Portugal is so glorious. Stunning architecture, beautiful natural wonders, lovely people, surf, history and pastries. Oh, the pastries.
Lisbon is the capital of Portugal and we don’t think it’s an overstatement to say: it really has it all. Restaurants, cobbled streets, cathedrals, galleries, nightlife, jazz clubs and castles. Actual castles. It’s surrounded by seven hills like a fairytale. Speaking of fairytales…
Sintra is a ridiculous Disney-movie land with taverns, palaces, gardens, mansions and monasteries, topped off with charming forests. It’s about an hour train ride away from Lisbon.
People say some other city is the city of romance. Wrong. Porto has romance, and Port. A match made in heaven. Heavenly churches, pretty plazas, entrancing architecture. Plus a generous serve of excellent food, fun nightlife and the bridges stretching over the Douro River to top it all off.
Évora in the Alentejo region brings together curious bedfellows - well-preserved mediaeval treasures alongside youthful exuberance. (Owing to the students from the local university.) Think monuments, cathedrals, ruins, and a jostling town square. A truly delightful place to spend a day or two and sample some Alentejan food.
Those pictures you see of the stunning coastline are most likely taken in the Algarve region. Surf, sun and good times abound. Further inland, you might spot a flamingo in one of the lagoons. Sublime.
Another college town is Coimbra. Where the students are, there’s nightlife. Standard issue charming houses and beautiful cobblestone streets. There’s even a theme park with mini versions of Portuguese monuments if you want to check a bunch of those off your list quickly.
If festivals are your thing – you’ll love Óbidos. Plan your visit to coincide with one of the many festivals each year. Opera, mediaeval, literature – there’s no better setting for these festivals than gorgeous Óbidos.
Known for its historic sites, pictures of people on a glorious baroque staircase and the Escadaria do Bom Jesus do Monte, Braga is truly stunning.
Warm waters, local wines and glorious plantlife make Madeira Island enchanting.
If you like exploring wild terrain, the Azore islands will not disappoint. Volcanic craters, gorgeous lakes and pastures stretch out to the sea, where you might spot whales or dolphins. Magic.
Portugal's only ski slope is in the Serra da Estrela. Hike, ski, mountain bike, 4WD and have your breath stolen away by the beauty. Plus, find some of the most gorgeous villages arranged artistically on a mountain you’ve ever seen. And they have their own gorgeous dogs – Serra da Estrela mountain dogs. Seriously, this place is almost too much.
The only national park in Portugal, this incredible place has thermal springs, castle ruins, crumbling churches and striking waterfalls. And the occasional wolf you’ll almost certainly not spot. It’s the whole fairytale.
This is less about the 1772 lighthouse and more about the view in our opinion. It may even be, as they say in the classics, ‘about the journey’. The road to the lighthouse is one of the most beautiful in the region.
The Douro Valley is home to some of the best wine country in Portugal. It’s been winemaking country for over 2,000 years. A cruise is a delightful way to see the stunning landscape and if you’re lucky, sample some of the local tipple.
Religious sites are incredibly important to the lovely people of Portugal. Fatima is considered one of the most important religious pilgrimage sites on earth.
The Chapel of Bones in Évora came about when the land taken up by cemeteries was needed, and monks decided to build the Chapel so as to relocate the bones.
Spring and Autumn (Fall) are the most pleasant times to visit. Summer is lovely too but quite hot, especially in Central, plus it’s quite busy as locals head to the beach.
The rainy season starts in November and beach resorts close in Winter, but it’s still a good time to visit cities.
There are seven international airports in Portugal. Lisbon airport is the main airport.
Plenty of options
A super cute B&B in an old olive factory near Sâo Brás de Alportel.
Just outside Castro Marim, this little oasis has farm-to-plate dining, a yoga studio, steam room and plunge pool.
A taste of traditional 16th century Alentego living with contemporary amenities, this is a great base for wine tasting, hiking and cycling.
This guesthouse outside the sweet town of Sintra has a sustainability focus. Wine and beer tours are offered and they provide a pastry-hunt walking map. These are our people.
One should not compare Portugal and Spain, but you’d be forgiven for seeing similarities in their snack-size bar foods. Portugal’s snack size treats (not tapas) can be sampled at Casinha do Petisco in Lagos. There’s a food festival in Algarve each October called Rota do Petisco.
At Lagos Municipal Market (Mercado Municipal de Lagos) you'll find three floors of fresh seafood and a smattering of fruit and vege.
We might be biased, but when we think about food in Portugal, pastry is top of mind. Here’s your checklist:
A few notes to make your journey a little smoother.
Take sunscreen. Wear it.
The language spoken in Portugal is Portuguese, not Spanish. The very polite people will be nice about it but it’s best to know before you go.
Most places open between 1 and 3pm for lunch and 7 or 8pm until 11pm if you turn up outside these times, you might leave hangry. Fair warning.
What really makes a good trip is the planning and research you do beforehand. (You don’t want to be Googling in patchy wifi on a street corner when you could be enjoying your trip.)
Travis gives you all the tools you need to create a great trip: travel mood boards, collaborative planning, plus great recommendations for the most remarkable spots. Tidy up those million open tabs, keep track of your plans and enjoy your trip prep.
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