Portugal holidays

Portugal holidays

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World-class beaches paired with more than 300 days of yearly sunshine is what makes Portugal holidays so special. From Lisbon’s charming city sights to seaside towns bursting with character in the Algarve, you’ll struggle choosing between the two. And we can’t forget its subtropical islands of Madeira and the Azores, both adored for their dramatic, volcanic scenery. 

Things to do

Beach, city and activity breaks, this European hotspot covers them all! So if you’re looking for things to do in Portugal, your options are endless. Along the Iberian Peninsula, sightseers will love Lisbon city breaks. From its pastel-colored buildings, hilltop castle and mosaic walkways - it’s got to be one of Europe’s most beautiful capitals. And don’t forget pretty Porto, the gateway to Douro Valley (an ancient wine region). As the birthplace of port, you can’t come here without sipping this fortified favourite. 

Another must-visit region is Portugal’s southernmost, the Algarve! Head straight for its sun-splashed coastline, where you’ll find beaches which have been ranked among the best in the world! The surfing town of Lagos has some spectacular spots including Meia Praia Beach, whose rock-free waters are a hit with watersport fans, while its long, white sand is perfect for romantic strolls. While here, stop by Ponta da Piedade to see its amazing cliffs and rock formations. To see more of the area’s natural beauty, book a boat trip to Algar Seco and discover the Benagil Cave, one of the world’s most impressive sea grottos. And thanks to its incredible ceiling opening you can actually sunbathe inside. 

The Algarve is also a magnet for partiers, from the non-stop nightlife of Albufeira and Lagos right down to swanky Vilamoura Marina, which is packed with waterside drinking spots. This is also where you’ll find its golf courses, and they’re not just any old putting greens! In fact, holidays to Portugal are as famous for its championship courses as they are its beaches.

Want to escape to Portugal’s islands? Sitting off the coast, you’ll find Madeira which adds dramatic, volcanic scenery to the holiday equation. It’s a hiker’s paradise with cascading waterfalls hidden inside lush forests, stunning sea cliffs offering amazing coastal views and soaring mountains taking you high above the clouds. When you step away from its nature reserves, you’ve got the capital Funchal. Certainly not lacking in beauty, appreciate its Atlantic vistas with a cable car ride. Taking you to its hilltop botanical gardens, you won’t even feel like you’re in a city with the roaming swans, peacocks and chickens. And that’s just some of the wildlife you’ll spot in Madeira. Visit during April and October and do some whale watching, with three species calling its waters home.

For more scenic adventures, look no further than Portugal’s nine-island archipelago, the Azores. Swim alongside wild dolphins, explore lava tunnels and climb its biggest peaks. Then when you’ve ticked off its best activities, relax with a soak in its hot springs. 

Places to stay

If you’re looking for amazing beaches, family-friendly fishing villages and fun attractions, the Algarve is for you. Albufeira gets our vote for parents with young kids thanks to its pedestrianised Old Town.

Slightly further afield and another Algarve favourite, discover Lagos. This ancient fishing village with a modern marina and a palm-tree-lined promenade appeals to surfers, families and couples alike. Those looking to mix big city sights with beach days will prefer Lisbon. When you’re not cooling off by the Tagus River, you could be escaping the capital’s stifling summer heat in favour of its nearby shores.

Holidays to Portugal also include Madeira. Funchal is the biggest city on the island, and it’s perfect for romantic escapes with its abundance of luxurious hotels. Couples will love walking its cobbled streets, which are home to traditional restaurants, charming little shops and fascinating museums

More Travel Guides

We also have travel guides available for destinations, including: Algarve | LisbonMadeira


Map of Portugal

8 - 34℃

Portugal is pleasant throughout the year, with mild winters and comfortable summers.

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3-4 hours

If you’re going to the Algarve, you’ll arrive at Faro Airport (FAO) which is 4km west of Faro. If you’re staying in Madeira, you’ll fly to Madeira Airport (FNC), 16km northeast of Funchal.

Portugal is best for...

Sun-worshippers: With an 850-kilometre-long coastline and 3,000 annual sunlight hours, Portugal will suit beach lovers down to the ground. Even the capital Lisbon is a suntrap with endless blue skies ideal for summer sightseeing.

Adventure seekers: Whether you’re looking for land or sea adventures, Portugal is full of them. From hiking up the green mountains of Madeira to getting stuck into the Algarve’s long list of watersports.

Foodies: Eating out in Portugal is a dream with hearty dishes made from the freshest local produce. Try succulent espetada in Madeira, or tuck into grilled sardines in the Algarve’s fishing towns. And don’t forget to try its most famous sweet treat - pasteis de nata, a creamy custard tart which is found in almost all of Lisbon’s bakeries.

Fast facts for Portugal

Language: The official language of Portugal is Portuguese, while English is the second most spoken, particularly in the main tourist areas. We suggest learning some basic phrases before your trip to help you communicate better with the locals.

Currency: The currency used in Portugal is the Euro (€).

Local time: Portugal is the same as GMT/UK time.

Fly to:  Faro Airport. Transfers to the Algarve resorts take between 30 minutes (Vilamoura) to 1 hour (Albufeira) and 1.5 hours (Lagos). Those flying to Madeira Airport will reach Funchal in around 30 minutes.

Flight time from the UK: The flight time to Portugal is 3 to 4 hours depending where you’re flying to.

Tourist Information:  Further Portugal tourist information can be found at the official website for tourism in Portugal.

Visas / Health: Before you travel, check the latest advice from The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office.

Holiday destinations related to Portugal:

Getting around Portugal

By taxi: Resort areas have plenty of taxi ranks. Be aware that it is standard for taxi drivers to charge extra for luggage.

By hire car: Want to go resort-hopping or discover Portugal’s rural areas? Then, hire a car and you’ll have the freedom to explore the country at your own pace.

By train: Portugal has a vast railway network that covers most of the country. The state-of-the-art Alfa Pendular trains are a great option if you want to travel directly from the Algarve to Lisbon.

Events in Portugal

Carnival: For a real Portuguese party, visit the Loulé Carnaval in the Algarve. Every February locals fill the streets to watch the processions. Join in with the fun as costume-wearing dancers parade through the streets to samba music.

Madeira Flower Festival: One of the biggest annual events on the island, this floral spectacle takes place in spring when the island’s flowers are in bloom, a few weeks after Easter. And everyone gets involved in the fun with shops decorating their windows and locals dressed in colourful outfits. But the The Flower Allegorical Parade is the main event.

Sand City: If you’re visiting the Algarve between June and November, do not miss a chance to visit the famous Sand Sculpture Festival in Lagoa. As the world's largest site of its kind, every year over 60 artists turn 65,000 tonnes of sand into giant sculptures, from music icons to animals and even mythical creatures.

Portugal safety and security

Do I need a passport?

You will need a valid passport to enter Portugal, and it should be valid for at least three months beyond the period of your stay.

Do I need a visa?

British citizens visiting Portugal do not need a visa. If you’re unsure whether you will need a visa, it’s best to check with the Portuguese Embassy.

For up-to-date advice on entry requirements please visit the FCDO website.

Should I get travel health insurance?

Planning a holiday to Portugal? Taking out comprehensive travel and health insurance is essential. If you’re injured or fall ill abroad, your insurance could help to cover the cost of emergency medical treatment or a flight back to the UK. It’s also important to check your policy before your trip, just so you know what is and isn’t covered. You should also make sure your insurance will pay out for any planned activities. 

For up-to-date advice on travelling to Portugal, please visit the FCDO website.


Portugal weather

Temperature: 12°C - 24°C

When’s the best time to go?

Regardless of which part of the country you visit, summers here are generally hot, while winters are a little cooler, with snow in the mountains. Generally speaking, the weather in Portugal is always a few degrees warmer in the south, with a yearly average temperature of 18°C. In the middle of the country, summer temperatures can really start to climb, with averages of 35°C. On the coast, the sea breeze takes the edge off the heat, particularly during July and August. While those balmy days last even longer over on its islands, whose subtropical climate guarantees very mild winters.

You’ll find Portugal is less crowded outside the summer months, with some fantastic deals in  late spring and autumn.The sea here is at its warmest from July to September, something to bear in mind if you’re planning on snorkelling, swimming or trying your hand at some watersports.

Even in the winter months, temperatures rarely fall below 5°C and the average temperature is around 10°C. You may experience some rainy days, but there'll be plenty of sightseeing, shopping and restaurants to keep you busy.

What should I pack?

Portugal’s Mediterranean climate means hot, sunny summer days and cool winters, but it rarely gets too cold, unless you’re in the mountains.

For Portugal holidays in the summer, make sure you pack plenty of sun cream, a hat and sunglasses to protect you from the sun’s rays. You’ll also need your swimwear for beach and pool days, as well as a cover up should you decide to stop by a restaurant for lunch.

Pack plenty of light, cool clothes during its hottest months, but don’t forget a light jacket or extra layer for cooler evenings or rainy days. With milder temperatures in autumn and winter, trousers or jeans are ideal for sightseeing and shopping. Comfortable shoes are also a must for exploring, not forgetting a pair of sandals or flip-flops for the beach.

Best hotels in Portugal

Discover the best destinations to visit in Portugal

Popular Portugal holiday resorts

Places similar to Portugal to visit

What are the best places to visit in Portugal?

Portugal is a beautiful country, known for its natural beauty, historic cities, and delicious seafood and wine.

Alongside 1,700km of golden coastline, you’ve got forests, mountains, vineyards and charming villages to explore. Here are some of the best places to visit in Portugal:

• Lisbon: One of the oldest cities in Europe, Portugal's capital, Lisbon is a must-visit for its rich history, afterdark scene, and beautiful beaches. From famous landmarks like the Belem Tower and the Jeronimos Monastery to the vibrant nightlife in the Bairro Alto district, Lisbon is a vibrant and culturally rich metropolis.

• Porto: Porto is another popular city in Portugal, known for its wine, historic centre, and iconic bridges. A visit to Porto would not be complete without tasting its famous port wine.

• Algarve: The Algarve region in the south of Portugal is known for its stunning beaches, warm weather, and picturesque coastal towns. The region is packed-full of hidden gems, and a popular destination for sun-seekers, surfers, and hikers. 

• Madeira: A lush, volcanic island off the coast of Portugal, known for its natural beauty and subtropical climate. Madeira is popular for its hiking trails, scenic drives, and stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean.

What is the best time of year to visit Portugal?

The best time of year to visit Portugal depends on what you want to see and do.

The weather in Portugal varies by season, but like most Mediterranean countries, you can expect to enjoy some of the warmest weather in Europe. The shoulder months, in spring and autumn, offer milder weather and fewer crowds. Sun worshippers, however, will want to head out over summer.

Here’s a handy rundown of what to expect from each season:

• Spring (March to May): Spring is a great time to visit Portugal, especially in April and May when the weather is mild and there are fewer crowds. This is a great time to explore the historic cities and charming towns, visit the beaches, and enjoy outdoor activities like hiking and cycling. Temperatures range from 10°C to 18°C in the north and 12°C to 24°C in the south. The sea temperature is a refreshing 16°C to 17°C.

• Summer (June to August): Summer is the peak holiday season in Portugal, as the weather is hot and sunny, and there are plenty of outdoor festivals and events. The beaches are busier, but it's still a great time to visit if you want to enjoy the lively atmosphere and nightlife. In the north, temperatures hover around 12°C to 22°C. While in the south you can expect averages of 18°C to 33°C. The sea temperature is a pleasant 19°C to 20°C.

• Autumn (September to November): Autumn is another great time to visit Portugal, as the weather is still warm, and the crowds are smaller. It’s perfect for exploring the countryside, wandering the charming towns, and visiting the wineries. The average temperature in the north ranges from 11°C to 19°C and, in the south, 15°C to 25°C. On the warmest days, you can expect sea temperatures to reach 20°C, while they’re around 17°C on cooler days.

• Winter (December to February): Winter is the off-season in Portugal, but it's still a great time to visit if you don't mind the cooler temperatures and occasional rain. Ideal if you’re more into museums and galleries than beach life. In the north, the average temperatures range from 6°C to 14°C. In the south, the mercury hovers around 10°C to 18°C. Sea temperatures drop to a refreshing 17°C in December on warm days, and tend to drop to a 15°C in February.

What is Portugal famous for?

• Beaches: Portugal has some of the most scenic beaches in Europe, especially in the Algarve region, which is known for its crystal-clear waters and cliff-backed sandy stretches like Praia De Marinha.

• Natural beauty: Portugal is home to a rich biodiversity and fascinating geology, with diverse landscapes, from mountains to forest and wetlands, unique rock formations, cliffs, caves and grottos. Some of the most popular spots include the nature reserves in Madeira, Algar Seco, the Madeira mountains, and Ria De Alvor

• History and culture: Portugal has a long maritime history and was a major player in the Age of Discovery in the 15th and 16th centuries. Explore the ports and seafaring towns along the coast, such as Lagos, Cascais, and Portimão. Or visit the Maritime Museum in Lisbon. It’s also a deeply Catholic country with must-see religious sites like the Jerónimos Monastery, the Belém Tower in Lisbon, the Church of St Anthony in Lagos, and the Shrine of Our Lady of Fátima in central Portugal. Then there are the Moorish fortresses, such as the beautifully preserved castle in Silves.

• Seafood and wine: Portugal is home to world-renowned wine regions, including the Douro Valley, Alentejo, and Dão. If you love a tipple, booking a tasting or tour is a must. As a coastal country you can expect incredible seafood, like their traditional grilled sardines and salt cod. And there’s nothing better than tucking into a flaky, buttery Pastel de Nata (custard tart) with a good cup of coffee.

• Architecture: Portugal is famous for its colourful decorative tiles, also known as Azulejos. Explore the tile-covered streets of Porto's Ribeira neighbourhood, or make a trip to the National Tile Museum in Lisbon. Look out for Manueline architecture too - where maritime motifs like ropes, anchors and shells can be seen on the Jeronimos Monastery and the Belem Tower.

Is Portugal expensive to visit?

In general, Portugal is a very affordable holiday spot, especially compared to other Western countries. Accommodation, food, and transport costs are generally lower than in other popular European destinations like France, Italy, or Spain. Prices can be higher during peak season, typically from June to August, so it does depend on the time you visit. 

Here are some tips to help you save money:

• Consider visiting during the shoulder season (April to May or September to October) when the weather is still warm, but prices are generally lower.

• Look for All Inclusive hotel packages, where your food, drinks and entertainment are part of your deal. Paying upfront means you can fill your boots without worrying about unanticipated expenses.

• Take advantage of the free attractions and activities such as visiting museums, exploring historic neighbourhoods, and hiking in the countryside.

• Eat like a local and avoid touristy restaurants by seeking out small cafes and local eateries.

• Use public transport or walk instead of renting a car or taking taxis, which can be expensive during peak holiday season.

What are the top beaches in Portugal?

Portugal is famous for its beaches thanks to its rich biodiversity. They’re also known for their safety and cleanliness which is why they're so popular with families.

Here are some of the top beaches on Portugal’s gorgeous Algarve coast:

• Praia da Rocha: This popular beach is known for its insta-worthy rock formations and clear turquoise water. Praia da Rocha is also home to a lively town and old sea fort overlooking the sea.

• Praia do Carvoeiro: This small fishing village is home to a secluded cove. Carvoeiro is loved by those seeking something a little quieter.

• Meia Praia, Lagos: One of the largest beaches in the region, Meia Praia is another peaceful spot, with a 4km stretch of golden sand, surrounded by cliffs and rolling hills. The waters are shallow and calm enough for a paddle with the kids 

• Ponta Da Piedade, Lagos: Known for its dramatic scenery, Ponta Da Piedade is a must-visit for photographers and nature lovers. You can take a boat trip to explore the hidden caves and grottos - only accessible by water.

• Praia Gale: A long wide beach, with calm water and a gentle slope, Praia Gale  is a safe and enjoyable spot for children to play and swim. It's also surrounded by beautiful cliffs and dunes.

• Praia Da Coelha, near Albufeira: Situated in a sheltered cove, Praia Da Coelha is a popular destination for snorkelling and peaceful beach days. Its calm waters also make it another paddle-friendly spot for little ones.

How many days should I spend in Portugal?

The number of days you should spend in Portugal depends on what you want to do and where you want to go.

Portugal is a relatively small country, but it offers a wide range of attractions and activities that could keep you busy for weeks. 

Here are some suggestions to get you started:

• Lisbon: If you plan to visit Portugal's capital city, you could easily spend at least 3-4 days exploring the historic sites, museums, and cultural landmarks.

• Porto: There’s plenty to see in this UNESCO World Heritage site, so give yourself at least 2-3 days to explore the city centre, sample its famous port wine, and take a boat ride along the Douro River.

• Algarve: With all those beautiful beaches to relax on, lovely towns to visit and spectacular attractions, the Algarve is made for laid-back escapes lasting a minimum of 5-7 days 

Do they speak English in Portugal?

Yes, English is widely spoken in Portugal, especially in major cities and popular resorts.

It’s always a good idea to learn a few basic phrases in Portuguese to help you communicate with locals. Here are some basic phrases that you might find helpful:

• Olá! - Hello!

• Obrigado (if you're male) or obrigada (if you're female) - Thank you.

• Por favor - Please.

• Desculpe - Excuse me/Sorry.

• Sim - Yes.

• Não - No.

• Adeus - Goodbye.

What are some traditional Portuguese dishes?

• Bacalhau à bras: A dish made with salt cod, potatoes, onions, eggs, and olives.

• Caldo verde: A soup made with kale, potatoes, and sausage.

• Cataplana: A seafood stew made with clams, shrimp, and sometimes fish, cooked in a copper or steel clam-shaped pot.

• Pasteis de bacalhau: Fried codfish cakes that are a popular appetizer.

• Sardinhas assadas: Grilled sardines, a staple of Portuguese cuisine, especially during the summer months.

• Pastéis de nata: A custard tart with a crispy case that is a beloved Portuguese pastry.