunfire. This message was allegedly confirmed by Sister Lucia.

The Vatican declares that this bishop must have been Pope John Paul II. He was shot and wounded on May 13, 1981, in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City by Mehmet Ali Ağca. He survived. The attacker, a Turkish journalist had said before that the Pope was “the masked leader of the crusades”. He was sentenced to life in prison in Italy in July of 1981 but was later pardoned by the president in 2000 at the Pope’s request. He was then deported. The Vatican said that it was “a mother’s hand that guided the bullet’s path” that saved the Pope’s life, alluding to the Virgin Mary.

The Third Secret – Controversy & Theories

The release of the third secret sparked anger in Portugal, as the Portuguese Catholic Church was offended that the text was not read in Fátima. The fact that the secret did not include any doomsday predictions also angered the Portuguese Catholic Church as there was no reason to keep the prophecy secret for 50 years and spark fear.

Many around the world also believe this third secret was altered by the Vatican and is not the original. There are many inaccuracies such as the fact that Lucia wrote the secret on one sheet of paper. The Vatican’s version was four pages long. There are also Portuguese sources that say that Lucia mentioned to them that the third secret was “in the Gospels and the Apocalypse”, even specifying Apocalypse chapters 8 to 13. Therefore, many believe the third secret did in fact contain a doomsday-like prophecy but this is being kept a secret.

Did the Three Secrets happen? Is the Miracle of Fátima true?

So did all the things mentioned in the three secrets happen? Did the Virgin Mary predict all these events?

The first secret was a vision of Hell, so we will skip this one. Whether you believe the first secret is real depends on your religious beliefs.

The second secret predicted the end of the First World War and the outbreak of the Second World War. The Virgin Mary told the children these secrets in 1917, less than a year before the First World War ended. She was also correct in predicting the Second World War. However, this secret was only released in 1941, two years after the war began.

Mary also predicted the rise and fall of Communism and called for the Consecration of Russia. The dissolution of the USSR only happened in 1991, so Mary might have predicted this correctly. Lucia would not have known this in 1941 when she wrote the secret down. But Lucia would have known about the rise of Communism in Russia that began with the February Revolution, and later on with the Bolshevik Revolution, a few months after the apparitions. Up to 1941 when she released this secret, Lucia would also be hearing about over 20 years of communism in the Soviet Union. Starting in 1932, Lucia and all of the Portuguese lived under the fascist rule of Antonio Salazar, a staunch Catholic who was opposed to Communism and believed its fall was inevitable. Therefore, this part of the second secret was a widely held belief and hope of many in Portugal.

The third secret was only released in 2000, over 80 years after it was told to the children by the Virgin Mary. However, it was allegedly written by Lucia in 1943 and only revealed later. If this is to be believed and we ignore the theories that the Vatican altered the document, then the third secret happened. The Virgin Mary predicted the persecution of Christians as the symbol of an attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II. The document by Lucia was written 38 years before the attempted murder. However, if you believe that the document was altered the story is different. The Vatican’s release of the secret happened 19 years after the assassination attempt.

The Sanctuary of Fátima

Guide to Fatima

Regardless of your beliefs, whether you are a Christian or skeptical of these miracles, it is clear that the city of Fátima is a special place that arises curiosity in all of us. The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima, a site with Catholic religious buildings was built in the place where the three children were visited by the Virgin Mary.

Photo by Tania Mousinho (Unsplash)

The first building built was in April of 1919 by the local people. They built a small chapel called the Chapel of the Apparitions in the exact location where the Virgin Mary would visit every month on the 13th. A statue of the Virgin Mary was then installed in the chapel in 1920 by locals. This angered the Roman Catholic church and the government, as the miracle had not yet been confirmed by them. This original chapel was thus destroyed in March of 1922. However, the Chapel of the Apparitions was rebuilt and functioning as a place of local mass by 1923.

The attitudes of the Catholic Church began to change as they conducted investigations on the miracle. In 1927, the Bishop of Leiria gave a religious service at the site.

In 1928, the basilica and colonnade started being built, a long construction process that only finished in 1954. During the construction, in 1930, the Catholic Church finally recognized the miracle and permitted the existence of the first cult of Our Lady of Fátima.

In 1953, the Church of the Sanctuary of Fátima was consecrated and a year later, it was given the title of Basilica by Pope Pius XXI.

Today, the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima is made up of astonishing religious buildings, monuments, and statues of saints. Although the Chapel of Apparitions and the Basilica are the most famous, you can also visit the Perpetual Adoration Chapel and the Monument of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, among others.

Fátima Pilgrimages & Visiting the Sanctuary of Fátima

8 million pilgrims visit the city of Fátima every year to witness the place of the miracles. The sanctuary even sparks the curiosity of atheists and is welcoming to many pilgrims of all religions, not just Catholicism. The most popular times to visit Our Lady of Fátima are on the 13th of the month between May and October when the apparitions occurred.

Many of those that travel to the sanctuary are facing terminal illnesses or bereavement and looking for religious guidance. They travel thousands of kilometers from all over the world to be blessed by the Virgin Mary. Many Portuguese also walk hundreds of kilometers to get there on these days, over 140 km from Lisbon and over 350 from Valença.

Photo by Natacha de Hepcee (Unsplash)

What to do in Fátima?

At the sanctuary, you can witness the large torch-lit processings led by Cardinals and Bishops. You can also light a candle for a loved one and say a prayer. We recommend standing in the middle of the sanctuary square to witness the beauty of the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary. This square is larger than the one in the Vatican!

Fátima Mass Times

If you are heading to a mass at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima, make sure to check the mass times here. Mass times depend on the day of the week and are something altered. On Sundays, the mass times at the Fátima Sanctuary are the following:

  • 7:30 AM
  • 9 AM
  • 10 AM
  • 11 AM
  • 12:30 AM
  • 2 PM
  • 3 PM
  • 4 PM
  • 5:30 PM
  • 6:30 PM
  • 9:30 PM

View Tours & Activities in Fátima

You can also visit the houses of the three children that were visited by the Virgin Mary. There are two houses in the tiny village of Aljustrel, a kilometer away from the sanctuary: the “Casa de Jacinta e Francisco Marto” and the “Casa da Lucia”. The first house was where both Francisco and Jacinta died after the First World War of the flu epidemic. They lived here with their parents and three other siblings. The second house was Lucia’s house, who was the cousin of Jacinta and Francisco Marto. Lucia survived the flu epidemic, became a nun, and lived until 2005, dying at the old age of 97.

3 Best Tours & Experiences in Fátima

1. Porto: Fatima and Coimbra Day Trip

This day trip from Poro takes you to the holy site of Fatima and the university town of Coimbra. You will get to learn about the Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Rosary, as well as the miracles that happened there. In Coimbra, you will get to experience a walking tour conducted by university students.

Book Porto: Fatima and Coimbra Day Trip

2. Fátima, Nazaré, and Óbidos Small-Group Tour from Lisbon

This full-day tour takes you from Lisbon to the Sanctuary of Fatima for a personalized experience. You will also get to visit the beach resort of Nazare and the quaint medieval town of Obidos.

Book Lisbon: Fatima, Nazare, and Obidos

3. Fátima, Nazaré, and Óbidos Small-Group Day Trip from Lisbon

Another great tour from Lisbon, this day trip takes you to Fatima, Obidos, and Nazare. You will learn about the children’s apparition of the Virgin Mary, as well as visit the town of Obidos. Finally, you’ll get a glimpse of the fishermen’s life in the seaside village of Nazare. This is a small group tour up to 8 people.

Book Lisbon: Fatima, Nazare, and Obidos

Where is Fátima in Portugal?

Fátima is a city located in the district of Santarem in the Central Region of Portugal. Fátima is situated 130 kilometers away from Lisbon (1.30 hour drive) and less than 200 kilometers away from Porto (2 hour drive). The nearest airport to Fátima is Lisbon airport, around 100 kilometers away. However, if you find it more convenient and affordable to fly to Portugal, it is around 180 kilometers away. 

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Guide to Learning Portuguese

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Some might confuse it with Spanish, but Portuguese is actually a very relevant language to learn. Over 215 million people around the world speak Portuguese and it is the 6th most spoken language in the world. Portuguese is the official language in 9 countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America due to the country’s colonial past. Therefore it’s not that surprising that only 5% of Portuguese speakers live in Portugal. What might surprise you is that it’s the fastest-growing European language in the world after English.

Is Portuguese hard to learn?

This all sounds lovely, right? Well, not so fast. Portuguese is actually quite a difficult language to learn. It is particularly difficult if you just speak English. Portuguese is one of the Romance languages like Italian and French so if you know one of these, it will be a huge advantage.

Either way, if you went to school in Portugal you know that the mention of the word “verbos” (verbs) will drive you crazy. Each verb tense in Portuguese has six different conjugations for a variety of pronouns. In English, the verb “I learn” has two conjugations in the present tense- I/you/we/they run, he/she/it learns. In Portuguese things get messier. It would be the following: eu aprendo, tu aprendes, ele/ela/vocês aprendem, nós aprendemos, vós aprendeis, eles/elas/vocês aprendem. Most Portuguese people even get these wrong.

Portuguese is also a very gendered language. Things like a house or a car are gendered.  This can take some getting used to. The language also has some tough pronunciation, particularly the infamous nasal sounds like não and joão.

Don’t be too scared, though. If you are motivated to learn the language you will get there. Supposedly, it only takes a native English speaker around 600 hours or 6 months of study to become fluent in Portuguese. Just think how much easier it will be next time you visit. No more “I don’t speak Portuguese” and a lot more “uma cerveja, por favor” (a beer, please).

What’s the difference between Brazilian Portuguese and Portuguese from Portugal?

Keep in mind that Portuguese from Brazil is quite different from Portuguese from Portugal. If you are going to learn the language, stick to one of them to avoid confusion. However, you’ll be able to communicate wherever you go with either. The main difference between the two is in the use of the second-person pronoun “you”. In Portugal, tu is used, while in Brazil, people use the pronouns você and vocês. In Portugal, você is only used when you are speaking formally, perhaps to someone older. Você is used in most social situations in Brazil unless you are visiting a few particular regions that use tu. It’s sort of like the difference between American English and British English, but a bit more different.

The first step is then definitely to pick one or the other. If you’ve figured that out, you are ready to start learning.

Where to Learn Portuguese

1. Online

You don’t necessarily need to put a dent in your wallet to learn Portuguese. You can learn straight from your couch online. This gives you so much flexibility. You can learn as often as you would like and fit it around your schedule without time constraints. You’ll never be late for class! There are many language applications online that will help you on your journey to sound like a local.

Let’s start with our two favorite applications for learning Portuguese that are completely free! Ba Ba Dum helps you learn Portuguese through games and vocabulary quizzes that keep you entertained. They even teach you some funny expressions that only a native would know.

With Duolingo, you can learn Portuguese in just 5 minutes a day. However, they only offer Brazilian Portuguese if that’s what you are looking for. The app and the website are free! You can pay for a premium feature if you need extra help.

Here are other platforms to learn Portuguese online:

2. Visiting Portugal

You can always opt to immerse yourself in Portuguese (or Brazilian) culture. There’s no better way to learn a language than learning from the locals. You will need to spend at least a month in Portugal if you want to learn Portuguese. It would take you at least 6 months to become fluent, so consider investing in some classes.

If you are staying in Lisbon there are several courses you can take. Language Lisboa is a great option. This school has group classes with a maximum of 7 people so you can be given the help you need. They have a 4-week course with 3 lessons a day for €520. They also offer 2 and 3-week courses for cheaper prices.

Photo by Veronika Jorjobert (Unsplash)

If you decide to visit Porto instead, Oficina de Português School is a small Portuguese school in the center that also offers weekly activities in Porto like wine tastings and cinema events. The best part, the price includes accommodation! You can learn Portuguese here for €250 a week with 20 lessons per week.

Tips for Learning Portuguese

Whether you are taking classes online or learning with a local, you’re gonna need some tips to power through this language. If you are truly motivated, learning Portuguese should be something you take into your daily life. From listening to Portuguese music to practicing your pronunciation throughout the day. We have selected our 4 top tips for learning Portuguese.

1. Speak often

They say it takes 21 days to build a habit. Repetition is key to learning a language. Try to speak as often as you can, preferably daily. Talk to your partner in Portuguese and practice common phrases before you go to bed. A quick trick is to place sticky notes on your house furniture and products. Place one on your bed that says cama, for example. When you see it, say it out loud. Try to use the word in a sentence. You will slowly start memorizing what things mean without even realizing it. Don’t forget to practice your pronunciation. Reading the language won’t be enough if you want to sound fluent.

2. Build your vocabulary

Start by learning the most common words and expressions. The ones you’ll need to use when you visit such as verbs, nouns, adjectives, and pronouns. Don’t forget to learn please and thank you! Write all these words down in a journal or make flashcards. Make it like your own little Portuguese dictionary.

3. Use your senses: listen to music and watch shows

Learning a language doesn’t have to be boring. In fact, if you want to succeed at learning Portuguese, you better make it enjoyable. Did you know a great way to learn a language is through your senses? We usually just use sight and sound to learn a language, but you can find ways to incorporate all 5 if you are feeling creative.

For sight, read, read, read! Start easy. Read some Portuguese children’s books as these will be more suitable for your level. Try O Principezinho (The Little Prince) or maybe a book you already know the storyline.

For sound, listen to some Portuguese music. A good idea would be to have the lyrics in front of you so you can sing along and practice pronunciation. Fado is a great option as it is usually slow and the lyrics are clear.

Combine sight and sound! Watch Portuguese television shows and listen closely to the way they pronounce words. Start with subtitles in your native language and later on move on to Portuguese subtitles. You’ll be quoting Portuguese actors in no time. We recommend watching Glória, the first ever Portuguese Netflix original!

You can also have some fun with smell and taste, by cooking a typical Portuguese meal like a bitoque (thin steak). It will be the perfect reward after a day of learning!

4. Remember why you are learning Portuguese in the first place

It might be that you are learning your partner’s language to surprise them with your wedding vows. Maybe you are planning to visit Portugal and want to be able to understand the locals. Or maybe you just want to add another language to your list of skills. Whatever the reason, make sure to remind yourself why you are learning Portuguese in the first place. This is sure to keep you motivated and give you a sense of purpose when those tricky verbs are knocking you down.

Final thoughts

In no time you’ll be one of the 215 million people around the world who speak Portuguese! Your visit to Portugal will be a totally different experience. You’ll be able to ask the locals for the secret spots they won’t share with tourists and the best restaurants to try. More importantly, they will really appreciate it. The Portuguese know how hard it is to learn their language. Even if you are not fluent, a simple bom dia (good morning), will put a smile on an old lady’s face.