Things You Should Always Do When Visiting Portugal

Walk along the river in Aveiro, Portugal
Walk along the river in Aveiro, Portugal | Photo by Ricardo Resende on Unsplash
Photo of Nina Santos
2 September 2021

There’s so much more to Portugal than just Lisbon, yet many visitors never get past the capital or begin to scratch below the surface of the country’s culture. Bear in mind the following tips to get more out of your trip to Portugal.

Want to visit? Let our local insider show you the best of Portugal on our specially curated nine-day Northern Portugal adventure.

Take it easy

Slow down, and be fully present in each place you visit instead of rushing around the country to see as many destinations as possible. Pay as much attention to the sounds, smells and flavours you experience as to the sights themselves, and take the time to learn something about each landmark. Portugal’s rich history and traditions may surprise you.

Experience the cuisine like a local

The Portuguese truly value gastronomy and take much pride in their local cuisines. Skip the tourist-filled restaurants, duck into one of the locals’ spots, and try something different. With Culture Trip, you can join a guided culinary walking tour of Porto on our specially curated nine-day Northern Portugal adventure, led by our local insider.

Bacalhau à Brás is a popular Portuguese dish | © Alvaro German Vilela / Alamy

Visit an outdoor market

The outdoor markets are usually full of energy and often the best places to buy treats, gifts and souvenirs.

Buy souvenirs along the embankment of Vila Nova de Gaia | © dov makabaw / Alamy

Sample the different wines

You can purchase a good bottle of Portuguese wine for as little as €2 (£1.80) in the market, and a glass at a restaurant can cost even less. Ask one of the locals for advice, and sample wines from different regions, such as Tejo, Alentejo or Vinho Verde. Winemaking is taken seriously in Portugal, and the locals will love explaining the different varieties to you. How about sipping a glass of excellent Portuguese wine while floating down the Douro River on a rabelo boat? You can do so with Culture Trip on our nine-day small-group Northern Portugal tour.

Sample some excellent Portuguese wine | © Photo by Maksym Kaharlytskyi on Unsplash

Don’t stay in Lisbon (Porto doesn’t count!)

Everyone should visit Lisbon, Porto and the Algarve at least once, but that doesn’t mean you should only stay in these areas. The smaller cities and rural districts will offer a more traditional side of the culture that may be missed in the larger, metropolitan cities.

Spend time in Minho, and visit Peneda-Gerês National Park

The north of Portugal is home to the oldest, and many of the most beautiful, areas in the country. From the rolling green hills in Minho to the ancient villages, flora and fauna of the only national park in Portugal, this region is one of the country’s treasures.

Sistelo is an area in Northern Portugal | © BIOSPHOTO / Alamy

Head to the beaches in Central and Northern Portugal

While everyone else is swarming to the beaches around Lisbon and in the Algarve, go north, and find your own spot under the sun along a different stretch of the coast.

Eat seafood by the sea

This may seem like a no-brainer, but many visitors forget to enjoy their seafood at the seaside. A fantastic experience in Portugal is ordering a mariscada (mixed seafood platter) by the beach in one of the fishing villages and washing it down with a local wine or beer.

Unwind at a seafront cafe in Carvoeiro, Portugal | © Ian Dagnall / Alamy

Try speaking Portuguese

No one is expecting fluent Portuguese to roll off the tongues of visitors, but knowing the small things such as obrigado (thank you) and bom dia (good morning) can make a big difference. Before visiting Portugal, make sure to learn some of the commonly used phrases to help you communicate.

Have fun, but be mindful

Enjoy your time in Portugal, but remember to respect the local culture and people. It’s your holiday; for locals, it’s their home.

Follow Rua Augusta in Lisbon to Rua Augusta Arch | © Amani A / Alamy

Visit the islands

Visiting the Azores and Madeira will never be easier than when flying from mainland Portugal, so look into flights, and try hopping over to one or more of the islands if time allows. The two national airlines, TAP Air Portugal and Azores Airlines, regularly fly to the islands, and there are also low-cost options, such as Ryanair.

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