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Explore the different regions to visit in Portugal

Portugal

Posted by on 23 Apr 2021 , in Europe

Lisbon

Plain and patterned, ornamental and utilitarian, blue-and-white and polychrome – azulejos adorn facades all over Lisbon. Like Rome, Lisbon sits astride seven hills, which equates to a different view for every day of the week it is nowadays considered one of the most charismatic and vibrant cities of Europe.

Renowned for its warm and sunny disposition, the city is blessed with a wealth of historic monuments, world-class museums, and a host of other fabulous things to do. You can explore the narrow streets of the old quarter, stroll the riverbank promenade, or wander through verdant parks and gardens. Enjoy Lisbon like the locals do, at an easy and unhurried pace, and you'll quickly fall for its welcoming character and beguiling charm.

When to visit

Lisbon has generally hot dry summers, pleasant springs and autumns, and mild, but possibly wet winters. 

  • The best time of year to visit Lisbon is in the late spring (May-June) when the days are bright and sunny, but the temperatures are not so high. 
  • The peak season is between June and August, and if you visit at this time of year, you should expect the city to feel crowded. 
  • The weather is suitable for spending time on the beach from May until the end of September.
  • There can be a significant amount of rain during the winter months (November - February), but the city offers many activities for a wet day. 

Lisbon attracts visitors year-round, and tourist attractions remain open for the whole year.

Porto

Porto is a historic and varied city, from the warren of narrow streets that make up the ancient Ribeira district through to the grand plaza of the Trindade district. The region is famed for the production of Port, which is still stored and matured in the vast cellars that stretch along the banks of the Douro River. The Ribeira District is the oldest of the city, a labyrinth of narrow cobbled streets, ancient houses and bags of character with lively restaurants at nights.

When to visit

  • Summer (June to August) is peak season, with open-air festivals, beach days and alfresco dining.
  • Spring or autumn offer mild temperatures, few crowds and cheaper rates, but be prepared for showers. 
  • Winter is pretty quiet with possibility of rain, but as Porto is a major city, all restaurants, bars and hotels remain open.

Northern Portugal

Ancient towns like Guimarães and Braga are some of the oldest in europe. Easily accessible from Porto and Galicia in Northern spain, offering fantastic opportunities for a self-drive itinerary off the beaten track.

In the Northern Portugal you can cruise along the Douro River, explore the city of Porto, Guimarães and Brega with its remarkable 12th century cathedral, or discover geological formations at the National Park of Peneda-Gerês.

When to visit

  • In general, the best times to visit and experience as much as possible in Northern Portugal are between March and early June or mid-September and mid-to-late November, ideal for sightseeing and day trips.
  • Northern Portugal tend to be cooler and wetter than the rest of the country. 
  • The peak season is from June to the end of August, and this season offers hot and dry weather, which is suitable for spending time on the beaches.
  • During winter there is a very high possibility of rain.

Southern Portugal

Whitewashed fishing villages on low cliffs overlooking sandy coves were transformed in the 1960s, and now its central coast between Lagos and Faro is lined with villas, hotels, bars and restaurants. The region's western Atlantic coast and rugged interior are less developed.

The principal city in Algarve, Faro, offers visitors the perfect combination of modern amenities and natural beauty. Shopping, dining and entertainment opportunities abound, and scenic gardens and open spaces provide pockets of relaxation throughout the city. There’s a pretty Old Town section in Faro worth exploring as well.

The Alentejo region is vast, occupying nearly a third of Portugal. The southern, or lower Alentejo Baixo, is characterized by a rolling landscape, has the most beautiful plains panting with olives trees you’ll ever see. Évora the regional capital, is the obvious starting point, and you should allow two days to discover this enchanting destination, the historic center of which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The surrounding area lends itself to a convenient circuit, and any tour should take in medieval Monsaraz and its evocative 13th-century castle. From its weatherworn ramparts, you can gaze over another impressive landmark, the enormous Barragem de Alqueva, the largest manmade reservoir in Europe.

The Upper Alentejo, Alto Alentejo, embraces a significantly different geography to that of the region's southern half and offers a dissimilar but no less appealing sightseeing experience.

The ancient city of Évora, the regional capital, is a good base from which to explore, a vehicle is reccomended to reach picturesque villages like Estremoz and Évoramonte before arriving at Vila Viçosa, where you can join a guided tour of the town's sumptuous 16th-century Paço Ducal, the royal palace.

Once an important center for textile, tapestry, and silk manufacture, Portalegre offers the chance to visit the last remaining factory still in use and browse a fascinating museum dedicated to the industry.

The terrain north of Portalegre is notably more rugged as the road climbs up the Serra de São Mamede, a remote range that's home to an abundance of flora and fauna. This is classic hiking territory, and if time permits and you've come prepared, indulge in a spot of hill walking. In fact, if you want to explore further, it's worth considering spending a couple of days at the pretty spa town of Castelo de Vide. A rewarding detour is its near neighbor, the medieval hamlet of Marvão, dramatically set at over 800 meters on a granite escarpment. The jaw-dropping views from the 13th-century castle take in the entire range and the low plains of Spain beyond - a stunning image you'll recall all the way back to Évora.

When to visit

In general, the best times to visit and experience as much as possible in Southern Portugal are between end of March and early June or mid-September and mid-to-late November.