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Travel tips

30 best things to do in Portugal

Apr 30, 2024 by The Go Ahead Tours Team

Whether you’re learning about distant voyages to foreign shores, admiring dramatic coastlines and intricate architecture, or indulging in the best pastries you’ve ever tasted, there’s so much to do when you join us on one of our Portugal tours. The coastal country may be small, but it packs a mighty punch and offers an abundance of diverse experiences, regardless of your interests. “Highlights included a Fado performance and dinner, a fun group cooking class, beautiful terraced vineyards in the Douro Valley, vibrant cities of Porto and Lisbon, charming villages in the countryside… I could go on and on,” said traveler Elizabeth, who visited Portugal on our Food & Wine: A Taste of Portugal tour. “Our time in Portugal was magical!” See all the magical moments you can have on tour with this list of the best things to do in Portugal.

1. Explore Évora

The charming city of Évora is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in Europe and one of the best places to visit in Portugal. When you visit on our Portugal tours, stroll through the UNESCO-recognized city and admire its whitewashed architecture and lively town squares, then pay a visit to the city’s impressive Roman temple. “Évora was one of the best stops on the whole trip,” said traveler Linda after visiting on our Food & Wine: A Taste of Portugal tour.

2. Cruise down the Douro River

Drift down the scenic Douro River on the Douro River Cruise & Port Wine Cellar excursion offered on our Portugal tours. You’ll float past colorful villas, charming coastlines, and terraced landscapes. On your journey, you’ll pass under five of the river’s most iconic Old World bridges.

3. Attend a port tasting

One of the most fun things to do in Portugal is to learn about one of Portugal’s most famous exports, port wine, on our Douro River Cruise & Port Wine Cellar excursion. You’ll learn about the history and production of port and compare different vintages and varietals. “I did the Douro River excursion, which absolutely captures the beauty of Porto and includes the port tasting,” said traveler Desiree after joining this excursion on our Portugal for Solo Travelers tour. “I have fallen in love with tawny port.”

4. Spend time by the water

The country’s coastal proximity and seafaring history make a day spent near the water an easy choice if you’re wondering what to do in Portugal. No matter where you are in the country, you’re never far from the ocean, but we’re especially fond of the white-sand beaches, dramatic cliffs, and hidden coves found in the Algarve region. “The Algarve region is home to some of Europe’s most beautiful beaches,” said staffer Clarissa when recounting how she found a different side of Europe in Portugal. “The views are simply breathtaking. From the cliffs, you can see so far, and the water is so clear and blue.” Join our Algarve Coastal Cruise: Cliffs, Beaches & Caves excursion to sail along natural rock formations and caves and maybe even catch a glimpse of dolphins.

5. Catch a Fado performance

Portugal’s deeply emotional traditional music, Fado, often conveys feelings of melancholy and longing. “Fado is sung so dramatically that even if you don’t understand Portuguese, it’s easy to understand the emotion behind the song,” said traveler Chadner in our solo traveler’s guide to Portugal. Join the Fado Show & Dinner excursion offered on our Portugal tours to spend an evening dining and listening to this soulful music in a tavern in Lisbon.

Dine & unwind in Portugal

6. Visit an olive oil farm

Learn about another of Portugal’s signature exports and a staple of its cuisine when you visit an olive grove on our Grand Tour of Portugal: From Porto to Lisbon, our Food & Wine: A Taste of Portugal tour, or the Olive Oil Farm, Alentejo Wine Tasting & Dinner excursion on our A Week in Portugal: Porto, Evora & Lisbon tour. The cultivation of olives remains an integral part of Portuguese agriculture. See how the oil is produced, learn about the ecosystem within the olive groves, and sample some fresh oil along with other locally sourced snacks.

7. Savor pastéis de nata

If you eat one thing on your trip to Portugal, let it be pastéis (or pastel) de nata. These small pastries can be found across the country and are one of our favorite things to eat in Portugal. “I love the food in Mediterranean and southern European countries,” said staffer Jimmy while recounting his tour through Porto, Lisbon, and the Algarve. “Portugal’s cuisine revolves around fish and pastries. While I love the simple (and delicious!) grilled sardines, what I truly crave are the pastéis de nata—local pastries that are comparable to custard tarts tucked into crusty shells. When they come out of the oven, they are to die for!”

8. Soak up the view from Clérigos Tower

Porto’s Torre dos Clérigos is the tallest campanile, or bell tower, in Portugal. It soars 249 feet above the city, and you can climb its 200-step staircase for panoramic views of Porto and the Douro River from its observation deck. The tower is one of the best places to visit in Portugal because of its staggering views, which is why we listed the climb in our Porto Travel Guide as one of the best things to do in the city. However, if you prefer to keep both feet firmly planted on the ground, you can still appreciate the beauty of the tower’s Baroque architecture and enjoy the free pipe organ concert held in its adjoining church at noon each day.

9. Learn to cook Portuguese cuisine

Join us on our Food & Wine: A Taste of Portugal tour or Portugal for Solo Travelers tour, or book the optional Lisbon Cooking Class & Dinner excursion offered on our A Week in Portugal: Porto, Évora & Lisbon tour to learn how to make traditional Portuguese cuisine under the guidance of a professional chef. Learning to make traditional dishes first-hand is one of our favorite ways to immerse ourselves in Portuguese culture, and sharing those dishes with our fellow tourmates—paired with local wine, of course—is the best way to celebrate the once-in-a-lifetime experience.

10. Visit Sintra and Pena Palace

The mist-laden town of Sintra, with its colorful, storybook palaces, is a dreamy destination for nature lovers, history buffs, or anyone looking to escape the hustle and bustle of Portugal’s cities. Join us on the Sintra & the Portuguese Riviera excursion offered on our Portugal tours to explore this charming coastal town—once one of the most popular Portugal vacation spots for the wealthy elite. The hillsides are scattered with exotic gardens and opulent summer homes, like the candy-colored Pena Palace. It’s just one of the reasons why going to Sintra and Pena Palace is the perfect day trip from Lisbon. “Our time in Sintra was magical,” said traveler Kathy after joining the excursion on our Portugal: Porto, the Algarve & Lisbon tour.

Visit Portugal’s storybook monuments

11. Try bacalhau

With its proximity to the water and legendary maritime history, it’s probably no surprise that you’ll find seafood on most menus when you join us on a trip to Portugal. “Cod is very popular, and there are so many ways to make it,” said staffer Nicole while listing what to eat in Porto. “One specialty is bacalhau, or salt cod, which we got to try at the welcome dinner.” Bacalhau became a staple of Portuguese sailors’ diets during the Age of Discovery since the salted, dried fish could be kept in ships’ holds for long stretches without spoiling. Today, the beloved national dish is used in everything from stews to croquettes.

12. Admire the architecture of Jerónimos Monastery

When you visit Lisbon on a tour of Portugal, you’ll see the church at Jerónimos Monastery, one of the most stunning examples of Manueline architecture in Portugal. It was commissioned by King Manuel I in the 16th century to honor voyagers and features nautical, religious, and botanical motifs carved into the facade. Pop into the church during your free time to see the tomb of famed explorer Vasco da Gama.

13. Marvel at the azulejo tiles

One of the most interesting things to do in Portugal is admire the country’s mastery of functional beauty. When you join one of our Portugal tours, you’ll probably notice the intricate, colorful tiles that adorn both the interiors and exteriors of some of Portugal’s most famous historic buildings. And while it’s easy to admire these azulejo tiles for their beauty and craftsmanship, they also serve an important functional purpose. The tiles help protect Portugal’s buildings from the salty, humid maritime air and even help to regulate temperature—think of them as an incredibly beautiful form of climate control.

14. Hike Ponta da Piedade trail

The Algarve Region is one of the best places to visit in Portugal for dramatic landscapes, and the Ponta da Piedade trail is the best way to take in the views when you’re there. Walking along the coastal cliffs is one of the best things to do in the Algarve, as you’ll be treated to sweeping views of limestone rock spires, hidden beaches, and turquoise water. “The Algarve Region was certainly a highlight,” said traveler Monica after returning from our Portugal: Porto, the Algarve & Lisbon tour. “Highly recommend this trip. We fell in love with Portugal!”

15. Take in the views from the Cabo Girão Skywalk

Join the Madeira extension of our Food & Wine: A Taste of Portugal tour to visit the soaring coastal cliffs of Cape Girão, the highest cape in Europe. A glass-floored skywalk juts out from the side of the cliffs, offering exhilarating views of the Madeira coastline and crashing waves of the Atlantic.

Admire all Portugal has to offer

16. Stand at the end of the world

The town of Sagres lies in the Algarve Region of Portugal and is the southwestern most point of Europe. The area was once considered the end of the world and was the last explored point of ancient civilizations, grazing the vast and mysterious expanse of the Atlantic Ocean. Exploring the town of Sagres with its clifftop edifice, Sagres Fortress, is one of the best things to do in Portugal, according to our Portugal Travel Guide.

17. Reflect on distant voyages at the Tower of Belém

Portugal is seen as the birthplace of the Age of Discovery, a period of unprecedented maritime exploration and international expansion. One of the most cherished Portugal landmarks, the Tower of Belém, stands as a monument to this trailblazing era. It’s also one of the best things to see in Lisbon, according to our Lisbon Travel Guide. The tower was built as a defensive structure and stood as a gateway to the city that explorers like Ferdinand Magellan and Vasco da Gama passed through. The tower was built in the Manueline style—an architectural genre influenced and financed by the exploration of the time.

18. Admire the lush landscapes of the Azores

If you’re looking for things to do in Portugal that are a little off the beaten path, join the Azores extension on our Grand Tour of Portugal: From Porto to Lisbon to explore the verdant landscapes of Portugal’s most beautiful archipelago. Here, you can hike through lush jungles, visit volcanic hot springs and waterfalls, and see how sweet Azorean pineapples are grown.

19. Learn about cork production

Portugal is one of the world’s leading producers of cork, and Portuguese cork is widely regarded for its sustainability and quality. When you join us on one of our Portugal tours, you’ll pay a visit to the Alentejo Cork Factory to see how the material is harvested and learn how it is used to seal wine bottles. “The cork factory was so interesting,” said traveler Marsha after visiting on our Portugal: Porto, the Algarve & Lisbon tour. “You will see cork all over Portugal, but to see how it is processed is amazing.”

20. Experience the macabre beauty of the Chapel of Bones

The interior of Évora’s 16th-century Chapel of Bones is lined with skulls and bones arranged in intricate patterns. The chapel was built by the monks of the adjacent St. Francis Church as a place to house the remains of thousands of people and alleviate overcrowding in Porto’s cemeteries, and you’ll have the opportunity to enter it when you join one of our trips to Évora. “After learning about the Chapel of the Bones, I got to see it with my own eyes in Évora!” said traveler Cindy after visiting on our Portugal, Spain & Morocco tour. A visit to the chapel promises a haunting yet fascinating experience that’s one of the most unique things to do in Portugal.

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21. Stroll through Lisbon’s Alfama neighborhood

A jaunt through the Alfama neighborhood, the oldest area in Lisbon, is number one on our list of things to do in Portugal’s capital city. The area served as the city center when it was under Moorish rule, and, as a result, it’s full of history and character. Stroll through Alfama’s winding labyrinth of hillside streets and soak up the views when you visit Lisbon on a trip to Portugal.

22. Wander through Porto’s Old-World Ribeira district

Along the picture-perfect banks of the Douro River lies Porto’s Ribeira district, a medieval neighborhood with winding, cobblestone streets, brightly colored buildings, and historic architecture. The area’s charming balconies and intricate facades are some of the most beautiful in the city, and when you visit on one of our trips to Porto, you’ll have plenty of time to admire them up close.

23. Visit Europe’s oldest tea plantation

Join the Gorreana Tea Plantation, Lunch & the Furnas Valley excursion offered on the Azores extension of our Grand Tour of Portugal: From Porto to Lisbon to visit a family-owned tea plantation that’s been operating since 1883. You’ll tour the coastal tea fields and factory and enjoy a tasting of black and green teas.

24. Enjoy a home-hosted meal with Lisbon locals

Travel doesn’t get much more immersive than being welcomed into the home of a local and sharing a meal. Join the Lisbon Home-Hosted Dinner excursion offered on our Portugal tours to learn about Portuguese culture and traditions first-hand as you break bread with a local and learn about their day-to-day life. “The in-home cooked meal in Portugal was delicious, fun, and a highly entertaining way to learn about local culture,” said traveler Lori, who joined the excursion on our Portugal, Spain & Morocco tour.

25. Attend a summer festival

There’s no best time to visit Portugal—the country is lovely and welcoming year-round—but we do love joining the many festivities that take place there each summer. If you visit Portugal in June, you’ll probably come across the Festas de Lisboa, which is celebrated all month with parades, fireworks, and parties in the streets. One of the largest celebrations in Portugal, the São João festival, takes place during midsummer each year. “Portugal is beautiful,” said traveler Stephanie, who visited in June on our Food & Wine: A Taste of Portugal tour. “We were there when the São João festival was taking place in Porto, and almost every city we went to had something going on. The food was great, and the wine and port were amazing.”

Wander through Portugal with us

26. Savor tropical fruit in Madeira

The island of Madeira’s subtropical climate and rich, volcanic soil make it ideal for growing a variety of tropical fruits. Visit a farmers’ market on the Madeira extension of our Food & Wine: A Taste of Portugal tour to taste the fresh bounty, or join us on our Madeira Fruit Farm Tour & Tasting excursion to learn about organic farming practices. The cliffside farm is accessible by cable car and grows a wide variety of sweet, seasonal fruit.

27. Ride the Santa Justa Lift

This 19th-century industrial-era elevator takes you seven stories up one of Lisbon’s steepest hills. Not only is the elevator itself a work of art—it’s made from intricate, filigree wrought iron—but it also offers breathtaking views of the city. Plus, when you visit on a tour of Lisbon, it will be your quickest route between the Bairro Alto district and the Baixa neighborhood.

28. Visit the pilgrimage site of Fátima

Visit Fátima on our Grand Tour of Portugal: From Porto to Lisbon to see the place where the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared six times in front of three shepherd children. Here, you can tour the site and learn more about the story, then visit the House of Jacinta, the former home of the children. “The stop in Fatima was just terrific,” said traveler Timothy, who visited on our Marian Shrines & the Way of St. James tour. “In the evening, we walked in the procession to honor Our Lady of Fátima, which is done each evening.”

29. Tour Madeira in a Jeep

One of our favorite things to do in Portugal is to simply travel around, taking in the sites, and one of the best ways to do that is to hop aboard a 4x4 Jeep on the Madeira Jeep Tour & Lunch excursion offered on the extension of our Food & Wine: A Taste of Portugal tour. You’ll wind your way through mountains, past canals, and into the largest surviving laurel forest, the UNESCO-listed Laurisilva of Madeira. You’ll get an up-close view of Madeira’s unique vegetation and dramatic landscapes.

30. Sip vinho verde

What wines is Portugal known for? Port and Madeira, of course, but vinho verde is increasing in popularity, and for good reason. The slightly effervescent white wine might not be the first that comes to mind when you think about imbibing on your trip to Portugal, but it’s one of our favorite things to sip on sizzling summer days on Portugal’s coast. “Vinho verde translates to green wine, but it’s actually a white wine and is typically a young wine, bottled after only two to three years,” said staffer Erin. “It’s fresh, fruity, and slightly bubbly!” What’s even better—vinho verde is the ideal companion for plates piled with fresh seafood.

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Now that you know the best things to do in Portugal, experience them all on one of our Portugal tours!

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About the author | The Go Ahead Tours Team
We’re a team of passionate travel experts, dedicated to helping people explore the world. From inspiring stories to tips for an amazing trip, the topics we cover are all about getting you out there and making discoveries.

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