Discovering a new country and culture for the first time can seem daunting, but Portugal provides an ideal starting point for first-time visitors to Europe. Renowned for its rich history, beauty and hospitality, Portugal offers travelers an accessible adventure to find their international travel feet. 

Read on as we break down everything you need to know to plan your perfect introductory trip. 

Why Should You Visit Portugal?

As a first-time visitor to Europe, Portugal is an excellent country to consider. Portugal offers visitors a unique blend of culture, history, beautiful scenery and fantastic food at affordable prices. 

Some of the top reasons to put Portugal on your travel wish list include:

Historic cities: Lisbon and Porto are living museums with architecture dating back centuries. Wander the narrow alleyways to discover Portugal’s rich history and heritage at every turn.

Beautiful landscapes: Dramatic coastlines, lush green valleys and picturesque villages are found throughout mainland Portugal as well as the Azorean and Madeiran island territories.

Affordability: Despite using the euro, Portugal remains very good value. Accommodations, dining and attractions are quite reasonable compared to other Western European nations.

Culture: Fado music, azulejo tilework, pastel de nata pastries – Portuguese culture runs deep. Immerse yourself in local traditions through food, art and performance.

Wine regions: From the Douro Valley to the Alentejo, Portugal produces tasty quaffs at approachable prices. Sample distinctive varietals on scenic vineyard tours.

When Is the Best Time to Visit Portugal?

The best times to visit Portugal are spring (April-June) and fall (September-November). During these shoulder seasons, the weather is pleasantly warm without being too hot or humid. 

Summer (July-August) sees hottest temperatures that may cause discomfort, though the beaches and islands are busier. Winter (December-March) can be rainy in northern and central Portugal, though southern regions stay mild. 

Plan to visit in the shoulder seasons for the best mix of pleasant weather without peak-season crowds if possible. Be open-minded about a winter trip to southern regions too.

How Do You Plan a Trip to Portugal?

Once you’ve decided on your timeframe, begin planning your itinerary. For a 1-2 week first visit, focus on 2-3 regions maximum. A great sample first trip fits in Lisbon, Sintra and the Algarve coast. 

Key steps for planning include:

Research top destinations and must-see sights using travel guides and blogs.

Book your international flights to Lisbon or Porto. Consider a round-trip or one-way with an onward flight.

Reserve 3-5 nights in Lisbon, 2-3 nights in Sintra, remaining nights in Algarve towns like Lagos or Tavira.

Look into rail passes if using trains between regions. A Portugal Pass can save money.

Confirm your lodging is booked by checking emailed confirmations. Double check dates.

Research attractions’ hours and plan your days to see top sights.

Print out or savemaps, itineraries and confirmation details digitally.

Consider travel insurance for unforeseen circumstances.

What Are the Must Visit Places in Portugal for Your First Trip?

To make the most of limited time on a first visit, here are some of the top destinations that should make your Portugal itinerary.


Walk the historic alleys of Alfama and ascend up to spectacular views at São Jorge Castle. Snap photos of the 25th of April Bridge and Belem Tower. Stroll through lush parks like Parque Eduardo VII. Sip a coffee and watch street performers at Rossio Square. Indulge in pastries and Fado music at Bairro Alto.


Escape the city to magical, mountain-top Sintra filled with fairy-tale palaces. Don’t miss the iconic Moorish Castle and Quinta da Regaleira’s fantastical gardens. Nearby Cabo da Roca is the western-most point in continental Europe.


The second largest city, Porto seduces with its intimate old town, River Douro location and unique port wine culture. Take the iconic tram or hike up to panoramic vistas from Serra do Pilar. Taste port at scenic lodges like Graham’s and Taylor’s.

How Do You Can Travel Between the Cities?

Traveling between destinations within Portugal is straightforward using buses or trains. The national carrier for both is Comboios de Portugal (CP).

For traveling from Lisbon to Porto, frequent buses operated by companies like Rede Expressos take around 3 hours depending on stops and cost around €20 each way. You can book bus tickets on Omio in advance to secure seats.

Trains take a similar 3 hours between the two cities along the coast and are a bit pricer, but more comfortable with a cafe car. Portugal rail passes like a Portugal Pass from Omio can offer savings if combining multiple train trips within your itinerary. Keep in mind not all trains run daily, so check schedules.

Which Things Are Important to Know Before You Travel to Portugal?

Before finalizing your plans, it’s useful to know some key facts that will help your trip to Portugal run smoothly.

Portugese is the dominant language, though many major tourist areas you’ll find English spoken quite well too.

Currency is the Euro. ATMs are widely available but have daily withdrawal limits. Always have backup cash.

Tipping at restaurants is not obligatory but rounding up 5-10% is customary for good service.

Stores often close for a lengthy lunchbreak between 12:30-3:30pm, then re-open evenings until 8pm.

Siestas are common – plan activities for mornings and afternoons but embrace a break in the heat of the day.

Pronounce local place names carefully to avoid awkward tourists moments!

Try the local fortified wine, port, with cheese or pastries as the perfect afternoon pick-me-up.

Souvenirs worth picking up are ceramic tiles (azulejos), embroidered linens, port or local olive oil.

Portugal offers you an accessible and affordable introduction to Europe through its rich culture, landscapes, and hospitality. With some preparation of transport, language basics and spending tips, independent exploration between destinations is stress-free. Portugal promises memorable first European memories and a foundation for returning for deeper dives into its diverse and fascinating regions.