Ten Days In Portugal
Last Updated: July 25, 2019

10 Days In Portugal: An Epic Seaside Itinerary

A 10-day holiday in Portugal can be as simple as getting a beachfront apartment and enjoying the sun, sea and sand the entire time.

But that is not what I have in mind.

If you are an adventurous traveller, someone who likes to explore and discover new places, who can’t stay in the same place for three days, then this is the itinerary for you.

Especially if you can’t decide for yourself what is and what isn’t worth seeing in this stunning seaside country.

10-Day Itinerary: The Best of Portugal

The itinerary covers all major cities in Portugal, the beautiful Algarve region, and a couple of historic towns with stunning monuments and buildings. Oh, and there’s a national park with great trails, for all you avid hikers!

If you follow this itinerary, you will see some of the most iconic places in Portugal, with lots of castles, gardens, churches and beaches. That’s an extremely rough description, but I hope just enough to get you interested. :>

Overview

This is a basic overview of what I consider to be the best way to explore Portugal. The itinerary allows for changes and improvisations – you don’t have to stick to it completely. You can just pick out the places you like the most and stick to them. But if you really want to see as much of the country as you can in 10 days, then I think you will find this easy to follow.

Itinerary Outline

  1. Algarve (Faro)
  2. Algarve (Lagos)
  3. Sines
  4. Lisbon
  5. Sintra
  6. Coimbra
  7. Porto
  8. Peneda-Gerês National Park

Important Information

Before we get to the perfect travel itinerary, there are some important facts you should know about Portugal (train passes, timezone, currency etc.). They should help you plan out your trip, and avoid any nasty surprises (like not having a proper adapter to charge your phone).

Portugal Facts & Useful Information

  • Travel: My recommendation for getting around Portugal is renting a car. It is fairly inexpensive, and it’s without a doubt the fastest way to get around the country. But if that’s not an option for you, then getting around by train is the second best option. The tickets are inexpensive, and most cities in this itinerary are connected by railroads. You can also get around by bus – Rede Expressos is the largest national bus company in Portugal, and they can take you almost anywhere on this itinerary.
  • Timetables: You can find timetables and tickets for train travel here. You can get a rail pass, which gives you unlimited travel for seven days max. And you can buy it in Faro, which is our starting point in this itinerary. But, that won’t cover your entire stay in Portugal. Also, buying two of these passes costs more money than renting a Renault Twingo, which brings me to my next point.
  • Car Rental: If you want to have full autonomy of your time in Portugal, renting a car is the best option. I did some digging, and you can pick up a car at Faro airport, drive it for 10 days and then drop it off at the Porto airport for as low $250. Which is a pretty good deal – I think you would end up spending a lot more money on train and bus tickets to get around the country. That’s the price for a small hatchback – if you want a bit more commodity, you could upgrade to a Seat Ibiza for an additional $25. Not too bad if you ask me.
  • Currency: The official currency of Portugal is Euro. It’s been that way since 2002. You will get the best exchange rate at banks, but you can also find 24-hour exchange solutions at airports and hotels.
  • Timezone: Portugal is in the GMT timezone. Most of Portugal anyway – some of the islands that are officially Portuguese are not in the same timezone. But this itinerary stays in mainland Portugal, so you only need to worry about that timezone. GMT is the same as in UK, one hour behind CET and 6 hours ahead of EST in USA.
  • Credit Card Acceptance: Hotels, shops and most restaurants will accept credit cards. Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted in the country, American Express less so. Museums and galleries usually don’t accept credit cards, since the admission fees tend to be really low. Additionally, there are lots of ATMs pretty much anywhere you go, so getting some cash shouldn’t be an issue. But, I strongly recommend that you don’t rely solely on your credit card and that you don’t create bills that you can’t cover with cash at that exact moment. Just to be on the safe side.
  • Languages: Portuguese is the official language of the country, and it’s the first language of the majority of population. You should be able to get by easily with English, since it is widely spoken in most tourist towns. Even more than in Spain.
  • Visas: Portugal is a member of the European Union and a part of the Schengen Area. Which means that nationals from countries that are also in the EU (and Switzerland) can travel with only identity cards. National from US and Canada don’t need a visa; only a passport that’s valid for at least six months. Anyway, you can check the list of all nationalities that require a visa to enter Portugal right here.
  • Electricity: The standard voltage in Portugal is 230V, with F-type plugs and sockets. The F-type sockets are compatible with types C and E as well. This is the same as in most of Europe – if you’re travelling from there, you can use all your appliances and chargers safely. But, if you are from the US, South America or Canada, you will need adapters and a voltage converter because the standard voltage in these countries is much lower. Using an adapter without a voltage converter could easily fry your devices.

Planning Out The Flight

If you want to follow this itinerary and see as much of Portugal as you can, we definitely recommend getting multi-city tickets. Because of the country’s shape, getting from one end to the other is very long and gruelling. You would have to cover at least 550 kilometres in one day to get back to Faro from the last place in our itinerary, and that’s not something we recommend.

This itinerary starts south and then takes you north – which means arriving in Faro, and departing from Porto. And while the multi-city tickets are a bit more expensive than round-trip tickets, it would actually cost you more to pay for gas/train tickets that would take you back to your starting point.

So, take this into consideration when you’re planning out your flight. Especially if you like this itinerary.

Landing In Portugal

Because of the way I created this itinerary, you can choose how you want to do it. You can either land in Faro and then travel north, or you can land in Porto and go south. Think about which works best for you – I have no clue what you have planned after Portugal. But know that this itinerary works both ways!

Arrival In Faro

The airport in Faro is the third busiest in Portugal, so you won’t have any issues getting a flight there. It will be just as easy as getting a flight to Porto or Lisbon – only this way you get to explore the Algarve region immediately.

When you land, you should either rent a car or get a rail pass, depending on how you chose to get around the country. You can do either at the airport, and then just head into Faro town.

One thing to note is that there isn’t a train station close to the airport. So, you would need to either get on a bus or take a taxi into town. But if you rented a car, you can be at hotel of your choosing in less than 15 minutes.

Arrival In Porto

The way this itinerary is mapped out, you can also do it in reverse. Meaning arrive in Porto, and then go south.

I would not recommend landing in Lisbon, because then it is pretty awkward to explore both the north and the Algarve region. You would spend more time driving around than exploring, and that’s not the right way to spend your holiday in Portugal.

So, you landed at Francisco Sa Carneiro airport. The easiest way to get into Porto town is to get on the subway – the station is just outside the airport, and the ride lasts for about 35 minutes. You can also get on a bus – there are several stations really close to the airport, and the bus is neither slower nor faster than the subway.

But if you went ahead and rented a car, you’ll be in town in some 20 minutes. The same goes for getting a taxi.

Ideal Transport Options

If you’re open to ideas, here’s what I would do. I’d rent a car at Faro – if you are not travelling alone, this is a lot cheaper than buying train and bus tickets.

Also, I would bring by bike from home. Sure, the more urban areas like Lisbon and Porto have huge subway and tram networks, but the coastal towns don’t. And a bike is the fastest and cheapest option of getting around the cities. Not to mention a good workout.

Of course, bikes don’t really work if you’re travelling with children, so stick with taxi or an Uber in that scenario for city exploration. Yes, Uber is still a thing in Portugal – despite all those protests you might remember. It is not significantly cheaper than a taxi, but it is a bit safer.

Anyway, if you’re getting in a taxi, don’t ever accept a fixed fare – the drivers will purposefully overcharge you. And if they refuse to turn on the taximeter, just get in a different cab.

Day 1: Algarve (Faro)

Faro Coastline

Now, there’s two ways to spend your day in Faro. Option one is for the adventurous traveller, and it including going around the town and exploring all the best spots. Option two is for the hedonistic travellers – those who want their first day to be all about relaxation. Which one are you?

Option One: A Day In Faro

Igreja Do Carmo Faro

Igreja do Carmo in Faro

Faro is the capital of the Algarve region, and there’s a lot to see there. Perhaps the most iconic place in the city is Arco de Vila – the neoclassical archway leading into the old town. And that’s going to be our starting point. It’s just a 10-minute walk away from the train station, so getting there should be pretty easy.

Faro Highlights

Let’s focus on the attractions nearby. From the gates head right, to the Cathedral of Faro. This is a historic place, which was originally built all the way back in the 13th century. Today, it’s a Catholic cathedral, which also features a separate museum and a small garden with orange trees and gift shops. Also, you should definitely take the stairs to the top of the tower, for a stunning panoramic view of Faro.

When you get out of the church, head towards the sea – just behind the cathedral you will find the live science center.

The live science center is also a great way to kill an hour if it’s too hot outside. It has some very interesting exhibits, including a live arachnid exhibit. Something that I would definitely stay away from, due to my crippling Arachnophobia. But I am trying to be open minded for you, and the science center is mostly a natural history museum – there’s a lot other interesting things here, apart from the spiders.

After that, you can either head into the Old Town – the Archeological Museum is definitely worth a visit. Or head northeast to the Museu Regional Do Algarve. This is an ethnography museum where you can learn a lot about the history and culture of the Algarve region. The tickets are really cheap and they don’t have credit cards, so make sure to have some cash on hand.

There’s lots of other places to see in Faro, but I don’t want to bore you to death. Check out our highlights list to find the most interesting locations in the city. Ria Formosa is definitely worth checking out – it’s great for hiking, wildlife watching and it has a beach. But if you’re up for dinner in town, head to Tasca do Ricky, Faz Gostos Faro or the Ria Formosa Restaurant.

Option Two: Beaches And Islands

Faro Beach

Imagine miles of sandy beaches and azure blue sea. And you, lying there with a cocktail in your hand relaxing after a long flight. Now, if that sounds like an ideal first day of vacation, then head to one of the nearby islands as soon as you unpack your bags.

You will need to get on a ferry to get to the islands, and even to the most popular beach of Faro. But it’s super easy to find info about the ferry schedules online, and tickets are pretty inexpensive.

There are at least three great options – Tavira Island, Barreta Island and Culatra Island. All of them feature several miles of sandy beaches and crystal clear sea. But there’s something special about each of the islands.

The Tavira Island is longest out of the three, with an 11-kilometer long coast. It features several white sand beaches, one of which is nudist friendly. Good to know if you really hate tan lines.

The Barreta Island is also known as the Deserted Island – that’s how isolated it is. It’s probably the best option if you want to avoid huge crowds, since it is one of the most isolated islands in the Algarve region. It also features several sandy beaches, including a nudist beach.

The Culatra Island is actually inhabited. If features a ferry port and a lighthouse (great backdrop for some cute photos), as well as several beaches and lagoons.

Spend your first day lying in the sun, swimming or just napping in the shade – just make sure not to miss the last ferry back into town. And then refer back to the Option One itinerary, to get some ideas for dinner.

Day 2: Algarve (Lagos)

Beach In Lagos

Getting to Lagos from Faro is very simple. You can get there by train – there’s a train every hour, and the ride lasts for about an hour and 45 minutes. Or if you rented a car, you can drive and be there in an hour.

Unlike Faro, Lagos actually has several beaches within the actual city area. Just head towards the coast and you’ll find them. But it has even more interesting sights than Faro – including some castles, a golf course and a tennis court.

Lagos Highlights

I definitely suggest checking out the Slave Trade Museum for a really informative afternoon. It is located in a historic building, which was actually the first slave market in Europe. Today it is a museum with exhibitions about the slave trade and Portugal’s role in it.

A visit to the Lagos port could also be really interesting. You will see the Caravela Boa Esperanca at the entrance to the harbour – a replica of the caravels from the 16th century that Portuguese explorers used in their exploration of the African coast and the Atlantic Ocean. Plus, it is pretty close to the Wax Museum – just head north from the harbour. It is a very small museum dedicated to Portuguese explorers – perfectly complementary to that replica boat. Also, there are lots of great restaurants in the marina, so feel free to stop by for lunch if you feel hungry.

Marina In Lagos

Marina in Lagos

After that, let’s head back into town area of Lagos. Or head to the Tennis Club for a relaxing afternoon – just cross the northern bridge of the marina and head west.

But if you woke up early enough, then it is probably time to head to the beach. And boy are there some amazing beaches around Lagos.

Praia dos Estudantes is definitely a good option. It is a small beach hidden in a cove and accessible only through a rock tunnel. Or head to the Pinhao Beach – it is also hidden in a cove, but it is a bit bigger. Plus, it is well known for the surrounding orange cliffs, picture-perfect setting and crystal clear water.

Anyway, make sure to at least walk along the coast of Lagos, even if beach time is not your thing. It’s truly a wonderful sight, and it makes a great background for amazing vacation photos – the azure sea will really pop in the photos. When you feel sufficiently tired, head back to your hotel – you have an early morning as you’re leaving the Algarve region and starting to make your way to Lisbon. But there’s one crucial stop first.

Day 3: Sines

Sines

Beach in Sines, image courtesy of choubb

Sines is the only tricky destination in our itinerary. If you’ve opted for the public transport option, you should know that there’s only one bus from Lagos. It departs at 3:20PM, and it arrives in Sines about 6PM. Which doesn’t really leave you with a lot of time for exploration. The two towns aren’t connected by train, which makes this even trickier.

You do have the option to take a taxi, and that should cost you about $120-130. If you don’t think it’s worth it, you can either head straight to Lisbon – it will take some four hours to get there by train. And there’s a train early in the morning. Or you can spend some more time in Lagos – enjoy the sun and the beaches. That way, you can catch the evening train.

But if you decided to rent a car, you can be in Sines in less than two hours, and you will have the whole day ahead of you.

Sines Highlights

Sines is a very interesting place. For one thing, it is not as touristy as some other spots in Portugal. I personally think it’s often overlooked – this is the birthplace of Vasco Da Gama, and so much of the town is dedicated to him. That includes monuments, museums, galleries and lots of hotels named after the famous explorer. How is that not interesting?!

So let’s start off the day right – go get a photo in front of the Vasco Da Gama monument. It is in the Old Town, very close to the Castelo de Sines. Which happens to be your next destination – this medieval Cliffside fortress now has exhibits on Da Gama, archaeology and more. If you’re in the mood for a history lesson about the famous Portuguese explorer, this is just the right place for you.

After that, I recommend going for some lunch. There are lots of restaurant just 5 minutes away from the museum, and all of them have good review. When it’s time to burn off those calories, go to the Capela Matriz de Sines. The walls of this church are quite interesting – they are pretty colourful, and they offer an amazing view of Sines, because they are on a higher altitude.

If you drove on your own to Sines, you could also check out the Badoca Safari Park. It’s a little outside the town, but it’s an excellent way to spend an afternoon. Especially if you want to go on some fun rides (say a barrel ride down the waterfall), and see about 600 different animals!

The rest of the day is up to you – head to Praia Vasco Da Gama if you want to go for a swim. Or visit the marina – Sines is the largest port in Portugal, and there will definitely be some interesting ships there.  Then go get some dinner, or head straight to your hotel, depending on how early you want to be in Lisbon. The earliest bus departs at 5AM, but you really don’t have to take it. There is a bus approximately every hour and a half, so you can sleep in a little in the morning.

Day 4: Lisbon

Alfama In Lisbon

The capital of the country, and probably the star of the show. The city that everyone first thinks of when someone mentions Portugal. You’ve finally arrived, and you want to know where to go first? Let’s go explore!

Lisbon Highlights

Trams In Lisbon

Getting around Lisbon should be pretty easy. Trams are the easiest option, since they are the fastest and pretty cheap. Just make sure to hold on to your backpack/purse! There are pickpockets and trams are their favorite workplace. So, if you don’t want to spend your day at the police station, don’t let your personal items out of sight. :>

You can’t really leave Lisbon without at least listening to Fado live. The music genre originated in Lisbon all the way back in the 1920s, and it’s a staple of the city. Alfama is the neighbourhood to hit, if you want the opportunity to hear authentic, live Fado music. This is one of the oldest areas the city, with lots of cafes, traditional shops and some stunning views. There are several restaurants here that feature a live performer, and there’s also the Fado Museum. You will get a short history lesson on the origin of Fado, and even see which object were used to perform music way back in the day. Quite an interesting experience, if you ask me!

And if you really like taking photographs, I recommend you find your way to the Jardim de São Pedro de Alcântara. It’s a landscaped terrace with a fountain, which is on a high altitude. And that means a panoramic view of the city. Even if you’re not into photography that much, the view alone is definitely worth it.

Another view you should experience is the one from the top of Santa Justa Lift. The cast-iron elevator connects the lower street with the Carmo Square, and the view from the top is just breathtaking. But, the queues are often very long, so you should get there very early – if you don’t want the photos spoiled by a crowd of people in front of your lens.

Lisbon Eduardo VII Park

Eduardo VII Park in Lisbon

Eduardo VII Park is definitely I place I would go to. It’s a huge public park in the center of the city with a greenhouse (Estufa Fria) full of exotic plants. This is a great place for a relaxing walk and taking some amazing photos. The buildings around the park are quite interesting and photograph really well.

Now, we haven’t even covered half of the things worth seeing Lisbon. There are so many museums, art galleries, historic buildings and monuments, and not to mention churches with stunning mosaics and frescos. And that’s why I don’t think just one day in Lisbon will be enough. So, you have two options for the next day – spend another day in this huge city, and really see as much as you can. Or hit the road again – you can be in Cascais in an hour max. Half an hour if you drive there.

Day 5: Lisbon Again OR Cascais

The choice is completely up to you. I would probably stay in Lisbon for another day, since there’s still so much to see. And because I need a break from packing and unpacking again! But Cascais is a historic city, and it is definitely worth visiting. It has a lot to offer, and it’s only 30 kilometers away from Lisbon. The fastest way to get there is drive, but you can also hop on a bus or a train.

Another Day In Lisbon

Port In Lisbon

If you decided to stay in Lisbon for another day, then awesome. Let’s go explore the other side of the city. Head west, and find your way to the Basílica da Estrela, an 18th century gothic church that holds the tomb of Queen Maria I. You can take a tram to the church, and I think you’ll enjoy the scenic ride. The church itself is probably one of the most beautiful ones in Lisbon with the twin bell towers, an impressive interior and fabulous view from the roof. Plus, you can see the nativity scene made fully from corks for some 2 euros – definitely something you should check out.

The next place I would visit would be the British Cemetery. It might sound weird, but here you will find the grave of Henry Fielding – one of Britain’s most famous novelists and the author of Tom Jones. I realize that this might be a bit morbid for all of you who are not huge fans of British literature, so I do have an alternative.

Go check out the Monument of Pedro Álvares Cabral instead – it’s right next to the cemetery, so you are going in the same direction. It’s a great statue that was gifted to the Portuguese by the Brazilian government. Plus, it’s fun getting there – the statue is in the middle of a roundabout, so you have to be extra careful when crossing the road.

Next, head to Museum da Marioneta. It’s either a 15-20-minute walk from the monument, or a 15-minute tram/bus ride. If you’re walking, stop by Chafariz da Esperança. It’s one of the more famous fountains in Lisbon, due to its rich history. And it’s a grand sight on its own. As for the museum – the exhibitions here included marionettes and puppets from different historical periods, and from all over the worlds. You will learn quite a lot about the art of puppetry, and it’s a great spot if you’re in the mood for something different.

Belem Tower

Belem Tower in Lisbon

After that, there’s one final stop – the Belem Tower. If you have a car I recommend you drive there, since it’s a 15-minute drive and a 35-minute tram ride. And it is definitely something you should go see – the fortified tower is located on a river island, and it is surrounded by water. You don’t even have to enter the tower to be impressed – quite honestly, the inside is not that interesting. The view from the top, on the other hand, is a whole different story.

And it’s time for dinner. If you’re really hungry, head to Vela Latina. It’s the closest restaurant, and the food there is properly delicious. Just a little farther away you will find Mister Tapas, À margem, Espaço Espelho d’Água and Portugália Cervejaria Belém – all of which promise a delicious dinner with a view of the Tagus river.

A Day In Cascais

Cascais Portugal

Cascais is a pretty large coastal town, and there’s lots to see there. But this is a resort town, so expect lots of beautiful, sandy beaches. Actually, I wouldn’t blame you if all you wanted to do was lie down in the sun and work on your tan.

Cascais Highlights

And if you’re into the idea of a beach day, head to the Boca do Inferno. The oceanfront cliffs are an amazing sight – they feature an open cave and a natural archway that was created by erosion. If you’re lucky, you might get to see waves crashing against the rocks, which can be a magnificent sight. Pro tip: go here in the late afternoon for a memorable sunset.

Maybe you would like to do some exploring before you hit the beach? Not a problem. Go to the Cascais marina – it is a beautiful and relaxing place, so a great way to start off your day. Plus, the Cascais Citadel is very close to the marina, and that’s a spot you don’t want to miss. It’s a restored royal palace, which even features a luxury hotel inside. The entire place offers enchanting views of the way – the view from the pool is particularly appealing.

Very close to the marina is the Parque Marechal Carmona. It’s rather large public park, with lots of green spaces. A great place to relax, people-watch and get inspired. And there’s lots of animals in the park – if you are travelling with children, they will adore this place. There’s a small lake in the park, with ducks and turtles. You might even see a peacock, if you’re really lucky!

Cascais Beach

Next, stop by the Casa Sommer. Although it’s mostly the Historical Archive of Cascais, you can sometimes find exhibitions on Cascais history inside. If you’re lucky enough, you might get to learn something about the culture and history of this charming town. But if there’s nothing going on there, make your way to the Ribeira Beach, and go for a quick swim before we continue the tour.

When you feel sufficiently refreshed, I suggest checking out the Grutas do Poço Velho. It’s sort of a museum, but a rather unique one – you’re getting a tour of underground caves. There’s even a small salt lake here, and various galleries connected by narrow corridors. But, if you’re not up for underground exploration, maybe go grab dinner? There’s lots of restaurants and pizzerias in this part of Cascais, and most of them are really good.

You could go to the Cascais market, and get some fresh produce for a dinner at home. Or just head to a different beach and spend the rest of the day thoroughly enjoying yourself. Whatever you choose to do, just make sure to get enough rest for the next day – we’re slowly starting to make our way to Porto. But we have to stop in two towns first!

Day 6: Sintra

Sintra

In the foothills of the Sintra mountains lies the town of Sintra. It is very close to both Lisbon and Cascais, but it is connected only to Lisbon by train. You can get a bus to Sintra from Cascais, or you can opt for a taxi – they are only about 17 kilometers apart, and it shouldn’t cost you more than 20€.

If you are driving from Lisbon, you can be in Sintra in about half an hour. And if you’re driving from Cascais, you’ll be there even sooner – 20 minutes on the road and you’re there. One more thing – this is my favorite place in this entire itinerary. And one which you should definitely come back to sometime.

Sintra is a very popular tourist destination. Most people are awed by the castles, walls, palaces and the overall picturesque feel of the city. But, most of these stunning spots are not in the town area, but rather up in the mountains. So, put on your best hiking shoes and get ready for a lot of walking around. And if you don’t have a car, there is the issue of getting there – taxi or an Uber is the best option. You can also opt for a bus, but it won’t be a lot cheaper than a taxi.

I’m assuming you didn’t have breakfast in the last place you stayed, so let’s start with that. Romario de Baco is one of the best-rated restaurants in the town, so it’s a great place to fuel up for the day. And it’s really close to the St. Martin Church – since you’re already there, stop by the church and admire the adorned walls. Oh, and stop by the Sintra National Palace – it’s just a two-minute walk away from the church, and it’s definitely worth checking out.

I’m willing to bet that the 11th century palace is one of the first things you noticed in the photograph – the conical kitchen chimneys are very hard to miss. Anyway, the tour of the palace doesn’t last too long, and it’s a good way to start off the day. See how the royals lived, be vowed by the tile collection and ornate courtyards, and then hit the road.

National Palace of Pena

Park and National Palace of Pena

There are several parking spots near the Park and National Palace of Pena, so let’s go there first. This is one of Sintra’s most iconic landmarks – the colourful 19th palace is inspiring. Great place to take some postcard-worthy photos. After that, I suggest you go to Vale dos Lagos. It is a string of small lakes where you can really admire the nature. And the tiny lakeside castles and huts.

If you entered the Valley of the Lakes via the northern entrance, your walk should end at the Fountain of the Birds. After that, I have two options for you, depending on if you’re enjoying the hiking. The closer option is the Abegoaria and Quinta da Pena – the stables. I mean who doesn’t like horses? Or, if you’re in the mood for a longer hike, head to Cruz Alta. The monument is on a higher altitude, and it offers a stunning view of the Park and National Palace of Pena.

Castelo Dos Mouros

Castelo Dos Mouros walls

If you have an hour of walking left in you, head to the Castelo dos Mouros. It will take you about 40 minutes from the Cruz Alta, and the hike is without a doubt worth it. The views from the walls of this hilltop fortress are breathtaking, but it is not something I would recommend to people who have a fear of heights. When you look down, you can see all of Sintra and even some surrounding towns – if that scares you, stay away from these walls.

I went easy on you with this itinerary, by the way. If you’re up for a 3-hour hike, you could actually make it to the coast, and to an amazing lookout point. Anyway, you can start to make your way back into town – call a cab, get on the bus or walk back to your parking lot. If you’re thinking about dinner, consider Metamorphosis or Giallo d’Oro (pizzeria) – both are close to the train station and have excellent ratings.

Day 7: Coimbra

Coimbra

Coimbra is a 2-hour drive away from Sintra. It’s 220ish kilometres of highway, so you’ll be there in no time. But if you’re taking the train, it’s going to take a lot more time, since you pretty much need to get back to Lisbon. And there are two big train stations in the city – Coimbra and Coimbra B. The first one is in city centre, and that’s where you want to go. There are several trains throughout the day that go there, starting at 5:30AM.

Coimbra is a rather large city – actually, the fourth most populated in Portugal. There’s quite a lot to see there, so don’t waste any time!

Coimbra Highlights

Penedo da Saudade is the place to go if you want panoramic views of the city. It’s a public garden and park with walking trails, statues, monuments and poems engraved in stone. It’s a great place if you want to escape the city crowds for a little while. But so is the Botanical Garden of the University of Coimbra. And this one is a lot closer to city centre, so it would be my first choice. You will find a huge fountain in here, as well as lots of trees, plants, flowers and bushes of all shapes. If you like being surrounded by green, this is the place to be.

Coimbra University Chapes

Chapel in the University of Coimbra

Not too far from the Garden (head southwest) you will find the Pedro e Inês bridge. This is a must-see in Coimbra – the bridge is rather unique, due to the shape and color of its glass sides. It was named after the tragic affair of Portugal’s king and his mistress, who was murdered because of the relationship. It’s locally known as “the bridge that doesn’t meet”, because from far away it appears as if though the two halves are not connected.

When you cross the iconic bridge, you should head to the Portugal dos Pequenitos theme park. Especially if you are travelling with children – they will love this place. The park features several thematic areas, including the main monuments from all over Portugal, ethnographic representation of other Portuguese speaking countries and miniature traditional Portuguese houses. Oh and there’s also a dress museum inside, with an exhibition of some 300 traditional Portuguese outfits in miniature size, showcased on dolls.

There’s also a shopping mall in this area of the city, some 20 minutes away from the theme park. Not a bad place to rest your feet and grab something to eat, before you head back to city center. But if you don’t want to go there, I suggest you go to the Santa Clara Bridge and head back into the center.

Coimbra Monument

Monument to Joaquim António de Aguiar

When you get across, you can’t miss the Monument to Joaquim António de Aguiar. Head there, and then continue walking down the R. Ferreira Borges street. You will pass by the Coimbra City Museum – not a bad place if you want to learn about the history and culture of the city. You will also see the Barbican Gate, Igreja de São Bartolomeu and about a hundred different shops, cafes and restaurants.

Are you craving more Fado? There’s a cultural center close to the university, and they have live concerts every evening. The concerts start at 6PM, so they’re a great way to end the day – as long as you make a reservation. But you can stop by the center during the day – there’s always someone rehearsing.

After that, it’s time for dinner. There are lots of excellent restaurants close to the center – Tapas nas Costas, Restaurante Solar do Bacalhau, Passeite, Taberna do Azeite and Zé Manel dos Ossos are just a few of the highest rated. You can make your way to the hotel then, and start packing. We’re getting up early in the morning and heading to Porto!

Day 8: Porto

Porto

Coimbra is about an hour, hour and a half away from Porto, depending on the traffic and how you’re getting there. If you get up early and go to the Coimbra B train station, you can be in Porto in an hour. But if you sleep in and go to the train station in the city center, the ride will last two hours.

This itinerary allows for two days in Porto, so feel free to sleep in. After all, Porto is the second largest and most populated city in the country, just after Lisbon. There’s lots to explore and lots of beaches to try out.

I think it’s only appropriate that you begin your exploration of Porto on the Luís I Bridge. Start in Vila Nova de Gaia and cross into Porto. After all, it is the most iconic city landmark (apart from the colourful houses). If you’re not afraid of heights, you will have more fun crossing the bridge at the higher level – the area for pedestrians at the lower level is pretty narrow and tends to get crowded. The top level, on the other hand, is a bit more spacious, and has the advantage of amazing views.

Porto Bridge

Iconic Luís I Bridge

When you’ve crossed the bridge completely, walk past the mural, down the street and turn left at the Muralha Primitiva do Porto. Pass by all of the statues and monuments – take photos if you want – and get to the Porto Cathedral. The Romanesque cathedral upon a hill is stunning on the inside, but pleasing to the eye on the outside as well. You do have to climb a lot of stairs to enter the cathedral, but the views along the way help you forget about the cardio.

Then, you should make your way down the stairs and head west. Definitely stop by the Bolsa Palace. You can get a guided tour of the 19th century landmark, which is without a doubt worth it. The ornate interior of the building and all the intricate design details are something you don’t want to miss. Just beware of the crowds.

Monument Church of St Francis is a minute away from the palace, and it’s another really interesting building. Not on the outside – its exterior is quite easily overlooked. But if you go inside, you’ll see exactly why this is perhaps the most impressive religious building in the entire city.

Porto Cathedral

Porto Cathedral

If you’re feeling hungry after all that walking, you can stop by in one of the nearby restaurants. There’s quite a lot of them close to the palace, and most of them are good enough for a quick bite.

Then, go down to the river promenade and head straight down R. Nova da Alfândega. You should get to the World of Discoveries pretty fast. That is an interactive history museum, with an exhibit dedicated to Portuguese explorers. There’s also a boat ride at the end of the exhibit, which is fun for the entire family. And to the right of the World of Discoveries is the Museum of Transport and Communication. It’s a museum dedicated to technology and evolution of transportation. If you like cars and want to see some old-timers, I think you will enjoy this place.

After that go behind the World of Discoveries and towards Parque das Virtudes. It is a peaceful park, and a great place to rest and unwind. Especially if you’re with kids. Also, this is one of the spots in the city that offers amazing views, and you can particularly enjoy them during sunset.

No beaches yet, I know. That’s what I have planned for day 2 in Porto, if you’re interested in staying here one more day. Alternatively, you could go see half of the things I mentioned here, and then catch a bus to Praia do Carneiro or Praia do Ourigo. And then go to Braga next day.

Day 9: Porto Again OR Braga

Would you rather stay in Porto another day, or go explore a different city? It’s up to you – if you stay in Porto, I have beaches, food and a stadium in mind. But if you want to see some impressive buildings, admire gothic and Romanesque architecture and visit a castle, then I suggest you go to Braga. Plus, you will be closer to the last destination in this itinerary.

Day 2 In Porto: Beaches & Football

So, there’s one iconic place in Porto we skipped on the first day – Mercado do Bolhão. The two-storey market is a dream come true for all shopaholics. First, it is a huge market. And second, you can get pretty much anything your heart desires there – from Porto souvenirs, smoked meats, flowers to freshly baked pastries. It’s a good spot to pick up some breakfast and coffee, before you head to the next destination in this itinerary.

Now, you can’t leave Portugal without visiting at least one stadium. Football is such a large part of the country’s culture, and we need to respect that. Estádio do Dragão is the third largest stadium in the country, and Portugal’s national team plays there from time to time. And that’s why I think that you should head there, before hitting the beaches. It is right next to the subway station, so you can get there easily.

Then head to the beach. If you decided to stay in Porto another day, you really need to breathe in some salty air and relax on a sandy beach. Now, if you don’t have a car, it will take you about 40-60 minutes to get to the beach from the stadium via subway or bus, depending on the traffic. And I have Praia do Ourigo in mind – the sandy public beach close to the lighthouse. Praia do Carniero and Praia das Pastoras are both closer to the lighthouse, but they’re also smaller. So, not sure about the crowds there.

Enjoy the day – go for a swim, lay in the sun and just relax. If you get hungry, there are lots of restaurants and fast food close by – just don’t go to the ones that are directly on the beach. They don’t have the best reviews, and they are not as good as the restaurants across the road.

Porto Lighthouse

Farol do Pontão lighthouse

The other option is to go to Douro Cabedelo Beach. It is farther away since it is not in Porto – it is in Villa de Gaia – but it’s definitely worth checking out if you have the time. The half-moon-shaped bay is one of the most beautiful beaches in Northern Portugal, and it’s just amazing. Plus, this beach is the closest to Farol do Pontão – the iconic red and white lighthouse on a detached pier.

Also, the Miradouro Natural Reserve is there on the beach. This place is amazing for people who like birdwatching, and people who like peace and quiet. If you want to truly relax, Duoro Cabadelo Beach is the place for you.

If you have any time left when you get back to the city, try to stop by the Rotunda da Boavista park. It’s one of the view really green areas in the city, and it fits nicely into the theme of the day – relaxing and enjoying yourself.

A Day In Braga

Braga

If you don’t feel like staying in Porto another day, head to Braga. You can catch a train from the Campanhã station in the eastern part of the city. The train ride lasts about an hour, and so does the car ride.

Braga is a city known for its rich religious heritage. Gothic architecture, a castle, medieval churches and stunning gardens are what I have in mind for this day. Plus, it’s really close to the national park, which is the last stop in this itinerary.

Braga Highlights

 

Start off in the city center – most of the places I have in mind are there, and in walking distance from one another. Let’s start with Arco da Porta Nova at the entrance to Rua Dom Diogo de Sousa (street). It’s an iconic archway with lots of details and an amazing statue at the top.  From there go down that street, and turn right on Rue do Cabrio. Soon enough you will stumble upon the Braga Cathedral – the majestic church is hard to miss.

If you feel like it, go inside – you will not regret it. The inside of the cathedral is even more amazing than its outsides, because of the amount of detail in decorations. When you feel like you’ve seen enough, head east on R. de São João. That street will take you to the São Marcos Church – you don’t have to go inside. The view of the impressive church alone is enough to leave you in awe, especially with the stunning garden in front of the entrance.

Just behind the São Marcos Church you will find the Raio Palace. It is one of most iconic buildings in Braga, because of its unusual Baroque exterior.  The palace is the former home of a wealthy merchant, but its history is not what attracts tourists. It is actually the royal blue doors and balcony railings, as well as details on the walls inside that have crowds flocking to photograph this building. Raio Palace is truly a majestic sight, and its interior is even more grand than its exterior. Definitely something you must see if you choose to go to Braga.

Since it’s really hard to top the impression that palace leaves, I’ve saved the best for (next to) last. Head down Av. da Liberdade, and make your way to the Braga Tower. I promised you a castle, didn’t I? Or more specifically, ruins of a medieval castle, including a tower and gates. Well, there’s the tower – but there are more medieval walls close to the Garden of Santa Barbara. It’s to the left of the tower, and it is the formal garden of the Archbishop’s Court.

The garden alone is very interesting, because of its geometric design. The fountain and saint statue are just a cherry on top of the cake. If you feel like you need to take a breath or rest your feet a little, this is the best spot.

And if you’re looking for a killer view, head to Bom Jesus do Monte. The hilltop sanctuary is outside the city, and offers and amazing panoramic view of downtown Braga. That’s in addition to the neoclassical church, hillside gardens and a gigantic stairway.  I would save this for the late afternoon – enjoying the sunset with a view of Braga is a great way to end a day full of exploration. And those stairs will get you starving, just in time for dinner!

Most of the best rated restaurants in the city our south the area we explored during the day, close to the Pius XII Museum. Bira dos Namorados is the place to go if you’re craving a delicious burger, while Michizaki is where you will find the best Japanese food in this Portuguese city. Brac, La Piola and Tábuas, Copos & outras cenas are all great alternatives, and in this particular neighbourhood.

Day 10: Peneda-Gerês National Park

The ride from Braga to the national park is about 40 minutes long, and the ride from Porto is maybe an hour and 15 minutes long. So, wherever you chose to spend day 9, it won’t take you too long to get here. Plus, it takes less than 90 minutes to get back to Porto, which is your departing destination.

Now, there is one little thing – there is no direct transport from Porto to the national park. You can catch a train to Braga and then a bus to Geres, and then maybe get a cab to the national park. So, this is probably not worth your time if you booked an early or an afternoon flight – only if you’re leaving in the evening or the next day. And if you decided not to rent a car.

But if you did rent a car, think of this as a half-day excursion – you’re going out and enjoying the nature before you hop on the flight back home and get back to your normal life. And I think this place is the perfect end to this this itinerary. Peneda-Gerês National Park is a very big area, with lots of hiking and walking trails, waterfalls, a river and a dam, and inspiring views.

Rather than listing what you should see here, I’ll leave it completely open. Explore the national park at your own pace – if you’re a hiker, take on a Portuguese hiking trail. And if you’re not, I think it would be best to make your way to the Lindoso village. Go check out Castelo do Lindoso – a medieval castle close to the border with Spain. You can also see Espigueiros de Lindoso (granaries), which is a rather unique sight – in a national park anyway.

The river dam is also closeby, and you will find a café and a restaurant in this village. Oh, and if you want to go for a swim you can – Cascata Ermida is in the center of Ermida village, south of Lindoso.

Just be careful if you’re going there on your own – there are lots of different hiking trails and path, but they are not all mapped. Plus, there aren’t a lot of signs in the park, so it is fairly easy to get lost. Especially if you have such a superb sense of direction like I do. Yes, that’s sarcasm if you’re not sure.

When you feel happy with what you’ve experienced in the park, it’s time to head back. If you rented the car, make sure to leave it with the agency at the airport. And make sure not to miss your flight! Obviously, this is for those who opted to completely follow this itinerary, and are departing from Porto.

 

I truly hope you find this 10-day itinerary for Portugal up to your standards. And if you have any questions or ideas, let me know!

 

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Planning a holiday in Portugal? Come check out our 10-day itinerary for inside info on all the best places and must-see spots in the country!

About the Author Roger Timbrook

Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!

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