How did you like Portugal? – a friend asked me.
I got home and the next evening, I already booked another flight back. Does that answer your question? – I responded.
Portugal quickly and easily became one of my favorite destinations.
Maybe because of the too much wine or the fun that I had, or it might have been just the laid back atmosphere, delicious food, and the friendly locals.
And, of course, my first surfed wave.
One thing is for sure though, the memories of all the experiences I had in Portugal will last a lifetime & I’ll be definitely back.
Here are some of the best things to do in Portugal:
Things to do in Portugal: Surfing
Portugal has some of the best waves in all of Europe and is perhaps the best surfing destination on the old continent. That being said, you should definitely not miss surfing here as it’s one of the best things to do in Portugal.
Whether you’re a surfer, or you’re about to try for the first time, Portugal has first-class waves for all levels, all year round.
Some of the best surfing spots in Portugal include Ericeira, Peniche, Nazare, Matosinhos, Baleal, and Cascais to name a few.
Matadouro beach, Ericeira
The first time when I went to Portugal, I wanted to spare several days to get a few surf lessons. The second time when I was back, I spend 2 weeks improving my surfing skills in my favorite Ericeira. In 2011, Ericeira was declared a World Surfing Reserve. It was the second place to be distinguished worldwide and Europe’s first and so far only one.
Ericeira is a great surfing destination for everyone – beginners, intermediate surfers & pros.
While for beginners the best time to learn how to surf in Portugal is between May and September, for experienced surfers the best season is the winter, between September and April. Winter is well-known for its powerful swells, which produce big and difficult to surf waves.
The world record for the largest wave surfed was set in Nazare in 2017 by Rodrigo Koxa – 24.38 m (80ft). You can see a video from that day here.
Things to do in Portugal: Exploring the Algarve region (on a bicycle)
Do you know that Portugal has 125 miles of coastline and that the Algarve region is sunny 300 days per year? The Algarve is the southern coastline of Portugal.
What I liked the most about the Algarve region is that you can find deserted beaches everywhere. Plus, the small and charming villages.
There are many resort towns in the Algarve, I choose Lagos as a base (which is probably the biggest and the most popular one).
Lagos has stunning beaches and on a day trip, you can visit numerous beautiful and natural sites.
Of all the beaches in Lagos, my favorite ones were the randomly found ones. With this in mind, my best recommendation for you is to discover the beaches where the crowds are not heading to. My friend and I found an awesome nudist beach just by climbing down some rocks.
Ponta da Piedade, Lagos
My personal favorite locations in Lagos:
- Praia Dona Ana – Beautiful beach. When you get down to the beach facing the ocean, you’ll see a rock on your right side. Climb it and jump on the other side of it to discover a small hidden beach. You won’t regret it, trust me.
- The nudist beach – Don’t worry, you don’t need to be naked if you don’t want to. We shared the beach with a few other people and there were only two nudists, everyone else was in a swimsuit. This beach is my favorite one. As briefly described above, we had to climb up and down some rocks, but it was totally worth it. Such a pretty and relaxed beach. We found it coming back from Ponta da Piedade. Coming back from there, you should see a sign on the right side of the road, pointing at the direction that you need to head to get down at the nudist beach.
- Ponta da Piedade – Probably the most spectacular panoramic view in Lagos. If you’re looking for the best Instagrammable spot in Lagos, this is it. Make sure to bring some beer or wine and find a spot to enjoy the view for as long as you wish to.
1 & 3 – Ponta da Piedade; 2 – Praia Dona Ana
Algarve by bycicle
This was the highlight of our trip to Lagos and one of the best things we did in Portugal. My friend and I rented bicycles from this shop in Lagos and cycled all the way to Benagil. About 90 km and 7+ hours of cycling in total. It was an amazing experience and a day well spent.
On the way to Benagil, we were cycling along the coastline and then through small and cute Portuguese villages. On the way back, we took another route and even caught the sunset. At the end of the day we were exhausted, but I would do it again anytime!
Exploring the Algarve region by bicycle is, in my opinion, one of the best things to do in Portugal and comes with my highest recommendations.
Things to do in Portugal: Visiting Cabo da Roca
Cabo da Roca is the westernmost extent of mainland Europe. Once upon a time, before the great geographical discoveries, people used to believe that this is the end of the world.
This is one of my favorite places in Portugal, because of the stunning scenery.
You can explore Cabo da Roca on foot or by bicycle. I would suggest you spare more time for your visit to the ”end of the world”. Seriously, you would like to spend some time just sitting and appreciating the beauty of mother nature.
Being only 40 km away makes Cabo da Roca one of the best day trips from Lisbon by train.
Things to do in Portugal: Fest on the food
One of the best things to do in Portugal is, without any doubt, tasting the local cuisine. Porto and Northern Portugal, in general, is said to be Portugal’s food capital. Eating my way around Porto was a great experience and one of the best things I did in the city.
Portuguese cuisine is well-known for seafood (and wine). It has a great influence from its formal colonies and many ingredients, fruits and vegetables have been brought to the country from those places.
Meat is very common for Portuguese cuisine, especially pork and beef. Olive oil is used for cooking and flavoring and goes hand in hand with almost every dish. Garlic is widely used. Surprisingly, cinnamon too.
Here are a few dishes that you should absolutely try when visiting Portugal:
- Seafood – all the seafood! Try as much as you can. If you’re a seafood lover, your belly will be very happy in Portugal – seafood dishes are fresh and mouth-watering.
- Sardines – the grilled sardines are a summer favorite. A very typical and authentic Portuguese dish.
- Francesinha – originally from Porto, the Francesinha is a sandwich made from bread filled with three kinds of meat – ham, sausage, and steak, covered with melted cheese and a thick tomato & beer sauce. It’s often being served with a fried egg on the top and french fries.
- Bifanas – in two words, the bifana is a simple steak sandwich. It’s made from a bread roll filled with strips of pork (seasoned with garlic, spices, and white wine). So basic, but so good!
- Pastel de Nata – to be completely honest, I’m not the biggest Pastel de Nata fan, but this is Portugal’s most famous dessert, so of course, I needed to include it in this shortlist of foods to try while in Portugal. You can find this pastry EVERYWHERE in Portugal, but the best place to have it is said to be Pasteis de Belem in Lisbon.
- Codfish cakes – deep-fried dumpling looking cakes made with codfish and potatoes. Not the most healthy meal in the world, but super delicious!
- Sushi – I couldn’t miss to include the sushi in this list. Portugal, in my opinion, is Heaven, when it comes down to all you can eat sushi places. It’s cheap and the sushi itself actually very delicious.
Things to do in Portugal: Explore Lisbon
Lisbon, you’re so pretty!
The Portuguese capital, Lisbon, is multicultural, vibrant & beautiful. There are many things to do in Lisbon for culture fans, food lovers, party animals, and everyone in between. Make sure that when you visit Lisbon, you have at least 2-3 full days to explore the city.
Often called ”the city of seven hills”, Lisbon is actually situated on eight hills – including Graca, the tallest of them all. Those hills are offering numerous viewpoints over the city. They are called miradouros and whether you have one day or one week in Lisbon, you should definitely enjoy as many as possible. This is a very comprehensive list of all panoramic views of Lisbon.
Miradouro de Santa Luzia
Things to do in Lisbon:
- Miradouros – as already mentioned above. Some of my favorite miradouros are Miradouro de Santa Luzia & Miradouro da Graca. If you ever see a miradouro sign in Lisbon, or anywhere else in Portugal, follow it.
- LX Factory – one of the city’s coolest and trendiest spots full of restaurants, bars, shops & street art.
- Village Underground – a creative incubator and a coworking space. There is a coffee shop/restaurant, cool street art, skate ramp, and old buses turned into cafes and meeting rooms. Village Underground is cooler than LX Factory, in my opinion.
- Santa Justa lift – world’s oldest, functioning elevator.
- Feira da ladra (flea market) – every Tuesday and Saturday, you can find everything from hand-made goods to clothes, antiques, furniture, and more.
- Alfama – Lisbon’s oldest neighborhood is a beautiful maze of narrow cobbled streets and ancient houses, which take you to the Castelo de Sao Jorge.
- Bairro Alto – where the party is. Full of bars and clubs, Bairro Alto is the place to be after the sun sets down.
- Street art – there is lots of beautiful street art in Lisbon. There are street art tours taking you to see some of the highlights, but even if you don’t join one, you can be sure that you’ll discover some beautiful examples at almost every corner.
- Sao Jorge Castle – Lisbon’s biggest attraction. The historic castle dates back to the 8th century BC and since it’s located on a hill, it offers beautiful views of the city, too.
- Belem Tower – built on the northern bank of the Tagus river to guard the entrance to Lisbon’s harbor, the Belem Tower is one of Portugal’s most famous landmarks that is totally worth the visit.
1, 2 & 5 – Alfama district; 3 – LX Factory; 4 – Belem Tower; 6 – Village Underground
And if you’re heading from the Portuguese capital to the second biggest city in the country, check out this article on how to get from Lisbon to Porto.
Things to do in Portugal: Explore Porto
Porto is Portugal’s second-biggest city. It’s rich in history and has a buzzing nightlife. The low-cost flights across the continent make Porto a great European weekend getaway destination. You can easily fly there from Berlin, Bologna, or Budapest, for instance.
When I visited Porto it was sadly raining the first two days. And although we were still exploring the city and the surroundings, I’m sure we could have seen more if the weather was on our side. We had only two sunny days out of four in total, so make sure you know what you put in your backpack/suitcase when packing for Porto.
The view from Vila Nova de Gaia to Ribeira
Things to do in Porto:
- The Ribeira district – located on the riverbank of the Douro, Ribeira is Porto’s oldest and most popular district. This area of the city is very picturesque and full of life.
- Dom Luis I bridge – the bridge is linking the Port wine houses of Vila Nova de Gaia with the lively Ribeira district. Make sure to cross the bridge to Vila Nova de Gaia and enjoy the views of the colorfully decorated facades of Ribeira.
- Sao Bento railway station – named one of the world’s most beautiful train station, the Sao Bento railway station is famous for the azulejos, the beautiful Portuguese tiles.
- Go on a food tour – As mentioned above, Porto is Portugal’s food capital. One of the best things to do in the city is to try the local cuisine and to make sure that you’ll try the best food in Porto, I suggest you join a food tour. I joined Secret Food Tours for an awesome food tour experience.
- Go to the beach – Porto’s beach is a 20-minute bus ride away. You can surf there, sunbathe, or just walk along the coastline.
- Drink Port wine!!
- AlmaAtPorto – a vintage shop and a bar, a very cool place. We randomly found it passing by on one of the rainy days that we spend in Porto. You can find the location on this link.
- Day trip to the Douro Valley
2 – Garden Park of Virtues; 3 – Dom Luis I bridge; 5 & 6 – Ribeira
Things to do in Portugal: Wine tasting
I have a confession to make.
I drank a lot of wine in Portugal.
I love wine.
Globally known, Port wine is one of the most important heritages in Northern Portugal, and it’s only produced in the Douro Valley. There are many wine tasting tours being offered and you need to make sure you go on one as drinking Port wine in Portugal is a must-have experience for wine lover travelers.
I went on two wine tastings while in Portugal. Once in the Douro Valley and once in Porto city (but I was practicing Portuguese wine tasting across the whole country).
One of my absolute favorite things to do in Portugal is finding a great spot to enjoy the Portuguese wine in a good company. Preferably on the beach, at sunset.
Things to do in Portugal: Day trip to the Douro Valley
Day trip from Porto to the Douro Valley is a must for everyone visiting the second biggest Portuguese city. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is the world’s oldest wine region dating back to 2 000 years ago.
The Douro river is 897 km long and is the third-longest river in the Iberian Peninsula. It flows from its source in Central Spain and ends in Porto.
The terraced vineyards climbing up the hills on each side of the river are an incredible view. This natural beauty is a must-see and definitely should be on everyone’s list of things to do in Portugal.
Things to do in Portugal: Exploring the fairy Sintra
Sintra is one of the most popular tourist spots in all of Portugal. Best known for the Pena Palace, Sintra has a lot more to offer. Personally, I decided to skip the famous Pena Palace.
My favorite spots in Sintra were Parque da Liberdade & Quinta da Regaleria.
Parque da Liberdade, which translates to Freedom Park is a city park that we randomly stumbled upon while wandering around Sintra. Here, you can find over 60 different tree species. It’s very pretty and green.
There is also a sports park within the Parque de Liberdade. Once upon a time, there was a tennis court. Nowadays, it’s used by skaters. The stone benches looking at the court remind of a Roman theater.
After the Pena Palace, the second most visited and known site in Sintra must be Quinta da Regaleria. The decorative 20th-century residence is classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
There is a lot to see here. A grand house in gothic style, towers offering nice views of the surroundings, underground passageways, a small waterfall, the Initiation Well, and lots of greenery.
What else I liked doing in Sintra was walking aimlessly around the town, which is very, very pretty.
So, those were, in my experience, the best things to do in Portugal! I am already looking forward to being back and discovering more of this beautiful country. Have you been to Portugal? What did you liked the most and is there anything that you would add to this list? Let me know in the comments section below!
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