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Is Portugal Worth Visiting? Best Places & Things To Do
By now you probably know someone who has traveled to Portugal, as it undoubtedly has become one of the most popular destinations worldwide. According to a report from TravelPulse, 6.4 million people traveled to Portugal in the first five months of 2023. With mild temperatures year round and an abundance of things to do, tourists are flocking to Portugal.
But just because everyone else is going, you still have to ask: is Portugal worth visiting?
Is Portugal Worth Visiting?
Without hesitation I can tell you that Portugal is worth visiting! After spending two weeks traveling around the country, I daydream of going back. Visitors (including myself) have fallen in love with Portugal; its culture, welcoming people, and beautiful terrains should really be experienced by every traveler.
Whether you’re looking to surf and swim in incredible beaches, marvel at scenic landscapes, or explore a variety of quaint to bustling towns, Portugal offers something for everyone.
What is Portugal Known For?
A few of the most noteworthy things Portugal is known for include Fado music, tiled buildings, port wine, and cork products. Portugal is also known for being one of the warmest countries in Europe with 300+ days of sun throughout the year. This is especially convenient for anyone looking to immerse in Portugal’s prevalent surf and beach culture.
Best Things To Do in Portugal
From tasting pastries and port wine to surfing and sea caves, below are some of the best things to do while visiting Portugal so you can make the most out of your trip.
1. Try a Delicious Pastéis de Nata
You can’t go to Portugal without sampling one (or ten) of Portugal’s specialty pastry, the pastéis de nata. This sweet treat is a custard tart with a flaky crust that goes down all too easily. You can find them all throughout the country so be sure to pick a few of them up from bakeries or markets when you’re on the go, or wanting to sit down with an espresso.
2. Ride the Iconic Trams of Lisbon
When it comes to transportation, the best way to get around Lisbon is riding one of its many trams. The most iconic is Tram 28, which is the yellow tram that takes riders through the city’s historic and most popular neighborhoods. While riding Tram 28 can get crowded during peak tourist season, Trams 12 and 24 are two other great options to consider.
It costs 3€ to ride Tram 28. Another option is to buy a 24-hour unlimited pass for all public transportation services which costs 6.60€. That pass can be bought at any metro station.
3. Sip Wine in the Douro Valley
Portugal is known for its port wine, and if you’re looking to taste it from where it’s produced then you must head to the Douro Valley. The Douro Valley is right outside Porto and is home to a variety of grapes, mountainous landscapes, and stunning scenery. The region is so spectacular that it’s claimed the title of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
If you’re visiting Porto then you should absolutely take a tour to the wine region for a full day of wine tasting and cruising the beautiful Douro River. There are also several amazing hotels in the Douro Valley that make for the ultimate experience while in the region. I’d recommend checking out the Six Senses Douro Valley or Quinta da Pacheca.
4. Take a Surf Lesson in Ericeira
Ericeira is one of the World Surfing Reserves, and there’s no better place in Portugal to learn how to surf than here. Ericeira is about 45 minutes north of Lisbon, and is a town worth spending a few days in to relax, surf, and dine at trendy cafes. The town itself is absolutely lovely with a community-oriented, health-focused, and laidback culture.
Big Waves surfer Joana Andrade teaches a surf class for all levels that I’d highly recommend checking out while you’re there!
5. Kayak through Caves in Lagoa
One of the best things to do in Portugal is kayak through the famous Benagil Cave in Lagoa. The best beaches and coastal areas are in Portugal’s Algarve region, which is where Lagoa and these caves are located. Checking out the Benagil Cave and the surrounding waters via boat, kayak, or paddle board is an absolute must while on the southern coast.
This kayaking tour is one of the most highly rated and affordable ones I’d suggest doing!
6. Listen to Fado Music
To really immerse in some of Portugal’s true culture, spend an evening listening to traditional live Fado music. Fado originated in Portugal in the 1800s, and expresses the soul of Portuguese peoples. While the music is melancholy and centered around hardships of daily life, it’s beautiful and unique to experience.
Best Places to Visit & Where to Stay in Portugal
There’s so many incredible and unique places to visit in Portugal! Below are a few of the must-see towns and cities, along with some of best hotels I’ve found along the way.
A trip to Portugal isn’t complete without exploring its capital city, Lisbon. This vibrant city is bustling with energy and filled with tiled buildings, amazing restaurants, and trendy neighborhoods. It seems that something is always happening in Lisbon, whether it be live music, art installations, or food and wine festivals. While visiting, don’t miss the LX factory, wandering the Baixa and Belem neighborhoods, and the Museum of Art, Architecture, and Technology (MAAT).
Porto is Portugal’s second largest city, and the most popular one to visit while exploring the country’s northern region. As a city with rich history, Porto’s cobblestone streets wind through grand cathedrals, bridges, and rustic architecture. Countless buildings boast blue azulejo tiles while others glimmer reflections of its waterfront culture and Douro River. While visiting, take a river cruise, drink Porto’s speciality port wine, and check out the famous Livraria Lello.
Hotels I recommend: Hotel das Virtudes (budget-friendly), Armazém Luxury Housing- Architectural & Design Hotel (budget friendly), Torel Palace Porto (mid-range)
If you’re looking for a culture that’s centered around surfing, community, and healthy living, then you must visit Portugal’s beloved town of Ericeira. In the town center you’ll find cafes with great coffee and organic eats, along with trendy shops that cater to its beachgoers. The atmosphere is laidback and inviting, and will make you want to settle in for a few days at least. Head here to reset, do some yoga, catch some waves, and enjoy the good life.
The fairytale village of Óbidos is one of my favorite places in the world. Nestled in the Portuguese hills sits this small town that’s built inside of castle walls and oozes with charm. With not many attractions other than its castle and antiquated churches, the town of Óbidos is a hidden gem that’s worth wandering. Get lost in its floral-lined narrow streets, sample some Ginjinha in a chocolate cup, and climb its castle walls.
You can take a day trip to visit, but I suggest spending the night so you can experience the quiet magic of the town during sundown and sunrise. Plus, the views of the surrounding rolling hills are majestic at those times.
5. The Algarve
Going to the Algarve, Portugal’s southern coastal region, is an absolute must while visiting. The rugged coastline borders the Atlantic Ocean and is the ideal holiday destination over summer. Hop around cliffside golden-hued beaches, kayak through caves, and indulge in fresh seafood and wine. There’s tons to do in the Algarve, and you could easily spend a week there exploring its beaches and charming hillside villages.
6. The Azores and Madeira Islands
Did you know there are two archipelagos in Portugal? These archipelagos are called the Azores and Madeira; the Azores comprise nine islands and Madeira comprises four. Both archipelagos have climates and landscapes that are lush and tropical, often compared to Hawaii. If you’re craving nature and breathtaking beauty, you’ll want to come here. Head to Madeira for its unique natural pools and hiking trails, and take advantage of the Azores’ excursions and tranquility.
Tucked away in the forestry hills of Portugal is the majestic town of Sintra. Sintra is home to the famous National Palace of Pena, known for its European Romantic architecture, bold designs, and panoramic views. Seeing the palace is the main attraction in Sintra, but don’t miss out on discovering its surrounding castles and quintas as well.
I’d recommend buying your ticket in advance to skip the line at the palace. Another great option is taking a day trip to Sintra, which also lets you see its national park and the neighboring beach town of Cascais.
FAQs: Visiting Portugal
As you’re planning your trip, below are answers to some FAQs about Portugal.
How many days should I visit Portugal?
You should spend at least 10 days visiting Portugal in order to experience most of what the country has to offer. You could easily spend three weeks or more exploring the country, as so many of its towns and cities are worth visiting.
What is the best time of year to travel to Portugal?
I’d recommend visiting Portugal between May and September so you can take advantage of optimal beach weather, especially in areas like the Algarve. If you’re wanting to spend time touring its major cities and wine tasting, September and October are optimal months.
Is Portugal or Spain better?
With Spain being Portugal’s neighboring country, many people ask if Portugal or Spain is better to visit. The answer: neither one is better than the other, but both are very worth visiting. If you’re in Portugal, Spain is a great option to mix into your itinerary since it’s easy to fly or drive there.
Conclusion: Is Portugal Worth Visiting?
I hope by now you can agree that Portugal is worth visiting! It’s one of my favorite countries in the world, and one that will leave you wanting more. The people, the food, and the charming towns are just a few reasons to visit Portugal.
For more ideas on unique places to visit in Portugal, check out this blog post. When it comes to Portugal, I know you’ll very much love it there.