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Portuguese Christmas Traditions

Lisbon, ChristmasChristmas is by far my favourite time of the year, so you can imagine how much I have to say about it!

As it happens in so many other countries around the world, Portugal becomes magical at this time of the year. All the cities are full of lights, people are all excited (despite the relative cold weather) and you can listen to Christmas songs everywhere! If you want to visit Portugal during Christmas time, here are some tips of the best places to go:

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Lisbon as seen from a Portuguese point of view…

Terreiro do PaçoBefore you ask if this article was written by a Portuguese person, yes, it was. Is it still going to be impartial? Well, I will try to be!

To start with, Lisbon is the capital of Portugal and one of the few European capitals that can be proud of having the sea just a couple of minutes away. It is consequently the most populous city in Portugal, offers lots of things to do and is definitely worth visiting!

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Porto comes out on top!

PortoWe keenly follow anything related to European travel and were very pleased to see one of Europe’s oldest centres,
Porto, top the results of the online vote for the ‘Best Destination of 2014’. If you are unfamiliar with this award, and all the locations that were shortlisted, you may wish to visit the link below!

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It’s so different from Sweden!

I loved my time in Lisbon! The most interesting thing when staying in a capital of a country is the variety of things that you can do, see and experience. Well Lisbon exceeded my expectations! Lisbon, also called the “7 Hill City” or “Lx” is a perfect mix of modern buildings and traditional architecture. Even if you walk 24 hours a day you will always find something to see and do in this never-sleeping city!

One thing that you will notice right away as you set foot in the city is the seafaring influence. It is found everywhere, from the architecture of the buildings to the monuments and the set up of the streets. In fact, being a coastal city makes of it a wonderful tourist place with several fantastic beaches. The beaches are AMAZING, with golden sand and greenish-blue sea and perfect conditions to practice most water sports. I went to a well-known beach called “Costa da Caparica” and I must say that I loved it. The friendly environment, animated people, hot weather and warm water provided the perfect conditions for an enjoyable time and I actually got a great suntan too!

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When in Porto…

Porto is without doubt one of the most lively, vibrant cities that I’ve ever been to. It’s not just architecturally beautiful, but is also a university city with amazing nightlife and very interesting traditions!

I was there at the start of the academic year, and I was amazed by the way the university students, dressed in the university’s customary black capes, gather in the main square and listen to the “tuna” (university band) singing Fado to the lovely sound of the Portuguese guitar – a wonderful local tradition, that helped me realise that my time in Porto was going to be something special!

Another amazing place that I soon discovered in Porto was the “Ribeira”, located in the old part of city. There are traditional restaurants, cafés and nightclubs, all with amazing views over the river Douro. It’s a part of the city that never sleeps! I often went there in the evening, with other students from the school.

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The City of Bridges (and its musical nightlife!)

I would really like to tell you something about the not so well known side of Porto, just waiting to be discovered – the nightlife you can enjoy in this amazing city, whatever your taste!

Of course, Porto is well known as Portugal’s second largest city and the ‘capital of the north’, home to a historical centre, recognised by UNESCO as a ‘World Heritage Site’. It also contains several impressive bridges that cross the river Douro, taking you from the city centre to the world famous wine caves. Each bridge has an impressive unique architecture that makes them stand out and give Porto a unique landscape. In Porto you must take the opportunity to travel in one of the traditional barca boats and see a different side of this fascinating city!

But this is common knowledge for every tourist. I want to tell you about the sometimes overlooked but truly fantastic nightlife!!

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More than Port in Porto!

There were lots of things I was looking forward to when I started planning my trip to Porto. Sunshine, historic medieval streets, beaches, markets, finally improving my Portuguese to improve and, of course… lots of yummy port! I hadn’t expected to also fall in love with the rolling hills of the city, the hub of activity along the river Douro, the quirky honest locals and… above all… try tripe (the local specialty) and sort of like it! I had a fantastic time in Porto!

I loved skipping out of my Portuguese school every day to find myself right there smack bang on the banks of the Douro river, in the heart of the city ready for a hectic afternoon of meandering through the beautiful cobbled streets, idling in local cafes with my classmates and practicing my Portuguese or heading out of the city to the beach and busy afternoon of relaxing by the sea.

Porto really did have a little bit of everything I could have wished for.

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See the two faces of Faro, Portugal

When I think about Faro, I think about the sun, beaches, parties and relaxation!

The great thing about Faro is that it has two faces. In winter, it is a calm place, although it always has good nightlife because of the number of students from Algarve University present in the city. In summer there are lots of things to do because is filled with thousand and thousand of travellers that give life to the city.

If you are a beach lover and a sun lover I definitely recommend that you learn Portuguese in Faro. I go there every year at Easter because at that time of the year in Portugal, and especially in the Algarve, the weather starts to get warm. It’s just perfect – warm but not too warm, and at that time of year there aren’t many tourists so you can get to know the friendly locals well.

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Studying in Lisbon? An insider’s guide to going out…

If you want to go out at night in Lisbon, there is no better place then Bairro Alto! This amazing part of the city has something for every taste!

I’d recommend you start the night at one of the Bairro Alto’s fantastic Portuguese restaurants. Whilst you’re eating, you can relax and listen to the popular live Fado music in the restaurant. I like the ‘Tasca do Chico’, ‘Café Luso‘ and ‘Adega Mesquita’. If you fancy something lighter, try a ‘francesinha’ or a ‘prego’ whilst listening to jazz music in ‘Capela’ pub!

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