One Week Itinerary: Portugal

Portugal is one of my favorite destinations in the world. I have visited four times in four years and would still go back. The food, the charm, the history, and more draws me back to it time and time again. You can find my top things to do in Lisbon in my previous blog post, so here I will provide you with a week long itinerary, ideally for first time visitors who want to see different parts of the country while hitting all the major attractions.

In 2022, I went to Portugal to celebrate a friend’s birthday and while this was both of our fourth times visiting, it was the rest of the group’s first time. I wanted to put together the perfect itinerary for them to really showcase why Portugal has my heart. I’d like to think I did a great job at doing so and want to share that with other visitors!

Day 1: Arrive in Porto

In reality, everyone else arrived a day before me as I only wanted to take a full week off from work. However, I think 2-3 nights in Porto is the perfect amount of time to explore. This was my second time visiting Porto and to be honest, it’s not my favorite. Don’t get me wrong, Porto is absolutely stunning and I think it’s a must visit, but I do feel that it’s more touristy than Lisbon.

So I flew in on a Saturday and immediately met up with the rest of the group around 2:30PM which gave me the rest of the afternoon and evening to explore. The first stop after my arrival was to do some port tasting. Port is a fortified wine produced in Douro Valley (see activity for Day 2) that is sweet and served with dessert. You’ll find a ton of tastings in Gaia which is just on the other side of the bridge from Porto.

We went to Quevedo Port Wine in Gaia and made the mistake of ordering four bottles of port wine. Our initial plan was to all do tastings, but pricing wise it was a better deal to just order the full bottles. The mistake is that it was way too much wine, specifically port as it’s very heavy and sweet. We ordered some snacks and overall had a really great time and the hospitality there was amazing, so I would definitely recommend checking them out! However, maybe stick with 1 bottle of port or just the tasting flight.

After polishing off all the bottles, we checked out WOW (World of Wine) which is a cluster of museums, restaurants, and bars that outline a story of Porto’s port wine industry. We happened to visit during their beer festival, which gave us a great break from wine. There were vendors set up all over and you’d receive a bracelet that you would load up with funds along with a small glass. From there, you’d just hop from booth to booth trying out various beers for around 1-3 euro each. This is a great place to check out and you can get some great views from this spot as well. With restaurants and bars on site, you can spend hours there.

Feeling a bit tipsy off of wine and beer, we decided it was a good time to go grab some food. We walked along the river taking in beauty of the sunset and views.

We made it across the bridge into Porto to have pork sandwiches at Casa Guedes Tradicional. You may be thinking that there must not be anything special about these sandwiches, but these are so good especially paired with a cold Super Bock. My preference is just a plain and simple pernil (roasted pork) sandwich loaded with their hot sauce. It is so good.

Afterwards, head over to Gazela which is right down the block for their infamous hot dogs. I’m not a big fan of hot dogs, so I would have rather eaten more pork sandwiches but the entire group loves hot dogs and were obsessed with this place. It’s a great vibe though and the team there was super friendly. We ordered and enjoyed the food and drinks outside.

Our last stop of the night was Fabrica Nortada which is a modern style brewery serving up craft beers. If you’re into craft beers, you’d like this spot and the options they offered! A great way to end the night.

Day 2: Explore Douro Valley

For the second day in Portugal, we booked a tour of Douro Valley. We booked this specific tour through Viator for $103.70/person. Since our group consisted of 7 individuals, it ended up being a private tour without having to book a private one as the max group size was 8. The tour includes pick up and drop off from our Airbnb, a boat tour through the valley, wine tastings at two different vineyards, and a full lunch in the town of Pinhão.

The tour was definitely worth it as Douro Valley is gorgeous and the views are incredible. While the wine tastings were great and the vineyards were nice to learn about the history, we all were tired of port wine by this point due to our mistake made the day before. So just some advice if you aren’t a huge port fan, do not overdo it on your first day in Porto!

The lunch we had in Pinhão was incredible. They kept bringing out more and more dishes and left carafes of both white and red wine on the table. I couldn’t believe it was all included in the price of the tour even the coffee and dessert to end our meals. After lunch we took the boat ride in which you are surrounded by the valley. It truly is breathtaking and not to be missed.

We visited our final vineyard which was in a beautiful location before heading back to Porto where we all of course passed out during the ride. The tour was about 10 hours total so plan for a full day out.

Once we got back to our accommodation in Porto, we rested a bit before heading out for dinner at Brasao Coliseu. A dish that Porto is well known for is the francesinha. This sandwich is a meat lovers dream with ham, sausage, and steak. It is smothered in melted cheese, a tomato and beer sauce, and topped with an egg. It is decadent, flavorful, and as filling as you can imagine. While I personally don’t care much for it, it’s something you absolutely have to try. You can find it available at many spots all over Porto and some establishments that specialize in it specifically. Brasao Coliseu had great reviews for the sandwich, but also offered up many other menu items. That on top of accepting reservations for a group of 7 made it a perfect place for dinner.

Day 3: Travel to LISBON

On the 3rd day, we made our way to one of my favorite cities, Lisbon. We took a train from Porto – Campanha to Lisboa Santa Apolonia which cost around $21 USD and took 3 hours. Trains between Porto and Lisbon run pretty often and no transfers are necessary, so it makes for an easy ride over.

Once we arrived in Lisbon, we immediately went to lunch at Altalho Real where I had made reservations. I had been before for dinner so already knew that I enjoyed the place and planned accordingly since it was a 5 minute walk to our Airbnb in Bairro Alto. We were seated outside which was beautiful and spacious for all of our bags since we were waiting to be checked into our accommodation. Atalho Real is a steakhouse so you can’t go wrong with ordering any of the cuts they offer, but my friend swears by their burgers which he states is in his top 3 that he’s ever had.

After lunch, we were ready to check into our Airbnb which was essentially two apartments put together. As mentioned, it was located in Bairro Alto which I feel is one of the best areas to stay in as it is central, lively, and surrounded by numerous cafes and restaurants. I usually stay there or Chiado.

Our next stop on the itinerary was the Santa Justa Elevator and Carmo Convent, which are right next to each other. Of course on our way over, we had to stop into Manteigaria for some pasteis de nata. You simply can’t visit Portugal and not have a pastel de nata (ideally, every day). I mentioned in my previous blog post about Santa Justa Elevator, so just a reminder to skip the line to take the elevator up. Unless it’s super short and no wait, it’s not worth it to wait in line for a short ride when you can get to the top by walking through a cafe. You’ll still have to pay to take the stairs up to the very top or you can simply take in the views right before the stairs for free.

The Carmo Convent is a former Catholic convent that was destroyed by an earthquake that hit the city in 1755. The ruins can be visited for just 5 Euro and you won’t spend much time exploring as the grounds are small, but it is definitely worth it to check out.

After some exploring, you can grab drinks at Topo Chiado located right behind Carmo Convent. This outdoor space offers up a great view of the city and the Santa Just Lift. Order a refreshing bottle of vinho verde and enjoy your time in this vibrant city.

For dinner, check out one of my favorite places: Cantinho do Aziz. This Mozambican restaurants serves up the best chamussas (samosas) and other traditional dishes from Mozambique. Pair everything with their house made hot sauce and you won’t be disappointed. I love this place so much that I went twice during my first trip to Lisbon and then made sure to visit again on my 2nd and 4th visit. For a large group, I’d recommend making reservations. Most of the seating is outside so the ambiance just adds to the experience.

Day 4: Day Trip to Sintra

The next morning, we headed to Sintra which is home to multiple castles and sights to explore. You can take a train or uber as ubers are typically ridiculously cheap in Portugal. Our originally plan was to uber there but just so happen that there was a crazy surge at the time we were leaving, so I ditched that plan and headed over to the nearby train station. The ride takes about 45 minutes so not bad at all. The reason why I initially wanted to take an uber instead is because the train station in Sintra drops you off in the middle of the town and our first stop would be Pena Palace which is a bit further away and requires another ride, so if you’re able to get an uber I would just suggest doing that so you are dropped off at near the entrance of the palace.

So once we arrived in Sintra, we got a ride in a jeep to the palace which to be honest was probably way overpriced, but overall okay as it added to the experience. I would highly recommend going to Pena Palace right when they open and be sure to book your tickets in advance to avoid the long queues. When I visited Sintra in 2021, it was right after Portugal had reopened to tourists so the place was pretty empty. This time, it was packed with visitors but still less than the crowd we saw as we were leaving. It’s a unique and beautiful palace so you do want to visit. You can buy tickets for just the park which includes the grounds including the exterior walkways of the palace or timed tickets for the inside and park.

Afterwards, we walked down to Moorish Castle which takes about 15 minutes downhill. This castle is grand and quite scary at times are you walk along the edge looking down below you. Be prepared for the intense wind while walking along the castle ruins as well. There’s quite a bit to explore, so expect a fair amount of walking up and down stairs as opposed to the Pena Palace which was mainly one level.

We worked up a bit of an appetite so we headed down to the town area by calling the jeep driver that originally took us up. There is a bus that will take you down, but it was a bit more convenient for us to get a ride. We had lunch at Tasca Saloia which is located right in the middle of the town so a great spot to people watch. Then I stopped in Piriquita for some pastries to go. You’ll want to try the infamous travesseiros and other local Sintra pastries. We walked around and bit before heading by to Lisbon by uber (about a $20-$25 ride). Sintra is an amazing place to do a day trip or even overnight trip as there’s so much to see there. We were all pretty exhausted after the Moorish Castle so did not explore any of the other castles in the area but there are plenty to see.

For dinner we attempted to go to Frangasqueira Nacional for their piri piri chicken but the line was long and it is a one woman show, so we knew it’d be an extremely long wait. So instead we headed to Time Out Market which was bustling with people. While, I enjoy the variety at Time Out and love the lively vibes there, the food that I’ve tried amongst all my visits just isn’t that great. There are much better places to eat in Lisbon so I decided during this visit that I wouldn’t go back during any future visits to Lisbon.

Day 5: Explore Lisbon

We then had a full day to explore Lisbon and our first stop was to the Alfama district, which is one of the oldest areas of Lisbon. You’ll find gorgeous viewpoints overlooking the ports and traditional orange rooftops. My favorite lookout point is called
Miradouro das Portas do Sol. Grab yourself a drink and enjoy the views outside. On certain days you may also come across a local market set up and live music.

In Alfama you’ll find plenty of restaurant and cafes to stop in. A few of the spots I had bookmarked were quite busy to fit a large group, but we were easily able to find another place to go to nearby because of all the options around. From here it would also be a good chance to visit Castelo de Sao Jorge as it’s close by and you can walk through the small alleys of the neighborhood to get to the castle. I actually haven’t visited the castle during any of my visits to Lisbon and decided on a whim to try on this day, but it was far too crowded so we ended up skipping it.

From there, make your way to LX Factory which is an industrial complex filled with clothing stores, restaurants, and other unique retailers. I love the vibe of this area and it’s super easier to spend time going in and out of all the shops. We stopped in Chickinho Lx Factory to get a piri piri chicken fix and just had a good time eating and playing drinking games outside.

From LX Factory, you can easily make your way down to Belem since it’s out towards that area. I’ve visited Belem before and for me it wasn’t really worth another visit so we didn’t make an effort to go on this trip. Instead we headed to Village Food for drinks before going across the bridge into Almada for dinner. Village Food is a super cool spot made up of old buses and box cars. It’s within walking distance from LX Factory so the perfect place to stop by afterwards if you want to continue eating and drinking activities.

For dinner, we headed to Ponto Final which is an amazing seafood restaurant with the most gorgeous setting. Make sure to make reservations in advance or get there before opening to wait in line. You’re seated along the water where one wrong step and you’re swimming. It’s the perfect place to watch the sunset and to escape the hustle and bustle of Lisbon. Everything served is fresh and delicious. It was a great way to end our time in Lisbon before heading out to the next destination the following morning.

Day 6: Travel to Lagos

Lagos is a beautiful coastal town in Portugal’s Algarve region. Algarve in general is absolutely gorgeous and I was excited to go as it was my first time going to this part of Portugal. While I’m not much of a beach person, I can still appreciate the beauty of ocean views. If you don’t want to rent a car during your visit to Portugal then Lagos is the perfect destination within the Algarve region as you can easily get there by train and travel within the town by foot, uber, or taxi. Now ubers there are definitely more scarce than in the major cities, but you will still come across them during popular times.

The train ride from Lisbon to Lagos takes around 4 hours and requires a transfer onto a regional train. We arrived at 2PM then took an uber from the train station to our hotel which was about a 10 minute drive as we stayed a bit further from the main area in a resort. For only $155/night, we stayed in a 2 bedroom apartment at the Belmar Resort (we split the group into two separate apartments). The place is beautiful and walking distance to a beach so it’s a perfect spot to relax especially towards the ends of your trip.

Our first stop in town was to The Garden, which as the name implies has a beautiful outdoor garden setting and was a great spot for drinks. From there we stopped into another bar that had a nice, although small rooftop called Indigo Bar. It was then time for dinner where I made reservations at Casa do Prego which is known for their steak sandwiches. If you go, get the vinho verde sangria. It was so refreshing that we kept ordering more which ultimately caught up to us.

After dinner we walked around and basically went bar hopping around town. Lagos is a place that you’ll find many expats and is great for socializing and partying. We all had an amazing time and perhaps drank a bit too much, but it made for some great memories.

Day 7: Relax in Lagos

For this full day in Lagos, you can really venture out and explore by hiking, kayaking, or any other water activity. The picturesque cliffs and vibrant waters make for endless photo opportunities and beautiful views. We had booked a half day boat tour that includes a ride along the cliffs and lunch; however, at seven in the morning after a night full of drinking I made the decision for myself that I would not be partaking in any boat activities. The rest of the group mustered up the energy to head to the dock, but once they realized that the boat would be packed with others and there didn’t appear to be a restroom they all decided to skip out and make their way back to the resort. So while I was nursing my hangover and did some work as well, everyone enjoyed the day just relaxing at the pool or exploring the beaches.

So although my day did not go as planned, I think everyone appreciated being able to simply relax and not constantly being on the go. For dinner, I made reservations at O Camilo by calling the restaurant directly a few weeks ahead. This restaurant is right next to Praia do Camilo which is a beautiful beach surrounded by cliffs and rock formations. It’s a perfect spot to catch the sunset as well.

Everything is fresh and you can choose from a wide selection of offerings. I ordered tiger prawns and oysters to start and then steak for my main entrée. I ended the meal with cheesecake and espresso. I honestly could not have asked for a more perfect last dinner for the group as we were wrapping up the trip.

After dinner we went back to the hotel and watched Goodfellas while laying out a spread of various canned seafood as you simply cannot go to Portugal and not try their canned seafood, especially sardines! They were all so good with sardines in a spicy tomato sauce being my favorite.

Day 8: Travel Back to Porto Before Heading Home

For the last full day in Portugal, we headed back to Porto for our flight out. If you plan out your itinerary in advance prior to booking your flight, you could likely fly out from Lagos with a layover in Lisbon for probably not much of a price difference through TAP Portugal. But, we had all booked our flights roundtrip to Porto so we did have to make the trek back. The train ride from Lagos to Porto is around 7 hours and includes a transfer as you are initially on a regional train. The price we paid was about $36 USD and we opted for a train because it’s just simply easier than having to go to the airport in both Lagos and Porto. I also didn’t want to run the risk of delays so we left to Porto the day before we flew back home instead of flying into Porto the morning of our return home.

We left Lagos at 8AM and arrived in Porto at 3PM so we did still have the whole evening in Porto although we were all pretty exhausted from the trip at that point, so I didn’t plan anything out and left it open for whatever anyone wanted to do. That included more pork sandwiches, hot dogs, and watching soccer.

So there you have it! A full week itinerary in Portugal that I hope helps for first time visitors. This should give you a glimpse into why I love Portugal so much as it has a ton to offer. If you have any questions, be sure to drop a comment below!

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