Amazing places you have to visit when teaching English in Portugal
Posted on 8-08-2019 by Joseph Francis
Ah Portugal – capping off Europe in style, this Iberian nation is a real tempter. Splintered by cloud-shattering volcanos and fringed with daffodil-tinted beaches, it’s a wild and wonderful place to be based. Most people teaching English in Portugal will be in cities like Lisbon and Porto, which are jewels in their own right, coming with Azulejo-fronted chapels from the Age of Discovery, museums dedicated to swashbuckling explorers, and buzzy bar districts for the weekends. Here are just some of the bucket-list-busting spots you simply have to see if the above is set to be your next TEFL destination…
Let’s start with Sintra. Steeped in myths and legends just north-west of Lisbon, this UNESCO-attested landscape is a jaw dropper. It’s all cloud-swirling summits dashed with moss-caked laurel forests, or craggy cliffs that drop straight down to a lashing Atlantic Ocean. It’s hardly a surprise that the Iberian tribes came here to worship their mystical lunar deities! And in the heart of it all is Sintra the town. That’s a fantastical palimpsest of history, with haunting Moorish towers looming overhead and ice-cream colored palaces lining its streets.
Portugal’s second-largest city is a characterful and endearing place. Gilded with great royal palaces that send forests of Baroque spires above the hilly skyline, its center is a patchwork of steep and winding lanes that go this way and that past tile-fronted cantinas, coffee shops, and jazz bars. The whole town is split in two by the wide Douro River, which hosts docklands where you can taste potent fortified wines before munching on salt cod as the sun sets over the sea.
Grand and glorious Lisbon lives up to the prestige of a city that was once the incubator of great European exploration. Its waterside, along the vast and muddy estuary of the Tagus, is peppered with honorific effigies like the colossal Padrão dos Descobrimentos and the Tower of Belém, where even the revered Christopher Columbus made pitstops after his voyages across the Atlantic. Meanwhile, draped over the city’s seven hills are areas like the tram-rattling Bairro Alto and the fairy-tale Alfama – a maze of cobble ways where pastry shops meet Moorish castles.
When the mercury cranks skywards and the TEFL classes finish for the summer, anyone teaching English in Portugal would do well to set the sat nav for the southernmost corner of the mainland. Ranging from the frothing swells of the Atlantic all the way to the Spanish border, the region of the Algarve is now fodder for travel brochures. And why not? You can hit the west coast and surf crashing waves on breathtaking bays like Praia da Cordoama. You can explore whitewashed fishing towns around Lagos. You can laze on gold-glinting beaches like Portimão and Praia da Rocha.
Hailed as the Venice of Portugal, Aveiro sits between the shimmering sands of the Silver Coast and a patchwork of mud banks and wetlands that filters straight off the Atlantic Ocean. Once a powerful and tactically placed port town, it grew rich on sea trading and salt, which imbued the center with handsome terraces of tiled homes and extravagant churches. Talking of churches, you won’t want to leave without sipping a coffee on the plaza in front of the great Cathedral of Aveiro, or strolling the shaded cloisters of the famous Monastery of Jesus.
The Douro Valley
Piercing inland from the city of Porto is one of the most acclaimed winelands of Portugal – nay, of Europe. Known collectively as the Douro Valley, the region actually encompasses vast swathes of emerald mountains that rise and fall to the north and south of the meandering river. Everywhere you look are vineyards and port cellars. But tasting the country’s fine whites, reds and fortified tipples is just part of the adventure. There’s hiking aplenty, boating trips to make down the water, wild swimming spots, and cycling tracks that go on for miles.
If you’re teaching English in Portugal and are looking for a further-flung escape, the isles of the Azores could be the prime choice. They are well-served by airlines departing out of Porto and Lisbon, which means you can easily transport yourself to their wave-bashed shores in the midst of the Atlantic. Once on the ground, you’ll want to lace up the trail running shoes for jaunts to the top of Pico Island, which pinnacles at the highest point in Portugal at 2,351 meters. Alternatively, there are gushing geysers and steam vents hidden on other mountaintops, along with the green-blue waters of the Lagoa do Fogo – a hidden lake with white sand and glowing waters.
Of course, there are oodles more places that you’ll want to have on your bucket list if you’re teaching English in Portugal. If you can think of any to add, we’d love to hear about them in the comments below. Alternatively, if you’re ready to get TEFL qualified, our courses page can set you in the right direction.