After a somewhat rainy summer in Finland, Mihir and I couldn’t wait to leave the Nordics behind and explore Portugal on our epic road trip. Using most of our holiday, we planned 2 weeks in Portugal during which we wanted to explore as much as possible of the country. If you are planning a similar trip yourself, feel free to follow in our footsteps. As Mihir and I are avid lovers of food and culture, we omitted the beaches of the Algarve and headed further North instead. In this guide, we have included our 2 weeks Portugal road trip itinerary, major sights, recommendations for food & drink, as well as plenty of practical tips and a map.
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Portugal Road Trip Itinerary: 2 Weeks in Portugal
- Day 1: Lisbon
- Day 2: Lisbon
- Day 3: Lisbon
- Day 4: Lisbon
- Day 5: Day Trip to Sintra
- Day 6: Obidos, Alcobaca & Batalha Monastery
- Day 7: Coimbra
- Day 8: Agueda, Aveiro
- Day 9: Porto
- Day 10: Douro Valley
- Day 11: Porto Day Trips
- Day 12: Driving Porto – Lisbon
Days 1-4: Lisbon
Like most people, we started our Portugal trip in Lisbon, Portugal’s beautiful capital city. We had booked ourselves into an incredibly cheap hotel, which was also incredibly far from the city center. Nonetheless, we were set on exploring as much of the city as we could. We arrived in the afternoon and after dropping our bags at the hotel, we headed downtown for a well-deserved dinner and first impressions of the city. If your hotel lies outside the city center like ours, we recommend that you get the Viva Viagem Card for access to public transport. Another option would be to get the Lisboa Card which also offers free entry to many of the city’s sights and museums.
Day 2: Belem
On our first day, we were graced with beautiful weather and headed out to see some of the city’s major sights. On the top of our list was the Belem district. Some of the district’s highlights are:
- Jeronimos Monastery
- Discoveries Monument
- Belem Tower
- Pasteis de Belem
The area is very easily accessible by public transport. We started our tour at Jeronimos Monastery. In order to reach here from the city center, get on buses 728 (direction Restelo) or 714 (direction Praca da Figueira) at Praca do Comercio and disembark at Mosteiro dos Jeronimos.
From here it’s only a few meters walk to the monastery. On the way, you will pass a famous bakery named “Pasteis de Belem” which sells the famous pastel de nata pastries. Unfortunately, lines tend to be rather long.
Just across the road from the monastery lies the Discoveries Monument and one of the most beautiful views of the Tejo River.
From here it’s a short walk along the river to the famous Belem Tower. For us, the best thing to do was to buy a glass of wine from one of the vendors in the area, sit down, and simply enjoy the view.
Day 3: Alfama & Fado
We dedicated the entire third day to exploring Lisbon’s old town, the Alfama district. It’s easy to see why this spot attracts so many tourists, as it is simply breathtaking. We particularly enjoyed admiring the tile-work on many of the buildings, known as azulejos. But we certainly didn’t want to miss any of the district’s famous sights either. The most important ones are:
- Castle of St. George
- Santa Justa Elevator
- Lisbon Cathedral
In the evening, we headed to a performance of the famous Portuguese Fado. There are dozens of fado clubs in Lisbon, so it was very hard to pick one. We finally went with one which was suggested to us by our hotel. It turned out to be more of a tourist rip-off than anything else, but we enjoyed the music nonetheless. After doing extensive research, we have compiled a quick list of the best fado places in Lisbon as recommended by fellow travel bloggers:
- Tasca do Chico (recommended by A Nomad on the Loose)
- A Baiuca (recommended by Tripper)
- Senior Fado (recommended by The Mindful Mermaid)
- Patio do Bairro (recommended by As the Bird Flies)
Day 4: Parque das Nacoes & Cristo Rei
For our last full day in Lisbon, we decided to leave the city center and venture further out. Off the beaten track, if you want. First, we visited Parque das Nacoas, a slice of modern Lisbon with lots of places to eat and interesting architecture to explore.
Later in the day, we decided to go a little further and actually cross the Tejo River into Almada to see Cristo Rei, a monument inspired by Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro. In order to go there, you need to take a ferry from the ferry terminal at Cais do Sodre to Cacilhas. The ride is part of the city’s public network system and a single ride costs 1.25€. From the port, you could hike up the hill to see the statue, but it is certainly more sensible to take bus 101 which departs just outside the ferry terminal.
It is possible to enter the monument and access the viewing platform for 6€, but we thought the views from the hill were already spectacular enough. It is hands-down the most beautiful spot to take pictures of Lisbon and well worth the visit.
Day 5: Day Trip to Sintra from Lisbon
On our last day in Lisbon, we wanted to see something different and decided to go on a day trip to Sintra. As we had not yet picked up our car, we decided to take the train instead. Trains run from both major train stations in Lisbon, Rossio Station and Oriente Station. Travel time for both is around 45 minutes only and tickets cost 4.4€ return. Lines to the ticket counters can be long, so we would recommend you start your journey early in the day.
Upon arrival to Sintra, most tourists decide to take a bus (434) which will take them directly to the main sights. Seeing that a ticket cost 5€ (more than the train journey), we decided to explore the town on foot. The 1.5 km walk from the train station to the historic center is rather flat and enjoyable. We had a quick look around before we decided to head onwards to see Castelo dos Mouros and Palacio da Pena. Little did we know that they were located on top of a rather steep hill. Still too proud to buy a bus ticket, we actually hiked the entire way and felt more than rewarded by the beautiful views that awaited us up top. After taking in the sights, we made our way back to Lisbon.
Day 6: Obidos, Alcobaca & Batalha Monastery
Day 6 was the start of our epic road trip through Portugal. We left our hotel early in the morning and headed to the airport to pick up our rental car (read more tips below).
Our first stop along the way was the little town of Obidos, located only 85 km north of Lisbon. We passed on the free parking lots outside the fortified walls and decided to park inside instead, as it only cost roughly 1€/hour. The price seemed reasonable and it allowed us to stay out of the scorching sun as long as possible.
From Obidos, we continued further North. On our way to Coimbra, we were planning to stop at two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Alcobaca Monastery, and Batalha Monastery. Both are very easily accessible by car from the highway. We took a little extra time at Batalha Monastery and parked just around the corner. Built in 1385, Batalha Monastery is easily one of the most beautiful buildings in Portugal. We particularly enjoyed the square surrounding it, dotted with green trees providing shade and swaying in the wind.
At Alcobaca Monastery, we decided to just make it a quick stop in order to take a couple of pictures and stretch our legs. Originally founded in 1153, Alcobaca is one of the most important medieval monasteries in Portugal. We sure hope we get more time to really see the monastery the next time we go!
Day 7: Coimbra
We had arrived in Coimbra and checked into our hotel the night before. That meant, we had the entire day to explore Coimbra and its sights. After a late breakfast, we made our way to the city’s old town which is perched on a rather steep hill. We enjoyed visiting the university campus and simply take in the atmosphere. Students were just returning from their summer break and the campus was brimming with activity. Coimbra is the perfect place to just sit back and relax with a good book. And indeed, we were certainly guilty of spending our afternoon doing exactly that!
Day 8: Agueda, Aveiro
After a relaxed day in Coimbra, we felt like we needed a little more excitement and drove on to Porto. On the way, however, we had planned two important stops: Agueda and Aveiro.
Agueda had been on the top of my list before we ever even discussed traveling to Portugal. If you like to cruise the internet on websites such as Reddit, Imgur or 9Gag you might have come across pictures of a street covered by a blanket of colorful umbrellas.
Ok, really, apart from the Umbrella Sky Project not much is happening in Agueda, and the street is not really that long. But hey, if you are going to be driving all day and need a place to grab a coffee – it might as well be Agueda. And if it just is for that new profile picture you’ve been wanting for weeks.
The umbrellas are there in the months of July, August and September. The project was brought to life in 2011 as part of the annual Ágitagueda Art Festival. During the summer they provide a beautiful background to various cultural and sportive events and draw hundreds of visitors to this otherwise sleepy Portuguese town.
PS: The street is very easy to find, too. Just drive into the city following signs to the center, park your car and you’ll probably already see some umbrellas ahead. Impossible to miss!
Our second stop along the way was Aveiro. It has been dubbed the Venice of Portugal. Although that is certainly an exaggeration, Aveiro’s canals and gondolas are certainly charming. We parked our car at the shopping mall Forum Aveiro before venturing into the city on foot. It was a windy day, but we enjoyed it nevertheless.
Apart from the moliceiros (as the Portuguese gondolas are known), Aveiro is mostly famous for its beaches. In late September it was certainly too cold to take a dip in the Atlantic Ocean, but we had fun simply taking in the view and feeling the sand between our toes. Costa Nova Beach is a sight in itself with its colorful houses. Make sure not to miss it!
Days 9-11: Porto & Surroundings
Now, Porto is probably one of the most beautiful cities in all of Europe and I’m almost ashamed to say that we only spent one full day in the city before heading out to explore some of its surroundings. But Porto is simply the perfect base to explore so much of Portugal, we couldn’t very well resist.
Nonetheless, after the had arrived in Porto the previous evening, we got up early next morning and headed out. Our B&B was far from the city center, so we took the car and parked smack in the center at Rua do Duque de Loulé. From here, we continued on foot. The best thing about Porto (apart from its breathtaking views) is popping into the many boutique stores that litter the old town. I probably spent half of hour trip budget there alone, haha. Some of Porto’s highlights include:
- Cais da Ribeira
- Ponte de Dom Luis I
- Se Cathedral
We spent much of the following days on driving, but traveling off the beaten path is one of our favorite things. Technically you could do single day trips to all of the locations we visited, but we visited most of them in just one day. One entire day, however, was dedicated to the incredible Douro Valley. Whether you like wine or not, you simply HAVE to visit the Douro Valley, if only for the views!
Day 12: Driving from Porto to Lisbon
As we had an early afternoon flight, all of our last day in Portugal was spent on driving from Porto to Lisbon. I wished I had anything exciting to say about this day, but driving along Portuguese roads was never my favorite thing to do. Want to know more? Read our tips below 😃
Renting a Car In Portugal: Tips & Tricks
Renting a car in Portugal is relatively straight-forward. However, there are a couple of things you should keep in mind. First of all, we rented our car at the airport, which obviously comes with extra charges. As we were planning to drop off the car just prior to our return flight, however, we found this the safer option. You could also rent a car from the city center and add another (half-) day in Lisbon instead. Some other things to be aware of are:
Before you actually book a car, compare several offers and check whether they have any additional charges. For your road trip, you will need unlimited mileage. A four-seater for 6 days should cost you about 150-200€.
Check the company’s conditions, as some won’t rent out to young drivers under the age of 21. Expect additional charges if you are younger than 30. Also, companies tend to charge for extra drivers.
If you can, don’t go with the rental company’s insurance. Instead, check whether your credit card travel insurance covers rental cars or take out an additional insurance for that matter.
You’ll need to have enough credit available on your credit card to cover the cost of the rental as well as the excess (often around 1000€).
Make sure to opt for the electronic toll device. It will cost you a maximum of 20€ and will give you peace of mind (read more below). The toll fees will be charged to your credit card after you return the car.
A GPS can be handy in Portugal, but we found we did rather well with an old-school paper map and Google Maps.
When you pick up the car, take photos of the tiniest of marks, dents, or scratches. Most will be marked during inspection anyway, but it’s better to be on the safe side. Also, make sure to take a photo of the meter and the fuel gauge. Our tank wasn’t 100% full and when we returned it in the exact same condition, the rental agency tried to charge us for the missing fuel. Better safe than sorry!
Book your car well ahead of time in order to get the best deals. Use websites such as rentalcars.com to compare prices and save money!
Driving in Portugal: What You Need to Know
I found driving in Portugal to be one of the most nerve-wracking things I had ever done. Our first day on the road, trying to navigate the highways around Lisbon, was pure hell. However, by the end of our trip, I may as well have been Portuguese because I simply didn’t give a damn anymore. When in Rome… 😉
People in Portugal tend to drive fast and without much regard for safety distances. Don’t let that stress you and continue at your own pace, letting other cars overtake when possible.
Highways in Portugal are subject to toll. On some roads, you can pay cash or card at old-fashioned toll booths. On other roads, however, you cannot. The only way to pay the toll on these roads is electronically. When you drive through one of these “booths”, you will hear a faint beep from the electronic device in your rental car.
Using the electronic toll device also allows you to drive through the green Via Verde Lanes at big toll booths which may end up saving you a lot of time.
Be aware of the distance to your exits. Believe me, it is a real pain to realize your exit is only a few hundred meters away when you’re driving at high speed in the 4th lane. Portuguese drivers are merciless and won’t make as much room for you as you might need.
The speed limit on highways is 120 km/h and 50 km/h in built-up areas.
Drunk driving is a serious offense in Portugal and we strongly recommend you watch your alcohol intake closely.
Was road tripping through Portugal worth it? Absolutely! I’m a little bummed that we missed the Algarve and one or two days could have probably been shaved off of our itinerary to dedicate to that region. Use our guide as a starting point and make your own! I feel like there is so much left to explore and I honestly can’t wait to go back!
Now, what do you think? Are there any other stops along the way you would add? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below! Let’s stay in touch!