Though many of Portugal’s tourists flock to the Algarve coastline for sunny beaches and golf, the nation’s urban centres are not to be missed. Lisbon, the capital, and Porto offer visitors an easy-going culture, warm weather and good value for money. Both cities mix a rich mercantile past with modern art and contemporary living.
Food and drink
Being on the Atlantic coast, seafood is naturally the staple cuisine. In Lisbon, try a city specialty, lulas recheadas (stuffed squid). The must-have pastry is pastéis de nata, a custard-filled tart. Head to the waterfront for late-night caipirinhas in the buzzing nightclubs. Porto is famous for tripe soup, the Francesinha sandwich and (of course) port wine.
Chiado is Lisbon’s fashion district, with a combination of brand-name clothiers, independent shops and a giant shopping mall. Check out Principe Real for more upscale shopping. Mercado do Bolhão is Porto’s traditional market of fruits, vegetables, meat and handicrafts. Pick up local ceramics and some port wine.
Things to see and do
- Castelo de São Jorge (Castle of St George) - Atop Lisbon’s highest hill, this 15th-century royal residence offers a giant periscope and panoramic city views.
- Museu Nacional do Azulejo (National Tile Museum) - Portugal’s artistry and history can be found in the evolution of its tile designs and colours.
- Fundacao Calouste Gulbenkian - A garden oasis in downtown Lisbon surrounds this private art collection, which includes Oriental art and European masters.
- National Museum of Ancient Art - Familiarise yourself with national history and culture through Portuguese paintings and artifacts found from shipwrecks.
- Douro River - The six bridges that connect Porto to Vila Nova de Gaia provide beautiful views of the port towns. A daylong cruise up the Douro River is a relaxing way to explore the deep Douro Valley.
- Escape the city bustle in Lisbon Botanical Gardens.
- Listen to Fado, traditional Portuguese music, in one of the many Fado clubs in Lisbon’s Alfama district.
- Relax on a boat tour along the capital’s coast.
- Take an art class or workshop in printmaking, weaving, or tile painting.
- Explore the wine cellars in the Porto hills and finish with port tastings.
When to visit
If you're planning a holiday in Portugal, our top picks for the best time to travel would be andune
Sunshine, warmth and festivals; visit during the feast of St Anthony when Lisbon goes crazy for sardines and, aided by the matchmaker saint, single girls perform rituals to help them find a husband
Things to do in Portugal
Portugal Blog posts
From Ireland's most popular travel bloggers
7th December 2021 by The Travel ExpertTop 10 things to do in Lisbon - with or without kids
I recently returned from a fabulous weekend in Lisbon. I had visited briefly many years ago, but it wasn’t until I spent three full days exploring this vibrant city that I really appreciated its beauty. The fact that it is on the coast and has warm temperatures for most of the year certainly helps its appeal, but it was the colourful buildings in the old town, the stunning views of Alfama, and its terrific food scene that captivated me the most....
13th April 2018 by The Daily S'elfLisbon city guide
If you’ve already read my Porto post, you might enjoy this Lisbon city guide. I wanted to go to Portugal badly, but couldn’t choose between the two cities, so I spent two nights in each, travelling by train from Porto to Lisbon. Here you’ll find information about Lisbon hotels, what to do, where to eat and drink and other useful information if you’re planning a short city break....
12th March 2018 by The Daily S'elfPorto city guide
Over the last couple of years there’s been a massive increase in interest for Irish tourists travelling to Portugal. Sure, it’s always been popular, but it suddenly seemed like every second person on Instagram was posting pictures of beautiful tiles in Porto and delicious meals in Lisbon rather than package holidays to the Algarve. Keen to find out for myself what all the fuss is about, when I was approached by SuperValu to collaborate on some content surrounding their Real Rewards...
Weather in Portugal
Our month-by-month guide to the weather and climate in Portugal