Keeping fit the Portuguese way

Not everyone who studies abroad burns their calories exclusively from hopping from one bar to the next (although it is usually a high percentage). When you’re in a country like Portugal with 300 days of sunshine each year, 1794 km of coastline, 25 mountains and plenty of natural parks, it would be a shame to not get outside and stretch your legs. Here we run through a list of sports popular with both foreigners and Portuguese people, but remember it is not an exhaustive list. With so many different nationalities connected to each other like never before, you can be sure to find whatever activity you want!


The most popular sport in the world is, rather unsurprisingly, the most popular sport in Portugal too. For those wanting to watch games, Lisbon is the place to be. Home to Benfica and Sporting Lisbon, you are almost guaranteed access to Champions League games each year. For those wanting to play, then Lisbon is also a great place to be. In addition to many public spaces, there is a growing amount of indoor and outdoor pitches available for anyone to use. You can find a list of the best pitches here, which means all you have to do is join one of the many Facebook groups catering to casual players and turn up!


Once the domain of the upper and middle classes, rugby has exploded in popularity in recent years. The Portuguese Rugby Federation has a wonderfully useful guide to all the best places to participate, and Lisbon is by far the easiest place to play.


Completing the collection of sports popular in the commonwealth is cricket. This not exactly popular with locals, but thriving expat communities from commonwealth countries ensure its continued survival. Oporto and Lisbon are the two best places to play, and even contest and annual cup open to members of clubs within these cities.


If you really want to immerse yourself in the Portuguese culture, then you need to try your hand at surfing. Portugal has a stunning coastline that offers loads of great options. If you are based in Lisbon, then you are never more than 30 min from places like Carcavelhos beach where you can turn up for some sun, sand and surf. If you are not so confident in your skills, then try one of the many surf schools in Lisbon first to build up some basic skills.

Handball and Basketball

Two sports that might not necessarily come to your mind when you first think of Portugal are actually incredibly popular, especially in Lisbon. Although there are many places to play, either in a league or casually, the places you should try once would be the home of Sporting Lisbon FC and Benfica. Although known for their football teams, they are actually sporting associations with facilities for handball, basketball and many other sports like swimming and futsal!


Although Portugal technically only has one national park, when you take into account all the protected natural areas, fully 7% of the country is a place where you can go to enjoy a leisurely hike. In Lisbon, you could try out the huge Sintra-Cascais national park to take in stunning sea views and steep hills. If you prefer somewhere closer to the city centre then look no further than Parque Florestal de Monsanto. Although not as large, it has many facilities to offer!


Thought Portugal was just a land of summer and water sports? You’d be wrong! Portugal has many mountains, which means that it is entirely possible to do winter sports in the colder seasons. If you need to be on skis or a snowboard at least once every year then you need to learn about Serra da Estrela. Located in the centre of the country, a train from Lisbon can take you to the city of Covilhã in around 3 hours. This is a large student-centric town at the base of mountain range so after a hard afternoon on the slopes, you can enjoy a vibrant nightlife.

Just about everything else

Portugal has a widely varied landscape and some huge metropolitan cities. This means that you can just about find anything that you might enjoy doing. Capoeira? Easy! CrossFit? No problem! Petanque? Yes, but we would recommend something a bit more fun. The only thing you need to do is keep checking places like Facebook and university message boards for the things you like and you are 99.99% likely to find it.