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Portugal Travel Guide

Portugal is a land of glittering contrasts. From the rolling hills that line the Douro Valley to Roman ruins and medieval cobblestone streets in Porto, to the vibrant cosmopolitan spirit of Lisbon, it’s no wonder this European gem has piqued the interest of travellers from around the world. This year, the spotlight is well and truly on Portugal – and this dynamic destination will not disappoint.

The Highlights

  • Lisbon

    It’s hard to deny the allure that Lisbon possesses. With iconic neighbourhoods such as Belém to the steep, cobblestoned streets of Alfama, Lisbon has no shortage of trendy neighbourhoods and districts to keep you entertained. Make sure you visit iconic buildings such as the  Castelo de São Jorge, Praça do Comércio and the São Roque Church for an exquisite showcase of Baroque architecture.

  • Sintra

    There is no excuse not to visit Sintra, as it is just a short train journey from Lisbon. Sintra is much like a fairytale village and is dotted with turreted palaces set amongst verdant mountains. When in Sintra, visitors simply must visit the 19th-century Pena Palace, extravagantly furnished in late Victorian style and architecture, and is adorned porcelain statues and oil paintings. 

  • Porto

    This humble little coastal city is filled with enough with art and culture to satisfy your inner-explorer and provides unrivalled opportunities to tick off notable landmarks on the riverside promenade, including the Porto Cathedral in all its Romanesque splendour, the San Francisco Church and the Bolsa Palace. If you find yourself in Porto on the weekend, a visit to Mercado Bolhao is a must-do.

  • Madeira

    Just a stone's throw away from the mainland, the archipelago of Madeira is home to staggeringly beautiful cliffs, pristine beaches and a food scene to rival other cities across the world. Charlie Chaplin and Winston Churchill were both said to have frequently visited this unique island, so best to walk in their footsteps and find out what makes this island so enthralling. 

  • The Algarve

    Boasting some of the best beaches in Portugal (or Europe, for that matter), the Algarve is the southernmost region in Portugal and a must-see for beach-lovers. From the likes of Lagos to the sleepy town of Tavira, there are experiences aplenty within the Algarve. Make sure you sit down for a seafood feast in Albufeira, a former fishing village where the produce is as fresh as you can get.

  • Óbidos

    Majestic. Historic. Enchanting. This must mean we’re looking at the only fortified town of Óbidos – a medieval getaway. Here, you can expect to find colourful clusters of houses framed with traditional architecture and lined with bright flowers, and while you’re there, you can explore the nearby fishing village of Peniche.

The Basics

When to Visit

when to visit
  1. Peak Season

    June to September

    While there isn’t a bad time to visit Portugal, as it depends on what you want to see, but if you want to avoid large crowds and high prices it is best to avoid the months of July to August. During this time, you can expect sweltering temperatures and higher prices as this is when most Europeans take their summer holidays. July to September are the warmest months, with average temperatures of 28°C in some parts, meaning the water temperatures will be ideal for swimming. Unless you’re happy to laze by the beach all day, it would be best to visit during the shoulder season (May or October) when the weather is better to go hiking and exploring.

  2. Low Season

    December to March

    With average temperatures just 9°C in some parts of Portugal, the low season is much colder and is characterised by higher rainfall. Few travellers are found in the southern parts of Portugal as many resorts and beach towns close for the winter. Accommodation might also be limited in some parts, as seasonal properties and surrounding restaurants will close during this time. Notable festivals during the low season include Portugal’s Carnaval, Essência do Vinho (a wine gathering) and the Festival Internacional do Chocolate in Óbidos through March.

Portugal Tours

  • Visit Responsibly

    Travelling responsibly means respecting the communities, culture and environment of the places you visit. Keep these tips in mind when travelling to Portugal:

    Go green. Be environmentally conscious on the road by taking short showers; turning off the lights in your hotel room when you leave; and resisting the urge to collect any plants, seashells, or other natural flora.

    Respect cultural differences. Before travelling, read about the local culture and customs – even just knowing the dress code and a few basic phrases in the local language will go a long way.

    Support local businesses. Enjoy a more authentic experience and directly support the local economy by travelling with a local guide, eating in local restaurants, buying from local artisans, and staying in locally-owned and operated accommodations.

    Wherever possible, avoid single-use plastics. Pack reusable items such as your own shopping bags, utensils, a water bottle, and a straw. These items are typically lightweight and compact, and will greatly reduce your consumption of plastics.

    Be conscious of overtourism. Opt to visit the lesser-known regions of Portugal or travel outside the peak season – you'll likely even get a better deal and won't have all the crowds!

  • Sustainable Tourism in Portugal

    Mandated Sustainable Tourism
    In Portugal, sustainable tourism is not just a practice, but it is written in the law. 4 years ago, Portugal's government mandated that 90 percent of tourism businesses would comply with rules governing water, waste and energy use by 2027.

    Rural Regions in the Spotlight
    Cultural tourism has been growing in Portugal in recent years, which has increased the number of visitors arriving in Portugal and enjoying more rural regions. This shift has helped disperse the benefits of tourism outside of the typical hot spots, and in turn also helps to develop rural regions within the country. As a visitor, going off the beaten path and supporting local also allows you to experience authentic Portuguese traditional culture!

    BYOB: Bring Your Own Bottle
    Tap water is safe to drink pretty much anywhere in Portugal, so make sure to pack your own bottle to reduce waste and save some money during your trip. If you are ever in doubt of water potability, ask your guide or host.

FAQs about Portugal

  • Do you tip in Portugal?

    It is recommended to leave a tip of 5% to 10% in a restaurant when in Portugal. In hotels, it is suggested to tip €1-2 for bellhops who carry your luggage up to the room, and for taxi drivers, it is always recommended to round your bill up from  €7 to  €10 and will always be appreciated. 
  • What is the internet access like?

    Internet connection is great across Portugal, and you should have no problem with day-to-day tasks like emailing or surfing the web. WiFi is available in many hostels and hotels for free. 
  • Is the tap water safe to drink?

    Yes, the tap water in Portugal is safe to drink and there is no issue with water. 
  • Can I use my credit cards?

    Yes, of course. ATMs are widely available and are the best source of accessing money, except in the smallest villages. Credit cards accepted in hotels and larger cafes across the country. Keep in mind that the ATM limit is €200 per withdrawal, and many banks charge a foreign transaction fee.
  • What are the public holidays?

    Along with common public holidays such as New Year’s Day, Christmas and Good Friday, Portugal has Freedom Day on April 25, May Day on May 1, Portugal National Day on June 10. Other holidays may vary between regions, so check your itinerary before you travel. 
  • is it safe to travel in Portugal?

    Absolutely! As a popular destination for travellers from across the world, Portugal is most certainly safe. Simple precautions such as avoiding walking home late at night and keeping an eye on your belongings will help to keep you out of trouble.