The Best Ways to Spend a Weekend in Portugal

4th August 2020

Lusting for a weekend getaway that will take you out of your routine? A weekend in Portugal might just be what you need! You’ll discover sunny weather, great food, welcoming people, and incredible places to explore.

Take a look at this list and start planning one of these best weekend getaways in Portugal!

#1 – A Weekend in Lisbon

weekend in lisbon

Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, is a vibrant city with sunny weather and incredible food. A favorite weekend getaway in Portugal among tourists from all over the world, Lisbon is a great destination to spend 2 or 3 days in Portugal. 

Known as the ‘city of seven hills,’ Lisbon is the perfect mix of modern and old. Visitors will never run out of activities; between museum visits, coffee breaks, and strolls around the city, there is so much to see and do!

What to see and do on a weekend in Lisbon? 

  • Visit Parque das Nações (and perhaps the Oceanário de Lisboa – an impressive aquarium)
  • Discover the ruins of Convento do Carmo, which is now an archeology museum
  • Walk around Praça do Comércio, Rua Augusta, the surrounding area, and take the 28 tram up to Alfama to explore this incredible neighborhood 
  • Get to know more of Portugal’s history at the S. Jorge Castle 
  • Watch the sunset from one of the many viewpoints (we recommend Miradouro da Graça or Miradouro das Portas do Sol)
  • Have dinner at one of the many restaurants that offer live fado (Portuguese music) nights – Alfama, in particular, has quite a few 
  • Visit the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, Padrão dos Descobrimentos and Torre de Belém (or at least see these architectural wonders from the outside)
  • Taste a nata (typical Portuguese pastry) at Pastéis de Belém
  • Visit Lisbon’s Museums – our recommendations are the MAAT, the National Tile Museum, and the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum 
  • Enjoy Lisbon’s nightlife in Bairro Alto

If the weather allows, don’t miss the incredible beaches near Lisbon. Cascais, Oeiras, and Estoril are some of the best areas; they boast white sand beaches with blue water lined with incredible seafood restaurants.

And if you happen to have a third day to visit, make sure you visit the whimsical town of Sintra (see below for some suggestions).

How to get to Lisbon? 

Lisbon International Airport has flights coming in from all over the world.

Related Lisbon posts:
Where to Stay in Lisbon, Portugal – The Best Areas
15 Best Day Trips From Lisbon
15 Best Things (Must Dos) to do in Lisbon
48 Hours in Lisbon Itinerary

#2 – A Weekend in Sintra

weekend in sintra

Exploring Sintra will easily take up an entire weekend in Portugal. The area is filled with mysterious castles, sumptuous palaces from bygone times, and houses that look like they came out of a fairytale. 

Ideal for a weekend for two, Sintra is a perfect destination, no matter the weather. Visitors will never run out of things to do and places to explore. It’s a great place to get a glimpse into the country’s rich history and a chance to rewind in one of the most romantic cities in Portugal.

What to see and do on a weekend in Sintra? 

  • Discover all the hidden treasures at Quinta da Regaleira
  • Hike up to the Pena National Palace and Pena Park – and visit the Chalet and Gardens of Condessa d’Edla in the process
  • Get lost in the misty forests of Sintra 
  • Soak up on the views at Cruz Alta – a viewpoint with views over Pena Palace
  • Visit the 8th-century Castle of Moors
  • Learn more about Portugal’s royal history in Sintra National Palace 
  • Take a trip to another time and place by visiting Monserrate Palace and strolling around the beautiful gardens  
  • Taste a travesseiro at Casa Piriquita – a 160-year-old bakery located right in the center of Sintra. 
  • Stand at the westernmost point of mainland Europe at Cabo da Roca
  • Discover the seaside Azenhas do Mar and indulge in the region’s seafood.
  • Go to the Praia da Ursa beach (and if the weather allows, sunbathe)

How to get to Sintra?

From Lisbon International Airport:

Rented car – Take the A37 to Sintra (approximately 30min)

Metro/Train – Take the red line to Oriente (train station), and ride the train to Sintra 

#3 – A Weekend in Porto

weekend in porto

Porto has been on the radar as a top destination for quite a while. If you’ve ever visited this city in the North of Portugal, you surely know why! Visitors always leave this welcoming and charming city with the intention of coming back.

An old-world type of charm, inviting locals, great cuisine, breathtaking views, and an upcoming food scene will grant you an incredible weekend in Portugal’s second-largest city. 

What to see and do on a weekend in Porto?

  • See the Luis I Bridge from above and below (Cais da Ribeira). 
  • Cross the bridge over to Gaia’s side and visit one of the many Port Wine Cellars (Calem, Sandeman, and Ferreira are some of the most famous ones)
  • View Porto from above at the Miradouro da Serra do Pilar (also on Gaia’s side)
  • Visit Porto’s Cathedral – which dates back to the 7th century – and its cloister.
  • Admire the tile-work at S.Bento Railway Station
  • Walk up the 225 steps at Torre dos Clérigos
  • Shop for books at Lello Bookstore – one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world, and the one that inspired J.K. Rowling to write the Harry Potter series
  • Have a coffee break at Café Majestic 
  • Join locals and enjoy the sunset at Jardim do Morro or Passeio das Virtudes 
  • Indulge in a Francesinha (Porto’s most famous dish) – Café Santiago and Lado B have the best ones in town! 
  • Visit Serralves Foundation Museum and Park 
  • Have a picnic at Parque da Cidade – accessible by bus 
  • Relax at the beautiful gardens at Palácio de Cristal 

If you are spending 3 days in Portugal, don’t miss the chance to take a day trip to Guimarães, only a train ride away! Catch the train at S. Bento Railway Station and discover the city where Portugal was born. Guimarães Castle, Palace of Dukes de Bragança, Guimarães Old Town, and Penha Mountain are some of the attractions in the area. 

How to get to Porto? 

Porto has an international airport. 

Additionally, there are trains coming in from the rest of the country and from the North of Spain.

Related Porto posts:
48 Hours in Porto Itinerary: The Best of Porto in Two Days
Where to Stay in Porto, Portugal – The Best Areas
16 Awesome Day Trips from Porto
16 Best Things (Must Dos) to do in Porto

#4 – A Weekend in the Douro Valley

weekend in Douro valley

A weekend in Douro has to be one of the best ways to spend a weekend in Portugal.  

Filled with vines, farms, idyllic views, and picture-perfect landscapes, this wine region is a wonderful place for all those in need of a weekend to wind down and just enjoy quiet time away from the city. 

To truly enjoy a weekend in Portugal in this area, nothing beats staying at one of the many wine farms in the region. Some of them are family-held businesses that will grant an authentic experience. 

Wine lovers will surely enjoy this area during harvest season – in September – but even during other times, the area has experiences for everyone. One of the most unique ones has to be staying in a wine barrel-shaped room (Quinta da Pacheca is a great option). 

Nature lovers and hikers will also find this area very appealing. Discover untouched nature, green mountains, and breathtaking views (which can be admired at viewpoints such as Miradouro de São Domingos and Miradouro de Casal de Loivos).  

But this area has far more to offer than wine and nature. Since tourism has grown exponentially in recent times, so have luxury hotels, which provide incredible experiences that allow one to completely relax and enjoy their weekend getaway in Portugal. Spas, fine dining, and luxury accommodation are only some of the experiences available.

How to get to the Douro Valley? 

The closest airport is Porto International Airport 

To get there, you can take the historical train, rent a car, and take a road trip through the N108 or the N222 roads that follow the river. You can even take a cruise up the river, which could be an entire weekend experience in itself. 

Related Douro Valley posts:
Where to Stay in the Douro Valley
Quick Guide to the Douro Valley & Pinhao

#5 – A Weekend Discovering Coimbra and Aveiro   

weekend in coimbra

The center of Portugal is usually overlooked by tourists, but the entire area has a vast cultural and natural offer to surprise even the most demanding of travelers. Because of this, it makes our list of the best weekend getaways in Portugal.

Unlike Porto or Lisbon, the central region of Portugal is yet to be discovered by tourists, which means experiences in this area are bound to be more authentic and not ‘made for tourists.’

Exploring the entire region in a weekend is impossible; however, visiting two of the most important cities and discovering their hidden treasures can be done in a weekend. 

Aveiro, once a fishing village in the coastal area, is also called ‘Portuguese Venice’ – since the city center and nearby villages are served by a canal network – Ria de Aveiro.

Visitors to the city can’t miss the opportunity to visit the network of canals on board a Moliceiro – a traditional boat once used to collect algae that is now used to take tourists on visits through the canals. 

Another way to discover the incredible and very unique biodiversity of the area is to take a walk at the ‘Passadiços da Ria – 5km of walkways that start right at the city center and take visitors through the ‘Ria.

Amazing biodiversity also means a plethora of unique dishes to be tasted in the many restaurants dedicated to seafood and fish. And speaking of local delicacies, no trip to Aveiro is complete without trying ovos moles – a traditional sweet made of eggs. 

Coimbra, however, is a far more historical city, with one of the oldest universities in the world (that also happens to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site) right in the city center.

Visiting the University of Coimbra is a must! If the fact that it is one of the oldest universities in the world isn’t reason enough for visiting it, the Biblioteca Joanina – a baroque library from the 18th century – and the Botanical Gardens will surely convince anyone!

Coimbra’s historical center is also a treasure waiting to be discovered, with narrow streets, medieval churches, passageways (as the Arco de Almeida), and old squares.

Close to Coimbra but not in the city center are the Conimbriga Ruins – a Roman city that dates back to the second century B.C. It’s the perfect activity for history buffs. 

For those who would prefer to explore a far more modern city, taking a train from Coimbra to Figueira da Foz and spending an afternoon exploring the streets of this coastal city is also a great idea during your weekend in Portugal! 

How to get to Coimbra and Aveiro

The closest airport is Porto International Airport 

Both destinations are accessible by train.
To get to the train from the airport, get on the Metro to Trindade (line E), then switch and get to Campanhã (lines A, B, C, F)

When in Campanhã (railway station), take the train to Aveiro or Coimbra. 

Coimbra and Aveiro are connected by train.

#6 – A Weekend in the Algarve

weekend in algarve

Algarve, the southernmost region of Portugal, is well known among European tourists looking for a weekend away from the world. Known for the sunny weather, warm temperatures throughout the entire year, beautiful beaches, and a calm way of life, the Algarve is not only one of the weekend getaways in Portugal, but one of the favorite European destinations for holidays. 

This coastal region in the South of Portugal is mainly a tourism destination; therefore, visitors can enjoy all sorts of tailored experiences during an Algarve weekend in Portugal.

However, the natural beauty of the region is unlike any other. With rock formations and white sand beaches, spending time admiring the beauty of the coastline is a favorite among both locals and tourists. Benagil Caves (Lagoa), Ponta da Piedade (Lagos), and Ria Formosa (Tavira) are some of the most beautiful places. 

And let’s not forget about the beaches! Home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the country – and even in Europe – the Algarve and its sunny weather is the perfect destination for a weekend spent in the sun! Praia da Rocha (Portimão), Praia Dona Ana (Lagos), Praia do Camilo (Lagos), and Praia de Odeceixe (Aljezur) are some of the most beautiful ones.

The gastronomy in the area is also one of the main attractions for visitors. As can be expected from places that started mainly as fishing villages, the seafood dishes are outstanding. In fact, the Algarve region has more than its fair share of Michelin-starred restaurants.

For those looking for a truly relaxing weekend getaway in Portugal, staying in one of the many luxury resorts or an Airbnb property might just be a perfect choice. VILA VITA Parc Resort & Spa and the Pine Cliffs Resort are two of the finest examples. Golf lovers will also find the Algarve to be made for them, as golf courses are everywhere!

If you’re looking for adventure during your weekend in Portugal, the region also has a lot to offer – waterparks (Slide & Splash, for example), surf, scuba diving, boat trips (to see dolphins), hiking trails and all sorts of activities to trigger your adrenaline.

The nightlife in Algarve is also quite famous! It’s known as a party destination, and some of the best Portuguese nightclubs also happen to be located there. From Irish pubs to sumptuous rooftop bars and glamorous beach clubs, everyone can find something to enjoy!

How to get to the Algarve? 

Faro International Airport serves the region.

When arriving in Lisbon: 

Metro/Train: Take the red line to Oriente (train station) and take the train to Faro.

Related Algarve posts:
15 Best Things to do in Algarve – Boat Tours & More!
The Best Towns and Places to Stay in the Algarve

So, which of these best weekend getaways in Portugal will it be?

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Lusting for a weekend getaway? A weekend in Portugal might just be what you need! Take a look at these best weekend getaways in Portugal!

Lusting for a weekend getaway? A weekend in Portugal might just be what you need! Take a look at these best weekend getaways in Portugal!

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