It took me all of one day to fall in love with Portugal. It has all the best things — good food, nice music, pretty scenery, cheap wine, friendly people — wrapped up into one compact, easy to navigate and inexpensive country. After returning from 2 weeks in Portugal on my honeymoon, I can honestly say it’s in my top 5 favorite countries.
When people ask me how I chose Portugal for my honeymoon, I tell them it came down to the food (you know you’re a true foodie when you choose your honeymoon destination strictly based on the location’s culinary prowess). Sam and I agreed that our 2 week honeymoon needed to primarily be filled with culinary adventures, but we could add in a few other perks like nice hotels and beautiful scenery.
We ultimately decided to explore the rich food history Portugal, and as we researched more, we learned about all the awesome history and culture to explore in this tiny European nation. Planning a honeymoon to an unconventional destination was not easy and we spent lots of time researching Portugal in order to create this itinerary. But all of our hard work paid off because we had simply the best honeymoon EVER during our two weeks in Portugal.
The perfect itinerary for two week roadtrip in Portugal!
Day 1-3: Lisbon
A trip to Portugal is likely to begin in the capital city of Lisbon and with options abound, it is easy to spend 3 days in Lisbon alone!. Largely destroyed by an earthquake in 1755, Lisbon is a mishmash of old and new. It’s obvious which parts of the city survived the quake and which parts didn’t based on the architecture and street layouts. In the central area, you’ll notice wide straight boulevards, while in the Alfama area it feels much more like traditional Mediterranean with winding alleys and high city walls.
For the first day, I would recommend exploring Lisbon via the Number 28 tram. This tram is largely only used by tourists now, but it is a cheap and easy way to ride your way around the city at an easy pace. We spent a whole day wandering the streets of the Baixa and Alfama neighborhoods, hopping on and off the Number 28 tram that runs throughout the city. There is no need to hire a walking tour (unless you really want to learn about the history and architecture) since it’s pretty easy to navigate on your own especially with the help of a Lonely Planet guide book. A few key stops to check out as you wander the streets are:
- Plaza do Comercio
- Elevador de Santa Justa
- Castle of Sao Jorge
- Mirador of Senhora do Monte
- National Panteon
If you can time it right, I would highly recommend ending your Number 28 tram ride at the Castle of Sao Jorge around sunset because the viewpoint offers sweeping views of the entire city. This isn’t just for tourists — you’ll see locals packing small picnic baskets and wine to bring with them up to the castle! There are plenty of little delis and charcuterie vendors that can help you make one for yourself!
For day two in Lisbon, it is time to get acquainted with the incredible cuisine of Portugal. You’ll find some of the top chefs and trendiest restaurants in Lisbon but also tiny hole in the wall joints that have been around for decades (or centuries!). As discerning foodies, it’s only natural that we spent most of our time in Lisbon eating. I wrote a whole blog post about where and what to eat while traveling in Lisbon! What I loved about Lisbon’s food scene is that you have the opportunity to sample bites from throughout Portugal’s multi-cultural history.
A few must try culinary activities in Lisbon are a walking tour with Culinary Backstreets and a stop at the Ribeira Market and maybe even a cooking class at Cooking Lisbon.
Culinary Backstreets is locally-owned + operated agency that specializes in food tours that showcase the tradition of richness and culture clash between East and West that defines Portuguese cuisine. If you’re up for a full day of eating + exploring on foot, I would highly recommend the “Lisbon Awakes” tour which will give you the full scope of Lisbon’s food scene. This was truly a highlight of my 2 weeks in Portugal. You’ll explore local dishes such as pastel de nata, the cherry liqueur ginjinha, dried bacalhau (salt cod) and aged black pork, all while learning from a dedicated an knowledgable local guide. The price for their tours isn’t cheap, but it is well worth it because you get to try so many different things and be immersed in Portuguese cuisine.
Depending on the tour you choose with Culinary Backstreets, you could end at the second most important food stop in Lisbon — Ribeira (TimeOut) Market —which kills two birds with one stone! Combining 24 restaurants, 12 shops, 8 bars, and a music venue in one of the city’s oldest market structures, Ribeira is a naturally lit, airy market where you can sample cuisine from Michelin starred Portuguese chefs for a fraction of the price that you might pay at their full restaurants. Whether you’re a grazer or sit-down eater, TimeOut Market is definitely a place worth dedicating a few hours.
For the really committed foodies out there, taking a cooking class at Cooking Lisbon is the final way to solidify your understanding of Portuguese cuisine. One of the most social & fun cooking classes I’ve taken abroad, I really liked the environment and casual atmosphere that Cooking Lisbon cultivates. You can read about my experience taking a cooking class with Cooking Lisbon if you are curious about my thoughts on it.
For your last day in Lisbon, it is time to get outside the city center for a little while. Belem is a “suburb” of Lisbon that can be easily accessed by public transportation or Uber/cab. You probably recognize the name Belem because it is really, really famous for…. pasteis de Belem! These custard filled pastry treats (also called pastel de nata) have become synonymous with Portugal and Lisbon, and it is essential that you have one (or 40) during your stay in Portugal. The most famous of the bakeries in Lisbon is located on a quiet street in Belem, and trust me. It will blow your mind. The line can get long, so my insiders tip is to go eat INSIDE the restaurant instead of waiting for the take-out line. You can still order takeout from inside the restaurant, but it also guarantees that you’ll get a nice warm and fresh pasteis!
After gorging yourself on these heavenly pastry pillows, you can wander through some of Belem’s other famous sights. The Mosteiro dos Jerónimos (Jerónimos Monastery) is just down the street from the bakery, and this intricately designed building survived the 1755 earthquake, dating back to the 16th century! Also nearby is the Instagrammable Belém Tower. Similar to the monastery, this tower survived the earthquake and serves as a premier example of the historical Portuguese architecture style — Manueline.
Day 4: Evora
Characterized by rolling hillsides and fields of cork trees, the Alentejo is Portugal’s largest region and incredibly picturesque. You can take a quick 1.5 hour train southeast from Lisbon to Evora, the Alentejo’s most famous city, or if you prefer to drive it’s easy to navigate the main highway.
I would be lying if I said that I didn’t choose to come to Evora specifically to see the moribund Bone Chapel inside the Church of St Francis. It is literally a chapel made of human bones, and it is just a creepy and weird as you would expect. Thankfully after further research, I learned about other interesting sights to visit as well. Evora dates back to the Roman Empire which is notably apparent with the aqueduct that runs through the center of the city. Built inside the ancient city walls, central Evora is easily walkable and you can make stops at sights like St Francisco church, Giraldo Plaza and the Roman Temple.
While in Evora, we stayed at Ecorkhotel, a unique eco resort built with natural materials and solar heating. All the rooms are individual buildings and you walk through the sheep grazed cork & olive fields to get to your abode. The rooftop infinity pool offers views of the scenic rural area surrounding the hotel, making for an easy afternoon relaxing in the sun. They also have a lovely contemporary spa and delicious restaurant where you can sample some of the regions most iconic food staples like black Iberian pork, fresh olives or white wine.
Day 5 – 7 Atlantic Coast
Once you have thoroughly gorged yourself on the cuisine of Lisbon and the Alentejo, it’s time to hop in your rental car and head towards Porto by driving along the Atlantic Coastline. On our way back from Evora, we picked up a rental car at the Lisbon airport. Driving in Portugal is pretty easy. The roads are in good condition and the signs are easy to understand. Thankfully, there aren’t a lot of toll roads either. The biggest issues we ran into with a rental car was parking it in cities. I recommend researching whether your hotel or AirBnb will have parking ahead of time, because we had a few tight squeezes in narrow alleys that led to some stress.
There are several picturesque coastal villages to explore along Portugal’s Atlantic Coast. Your first stop is likely to be Sintra — one of Portugal’s most famous and iconic cities. Similar to Evora, you can access Sintra by train or car and it’s only about 45 minutes west of Lisbon. Once home to the palaces and summer homes of Portugal’s rich and royal, Sintra feels like something straight out of a fairytale. Its small cobblestone streets carry old world charm with a quirky 18th century opulence of colorful manors that dot the skyline, all housed in the incredible natural beauty of a wooded mountainside town overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
With many historical places to explore, Sintra deserved its own 48 hour travel guide!
Continuing north along the coast, one thing you absolutely must do in this region is spend a night (or five) at the most unique and lovely hotel I’ve ever experienced — Areias do Seixo. Sam and I have already vowed to return here for at least one of our anniversaries in the future. Called a “charm hotel”, Areias do Seixo is truly a special place. The service is absolutely impeccable, the sunset views on a private beach are unobstructed and the attention to unique decor detail is unparalleled. We were completely blown away by our night stay at Areias do Seixo and would 100% recommend it to anyone, but especially to a couple that is looking for an extra romantic experience!
The ambiance alone at this charming hotel is impressive, but when paired with the best restaurant in the region, this is a hotel that you will fall in love with. Areias do Seixo’s restaurants focuses on seasonal and sustainable cuisine including organic produce grown in composted soil on the grounds of the hotel. If you’re up for it, choose the tasting menu. We saddled up to the chef’s table for 3 hour, 12 course tasting menu with wine pairings that was the most memorable dining experience of our trip.
Check out a video of our 12-course meal at Areias do Seixo!
Day 8: Coimbra
Coimbra is a towering hilltop medieval town with an incredible view over the Mondego River. A perfect place to stop on your drive up to Porto, Coimbra is home to the oldest university in Portugal. Because of the youthful and curious energy of Coimbra as a university town, it feels totally different than some of the other cities in Portugal.
Divided into the high city and the low city, you’ll notice a distinct difference between the two. There are tons of monuments and historical sights to see in the old city, such as the Old Cathedral, Joanine Library, the Santa Clara Monestary, and Clock Tower. I would recommend wandering your way up the city’s iconic hill at your own pace and carrying a short guide book along way to guide your sightseeing. It’s easy to wander through the small streets, and since you just keep heading up the hill— eventually all streets lead to the top!
Coimbra is also a great place to listen to Fado music and it was a distinctly different style than you’ll find in Lisbon. It dates back to medieval styles and is often a single serenading troubadour. There is a mixture of both new and old bars to go to, and there are even some spots that play live Fado music on their patios so you can listen outside on a nice night! Additionally, there is no shortage of great places to eat in Coimbra, and one spot I particularly liked is Cafe Santa Cruz which looks over a town plaza with fountain. Great people watching!
Day 9 – 11: Porto
Porto still retains lots of the grit and grime you’d expect from a port city, and it feels completely distinct from the other stops on this 2 week itinerary in Portugal. You’ll see fishermen and food stall owners buzzing through the graffiti-clad walls of street food markets right next door to a Michelin-starred restaurant or 100 year old Port Wine cellar. Porto might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I think it important to experience at least one day in Porto, because it is one of the biggest cities in the country and it maintains a very distinct identity.
Compared to Lisbon, Porto feels much less touristic. It is more under the radar and there are fun nooks and crannies to discover all on your own! I personally loved exploring the downtown area of Porto on foot because there are beautiful views from both sides of the city overlooking the Duoro River. While there are several churches and towers that are famous for sightseeing in Porto, I enjoyed simply walking around the compact old city, which consists of the Se, Bolhao and Vitoria neighborhoods.
As you first day in Porto comes to an end, wander your way across the Dom Luis I bridge to the Gaia neighborhood on the southern bank. You must catch a sunset here — the views are fantastic! You can meander along the waterfront malecon, watching men pack or unpack Rabelo boats (traditional flat bottomed cargo boats used to transport port wine down the Duoro River) while enjoying the hum of the city.
While in Porto, you need to educate yourself on the region’s proud export — Port Wine — which is conveniently named after the region’s largest city. You could easily spend an entire today drinking in the history and culture of one of Portugal’s most important wine cities. My favorite spot to enjoy port in Porto was the cozy wine bar Portologia. They offer a variety of port tastings of up to 12 different pours. The educated staff will help make suggestions while also teaching you about the key differences between different port wines such as Tawny vs Ruby or Vintage vs LBV.
Famous port houses like Grahams, Taylors and Sandeman all have tasting rooms and restaurants along the Gaia riverfront, so don’t feel limited to one spot. Many of the cellars have built tourist friendly rooftop decks where you can see the sun sink below the Arrabida bridge in Porto’s far west. If you’re tired from all the walking at the end of the night, there is a convenient cable car with beautiful views that will take you uphill from the river where you can easily catch a train on Porto’s convenient public transportation.
An up-and-coming culinary destination in Portugal, finding resources on Porto’s food scene can be a little tricky but when you discover those hidden treasures, you will be rewarded with a unique blend of working men’s food and high-end exotic ingredients arriving from around the world at this active port city. No two places better highlight that contrast than Cafe Santiago and Pedro Lemos.
Reminiscent of poutine, the Francesinha sandwich appeared in the 1960s as a Portuguese interpretation of Croque Monsieur, and remains today as Porto’s strangely addictive and iconic culinary contribution. The best place to get it is the original Cafe Santiago, a no-frills cafe that is filled with locals and tourists alike. You’ll be bursting at the gills after eating this sandwich which is stuffed with four types of deli meat and covered in melted cheese and a hot thick tomato and beer gravy served on a bed of french fries.
For a more upscale yet approachable dining experience, you must go to Pedro Lemos Restaurante in the Foz do Duoro neighborhood in western Porto. This Michelin star eatery was the best meal I ate in Portugal and is one of the top 5 meals I’ve ever eaten in my life. Coming from a self-proclaimed foodie, this is quite the compliment!
Pedro Lemos specializes in flavorful and decadent sauces poured over simple but perfectly executed dishes. Each dish reflects the country’s rich culinary heritage while exploding with simplicity and flavor. With impeccable service and incredible wine pairings, this 2-3 hour dining experience will blow you away. Highlights from my meal include beef three ways, foie gras with passionfruit sauce and a Portuguese take on bananas foster.
Day 12 & 13: Douro Valley
Your final stop (now that you’re a port wine expert) before leaving Portugal should be the Douro Valley. Home to the grapes in port wine, this dry and rocky region runs along the Douro River providing for stunning landscape views. Little white-washed quintas will pepper steep terraced vineyards along the road on your way to the heart of Portugal’s wine region, about 3 hours’ drive east from Porto. It is well worth renting a car for this portion so you can stop, drink and look at scenery at your own pace.
There isn’t much to do in the Douro region that isn’t wine related, but if you are a wine lover, you could easily spend a week exploring the little hamlets and quintas throughout the whole Douro region. Stopping at various vineyards along the way could easily chew up a day or two and it is nice to move a little slower in this region.
I would recommend staying at one of the wine quinta hotels in a smaller town such as Pinhao or Alijo for a really authentic experience — the large town of Peso de Regua isn’t exactly charming. Lots of the quintas have high quality restaurants to go along with their tasting rooms, thanks to the influx of wealthy tourists looking to enjoy top-notch wine & food. We stayed at Quinta Pacheca, one of the older and larger quintas in the region, which was newly renovated and quite comfortable. The patio, which you can see above, was stunning! While it was nice, we wished we would have stayed at Quinta do Tedo, a much more quaint, picturesque and charming family owned business about 20 minutes down the road.
If you want to eat off your hotel’s property, the two riverfront spots I would recommend for dinner are DOC and Castas e Pratos. The best place for avant-guarde food in the Duoro Valley, DOC attracts a high-end clientele for their riverfront dining experience. The seasonal menu and wine list are always changing, but regardless of what time of year you’re there, you can count on some unusual and unique flavor combinations (as well as a hefty bill). More trendy but laid-back, Castas e Pratos is in a nameless former railhouse turned modern foodie oasis. The wood beams and stylish decor set the stage for a delicious meal and excellent wine pairings. The onion velouté & quail egg dish I had there will be etched in my mind forever.
Day 14: Departure
Depending on where you’re flying to, there are daily international flights from both Porto or Lisbon. A three hour high-speed train connects the two major cities or you can drive on the straightforward highway for about 4.5 hours. It is easy to get between Portugal’s two major cities if you end your itinerary in the city where you are not departing from.
I absolutely loved my experience in Portugal, particularly the food & hospitality adventures we experienced. If I lived in my dream world, I would have traveled for another 2 weeks exploring Portugal’s southern coast and islands, both of which are missing from this currently itinerary.
This post was originally published in April 2017 and updated in September 2018 and January 2020.