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Entertainment, Media and Television for Expats in Portugal

Submitted: July 2014


The Portuguese take nightlife very seriously. A night out is more about fun and dancing rather than drinking for the sake of drinking, so it is important to pace yourself. In the cities, bars do not start to get lively until around 11pm, the dance clubs do not open until around 1am - 2am and can then carry on until dawn.

On Fridays it is normal to have a drink or two after work with friends, to celebrate the beginning of the weekend and make plans, followed by some home time. Between 8pm and 9pm is a good time to go out for a leisurely meal in a restaurant or cafe. Portuguese food is generally excellent, and in the cities there is an eclectic mix of European influences. Even Lisboetas have to admit that the best restaurants in Portugal are probably in Porto; and by the harbour in Matosinhos are some excellent fish restaurants. It is especially worth visiting during the Fish Festival in July. The Atlantic coast means that fresh fish really means fresh. Salted codfish (bacalhau) is a year-round speciality, and comes in many different forms, so it is worth trying more than once.

Porto is also the home of the francesinha, a sandwich of toast with meat: ham, chorizo, pork loin, steak… whatever, plus cheese, and sometimes some form of egg. The francesinha is made then warmed under a grill before being  served topped with a hot thick sauce of tomato, onions, chilli, and stock (including beer and/or another form of alcohol). It is common to request it served with chips. You will come across some truly bad versions, but if you are lucky you will find a great one, and keep going back… until you find a better one. If you cannot wait, here is a guide to how to make one (the inclusion of hot dogs is a moot point). 

After dinner will be the time to look for some fun; which is generally going to involve music. This may be in a Fado club or bar, or you may prefer  a late night dance club. Fado is Portugal’s folk music, and can be an excellent backdrop to a night out with friends, or maybe a romantic dinner. Here is Amália Rodrigues, the Queen of Fado, and here is another five hours of Fado to get you in the mood.  Dance clubs are not hard to find in the cities. They will play anything from 80s pop to house and techno; they are also a place to see live bands playing and international DJs spinning discs. Here is a list of some of the better known ones in Lisbon (Kremlin needs to be added). Finally, remember that for the Portuguese, it is all about fun: if something happens, that in your home culture might cause a flare-up, think twice before reacting, it is probably a misunderstanding.


Sightseeing and Tours

Portugal has a long and rich history with some stunning architecture and museums on offer. It also has some spectacular countryside. There is plenty of guidance regarding sightseeing and tours available on the internet and in the guide books. Here is a taster in the form of a set of quirky little gems, and a piece of military history.

There are six funicular railways in Portugal - in Portuguese a funicular is called an Elevador, or an Ascensor. Three are in Lisbon called Bica, Glória and Lavra; of these Bica is the most popular with tourists, but is easy to miss as it lurks inside a building, there is a photo of the building here. There is also one in Porto called Guindais, and one in Nazaré, and one in Braga called Bom Jesus which is the oldest funicular in the world that still uses water as a counter balance. There is also a lift in Lisbon called Santa Justa which was built by one of Eiffel’s students. All are worth a visit, and the ones in Lisbon come free with a Viva Viagem unlimited transport ticket. The other advantage of all of them are the wonderful views you get when you reach the top.

The Lines of Torras Vedras are a remarkable engineering feat; a system of interlocking trenches linking over 120 forts and redoubts. They were constructed by Wellington during the Peninsula war 200 years ago, to defend Lisbon from Napoleon’s French army under Marshal Masséna. The construction was kept secret from the French, and the French army was stopped at the lines and eventually forced to retreat; a retreat that eventually led to the liberation of Portugal and Spain and the eventual downfall of Napoleon and his first exile to the Island of Elba. The Lines were therefor the turning point in the Peninsular Campaign. You can view some of the restored sections of the first Line near Torras Vedras itself. The First and Second Lines actually extend some 40km each, and there are ruins and remnants to be found all along the length of both of them. If you are feeling energetic, there is a yearly Ultramarathon of 100km, which for the most part follows the track of the Lines across the country. Generally a walk along any part of the Lines will give you some great views across the surrounding countryside from a commanding position. There is a useful website regarding the Lines here.


Media and Television

Television is extremely popular in Portugal. Unfortunately for expats many of the programmes are in Portuguese. However there is a steady supply of British and American programmes, which are shown with Portuguese subtitles rather than dubbed. The state television station is RTP with two free to air (FTA) channels available in Portugal. There are also two commercial stations:  SIC with two FTA channels, and TVI with one FTA channel, which is the most popular channel in Portugal, showing mainly soap operas. Most expats either subscribe to a satellite or a cable TV service such as ZON, and access English or American content that way, or they simply watch streamed content over the internet. A recent Portuguese invention promises to revolutionise cable TV transmission quality, which will allow digital (and interactive) TV to be viewed over cable.

There are three state FM radio stations on Portuguese radio: RDP Antena 1, 2 & 3. There are also ten commercial FM stations, including Kiss FM and Mix FM.

Unless you are fluent in Portuguese, finding a newspaper to read in Portugal is going to be a challenge. The top newspapers by circulation are Correio da Manhã and Jornal de Notícias (daily) and Expresso (weekly). There are numerous online newspapers in Portugal; two popular English ones are the Portugal Resident and the Algarve Daily News.



Moving to Portugal

If you are considering moving to Portugal or are soon to depart, you can find helpful information and advice in the Expat Briefing dedicated Portugal section including; details of immigration and visas, Portuguese forums, Portuguese event listings and service providers in Portugal.


Living in Portugal

From your safety to shoppingliving in Portugal can yield great benefits as well as occasional drawbacks.  Find your feet and stay abreast of the latest developments affecting expats in Portugal with relevant news and up-to-date information.


Working in Portugal

Working in Portugal can be rewarding as well as stressful, if you don't plan ahead and fulfill any legal requirements. Find out about visas and passports, owning and operating a company in Portugal, and general Portuguese culture of the labour market.



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