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BlogTravel tipsThe solo traveler’s guide to Portugal
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Travel tips

The solo traveler’s guide to Portugal

Jan 07, 2022 by The Go Ahead Tours Team

Solo travelers are discovering the thrill of exploring the world on their own on Solo Tours. If it’s on your bucket list to do just that, why not make that dream come true in Portugal? As Portugal’s tourism popularity continues to rise, so does the number of solo travelers who come to visit. They’re taking advantage of the locals’ warm hospitality, the incredibly rich culture, and the unforgettable culinary delights. Check out our tips for things to do in Portugal as a solo traveler.

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Why travel solo in Portugal?

Traveler Chadner has visited Portugal on his own many times, and he said the warm hospitality of the Portuguese people is some of the most genuine he’s ever come across. “Locals have struck up conversations with me at bars, restaurants, and cafes when they see I’m alone,” he said. “They’re just as curious about visitors and our stories as we are about their local culture and traditions. They’re eager to give travelers in-the-know tips!”

But if you don’t want to jump into the deep end of solo travel right away, opt for a guided group trip that caters to solo travelers. We’ll take care of the logistics so that you can focus on having a great time and making new friends who love traveling solo, too.

Bonus: Most people in Portugal speak English, making communicating and connecting with locals easier than you might have guessed. Still, it’s a good idea to memorize a few helpful phrases before you go. But if you run into tricky language moments, that’s when it helps to be with a group: Our Tour Directors are ready to play translator.

Check out some essential Portuguese phrases to know before you go →

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When’s the best time to visit Portugal solo?

Given that Portugal is blessed with a mild year-round climate (no harsh winters here!), any time is a great time to visit. Of course, if tanning at the beach is what you’re aiming to do during your free time, you’ll want to go during the summer. While it can get a little bit rainy during the winter, the off-season lull in visitors means you can have more of Portugal to yourself.

During late spring and for most of summer, Portugal celebrates a lot of festivals and holidays, when bigger cities like Lisbon and Porto take on party-like atmospheres. You’ll often find entire neighborhoods, larger plazas, and main streets lively with people, like during Festas de Lisboa through most of June. Traveling to Portugal then becomes truly special and it’s easier to meet both locals and visitors.

What should I pack for Portugal as a solo traveler?

Preparing for a solo trip to Portugal doesn’t require anything different from any other trip. But if there is one to pay attention to, it’s good shoes. Portugal, especially Lisbon and Porto, is hilly. And city streets are often paved in stone mosaics called calçada Portuguesa. They portray stunning scenes that are unique to the country’s history and culture. (You’ll want to take lots of pictures!) They can also be very slippery. “Some of these streets have been smoothed out by centuries of being walked on, so having shoes that will grip each step is really important,” traveler Chadner advised. “To this day, I still catch myself slipping!”

See more packing tips in our Lisbon Travel Guide → 

What are the best places to visit in Portugal as a solo traveler?


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Lisbon

As the largest, most international city in Portugal, Lisbon is perfect for solo travelers. On our Portugal for Solo Travelers itinerary, the two days in Lisbon include strolls through the city’s beautiful parks, a sightseeing tour of historic monuments, and a cooking class that reveals the secrets of the Portuguese kitchen.

Lisbon is also where the trip ends, so if you haven’t had your fill of the capital, you have the option to stay longer on a tour extension alongside your expert Tour Director. During an extended stay in Lisbon, you may want to use your free time to take the 40-minute train ride to the coastal city of Cascais, shop in the hip neighborhood of Principe Real, or sample dishes from some of the country’s most renowned chefs.

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Porto

Portugal’s second city (along with the rest of the north) is known all over as being home to some of the friendliest locals, making Porto a solo traveler’s dream destination. “As much as I love Lisbon, Porto is actually where I feel most at home, because the locals welcome visitors so warmly,” traveler Chadner said. Discover the world of port wine with new friends, stroll around historic riverfront alleyways, and visit some of the best museums and art galleries in the country—Porto is known for its creative scene.

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Évora

One of Portugal’s biggest college towns, Évora is a dynamic city in the heart of the Alentejo, a lesser-known region full of olive groves, vineyards, surfable coastlines, and much more. Alentejo is traveler Chadner’s favorite part of Portugal. “The slow pace of life and picturesque landscapes are perfect for a relaxing vacation,” he said. Évora is the biggest city and the perfect jumping-off point for exploring the more bucolic locales that surround it. But within the city are family-owned taverns serving meals crafted from age-old recipes, historic architecture, and one of the Iberian peninsula’s most beautifully preserved Roman ruins: Templo de Diana.

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Lagos

For many, the Algarve, the southernmost area of the country, is all about the sun and the sea. And why not? There’s plenty of both, which has seduced plenty of European summer-chasers year after year. There are a handful of lively seaside towns and villages that dot the coast, but one of the best cities in Portugal for solo travelers is Lagos, which combines historic city walls, baroque architecture, exciting bars, picturesque cliffs, and sprawling beaches.

What are the best things to do in Portugal as a solo traveler?


Walk around

Portugal’s unique cities and landscapes make it a dream to explore on foot. In Lisbon and Porto, the historic city centers are often a tangled web of narrow, snakelike alleys full of secret little restaurants, shadowy bars, and hidden street art. All of that becomes much easier to find if you’re walking. Taking an intrepid approach to your days there, especially during the free time we build into our Solo Tour itineraries, will make for unforgettable moments, whether you decide to take them on your own or with the new friends you’ve met during the tour. Just don’t forget to wear the right shoes! “The reward for all that walking isn’t just what you’ll find, but also how toned your legs will be,” traveler Chadner said. “Those hills are no joke!”


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Eat like a local

During our guided tours of Portugal, we make sure meals feature local dishes that connect you to the places we visit. Here are some dishes to seek out when you’re venturing on your own.

  • Rice is a major part of the Portuguese diet and comes in many forms. Depending on who’s making it, the dish could be risotto-like in consistency or malandrinha, which means it’s going to be a little soupy. Rice dishes are often loaded with vegetables or protein like octopus, duck, and fish. Traveler Chadner said his favorite is a simple tomato rice. “It’s the perfect pairing to plates of fried fish, which you can find in almost every restaurant in Portugal,” he said.
  • For a snack, go with a sandwich. There are several types and all of them can be hearty. Traveler Chadner is partial to the bifana, which is a dinner roll stuffed with thin slices of pork that’s marinated and simmered in white wine. Another popular one is called prego, which is made of beef.
  • Leave room for dessert. The Portuguese love their sweets. Over a thousand different pastries have been part of the national kitchen for centuries. You may have heard of the world-famous pastel de nata, a cinnamon-dusted egg tart that originated in the Lisbon neighborhood of Belém, but can be purchased in every bakery in the country. “Pastéis de Belém is considered the originator of this treat so everyone goes there to get their fill,” travel Chadner added. “But Pastelaria Aloma, tucked away in the residential neighborhood of Campo de Ourique, makes my favorite.”

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Soak in the culture

You can’t visit a European country like Lisbon and not be seduced by its millenia-old heritage. Here are some of the best ways to uncover the city’s historic culture.

  • Pay attention to the walls. Many of them are covered with azulejos, the hand-painted tiles that represent Portugal’s artistic legacy.
  • Ride a tram. One of the most emblematic pictures of Lisbon is the yellow-trimmed, ancient trams that roll up and down the city’s hills. Locals still use trams as a form of transportation. Riding them provides an atmospheric way to see the city, and on our Solo Tour of Portugal, you’ll get the chance to hop aboard the famous Tram 28 during your guided sightseeing tour.
  • Listen to fado. This genre of music, which can be traced back to the early 19th century, captures the sense of melancholy that Portugal is famous for. During our tour of Lisbon, there’s an option to add a Fado Show & Dinner excursion, but if once isn’t enough, the streets of Alfama and Graça are home to little bars that often host fado performances. “Fado is sung so dramatically that even if you don’t understand Portuguese, it’s easy to understand the emotion behind the song,” traveler Chadner said.

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Spend time in or near the water

Portugal’s relationship to the water is fully embedded into its culture. And as a visitor, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t experience it as much as your schedule allows. If you decide to extend your trip beyond the original itinerary, consider taking the train or driving to some of the country’s most stunning seaside towns, such as Cascais, where the Portuguese royal family used to live, and Ericeira, one of the best places to surf in Europe.

You can also add an excursion to Nazaré, whose coastline is often battered with skyscraper-high waves unlike anything you might have seen. But during our days in Porto, there’s an option to include a languorous boat ride on the Douro River, during which you can stare at the wine terraces of the Douro Valley while sipping port wine and bonding with your new travel buddies.


Ready for an adventure of a lifetime? Shop our Portugal for Solo Travelers tour


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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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