Vacations in Portugal – meet Spain's wild sibling
A vacation in Portugal leaves you spoiled for choice. Start in Porto and take a river cruise through the Douro valley. After you have wandered happily through Porto's old town with its many historic buildings decorated with beautiful tiles, you can travel on to the Algarve's splendid beaches, or visit Lisbon.
What to know before planning a vacation in Portugal
Portugal is part of the European Union and the Schengen Zone. If you are a EU citizen, the only travel document you need is your national identity card. Residents of most other countries get their visa, which can be valid for a stay up to 90 days in any Schengen country, on arrival.
The main international airports are Lisbon, Porto, and Faro. The Azores islands and Madeira are well connected with affordable flight options, especially from Faro.
Best travel times
Portugal, including the islands, enjoys a mild and relatively dry climate all year round. The winter is ideal to plan a city trip to Porto or Lisbon. The rest of the year is great for for beach vacations, as even in the height of summer the temperatures rarely get too hot and the water is always pleasantly warm.
Currency and language
Porto uses the euro as its currency; for the best exchange rates, use your credit or debit card at an ATM machine. Make sure your card is PIN-enabled and always choose 'local currency' when asked about exchange rate options.
English is widely spoken throughout the country, but the Portuguese are always delighted if you know a few phrases in their language, and tend to be very patient with people who speak little or no Portuguese.
Best vacation regions in Portugal
The Azores islands and Madeira are great for a relaxed and laid-back beach vacation, while the Algarve offers stunningly beautiful beaches and active nightlife.
The two main cities, Porto and Lisbon, offer endless possibilities for sightseeing. Here are two short lists with their main attractions:
- Make sure to visit a fado (traditional song) performance
- Take tram 28 to see the Old Town for a fraction of the price of tourist buses
- Visit the Botanical Garden, especially spectacular in early summer, and don't forget to pack a picnic
- Take a tour through one of the port wine caves and sample the different varieties
- The Livraria Lello, near the university, is said to be one of the most beautiful book shops in Europe
- Climb the 240 steps to the top of Torre dos Clerigos (Clerics' Tower) and enjoy the view of the city