Portugal is well-known for so many things. Perhaps the first things that come to mind when you think of Portugal are food and wine, and the country`s beautiful beaches. Portugal is world-renowned for its cuisine, ranging from seafood along the coasts to suckling pig in the interior. It is similarly renowned for its wines, such as port wine from Porto and the Douro Valley; the green wines of Minho; red wines from the Alentejo; and of course the legendary port of far-flung Madeira Island. Then there are the beaches, of which Portugal has 515 miles of them. The Algarve, the Estoril Coast, and the Silver Coast are particularly famed for their beaches, water sports, and surfing.
Portugal is also well-known throughout the world for its rich artistic tapestry, which is vividly evident in the country`s varied architectural styles; its music, such as the haunting fado ballad style; and its long tradition of the visual arts, which can be seen in such internationally-famous venues like the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian. History meets art in the beautiful historic villages of Portugal, many of which are known for their delicately-painted azulejo tile manufacturing. Last, but certainly not least, Portugal knows how to party, whether you`re looking for a live music venue, an upscale nightclub experience, or a series of friendly watering holes. You will find great nightlife in all of the country`s major cities, but the largest nightclubs with internationally-known DJs and entertainment are located in Lisbon and the Algarve.
The best place to start any Portugal vacation would be the epicenter of the country, the capital, Lisbon, a majestic city that sits at the mouth of the Tagus River. The surrounding area, like the ritzy coastal community of Cascais and the historic town of Sintra, can easily be seen in day trips. We also highly recommend Porto, the country`s second-largest city and a great place to explore in its own right before going out to explore the towns and villages of North Portugal, many of which are located in the fertile Douro River Valley, known for its wines.
One of the most popular tourist regions in the country is the Algarve, with beautiful sandy beaches and the warmest temperatures in the country (enjoying 300 days of sunshine each year). You will most likely spend some time in one or both of the region`s two largest cities, Faro and Albufeira, before exploring the smaller towns and cities. Also recommended is Central Portugal, home to the charming Alentejo region which exudes small-village charm on the country`s `old frontier`. Away from the mainland, the verdant landscapes of picture-perfect Madeira Island and the Azores are popular with travelers who can spare extra days for an island getaway.
Portugal is a country of natural beauty and its splendor can be experienced year-round. The best times to visit, however, are the months of March, April and May, as well as October. Cities such as Lisbon and Porto will have thawed from the winter cold by March, and October is a month with refreshingly cool weather and fewer crowds. The high season in Portugal is the summertime, in particular the month of August, in which the Portuguese are also on vacation, adding to the throngs of tourists in cities and beach towns. Keep in mind that if you want to go swimming in Portugal away from the beaches -- at public pools, for example -- note that they are usually open only in season, meaning the months of June through September.
Winter days can be rainy in much of the country, and snow is known to fall in the central and northern reaches of the country, in particular the mountains of the Serra da Estrela. The rainy season passes by February and spring begins in earnest at this time for much of the country. Summer temperatures are warm and high temperatures average between 85 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Summer and autumn are both dry, with the first seasonal rains typically arriving in November. The Algarve boasts warm temperatures year-round, as do Madeira and the Azores. For more information, check out: Best Time to Visit Portugal.
We recommend 7-10 days based on what you want to see and do. We offer flexible vacation packages so you can select your number of nights in each city, desired hotel and activities. We suggest a minimum of 3 nights in larger cities.
Whatever your pleasure, transportation in Portugal is modern, easy to navigate and fits a variety of budget ranges. The best way to travel in Portugal ultimately depends on your goals: Do you want to travel by train in Portugal, or maybe you want to visit as many towns as possible or exploring the tiny villages dotted throughout the country; if so, driving may be the way to go.
By Car: A car is great for people wanting to see large portions of Portugal at your own pace, such as the Algarve, the Alentejo, and the Costa Verde, just to name a few. If you are hopping from city to city via train or air, having a car is not necessary in Portugal, as traffic can be congested in larger cities and parking can be at a premium. Keep in mind as well that many cities have closed off historic centers to cars, and you can easily be ticketed if you do not follow the myriad rules involving automobile access in these inner cities, so be sure to ask your car rental representative when picking up your car if there are any car-free zones you need to be aware of while on your trip. For more information on getting around by car, check out: Driving in Portugal.
By Train: Train travel in Portugal is efficient; trains are run by the government-funded Comboios de Portugal (CP). CP train lines link all major cities in Portugal, and reach every region, although it may be harder to take the train for your entire visit if you are visiting smaller towns in the Alentejo and in northern Portugal. International trains also link Lisbon and Faro with Badajoz, Seville, and Madrid in Spain. In addition, there are subway systems in Lisbon and Porto, and heritage trams in those cities, as well in as a few others across the country.
The currency of Portugal is the Euro. US dollars are not accepted. Please be sure to have the correct currency on hand or be prepared to exchange your dollars for euros upon arrival. Currency exchange desks can be found at the airport and many locations throughout the country. For more detailed information, consult our guide by clicking here Tipping in Portugal.
It is more common to find English speakers in Portugal than it is in other southern European countries. A recent European Union language survey found that 32% of Portuguese people over the age of 18 can speak English on a conversational level or better. With that said, you may encounter some difficulty finding an English speaker away from tourist areas such as hotels, museums, and the local airport. It is recommended to brush up on basic Portuguese phrases before arriving, like basic pleasantries and numbers from 1 to 10. To ask someone if they speak English, say `Fala inglés?`
NOTE: Do not speak in Spanish to a Portuguese person, thinking they will understand you when you do so. Responses will range from stunned silence to outright hostility; the Portuguese people are proud of their culture and heritage, and such an act will cause nearly everyone to take personal offense. On another note, the vocabulary and pronunciation in Portuguese differs from Spanish more than you may realize.