Nicole Tj
February 2, 2023

Your Ultimate Portugal Travel Guide

Why Portugal?

Portugal is so glorious. Stunning architecture, beautiful natural wonders, lovely people, surf, history and pastries. Oh, the pastries.  

A few intriguing facts about Portugal

  • It’s old. Real old. Some say Lisbon is four centuries older than Rome.
  • Speaking of old things. The world’s oldest bookstore is Bertrand Bookstore in Chiado district in Lisbon.
  • Portugal is really into renewable energy.
  • Portugal has a bunch of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. 17 in fact. Most are cultural sites.
  • Portugal has some really gnarly waves. 
  • Port wine comes from Portugal. Makes sense.

Where to go


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. 

Madeira Island

Warm waters, local wines and glorious plantlife make Madeira Island enchanting. 

Azores islands

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. 

Photo by Aayush Gupta on Unsplash

Attractions you must visit in Portugal

Parque Natural da Serra da Estrela 

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. 

Parque Nacional da Peneda-Gerês 

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. 

Lighthouse of Cape Roca

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.

Douro River cruise 

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. 

Sanctuary of Fatima 

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

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. 

Best times to visit Portugal

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. 

How to get there

There are seven international airports in Portugal. Lisbon airport is the main airport. 

How to get around

Plenty of options 

  • Carreiras (CR) are all stops buses which are slower.
  • Expressos and Rápidas are faster more comfortable buses.
  • Alta Qualidade are even faster deluxe buses.
  • Hire a car, 4WD, motorbike or scooter
  • Cycling is popular, but not so smooth on cobblestone roads.
  • For fun and a ride, check out the trams on the streets of Lisbon and Porto. So cute.

Where to stay

Farmhouse of the Palms

A super cute B&B in an old olive factory near Sâo Brás de Alportel.

Companhia das Culturas

Just outside Castro Marim, this little oasis has farm-to-plate dining, a yoga studio, steam room and plunge pool. 

Aldeia de São Gregório

A taste of traditional 16th century Alentego living with contemporary amenities, this is a great base for wine tasting, hiking and cycling.

Casa do Valle

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. 

Food to try


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.

Fresh seafood

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:

  • Pastel de nata – Custard tart with flaky puff pastry. Yes, this is the Portuguese tart we’ve mostly unsuccessfully tried to emulate all over the world. Wait until you see how crispy it’s meant to be.
  • Pastel de feijão – Thin tart crust filled with sweet bean puree. 
  • Pão de Deus – Airy brioche with coconut and sugar. Make like a local and fill it with ham and cheese for a sweet and savoury delight.
  • Croissant brioche – As the name suggests, this is a glorious meeting of croissant (giving it its moon shape) and brioche (its texture). 
  • Queques – Like a muffin.
  • Bolo de arroz – Rice muffins. 
  • Queijada Queijadas – Pastries made of cheese, sometimes with cinnamon. Gosh, we love their way of thinking.
  • Travesseiros – Puff pastry with a cream filling with almonds, cinnamon and sugar. 
  • Jesuíta – Triangle puff pastry with cinnamon egg cream. 
  • Bom bocado – Custard tart with a shortcrust pastry. 
  • Salame de chocolate – Chocolate salami. Bless these people. Genius. If you’re anywhere near here please go. 

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Things you need to know before going

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.

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