Portugal is home to friendly people, renowned art and the vibrant capital city of Lisbon. It is the westernmost country in mainland Europe, with a vast coastline that grants access to delicious seafood and pristine surfing. Beach vacation meets European getaway, Portugal is more than deserving of a spot on your must-see list.
If you stick to the larger cities and surrounding areas, English is widely spoken. Though, having a few Portuguese phrases up your sleeve is always a good idea.
Pro Tip: Some Portuguese words are gender specific to the speaker. The word for “thank you” is “obrigada” if the speaker identifies as a woman and “obrigado” if the speaker identifies as a man.
The local people are kind. Engaging with your server at a restaurant will often result in a story, a laugh or a recommendation. There is a generally positive attitude surrounding tourism.
People can be aggressive with sales, they may require a rather determined “no.” Other times, it’s you who must be the assertive one. American-style customer service of greeting people at the door is not a common practice. Know to ask for what you want without prompting at casual spots such as cafes.
Getting around is quite manageable. Lisbon’s tramway system, with its classic yellow tram cars, has now been operating for one hundred and fifty years. The city is pretty walkable, or you can hop on a rental bike or scooter. The Uber App is also effective, not to mention more affordable than a taxi.
Pro Tip: You can get an Uber from the airport! This isn’t advertised, and you may be told it isn’t possible. A long line of taxis will be waiting at the Lisbon airport doors, but around the corner at the departures area, an Uber driver will happily pick you up.
Downtown, you’ll find classic fountains and stunning sculptures peppered throughout modern retail and restaurant. Architectural marvels can be seen from just about anywhere. Ponte 25 de Abril, a giant red suspension bridge reminiscent of the Golden Gate, reaches across the Tagus River. A sight to behold, the bridge spans over seven thousand feet connecting Lisbon to Almada. On the Almada side stands the impressive Sanctuary of Christ the King statue. Reminiscent of its famous counterpart, Christ the Redeemer in Brazil, the statue looks out over Lisbon from across the water.
In the shadow of France and Italy, you may not think of Portugal as a wine hub, but you’d be mistaken. Yet another thing the country is famous for is the vast green valleys where wine grapes thrive. Port wine, for example, is named after the town from which it comes; Porto, the second largest city in Portugal, in the northwestern part of the country.
This popular dessert wine can be found at nearly every Portuguese restaurant. It is a lovely way to satisfy the sweet tooth after dinner. It does not, however, require you to skip out on dessert itself. We definitely recommend having both. This is Portugal, after all.
Port isn’t the only wine the country has brought to the table. Our favorite Portuguese offering shares a name with the northern region where its grapes are grown. You need to know about this wine; allow us to make the introduction.
The Sherpani Unmissable recommendation for visiting Portugal: Vinho Verde!
Vinho Verde is a Portuguese wine that, although it can come as red, rose, or sparkling, is most commonly white. Tasting notes vary by the bottle, but Vinho Verde is generally regarded as having a fresh quality with a fruit-forward, possibly floral aroma. On the palate, Vinho Verde is quite clean and crisp, reminiscent of tree fruit such as granny smith apple. The wine is typically high in acidity and sometimes contains small amounts of bubbles. It is the perfect wine for warm weather, with a refreshing quality that is sure to delight the drinker.
Like most white wines, Vinho Verde is best served cold. Chilling the wine properly will give it a truer flavor; this will bring forward the standout factor of crispness that makes Vinho Verde unique.
Pro Tip: The fastest way to chill white wine at home? An ice bath! Place the bottle in a basin filled with cold water, salt and ice. It's ready to go in thirty minutes.
“Vinho Verde” directly translates to “green wine.” Though “verde” is not a commentary on the color of the wine itself. In fact, this wine is typically very light and can have almost no color at all. Instead, “verde” refers to the lushness of the Vinho Verde region.
Restaurants in Portugal often ask the drinker if they prefer “verde” wine or “maduro” wine, meaning “young” or “mature.” Vinho Verde is released three to six months after the grapes are harvested and is best consumed soon after bottling. This makes it a “young” wine and gives it the punchy quality of fresh-picked fruit.
Turns out the trope of “aging like a fine wine” doesn’t always apply. Vinho Verde won’t do well collecting dust and waiting for a special occasion. It is to be purchased and enjoyed.
If you’re looking for a comparison, the closest mainstream white wine would be sauvignon blanc. Though this isn’t an exact match, as Vinho Verde tends to be fresher and more fruit-forward. So we encourage you to try it even if sauvignon blanc isn’t your thing.
Historically, Vinho Verde had some natural bubbles that were a result of the fermentation process. This occurs less often today, though winemakers do sometimes add carbonation to keep the association of bubbles with the wine. These bubbles are not always present, and when they are, they tend to be quite subtle. Vinho Verde is effervescent but not usually considered sparkling.
Happiness is a cold glass of Vinho Verde on a sunny day. Complete the experience on a restaurant patio with an ocean view (something that, in Portugal, is never far away).
Vinho Verde is the white wine to pair with seafood! Portugal is home to an impeccable seafood scene, which is certainly no coincidence. Pair Vinho Verde with cod for a dinner that is as exceptional as it is authentic. Fresh cod is one of the country’s most mouth-watering offerings and really shouldn’t be missed. Shrimp is another excellent idea for pairing. Any sort of “meaty” seafood is a good bet. Or, verging a bit off the path of authenticity here, sushi.
You’ll find Vinho Verde at virtually every restaurant and grocery store in town. It’s no secret that buying local goods usually bodes well for affordability, and Vinho Verde is no exception. You can get a great bottle for just a few euros; you can get an excellent one for under ten.
Sipping on a five-euro bottle of grocery store Vinho Verde was a transformative experience for our last Sherpani team member who visited Portugal. She called it the best glass of wine she had ever had.
Whether you’ve spent the day mesmerized by Lisbon’s street art, your feet ache from walking down the beautiful streets of Porto, or you’re just coming in from the surf in Ericeira, Vinho Verde is the perfect way to elevate your Portuguese evenings.
Ready to go?
Let our favorite Portuguese wine be a part of your time in this fantastic country. Let us know if you try it and if you love it as much as we do! If you have a favorite memory of travel and wine, we’d love for you to share it with us in the comment section below. Happy travels, and safe sipping!
The Sherpani Team
The above post is part of an ongoing segment of the Sherpani Travel Blog. We want to give travelers a singular, tangible recommendation for destinations; something we deem truly unmissable. These recommendations are carefully chosen from the personal travels of the Sherpani team.