Best Things to Do in Portugal

What to Do on Your Portuguese Vacation

Algarve Portugal
••• Praia da Dona Ana, sandy beach near the resort of Lagos, Algarve, Portugal. Neale Clark / robertharding/Getty Images

Despite sharing the Iberian peninsula with one of the world's most visited countries, Portugal's lures are not widely known internationally.

But whether you're looking for major cities full of rich culture, beautiful beaches for swimming, sunbathing or surfing, picturesque landscapes or top quality cuisine, you'll find it in Portugal.

  • 01 of 08

    Taste Portugal's Port Wine

    Wine cellar in Porto
    ••• Vuk8691/Getty Images

    Port wine, usually just referred to as port, is undoubtedly Portugal's most famous export. But you haven't really drunk port until you've tried its myriad forms in Portugal.

    Visit Porto and tour the producers' cellars, where you will learn about how port is made and sample some of the most famous port varieties, or visit the Douro valley where the grapes are grown.

    Another great place to try port is at Lisbon's Solar da Vinho da Porto tasting room.

  • 02 of 08

    Listen to Some Fado (Portuguese Folk Music)

    Fado performance in Lisbon
    ••• Greg Elms/Getty Images

    Fado is Portugal's homegrown folk music. There are two main types, the mournful Lisbon style, and the more upbeat Coimbra style, named after the cities they were developed in. Try and see them both! You can book your own spot at many bars around town.​

  • 03 of 08
    Praca do Comercio in Lisbon
    ••• Praca do Comercio in Lisbon. Image: © Lindsay Taclof

    Portugal's capital is teeming with culture and historical sights and has some great nightlife to suit all tastes.

    You can hop on the historic tram 28 which takes you past many sites and neighborhoods or wander around the medieval streets of Alfama. Admire the views of Lisbon from St. George's Castle or from one of the ​mirodouros (look-out points). And of course, there's fado to see and port to drink too! 

    Add to that the fact that Lisbon is probably the best-value Western European capital and you have a top destination to suit all budgets.

  • 04 of 08
    Sunset over Porto
    ••• Patrik Bergström/Getty Images

    Porto is most famous for its port wine, but there is much more than the city has to offer. The Ribeirinha promenade, a historic waterfront area: stop at a cafe or wine bar and take in the beautiful views along the river of Villa de Gaia, where all the port cellars are, and the Dom Luis I bridge.

    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08
    Praia do Camilo, Algarve
    ••• Praia do Camilo, Algarve. Slow Images/Getty Images

    Southern Portugal's Algarve region has an amazing coastline with stunning beaches and beautiful waters. You can find whatever type of beach you are looking for, whether for swimming or sunbathing, secluded or full of fellow sun worshippers. The beaches in the most southwestern point, such as Sagres, provide great surfing conditions.

    Can't make it to the Algarve? Not too far from Lisbon is one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe, the Praia da Adraga.

  • 06 of 08

    Explore the Douro Valley

    ••• Douro Valley. Image: © Lindsay Taclof

    Though port wine takes its name from the city of Porto, the Douro valley is where the wineries are actually located (Porto is where the wine is aged, bottled and stored) and is the oldest demarcated wine region in the world.

    Even if you have no interest in port or its production process, it is worth a visit to the Douro valley for its scenery alone. 

  • 07 of 08

    Explore the Bom Jesus do Monte Sanctuary

    Bom Jesus in Braga
    ••• Bom Jesus in Braga. Lindsay Taclof

    Bom Jesus do Monte is a religious sanctuary just outside of Braga, about an hour from Porto. Perched on top of a hill is a church and gardens, which you can either take the funicular up to or walk up the amazing zig-zagging staircase. We recommend taking the funicular up to the top and walking down the stairs since each landing has something interesting to see.

  • 08 of 08

    Visit Sintra from Lisbon

    Palacio da Pena, Sintra
    ••• Palacio da Pena. Jose Manuel Azcona/Getty Images

    Sintra is one of the most popular day trips from Lisbon. You can visit three palaces (Regaleira, Pena, and Royal Palaces) and the Moorish Castle. Then stroll along the historic center, relax at the waterfront or explore its nature parks.

    If you are trying to pack many sights in, consider booking one of the many organized day trips from Lisbon to Sintra. The trips typically include some time in Sintra as well as a visit to Cabo de Roca, continental Europe's most westerly point, and other points along the beautiful Estoril Coast.