Portugal at a glance: Portugal is located in southwestern Europe, on the Iberian Peninsula, and bordered by Spain to the north and east, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west and south. The Portuguese coastline is just over 1,000 miles long. The country has a temperate climate, with average temperatures ranging from 50°F in the winter to 86°F in the summer.
Portugal is a popular tourist destination for its beautiful beaches, interesting history, and tasty food.
- Lisbon: The capital city full of charming cobbled stone streets, iconic yellow trams, and various cultures
- Porto: The second-largest city known for its port wine and river cruises on the Duoro River
- Faro: The gateway to the Algarve, Portugal’s southernmost region known for its beaches and golf courses
- The Algarve: The southernmost region of Portugal, known for its beaches, golf courses, and resorts
- The Alentejo: A region in southern Portugal known for its rolling hills, medieval castles, and white-washed villages
- The Azores: A group of nine islands located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, known for their volcanic landscapes and crater lakes
- Madeira: An island off the coast of Africa, known for its Madeira wine and levadas (paths)
Currency in Portugal: The Euro
Tipping in Portugal: Tipping is not common in Portugal, although you may round up the bill for taxi fares and at restaurants. If you are exceptionally pleased with the service, you can tip, but a large tip is not expected.
Language in Portugal: Portuguese is the official language, but English is also widely spoken.
Helpful Portuguese Phrases:
- Olá (hello)
- Tchau (goodbye)
- Dança (please)
- Obrigado/a (thank you)
- Desculpe (sorry)
- Não falo Português (I don’t speak Portuguese)
- Eu quero… (I would like…)
- Quanto custa? (How much does it cost?)
- Vá para… (Go to…)
- Sim (Yes)
- Nao (No)
- Bom dia (Good morning)
- Boa noite (Good evening)
Religion and Culture: The predominant religion in Portugal is Roman Catholic although only about 19% regularly attend mass. With its long history, the culture in Portugal is a mix of many influences including Moorish, Celtic, Germanic, and French. The combination of these cultures is evident in the food, art, architecture, and music of Portugal.
The Best Time to Visit Portugal
When to go: The best time to visit Portugal is from April to June, or September to October when the weather is mild and there are fewer tourists.
When to Avoid Going to Portugal: Avoid going to Portugal in the summer (July and August) when it is hot and crowded, or in the winter (November to March) when it can be cold and rainy.
The climate in Portugal is temperate, with average temperatures ranging from 50°F in the winter to 86°F in the summer. The country has a mostly Mediterranean climate, with some Atlantic and subtropical influences. The Algarve region in the south is the warmest and driest area, while the north is cooler and wetter.
Transportation in Portugal
Metro and Bus: Portugal has an excellent public transportation system, and getting around by bus or metro is relatively easy and inexpensive. You can also order an Uber or hail a taxi at an affordable cost.
Uber and Taxi: If you would like more flexibility when traveling in Portugal, you have the option to rent a car, but keep in mind that most cars are manual and there are narrow streets with many hills.
Trains: To get around Portugal as a whole, the train system is easy to navigate and cost-effective. The Alfa Pendular is Portugal’s comfortable high-speed train or you can also take the Intercidades train, which will be a little slower and cheaper than the fast train.
Tourist cards: If you are planning to travel around Portugal and use public transportation, you may want to purchase a tourist card. The card gives you unlimited travel on public transportation in Lisbon and Porto for 1, 2, or 3 days.
What to Eat in Portugal
These are a few popular dishes you’ll be able to find when traveling in Portugal (they’re also some of my favorites!)
- Bifana: Pork sandwich, best eaten with mustard – Loved it at Casa do Alentejo in Lisbon
- Prego: Steak sandwich – Loved it at Pao Pao Quijo Quijo in Belem and Time Out Market in Lisbon
- Bacalhau a Brash: Cod dish mixed with potatoes and eggs on a salad – Loved it at Tasquinha Canto do Fado
- Samosas: meat-filled, fried dumpling with African flavors – Loved it at Cantinho do Aziz in Lisbon
- Octopus – Loved it at Tascantiga in Sintra
- Francesinha: a sandwich filled with cured sausage, fresh sausage, and steak, covered in melted cheese with an egg on top, then drizzled with a beer-tomato sauce. Best eaten with fries. – Loved it at Cafe Santiago in Porto
- Pernil: Roasted pork sandwich, can add cheese and jam on top (delish!) – Loved it at Casa Guedes in Porto
- Cachorrihno: Portuguese hot dog, usually served with chili oil. – Loved it at Cervejaria Gazela in Porto
- Pasteis de Nata: custardy egg tart made with sugar and egg yolks – Loved it at Castro in Porto, Fabrica in Lisbon, and Pasteis de Belem in Belem
- Tibias: Portuguese pastry with your choice of filling shaped like the tibia bone – Loved it at Tibias a Braga in Braga
- Gelato: ice cream or sorbet – Loved it at Santini’s in Cascais
What to Pack for Portugal
Comfortable Shoes: Be sure to pack comfortable walking shoes, as you’ll want to explore Portugal’s many charming streets and neighborhoods.
Water Bottle: Portugal can be quite hot in the summer, so be sure to pack a water bottle to stay hydrated. You’ll also want water in general after hiking some of the hilly cobbled stone streets.
Day pack or fanny pack: A day pack or fanny pack is always handy when traveling, as you can use it to store your water bottle, sunscreen, map, and other essentials. If you are taking a day trip, you’ll want a small backpack to travel with so you have everything you need on your short trip.
Battery Pack: Portugal is a beautiful country with many photo-worthy sights which means you’ll be using your phone a lot. To make sure your phone doesn’t run out of battery, pack a portable battery so you’ll always be charged!
Top things to Do in Portugal
There are many things to see and do in Portugal, so it can be hard to narrow it down! But here are some of the most popular attractions and activities in Portugal:
1. Sightseeing in Lisbon – There is much to see and do in Lisbon, from the iconic Belem Tower to the winding streets of the Alfama district. Take a ride on one of the city’s historic trams, or take a day trip to one of the nearby beaches.
2. Visit Sintra – Just outside of Lisbon is the town of Sintra, known for its fairytale castles and lush gardens. Be sure to visit the Palace of Pena and the Quinta da Regaleira.
3. Porto – Portugal’s second-largest city, Porto is known for its port wine and medieval architecture. You’ll want to visit the Ribeira district, which is UNESCO-listed, and take a cruise down the Douro River.
4. The Algarve – The Algarve region is known for its beautiful beaches, and there are many great towns to explore, such as Albufeira and Lagos.
5. Madeira – The island of Madeira is a popular tourist destination, known for its dramatic landscapes, lush gardens, and stunning views. When on Madeira, visit the capital city of Funchal and take a cable car ride to the top of Monte.