I’m lucky to have traveled extensively in Europe and, by far, the best value I’ve found is Portugal. The quality of food, wine, beaches and golf for the price is incomparable anywhere on the continent. I first vacationed the country more than 20 years ago when it was far less crowded with tourists. While the tourist hordes have descended, especially on the Algarve in the summer, it’s still a pleasurable experience at a very affordable price. If you love golf and wine like I do, Portugal is a must visit.
Healthy and Delicious Cuisine
In addition to being inexpensive at most restaurants and reasonably priced in higher-end restaurants, the cuisine in Portugal is ideal for those pursuing a healthy, low-fat diet. The staple way to prepare meat, poultry and fish is on the grill and you’ll also find vegetables and potatoes grilled to perfection, as well. Some of my favorite dishes are the grilled sea bream, monk fish with shrimp stew and loin steak with peppers. While there are dozens of restaurants I can recommend (it’s difficult to get a bad meal), I suggest you try these two for authentic Portuguese cuisine prepared exquisitely: Restaurant Mar do Inferno in the charming resort town of Cascais, about 20 miles from Lisbon and Restaurante Principe Do Calhariz in Bairro Alto in downtown Lisbon.
While France, Italy and Germany dominate the wine headlines in Europe, Portugal has some exceptional wines. Most restaurants offer wine lists with a slew of moderately priced wines. I won’t bore you with an exhaustive review of the Portuguese wine scene, but I will say my favorite wines are from the Algarve region. I’ve had numerous delicious, crisp whites and rosés in restaurants for under $15. Of course, in my opinion, you should never visit Portugal without enjoying a wine from the Vinho Verde region (in the northwest part of the country). These light and fresh wines, ideal with appetizers, cheese boards and seafood, are prevalent everywhere.
The Algarve is home to some of the most picturesque courses I’ve ever seen. There’s absolutely nothing better than enjoying a glass of chilled Portugese white wine on a clubhouse veranda overlooking the ocean after a day of golf on one of the Algarve’s thirty golf courses. My favorite courses include San Lorenzo Golf club at Quinta do Lago, Royal Course at Vale do Lobo, Monte Rei Golf & Country Club and Vilamoura’s Old Course. One of the world’s great par threes is the oceanside 16th on the Royal at Vale do Lobo, which demands a 225-yard shot over three spectacular cliffs. I’ve only played golf on the Algarve, but there are other exceptional courses throughout the country.
The Portuguese are very accommodating and amiable. I’ve visited the country four times and have always been treated marvelously. While the Brits have flooded into the Algarve in amazing numbers (comparable to New Yorkers flocking to Florida) and the rest of Europe has discovered Portugal’s amazing value, the Portuguese people are impressively patient. I’m not sure I would be as considerate to some of the obnoxious tourists in the Algarve who are very demanding at times. Somehow, some way, the Portuguese manage to handle them with class.