What is Portugal known for? Before jaunting off on this adventure I kept asking myself this question. You see, my choice to have two weeks in Portugal was somewhat random! It’s never been high on my list, and it really was a combination of wanting somewhere warm with a short flight and good public transport that landed me in this stunning country.
Portugal, I now know, should be known for color. And everyone should have it on their list. This entire itinerary can be done entirely via public transport, and in some cases it makes life a little easier than a drive would be. Keep reading to hear about the best travel itinerary for two weeks in Portugal!
Lisbon (Days 1 – 3) Two Weeks in Portugal
Lisboa, quite possibly the most beautiful European city I have ever been to. This place is so….alive. Yellows, reds, greens, blues in all shades adorn building after building. The sidewalks are lined in mosaic tile full of geometric patterns. The trolleys rattle through the narrow streets and restaurants only begin to serve at 7PM making for lively evenings out.
There is, of course, so much to do here. Take one of the trolleys around town. I recommend the e28 but take it from its first stop on Martin Moniz early in the day to avoid crowds and waits. Visit the incredible Belem Tower and Jeronimos Monastery (worth any amount of waiting!). Take a tuk tuk tour to get some of the most incredible views of the city.
And of course, eat the food. The entire time I was in Portugal I didn’t have a single bad meal, and most bordered on incredible. It’s not often that I rank Michelin Star restaurants along with everyday restaurants but the Portuguese have perfected the art of restaurants. And it seems the locals agree because despite there being a seemingly never-ending amount of restaurants, by 9PM they are all full!
Sintra (Days 4 – 5)
People will tell you that Sintra can be seen in a day. People will tell you that you can just do it on a day trip from Lisbon – no need to stay overnight. I disagree. Sintra is one of the most amazing places I have ever been. However, be prepared for quite a bit of hiking if you won’t be indulging in the rickety tuktuks somehow climbing their way up these mountains!
Mountains, but mountains well worth the effort with a range of castles, palaces, decadent mansions, and fortresses nestled in their midst. Be sure to visit the Sintra National Palace (despite lower rated reviews I actually really enjoyed the inside). The Palace of Monserrate involves a ton of climbing but some unparalleled views of the countryside.
Honestly, even two days is a bit of a squeeze if you truly want to see everything. I will note this is probably the worst place in Portugal for food – meaning, essentially, that the food is simply good rather than amazing! Additionally, while many people will mention that the Palace of Pena is not the greatest inside, you do have to purchase the ticket to visit the inside in order to walk around the ramparts of the palace. As such, make sure this is the first place you visit on Day 4 or 5 or it will already be super crowded.
Porto (Days 6 – 8)
I say Porto here, but you really won’t have much time in this itinerary to actually see Porto. If you have any extra time to add to this itinerary, tack on a fourth day here in order to fully appreciate the city. That being said, Porto is completely different from the rest of Portugal. Gone are the bright colors and mosaic tiles, replaced by impressive and imposing stone buildings.
I must say, I didn’t like Porto as much as the other places we visited. However, due to the time constraints I also don’t feel I gave it its best shot. While we hit up the lovely Porto Cathedral and the stunningly designed São Bento Train Station, there wasn’t as much sightseeing here and it would have been great to have been able to visit the Crystal Palace Gardens and the Torre dos Clérigos. As it was, I stopped in at Lello Bookstore, which is absolutely worth the hype! The personalized book recommendations from the incredibly knowledgeable staff were fantastic.
So what did I do whilst technically “in” Porto? Took day trips to the sights in the surrounding countryside!
Daytrip to the Douro Valley (Day 7)
The Douro Valley is simply a must for any visit to Portugal. Misty and very, very green the verdant hills of historical grape vine terraces are well worth their UNESCO status. While you can take a bus tour here (and I did) if you have a little more adventurous spirit or more time, you can take the incredibly scenic train in Pinhão. Pronounced almost like a ‘meow’ as ‘pin-nyiau’ this idyllic village on the Douro River has several close wineries, river boat tours, and a train that runs right along the river. When I visit again, this is definitely what I plan to do.
The Port wine tastings are well worth the time, and I developed quite a love of Port wine as a result!
Daytrip to Braga and Guimarães (Day 8)
Despite and incredibly rainy day, this trip was completely worth it. For an itinerary like this, Braga and Guimarães are best seen on a bus tour. The buses have their timings down and know exactly where they’re going and where to park. If you have more time, then it makes sense to spend a day in each city, but otherwise this is the best way to see the major sites of both in a day.
Also, frankly, taking a bus tour in Portugal is an experience in and of itself. Portugal’s incredible language education is on full display on these tours, with guides effortlessly switching between 2 or 3 languages to accommodate various guests.
Coimbra (Day 9) – Two Weeks in Portugal
Right in the middle of the country, Coimbra is a great place to stopover in on the way to other places. Known primarily for the beautiful university perched on the top of the city. Beware if you plan to visit the university however, it’s a little pricey and rushed. Compared to the incredible friendliness we found everywhere else, for some reason the staff at this university are just rude – you can check the Google reviews to see I’m not the only one who feels this way! Even with the warning it was still a surprise. On the other hand, as revenge I ignored the no-photos signs for the first time in my life and got some beautiful shots.
Coimbra is also home to three monasteries on the other side of the river. The Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Nova is just incredibly lovely. I highly recommend doing the ‘backstage’ tour to see some of the relics as it’s just fun to see the other side of the monastery. The story and the views on the uphill climb there were well worth the time. You can also see the Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Velha, which was the first monastery and a very picturesque ruin at the moment. The repurposed St. Francis Convent is also available to see if you aren’t completely church-ed out at this point in the trip.
Évora (Day 10)
This entire town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a nice glimpse at a quieter side of Portugal. While there are still tourists, the town itself is rather small at 50,000 people and as such feels quaint. I also had one of the best meals of my life at A Bruxa d’Évora, so it’s worth the day here to wander the beautiful archways, see the ruins of the Roman Temple, and pop in and out of little shops.
If you’re into the neolithic, then you absolutely cannot miss the Almendres Cromlech. It is a bit out in the countryside, the the trip is stunning and takes your right into the heart of Portuguese farmland. Cork tree farms and sloping views of Évora in the distance are the perfect compliment to standing stones older the Stonehenge.
Algarve (Days 11 – 13)
Perhaps my favorite area of Portugal, this entire region stretching along the southern coast is stunning. I’m not even much of a beach person, having grown up in Florida with some of the best beaches in the world. But the rocky cliffs and dramatic colors make this landscape like nowhere else. The closest thing it reminds me of is the Badlands in South Dakota, US.
Lagos has an incredible walking path that affords fantastic views of rocky islands stretching into the sea. Albufeira has miles long cliffs. Faro, while it doesn’t have tons to do, has lovely ocean views as well. And while not coastal, towns such as Loulé offer more of that Moorish history with the old market and Silves with its fortress. If I could recommend a car anywhere in Portugal, it’s here. While it’s fun to navigate via train, it is harder to see everything in the time frame available on this itinerary. Either way, you cannot miss this area of Portugal.
Lisbon (Day 14) Two Weeks in Portugal
Head back to Lisbon, relax at a cafe, and catch your flight back home (or onto the next destination!).
Other Places to Go
Of course, a two week itinerary is never going to take you absolutely everywhere. There are a few spots I wish I’d had time to visit. The most pressing is a trip to the Azores, one of the most beautiful places on earth but which probably requires an entirely separate trip for most. Like a tropical Faroe Islands, the volcanic landscape covered in greenery looks like a dream.
This two weeks in Portugal itinerary definitely lacks some visits to more “out of the way” places. The salt farms of Salina de Rio Maior, the Mira de Aire Cave, Prehistoric Rock Art, and Elvas, along with the famous UNESCO monasteries of Alcobaça and Batalha will be must visits on a return trip. Visits to some of the National Parks wouldn’t be amiss either to add in some additional nature.