Portugal is an irresistible travel destination. It’s not so much a question of whether you should go on holiday to Portugal, but where you should go on holiday in Portugal! Get this: the southern European nation clocks an average of 300 days of sunshine each year. If this little tidbit isn’t enough to make you envious of the locals, the nation is also famous for its picturesque beaches and historic wine culture.
Lisbon might be a fantastic base to begin your Portuguese odyssey - and one of the easiest locations to fly into from the UK - but the country is much more than its bustling capital. Whether your skin craves the salt of the sea, or your taste buds are ready to sing with a splash of Douro Valley Port, we have the ultimate guide to where to go in Portugal.
With a fascinating history of Roman occupation, a holiday in Portugal holds the opportunity to spot striking ruins of grand villas, defensive forts, and awe-inspiring national cathedrals. And with a mild climate that supports extensive agriculture and an abundance of seafood, you can be assured that you will eat very well indeed.
Not to mention Portugal’s 1,115-mile coastline of sandy bays, seaside golf courses, rocky cliffs, and hidden swimming coves. As you will come to find, it’s all about knowing where you can get the best of both worlds on your Portuguese holiday. Here’s where to start!
If you have limited time and you are hoping to visit Portugal for a city break - head to Porto! While it’s known as Portugal’s “second city”, it is by no means second-best to Lisbon. The two are entirely different. Lisbon is a global city, truly cosmopolitan in essence, while Porto is laidback and traditional. This is why we have it at the top of our list. We would certainly recommend staying in a Pousada, luxurious accommodation that carefully reflects Portugal’s extensive traditions and culture.
Porto is brimming with colour - even on the odd cloudy day! One of the best times to get lost in the city’s charming laneways is at dusk, when the street lanterns glow, guiding you to your next stop. It will feel just like a film set. On your wandering, keep an eye out for the Azulejos, blue hand-painted mosaics that cover houses, cafes, and churches - you are sure to see these everywhere you go! Stop by the UNESCO-listed Ribeira district, which is an enchanting labyrinth of cobbled laneways, featuring restaurants, bars, and boutiques.
Porto is the perfect city for foodies. And not just a particular kind of foodie, either. For those on a budget, you can easily find deliciously local roadside snacks, family-run cafes, and street food markets. And for those wanting to indulge, Porto is also home to upscale restaurants and fine dining options, including Michelin starred Antiqvvm, which serves dishes made from high-quality seasonal produce and international cooking techniques.
If you are excited to see what the surrounding areas of Porto have to offer, take a day trip to the Douro Valley. This winery-filled countryside is home to steep, vine-covered terraces and the River Douro, the Iberian Peninsula’s third-biggest river.
The Douro Valley is also the birthplace of port, a sweet wine you might have enjoyed once or twice! This region is perfect for a road trip, so spend the day carefully navigating the winding roads to see small villages and quintas (wine estates) that offer guided tours, talks on winemaking, and dining options.
Sintra is one the best places to holiday in Portugal. It’s also one of the most unique. The UNESCO-listed destination is famed for the whimsical Pena Palace. With just one glance, you can see that Pena is a true fairytale castle, with eclectic shapes, multi-coloured facades, and a position atop a hill in the mountains. The former royal retreat, and the surrounding park filled with verdant trees, gardens, and even ancient duck houses, is an elegant ode to Portuguese architecture during the Romantic era. Don’t miss the nearby Quinta Da Regaleira, a mysterious complex with underground tunnels and a 27-metre deep Initiation Well.
If you have been compiling your travel wishlists, wondering where to go in Portugal for a beach holiday, put Lagos right at the top. As a result of Portugal’s long, warm summers, you will find that your holiday will involve plenty of hours outdoors.
Of all the enticing locations to go on holiday in Portugal, Lagos is the most scenic. Situated on the southern coast of the Algarve, the town is the perfect base for exploring the cliff top views and the idyllic beaches.
For sunset, take a short stroll to Ponta da Piedade to watch the sun setting over the striking rock formations and natural arches. For an adventure further afield, take a 40-minute drive east to Praia de Marinha, a beach known as one of the most beautiful in the world. If you are there early in the morning, or on a cool day, walk the stunning 7 hanging valleys hike.
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