Top 10 Things to Do in Portugal on a First Visit inner banner

Top 10 Things to Do in Portugal on a First Visit

Hugging the western coast of Southern Europe, Portugal is one of the smaller nations in the neighbourhood — but it punches well above its weight in terms of memorable travel experiences. Tick off these ten top things to do.
Ten top things to do in Portugal
Ten top things to do in Portugal: Lisbon. Image: Envato

With stunning scenery, rich history, and perhaps the friendliest people in the world, Portugal is hitting the radar of travellers far and wide.

While fascinating capital Lisbon is at the top of every visitor’s to-do list, there’s so much to see in regional Portugal — so leave enough time in your itinerary to venture further afield. Hiring a car will allow you to explore at your own pace and discover endless hidden gems along the way. Head online to research the best car hire prices in Portugal from Enjoy Travel and find a deal that suits your needs.

Here’s a checklist of ten top things to do in Portugal on a first visit.

Portugal tours

Portugal Tours, Activities & Attractions

1. Visit the Douro Valley vineyards

Trying port wine is a given on any trip to Portugal, and the best place to do it is in the stunning Douro Valley — home to hundreds of vineyards and wineries. If you are staying in the northern city of Porto, you can reach the Valley by taking a cruise up the Douro River from Vila Nova de Gaia and returning by train. Alternatively, book a guided wine tour and let someone else take care of the logistics.

Ten top things to do in Portugal
Ten top things to do in Portugal: Douro Valley. Image: Envato

2. Pay a visit to Portugal’s birthplace

Guimarães is often referred to as Portugal’s birthplace. It was the country’s former capital and the city where Portugal’s first independent king — Afonso Henriques — was born. The historic architecture here dates back to the 10th century and includes a medieval castle, several churches (such as the famous Igreja de São Francisco — clad with Portugal’s famed blue and white tiles), and the Alberto Sampaio Museum. Here you can view an extensive collection of religious art. Guimarães is located 50 minutes’ drive northeast of Porto.

3. Join the celebration of the saints

If you find yourself in Porto or Lisbon in mid-June, you may find it hard not to get caught up in the festivities of Saint John and Saint Anthony respectively. The tradition of celebrating each city’s patron saint is alive and well. Locals pour out onto the streets on festival night to barbecue sardines, enjoy live music performances and fireworks displays, and party long into the night.

4. Try Portugal’s original custard tart

You can barely walk a few metres in this country without seeing rows of delicious looking Portuguese custard tarts — pastéis de nata — staring back at you from a café window. However, the original Portuguese tart is actually the Pasteis de Belém, which originated in its namesake district just outside Lisbon’s city centre. Creamy on the inside and flaky on the outside, these tarts can impress even the most savoury palate.

Ten top things to do in Portugal
Ten top things to do in Portugal: Pasteis de Belém. Image: Emily McAuliffe

5. Step back in time at Evora

The walled medieval city of Evora is a UNESCO World Heritage-listed site and can be visited as a day trip from Lisbon. The Praça do Giraldo (Giraldo Square) sits at the heart of the city and boasts wonderful gothic architecture and a bustling café scene. However, it has a dark past (the Square served as an execution ground during the Spanish Inquisition). Evora is also home to a Roman temple dating back to the first century BC.

Europe tours

Save $100pp on Europe Multi-Day Tours and Cruises

6. Explore Portugal’s majestic coastline

As Europe’s westernmost country, Portugal is blessed with long stretches of beach and dramatic shoreline cliffs. The Algarve region in the south rates highly among beach-loving locals and foreigners alike, however more secluded and equally beautiful beaches can be found in the Alentejo region closer to the centre. Just a heads up — Portugal’s coastal waters are known to be nippy all year round, so expect your dips to be brief and refreshing!

Ten top things to do in Portugal
Ten top things to do in Portugal: Hit the beaches around the Alentejo. Image: Envato

7. Indulge in top-notch seafood

Portugal is a haven for seafood lovers. In coastal areas like Matosinhos in Porto, you’ll find rows of barbecues along the footpath where the day’s catch is cooked over smoking coals. Make sure you try gooseneck barnacles — a juicy national delicacy scraped from rocks and nicely matched with a Portuguese vinho verde (green wine).

Ten top things to do in Portugal
Ten top things to do in Portugal: Enjoy fresh seafood. Image: Bigstock

8. Ski in Serra da Estrela

With its many beaches and Mediterranean climate, Portugal is generally considered a summer playground. However, if you head inland, you’ll find the country’s highest mountain range, Serra da Estrela, complete with a winter ski resort. The surrounding national park is the largest protected natural area in Portugal and features a series of marked hiking trails.

9. Listen to fado

Fado is a style of traditional Portuguese music, which dates back to the nineteenth century. The genre is known for being intensely emotive, and songs typically convey feelings of hardship and loss. A Fado performance usually consists of a vocalist (male or female) and a small stringed ensemble, and shows are staged in many Portuguese bars and restaurants.

Ten top things to do in Portugal
Ten top things to do in Portugal: See a performance of Fado.

10. Island hop in the Azores

The Azores is an autonomous region of Portugal, made up of nine islands surrounded by the clear blue water of the North Atlantic Ocean. Here you can cycle, hike, surf and kayak. The islands are also famous for bird and whale watching. A number of airlines fly to the Azores from Lisbon and Porto, and ferry services operate between the islands.

This post was published thanks to Enjoy Travel.

Browse our range of Portugal tours and experiences here.

Do you have any suggestions to add to our list of the top things to do in Portugal on a first visit? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.

Additional images: Bigstock

Emily McAuliffe

About the writer

Emily McAuliffe is an Australian travel writer and photographer based in Portugal. Her work has featured in a wide range of publications, including Qantas and Jetstar’s inflight magazines, Get Up and Go, and Women’s Fitness. Visit Emily’s blog for more inspiring Portuguese travel stories.



Travel essentials

You can book many aspects of your holiday on the Top Oz Tours & Travel Ideas website, including flights, hotels, car hire, travel insurance, and more. When you purchase a product or service using the following links from our partners, we receive a small commission. It does not affect the price you pay, and it enables us to continue to provide readers with amazing travel inspiration.


Compare airlines, flights, and fares in one place with They don't charge any credit card fees and you can always see exactly what you’re paying for in the price breakdown. You can book one-way, round-trip, and multi-city flights, and change your travel dates with ease when you opt for a flexible ticket option (an additional cost applies). It all adds up to a great flight! Search for flights with


If you're looking for a great deal on your next hotel or homestay, look no further than Their mission is to make travel affordable and accessible to more people, and to deliver seamless accommodation experiences that complement your holiday. Search for hotels and homestays with

Car hire

Discover Cars is an award-winning (World Travel Awards) car rental comparison website, which helps customers find, compare, and hire cars at the most competitive prices globally. You’ll get access to meticulously maintained cars, 4WDs, and minibuses from the world’s leading brands, and at the best possible price. Search for car hire with Discover Cars

Campervans & motorhomes

Make Jucy your first choice for campervan and motorhome hire. Since 2001, this progressive company has had a vision to be world-famous for enabling experience seekers to discover happiness on the road. The Jucy crew live and breathe their core values of passion, pride, family, and fun, and these values influence every one of their interactions with customers. They’re ready to help you find 'your happy'. Search for campervans and motorhomes with Jucy

Day tours & experiences worldwide

Search and book day tours, guided experiences, and attraction tickets and passes worldwide with Top Oz Tours and Viator. There are no booking or credit card fees when you book through us, and you’ll have access to the widest choice of activities and most competitive prices. Search for tours and experiences

Multi-day tours & trips worldwide

Travelling on an extended tour with a local guide is a wonderful way to immerse yourself in the destination of your choice. Top Oz Tours has joined forced with Tour Radar to bring you a fabulous range of multi-day tours and trips from the world's leading operators. Travel with like minded people and get the best possible price on the holiday of your dreams. Search for multi-day tours and trips

Travel insurance

World Nomads aims to be a part of every traveller’s journey by providing a reassuring range of travel insurance services. Travellers can buy insurance, extend their policy, and claim online, 24/7, on the road or from home. Travel insurance benefits include coverage for emergency medical and evacuation or repatriation, lost baggage, trip cancellation, and more than 150 adventure activities. Get an insurance costing from World Nomads

Subscribe to our newsletter for the chance to win a $100 voucher




Please leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *.

Your Cart
Your Cart Is Empty
error: This content is protected.