The Ultimate Portugal Road Trip: 2 Weeks in Portugal

The Ultimate Portugal Road Trip: 2 Weeks in Portugal

After five different visits to Portugal (one being a road trip), I have finally decided to pen down this post. Here’s all the information you need for the best 2 weeks in Portugal.

My first Portugal trip was in 2016 and it was love at first sight when I arrived in Lisbon. That time Portugal felt like a warm sip of a comforting caffeinated drink on a cold winter day. I did visit 4 more times after that and each time was special.

Starting Point for 2 Weeks in Portugal

Somewhere in Portugal - Van Life Europe tips
Somewhere in Portugal – Van Life Europe tips

Our road trip to Portugal actually started in Germany because we drove with our campervan from home. We crossed France, and Spain and then entered Portugal. We arrived in the North of Portugal near Coimbra.

I understand that not many will actually drive from their own country for a road trip in Portugal, but instead fly and rent a car.

For the sake of this itinerary, I suggest you fly to Faro, the south of Portugal. Faro is the gateway to the Algarve so you can start your trip with stunning beaches before you gradually make your way to the North. Another option would be to fly to Porto, the north of Portugal, and then make your way to the south.

At both Faro and Porto airports, you will find car rental booths but I always recommend you book a rental car in advance so that there are no last-minute surprises. For your 2-week Portugal itinerary, you could also fly to Lisbon, but then you have to do your road trip in a circle.

Keep in mind that Portugal is a small country, so a drive from Lisbon to Porto will just take 3 hours, or also Lisbon to Faro

Portugal Road Trip Itinerary + Map

Portugal Road Trip Itinerary Map
Portugal Road Trip Itinerary Map

If you see the map of Portugal, you will notice that the country’s shape is a bit like a long rectangle. So it makes it a perfect country for a road trip starting from the top end of the rectangle to the bottom (or vice versa).

That’s exactly how I have made this itinerary. You can start from the bottom or top, it depends on how you want to do it.

Faro, Algarve – 1 Day (Optional)

Faro Marina - view from Suites Aliança terrace, Portugal
Faro Marina – view from Suites Aliança terrace, Portugal

Our first stop on this road trip is Faro. If you have read my Algarve road trip post, then you know by now that Faro is the perfect place to start a road trip.

I’m in love with the Algarve. The beaches are sandy, the weather is pleasant, the rock formation is super stunning, and as a result, there are multiple viewpoints. Moreover, you can hike from one beach to another in many parts of the Algarve and that’s what makes the experience even more special.

You will land in Faro, pick up your rental car, and drive on the scenic route to explore the Algarve. It is up to you whether you want to stay in Faro for your first day, or just drive further to Carvoeiro (our next stop).

Arco da vila in Faro to Cidade Velha, the Algarve
Arco da vila in Faro to Cidade Velha, the Algarve

I have stayed the night in Faro on two occasions and I enjoyed this tiny city with a historical center. Everything in Faro is so close to each other. You can easily walk from anywhere in Faro to the marina and the old town.

I booked a place to stay near the train station the first time I was here but decided to stay right next to the marina on the second visit.

If you do decide to stay in Faro for a night, then the right place for you to spend your evening is the marina, and Cidade Velha (the old town). See the city walls in Vila Adentro.

Walk around in Cidade Velha and pick a restaurant with outdoor seating for dinner. I ate in Taberna Modesto in the old town and had a lovely meal. Sleep and rejuvenate after dinner to drive to the beautiful beaches of the Algarve the next day.


Carvoeiro, Algarve – 2-3 days

Praia de Carvoeiro, the Algarve
Praia de Carvoeiro, the Algarve

Wondering what’s the best place to visit in the Algarve? It is Carvoeiro.

The most famous spots of the Algarve are easy to access from Carvoeiro. I’m talking about the legendary Marinha Beach and Benagil Cave.

Carvoeiro is the reason why I went back to the Algarve within just 11 months instead of picking a new destination. There are beaches, caves, and stunning hikes.

Here’s what you can do in Carvoeiro for your 3 days here.

Vale de Centeanes Beach

Carvoeiro - Vale de Centeanes beach
Carvoeiro – Vale de Centeanes beach

Carvoeiro has a few beaches but the best one is Vale de Centeanes. Since you are in Carvoeiro for just three days, make the most of your time by relaxing on Vale de Centeanes.

Unlike Praia do Carvoeiro (the main beach close to Carvoeiro town center), Vale de Centeanes doesn’t get as crowded. We stayed very close to this beach at Rocha Brava Village Resort so we just walked and reached this beach.

There is a small bar/restaurant at Vale de Centeanes at the entry point. I suggest you walk a little further from there till the time you find the arch of a cave. Sit here because the water is cleaner next to it for a swim.

Algar Seco (Sunset)

"A Boneca", Algar Seco Caves, Carvoeiro
“A Boneca”, Algar Seco Caves, Carvoeiro

This is unmissable. If you arrive late in Carvoeiro, then skip the beach and just go for a walk to Algar Seco Caves.

There is an entire Carvoeiro Boardwalk that one can do, but for that, you need more time. The best part is the Algar Seco caves. Halfway on the Carvoeiro Boardwalk, you will find a sign for “A Boneca”. That’s a beautiful cave and there’s also a restaurant with the same name.

The entry for “A Boneca” cave is through the restaurant. Go inside “A Boneca” and see a magical sunset. There are two holes, that look like the eyes.

Algar Seco Cliff Walk - Carvoeiro Algarve
Algar Seco Cliff Walk – Carvoeiro Algarve

This cave is tiny so I suggest you be mindful of other visitors and leave when you are done admiring this pretty spot so that the queues don’t build up behind you.

There are more caves all around and the rock formations reminded me a little of Cappadocia. Walk around here and admire the beauty. Find a nice spot to sit on one of the rocks and see the beauty of the golden hour.

Benagil Cave

The empty Benagil Cave beach in the morning
The empty Benagil Cave beach in the morning

Your second day in Portugal (if you didn’t stay overnight in Faro) will start with a visit to Benagil Cave. It is a hidden beach inside a cave with a hole on top that filters the natural light.

I have visited the Benagil Cave twice. It is a stunning cave that has become very popular on Instagram. The only way to enjoy it is by getting to it by 9 am. So wake up early and arrive at Benagil village by taxi from your hotel at 8:45 am.

Inside Benagil Cave - June 2023
Inside Benagil Cave – June 2023

The only way to reach Benagil Cave is by kayaking or paddleboarding. If you haven’t done kayaking or paddleboarding, the easiest way to start is by joining a group tour. They will instruct you and guide you. Otherwise, you can always opt for a boat trip.

There are boat tours that go to the Benagil Cave too but the boats aren’t allowed to stop inside to offload people.

If you want to walk on Benagil Cave beach, then the only way in is by kayaking or paddleboarding. Forget swimming because it isn’t safe because of the rocks. Believe it or not, I did both. I kayaked to the Benagil cave in 2022 and Stand Up Paddleboarded to it in 2023.

You can do a tour like I did, or just rent a kayak or a paddleboard on Benagil beach as soon as you arrive. I did a tour because I wanted to be safe and didn’t want to collide with the rocks. Please read my details post about Benagil Caves here.

Seven Hanging Valleys Trail

A stunning spot at Seven Hanging Valleys Trail - Algarve itinerary
A stunning spot at Seven Hanging Valleys Trail – Algarve itinerary

The Seven Hanging Valleys trail actually starts from Vale de Centeanes in Carvoeiro to Praia da Marinha. This entire hiking trail is scenic but the best way to do it is to divide it into sections. The most scenic part of the Seven Hanging Valleys trail is from Benagil to Marinha.

After you are done with visiting the Benagil Cave beach, go up on the cliffs to start this hike and go in the direction towards the Marinha beach.

You will also be able to see the Benagil Cave from the hole on the top. It is fenced off but some people jumped the fence. It is dangerous because if you slip, you could seriously injure yourself.

Even though Portugal gets hot in the summer months, this hike is totally doable during the day because there are trees around.

Double Sea Arch at Sete vales suspensos OR the Seven Hanging Valleys trail, Algarve
Double Sea Arch at Sete Vales Suspensos OR the Seven Hanging Valleys trail, Algarve

Carry a hat and water. This hiking trail doesn’t have a boardwalk but a path over the rocks that has many viewpoints and each one is special.

We did a section of this hike each day and saw something new. There is a heart in the rocks that’s at the end of this hike right above Praia da Marinha beach near the elephant rock.

We came here to watch the sunset too and it was an amazing experience. Although we couldn’t really see the sun setting because of the direction. This is more of a sunrise spot than a sunset since it is east-facing.

Marinha Beach

The famous Marinha beach in Portugal - Algarve itinerary
The famous Marinha beach in Portugal – Algarve itinerary

Praia da Marinha is the prettiest beach in the Algarve and has won many awards. I won’t go into the details but to deep dive into more info, see my Marinha Beach blog post.

Now that you have arrived at Praia da Marinha, enjoy a swim in the clear and cold waters of this beach. Swim around the arch on the Marinha beach and enjoy the beauty.

Yes, the water here is cold because you’re swimming in the Atlantic Ocean, but it is super refreshing and fun, especially on a hot summer day after the hike.

Praia da Marinha beach in Algarve
Praia da Marinha beach in Algarve

Marinha Beach has a nice restaurant and bar that’s family-run and has affordable prices. I loved this little restaurant so much that I ate there twice. They also have amazing Sangrias.

We enjoyed Marinha Beach so much that we stayed here for a full day and visited it again the next day. It didn’t feel crowded even though we visited during the summer months.

Where to Stay in Carvoeiro

Rocha Brava Village Resort – This is where we stayed. It is a stunning resort with amazing villas, and apartments and is close to the beach. The Seven Hanging Valleys trail starts from right here.

Campsites Ferragudo – If you rented a van instead of a car, then it makes more sense to stay in a campsite instead of a resort. It is also called “CCL – Parque de Campismo de Ferragudo”.


Lagos, Algarve – 3 days

The arch at Praia do Camilo, Lagos, Algarve, Portugal
The arch at Praia do Camilo, Lagos, Algarve, Portugal

Your next stop in the Algarve is Lagos. It is so much better than other destinations like Portimão or Albufeira. Somehow most travelers visit Albufeira and that’s it.

I have suggested 3 days in Lagos for you but I stayed here for a week myself because I fell in love with its easy vibes. If you decide to stay here for a longer duration then see my post with things to do in Lagos which has more activities than what I mention here.

Lagos is just 42 kilometers from Carvoeiro and hence a short drive away. Honestly, if you hate packing and unpacking to move rooms, then it might make more sense for you to stay put in just one of these places.

For me, it made more sense to stay in these places separately so that some things that are done super early (like Benagil Cave) or late (like special sunset hikes) are easier to do when you’re sleeping close by.

Ponta da Piedade (Sunset Hike)

Sunset at Ponta da Piedade, Lagos, Portugal
Sunset at Ponta da Piedade, Lagos, Portugal

Ponta da Piedade is the best hiking trail in the Algarve, if not the entire Portugal. Unlike the Seven Haning Valleys hike that I mentioned before, this one is a fenced boardwalk so feels safer.

There are multiple viewpoints on this hiking route and there’s usually a gazebo for every nice viewpoint. You don’t have to do this entire hike.

Just go near the Ponta da Piedade lighthouse near the sunset and find a spot to sit on top of the rocks. The sudden drop below you will take your breath away.

Ponta da Piedade caves - Lagos, Portugal
Ponta da Piedade caves – Lagos, Portugal

We found a nice spot here that overlooked a hidden beach and faced the west, so perfect for seeing the sunset. I was in Lagos for a week and went back to this spot every single evening.

If you want to do the entire Ponta da Piedade hike, you can read my post about it. I did the whole route and split it over a few days. You can hike from one beach to another and it is totally worth it if you have time.

Camilo Beach

The stunning and empty Praia do Camilo in Lagos, Portugal
The stunning and empty Praia do Camilo in Lagos, Portugal

There are many beaches in Lagos, but the best one is Praia do Camilo. It is stunning but is tiny. The water is very clear and the sand is perfect. There are arches, rock formations, and also a cave.

Praia do Camilo tends to get crowded because it is so pretty, so the best time to visit it is at 9:30 am right after breakfast. I did that too and it was empty. The beach is divided into two sections and you have to go through a cave to reach the second part.

The beaches of Lagos, Algarve - Praia do Camilo, Portugal
The beaches of Lagos, Algarve – Praia do Camilo, Portugal

In order to reach Praia do Camilo, you have to go on the same path that goes to Ponta da Piedade, but just before it is a turn that points to Camilo restaurant. That’s the entryway for Praia do Camilo too.

You have to climb lots of steps to reach this beach, but trust me it is worth it. Unfortunately, it has no wheelchair or pram access. There are many spots to stop and admire the view as you climb down this wide staircase.

I also saw a tiny snack bar at Praia do Camilo, so you can buy your basics. There isn’t any WC here on this beach.

Dona Ana beach

Praia de Dona Ana is a massive beach that’s amazing for a swim. There are nice rock formations here and as a result, there are some shaded areas to sit on a hot summer day.

The first time I visited Dona Ana beach was from a hike from the nearby Pinhão beach, which is super tiny. The first view of Dona Ana beach from up on the rocks took my breath away.

There is a restaurant on Dona Ana beach with a bar. I didn’t go there but my friend did to use the WC. There is also a bus stop right at the entry point of Dona Ana so it is easy to reach with public transportation.

Dona Ana beach was empty at 6 pm
Dona Ana beach was empty at 6 pm

This beach was completely empty at 6 pm because the sun went behind the rocks and the entire beach was covered in shade. I loved the view of it from the top when the sun started going down.

Dona Ana is not far from the old town. Actually, the beaches that are closer to the main town are Praia da Batata and Praia dos Estudantes. You can read more about those beaches in my post about Lagos’ beaches.

Praia do Canavial

Praia do Canavial, Lagos, Portugal
Praia do Canavial, Lagos, Portugal

If you want to go off the beaten path in Lagos, I suggest you hike to Praia do Canavial. You have to go on the Ponta da Piedade hike and keep going on this trail for a long time to see this beach.

It wasn’t easy to find it but I got lucky and found someone on the hiking trail who just got out of this beach. It was kind of like an adventure to reach here.

This beach is very nice because it is empty. That’s why it is a nudist beach or FKK beach. The sand was a tad pebbly and the rock formations were pretty ok when compared to the other beaches. But the thrill of adventure made this visit memorable.

Lagos Old Town

Lagos Old Town center, Algarve, Portugal
Lagos Old Town center, Algarve, Portugal

Yes, Lagos is a beach destination but has an interesting city center. There are old buildings that are covered with Azulejos. The time I visited, there were Jacaranda trees, citrus trees, and bougainvillea all around the old town and everything was blooming and fruiting.

I like that Lagos is a stunning beach destination but also has a historical small-town vibe. This is why I feel that Lagos is an important spot in this Portugal road trip itinerary because it pretty much has everything.

Where to Stay in Lagos

B22 – Rising Sun 2 Bed Flat – Ideally suited for families and couples who are looking for an apartment with a view. I’d book this in a heartbeat if I was visiting with my husband and my little girl.

Lemon Tree Relaxing Guest House – Peaceful Place with a garden and a shared kitchen.

Safari Beach Guest House – Affordable private rooms and dorm beds in a quiet residential area. This is where I stayed and loved it.

Kampaoh Praia da Luz – This is a nice campground and it makes sense to stay here if you have a campervan.

Trindade Guest House and Camping – If you arrive in Lagos on a camper van, then you can consider this place since it has van parking and camping facilities too.


Lisbon and Sintra – 3 days

Lisbon view from the top
Lisbon view from the top

Ola Lisboa, you are just so beautiful!

I don’t like big cities but I make an exception for Lisbon because it is so pretty. It has loads of history thus one can find historical buildings, churches streets, and structures. Yes, a lot of big European cities have a rich history, but Lisbon has so much more.

Lisbon is built on seven hills and as a result, there are many viewpoints. These are called “Miradouro” and there are many. Some of the streets are slanted and you can see the Tagus River from a few of them.

Walking on Lisbon’s narrow streets with pastel houses all around and yellow trams, I felt I was a part of a Wes Anderson movie.

If you are driving to Lisbon, then consider parking your rented car or van at Lisboa Bungalows & Camping, which is a little away from the busy city center. Driving in Portugal’s busy cities is no fun, so avoid it if you can.

There are many things to do here, I recommend you spend at least three days here. You can get yourself a Lisbon card which covers the transport and historical buildings.

It is worth it only if you want to go inside historical buildings. I didn’t get the Lisbon card, but I still managed all right because I didn’t have plans to go inside more than 1-2 historical buildings.

Eat Pastel de Nata

Pastel de Nata - a must have in Lisbon
Pastel de Nata – a must-have in Lisbon

Pastel de Nata is a famous Portuguese egg tart pastry, which was invented in Lisbon by monks to use up leftover eggs. It became popular and the recipe was then sold to Pastéis de Belém. You don’t have to go all the way there but find any random bakery where you eat this amazingly filling snack that makes a good breakfast.

Alfama & Graça

Rua dos Remédios in Alfama
Rua dos Remédios in Alfama

Lisbon is pretty but Alfama is the icing on top. It is Lisbon’s oldest district and is mostly residential. The famous historical Castelo de São Jorge is on one side of Alfama and on the other is the Tagus River.

Walk on Alfama’s narrow streets and get lost in the labyrinth. Watch how the Yellow Tram 28 moves on these slanted streets. A notable old street in Alfama is Rua dos Remédios, which is just for pedestrians. I discover something new each time I walk in Alfama.

Lisbon View from Miradouro da Graça
Lisbon View from Miradouro da Graça

There are a bunch of free walking tours in Alfama but you can easily explore this adorable old town on your own at your pace.

Right above Alfama is Graça, which is Lisbon’s highest district. Be prepared to climb to the top of the hill to enter Graça and sit for a drink next to Miradouro da Graça, there’s an open-air cafe/bar here).

Follow Tram 28 Route

Follow Tram 28 Route in Alfama, Lisbon
Follow Tram 28 Route in Alfama, Lisbon

Lisbon’s historical trams are cute but tram 28 is special because it goes through Alfama & Graça. It isn’t easy to get on the tram 28 because of crazy long lines but you can just follow its path and photograph it.

Personally, I think standing in a long line would be such a time waste because Lisbon has so many amazing things to do and you can’t just get stuck on to one.

I have been to Portugal five times and still not got on to the tram 28. By the way, Lisbon has red trams too and they move around in Alfama as well.

Castelo de São Jorge

Walking to Castelo de São Jorge in Lisboa
Walking to Castelo de São Jorge in Lisboa

Let’s talk about the most famous historical building of Lisbon, the São Jorge Castle (or St. George’s Castle) which is perched on top of a hill overlooking Alfama. This castle is so old that the first fortification here dates back to the 2nd century BC.

In order to visit the São Jorge Castle, you have to arrive here super early because the queues are longer than you can imagine. If you arrive a bit late, you can forget about entering it and move on to the next place.

If you do manage to get inside Castelo de São Jorge, you will enjoy a panoramic view of Lisbon.

Torre da Igreja do Castelo de São Jorge, Lisboa instagram spots
Torre da Igreja do Castelo de São Jorge, Lisboa Instagram spots

If you don’t want to wait in line and can’t go inside Castelo de São Jorge, just walk a little further and you will arrive at the castle’s church tower – “Torre da Igreja do Castelo de São Jorge”. The line here was non-existent and I paid 5 euros to enter and went up to see the view. I also got a free glass of wine!

Miradouro de Santa Luzia and Portas do Sol

Miradouro de Santa Luzia viewpoint in Lisbon
Miradouro de Santa Luzia viewpoint in Lisbon

There are two viewpoints in Lisbon right next to each other and are totally worth the visit. Miradouro de Santa Luzia is on a lower level with a beautiful tiled sitting area and magenta bougainvillea growing on the arches on top.

Portas dos sol sunset cocktails - 2 days in Lisbon
Portas dos sol sunset cocktails – 2 days in Lisbon

Right above it is Miradouro das Portas do Sol, which is more open and also has an open-air bar, so you can grab a drink here and sit next to the railing to admire the view of Lisbon’s red-roofed buildings and Tagus river.

I suggest you see the sunset at Miradouro de Santa Luzia and then head to Miradouro das Portas do Sol for a few cocktails. Miradouro de Santa Luzia tends to feel more crowded because it is smaller and super pretty. If you can wake up early then come here for a sunrise experience.

Jerónimos Monastery & Belém Tower

Belem Tower in Lisbon
Belem Tower in Lisbon

Jerónimos Monastery & Belém Tower are historical buildings close to each other. They are a bit far from Alfama and Rossio, so you have to get on an Uber to visit them.

Visit Jerónimos Monastery early because the queues tend to get long. Lisboa Card will get you skip-the-line privileges but it isn’t always possible when things go out of control. This along with the nearby Belém Tower is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Belém Tower is a symbol of the Age of Discoveries and is a lovely landmark. Honestly, you don’t have to enter it to appreciate it but you can admire how it looks from the outside as well.

Rossio Square to Santa Just Lift

Geometrical flooring at Rossio Square Lisbon
Geometrical flooring at Rossio Square Lisbon

No matter where you stay in Lisbon, you will at some point cross the main Rossio Square. It is a big square with geometrical floor tiles, a fountain, and old buildings all around. There is also usually a long queue here for tram 28.

Rua de Santa Justa in Baixa, Lisbon
Rua de Santa Justa in Baixa, Lisbon

From Rossio, you can walk to Baixa and on to Rua de Santa Justa. This street is pretty and you will see a Neo-Gothic style tower which is a historic elevator building. During the high season in the summer months, the lines are very long and it doesn’t make sense to go up.

Arco da Rua Augusta

Rua Augusta in Lisbon
Rua Augusta in Lisbon

From Rossio, walk to Arco da Rua Augusta – the main shopping street of Lisbon which is very busy. It is lined with restaurants and shops. At the end of the street is the Augusta Arc.

Arco da Rua Augusta Lisbon Portugal
Arco da Rua Augusta Lisbon Portugal

You can stop on this street at Fábrica da Nata for Pastel de Nata. There are many touristy restaurants on this street that are overpriced. One place worth visiting is Imprensa Cocktail & Oyster Bar for amazing drinks.

Walk to the Augusta arc and admire it. Beyond it, you will see Praça do Comércio and the Tagus River.

Walk Along the Tagus river

Walk next to Tagus River
Walk next to the Tagus River

From the Augusta arc, walk along the Tagus River. There are marble sitting structures along the river where you can sit and spend some time. As you walk along the Tagus River, you will see some carts with cocktails for sale.

Time Out Lisboa / Mercado da Ribeira

Inside Time Out Market Lisboa
Inside Time Out Market Lisboa

Walk a little further along the Tagus River and you will see a building with “Mercado da Ribeira” written on it. It is an amazing place for food that was also featured on the “Somebody Feed Phill” show on Netflix.

Mercado da Ribeira also called Time Out Lisboa, is more than just a normal food court. It is a collection of carefully curated eateries with some of the best chefs from all over Lisbon. You will find not only a lot of traditional Portuguese food but also international food.

The middle part of Time Out Lisboa has cocktail bars and we had Aperol Spritzes from here. The all-around these bars were dining tables with shared seating. The atmosphere overall was super casual.

Bairro Alto or Pink Street for Nightlife

Pink Street with Umbrellas looks good at sunset time, Lisbon
Pink Street with Umbrellas looks good at sunset time, Lisbon

Just a few steps from the Time Out Factory is Pink Street. Just like the name, the street is actually pink in color with umbrellas on top. It is where you can start your evening and enjoy a few cocktails.

The main area for nightlife in Lisbon is just a bit ahead of Pink Street – it is Bairro Alto. That’s where a lot of locals and travelers go for a night of party and it sort of reminded me of Bangkok’s Khao San Road.

Where to Stay in Lisbon

If you are driving to Lisbon, then I mentioned Lisboa Bungalows & Camping already. It is a bit away from the busy center.

If you don’t mind driving in Lisbon’s narrow lanes, here are a few places I think you can consider in the old town of Alfama and Graca.


There is much more to do in Lisbon than what I have mentioned above. Even though most of these spots are just 100 – 200 meters away from each other, don’t underestimate the amount of energy you will need to walk in Lisbon. The city is built on hills, thus the streets are sloped and one needs to climb a lot.

There are more things to do here like LX Factory, Live Fado Shows, the Christo Rei statue, and many more viewpoints. See my Lisbon itinerary for more things to do here.

Pena Palace, Sintra

Pena Palace, Sintra, Portugal
Pena Palace, Sintra, Portugal

If you parked your car at Lisboa Camping, then Sintra is less than a 30-minute drive away. In that case, you can stay put in the same campground and see Sintra on a day trip from Lisbon.

Sintra has mountains, beaches, small fishing villages, and a technicolor fortress perched on top of a hill – Pena Palace. This UNESCO World Heritage Sita is also one of the seven wonders of Portugal.

The first thing you should do when you arrive in Sintra is to see Pena Palace. The palace itself is stunning and multicolored. It is unlike any building you would ever see. The view from Pena Palace is spectacular because there are mountains all around.

Cascais

Boca do Inferno, Cascais, Portugal
Boca do Inferno, Cascais, Portugal via Unsplash

After visiting Pena Place, drive for 25 minutes towards the coast to reach Cascais, which is a beautiful seaside resort town with was earlier a simple fishing village. Take a break and relax on the massive sandy beach of Cascais. Go to Guincho Beach or Praia do Tamariz.

After Lisbon and Pena Palace, you might be bored of historical buildings so a breach break would be good for you. If not, Cascais also has historical buildings – Nossa Senhora da Luz Fort, the Citadel Palace, and Nossa Senhora da Assunção church.

If you are interested in nature, then see Boca do Inferno which means “Hell’s mouth” and is a rock formation. You have to walk along the water on the rocks and go a bit uphill to arrive here. Also, this is the spot from where you will get a nice waterfront view of Cascais.

Cabo da Roca

Estrada do Cabo da Roca, Colares, Portogallo
Estrada do Cabo da Roca, Colares, Portogallo

After seeing Cascais, drive for another 30 minutes to reach Cabo da Roca, which is the westernmost point of Europe. It is a viewpoint on a 140-meter-high cliff that looks out to sea where you can stand and wave at America.

There are many hiking trails that start here. There is also a small cafe with touristy prices. There is a lighthouse here too, Farol do Cabo da Roca.

It can get very windy up here so bring a jacket. If you are lucky, you will also see a musician or two here busking. Cabo da Roca is a part of the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park.

By the way, the parking at Cabo da Roca is free and sometimes there are people who try to scam visitors by asking for a parking fee.


This brings us to the end of Lisbon and Sintra as part of the itinerary. If you want to skip North Portugal, then you can catch a flight to the Azores Islands from Lisbon. Else, get ready for a short drive to the next destination.

Óbidos  – Stop for Sightseeing

Óbidos town and castle, Portugal road trip
Óbidos town and castle, Portugal road trip via Pixabay

The beauty of a road trip in Portugal is that none of the destinations are a long drive away. Everything is so close, so the drive from Sintra to your next top – Nazaré is just 1.5 hours.

Just towards the end of this drive, you will cross a historical small village called Óbidos. This is where you can make a small stop for lunch, coffee, or possibly quick sightseeing. Portugal has many interesting places but there’s something special about visiting the smaller towns.

Óbidos is located on top of a hill with fortified city walls around it. The medieval architecture of this little town is well preserved and that’s why it has been receiving attention recently.

With a medieval castle, old city square, and historic streets, Óbidos has enough that will keep you occupied for a few hours.

Compared to most of the destinations mentioned in this itinerary, Óbidos is tiny. It is one of the beautifully preserved medieval villages of Portugal.

Nazaré – 2 days

Praia da Nazaré, Nazare beach view from the cliff, Portugal
Praia da Nazaré, Nazare beach view from the cliff, Portugal

On my third visit to Portugal, I asked some of the locals and other travelers about other interesting places to visit in the country and most suggested Nazaré, a surf town on the west coast. So I went back after three months to see Nazaré, and it was my fourth time in Portugal.

Nazaré is world famous, but not because of the beaches but the waves. They are massive here. The highest wave that was ever surfed was recorded in Nazaré and was 26.2 meters high. The record was made by Sebastian Steudtner, a German surfer.

You know one of those small towns with a fun vibe that you visit and get too comfortable to leave? Nazaré is one of them. Here’s what you can do in Nazaré during your visit here.

Praia da Nazaré

Praia da Nazaré - Nazare beach
Praia da Nazaré – Nazare beach

Praia da Nazaré is the main beach of Nazare and is massive. It is a nice sandy beach where I enjoyed a swim on a day when the waves were calm. Just like most of the beaches of Portugal, the water here was very cold too because it is the Atlantic Ocean, but was fun nonetheless.

The time I visited Praia da Nazaré, it was pretty full and had a lot of families because it was the school vacation time in Europe. There were tented sitting spots that we could rent for a day, but we just put up our mat instead.

Ride the Funicular Railway to Sítio

Nazare Funicular from Nazaré to Sítio, Portugal
Nazare Funicular from Nazaré to Sítio, Portugal

Nazare is divided into two parts – Lower Nazare (Praia da Nazaré) and Sítio (Upper Nazare). You can ride the funicular to reach the top, it is just EUR 1.50 per way. When you reach the top, it isn’t just a viewpoint but an entire separate town center with everything.

Walk around in Sítio and you will see an amazing view from many different spots. For me, the best views are at the start of Sítio overlooking Praia da Nazaré.

The entry point of Sítio, or upper Nazare, Portugal
The entry point of Sítio, or upper Nazare, Portugal

Sítio is actually the place from where you can see the waves and the surfers during the high wave season, which is October to February.

If you are in Sitio, one of the must-see sights here is the 21-foot Veado statue, which is the body of a human, the head of a deer, and holding a surfboard. Right behind it is Praia do Norte (the North Beach) where all the surfing action happens.

Explore Nazaré Town

Nazare town with white houses, Portugal
Nazaré town with white houses, Portugal

I loved exploring the maze of narrow streets in Nazaré town. The streets looked whitewashed and with white laundry that was hanging from the windows to dry.

As you walk in the direction of the beach, the streets get busier with loud bars and restaurants. But if you walk in the other direction, you will only see simple residential buildings.

Where to Stay in Nazare

  • Vila Fidalgo – Cute apartments and ours had a view from the balcony. This is where I stayed.
  • Feel Nazaré – Boutique Apartments that are beachfront
  • Hotel Mar Bravo – Beachfront with a view

Coimbra or Aveiro – Stop for a lunch

Is Coimbra Worth Visiting, Portugal
Is Coimbra Worth Visiting, Portugal

After spending two relaxing days in Nazare, it is time to hit the road again for your last stop – Porto. The drive from Nazaré to Porto is just 2 hours, which gives you enough time to stop somewhere so I will give you two options.

Both small towns Aveiro and Coimbra are small towns where you can stop for lunch and a few hours of sightseeing because they are just midway on your drive from Nazare to Porto.

I have been to Coimbra, it is an interesting old city and has the oldest universities or Portugal. In fact, it is the oldest university in the Portuguese-speaking world and has a stunning library.

Aveiro is smaller than Coimbra and is situated along a lagoon called Ria de Aveiro. It has canals and colorful boats that are called barcos moliceiros. I personally haven’t visited Aveiro because I went to Coimbra instead.

Porto – 2 – 3 Days

Porto Cathedral views
Porto Cathedral views

Your last stop in your itinerary for 2 weeks in Portugal is the historical city of Porto. Please check the traffic situation before because I remember standing in a jam for 2-3 hours near Porto. I have learned to be patient with traffic jams but they aren’t fun when you are traveling with children.

Porto is smaller than Lisbon, but it still has a lot of historical buildings and viewpoints. I also have a post on my blog with a detailed comparison of Porto vs Lisbon. Porto is called Oporto in Portuguese.

I will give you a tip for exploring Porto. This city has a lot of historical buildings and landmarks. In order to enjoy your trip and relax a little during your holiday, don’t put pressure on yourself to see as many historical landmarks as possible. You will have more fun when you give yourself time to relax, explore a little spontaneously, sit at random open-air bars for a drink, and just chill.

Spend three days in Porto if you want to experience this city in a relaxing way. If you are short on time then two days are also enough. See my list of recommended things to do here:

Ribeira (Riverfront)

Ribeira Riverfront in Porto
Ribeira Riverfront in Porto

Ribeira is Porto’s old town and is also the historic center. But at this point I’m not talking about the entire old town, but just the waterfront area.

Porto’s Ribeira is one of the most beautiful riverfront areas that I have seen, with old buildings, boats, and interesting sights. This area looks its best at night when it’s dark and all the yellow lamps glow. Their reflection in water looks amazing.

Porto’s Historic Center

Porto is a beautiful city with historic buildings, churches, and streets. Along with Ribeira, the historic center of Porto is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has more than 2000 years of history.

azulejos in Porto
Me admiring and photographing azulejos in Porto

Admire the old buildings covered with blue azulejos, dilapidated buildings that look very old, cute residential buildings with grandmas standing on the balconies – the beauty is in the details and you can actually lose yourself admiring all these little things because there are so many.

There are many buildings and landmarks that you can see here, I won’t mention them all but a few here and everything is a short walk away:

Igreja do Carmo

Igreja do Carmo's famous tiled side facade
Igreja do Carmo’s famous tiled side facade

Igreja do Carmo is perhaps the most photographed church in Porto because it has a side facade that’s covered with azulejos. You will see azulejos all over in Portugal but this particular wall is one of the most famous ones.

Torre dos Clerigos & Church

When you explore Porto’s Historical center, you will see the 75-meter-high Clerigos tower in the background. Torre dos Clerigos and Clerigos Church are very old Baroque structures that are interesting to look at.

Rua Santa Catarina

Rua Santa Catarina - Porto's shopping street
Rua Santa Catarina – Porto’s shopping street

This is a historical shopping street in Porto, walk here and enjoy the sights. You will find a lot of cork leather-based items and I bought a little backpack that receives a lot of compliments.

São Bento Train Station

São Bento Train Station
São Bento Train Station

More than any church or cathedral, my favorite building in Porto is the São Bento Train Station. The interiors are super splendid and there are high arched windows. There is intricate tilework on the walls – an amazing example of well-kept azulejos.

Livraria Lello

The crowded Livraria Lello bookstore in Porto
The crowded Livraria Lello bookstore in Porto

Yes, it is a bookstore but Livraria Lello is historical. It is one of the oldest bookstores in the world. It isn’t that big and sometimes gets crowded beyond imagination. Read my post if Livraria Lello is worth it or not.

I actually visited Porto during peak season so my experience wasn’t all that great. If you visit Livraria Lello first thing in the morning or during less busy months then you might just end up enjoying it.

Sé do Porto (Porto Cathedral)

If you decide to visit just one historical building, then it is Sé do Porto – also called Porto Cathedral. It is so beautiful that it looks more like a palace and less like a cathedral.

I happened to be here right before the sunset so the pictures came out really well. This is also close to Dom Luís I Bridge on which you can walk to reach the other side of Porto for an amazing sunset. We will talk about them right below.

Dom Luís I Bridge

Me on the windy Dom Luís I Bridge in Porto
Me on the windy Dom Luís I Bridge in Porto

Dom Luís I Bridge is iconic and is fun to walk on it to reach the other side of the Douro River because of the amazing views after every few steps. Even during peak summer months, it gets very windy and cold on this bridge so carry a jacket.

Be careful and watch out for the metro when you are walking on this bridge because it runs on this bridge without a protective barrier.

Jardim do Morro (Sunset)

Jardim do Morro Sunset view
Jardim do Morro Sunset view

When you cross the Dom Luis I Bridge, you will reach Vila Nova de Gaia – which is the other side of the Douro River. There are many spots here that offer great views, especially during the sunset time.

The closest spot to the bridge for sunset watching is a garden called Jardim do Morro. If you are here during peak season times, then forget about getting a good spot for sitting but just stand and enjoy the most beautiful show that the sky puts on every 12 hours – sunset and sunrise.

Eat Francesinha Sandwich

Francesinha at Café Santiago, Porto
Francesinha at Café Santiago, Porto

Just the way I told you to eat Pastel de Nata which was invented in Lisbon, I recommend you try Porto’s iconic sandwich – the Francesinha.

Francesinha sandwich has layers of meat, cheese, bread, egg, and more cheese. It is topped with Francesinha sauce and sometimes also french fries. It felt like more of a hangover meal and we couldn’t eat more than a handful of bites.

Douro Valley Wine Tasting

Douro Valley - Porto day trips
Douro Valley – Porto day trips

Going to one landmark to another and trying to see them all can be stressful. Take a break and get on a boat to see the beauty of Douro Valley, which is the Port wine region.

Sit back and relax as you experience the natural beauty of Northern Portugal on a guided tour that includes a traditional Portuguese lunch, the Pinhão viewpoint, a river cruise, and a wine-tasting session.

Where to Stay in Porto

Here are the places I suggest you consider booking in Porto. I stayed in an Airbnb and we didn’t like the location. After seeing Porto, I now know I’d want to stay closer to Ribeira so below are the places I have shortlisted for you.


If you don’t have time to do an entire Portugal road trip and you’re able to fly to Oporto airport for cheap, then consider doing just a Porto road trip with the nearby Douro Valley, Coimbra, and Aveiro. Personally, for me, any visit to Portugal is incomplete without the amazing Algarve coast.

Tips for driving in Portugal

If you aren’t able to get cheap flights to Faro, then consider flying to Seville in Spain which is close to the border. You can spend a day here to see this pretty city and then reach the Algarve by road. It is very easy to cross the Spanish border by car to enter Portugal. It never feels like a different country.

Portugal has toll roads and if you are renting a car, then you will pay the toll fee with the toll transponder which will be fixed in your rented vehicle. The toll transponder will be connected with your debit or credit card for the toll payments.

When you are trying to find the route using Google Maps, there is an option of avoiding toll roads. Use it if you must. But the toll fee isn’t expensive in Portugal the way it is in France.

Don’t try to cover it all and stress yourself by trying to see everything. Some of the best road trips are those where a part of the itinerary leaves room for spontaneity.


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Is Livraria Lello Worth it? I visited the Harry Potter bookstore in Porto

Is Livraria Lello Worth it? I visited the Harry Potter bookstore in Porto

Before I was a travel addict, I was a book lover. Strangely, that happened because of traveling because my mother would buy me a new book every single time we’d travel together and we did that often and not just in summer vacations.

You may not know this about me but I’m the biggest Harry Potter fan that I know of. The Harry Potter books came out at a time when I was very fond of reading. I waited for every new book in the series patiently and bought it as soon as it hit the bookstores.

So when I visited Porto and I heard that there was a “Harry Potter bookstore”, I obviously made it a point to visit. It is called Livraria Lello and let’s talk about it in detail.

Introducing Livraria Lello

Inside Livraria Lello - Most beautiful bookstore in Porto
Inside Livraria Lello – Most beautiful bookstore in Porto

Livraria Lello is one of the most famous bookstores in Portugal and is situated in the city of Porto. It is a historic bookstore dating back to 1906.

The internet says that Livraria Lello is the second oldest bookstore in the world, and another website says it is the 6th oldest. You never know what’s right when it comes to finding information on the internet.

Why is Livraria Lello famous?

Livraria Lello’s fame started when was called the prettiest bookstore in the world by Enrique Vila-Matas a Spanish writer in an article published in El País. Over the years, it has been praised on different literary and travel publications.

The Iconic red staircase of Livraria Lello bookstore in Porto
The Iconic red staircase of Livraria Lello bookstore in Porto

After that, it was also mentioned in The Guardian, Lonely Planet, Time magazine, CNN, and National Geographic and most of these publications also called it one of the most beautiful bookstores.

Of course, its current fame was fuelled by Instagram where some influencers have spread misinformation that Liraria Lello was the inspiration for Harry Potter. We will talk about that later.

So, Livraria Lello attracts a lot of misinformed Harry Potter fans. I fell for this too!

Fun Fact: A collection of letters written by Bob Dylan to his high scool; girlfriend were sold in Livraria Lello for $670,000 in 2022.

The Bookstore History

Harry Potter Books section inside Livraria Lello bookstore in Porto
Harry Potter Books section inside Livraria Lello bookstore in Porto

Livraria Lello & Irmão is also known as Lello Bookstore. Let’s talk about how it came to its existance.

A frenchman named Ernesto Chardron moved to Porto and founded Livraria Internacional de Ernesto Chardron in 1869 after winning lottery.

He isn’t the founder, but wait, I’m coming to that. Meanwhile brothers José Lello and António Lello operated José Pinto de Sousa Lello & Irmão. The Lello brothers were notable members of Porto’s intellectual bourgeoisie and bought a big share in Chardon bookstore in 1894 and also the firm Livraria Lemos & Co in 1898.

The Lello brothers hired an architect Francisco Xavier Esteve for the construction of a bookstore on Rua das Carmelitas. That’s how the bookstore Livraria Lello was born. It was inaugerated on 13 January 1906 on 144, Rua das Carmelitas.

In 1919, the bookstore was simply Lello & Irmão, Lda but in 1930 it was known as Livraria Lello.

Livraria Lello Entry tickets

Waiting in the line outside Livraria Lello, Porto
Waiting in the line outside Livraria Lello, Porto

The tickets to enter Livraria Lello can be baught on their website for different time slots. The ticket price has gone up almost double from a year back when I visited it. The line was already very long in 2022 and I’m sure it is even longer today.

You can also buy a priority ticket to move up in the queue. The time I visited, it was so crowded that the priority entrance also had a small queue but of course it moved very fast.

Here’s the online ticket price for Livraria Lello for 2023 and 2024:

Type of TicketAmount
Silver Ticket Voucher8,00€
Gold Ticket Voucher (Priority Entry)15,90€
Ticket for children below 3 (Mandatory online schedule)Free
Livraria Lello Entrance fee

Note that this isn’t a ticket price but a ticket voucher. Meaning, if you buy a book in the store then you can use your entry ticket as a voucher for the same amount. We wanted to buy also but the queue to buy the books was also frightenengly long.

We left without buying anything despite having the vouchers because we had wasted enough time already waiting in the long queue to enter the bookstore.

You need to reserve a time slot in advance, even for a child below three who will enter for free accompanied by parents or guardians.

The opening time of Livrairia Lello is 09:30 am and it closes at 7:00 pm every day. It is slightly less crowded at lunch hours and late afternoon.

My experience

Outside Livraria Lello bookstore in Porto
Outside Livraria Lello bookstore in Porto

I spent 3 days in Porto and I always saw a line outside Livraria Lello. I prebooked a slot at one of the leaner times and I thought I was being very smart. On my last day here, I arrived here as per the prebooked slot and I was shocked when I saw how big the line was.

While waiting in the line, we did notice the interesting architecture of this small bookstore from the outside – a mix of Art Nouveau and Neo Gothic.

Yes, the line was long and it didn’t take more than 20 minutes for us to stay in it, that wasn’t the problem. It was when I stepped inside that I was shocked.

The crowded ground floor of Livraria Lello Porto
The crowded ground floor of Livraria Lello Porto

I saw a little bookstore that was overflooded with visitors and there was almost no place to walk. I didn’t understand why they sold tickets as per particuylar time slot when they let as many people inside as possible.

Don’t get me wrong, this bookstore is very beautiful. I did notice the beautiful architecture instantly.

As soon as I got over how crowded it was, I saw the iconic red staircase that I had noticed in the photos of this bookstore already on Instagram. It is a central staircase where I wanted to stand for a photo but I had to laugh at that thought.

The crowded Livraria Lello bookstore in Porto
The crowded Livraria Lello bookstore in Porto

This staircase was so full that my friend and I had a big laugh because there would be a traffic jam if one would even stop here. Just to showcase that I still stood here for a photo.

One of the prettiest things that I noticed about Livraria Lello was the stained-glass skylight. It was really so pretty and I love how the light was filtered through it. There are two floors in this bookshop and the groundfloor was the busiest.

The Art Deco interiours were very visually appealing even though we were uncomfortable in this place because it was more full than we could handle.

The stained glass ceiling at Livraria Lello bookstore in Porto
The stained glass ceiling at Livraria Lello bookstore in Porto

It did have kind of a striking resemblence to the Gryffindor common room and also the hogwarts library from the Harry Potter series. I could see why many people would call it one of the most beautiful bookstops in the world.

My personal experience was one of those expectations versus reality kind of a situation. In my openion, Bucharest’s Cărturești Carusel is a more beautiful bookstore than this and is massive, so it didn’t feel crowded.

If you are a book lover, then visit Livraria Bertrand in Lisbon, it is actually the oldest bookstore in the world as declared by the Guinness Book of World Records in 2011.

“What Makes a Nobel?” Exhibit

The famous Livraria Lello bookstore in Porto
The famous Livraria Lello bookstore in Porto

Livraria Lello has had an exhibit since 2021 called “What Makes a Nobel?” in collaboration with TIME to showcase Nobel Prize winners featured on TIME magazine covers and many more. It also featured the writers who could have received this award.

In total, this exhibit features 143 authors of multiple genres, writing in many different languages of various nationalities.

Was it really JK Rowling’s inspiration for Harry Potter

Inside Livraria Lello Bookstore in Porto
Inside Livraria Lello Bookstore in Porto

No, it wasn’t. This is a rumor started by an influencer. Yes, author J.K. Rowling did spend a lot of time in Porto while she was writing the Harry Potter book series but she clarified it in a tweet that she didn’t visit Livraria Lello.

J.K. Rowling mentioned in her tweet that she spent most of her time in Majestic Cafe, so if any place had to be the inspiration it would be that cafe instead.

(Yes as a big fan of Harry Potter, I did dress up in my Hogwarts uniform for Gryffindor and visited the bookstore.)

Is Livraria Lello worth it?

Livraria Lello's Crowded Entry
Livraria Lello’s Crowded Entry

Yes and no.

No, during the peak seasons, it isn’t worth it to visit Livraria Lello.

If you are visiting Porto in high season (July and August), there will be a long queue outside. I saw a line outside this bookstore many times during the day. If there is a long line then it makes no sense visiting it.

It isn’t just about waiting but you won’t even enjoy your visit when it is so full and it would feel like a tourist trap even though it isn’t.

If you’re in Portugal during the high season, there isn’t a best time to visit it. I thought I was visiting during leaner visiting hours in the late afternoon but it was a madhouse.

During peak hours, just skip this otherwise stunning bookstore and head to café majestic instead. If you’re a fan of Harry Potter, then you should know that majestic café is where J.K. Rowling spent a lot of her time.

Livraria Lello is worth visiting only if there isn’t a long line outside.

If you are visiting Porto when it isn’t crowded in winter, spring, or autumn months, then you may just be able to enjoy this stunning bookstore in a way that does justice to it.

Where is Livraria Lello Located?

Livraria Lello is located on Rua das Carmelitas near its intersection with Rua da Galeria de Paris in Porto’s historical center.

How to Reach Livraria Lello?

You can walk to Livraria Lello from São Bento train station. You can also get on the bus or tram from many parts of Porto to reach this bookstore.

The nearest tram stop to Livraria Lello is “Carmo” and the nearest bus stop is “Cordoaria”.

Livraria Lello is in Porto’s historical quarter and I wouldn’t suggest arriving here on car because of limited parking areas and narrow streets. It is near Igreja dos Clerigos, and you will see the Clérigos tower from far away as you walk to it.

Can you skip the line at Livraria Lello?

Yes you can. You just have to buy the “Gold ticket voucher” for priority entry on their website in order to skip the line. The prioroty ticket voucher costs 15,90€.

What does livraria mean in English

The word livraria is Portuguese and means Bookstore or a Library in English.

What neighborhood is Livraria Lello in?

Livraria Lello is in Porto’s historical quarter in civil parish of Cedofeita, Santo Ildefonso, Sé, Miragaia, São Nicolau e Vitória in Porto.

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Lisbon vs Porto – Which City in Portugal Should You Visit?

Lisbon vs Porto – Which City in Portugal Should You Visit?

Having visited Portugal a few times over the last few years, I have explored it from north to south. I have visited its most popular cities – Lisbon and Porto. The first is the capital of Portugal and the second is a historical city in the North.

Are you looking for a city break in Portugal and wondering which city to visit?

Lisbon and Porto are both major cities in Portugal. I have enjoyed both of them and they both have so many similarities and yet so many differences. They are both interesting in their own way and I hope to help you decide which one to pick between Lisbon vs Porto for your next holiday.

Quick Introduction

Introducing Lisbon

Lisbon view from the top
Lisbon view from the top

Lisbon is Portugal’s capital city and is built on seven hills. It faces the Atlantic Ocean and the river Tagus goes through the city. It is called “Lisboa” in Portuguese, the city is historical and yet has a contemporary culture.

Lisbon is my favorite of all the European capitals not only because of its beauty but also the culture, the food, the weather, and its many viewpoints.

Introducing Porto

Porto has many levels, so many viewpoints
Porto has many levels, many viewpoints

Porto is known as the “Unvanquished City” and is built along the hills overlooking the Douro River estuary. Porto was called Portas Calle by the Romans and the city center has been continuously inhabited since the 4th century. Porto was never conquered!

Porto’s city center is a UNESCO World Heritage site and that’s what makes it so special because you will feel like you’re walking in a museum when you visit.

Getting in Lisbon vs Porto

Both Lisbon and Porto have international airports. Whether you fly to Lisbon Airport or Porto Airport – these two Portuguese cities are just a 3-hour train or bus ride away from each other.

Lisbon

More international airlines fly to Lisbon’s Humberto Delgado Airport and it caters to more international carriers as compared to Porto’s airport.

Porto

A lot of airlines from within Europe and other nearby countries fly to Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport in Porto.

So if you are flying from within Europe, then both these cities are good but in case you are flying in from a faraway country like India, then Lisbon is the best city for you to start your travels in Portugal.

Winner: Lisbon (if you are traveling from far-off countries) and a tie (if you are flying in from within Europe)

Location 

Lisbon’s Location

Portugal is located in western Europe and Lisbon is located in the middle of Portugal on the coast.

If you want to explore a section of Portugal like just the South (Lisbon and then Algarve road trip) then it makes more sense to start from Lisbon.

Porto’s Location

Porto is located in Northern Portugal, and also on the coast. If you want to explore Portugal from North to South, for that purpose Porto is the perfect place to start that trip.

You can rent a car from Lisbon or Porto for a road trip in Portugal.

Winner: Lisbon

Overall beauty of Lisbon vs Porto

Both Lisbon and Porto are very pretty and it feels wrong to compare their scenic beauty but I’d still do it to give you an idea.

Lisbon

A random viewpoint in Lisbon
A random viewpoint in Lisbon

Lisbon has colorful buildings that are pastel-hued, iconic yellow trams, slanted streets, and a sunny vibe even in winter. Lisbon’s beauty is more like a Wes Anderson movie

Porto

Porto on the other hand has more of a Gothic vibe with its dark architecture that’s highly ornate. Porto’s beauty is more like a Harry Potter movie set.

Porto Cathedral views
Porto Cathedral views

Even though I’m a big Potterhead, I prefer Lisbon’s pastel hues as compared to Porto’s gothic beauty. So in my mind, Lisbon wins. But I do know of many people who consider Porto more beautiful than Lisbon.

Winner: It all depends on what you are looking for. I find Lisbon more beautiful but many other people find Porto better in terms of the scenic beauty.

Size

Lisbon is the largest city in Portugal with an area of 100.05 square kilometers. Porto is less than half of its size with an administrative area of 41.42 square kilometers. So, Lisbon is bigger than Porto.

Winner: Lisbon

Getting Around

Yellow Tram in Lisbon with Tagus River in the background
Yellow Tram in Lisbon with Tagus River in the background

Both Lisbon and Porto are walkable but be prepared for a workout because both these cities are built on steep hills. Both have super pretty narrow streets that you will fall in love with.

In both Lisbon and Porto, you can get on Uber for really cheap but I usually saw a bigger traffic jam in Porto as compared to Lisbon.

Lisbon and Porto both have an amazing network of public transportation. Both of these cities have buses, metro, and historic trams. Although Lisbon’s yellow trams are more famous Porto has them too.

It isn’t easy to get on the yellow trams of Lisbon because of the long lines of tourists but the metro is an amazing option. In Lisbon, a metro ride costs about €1.90 from the airport to any place in the city center.

The metro ticket system in Porto is a little more complicated than in Lisbon because you have to buy a card “Andante” based on the zone and pay for the duration of the ride – one hour, one day, or even more. The one-hour card can be from €1.25 to €2 depending on the zone. Porto’s metro is newer and better than Lisbon’s.

Winner: Tie

Riverside

Like most of the important cities on the planet, both Lisbon and Porto are also situated along a river. Lisbon is situated along the Tagus River and Porto is along the Douro River. Lets compare Porto vs Lisbon and see which one is better.

Lisbon’s Riverside

Ponto Final Restaurant in Lisbon - top Instagram spots
Ponto Final Restaurant in Lisbon – top Instagram spots

Lisbon’s riverside area that’s close to Augusta Arc has a nice walking area. If you walk here in the evenings and sit on the marble steps, you will love the vibe. In the evenings in summer, you will also see some cocktail stands.

The bridge Ponte 25 de Abril which looks like San Fransisco’s Golden Gate bridge goes over this river. You can also get on a ferry to the other side of the river, which is called Almada. Christo Rei is a famous landmark of Lisbon that’s in Almada.

Porto’s Riverside

Ribeira (Riverfront), Porto
Ribeira (Riverfront), Porto

Porto’s riverside area is the Ribeira District which is the oldest part of the city. Ribeira is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the waterfront area comes alive at night as the lights glow here and reflect on the water. You can cross the Dom Luis I bridge to go to the other side – Vila nova de Gaia.

Because of the Ribeira district, Porto’s riverside area is definitely more beautiful than Lisbon’s and has a lot of character. You will also find the world’s most beautiful MacDonlad restaurant here in Porto’s Ribeira.

Winner: Porto

The Food Scene

Pastel de Nata - a must have in Lisbon
Pastel de Nata – a must-have in Lisbon

Both Lisbon and Porto are amazing destinations for food, but Porto is said to have more finer restaurants than the rest of Portugal. I actually had really good food in both Porto and Lisbon. Let’s talk about it in detail here.

Eating lavish meals in both Lisbon and Porto won’t burn a hole in your pocket and the cost of a meal with a drink was typically EUR 15 per person, except that one time when we ordered a lot of seafood and then it was just double. The main courses are from EUR 7 to EUR 15, depending on what it is. Seafood is obviously more expensive.

Food in Lisbon

Grilled Octopus at Santo André, Alfama
Grilled Octopus at Santo André, Alfama

In Lisbon, one of the most popular things that you can eat is Pastel de Nata and the most famous bakery for this is Pastéis de Belém. Other famous things are Bacalhau (salted codfish cooked in many ways), bifanas (pork sandwich), ameijoas a bulhao pato (saucy clams), caldo verde (green soup), and Polvo a lagareiro (octopus) to name a few.

My lunch - prawns in LX Factory
My lunch – prawns in LX Factory

The best places to enjoy a variety of food are definitely small family-run restaurants in Chaido, and Bairro Alto. But you can also visit the famous food court – Time Out Lisboa or Mercado da Ribeira which has a collection of carefully curated restaurants from some of the best chefs in Lisbon.

Another amazing place for trying different foods and drinks in Lisbon is LX Factory, which has some fun and quirky restaurants.

Be sure to try Ginjinha, a traditional liquor made with sour cherries. Lisbon’s food was also featured on Netflix’s “Somebody Feed Phill” and he raved about the “Ponto Final” restaurant in Almada for the food and the view.

Food in Porto

The Famous Francesinha Sandwich of Porto at Café Santiago
The Famous Francesinha Sandwich of Porto at Café Santiago

Porto’s most famous food is Francesinha, a multi-layered sandwich that’s topped with cheese, egg, and Francesinha sauce. This sandwich was too much for me and I couldn’t have more than just a few bites. I think it would make a good hangover meal for some but it didn’t work out for me.

Seafood dinner in Adega Bebe-Se Mal, Porto
Seafood dinner in Adega Bebe-Se Mal, Porto

To be honest, I didn’t enjoy Francesinha but I had the most amazing seafood dinner in Porto in a restaurant called Adega Bebe-Se Mal where I was with two other girls and we ate a lot of seafood and drank wine. We ordered the biggest seafood meal of our trip and drank a lot of wine but it was under EUR 60 for us three.

If you are visiting Porto in July, then visit Matosinhos for the fish festival to eat super fresh seafood. They will prepare it for you on the grill on the side of the street.

Apart from food, be sure to drink Port wine at Douro Valley in Porto, after all, it comes from here. When the grapes come out of Douro Valley and the wine is produced and bottled in Porto then it is called Port Wine. You will find many wineries all around Porto. Check the day trips section for more info.

Winner: Tie

Nightlife in Lisbon vs Porto

Lisbon’s most famous area for nightlife is Bairro Alto but also the nearby Pink Street. Porto’s most popular nightlife street is Rua da Galeria de Paris.

Both Bairro Alto and Rua da Galeria de Paris are pretty similar because there is a prominent street that’s lined with bars, pubs, and dance clubs. There are all sorts of places to party – some have live music and others have DJs.

Bairro Alto is definitely much bigger than Rua da Galeria de Paris. It is more than just a street but has side streets and is an entire neighborhood.

I had a better time partying in Lisbon as compared to Porto but I’d like to give Porto’s nightlife another chance when I visit next.

Lisbon and Porto both have restaurants and bars with the Fado show, but Lisbon is a better destination for this music genre. Fado is traditional Portuguese blues music. There are two major Fado subgenres in Portugal – one from Lisbon and the other one from Coimbra. So Lisbon’s Fado is distinctive and unique.

Winner: Lisbon

The Old Town

Let’s talk about the old towns and the oldest districts of both Lisbon and Porto.

Lisbon’s Old Town Alfama

Rua dos Remédios in Alfama
Rua dos Remédios in Alfama

Lisbon’s old town is in Alfama – which is Lisbon’s oldest district. On one side of Alfama is the Castelo de São Jorge (São Jorge Castle) and on the other side is the lovely Rio Tejo – Tagus River on the side is Graça and São Vicente districts.

Alfama is unlike any old town that I have seen because it is mostly residential. There are old buildings, narrow streets, viewpoints, old cathedrals, and historic trams that move on these slanted roads.

Alfama has a lot of character and if you visit Lisbon, you should try to get a room in this neighborhood. Walk around Alfama and get lost in the labyrinth of old streets. Follow the route of Tram 28 and enjoy the sights.

Porto’s Old Town Ribeira

The pretty residential buildings near Porto Cathedral with a grandma on balcony
The pretty residential buildings near Porto Cathedral with a grandma on the balcony

Porto’s old town is Ribeira, a UNESCO world heritage site. It’s a historic district that faces the Douro River and streets out to the hills behind. On the other side of the Douro River is Ribeira de Gaia.

Just like Alfama, Ribeira also has a maze of narrow streets, crumbling residential buildings, old churches, and towers.

Winner: Tie

Historic buildings

Lisbon’s Historical Buildings

Belem Tower in Lisbon
Belem Tower in Lisbon

Both Lisbon and Porto have their own set of historical buildings that are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Lisbon’s most famous historic buildings and iconic structures are:

  • Castelo de são Jorge,
  • Jerónimos monastery,
  • Belem tower,
  • Christo Rei Statue,
  • Santa Justa Lift,
  • Augusta Arc,
  • Sé de Lisboa – Lisbon Cathedral
  • Monastery of São Vicente de Fora
  • National Pantheon

Porto’s Historical Buildings

Porto’s famous historic buildings and structures are:

The iconic Porto Cathedral
The iconic Porto Cathedral
  • São Francisco church,
  • Torre dos Clerigos,
  • Palácio da Bolsa,
  • Porto Cathedral (Sé do Porto)
  • São Bento Train Station

Both Lisbon and Porto have a lot of historical buildings. The key difference is that Lisbon’s historical structures are spread out, whereas Porto’s old buildings are all near to each other in the historical city center.

Winner: Tie

Viewpoints

If you have read a few of my posts already on my website then you would have noticed that I have a thing for viewpoints. No matter where I go, my travel revolves around finding the perfect places to eat drink, or sleep with a view. Both my posts for Lisbon and Porto have many viewpoints because both these cities have loads of amazing miradouros.

A miradouro is a Portuguese word for a viewpoint and both these cities are full of them because they are built on steep hills.

Lisbon’s Viewpoints

Miradouro de Santa Luzia - Lisbon Instagram spots
Miradouro de Santa Luzia – Lisbon Instagram spots

For the best viewpoints in Lisbon, go to the Alfama district and the nearby Graça. Alfama’s Miradouro de Santa Luzia is absolutely stunning and you can also go to the nearby Miradouro das Portas do Sol and drink a cocktail right there with the views because there’s a stand right there. Another amazing viewpoint in Lisbon is Miradouro da Senhora do Monte, which is higher than the others.

Porto’s Viewpoints

Jardim do Morro Sunset view
Jardim do Morro Sunset view

Porto’s famous viewpoint is Jardim do Morro and it is much better than any viewpoint in Lisbon. Another famous one is Miradouro da Serra do Pilar, which is next to Jardim do Morro. One can just walk on Dom Luís I Bridge in Porto for fantastic views in every direction.

Even though I prefer Lisbon’s pastel houses that show from the viewpoints, the reason why I think Porto’s viewpoints are better is because of the curve of the Douro River.

Winner: Porto (but only slightly)

Weather

Both Lisbon and Porto are warm cities, have enjoyable winter months that aren’t extreme, and are all year-long destinations. Let’s talk about the average temperatures.

Weather in Lisbon

The Best 2 days in Lisbon happy in Alfama
A Warm Summer day in Lisbon even with clouds

In the summer months, the daily mean temperatures range from 21.2 °C (70.2°F) in June to 22.1°C (71.8°F) in September.

The average high temperature in summer can go as high as 28.3 °C or 82.9°F in August, which is the hottest month. Remember, this is the average mean – it means that the hottest part of the day will be definitely hotter than the average. The night will be definitely cooler than the average.

The average high in summer is 25.7 °C (78.3 °F) in June to 26.5 °C (79.7 °F) in September. The record high in summer was 44.0 °C or 111.2 °F in August

In winter months, January is the coldest with the daily mean temperature being 11.6 °C or 52.9 °F. The record low was recorded in February being −1.2 °C or 29.8 °F.

Even though Lisbon is a year-round destination, I’d still say that the best time to visit is in late spring or early. Peak summer is also good to enjoy a nice warm summer day but it is usually super crowded.

Weather in Porto

Porto Cathedral in the background
Porto Cathedral in the background

The weather in Porto is almost the same as in Lisbon but only slightly cooler. In the summer months, the daily mean temperature ranges from 19.0 °C (66.2 °F) in June to 19.5 °C (67.1 °F) in September. The average high in August can go as high as 25.7 °C (78.3 °F) and the record high was 40.9 °C (105.6 °F).

The average high in summer was 19.0 °C (66.2 °F) in June to 19.5 °C (67.1 °F) in September.

The record low was −3.3 °C (26.1 °F) in January but the daily mean ranges from 10.7 °C (51.3 °F) in December to 10.4 °C (50.7 °F) in February.

Winner: Tie – both these cities have pleasant temperatures that are warm with Porto being just a bit cooler. I do remember wearing jackets in Porto in August and still feeling cold but

Day Trip Options

Let’s compare the day trips from Porto versus Lisbon and figure out which option is better.

Day trips from Lisbon

Pena Palace, Sintra, Portugal
Pena Palace, Sintra, Portugal

There are many day trip possibilities from Lisbon but the most famous ones are to Sintra’s Pena Palace, Cabo da Roca, & Cascais. Sintra is the name of the mountains, the region, and also the city.

Sintra’s Pena Palace is a multicoloured building which is a sight you will remember for life. It is a castle perched on top of the mountains in Sintra that overlooks the ocean. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the seven wonders of Portugal.

Estrada do Cabo da Roca, Colares, Portogallo
Estrada do Cabo da Roca, Colares, Portogallo via Unsplash

Cabo da Roca is the Cape of Roca and is a beautiful spot with high sea cliffs where you can walk and enjoy nature. Cascais is a traditional fishing village near Lisbon which is now a high-end holiday destination because of the lovely beach.

The good news is that you can combine a visit to all these places in one day on a day trip from Lisbon. Obviously, it is better to spend more time in each destination but that isn’t always possible.

Yes, you can also visit other places from Lisbon but the best day trips are to the Sintra region, and beyond that, it makes more sense to make it longer than just a day.

If you have a rental car, then you can also include Praia das Azenhas do Mar in Colares in this day trip itinerary from Lisbon, which is also a beautiful beach destination and isn’t on some tours that you see online.

Day trips from Porto

Douro Valley - Porto day trips
Douro Valley – Porto day trips via Unsplash

Let’s talk about the day trips from Porto now. Some of the best day trips from Porto are to Douro Valley with wine tasting, a visit to the wine cellars, and a river cruise. These day trips also include a stop at Pinhão, where you will see a beautiful viewpoint.

Another option for a day trip from Porto is to Guimarães and Braga, where you will pass through the beautiful natural landscapes of the Minho region and see the religious city of Braga which is one of the oldest Christian cities in the world.

Adventure lovers will love this day trip suggestion from Porto – Paiva Walkways and Arouca 516 Footbridge where you will walk on the longest suspension bridges in the world.

If you compare both Porto and Lisbon – even though it may appear that Porto has more day trip options, Lisbon also has the same amount of options and you can see them in just one trip instead of splitting them.

Winner: Tie

Nearby Beach Destinations

Beach Destinations near Lisbon

The empty Benagil Cave beach in the morning
The empty Benagil Cave beach in the morning

If you want to visit beach destinations near Lisbon and Porto, there are many options. Let’s talk about Lisbon first.

We already mentioned the beaches of Sintra in the day trip post, but do you know that you can arrive in the Algarve region in just 3 hours from Lisbon?

I’m actually in love with the Algarve because the beaches are absolutely stunning with a perfect backdrop of rock formations. Moreover, the water quality is clean and the sand is soft. The world-famous Marinha Beach is right here in the Algarve and so is the hidden Benagil Cave Beach.

The famous Marinha beach in Portugal - Algarve itinerary
The famous Marinha beach in Portugal – Algarve itinerary

Algarve isn’t just one destination but has many amazing beach destinations within and they all have something special to offer. I have spent a week in both Lagos and Carvoeiro and I highly recommend them both.

Beach Destinations near Porto

Praia da Nazaré, Nazare beach view from the cliff, Portugal
Praia da Nazaré, Nazare beach view from the cliff, Portugal

The beach destinations near Porto are Nazare, Matosinhos, Aveiro, and Figueira da Foz to name a few. Out of these, I have visited Nazare and Figueira da Foz – although they are both nice destinations with amazing beaches they don’t come even close to Algarve’s awesomeness.

So, for a beach vacation in Portugal with a bit of city break, I suggest you pick Lisbon over Porto.

Winner: Lisbon

Where to Stay

Lisbon Hotel Suggestions:

Having stayed in three different hotels in Lisbon, the best experience was when we stayed right in the Alfama / Graça neighborhood. Here are the places I suggest you consider:

Porto Hotel Suggestions:

Try to find a hotel in Porto’s Ribeira to be close to the river and the viewpoints. Here are a few hotels that I have shortlisted for you for every budget. Click on the link to book.

Conclusion: Lisbon vs Porto

Both Lisbon and Porto are amazing destinations for a city break. In fact, unlike most of the cities in Europe, I suggest a higher duration in Lisbon and Porto because they offer so much more. Plus, unlike many other cities in Europe, Lisbon and Porto are both affordable in comparison.

So between Lisbon and Porto which one is better? My personal preference is Lisbon but I have compared them both in many aspects so that you can find your own personal favorite.


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4 Days in Portugal: Itinerary with Lisbon, Porto or Algarve

4 Days in Portugal: Itinerary with Lisbon, Porto or Algarve

Living in Europe since 2017, if there’s one country that I have visited year after year, it is Portugal. Over the last few years, I have done many kinds of trips in Portugal – solo travels, backpacking, road trips, a girl’s trip, and a music festival trip.

I live in Germany and for me, it is cheaper to fly to Portugal for a long weekend trip than to take a train within Germany and go somewhere. If you live in the UK, or the EU, then that will be true for you too.

So how to spend 4 days in Portugal? It depends on the season and the itinerary will be different for summer versus the rest of the year. So, just for that purpose, I will share two alternate itinerary endings, one for summer and one for winter.

Portugal 4 Days Itinerary

Day 1 Arrival in Lisbon, Famous Landmarks

A random viewpoint in Lisbon
A random viewpoint in Lisbon

Today is the first day of your 4-day Portugal trip and most likely you will land in Lisbon’s Humberto Delgado Airport. Download Uber on your phone from before because it is way cheaper than getting on a normal taxi from Lisbon airport to the city.

Alternatively, you can rent a car at Lisbon airport and drop it off at Porto airport or at Faro airport before you leave. It is cheaper to rent a car in Portugal than many other nearby countries, and you can enjoy an amazing road trip.

Get to your hotel, check-in, and clean up before you get ready to see the beauty of Lisbon, the sunniest and happiest city in Western Europe. Below are the hotels that I recommend you consider booking in Porto:

Because you have limited time in Portugal, we won’t go to each and every single attraction, but just do the basics and focus more on having a good time with views. So places like Jerónimos Monastery and Belém Tower, which are a bit further away aren’t in this Lisbon itinerary.

Rossio Square & Santa Justa Lift

One of the streets opening into Rossio Square, Lisbon, Portugal
One of the streets opening into Rossio Square, Lisbon, Portugal

Rossio Square or Praça Dom Pedro IV is one of the most famous squares of Lisbon. This is where tourists start queuing up for tram 28 but I suggest you don’t waste your time in this because it is almost impossible to get in considering the long lines and super small tram size.

Walk around Rossio, and get a feel of the Portuguese capital city. Spot the historical structures, the fountain, and the interesting tile work on the floor.

You will also find a Ginjinha stand here where you can experience a shot of this traditional berry liqueur for just one euro.

Santa Justa lift - Rua de Santa Justa Baixa Lisbon
Santa Justa lift – Rua de Santa Justa Baixa Lisbon

Santa Justa Lift is a historical elevator that was built to help people reach Chaiado from Baixa and back. It is right next to Rossio Square. Considering how long the queues can be, don’t try to get on the lift but just walk on the street where the neo-gothic-style elevator tower is situated in order to admire this architectural beauty.

Arco da Rua Augusta

Rua Augusta in Lisbon
Rua Augusta in Lisbon

Arco da Rua Augusta is a pedestrian street, is one of Lisbon’s most famous streets. If you walk on it, you will see a 30-meter-high historical arc where this street ends and the water of River Tagus beyond it. On each side of the road are restaurants and arched walking boulevards.

Arco da Rua Augusta, Lisboa
Arco da Rua Augusta, Lisboa

Fábrica da Nata, the famous pastry shop for Pastel de Nata is right on this street. And so is Impresena – one of the best cocktail bars in Lisbon.

Walk a bit further to cross the arch, and you will arrive at Praça do Comércio. From here you will see the Tagus River, and walk to the river.

Walk along the Tagus River

Rio Tejo, or River Tagus is iconic and when you’re in Lisbon, you should experience a walk along the riverbank. When you walk from Rua Augusta to the direction of the river, you will reach a spot that’s marked on Google Maps as “Miradouro do Rio Tejo”, which is right after Praça do Comércio.

Walk around here, and sit on the marble blocks and seats that are next to the river water. There is a super tiny river beach but please don’t stand on it because the water washes over it frequently.

In 2023, I saw carts of people selling Mohito and Caipirinha cocktails here for Euro 5. I fell in love with Lisbon in 2016 when I walked along the Tagus River and you will too. I last visited Lisbon in 2023.

Pink Street

Pink Street with Umbrellas - Instagram spots in Lisbon
Pink Street with Umbrellas – Instagram spots in Lisbon

Pink Street is exactly like its name, it is pink and there are colorful umbrellas on top.

If you walk on the pink street in the evening, it won’t look so colorful so the best time to walk on it is right before the sunset. Pink Street is more of a party street, but I still want you to look at it when it isn’t yet dark.

Lisbon's Pink Street - Photo spots in Lisbon
Lisbon’s Pink Street – Photo Spots in Lisbon

When you see Pink Street, don’t stop here right now, because I want you to see another street that’s nearby and is super stunning. Then I will suggest a famous place for dinner near Pink Street then you can come back here and end your night here.

Plus it is close to the previous stop on today’s itinerary and you have to cross it anyway to reach the next one.

Rua da Bica

Bica Funicular Lisbon Portugal
Bica Funicular Lisbon Portugal

Lisbon is extremely pretty, but Bica Street is the prettiest in not just Lisbon but was voted as the prettiest street in the world. That’s why it is a very popular photo spot in Lisbon.

This street is just for trams and pedestrians. Walk away from the tram line and climb till the end to reach the top. From there, you will see the view of Tagus River right behind this narrow street with pastel houses, and even better when there’s the yellow tram 28 in the view.

Mercado da Ribeira / Time Out Lisboa

Inside Time Out Market Lisboa
Inside Time Out Market Lisboa

Time Out Lisboa is a food court, but in reality, it is much more than that. It is a market that’s curated for culinary lovers in Lisbon with Michelin Star-rated chefs.

Time Out Lisboa is in a massive rectangular form with restaurants along the perimeter and a bar in the middle. Between the restaurants and the bars are many long tables where you can grab a seat and eat.

If you have ever seen the Netflix show – “Somebody Feed Phill”, then most likely you have already seen Time Out Factory in the Lisbon episode.

End Your Evening in Bairo Alto (Optional)

Bairro Alto is the most popular area for nightlife in Lisbon, and this is why this point is optional. This street kind of reminds me of Bangkok’s Khao San Street because it is lined up with pubs of all kinds that are filled with tourists and locals.

Keep your belongings safe in your bag and enjoy a wild party night if you are up for it.

Day 2: Explore Alfama in Lisbon

Follow Tram 28 Route in Alfama, Lisbon
Follow Tram 28 Route in Alfama, Lisbon

For your second day in Lisbon for your 4 days in Portugal itinerary, you will spend most of your time in the city’s oldest district. This is Alfama, my favorite part of Lisbon. Actually, you will also explore a bit of Graça, which is right next to Alfama. Graça is the highest district in Lisbon.

Because you are in Lisbon for a short duration, I wouldn’t suggest a day trip to Sintra to see Pena Palace because it only makes sense to do this if you have at least one more day here.

Eat Pastel de Nata for Breakfast

Pastel de Nata - a must have in Lisbon
Pastel de Nata – a must-have in Lisbon

I mention Pastel de Nata in all of my posts about Lisbon because it is an iconic pastry that was invented by monks in Lisbon. Today it is the most popular breakfast coupled with coffee.

I normally don’t eat sweet breakfasts but considering how one has to climb Lisbon’s steep hills, a sweet and high-protein breakfast like this helps. Yes, it is high protein because it is an egg tart. Go to any bakery near your hotel or on the way to your first destination for today to eat Pastel de Nata.

Pastel de Nata costs just 1.20 Euros and adds an additional 1.5 euros for the coffee, so you have yourself a lovely breakfast that’s affordable.

Miradouro da Graça

Lisbon View from Miradouro da Graça
Lisbon View from Miradouro da Graça

Start your Lisbon sightseeing by climbing steps to reach a lovely viewpoint in Graça. This is when you will thank me for suggesting a solid breakfast of pastel de nata because these climbs aren’t breezy.

The good thing is that you will see street art on your way up and you can take breaks to photograph or admire the artwork.

When you reach the top, you will see a view of Alfama’s houses, the Tagus River, the Monastery of São Vicente de Fora, and also the Ponte 25 de Abril bridge that looks like it was plucked out of San Fransisco. There is also a cafe/drinks stand here so you can grab a seat and sip something.

São Jorge Castle Bell Tower

Torre da Igreja do Castelo de São Jorge, Lisboa instagram spots
Torre da Igreja do Castelo de São Jorge, Lisboa Instagram spots

So what’s the most famous landmark of Lisbon? It is Castelo de São Jorge. I suggest you don’t even try visiting it and walk past it to “Torre da Igreja do Castelo de São Jorge”, its bell tower.

Since you are in Portugal for a super short trip, don’t make the mistake of standing in long queues to visit busy attractions. São Jorge is always busy and the queues are super long. So, skip Castello de São Jorge, but see its bell tower instead.

In order to enter the Bell Tower of São Jorge Castle, you will need to pay EUR 5, which includes the entry plus a drink of your choice (red wine, white wine, champagne, port wine, juice, and sodas). Climb up the winding stairs and admire the view.

LX Factory for Lunch

Bee artwork in LX Factory Lisbon
Bee artwork in LX Factory Lisbon

From Alfama, get on an Uber to see LX Factory, Lisbon’s arty hotspot. Don’t try to walk to the LX factory yourself, it isn’t so close. While here, admire the art installations, cool stores, and super amazing restaurants with bars. A famous bookstore Ler Devagar is also here.

Ler Devagar Book Store in LX Factory - Lisbon Instagram spots
Ler Devagar Book Store in LX Factory – Lisbon Instagram spots

I ate prawns in a restaurant called A Praça in LX Factory and drank a glass of Sangria. After lunch, we spent around half an hour in Ler Devagar which not only has books but also records.

Overall it was a fun experience and we felt like we could have stayed in LX Factory for at least half a day.

Miradouro de Santa Luzia & Portas do Sol

Miradouro de Santa Luzia viewpoint in Lisbon
Miradouro de Santa Luzia viewpoint in Lisbon

After LX Factory, get on a taxi to the most famous viewpoints of Lisbon for cocktails and sunset, they are in Alfama, the city’s oldest neighborhood where we started our morning. These two viewpoints are next to each other so you really won’t have to make an effort.

On the lower level is Miradouro de Santa Luzia, which is an excellent spot for seeing the sunset. On the higher level is Miradouro das Portas do Sol where you can enjoy a few drinks with a view because there’s an open-air bar right next to the viewpoint.

Portas dos sol sunset cocktails - 2 days in Lisbon
Portas dos sol sunset cocktails – 2 days in Lisbon

There is a belvedere next to Miradouro das Portas do Sol where you can walk and click some of the most stunning photos.

The cocktail stand there sells the cocktails for EUR 5 – 7 and they are pretty good. My friend and I had Caipirinhas and we saw the view change as the sky turned dark and all the buildings around were light up with warm lights.

Dinner with Fado Show

Fado Restaurant Santo Andre
Fado Restaurant Santo Andre

After sunset and cocktails, walk a little further into Alfama and find a nice traditional restaurant for dinner with the Fado show. I recommend Santo Andre (pictured above) which also has decent traditional food and drinks.

Fado is a Portuguese style of Blues music that is emotional and soulful. There are two fado styles – Fado from Lisbon and Fado from Coimbra. When in Lisbon, experiencing Fado is a must-do experience. It is played on the Portuguese guitar.

Eat a nice traditional Portuguese meal, enjoy the melodious Fado music, and sleep early so that you can wake up on time to head to your next destination – Porto.

Day 3: Arrival in Porto, Sunset Spot, and Riberia

Pinguim Café and Bar with a view, Porto
Pinguim Café and Bar with a view, Porto

Your third day in Portugal and today’s the day when you will arrive in Porto. Porto is smaller than Lisbon but is darker and has an academic vibe that reminded me of Harry Potter books. I even got a small Harry Potter tattoo done from Porto.

Considering you will reach at mid-day, today’s itinerary is light. In case you arrive the night before or super early, then you can just switch the day 3 with day 4.

Lisbon to Porto

The pretty residential buildings near Porto Cathedral with a grandma on balcony
The pretty residential buildings near Porto Cathedral with a grandma on the balcony

The easiest way to reach Porto from Lisbon is by getting on a bus from “Santa Apolónia” in Lisbon to “Campanha” in Porto, a journey that will take just 3 hours by Comboios de Portugal. You can also get on an ALSA bus from “Sete Rios” in Lisbon to Oporto Campanha.

Alternatively, there’s also Flixbus and that’s the service I normally take because I’m so comfortable with it. All these journeys will take you 3 or 3.5 hours.

Check-in at your Hotel

Reach your hotel by metro or taxi and then slow down for some time. After 3-4 hours on the road, I’m sure you need a bit of rest before you get ready to start your Porto itinerary.

Below are the hotels for different budgets that I recommend you consider booking in Porto:

São Bento Train Station

São Bento Train Station
São Bento Train Station

If you are wondering why a train station is in your itinerary for this quick Portugal trip, it is because São Bento train station is absolutely stunning. This historical station is a must-see spot in Lisbon because of the stunning interiors and it is free!

São Bento is also called Saint Benedict station and it is amazing tile work not just on the walls but also on the floor. There are arches inside and the ceiling is highly ornate.

Dom Luís I Bridge

The Dom Luís I Bridge of Porto
The Dom Luís I Bridge of Porto

From São Bento train station, walk to Dom Luís I Bridge that goes over the Douro River. The views are absolutely stunning from this bridge because you will see the buildings of the historical center along the curve of the Douro River.

Make sure you carry an extra jacket before you walk on Dom Luís I Bridge because it gets windy up there and as a result, super cold even in summer. Keep an eye out for the metro because there are two metro stops on this bridge and the metro line is unfenced and runs parallel to the walking path.

Sunset from Jardim do Morro

Jardim do Morro Sunset view
Jardim do Morro Sunset view

Whether you are in Porto for 2 days or just one day, you have to make sure you do this to see the most amazing sunset ever.

When you walk on Dom Luís I Bridge from Porto’s old town to the other side, you will arrive at a spot called Jardim do Morro, which is a garden with a viewing deck.

This place is actually always full but you don’t have to sit, you can just stand and enjoy the most stunning sunset view of Porto, which clarifies why Porto is called the Golden City.

To head back, if you don’t want to walk on the bridge again, you can just get on the metro from Jardim Do Morro metro station to reach the city.

Eat Francesinha Sandwich

Francesinha at Café Santiago, Porto
Francesinha at Café Santiago, Porto

Ready to eat the most famous sandwich of Porto? It is called Francesinha and it is legendary.

Francesinha sandwich has layers of cheese, meat, more cheese, and egg and is topped with Francesinha sauce. It is a bit too much but is an experience to be had in Porto. Of course, there are vegan versions of the Francesinha sandwich in many places in Porto.

My friend and I ate the Francesinha sandwich at Café Santiago, which is an award-winning place. It was a long walk from Jardim do Morro, so if you don’t want to walk as much as we did then you can get on bus 905 from Jardim do Morro to Duque Loulé, and from there walk for 260 meters to reach Cafe Santiago.

Day 4: Explore Porto’s Old Town

azulejos in Porto
Me admiring and photographing Azulos in Porto

On your last day in Portugal, you will explore Porto’s Old Town which is a UNESCO world heritage site. You don’t have to go inside every single attraction, I didn’t and I still had an amazing experience.

Expect to see a lot of azulejos (painted Portuguese ceramic tiles), and narrow streets in old buildings in Porto’s historic neighborhood where the main attractions are within walking distance from each other.

If you were in Porto for a longer duration, then I would have suggested a wine-tasting tour in Douro Valley or in Vila Nova de Gaia, but you can do that if you have three days in Porto.

Igreja do Carmo

Igreja do Carmo's famous tiled side facade
Igreja do Carmo’s famous tiled side facade

Start your day at Igreja do Carmo, one of the most photographed churches in Porto. It is famous for its blue-tiled wall that faces the street. As you approach this church, you will see people standing and posing next to the wall for a photo.

If you decide to go inside, the fee is EUR 2 or 3. The area around Igreja do Carmo is massive and next to it is a fountain – Fonte dos Leões. The University of Porto is also nearby, so you can walk around and look at all these structures.

Livraria Lello

The crowded Livraria Lello bookstore in Porto
The crowded Livraria Lello bookstore in Porto

Livraria Lello is a small bookstore with lush red interiors and stained glass windows. Visit it only if the queue is small because otherwise it isn’t worth the time. And no, unlike what social media says, this place wasn’t J. K. Rowling’s inspiration for Harry Potter’s Gryffindor common room.

Some influencers posted about this bookstore as being the world’s most beautiful one and the queues outside got insanely longer. Yes, I wasted my time but I don’t want you to make the same mistake.

Livraria Lello is definitely lovely and is worth a visit if you don’t end up wasting your time outside to get in. No, it isn’t the most beautiful bookstore in the world, I think Carturesti Carusel in Bucharest is definitely a thousand times better, and more spacious.

Move over to the next point in case you notice long queues.

Porto’s Historical Centre

Walk through Porto’s historical center which is near Livraria Lello. Below are the landmarks and important that you will notice.

Clerigos Church and Tower

Torre dos Clerigos
Torre dos Clerigos

Clerigos Church has a 75-meter-high bell tower which you will see from many places within Porto’s historical center. It is called Clerigos Tower.

Clerigos Church in Porto
Clerigos Church in Porto

The baroque church itself is interesting but the main attraction is the tower and to go up it will cost you EUR 6. In order to go up, the staircase is narrow and winding so if you you see a queue of people then you can just skip it.

Rua das Flores

Rua das Flores is a pretty street that’s just for pedestrians. We walked on many times while we were exploring Porto’s historical district. There are stunning house facades, cute balconies, and azulejos.

If you like this street then remember to come back here for nightlife because it is lively here. This street also has a few Fado restaurants.

Sé do Porto – Porto Cathedral

Porto Cathedral in the background
Porto Cathedral in the background

When we arrived at Sé do Porto, I didn’t think it was a cathedral because it looked like a castle. You can stand on the ramp right next to Sé do Porto and catch a stunning view.

If there’s one place where I suggest you go inside, then it is this. This Romanesque cathedral is perched on top of a hill and because of that the views are truly spectacular.

Porto Cathedral
Porto Cathedral

Porto Cathedral, or Sé do Porto also has a tower and you can go up on it for a fee of EUR 3. This fee also includes the entry for the Bishop’s palace that’s next door. Yes, there are queues here but they move fast.

The interiors of Sé do Porto are intricate and stunning. The altar, ceilings, and the entire chapel are covered with ornate carvings that will take your breath away.

Portuguese Dinner

Seafood dinner in Adega Bebe-Se Mal, Porto
Seafood dinner in Adega Bebe-Se Mal, Porto

I love seafood and for that, I love visiting Portugal because I always eat a good meal here. Just for that purpose, I found a local restaurant called Adega Bebe-Se Mal where we had the most memorable seafood dinner of our trip.

We actually spent a long time researching to find a restaurant that was famous for seafood, also traditional, and not expensive. This place was just perfect.

Ribeira

Ribeira Riverfront in Porto
Ribeira Riverfront in Porto

From Sé do Porto or your restaurant, walk to Ribeira do Porto, a beautiful waterfront area with bars and restaurants. Sit on a bench next to the water and see the beauty of sparkling lights as they get reflected on the Douro River’s water.

Ribeira (Riverfront), Porto
Ribeira (Riverfront), Porto

Here we also saw the world’s most beautiful MacDonald’s restaurant but we obviously didn’t go in after all that seafood. I have lately seen this particular McDonald’s restaurant a lot on Instagram reels.

Carry a few drinks and sit by the river to enjoy your evening. It sure is a romantic place so make the most of it.

Nightlife in Porto

Some of the spots for lively nightlife in Lisbon are situated on these streets – Rua da Galeria de Paris and Rua das Flores. Rua da Galeria de Paris is near Lello Bookstore and you probably saw it already. Rua das Flores is the one that you walked on in Porto’s historical district.

Out of these two, Rua da Galeria de Paris is a more popular choice for nightlife because it is lined up with clubs and bars so it is perfect for pub crawl. So you can get a drink from one pub and then move on to the next one for the next round.

Alternate ending for Itinerary for 4 Days in Portugal in Spring and Summer

Praia do Camilo in Lagos, Portugal
Praia do Camilo in Lagos, Portugal

Day 3: Arrival in Lagos, Algarve: Beaches and Sunsets

If you are visiting Portugal for 4 days in late spring (April, May) and the entire summer (June, July, August, and September), then you don’t need to visit Porto, instead visit the Algarve, which is my favorite place in Portugal.

Portugal is famous for its beaches and Algarve is like the icing on the cake with beaches that have a backdrop of the most amazing rock formations. For a longer trip here, check out my Algarve road trip itinerary too.

For the purpose of a short trip to the Algarve, we will pick Lagos, which has the best of everything – beaches, sunset hikes, traditional food, and an easygoing vibe. I really like Carvoeiro in Algarve with the Benagil Cave nearby but that has no direct buses or trains and Lagos is easier to reach for a short trip and it really has it all.

Lisbon to Lagos

Bus ride in Lagos, Portugal
Bus ride in Lagos, Portugal

The journey from Lisbon to Lagos will take almost the same amount of time as Lisbon to Porto – 3.5 to 4 hours by FlixBus bus. FlixBus runs daily at 7:30 am and 11 am from Lisbon (Oriente) to Lagos, make sure you book a ticket in advance so avail cheaper seats.

Another option would be ReDe Express 92 and 67. These buses leave throughout the day but in high season I’d suggest you plan in advance.

Arrive in Lagos, Check in to your hotel

Lagos has loads of nice places to stay but I recommend you don’t stay in the city center but a bit away. Below are the places that I suggest:

Dona Ana Beach

View of Dona Ana beach on the way from Pinhão, Lagos, Portugal
View of Dona Ana beach on the way from Pinhão, Lagos, Portugal

For your first day in Lagos, head to the lovely Dona Ana beach. It is massive and has amazing rock formations and as a result plenty of shaded areas. Due to its size, it never feels too full.

We jokingly called Dona Ana Beach “the main beach of Lagos” because it is super easy to reach, is big, has rock formations, and pretty much everything. There is a beach bar and a restaurant here, toilets and the bus stop is right outside.

Ponta da Piedade

Sunset at Ponta da Piedade, Lagos, Portugal
Sunset at Ponta da Piedade, Lagos, Portugal

Ponta da Piedade is a spot in Lagos to which you can hike or go on a taxi to catch the most amazing sunset. I loved it so much that I went back here every day.

Walk around the Ponta da Piedade lighthouse and see the views. There isn’t just one viewpoint but many of them and they all offer interesting views because you are on top of a rock with a sudden drop and hidden beaches under you.

The Ponta da Piedade hike is on a boardwalk and it is easy to do but still, I would suggest you wear decent shoes. It somehow gets super cold up here in the evenings so wear a jacket.

Dinner at Aqui Há Gato

The Best Prawns in Lagos at Aqui Há Gato restaurant
The Best Prawns in Lagos at Aqui Há Gato restaurant

I recommend this family-run Portuguese restaurant in all of my posts about Lagos because it is really good. If you enjoy seafood, then don’t miss the garlic prawns here. The portion was big and it was super delicious.

Not just the food but this place actually has an amazing vibe with mostly locals and hardly any tourists. The prawns were not on the menu but you can ask for them since they are a part of “the specials”.

Day 4: More Beaches & Depart from Faro

Today’s your last day in Lagos. Wake up early to see the most beautiful beach in Lagos and the only time to enjoy it is early morning before the crowds arrive. This is actually exactly how I had spent my last day in Lagos.

Camilo Beach

The beaches of Lagos, Algarve - Praia do Camilo, Portugal
The beaches of Lagos, Algarve – Praia do Camilo, Portugal

Praia do Camilo is small but is super beautiful and I think it is the most beautiful beach in Lagos. The sand and water quality here is unbelievable. I arrived on this beach at around 9:30 am or 10 am and it was empty.

You have to climb down around 500 steps to arrive here but trust me it is worth it. This beach is divided into two sections and there is a cave that connects them both – how fun.

There are arches and you can walk around them or stand under them for a lovely photo. When I arrived here in the morning, the water was very cold but I ended up swimming for around 30 minutes and it was a very good experience.

If you were in Lagos for 3 days or more, I would have recommended you hike from Praia do Camilo to Ponta da Piedade and then to Praia do Canavial.

Train to Faro

Train from Lagos to Faro, Algarve, Portugal
Train from Lagos to Faro, Algarve, Portugal

After spending an hour or two on Camilo Beach, get on a train from Lagos station to Faro, and from there take a taxi to the airport to fly out of Portugal. You can do this journey by bus too but the train is around 45 minutes faster than the bus.

There’s a train at 11:10 AM that reached Faro at 12:57 PM and another one at 1:23 PM that reached Faro at 3:08 PM. You don’t need to stand in the queue to purchase the train tickets, you can get them on the train directly. Hopefully, you booked an evening flight to make the most of your 4 days in Portugal trip.

Depart from Faro Airport

Faro airport is tiny and my check-in and security were done in no time. There is also a small food court here where you can eat seafood, and pastel de nata and drink your last Sagres beer before you leave Portugal to go back to your country.

What to Pack for 4 Days in Portugal

Portugal is warm but it can shockingly get cold as the sun sets. I still remember how my friend and I were freezing in peak summer in Nazare after the sunset and I ended up buying a sweatshirt there.

Yes, it is always a good idea to carry comfortable hiking shoes but is even more so in Portugal’s cities because even if you think you’re going for a short walk, the steep streets will make it hard work.

Below are the things I recommend you carry apart from your basics:

  • Comfortable sneakers or hiking shoes
  • 4 or 5 pairs of socks
  • Sandals for warm afternoons (for summer)
  • 2 pairs of pants or leggings
  • 3 basic tee shirts or tops
  • Sweatshirt or light jacket (winter and summer)
  • Thick Sweatshirt or Sweater (winter)
  • Shorts (for summer)
  • One or two dresses (for summer)
  • Sunglasses

Tip: Shopping in Portugal is so affordable and you can just buy what you need instead of stressing over packing every single thing right.

Closing Thoughts on 4 days in Portugal

Porto Cathedral views
Porto Cathedral views

4 days in a new country isn’t a long duration especially if it is your first time there. Please don’t fall for other itineraries on the internet and do day trips within your short trip.

Take things slow and explore two of the main cities of Portugal, or one city and one beach town at a relaxed pace so that it feels like vacation and not hard work.

Portugal has a lot of historical monuments but you don’t have to go inside each one of them. Some are better admired from the outside.

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What’s the Best Time to Go to Algarve Portugal? (+ Weather)

What’s the Best Time to Go to Algarve Portugal? (+ Weather)

As someone who has visited Portugal five times and the Algarve region twice, my answer is below.

The best time to go to the Algarve in Portugal is late spring and early summer, and a brief period of autumn, so from mid-May to the end of June and then again in September. To understand why, I will discuss below how the Algarve is in different seasons.

Quick Intro about the Algarve

Praia da Malhada do Baraço, Algarve, Portugal
Praia da Malhada do Baraço, Algarve, Portugal

The Algarve is a stunning coastal region in the South of Portugal with unique rock formations that create stunning hiking trails, viewpoints, caves, and hidden beaches.

Over the last few years, due to the uptick in the tourism industry post-COVID-19, the Algarve is one of the regions that has seen increased visitors. Moreover, an increased number of budget airlines all over Europe are flying to Faro, which is an airport in the Algarve so the number of travelers has definitely increased.

Spring in the Algarve (March to May)

Portugal is a warm destination but the water is extremely cold since it is the Atlantic Ocean.

MonthDaily Mean TemperatureAverage HighAverage Low
March14.8 °C (58.6 °F)9.1 °C (66.4 °F)10.5 °C (50.9 °F)
April16.1 °C (61.0 °F)20.4 °C (68.7 °F)11.8 °C (53.2 °F)
May18.4 °C (65.1 °F)22.8 °C (73.0 °F)14.0 °C (57.2 °F)
Climate Data for Faro, Agarve: Instituto Português do Mar e da Atmosfera

The months of March, April, and May are all good to visit but it won’t be possible to get into the water at all times. This is why, for me, the best time in Spring to visit the Algarve is May, preferably after the 15th of the month.

The Algarve isn’t just a beach destination, it is also a hiking destination. March and April aren’t the best months to visit the Algarve because it can rain anytime and because of this, the hiking trails tend to get slippery.

Cactus Flowers in Lagos, Algarve, Portugal
Cactus Flowers in Lagos, Algarve, Portugal

So late spring is actually the perfect time to hike because the heat won’t slow you down, the trails won’t be as wet as early spring, and you will see loads of flowers everywhere. I did too when I did the Ponta da Piedade hike in Lagos.

So if you want to visit the Algarve in spring, make it as late as possible and plan towards the second half of May. Be prepared for a random rainy day here and there and keep an eye on the weather map before you go hiking.

Summer in the Algarve (June to mid-September)

The stunning and empty Praia do Camilo in Lagos, Portugal
The stunning and empty Praia do Camilo in Lagos, Portugal – June 2022

The Algarve is a perfect early summer destination because you can enjoy the beaches and swim in the cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

MonthDaily Mean TemperatureAverage HighAverage low
June21.9 °C (71.4 °F)26.4 °C (79.5 °F)17.3 °C (63.1 °F)
July24.2 °C (75.6 °F)29.2 °C (84.6 °F)19.1 °C (66.4 °F)
August24.1 °C (75.4 °F)28.8 °C (83.8 °F)19.4 °C (66.9 °F)
September22.3 °C (72.1 °F)26.6 °C (79.9 °F)18.0 °C (64.4 °F)
Climate Data for Faro, Agarve: Instituto Português do Mar e da Atmosfera

If you see the above temperature chart, that the Algarve really has the perfect summer vacation weather throughout the entire summer.

The only reason why I say that it is better to visit the Algarve in early summer, that is June – is because that’s not the busiest holiday time in Europe. Moreover, that’s the month when you get to enjoy the warm weather but it isn’t too hot as well.

"A Boneca", Algar Seco Caves, Carvoeiro
“A Boneca”, Algar Seco Caves, Carvoeiro

It is worth noting that the above temperatures are the averages but not the “record high” temperatures and they have been known to cross 40°C in July / August on some occasions.

Also in the month of June, you can see some amazing cactus flowers if you go on the hiking trails. I did too! However, if you go in late summer, sometimes also late June then the excess heat will slow you down on the hikes. This is how I felt when I did the Seven Hanging Valleys Hike.

Inside Benagil Cave - June 2023
Inside Benagil Cave – June 2023

July and August are the months when there are school holidays so the prices skyrocket and the beaches get crowded like crazy. But hey, the beaches in Portugal still don’t get as crowded as the ones in Italy!

Moreover, if you want to visit “smaller” beaches that are now on Instagram such as the Benagil Cave, you should consider early summer to avoid the crowds.

Although not as busy as July and August, September is still a busy month because those who weren’t able to go for a vacation in the peak month do it in September. This is actually the trend that I have seen while living in Europe.

Autumn in the Algarve (Mid September to November)

Lagos Old Town, Portugal
Lagos Old Town, Portugal

Early autumn is a decent time to visit the Algarve because it isn’t as crowded, and it isn’t as hot as summer so hiking is fun but be aware that it can rain suddenly, in October and November which makes hiking a bit dangerous.

Unless I am visiting family, I’d prefer not to visit the Algarve in the late autumn months. The only beach destination in Portugal that you should visit in Autumn is Nazare. It is known for its massive waves and they are even bigger in colder months.

MonthDaily Mean TemperatureAverage HighAverage LowAverage precipitation days
September22.3 °C (72.1 °F)26.6 °C (79.9 °F)18.0 °C (64.4 °F)4
October19.3 °C (66.7 °F)23.2 °C (73.8 °F)15.3 °C (59.5 °F)9
November15.7 °C (60.3 °F)19.6 °C (67.3 °F)11.7 °C (53.1 °F)10
Climate Data for Faro, Agarve: Instituto Português do Mar e da Atmosfera

I do see that some travel guides mention visiting the Algarve in autumn. The thing is, I think it maybe didn’t rain when they visited but autumn and winter months see the most rain in the Algarve and you are better off visiting some of the other destinations in Portugal.

Winter in the Algarve (December to February)

Winter in the Algarve is not the best time to visit because you can’t enjoy the beaches unless you have a lucky day with the weather. It rains a lot in winter months in the Algarve so hiking can also be dangerous.

The only beach destination that you can visit in winter in Portugal is Nazare. But you can still not go in the water but just enjoy the spectacle of the world’s biggest waves that have ever been surfed.

If you have to spend winter in Portugal then pick places like Lisbon, Porto, or Coimbra.

MonthDaily Mean TemperatureAverage HighAverage LowAverage precipitation days
December13.3 °C
(55.9 °F)
17.0 °C
(62.6 °F)
9.6 °C
(49.3 °F)
13
January 12.0 °C
(53.6 °F)
16.1 °C
(61.0 °F)
7.9 °C
(46.2 °F)
11
February 12.8 °C
(55.0 °F)
16.9 °C
(62.4 °F)
8.7 °C
(47.7 °F)
12
Climate Data for Faro, Agarve: Instituto Português do Mar e da Atmosfera

If you are looking for a beach destination in winter then a better option would be to go to Asia (Thailand / Goa / Sri Lanka) because it would be spring-like weather of the Algarve there when it is winter in Europe.

Closing Thoughts: Best Time to Go to Algarve Portugal

So to conclude, the end of May, the entire month of June, and September are the best months to visit the Algarve. Honestly, even the peak months are decent as long as you don’t mind the heat when you are hiking and you don’t mind the crowds.

Is Coimbra Worth Visiting? Thoughts on Portugal’s Historic City

Is Coimbra Worth Visiting? Thoughts on Portugal’s Historic City

Coimbra is a historical city and former capital of Portugal situated on hilly terrain in the center of the country. Unlike Lisbon, Porto, and Faro, Coimbra is one of the city destinations within Portugal that’s not on the coast.

If you look at the map of Portugal, you will notice that Coimbra is in the middle of Porto and Lisbon. One-hour train from Porto and a 1.5-hour train from Lisbon, so it makes sense to consider this city in your Portugal itinerary.

Coimbra is Portugal's Historical City
Igreja de Santa Justa in Baixa, Coimbra – Portugal’s Historical City

I had the chance to visit Coimbra twice – in 2019 and then again in 2022 because I have a family member who lives here. I have realized that Coimbra has recently come up as a travel destination so I have decided to write this post for those who aren’t sure if Coimbra is worth visiting or not.

Planning a last-minute trip to Coimbra and not sure what to book? Don’t worry, I have your back. Here’s a quick list of things that you need to pre-book before visiting Coimbra:

Here are some suggested places to stay in Coimbra:

  • Casas da Alegria: This mid-range hotel is next to the river and is very close to the University of Coimbra in the old town.
  • Ibis Coimbra Centro: This budget hotel is also next to the river and is near the Coimbra University in the old town.
  • Riversuites: This budget hotel is on the other side of the Mondego River as compared to the top two and it is next to the oldest bridge of Coimbra – Ponte de Santa Clara.

University of Coimbra & Joanina Library

Torre da Universidade, the Tower inside Coimbra University
Torre da Universidade, the Tower inside Coimbra University via Pixabay

Imagine a university building that is so stunning and historical that it becomes a tourist attraction. Yes, that’s what the Unversity of Coimbra is all about, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Not only is the University of Coimbra one of the oldest universities in the world, but is also the oldest academic institution for the Portuguese-speaking population. It was earlier in Lisbon but moved to Coimbra in 1308 and to Coimbra Royal Palace in 1537.

Coimbra University is located on top of a Sé Nova, which is also called the “University Hill”. Because of this, the view from the University terrace is absolutely stunning. You will see the old houses and buildings of Coimbra and the curve of Rio Mondego.

Yes, you have to go to the top of the hill in order to visit the University. You can take the bus to go up the hill instead of climbing up. Save your energy for exploring the University itself. The University has its own historical square – Paço das Escolas with a baroque bell tower – Torre da Universidade.

Coimbra University Library - Biblioteca Joanina
Inside Coimbra University Library – Biblioteca Joanina CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 via Flickr

The most striking feature of the historical Coimbra University is its baroque library which was built in the 18th Century. It is called Biblioteca Joanina.

I don’t know why Porto’s tiny Livraria Lello gets so much attention while not many people talk about Coimbra’s Joanina Library. This will actually make you feel like you have entered the world of Harry Potter in Gryffindor Common Room.

Note: In case you decide to visit the University of Coimbra, it is good to know that the Biblioteca Joanina closes at 7 p.m. You can not touch any of the books because they are preserved, and you are allowed in only for a limited duration of usually 10 minutes.

Mondego River & Old Bridges

Rio Mondego, Coimbra, Portugal
Rio Mondego, Coimbra, Portugal via Unsplash

Most of the iconic historical cities in the world are situated along the water. Coimbra is too.

Coimbra is located along the Mondego River, which is one of the three major rivers of Portugal, and the largest river that’s just within the Portuguese border.

Mondego River starts at Serra da Estrela mountains and ends at Figueira da Foz, a beach destination in Portugal that I visited but haven’t yet written about.

The historical bridge Ponte de Santa Clara goes over Rio Mondego and is one of the bridges on which you can walk. It is the oldest bridge in Coimbra. Right after the bridge and situated on the banks of the Mondego River is Parque da Cidade Manuel Braga, where you can put a mat, sit, and look at the beauty of the river.

A few more notable bridges on the Mondego River are Ponte Rainha Santa Isabel and Ponte Pedonal Pedro e Inês. The latter is named after Inês de Castro, the wife of King Pedro I of Portugal.

Guess what, you can go kayaking on the Mondego River for some adventure, swim in the water, and stop at some pretty river beaches. Check the tour below.

To enjoy the beauty of Rio Mondego, walk from the University Hill to the Mondego River. There are a lot of grassy spaces along the Mondego River that you can explore on a walk.

Walk along “Ecovia do Mondego” and you will see a viewpoint of downtown Coimbra just before the Pte. de Santa Clara bridge.

If you have a rental car, then you can drive for 45 minutes to Acude-Ponte dam on the Mondego River and enjoy the beauty.

Baixa & Cidade Alta – Medieval Downtown

The Narrow Streets of Coimbra Old Town
The Narrow Streets of Coimbra Old Town

During the Middle Ages, Coimbra was divided into two sections – the Upper City and the Lower City. Today you can discover both of them one after the other and they form Coimbra’s historic center.

Cidade Baixa, a.k.a. Arrabalde is Coimbra’s lower town where the merchants, laborers, and artisans lived in the Middle Ages. In recent times it has turned into a lively neighborhood with old buildings and interesting cafes.

Coimbra’s medieval downtown will fulfill your European “old city” wanderlust. Yes, there are a lot of old streets but the real adventure would be getting lost in the labyrinth of the alleys.

Santa Cruz Church in Coimbra
Santa Cruz Church in Coimbra

In order to see the old town in Coimbra, head to the Baixa neighborhood. Sit at one of the cafes or bakeries and eat Queijadas de Tentúgal, the famous cheesecake of Coimbra.

Some notable buildings and landmarks in Coimbra’s Baixa and the nearby Almedina are:

  • Santa Cruz Church: Igreja de Santa Cruz is a Catholic church that contains Mosteiro da Santa Cruz, and a mausoleum that has the remains of Portugal’s first king – Afonso Henriques.
  • Cemitério da Conchada: This is a historical cemetery with interesting architectural elements. Please respect the peace of this place and don’t overstay but instead go to the viewpoint that’s here – Miradouro da Conchada.
  • Mercado D. Pedro V in Baixa: If you want to explore the culture of Coimbra, then see this market which is only on the 7th and 23rd of every month and is a big open-air market.
  • Cidade Alta or Almedina: this is where the aristocracy and clergy resided.
  • Sé Velha: It looks like a fortress but Sé Velha is a Romanesque cathedral in Almedina.
  • Cathedral of the Holy Name of Jesus: This is Coimbra’s new cathedral and is currently the bishopric co-seat of the city.

Almedina area of Coimbra is beyond the Cathedral of Santa Cruz and has old buildings but is also an urbanized area. The University Hill is a part of it.

Ruins of Aeminium at Machado de Castro Museum

Did you know that Coimbra was once the ancient city of Aeminium? The ruins are still there and you can see them, most importantly the Cryptoporticus.

Cryptoporticus of Aeminium is an underground gallery of arched passages and corridors that was built in the 1st or 2nd century AD. It can be visited via the Machado de Castro Museum as it is located under it.

The Machado de Castro National Museum was earlier the Bishop’s Palace was built in the Middle Ages. Inside this museum, you can see a collection of items that were church pieces such as paintings and sculptures.

Ruins of Mosteiro de Santa Clara-a-Velha

Ruins of the Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Velha
Ruins of the Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Velha via Unsplash

If you have a thing for looking at ruins and abandoned buildings, then you will enjoy this place. I like photographing abandoned places because these photos usually speak volumes.

The Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Velha (Old St. Clare) is a 14th-century monastery that was abandoned in the 17th century because of the recurring floods. Its ruins still remain here and were excavated 300 years after it was abandoned in the 20th century.

Coimbra has its own Fado Genre

Fado Guitar Coimbra
Fado Guitar Coimbra via Pixabay

I have talked about Faro music a lot already in my Lisbon post. Guess what, two major Fado styles are popular – Fado from Lisbon and Fado from Coimbra.

Fado de Coimbra, sometimes also called Student Fado (Fado de Estudante) is a unique and highly stylized sub-genre of Fado that originated from Coimbra. It is performed on a special guitar that originated in Coimbra itself – Guitarra de Coimbra.

If you are interested in a live Fado show with port wine, then I have found a place that you can book for EUR 14 per person.

If you decide to visit Coimbra, you can go to Fado ao Centro to enjoy live Fado music shows. The most famous musicians of Fado de Coimbra are Artur Paredes and his son Carlos Paredes, but in today’s date, there are a lot of contemporary influences.

Fun fact: If you are enjoying Fado in Coimbra, then you need to cough to applaud instead of clapping your hands.

Coimbra’s Botanical Gardens are Historical

Jardim Botânico da Universidade de Coimbra
Jardim Botânico da Universidade de Coimbra via unsplash

Jardim Botânico da Universidade de Coimbra are must-visit Botanical Gardens of Coimbra that date back to the 1700s with fountains, flower beds, and greenhouses.

The center of this Botanical Garden is Quadrado Central and is a square. It has a historical fountain, Fontanário with a pond.

Inside the Coimbra University Botanical Gardens
Inside the Coimbra University Botanical Gardens via Unsplash

The Cidade Alta ends right before Jardim Botânico da Universidade de Coimbra. Aqueduto de São Sebastião is a historical aqueduct adjacent to the Botanical Gardens. There are openings in the walls at Aqueduto de São Sebastião from where you can peek at the Botanical Gardens.

Children Will Love Portugal dos Pequenitos

The miniature houses of Portugal dos Pequenitos theme park in Coimbra
The miniature houses of Portugal dos Pequenitos theme park in Coimbra CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 DEED Flickr

Portugal dos Pequenitos means “Portugal for the little ones” and is a perfect place to take your children. It is on the other side of the Mondego River as compared to most of the attractions on this page.

Portugal dos Pequenitos is a theme park with miniature figures of Portuguese monuments and houses. There’s a section where children can actually climb these miniature structures and play. There is also a Barbie exhibition that’s situated inside Portugal dos Pequenitos

Not just the children but grown will also enjoy Portugal dos Pequenitos and it is a good place to learn about the history.

Near the Portugal dos Pequenitos is also the Monastery of Santa Clara, which you can visit after or before this unique theme park.

Coimbra isn’t Crowded

Igreja de S. Bartolomeu and empty streets of Coimbra
Igreja de S. Bartolomeu and the empty streets of Coimbra

If you are looking for offbeat things to do in Portugal, then Coimbra should be on your list because many travelers skip it completely. Travelers usually visit the Porto, Nazare, Lisbon, or the Algarve but Coimbra gets overlooked, which is actually a good thing.

This is especially true during the summer months. If you visit Lisbon in the peak travel months of July and August, you will see queues of travelers for just about everything and it will end up being a bit stressful instead of feeling like a holiday.

Perfect Base for Nearby Destinations

The entry point of Sítio, or upper Nazare, Portugal
The entry point of Sítio, or upper Nazare, Portugal

Due to its central location, Coimbra is an excellent base for visiting the nearby destinations on a day trip. For instance, you can easily make a day trip to Conimbriga from Coimbra. Conimbriga is just 15 kilometers away and has the largest Roman ruins in Portugal.

As mentioned before, the destination that I visited after Coimbra after my first visit here was Figueira da Foz, which is 40 kilometers away. It is a beach destination that’s popular among the locals. Since it is just 40 kilometers away, it makes sense to do a day trip there because the overnight stay in Coimbra is cheaper in summer than in Figueira da Foz.

Another destination that I visited from Coimbra was Nazare but it was more than a day trip. Nazare is a beach destination that’s famous for its massive waves. Surfers visit Nazare from all over the world to ride the waves in the winter months.

How to Reach Coimbra?

I arrived in Coimbra on a local train from Valado station near Nazare and I left on a bus from here to Porto. Both the journeys were short and easy.

No matter where you are in Portugal, it is easy to find trains and buses to Coimbra because it is centrally located.

It is important to know that Coimbra has two train stations:

  • Coimbra-A – this station serves local trains and it is in Coimbra’s city center.
  • Coimbra-B – this is for high-speed trains. So if you get on a train from Lisbon or Porto or even Faro, then you will get off at “Coimbra-B” train station to arrive here.

Coimbra-B train station is where I arrived and it was easy from here to walk to the main city. The Flixbus stop in Coimbra is also close to the Coimbra-B train station.

So is Coimbra Worth Visiting?

Is Coimbra Worth Visiting, Portugal
Is Coimbra Worth Visiting, Portugal

It depends on what you are looking for. If you are visiting Portugal on a tight schedule and would like to visit the more famous destinations like Lisbon, the Algarve, or Porto, then skip Coimbra by all means.

Moreover, compared to the more famous cities like Porto or Lisbon, Coimbra can be a bit boring for some people but others may just fall in love with it. Personally, I’d not stay here for more than 2 days.

If you are visiting Portugal during peak travel time, i.e., the summer months, then it makes sense to consider including Coimbra in your Portugal itinerary.

Moreover, if you are visiting Portugal in winter, then you will not visit the beaches of the Algarve. That time is also perfect to spend a few days of your holiday in Coimbra and admire the labyrinth of narrow streets, university towns, botanic gardens, the riverside, and old churches of Portugal.

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