Last Updated on October 14, 2021 by Maggie McKneely
To ease your trip planning, check out this one week in Portugal itinerary to make sure you hit the country’s highlights!
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One Week in Portugal Itinerary
For such a tiny country, Portugal is jam-packed with beautiful places to see, mouth-watering food to eat, and blue-tiled towns to visit. It’s a tiny slice of the Iberian Peninsula and dwarfed by its neighbor Spain. But Portugal’s year-round good weather, friendly people, and unique culture make it one of the best destinations in the world.
While 8 days isn’t enough time to explore the country in-depth (2 weeks in Portugal is even better!), it is enough to give you a taste. Because it is so small, you can cover a lot of ground in just a week! But choosing just what to see and how long to spend where can be daunting. To help you out, here’s a perfect one week in Portugal itinerary.
Getting Around Portugal
Portugal has pretty great public transportation. You can get to almost any main town via train, and many more obscure places via bus. Taxis and Uber/Lyft are also very common. We rented a car because we prefer to have the flexibility that comes with having your own car, and Portugal has one of the most amazing highway systems I’ve seen. For a complete guide, visit this guide to transportation in Portugal.
This itinerary will assume you’ve rented a car and are taking a road trip through Portugal, but it’s doable via other transportation methods.
Day 1: The Duoro Valley
The first stop of this Portugal itinerary is the birthplace of Portugal’s most famous export: port. For wine aficionados, it’s a must-visit as its the world’s oldest demarcated wine region. Hundreds of “quintas” are spread throughout the region, some of which have been producing wine for centuries.
But even if you’re not a port drinker, the Douro Valley is absolutely stunning. For miles, rolling hillsides are covered in carefully planted grapevines, with the Douro River winding its way between them. It’s a place where time moves slowly, and where old-time traditions, like barefoot grape stomping, meld harmoniously with modernity.
My mom and I flew into Lisbon, picked up our rental car and any other necessary accessories, and headed north. From Lisbon, the Douro Valley is about 3 hours by car. You could also fly into Porto, which is only about 1.5 hours from the Douro region.
Wherever you come from, the drive to and through the Douro Valley is breathtaking. The N-222 between Peso de Regua and Pinhao has been named one of the most scenic roads in Europe. Take the afternoon to enjoy it! When you arrive at your hotel, rest up from traveling and get ready for Day 2 of your Portugal itinerary.
Where to Stay in the Douro Valley
For travelers with larger budgets, many of the wineries also operate as high-end inns. But there are also great options if you’re trying to be more economical. My mom and I stayed at an amazing family-owned bed and breakfast, Casa Cimeira. I can’t recommend it enough! For more: Douro Valley lodging
Day 2: Duoro Valley
Spending a full day in the Douro Valley is well worth your time. There are hundreds of wineries to explore and a plethora of historic villages to visit. Spend your time exploring towns like Pinhao, famous for its beautiful train station, or Lamego, with its instagrammable hillside staircase. And of course, be sure to take a tour of a vineyard or two. If you have time, don’t miss out on a boat trip on the Douro River itself!
If you want to make planning your day easier, there’s an alternative to picking what to do and see on your own. My mom and I typically prefer to do things on our own, but to make the most of our day, we actually hired a private tour guide to show us around. I definitely recommend doing that (especially if you want to do any amount of port tasting – those mountain roads are nerve-wracking when completely sober!).
This Douro Valley tour was excellent. For one flat fee, we got to do everything in the Douro Valley we wanted to without having to navigate its tiny, curving roads. And because our tour guides were locals, we got to learn so much that we never would have if we’d just explored on our own. They took us to several different wineries, a divine lunch of gourmet Portuguese cuisine, and a relaxing boat cruise down the river. You should definitely consider adding a Douro Valley tour to your Portugal itinerary!
Day 3: Douro to Porto
Onto day 3 of your Portugal itinerary – it’s time to travel to the incredible city of Porto. Porto is Portugal’s 2nd largest city. Its eclectic personality is infectious, its old-world architecture and colorful alleyways charming, and its multitude of port wine cellars delectable. It’s a city that will grab hold of and make you not want to leave.
Being a relatively small city, it’s easy to hit the highlights in two days (though you’ll wish you had more time to explore everything it has to offer.)
The first part of the day will be spent traveling from the Douro Valley and checking into your Porto hotel. Then you’ll have the rest of the day to explore.
Things you should check out on day one in Porto are things that don’t require an early start in the day and are close to each other.
Things to do in Porto:
- Sao Bento train station and it’s beautiful blue-tiled (“azulejos”) walls
- Chapel of Souls – An internet-famous church covered in azulejos
- Carmo and Carmelitas churches – These are two beautiful churches with, yes, more blue tiles. But they are perhaps even better known for having the country’s tiniest home wedged between them!
- Francisco Cathedral – It’s said that when it was first built, the interior was considered to be too extravagantly decorated with gold to be used as a church, so it was closed for many years.
- Porto Cathedral – The Porto Cathedral is built on the highest point in the city. Of all the churches in Porto, this one is considered the most important.
Day 4: Porto
Day 4 of this Portugal itinerary is dedicated to everything else you need to see in Porto that you missed on day 3. To beat the crowds, start your day early!
More things to do in Porto:
- Livraria Lello – also known as the Harry Potter bookshop, this beautiful place is famous for it’s curving wooden staircase, said to be the inspiration for the moving ones at Hogwarts. While it’s definitely worth visiting, it’s a top tourist attraction. Get tickets ahead of time online, and be in line no later than 9 AM.
- Clerigos Church and Tower – the baroque-style church sits in the heart of the city, and its tower looms can be seen from almost any part of Porto. For a small fee, visitors can climb the 240 steps to the top for an amazing view of the city.
- Cais de Riberia – this is Porto’s picturesque, if touristy, waterfront district. It’s packed with restaurants and gift shops. You may not want to spend too much time here, but it’s certainly worth visiting.
- Port cellar tour – you can’t really visit Porto without taking a Porto wine tour! Some cellars require reservations ahead of time, so just do some research before you go (or check out my guide on Porto wine tours).
Where to Stay in Porto
Porto has tons of amazing lodging options, from gorgeous, high-end hotels to adorable boutique B&Bs and apartments. My mom and I stayed in a chic and modern apartment called Douro Riverside Apartments. Located on the banks of the river with amazing views of Porto, it was affordable and absolutely perfect. For more: Porto lodging.
Getting Around Porto
Porto is a very walkable city because of its small size, but its also extremely hilly. Every street is either straight up or straight down. Fortunately, if you’re not up to that kind of walking, Porto has great public transportation.
Metro: Porto has a pretty nice metro system with 6 lines that’ll get you anywhere you want to go. One ticket is €1.20 (unless you get a Porto card; more on that below).
Bus: Like most cities, Porto does have public buses. They’re most useful if you’re headed to the wine cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia since they drop off much closer than the metro does. They cost €1.85 per ride without a Porto card.
Taxis: Porto also has official city taxis, which charge between €4-6 per ride. However, there’s also an abundance of Uber drivers if you prefer that.
Porto Card: The Porto Card is a great option if you’re planning on using public transport, or visiting several qualifying museums and attractions. For one base price, the Porto Card lets you ride the metro and buses for free, gives free admissions to a number of museums, discounts on various other admission prices, and a 15% discount in participating restaurants.
Don’t have two days to explore? Check out this article if you only have one day in Porto!
Day 5: Porto to Lagos
Portugal’s Algarve region is blessed with natural beauty, with its rugged coastline, exquisite sea caves, and pristine beaches. You could easily spend 7 days in the Algarve and not get bored! So although it’s not exactly close to Porto, I squeezed it into my Portugal itinerary. You may not think the long drive is worth it for a day, but I certainly did!
Related: Check out these other epic road trips in Europe!
From Porto, the town of Lagos is a 5 hours drive. This road trip is a great way to see more of Portugal’s countryside, particularly its Alentejo region, with its groves of cork trees and rollings fields of wheat and grapevines. You can even add a few stops along the way, such as Aveiro, the “Venice of Portugal,” and Nazare, home to the largest waves ever surfed. (If you’re an avid surfer, make sure to add nearby Ericeira to your list too!
Why is Lagos on this Portugal itinerary as opposed to any of the other cities on Portugal’s southern coast? Unlike Faro or Albufeira, Lagos doesn’t have many beach resorts and has relatively fewer crowds. And it’s closer to some of the well-known natural wonders that I was interested in seeing.
After a long day on the road, treat yourself to dinner at one of Lagos’ amazing seafood restaurants, such as beachside Campimar.
Where to stay in Lagos
Lodging in Lagos is limited, but it does have several centrally located hotels and apartments. We spent our one night there at Casamar, a spacious and comfortable multi-room apartment set-up. For more: Lagos lodging
Day 6: Lagos to Lisbon
Day 5 of this Portugal itinerary was spent mostly on the road, so take day 6 to actually explore Lagos.
When I originally planned our Portugal trip, I booked a sea cave kayak tour – just off the coast from Lagos are several stunning sea caves, and several companies offer boat and kayak tours to see them. Being kayak lovers, I jumped all over that opportunity. Unfortunately, the day of our tour, strong winds blew into the area and it was canceled. BUT – if you go to Lagos, definitely sign up for one of those tours (and tell me if it’s as amazing as it sounds!)
Other things to do in Lagos:
- Visit Ponta da Piedade – Just a few miles south of downtown Lagos is a natural wonder of red cliffs, outcroppings, and towering stacks of sandstone jutting out from the ocean. A visit here is on the best things to do in Lagos. There are several trails leading from the parking down into the cliff and to the ocean. While the view from the top is lovely, definitely make the trek to the bottom to get up close and personal with those amazing rock arches!
- Old Lagos – The 16th-century architecture is still mostly in place, with streets paved with granite and houses built of white-smooth stone. Take some time to wander down its streets, explore the shops, and grab lunch at one of its authentic Portuguese cafes.
- Forte da Ponta da Bandeira – When you drive through old town, you can’t miss this stone fort guarding the city. You have to cross a drawbridge to enter the 17th-century structure, built during the Portuguese Restoration War.
- If you have extra time, explore some of the beautiful beaches along the Costa Vicentina.
After you’re done exploring Lagos, start the 2.5-hour drive back north to Lisbon. If you rented a car, I suggest dropping off your car at the rental place and using public transport for the rest of your time in Lisbon. Lisbon is NOT car-friendly, and very easy to get around using other means.
Where to Stay in Lisbon
Being Portugal’s capital and largest city, there is no shortage of lodging options for travelers with every size budget. However, I recommend staying in Lisbon’s historic Alfama district. It’s very centrally located, and the only part of the city not destroyed by the 1755 earthquake. It’s quiet, narrow alleyways are Lisbon at its most authentic.
My mom and I opted for Cosy Alfama, an adorable apartment in Alfama. We loved our room so much that we ended up coming back earlier in the evening than we had planned just so we could enjoy it! More options: Lisbon lodging
Day 7: Lisbon
This day on your Portugal itinerary is dedicated to exploring the delightful capital city of Portugal, Lisbon. With buildings decked out in canary yellow, cobalt blue, and every shade of pastel, and with more sunshine year-round than any other European city, Lisbon is guaranteed to charm. One day really isn’t enough, but it’s enough time to check out the must-sees and realize that you’ll just want to plan another future trip to Lisbon.
Things to do in Lisbon:
- Pasteis de Belem – Portuguese egg tarts, “pastel de nata,” are light, gooey, delectable treats created by angels (or so I’m convinced). And the best place to eat one is at the only bakery that has the original recipe, Pasteis de Belem. Get here early though, since every other Lisbon tourist also wants a taste of this Portuguese delicacy.
- Jeronimos Monastery – This was the home of the monks who invented egg tarts, but it’s more famous for being arguably the most stunning piece of architecture in all of Portugal.
- Belem Tower – This 16th-century tower was built as part of Lisbon’s defense system, but is now Instagram-famous for the way it rises conspicuously out of the waters of the Tagus River.
- Discoveries Monument – This impressive sculpture on the banks of the river was built in the 1960s to commemorate Portugal’s history of exploration and discovery.
- Miradouro do Senhora do Monte – For the best view of Lisbon, head to this amazing vista. This small romantic park is perched on top of one of Lisbon’s many hills and offers a full panoramic view of the city.
- Alfama – This is the oldest neighborhood in all of Europe. When most of Lisbon was damaged in the 1755 earthquake, Alfama remained intact. Its labyrinth of tiny streets and alleyways and collection of authentic restaurants and shops are worth exploring!
Getting Around Lisbon
Metro: Lisbon’s metro is clean, safe, reliable, easy to use, and convenient – it can get you close to almost anywhere you’d want to go. It was the method of transport we used the most while we were in Lisbon. The metro operates from 6:30 AM-1 AM; a single ride ticket costs €1.45 (or free with a Lisboa Card).
Bus: The bus system is the next best mode of transportation after the metro. If there’s somewhere the metro can’t get you to, the bus can. We used the bus system a couple of times and found it to be safe and convenient for where we needed to go. And again, with the Lisboa Card, the fare is free. Go here for more info on routes and timetables.
Tram: The tram may be Lisbon’s most famous transportation system, but it’s also the least recommended by experts and locals. The trams are a notorious haven for pickpockets (since it’s mostly tourists who ride them). They’re also very slow and don’t go to many places. Many visitors to Lisbon think they have to ride the famous No. 28, the yellow tram, to have a full Lisbon experience. But you’re better off just taking a picture instead.
If you’re spending at least one day in Lisbon, get the Lisboa Card. For just €20, the Lisboa Card gets you free unlimited travel on all public transportation in the city, free train tickets to Sintra and Cascais, free admission into most main attractions, and steep discounts in many restaurants and stores. Buying a Lisboa Card is the smartest investment you’ll make in Lisbon.
Check out my full guide to spending one day in Lisbon!
Day 8: Sintra
The grand finale of this Portugal itinerary is the country’s city of castles. Yes, you read that right; Portugal has a town filled with castles. Located just outside of Lisbon is Sintra, a real-life fairytale village. For centuries, Portugal’s wealthy have been building homes in the heavily forested hills of Sintra. Today, many of them are open to the public. Since it’s just an hour via train from Lisbon, a day trip to Sintra is a must-do part of any Portugal itinerary.
- Pena Palace – This castle looks like it has come straight out of a fairytale. It’s many hues of red, yellow, and purple, and it’s cartoonish spires and accents make Pena Palace one of the most visited sites in all of Portugal. Don’t miss it!
- Castle of the Moors – Built in the 8th century, this is Sintra’s oldest castle, and the only one built for defensive purposes. Climb atop its stone walls for epic views of Sintra, Lisbon, and the Atlantic Ocean.
- Quinta da Regaleira – This estate was commissioned by a 19th-century millionaire. While the house is certainly impressive, it’s the gardens that will amaze you. It’s an outdoor playground with hidden caves, grottoes, and fountains.
Getting to Sintra from Lisbon:
The easiest way to get to Sintra from Lisbon is via train. Starting at 7 am, trains leave for Sintra from the Rossio station around every 30 minutes. The trip takes about 40 minutes. Roundtrip tickets are €4.50 (as of April 2019).
Check out my full guide on avoiding the crowds during Sintra day trip from Lisbon!
Day 9: Home
One week in Portugal is a whirlwind trip, jam-packed with amazing architecture, mouthwatering food, and gorgeous countryside. One week isn’t long enough, so maybe spend your flight home planning your next Portugal itinerary!
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