Once an oft-overlooked vacation destination, in recent years, Portugal has fast become a place for savvy travelers, and here are just a few reasons why you should pack your bags and visit now.
Located along the southwesternmost point of continental Europe, Portugal boasts incredible beaches, vibrant cities, perfectly preserved historical villages, world-class cuisine and wondrous natural landscapes. From Lisbon’s dynamic streets to the Douro Valley’s picturesque vineyards and Porto’s colorful skyline, this diverse and friendly country offers travelers unique and memorable experiences that will last a lifetime. Embark on an extraordinary journey as we guide you through an itinerary that highlights the best of Portugal, inviting you to discover the hidden gems that await in Lisbon, the Douro Valley and Porto.
Lisbon: Where Old World Charm Meets New World Chic
Begin your Portuguese adventure in Lisbon, the country’s bustling and charismatic capital city. Here deep-rooted traditions of Portuguese culture fuse easily with modern-day living. Lisbon effortlessly charms visitors. Located on the west coast of the Iberian Peninsula, with spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean and the Tagus River, you will find lively neighborhoods, noteworthy landmarks and a palpable sense of vitality here.
Lose yourself in the intriguing streets of Alfama and Mouraria, the city’s oldest districts, where you will find the best viewpoints and most famous landmarks. Start your day with a visit to the striking São Jorge Castle. Perched on Lisbon’s highest hill, this medieval fortress features breathtaking panoramic city views. To get there, hop on one of the city’s charming cable cars. These iconic yellow trams transport you through Lisbon’s hilliest neighborhoods, offering a delightful and nostalgic way to discover the area’s distinctive cobblestone streets and small squares. While gliding by, take notice of the scenic vistas and colorfully tiled building facades. In the evening, enjoy authentic and local cuisine in one of the neighborhood’s pleasant cafes and restaurants, and for a bit of Portuguese folklore, visit one of the remaining original Fado houses where these traditional melancholic melodies are performed nightly.
The Baixa, arguably the city’s heart, is one of Lisbon’s most visited neighborhoods. Explore ancient ruins, the historically significant Rossio Train Station, and stroll along the pedestrian-only Rua Augusta, bustling with interesting shops and cafes. Given the area’s popularity, be wary of touristy restaurants with pictures on the menu and opt for a cafe off the beaten path.
In the neighborhood of Belém, watch the sailboats and marvel at architectural masterpieces such as Torre de Belém and the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, both testaments to Portugal’s glorious past. After, indulge in the traditional sweet treat, Pastéis de Belém, a tasty custard tart topped with a hefty dose of cinnamon.
For some of Lisbon’s best restaurants and nightlife, visit the Barrio Alto district, where the vibe is young, energetic and continues long into the evening. As the sun sets, people spill out into streets lined with hip bars, wine shops and fantastic dining options.
For an exceptional hotel stay, opt for the quiet and upscale neighborhood of Amoreiras, where Sublime Lisboa is the star. Centrally located, it is an excellent choice, with easy access to beautiful public gardens, cultural sites and superb shopping on the nearby Avenida da Liberdade. This chic boutique hotel offers a blend of contemporary design and flawless personalized service. Housed in a 20th-century townhouse, this luxury hotel showcases various immaculately appointed yet stunningly unique rooms and suites that are sure to impress even the most discerning traveler.
In the warmer months, spend a day at the beach in Costa Caparica. Just a short drive from the city center, Costa Caparica is home to some of Lisbon’s best beach clubs ranging from stylish to boho. Weekends are busy, so pre-book to guarantee a chair and umbrella.
The Douro Valley: A Wine Lover and Foodie Paradise
Venture into the majestic Douro Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the world’s oldest demarcated wine region, renowned for its terraced vineyards and world-class wine and port wine production. Natural beauty abounds here, with the Douro River meandering through undulating hills adorned with emerald-green vineyards and quaint villages.
For an indulgent oasis, Six Senses Douro Valley provides a perfect sanctuary. Nestled amidst vineyards and olive groves, this luxury, five-star hotel delivers impeccable service, magnificent views of the Douro River, and an abundance of rejuvenating spa and wellness offerings. Splurge on a wine tasting with their on-site master sommelier, unwind by the pool and please your palate at the property’s fantastic Vale de Abraão restaurant.
Visit nearby family-owned vineyards and port producers and learn about their fascinating past, notable wine-growing culture and commitment to honoring centuries-old traditions, all while embracing new and exciting wine-making methods.
Porto: A Fusion of History, Art and Flavor
Conclude your Portuguese adventure in Porto, a 90-minute drive from the Douro Valley. Maison Albar Hotels Le Monumental Palace is a terrific choice for a premier, full-service stay. Located in the heart of the city, Le Monumental Palace is a sophisticated fusion of modern comfort and traditional elegance, offering an indoor pool, a well-appointed fitness room and top-quality dining options.
Steeped in history, Porto is a spirited town. Notably, the festive Ribeira district is a sensory delight, with its colorful houses, narrow alleyways, and impressive Dom Luís I Bridge, which spans the Douro River. Across the river from Ribeira, visit one of the premier port purveyor’s tasting rooms, where you can sample a vast selection of white, ruby and tawny port wines.
On Saturday afternoons, explore Porto’s art scene as galleries and small shops open their doors and welcome in the sauntering crowds. For awe-inspiring city views, visit Crystal Palace Gardens. Popular with locals and visitors alike, the gardens offer an urban oasis in the city center.
For foodies, Porto delivers a burgeoning culinary scene. Seafood, local cheese, and vegetable-forward dishes are plentiful and bursting with flavor. For meat lovers, a must-try is Porto’s legendary Francesinha sandwich or the simpler Bifana. Both delicious and savory, they will delight even the pickiest of eaters.
Porto is also home to remarkable architectural wonders, including the famous São Bento Train Station and the nearby Sé do Porto, one of the city’s oldest monuments and imposing Romanesque church with a labyrinth of courtyards and naves adorned with exquisite blue and white tiles.
Portgual’s trifecta of Libson, the Douro Valley and Porto provides an unforgettable tapetry of experiences that will leave a lasting imprint on your travel memories.From Lisbon’s captivating combination of old-world charm and contemporary allure to the astonishing beauty of the Douro Valley and the vibrant energy of Porto’s historic streets, each destination showcases a unique facet of Portugal’s rich heritage.
To uncover the country’s hidden treasures, connect with its fascinating story, and embrace the soulful allure that makes Portugal a must-visit destination, contact The Destination Designer about custom travel planning.