Taking the time to fully explore Portugal's forested mountain slopes, golden beaches and arid regions will be an unforgettably rewarding experience. Once you land, the best way to see the country at your own pace is to hire a car – and from there, you can decide what adventure awaits.
To help you with your planning, we’ve some of the local’s favourite spots for flexible staycations.
The Don Luis Bridge in Porto
Porto’s riverside district of Ribeira is like a city within a city. Lined with elevated white, yellow and orange houses, the riverfront maintains the atmosphere of a small fishing town, despite being home to some of the city’s most popular bars. Wine buffs will enjoy Porto’s famous wine cellars, located directly on the other side of the Douro River. Rest for the evening at Porto River apartments before heading onto your next destination.
A view of the Tagus River in Lisbon
Lisbon’s coastal location has helped the city build an international reputation for excellent seafood, a mild climate and some of the prettiest architecture in Europe. As it is built on multiple hills, a ride on one of the funiculars is a great way to gain an overview of Lisbon – particularly the ice-cream coloured townhouses of the historical Alfama district. Travellers interested in architecture and city walks have also endorsed the Rossio district, and the Lisbon Destination Hostel, as the best places for fellow history fans to stay.
The Old Town district in Albufeira
Albufeira has some of the most beautiful beaches in Portugal, including the family-friendly white sand beaches Praia dos Pescadores and Praia do Túnel. It’s no wonder many Portuguese families make frequent trips here. The area of Old Town in Albufeira, on the other hand, is composed of cobbled streets, lined with open terrace restaurants and bars, as well as boutique hotels that place visitors right in the centre of things. This area is perfect for when you’ve had a long day at the beach and are in search of a bite to eat in picturesque surroundings.
The University of Coimbra
Coimbra was the capital of Portugal for over a century and the medieval city still holds a great deal of the historical gravitas associated with such a position. Walking through the historical district and down towards the Mondego River, it’s easy to feel like a time traveller. Dining in one of the area’s many fine restaurants, you can watch traditional Portuguese folk musicians perform outside. And you can stay in the midst of it all at the Sapienta Boutique Hotel.
Almendres Cromlech in Évora
Évora is a dream destination for amateur historians. The city centre contains historical oddities such as the Capela dos Ossos (a chapel decorated with thousands of human bones) and carefully preserved Roman ruins. The Évora district, meanwhile, is home to one of the largest megalithic monuments in Europe: the Almendres Cromlech. This fascinating site of Iberian history is well worth a few days’ exploration, and visitors can stay just a 2-minute drive away at the immaculate Imani Country House.