When planning weekend trips in Portugal, one of the first questions is whether it will be a city trip full of culture and exploration or a trip to the incredible coastal areas with its magnificent beaches and crystal clear waters. The amount of possible destinations is seemingly endless and finding the one that suits one’s vacation dreams can be hard and time-consuming.
This list will help you narrow down your selection by giving you an overview of the nine best weekend trips in Portugal. Be it an amazing city trip to Lisbon or Porto, a surfing trip to Peniche or cities at the Algarve like Faro and Tavira – you are bound to find a perfect weekend getaway.
In the past few years, I visited two of the places on this list of the best weekend trips in Portugal. And while I loved them, I really wish I had read the recommendations below when I went there. I cannot believe that I missed out on cocktails at a rooftop bar in Lisbon! And let’s not even talk about the fact that my short time in Faro was not an ideal trip, as I did not know of all the great things I could have done. Chances are that ‘just turned solo traveler’-me did not even go to the beach.
You can read this post in its entirety to explore all the great destinations in Portugal. Or simply click one of the locations on the map below to find out more about the city.
The Best Weekend Trips in Portugal
These nine locations are the perfect weekend trips in Portugal. They can easily be reached if you are traveling within the country, and thanks to the vast train and flight connections, they can easily be reached if you live elsewhere in Europe.
And if you have more time than just a weekend, you can easily combine two or more of these places. Years ago I ended up doing just that when I flew to Faro and then took a bus to Seville in Spain. All in all, I had an amazing time, so I can only recommend doing the same. Weekend trips to Portugal (and Spain) are amazing!
Lisbon is an amazing city, and one of my favorites in the world. You can also grab yourself a famous pasteis de Nata, visit the imposing São Jorge Castle, take in all the views from the famous Alfama district, walk around Barrio Alto and take photos against the city’s pastel-colored buildings, and there is even enough time to see the Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge.
And if you have got a few extra days in Portugal you can head out to Cascais for a few days surfing and spending time on the beach. It is where the locals from Lisbon go for their summer holidays, so it is the perfect spot to sit back and relax.
The best time to visit Lisbon is any time of the year, as the city benefits from warm weather even in the winter. And the city is perfect if you are on a budget too, being one of the cheapest cities in Europe. A weekend in Lisbon is amazing, with so much to see in this historic and beautiful city.
Contributed by Sophie from Sophie’s Suitcase
If you love historical cities, secluded beaches, and warm days filled with sunshine, you’ll love a weekend trip to Lagos, Portugal. This coastal city has over 2000 years of history. You can explore the mosaic-tiled walking streets of Old Town, which are still partially surrounded by an ancient castle wall. Or you can visit a 17th-century military fortress that once protected the region.
Contributed by Nicola from See Nic Wander
Faro and Ria Formosa Natural Park
Faro is one of the biggest cities in Algarve, and southernmost city in Portugal. The city is full of history, culture, lovely coast, and beautiful natural scenes. Faro is the gateway to exploring the Algarve region that’s known for its pristine beaches and coves. However, Faro is often overlooked and travellers walk past Faro in search of the best beaches in Algarve.
Things to do in Faro
While in Faro, explore the charming old town, museums, and cathedrals. Admire the grand Arco da Villa, a neoclassical arch that is the gateway to Cidade Velha, Faro’s historic centre – a perfect place to start your tour. Visit the Faro Cathedral, the whitewashed Bishop’s palace, and walk through the city walls of Faro.
If you are a museum lover, head over to Maritime museum, Faro Municipal Museum, or Faro Archeological museum to immerse in the local history. For some sun and beach time, visit Praia de Faro.
Rio Formosa Natural Park
Yet other beautiful places to explore in Faro are the Rio Formosa Natural Park and the 5 barrier islands – Culatra, Barretta, Armona, Cabanas and Tavira.
You can take boat trips from Olhao or Faro, or choose to hike, kayak, or do cycling to explore the lagoons of Ria Formosa. Ria Formosa is one of the best-kept secrets of Algarve, a paradise for bird watching and interesting wildlife, and certainly one not to be missed.
You can also take boat tours to explore the 5 beautiful barrier islands.
Explored by Anuradha from Country Hopping Couple
A great place for a budget-friendly weekend getaway in Portugal is the small city of Tavira in the Eastern Algarve. Located less than 30 minutes from the Spanish border, this more traditional Portuguese town is the perfect place for a getaway. Particularly for some much-needed sunshine.
Things to do in Tavira
The castle which can be accessed by the tourist train during much of the year affords visitors stunning views over the rooftops. There is a camera obscura beside it giving 360-degree views of the city. There is also a must-visit church, Santa Maria do Castelo Church which houses the tombs of seven knights killed by the Moors. The market located near the salt pans (where you might be lucky enough to spot flamingos at the right time of year) is a bustling place to be on a Saturday morning and where you will find the freshest of Algarvian fruit and vegetables, fresh fish straight from the Atlantic, and spices and local honey which has to be bought and tasted.
If you are visiting in summer, take the cheap ferry across to the Ilha da Tavira, where the long sandy beaches are located on the Ria Formosa. Despite it being the Atlantic Ocean, the waters are warm in summer and lovely for bathing.
Portugal is an inexpensive country to visit for tourists and Tavira is even less so compared to the western Algarve towns such as Albuferia and Vilamoura. Go local and your euro will go a long way, buying you the freshest of fish dishes and wines to enjoy. Just don’t forget the pasteis de natas!
Explored by Cath – Travel Around Ireland
Évora, a beautifully preserved medieval town, is the capital of the Alentejo region in Portugal. And it is only a 90-minute car or train ride away from Lisbon. It has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its well-preserved monuments that have been shaped by more than 20 centuries of history. Going as far back as Celtic times when it fell under Roman domination in 57 BC and expanded into a walled city. The city walls and ruins of Roman baths and the temple still remain.
You will notice the Moorish influences, when they ruled in 715 to 1165, in the fortified gate and the Se Cathedral with its asymmetrical towers.
The city really began to flourish in the 15th century, when convents, churches and royal palaces began to spring up everywhere, as well as, the building of the Adqueduto da Agua de Prata (or Aqueduct of Silver Water), just outside the city walls, which still remains.
You will immediately notice the stunning architecture of the low whitewash houses, decorated with painted tiles, mustard-yellow trim, wrought-iron balconies and red tile rooftops. All of these features make Évora the best example of a historic city. Luckily it remained undamaged by the great earthquake of 1755 which destroyed many towns in Portugal, including Lisbon.
Put down your map, and get lost inside the walls of the old city. Simply wander and discover every hidden corner of it. And, I know you’ll instantly fall in love with its history and charm. A visit to Évora is one of the best weekend trips in Portugal.
Contributed by Renee from Dream Plan Experience
Portugal’s third-largest city is often overlooked in favor of Lisbon and Portugal. But the vibrant and historical city of Braga offers plenty of things to do! While the entire municipal area is quite large, the historical town center is quite compact and can easily be explored on foot.
Highlights include the Santa Barbara Gardens and the Braga Cathedral, which is the oldest Cathedral in all of Portugal. There’s even a Portuguese saying, “older than the Braga Cathedral,” which is used to emphasize that something is extremely old.
A few kilometers outside the city center, you’ll find Braga’s most famous sight: the Santuário do Bom Jesus. If you’ve got the energy, climb all 582 steps to reach the church at the top! Or if you’re not feeling up to it, you can take the 19th-century, water-powered funicular, which is the oldest of its kind in the world. Not as well known, but probably even more impressive for history and architecture buffs, is the Capela de São Frutuoso de Montélios. Built in the late 7th century, it’s considered to be the most noteworthy example of pre-Romanesque Christan architecture in Portugal.
Contributed by Wendy Werneth of The Nomadic Vegan
Beautiful views, delicious food, friendly residents, and a tone of charm – these are just some of the things that make Porto, Portugal the perfect destination for your next weekend trip. Porto is the less-famous sister of Lisbon, but it has so many attractions and so much old-fashioned charm, it is going to win you over in a heartbeat.
Another advantage is the fact it is very budget-friendly. If you love beautiful views, historical landmarks, delicious food and wine, and a special atmosphere, you’re going to LOVE Porto! During our weekend in Porto, we tried to include a little bit of everything. Some gorgeous viewpoints (or miraduoros as they are called in Portugal), historic sights, popular attractions, and hidden gems, and of course, lots of good food and wine.
Porto was our first stop in Portugal, and we were surprised by the relatively budget-friendly price tag. From the meals to the hotel and wine, you are going to get a bang for your bucks. First, we suggest joining one of the free walking tours to get to know the most famous landmarks and get the feel of the city. Then you can revisit some of the places in your own time.
Things to do during a weekend in Porto
The must-see attractions list includes the Porto Cathedral, Dom Luis I Bridge, Ribeira neighborhood (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), and visiting São Bento Station for its fabulous Azulejos (Porto’s famous blue and white tiles).
You must also find time to go wine tasting in Vila Nova de Gaia and take a cruise over the Duoro River. Other than these famous attractions, there are so many hidden gems to explore, especially for culture and history lovers, many of them can be done for free!
Another great thing about Porto? It’s relatively compact (though it has very steep streets), so if you are fit enough, you can get to many places by foot. Trust us, if you are looking for a budget-friendly destination for your weekend getaway in Portugal, add Porto to your list!
Contributed by Maya & Sari from Chasing Lenscapes
Most people who visit Óbidos do so as a day trip from Lisbon, which is just about an hour away by bus. But even though the short distance makes it a very feasible day trip option, there’s so much to do in Óbidos that you could easily fill a whole weekend here. This way you will get to enjoy the town in peace and quiet in the early morning and late evening, without all the daytrippers. There are also some lovely places to stay here, such as The Literary Man hotel, which is a must for booklovers!
In fact, the whole town is a bookworm’s paradise and is the only place in the Portuguese-speaking world to be designated by UNESCO as a City of Literature. You’ll find some fabulous bookstores here in the most unlikely locations. There’s one inside a deconsecrated church, and another inside an organic produce market and health food store.
Even if books are not your thing, the medieval whitewashed down is a joy to explore. The best way to start your explorations is by walking around the top of the crenelated town walls. From here, you can look down on the orange rooftops of the town and the surrounding fields punctuated with old windmills. The castle of Óbidos is also a must-see and has been named one of the seven wonders of Portugal.
Contributed by Wendy Werneth of The Nomadic Vegan
Just over an hour’s drive from Lisbon Airport is one of Portugal’s favourite coastal escapes: Peniche. It’s an old port town and fortress that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean from the wave-bashed coast of the Oeste region. In summer, the beaches to the north and south draw sunbathers, while others venture to the stunning Berlengas archipelago that sits just 10km out at sea – a land of craggy cliffs, salt-washed fisherman’s cottages, and a particularly haunting penal colony.
The inland town of Obidos, just 30 minutes’ drive eastwards through the countryside, is an easy addition to a weekend in Peniche.
Explored by Joe from The Surf Atlas
City and Weekend Trips in Portugal
Chances are, that you added at least one if not all of these places to your travel list. At least that’s what I did! I might have already visited two of these amazing cities, but I definitely wouldn’t mind visiting Faro and Lisbon again. After all, they are some of the best city break destinations in Europe.
Which of these weekend trips in Portugal is your next one?