Holidays in Portugal offer the perfect blend of beach and city life
Holidays in Portugal promise some of the most gorgeous coastlines in Europe and ancient history. Head to the capital, Lisbon, and see the city from the hilltop at São Jorge Castle. Stroll along the riverbanks and tour the port wine caves in Porto, or head to the Algarve for marvellous beaches.
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The top destinations for holidays in Portugal
- Lisbon (Central Portugal), the nation's capital, boasts superb cuisine, a fascinating history, and buzzing nightlife. Perfect for an intriguing city break!
- Porto (Northern Portugal) is home beloved port wine, as well as attractive, colourful architecture.
- Faro (Southern Portugal), the capital of the Algarve region, is the place to discover hidden beaches along the coast or go golfing with friends.
- Coimbra (Central Portugal) is home to one of Europe's oldest universities. This charming little city has plenty of winding medieval streets to discover.
- Braga (Northern Portugal) boasts some of Europe's most interesting churches, such as the magnificent Bom Jesus do Monte, which sits atop a grand baroque stairway.
What can I expect to see in Lisbon?
Holidays in Portugal's capital combine many of the charming country's best aspects. In the Bairro Alto quarter, you'll discover a vivacious nightlife where the party never seems to end. Along Avenida da Liberdade, shop at designer stores and pick up something special for a loved one. In ancient Alfama, you'll feel transported in time amid the narrow streets' friendly taverns and cosy restaurants, and you're just a short train ride away from a wealth of beautiful beaches.
For food lovers, expect to find a wide variety of places to taste Portuguese cuisine, including the Time Out Food Market in central Lisbon. Look out for the famous pasteis de nata (Portuguese custard tart) or Bifana sandwiches, a bread roll of sautéed, marinated pork. And to complete your knowledge of Portuguese cuisine: Bacalhau is salted fish and Azeitão is a Cheese made from sheep’s milk.
Why visit northern Portugal for holidays?
Porto and Braga, two great reasons to see the north of Portugal, have a more relaxed feel than Lisbon but still have an enormous range of sights, restaurants, bars, and shops. Literature lovers can spend hours browsing the historic Livraria Lello bookshop in Porto, or you can take photos at the gorgeous Dom Luís I Bridge and buy a bottle of port to take home. In Braga, see historic palaces such as the 11th-century Castle of Guimarães, or visit Peneda-Gerês National Park.
Where are the best beaches in Portugal?
Portugal is blessed with an enormous Atlantic coastline. Many holidaymakers flock to the beaches of the Algarve in the south, where you'll find Portugal's warmest weather. Here are some beach holiday highlights.
- Visit Albufeira, a charming old town with a vibrant beach and nightlife;
- Lagos, to snap photos at the cliffs and soak up the sun on the white sands;
- Praia do Barril, to enjoy watersports such as windsurfing and diving, along with a calmer vibe than some of the larger resorts of the Algarve; and
- Cabo de Santa Maria, which is close to the main regional city of Faro but secluded enough to get plenty of privacy in unspoilt surroundings.
What is the best time to go to Portugal?
The best time to visit Portugal is in spring or autumn. Spring comes between March and May meaning that you will catch all the colours that make holidays in Portugal special. These months are not too hot and you avoid the summer crowds that the peak travel season brings. Autumn falls between September and October; these months are still warm, less crowded and the best time for a wine or port tour.
As the winter temperatures are higher in Portugal compared to the UK, the country is still an ideal destination for a winter weekend break. Even in the low season, you can still discover the monumental cities, indulge in some authentic food and relax on the beach in The Algarve.
The Algarve for Couples
The Algarve has established itself as the ultimate destination for couples and honeymooners. Naturally offering the perfect wedding venue, this picturesque mixture of beaches, islands and cliffs makes the ideal romantic getaway for any couple. Fall in love again in the romantic small town of Faro, its narrow streets and fisherman’s village atmosphere creates a warm setting that could come straight off the pages of a romantic novel.
If you enjoy partying as a couple and are looking to sip champagne and dance the night away, then head over to Albufeira. This beach town offers affordable restaurants, bars and hotels that allow couples to get the most out of their holiday. The Montechoro Strip is your one-stop street for food and night-life, the vibrant atmosphere will have you dancing till the sun comes up – with the option of a full breakfast in the morning!
The best activities in Portugal all year round
As well as its magnificent beaches and vibrant cities, the country has plenty more captivating activities that will complete your holiday in Portugal, regardless of what time of year you visit:
- In winter, you can go skiing in the Serra da Estrela, located in western Portugal
- In spring, go skydiving in Alentejo or bungee jumping in Albufeira
- In summer, learn how to surf on the Atlantic coast and catch the waves with the pros
- In autumn, visit the port wine cellars in Porto and try a glass or two