Portugal’s picturesque coastline and its many ancient forts and cathedrals make it a great European destination. Located next to Spain on the Iberian Peninsula, it has a population of more than 10 million. Still relatively cheap compared to neighboring Spain, France and Italy, another 10 million people visit Portugal yearly, with the busiest times being the summer months of July and August. Entrances to sites are typically €4-8, and wonderful 4-5* hotels can be had for €100 and great meals for €20 per person. English and French are quite prevalent and one can easily get by without knowing Spanish or Portuguese.
Lisbon, the capital, is one of the oldest cities in Europe and is the most populated city (500 000+) of Portugal. It’s located at the mouth of the Tagus River known locally has Rio Tejo and the Atlantic Ocean, which makes it an important port for freighters and cruise ships alike. The city center is located nearby and an easy taxi ride will get you there quickly (10 minutes) from the international airport. Most travelers arrive in Lisbon and we would highly recommend staying a few days to enjoy this city. There is good public transportation in the form of busses and electric trams to get you to the old town. Many hotels will also offer shuttle service. The best way to visit Lisbon is on foot but be prepared to climb many steep hills and stairs; after all this is known as the City of the Seven Hills!
A short 3-hour train ride from Lisbon is Porto, one of the most picturesque cities we have ever visited. The best way to immerse yourself in Portugal’s second largest city is to roam around the narrow streets and hidden alleyways. Taking a small cruise on the Douro River is a must do, it’s the best way to admire Porto’s numerous bridges including the Dom Luis Bridge and the Ponte Dona Maria Pia. The river gives a different vantage point and superb view of the shoreline made up of the numerous colorful old buildings from another era.
There are many popular river cruises that leave from Porto, and we would highly recommend adding a few days before or after your cruise along the Douro River to explore this charming town. The Douro Valley is known to produce some of the best port wine in the world.
The town of Sintra is located a mere 40-minute train ride from Rossio Station in Lisbon making it easy to get to and an excellent day trip. There is a lot to see in the area and if your time permits perhaps staying for a couple of days would be a good option to make the most of this wonderful area. This would also give you time to beat the crowds arriving for the day which can be pretty intense. Fairytale palaces, Moorish castle and narrow cobblestones streets line with shops will enchant you like it did us.
Tip: go on Monday when the museums and other attractions in Lisbon are closed, Sintra’s attractions are open on Mondays.
We visited in February, colder temperatures, but thinner crowds…