You may have asked yourself, “Is Portugal Worth Visiting?” Portugal is an incredible country for visitors! It offers something for everyone – culture, beaches, fresh seafood, architecture, wine, nightlife, surfing, Portuguese language, Fado music and so much more.
Portugal is easy to get to from the US, as it’s the westernmost country of Continental Europe. Lisbon’s International airport, Humberto Delgado Airport (LIS), also services non-stop flights from all over the world.
Is Portugal Worth Visiting?
YES! I recently visited Portugal with two of my young adult girl friends. We had an incredible time. The country was warm, inviting, and easy to navigate.
1. Bask in the Sunshine
Portugal offers a great climate throughout most of the year. It has particularly great weather during travel shoulder season – April, May, September, and October.
It’s best to travel during shoulder season instead of prime summer because crowds are lower and therefore prices are lower, to meet demand. In these months, there’s still lots of sunshine. It’s much more comfortable temperatures compared to the sweltering summer.
Addiitonally, the sun sets to the west, offering onlookers incredible sunsets over the sea.
2. It’s Affordable
Portugal is generally an affordable place to visit. Accommodations, transportation, food, and drinks tend to cost less than in other European countries and most major metros in the US.
I was shocked to buy an entire bottle of wine for only 5 euro at a winery stop in the Duoro Valley. Table wine at moderate, casual restaurants in major cities like Lisbon and Porto is generally around 5 euro a glass.
3. Portugal is Generally a Safe Country
Portugal is considered a safe country to travel to. I traveled in a group of three young women and we always felt safe. Lisbon and Porto are great cities for groups of young adult friends for solo travelers, as there are many other travelers around, lots of things to do, and a good nightlife scene. Solo travelers can join a bar crawl.
When traveling anywhere, you should remain cautious and aware of your surroundings.
4. English is Widely Spoken
Friends always ask me how I communicate in the countries that I visit. English is widely spoken in most places I’ve visited.
Most Portuguese people are fluent in English, as it’s taught in schools. Still, it’s polite to learn and use a few Portuguese words.
- Olá – Hello
- Bom Dia – Good Morning
- Por favor – Please
- Obrigado/a – Thank you
5. Absorb the Many Colors of Lisbon
Lisbon is a gorgeous waterfront city with many colorful buildings.
Things To Do in Lisbon
⭐️ I highly recommend taking a walking tour like this one. The guides share so much current, local information, so take this early in your trip.
⭐️ Explore the gorgeous Alfama neighborhood, where the saying is “Alfama e linda” – “Alfama is Beautiful”
⭐️ Take an few hours to wander Belem. First, savor Pasteis de Nata. After that, see the famous Torre Belem (Belem Tower) and the Padrão dos Descobrimentos monument, stroll around Jardim Vasco de Gama (gardens), and enter the impressive Igreja Santa Maria de Belem (Church) – all are free. You can get to Belem independently or with an organized tour like this one.
⭐️ Have a drink on the Pink Street
⭐️ Ride Tram 28
Where to Eat in Lisbon
🍽 Bonjardim: Search “best-roasted chicken in Lisbon”. Bonjardim is #1. A local guide recommended this eatery to us and we greatly enjoyed it. I opted for the roasted chicken sans sauce, but my friends enjoyed the spicy peri-peri sauce.
🍽 Time Out Market: Sample an array of Lisbon favorites. Our favorite spot booth was Croqueteria (back right corner) – it had the longest line, so we figured that it was the spot. The croquettes did not disappoint!
I really enjoyed the Avocado Shrimp Boats from Tartine.
🍽 Maria do Carmo Restaurante: Enjoy a beautiful outdoor courtyard seating. I enjoyed the steak.
🍽 Nicolau: Go for a healthy-style brunch. You may have to wait for a table.
You can also take a food tour. I’m a big fan of Eating Europe.
📍Where to Stay in Lisbon: BeHotelLisboa
Moderately priced, central location, with updated & clean rooms
Plus, Lisbon is a hub for fantastic day trips to Sintra and Cascais.
6. Experience a Fairytale day in Sintra
Sintra is a must for any trip to Portugal. We took this day trip, which included skip-the-line at Pena Palace, free time in central Sintra, Cascais, Cabo de Roca (the most Western Point of Europe), and Belem.
7. Discover the History of Porto
Porto is an incredible city with lots of rich history.
Things to Do in Porto
⭐️ Learn more about Porto with a walking tour
⭐️ See the Instagram-famous Chapel of the Souls
⭐️ Take photos of the colorful Port Houses
⭐️ Walk across Dom Luis I bridge & explore the waterfront
⭐️ Climb the Clergios Tower and see the city from high above (8 euro)
⭐️ Take a wine tour within Porto. Make sure you sample green wine! We went on this wine walk.
Where to Eat in Porto
🍽 Salve Simpatia for delicious Brazilian food
🍽 Nicolau for healthy brunch. We enjoyed beet hummus app, avocado toast with poached eggs, and pancakes for dessert. It’s right across from Selina.
🍽 CAL: A warm wine bar with a nice ambiance and good service. After we ate, we attended a Fado show at Casa da Guitarra across the street and then went over to CAL for some cheese & meat.
You can also take a food tour, if you haven’t already! I recommend Eating Europe.
📍 Where to Stay in Porto: Selina
The Selina Porto location is a great, centrally-located place to stay. Known for being a hostel, Selina has private rooms, much like hotel rooms. Three of us stayed comfortably in a new room with two twin beds and a bunk bed. We saw other rooms that looked just like hotel rooms. The facilities are brand-new and campus-style with a large courtyard in the middle. Selina hosts a delicious breakfast with lots of pastries, too.
8. Escape to the Algarve – it’s Definitely Worth Visiting in Portugal
The beaches and waterfront are incredible throughout the country but are particularly breathtaking in the Algarve region.
Because Faro has an airport, we used the city as a base. It has great little restaurants, cafes, and bars.
Faro is a quaint small city, rich in history – a great getaway from metropolis areas. There isn’t too much to do there, little nightlife, and it’s a bit of a trek to a beach. So, if seeking more excitement, consider another Algarve beach area, like Lagos. Still, Faro is great for a short-two day trip (learn more here!).
⭐️Get immersed in the city on a walking tour or TukTok tour.
⭐️ Take a photo at the Faro sign
⭐️ We enjoyed island hopping on this Rio Formosa Boat Tour. It’s a great value!
Where to eat in Faro
🍽 Vila Adentro for lunch or dinner
🍽 Demo Urban Bakery for breakfast. I loved the egg toast.
🍽 The Woods: fresh sandwiches and salads
🍽 Choco & Nut for delicious ice cream & waffles, crepes
🍸 Eva Rooftop
📍Where to Stay in Faro: AP Eva Senses
Chic waterfront accommodations with a huge rooftop pool and bar
9. Appreciate the Architecture
In Portugal, you’ll see lots of buildings with tiles, called azulejos. The patterns are incredible. You can even take some pretty tiles home with you as a souvenir.
10. It’s Easy to Get to Portugal
We’ve covered a lot already, but what makes Portugal SO worth visiting is that it’s really easy to get there. So, there’s no reason not to go! Lisbon is the main international hub but you can also fly internationally via Porto and Faro.
11. And, It’s Easy to Get Around Once You’re There
It’s easy to navigate yourself around Portugal via public transportation between major cities and areas discussed in this post. The train system is reliable and quick between major cities – Porto, Lisbon, and Faro.
12. All the Food is Worth Visiting Portugal For
The food in Portugal is incredible. It’s so fresh! We ate a lot of meat and cheese, as a friend who I was traveling with is deathly allergic to shellfish.
The most famous local dish is the Francesinha, a combination of toast, meats, and a lot of cheese, with gravy covering it. You can order it wit a fried egg, too.
We sampled quite a bit on our own, and some meat and cheeses were included in other tours, as well as special event food markets that we visited. I always love food tours for many reasons – here’s a good option in Lisbon!
Prepare to seek out salads and vegetables – they’re not as common in eateries.
Try a food tour to learn more about the local delicacies as you eat delicious nibbles.
13. Fresh Seafood
The seafood is so incredibly fresh, especially in Lisbon. I enjoyed small bites of shellfish throughout the city.
14. Pasteis de Nata
Pasteis de Nata, a custard tart, is the most famous Portuguese delicacy. Enjoy with a coffee in the morning or anytime you like. You can find bakery on just about every block, and you can also find Pasteis de Nata as a treat in hotel lobbies.
The best and most famous is the Pasteis de Belem, which is in the neighborhood of Belem in Lisbon. Prepare – the lines may be LONG but they are well worth it. If you go with a guide, he will probably be able to cut the line to get you a sample!
Similarly, you can also find many Pasteis de Nata making classes.
15. Incredible Wine and Sights in Douro Valley
The Douro Valley is a must for any wine lover. The wine tastes incredible and is a bit stronger than many wines I’ve tried. The Douro Valley also offers incredible views over the vineyards and lake. We enjoyed our trip in mid-October, as the valley was in beautiful shades of fall colors.
You can go to the Douro Valley independently but it’s best to take a day trip from Porto. We did this day-long tour, which also includes lunch.
Tip: If your tour offers a boat ride, buy wine from the lunch restaurant and bring it on the boat with a few cups. Be discreet about it; your guide probably won’t want you to drink on the bus.
16. All the Wine, including Port
Wine is plentifully available outside the Douro Valley, and many wine tastings are available in various cities.
We went on this wine walk in Porto. Sample the green wine!
Lisbon and Porto offer vibrant nightlife, suitable for visitors of all ages.
Options are generally good vibes, with people dancing the night away. Most bars and clubs close at 2 a.m. In Lisbon, Barrio Alto is essentially a big, crowded street party.
And to note, alcohol is less expensive than in other European countries and US cities.
Try Super Bock, the most well-known Portuguese beer. It’s available nearly everywhere.
You can also try a guided pub crawl to meet other travelers at the top spots. These are popular among young adult travelers in Europe. We did this one, which begins with drinking games on a rooftop.
18. The Azores of Portugal Are Worth Visiting
The Azores is a region of Portugal consisting of São Miguel Island and Madeira, which are year-round, beautiful, nature-first destinations. This area is worth a trip all on its own, and most people visit separately from mainland Portugal. Flights are about 2.5 hours from Lisbon.
Also, you can fly non-stop from US cities, most notably JFK. You’ll likely find best fares in April.
19. Fado Music
Fado is emotional music that is traced back to the 1820s. Performances are usually led by a vocalist, accompanied by both a Portuguese guitar and a classical guitar.
Casa da Guitarra (tickets here) puts on a great show, and I highly recommend the professional performance. Note: The building is difficult to find, especially at night, so plan to arrive early.
Some restaurants also offer a Fado night at no additional cost after the price of your meal.
20. See Where Harry Potter Originated
Porto is said to be where JK Rowling was inspired to write Harry Potter. It’s surprising to see that the university students wear cloaks and carry paddles, appearing very similar to Hogwarts uniforms.
Visit Livraria Lello (Lello Bookstore) – that was JK Rowling’s inspiration for the Hogwarts library. Reports also say that JK Rowling spent afternoons writing at Café Majestic and Palácio de Cristal.
21. The World’s Most Beautiful McDonald’s
Anyone who knows me, knows I love McDonalds!
Even if you don’t like McDonald’s, this is something to see. Inhabiting a former famous coffee shop space, Porto’s McDonald’s is rated the most beautiful in the world!
How many days do I need?
We departed from JFK-Lisbon on Friday night (~7 hrs) and landed in Lisbon early Saturday morning. We dropped our bags, freshened up, headed out to explore, napped later, and then went on a pub crawl. The next day, we took a train to Faro (~3 hrs), where we spent a few days before flying to Faro (~1 hr). We enjoyed Faro for a few days, then took a train to Lisbon (~3 hrs) to enjoy some more time. This method leaves very little time for relaxation but it was worth it to see as much as possible!
Have less time?
- <5 days: Lisbon, with day trips to Sintra & Cascais
- 6-8 days: Lisbon and Porto with day trips to Sintra & Cascais
Have more time?
- 9-14 days: Enjoy more time in Lisbon, Porto, and Faro with day trips to Sintra & Cascais, the Douro Valley, Lagos, and other smaller cities
- 14+ days: Consider adding on the Azores and parts of Spain
What is the currency?
Euro. Americans can order Euro from their banks (best option if no fees – CapitalOne, Chase, or AAA), withdraw in Portugal via debit card, or exchange USD.
Portugal is Worth Visiting – Additional Tips:
✅ As discussed above, I highly recommend tours. It’s easy to meet a tour in a central location and follow the guide around. You learn so much from the guide and never have to worry about how to find the sights on your own. We also met some cool people from the tours we joined.
✅ Wear comfortable shoes. The ground tiles get slippery, especially when wet. Bring footwear with good traction. Older adults will want to be particularly careful in Lisbon, as it is hilly.
✅ Prepare for rain in Porto – bring rain boots or waterproof sneakers (like Vessi) and a rain jacket.
Conclusion: Is Portugal Worth Visiting?
I hope the 21 reasons above convince you – it truly is a magical country!
Navigating Portugal on your own can be done but it will take a lot of planning to see everything mentioned.