We managed to plug in 5 days in Portugal as part of our honeymoon (which also included stops in London and South Spain). Five days in Portugal is a little tight. If only we had all the time in the world! And while this itinerary covers a lot of ground, we never felt rushed or bored at any point. It was the perfect combo of relaxation, excitement and food. Oh, and did we eat a lot of food! Enjoy!
The good news is that driving in Portugal is mostly easy. Just avoid the historic city core with the narrow winding streets — unless you like a challenge! You’ll find mostly open roads and few cars on the major highways. This is likely because of the hefty tolls you’ll pay along the way. But it sure makes a nice (and fast) drive!
One thing is certain about Portugal. It is a hot destination. We couldn’t tell you how many people told us they were visiting Portugal this year (or knew someone who had just been). Below is our 5 day itinerary across Portugal by car — and we packed a lot in! And as always, our itineraries can easily be scaled down.
Day 1: Lisbon
- Arrive in Lisbon (via London)
- Hot tip: If traveling from the US, we recommend flying direct into London and spending the night.
- Then switch onto a low-cost airline to Portugal. No matter what — you’ll likely have to transfer in London any way. So save some bucks!
- We literally saved hundreds of dollars by doing this trick.
- Check into the Internacional Design Hotel
- We loved the location right in the heart of the city.
- The rooms are tight, but you can’t beat the cost ($130 USD a night with all taxes!)
- Explore the city and walk around the historic center. For the best first night experience, go to Mercado da Ribeira or “Time Out Market”
- The Time Out Market is the mother of all food halls! We were so excited to come here.
- The hot spot opened in 2014 and is the first of several planned food hall ventures for the magazine (with halls even coming to the US)
- What you’ll find are 30+ food stalls, communal tables and some of the cities top eateries (curated by the Time Out team).
- Among our top recommendations are Manteigaria (for custard pies called pastel de nata). Yumm!!!
Day 2: Lisbon
- 9 AM, Grab breakfast – you can have either the healthy meal at the hotel or do what we did and eat more of those little custard pies!
- 10 AM – 2 PM, Join a guided tour of Lisbon. We did a motorcycle side car tour ($190 USD for 2 people). This tour was okay, but there are a variety of other fun (and free!) activities. We’d recommend the free Sandemans tour of the Alfama District, which is one of the oldest districts of Lisbon, and is a delightful maze of narrow cobbled streets and ancient houses.
- 3-5 PM, Head to the Fado Museum in the Alfama district. What is Fado? It’s traditional folk music that grew out of this neighborhood.
- The museum does a great job taking you through the history and its cultural importance for Portugal.
- While this art form began dying out, there has been several modern-day Fado musicians bringing it back in vogue.
- 5-7 PM, Relax in the Alfama District at the incredibly cozy Pois Cafe. You’ll find a variety of snacks, coffees and wine on their menu. You may not want to leave for the night!
- 7-9 PM, Visit the ultra-hip LX Factory.
- LX Factory is a revitalized industrial area once full of factories, but now home to boutique shops, trendy eateries, street art, co-working spaces, and a weekly market.
- Perfect for hipsters but worth a visit even if you’re not!
- 10 PM – midnight, Enjoy a romantic dinner at Grapes and Bites, which became our favorite meal in all of Portugal. And there was some major competition!
- The restaurant is located in the heart of the Bairro Alto, a lively nightlife area.
- Take note, the neighborhood is at the very top of a hill. So you’ll be working off those calories (at least on your way there!).
Day 3: Road trip from Lisbon to Obidos, Coimbra, Aveiro and Porto
- It’s a packed day – with an early wake up time. But getting up early will allow you to experience one of our favorite parts of Lisbon — riding the local tram 28 through the city. You could probably do this at any point earlier in your trip, so you can always sleep in if you have! The road trip portion begins today and is a fantastic itinerary — where you’ll drive about 1 hour (or less) between most of the major stops. It really breaks up the day. Plus, you’ll get to rest between stops in the car!
- 8-9 AM, Ride the historic Tram 28 in Lisbon at Martin Moniz station. We know, it’s early!
- We recommend hopping aboard the tram early in the morning in Martim Moniz (before it enters the very crowded parts of the city where you will likely not find a seat).
- The tram creaks its way through some of the popular tourist districts. At certain points it feels like it might split in half. It’s all part of the fun!
- 9:30 AM, Pick up Hertz car rental, and start the road trip to Porto (1 day total: $67.16 USD)
- Address: Hertz, Rua Castilho, 72, Lisbon
- This spot is perfect if you’re in central Lisbon. No need to go all the way back to the airport!
- 10-11 AM, Drive to the medieval village of Obidos (1 hour from Lisbon)
- We spent about 1.5 hours in Obidos, which is the perfect amount of time. One of the best things about visiting Obidos is just wandering the cobbled lanes, especially along the top of the walls that line the village. Just be warned, there are no railings! You really could fall and kill yourself. So make sure you don’t sacrifice yourself for the perfect selfie!
- Venture along any lane in Obidos and you’ll find whitewashed cottages trimmed with blue and yellow paint, often with low arched doorways or stone ledges and steps that have been there for centuries. Some have been here since the Moorish occupation which ended in the 12th century.
- 12:30-1:30 PM, Drive to Coimbra (just a little over 1 hour north of Obidos)
- Coimbra is famous for its University, the oldest in Portugal and one of the oldest in Europe.
- We recommend spending 2 hours in Coimbra — exploring the city and university (especially the school’s incredible library)
- Feel like you’re in the land of Harry Potter? Well, you aren’t far off! Author JK Rowling once lived in nearby Porto and was likely inspired by her time here.
- Within minutes of arriving in Coimbra, we passed a group of university students wearing traditional garb that looked more in line with the Ministry of Magic than say, a university lecture on Bio Chem!
- 2:30-3:30 PM, Visit the Joanina Library, a Baroque library situated in the heights of the historic center of the University of Coimbra.
- Really, a library? Yes! This was such a major highlight of our time in Portugal. No words can describe just how grand and impressive it is. JK Rowling allegedly visited and was inspired by its grandiose architecture. Just watch out for the bats! The place is filled with bats that hide behind the books (but usually only come out at night!).
- You must buy a ticket to visit the library — but we also recommend getting the ticket that includes entry to the cathedral and the tower to climb up for views over the entire city. Just be warned, it’s a tight stairway!
- 3:30-4 PM, Before leaving Coimbra, head down to the main shopping street of Largo da Portagem. And make a beeline to Briosa, a bakery with some of the best pastries in all of Portugal. It’s a famous spot for local students and is always packed!
- 4 PM, Depart for Aveiro (less than a 1 hour drive away)
- Nicknamed the “Venice of Portugal,” Aveiro is best known for its canals filled with brightly colored boats. Traditionally these boats went out to harvest seaweed but today it’s all for tourism.
- You don’t need a lot of time in this compact town. Just 1 hour will give you a good sense — unless you want to board one of the 45-minute boat rides. We recommend Viva a Ria, which is just about $7 USD per person.
- 6:30 PM, Depart for Porto (just 1 hour away – don’t you love how nice this trip breaks down?)
- 7:30 PM, Arrive in Porto, drop off the rental at the airport then take a short 20-minute taxi ride to the Port River Aparthotel, located right along the waterfront area of Cais da Ribeira. You’re in the heart of the action! Rooms are just about $180 USD a night.
- 8:30 – 11 PM, Wander the streets along the riverside area: Cais da Ribeira. And grab dinner just around the corner at Jimao. The food here was so incredibly good! And the atmosphere can’t be beat.
Day 4: Porto
- 11 AM – 4 PM, Gastronomic Porto Bike Tour (with tour company Biclas & Triclas). Cost is $80 USD per person
- There is a lot of ground to cover in Porto, which is why I knew that a bike tour would be the perfect way to see all the top sights.
- I spent months researching our trip and knew that the tour company Biclas & Triclas offered the perfect combination for us. The company doesn’t just show you the city, but offers unique tours that combine a variety of activities from surfing to walking tours and of course biking.
- The Gastronomic tour covers a lot of ground. In total, we rode about 18 miles, which made us feel not so guilty about all the delicious food (and Port!) we had along the way.
- We’ve done biking tours in countless cities – Tokyo, Mexico City, Reykjavik, Bogota (the list goes on!). But what made biking in Porto so wonderful was the laid back nature of the city and the paved bike lanes. Check out our full itinerary on our previous blog post here.
- 6 -7:30 PM, Go on a self-guided Harry Potter-inspired walking tour
- First stop? Head straight to Livraria Lello, an incredible bookstore that many believe helped serve as an inspiration behind Harry Potter
- JK Rowling once called Porto her home for 2 years teaching English in the early 1990’s. You can’t help but feel the magic as you follow our recommended Harry Potter walking tour (outlined here)
- 8-10 PM, Wrap your evening in Porto with a delicious dinner in the waterfront area or around the University. You’ll have a hard time picking a spot with so many options. We liked the coziness of Idiota Casa Portuense.
- Be sure to order a bottle of the “green wine” called “vinho verde.” We’ve drank red, white and rose. But green? Vinho verde isn’t bright green, at least not in the way you might think.
- When Portuguese winemakers decided to dub the stuff green wine, they meant green as in “fresh” or “lively” or “young.” Many of the green wines are effervescent. You should definitely order a glass!
Day 5: Douro Wine Country (just outside Porto)
- Spend your final day exploring the countryside vineyards of the Douro Valley, an easy day trip from Porto.
- This is the top-producing region for Port wine, and you can either take a train, arrange a tour group or head out on your own.
- Here is another blog post that outlines some of the top things to do here (hint: it involves mostly drinking wine!)