The Euro is Portugal’s accepted form of currency. While cash is accepted across the country, many places will accept Visa, Mastercard and Amex. Discover Card is rarely accepted in Portugal.
The official language of Portugal is Portugese, however, English is widely understood and spoken throughout the country.
Best Time To Go
Portugal is a beautiful country to visit any time of year. In the warmer months, you can explore the museums in Lisbon and go wine tasting in Porto, and for the winter months you can escape the cold in the Algarve, a perfect destination for snowbirds looking for a long-stay vacation.
The climate in Portugal can vary depending on region. Overall, Portugal has dry hot summers and cooler, wet winters. The caveat is that the southern regions can have some of the hottest temperatures in Europe, and typically remain quite warm even in the winter.
Portugal has something to offer all types of travellers. For wine drinkers, the Douro Valley is a must see with its many wineries. For those who like culture and history, Portugal has museums, and many shows with traditional music, food, and dance. Snowbirds will love the Algarve region, with hotels that offer long-stay programs paired with a mix of beach relaxation and day trips.
Getting There From North America
The largest airports in Portugal are Lisbon Portela Airport and the Francisco Sa Carneiro Airport in Porto. Faro Airport is also used for those looking to stay in the Algarve region.
Recommended flight route from the United States
Many major US cities, such as New York, Atlanta, Chicago and Los Angeles have direct flights into both Lisbon and Porto. Flights into Faro from the US usually require a connection.
Recommended flight route from Canada
Toronto and Vancouver both have multiple direct flights a day to and from Lisbon and Porto. For those looking to fly into Faro, at least one connection must be made en route.
Essential Sights of Portugal
Lisbon is the capital city of Portugal and is one of the most charismatic and vibrant cities. Enjoy traditional food and music as you wander the streets and examine the stunning architecture that surrounds you. Lisbon has many historic sites that offer panoramic views of the city. Lisbon also has a large outdoor market called the Praca do Comercio, lined with shops, restaurants and live entertainment.
The second largest city in Portugal, this city is the gateway to the Douro Valley and a must see for all visitors. Wander the narrow cobblestone streets past unique restaurants and cafes, try some local foods and port wine, or visit the city’s many beautiful churches and historic buildings.
The Douro Valley is Portugal's most popular wine region and home to one of the largest rivers in the Iberian Peninsula. Whether on land or water,enjoy the peace and serenity as you take in the natural beauty and enjoy local food and drink.
The Algarve is the southern region of Portugal, with Faro and Albufiera being the main destinations for tourists. This region boasts beautiful beaches and golf courses, it is perfect for anyone looking for a relaxing beach vacation or a longer, snowbird stay.
Other Highlights of Portugal Off the Beaten Path
Evora is located just east of Lisbon. A World Heritage Site, it is home to the impeccably preserved Roman Temple of Evora, and many other historic artifacts from a wide range of time periods. Evora is also known for its wine, offering many wineries to visit and tasting tours.
Braga is often referred to as the religious center of Portugal, with a symphony of church bells ringing out every hour from the various churches and cathedrals. Visit the Braga Cathedral with its large collection of sacred art, or climb the stairway to the Bom Jesus do Monte and get a birds eye view of Braga and beyond.
Coimbra was the capital city of Portugal until the 13th century, when it was decided to move the capital to Lisbon. Wander the streets of this well preserved medieval and historic town, and visit the iconic University of Coimbra with its famed baroque library.
Sintra & Estoril
Take in the stunning Portugese coastline with a stop in exclusive Estoril. Wander the streets and immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of this lively town. Then explore Sintra, just next door. Sintra is home to the best preserved medieval royal palaces, where the Portugese Royal family spent their summers.
Top Activities and Experiences in Portugal
Pilgrimage to Fatima
Located in a small town located near Lisbon, Our Lady of Fatima sanctuary is a Catholic pilgrimage site where the Virgin Mary allegedly appeared in 1917. Even for visitors who are not of the Catholic faith, Fatima is an important place to visit. The Basilica de Nossa Senhora and its beautiful gold angels, and the Museu de Arte Sacra e Etnologia, which hosts many historical artifacts, are worth exploring.
See a Fado Performance
Fado is a traditional type of music in Portugese culture dating back to the 19th century. A Fado performance is recommended for all travellers as you get to experience the music, dance and food that makes Portugal truly special.
Douro Valley Wine Tasting
Explore the beautiful Douro Valley by bus and boat. Visit Amarante and Provensende before you set sail down the Douro River, making stops for wine tasting along the way. Take in the beautiful views and learn about how wine is an important part of the Portugese culture.
Guimaraes, Where Portugal Began
Guimaraes is in the northern part of Portugal and has been a UNESCO listed World Heritage Site since 2001. This city has historical connections to the emergence of the Portugese national identity dating back to the 12th century CE. This town is well preserved, letting you go back in time and walk through a medieval settlement in modern times.
Essential Portugese Foods to Try
Caldo Verde is a traditional Portugese soup that is more popular among locals during the winter months. This green soup usually includes collard greens, potatoes, garlic, onion, olive oil and salt and pepper. Some more modern recipes now include meat such as ham hock.
Piri Piri Chicken
Piri Piri is a pepper that originated in Mozambique, but was brought back to Portugal. It is mixed with a variety of other spices and is a marinade for chicken and still holds a lot of tradition in both Portugese and South African cultures.
Bacalhau is Portugese for “Cod,” and is a main staple in Portugese cuisine. Cod used to be fished far away, so it was pickled in salt so it would survive the journey back home. Nowadays, cod is still used for many dishes, the most popular being Bacalhau a Gomes de Sá which is traditionally served on Good Friday, but can be found in many restaurants. The dish consists of salt cod, potatoes, onions, hard boiled eggs, olives and olive oil.
Pasteis de Nata
Pasteis de Nata is a custard tart that is usually served for dessert. This pastry can be found at many bakeries and cafes around Portugal.
Most Popular Itineraries for Portugal
The best Portugal itinerary really depends on the type of traveller you are. For a solid, all-over view of the country, a round-trip from Lisbon covering the best of Portugal is the way to go. You can also opt to stay in Lisbon as a city break on its own, as many of the country’s smaller highlights are reachable on a day trip. The same can be said of Porto, though if you are spending more time in this city, it’s well worth taking some time in the Douro Valley, particularly on a cruise.
Tips for Sustainable Travel
If you are looking to travel sustainably, then Portugal is the place for you. With many UNESCO listed World Heritage Sites, and ample sustainability initiatives all over the country which put an emphasis on gastronomy, crafts and history, there are many local and regional efforts to preserve the wonders of nature and Portugese culture. Many cities in Portugal are connected via train making it easy to get around while keeping the environment in mind.
Where to Go Next
One of the easiest countries to visit after you tour Portugal is Spain, as they share a border. However, Europe does have some of the best train systems in the world, making it easy to continue your trip in France or Holland. Also worth noting is the quick ferry ride across the Mediterranean to the shores of magical Morocco.