Portugal Travel Guide
Whether you're looking for history, nature, culture, or simply a relaxing beach getaway, there are plenty of things to do and places to visit in Portugal.
Located on the Iberian Peninsula in southwestern Europe, Portugal is the westernmost country of mainland Europe, being bordered to the west and south by the Atlantic Ocean and to the north and east by Spain. The country also contains the Atlantic archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira, both autonomous regions with their own regional governments. The country has a population of 10 million, its capital and largest city is Lisbon, and the official language is Portuguese.
Sun seekers will be delighted with the Algarve region as it boasts superb beaches with quaint villages dotting the coastline. In the cosmopolitan capital of Lisbon, history buffs can learn more about the country’s significant maritime history at the Belem Tower, a fortress used by Portuguese explorers and a symbol for Europe's Age of Discoveries. Visitors to Porto can enjoy the city's famous port wine, tour its wine cellars, explore its historic centre, a UNSECO World Heritage Site, and take a stroll along the charming Douro riverfront. The enchanting island of Madeira offers incredible natural landscapes, picturesque villages and a superb climate all year round.
We've outlined some top tips and recommendations below that may help you plan for your next holiday to Portugal.
Time Zone & Currency
Mainland Portugal and Madeira is on Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) throughout the year. The currency in Portugal is the Euro.
Weather In Portugal
Portugal experiences a typical Mediterranean climate with warm summers and wet winters. The summer heat is cooled by sea breezes making the conditions extremely pleasant. Maximum temperatures reach approximately 25°C and the country experiences about 11 to 12 hours of daylight per day during this season.
Reading For Your Trip To Portugal
Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier
Port and the Douro by Richard Mayson
The Unknown Islands by Raul Brandão
Top Tourist Attractions In Portugal
A beautiful 16th century palace that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is where the Portuguese Royal Family formerly spent their summers, and the fairytale town is located in the hills of the Sintra Mountains.
On the Algarve's coast there are over 100 impressive beaches with incredible backdrops of dramatic cliffs and rock formations. Swimming in the sea is a pleasant experience as the temperature is surprisingly warm due to the maritime shelf. Also, dolphins and whales can often be spotted on this coast.
Sao Jorge Castle
Set at the top of the Moorish quarters of Alfama, St George's Castle provides a perfect panoramic view of the city. From here you can see the Santuario do Cristo Rei, a 110ft replica of the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro. You can also view the remains of the city cathedral which was destroyed, along with a great part of the rest of the city, in an earthquake in 1755.
Dom Luís I bridge
A feat of 19th century engineering and an icon of Porto, this double decker bride was originally conceived by Gustave Eiffel, who designed the Eiffel Tower. It’s also one of the best places to see incredible views of Porto.
Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte
A Catholic shrine whose name means ‘Good Jesus of the Mount’, it has been a key pilgrimage site since the 1800s. It’s also one of the most popular photo opportunities in Portugal due to its impressive zig zag baroque staircase and from the top it offers impressive views of Braga.
Madeira Botanical Gardens
Located in Funchal, the Botanical Gardens provides spectacular panoramic views over the mountainous backdrop, the city below and its bay with the deep blue waters of the Atlantic. The Botanical Gardens also offers a cable car ride that crosses the breath-taking Joao Gomes Stream Valley and travels high above the city of Funchal to the historical village of Monte.
Why you need to visit Lisbon
The capital of Portugal, Lisbon is a colourful city which offer the perfect combination of history, culture and cuisine. From seeing the iconic landmark of Belem Tower to sampling tasty Pastel de nata, which were invented in Lisbon.
5 Things to do in Madeira
Madeira is a Portuguese island located over 600 miles away from the mainland in the Atlantic Ocean. It's known as the 'Pearl of the Atlantic' due to its majestic scenery and natural landscapes.
Food and drink in Portugal
While in Portugal you can enjoy delicious food matched with excellent local wines at very reasonable prices. Alongside famous dishes like Piri Piri chicken, you’ll find local favourites such as fresh sardines cooked on an open air grill, bacalhau (salted cod, cooked in several ways), caldo verde soup (the ultimate comfort food, involving potatoes, kale and local sausage), slow-cooked Alentejano pork and the soft sheep's-milk cheese Queijoda Serra. Vinho Verde is a refreshing, slightly sparkling white wine which is light in alcohol and a perfect match for grilled fish, while wines from Portugal’s Douro Valley as well as the Dão and Alentejo regions are world-renowned. Don’t miss the famous little custard tarts called Pasteis de Nata. These deliciously soft, sweet tarts are practically a cult in Lisbon, where they originated in the Monastery of Jerónimos and are baked to this day in the legendary Pastéis de Belém bakery and café, using a recipe that has been a secret since 1837.
Portugal Travel Guide FAQs
Can you give a brief history of Portugal?
Portugal has a fascinating history, for many centuries it was under the rule of the Moors and their influence can still be seen today in some historical sites and even Portuguese cuisine. During the 15th and 16th century, the "Age of Discoveries" period brought wealth and influence to the country with Portuguese explorers like Vasco da Gama and Ferdinand Magellan embarking on ambitious voyages and helping to establish key trade routes and empires around the world. Portugal did have a monarchy up until 1910, when a revolution took place and this was soon followed by a dictatorship led by António de Oliveira Salazar from 1932 to 1968. The Carnation Revolution in 1974 overthrew the totalitarian Estado Novo regime and Portugal became the democratic country we know it as today.
Do I require a holiday visa to travel to Portugal?
All EU/EEA nationals must present their valid passport on arrival in Portugal. A visa is not required for EU passport holders. For information on visa requirements for non-EU citizens, we recommend you contact the Portuguese embassy or consulate in your country of residence. UK citizens can find further information by visiting www.gov.co.uk
Is it safe to tour Portugal
The places visited while touring Portugal are generally safe and our guides will always keep an eye out for you. However, in any large city there can be opportunists and pickpockets. It is wise to be vigilant, especially at busy tourist attractions, and always take good care of your personal belongings. Make use of the safe at your hotel, and carry a photocopy of your passport when out and about. Always take extra care when using public transport.
Can I use my bank cards while holidaying in Portugal?
Most bank cards can be used in Portuguese ATMs. Most retailers accept major debit and credit cards. We recommend you contact your bank/card provider to check if charges will apply.
What advice do you have for tipping in restaurants while in Portugal?
Tipping is not obligatory, however wages for those working in restaurants and cafes are low, thus tips will always be welcomed. Tips for hotel staff who have offered exceptional service will also be appreciated.
What kind of plugs / sockets are used in Portugal?
In Portugal the power sockets are of type F; these are the two prong outputs. The standard voltage is 220V and the standard frequency is 50Hz. We recommend you always pack a universal adapter as this will be able to work in any country you visit.