Weekend Wanderlust: Day Trips and Getaways in Portugal

Portugal, an appealing destination dotted with vibrant cities, rich historical sites, and breathtaking landscapes, is a treasure trove of cultural discoveries and scenic wonders. For expats, the country presents endless possibilities for unforgettable day trips and weekend getaways. Whether it’s exploring iconic landmarks, wandering off the beaten track, or embarking on a gastronomical adventure, there’s a myriad of things to do in Portugal that cater to the curious traveler in you. Let’s dive into some must-visit destinations and exciting activities to help you sate your weekend wanderlust.

The Charm of Sintra

Sintra, just an hour’s train ride from Lisbon, is ideal for a day trip. This UNESCO World Heritage Site brims with fairy-tale palaces, lush forests, and enchanting gardens. The Pena Palace and Moorish Castle offer panoramic views that are worth the steep climb. Venture into the mysterious Quinta da Regaleira with its hidden tunnels and symbol-laden monuments. Remember to savor the local sweet delight – Queijadas de Sintra – before the day ends.

The Remnants of History in Évora

Dubbed as the ‘museum-city’, Évora is rich in historical legacies from Roman temples to Gothic cathedrals. This Alentejo region gem, accessible via a 1.5-hour drive from Lisbon, provides you with an insight into Portugal’s past. Don’t miss the eerily fascinating Chapel of Bones (Capela dos Ossos) and the Templo Romano. Complete your trip with a detour to nearby Monsaraz for a taste of traditional Portuguese wine.

Coastal Wonders of Lagos

For a sun-soaked weekend getaway, head to Lagos in the Algarve region. Be sure to explore the Ponta da Piedade, a stunning formation of golden cliffs carved by the turquoise sea. Lagos is a paradise for water sports enthusiasts – offering surfing, paddleboarding, and boat tours. Indulge in the enticing seafood dishes with a view of the sea, an essential part of the beach town experience.

The Vibrant Energy of Porto

Extend your weekend for an exciting trip to the ever-vibrant Porto. Wander through Ribeira, Porto’s picturesque old town – a UNESCO World Heritage Site, or cross the Dom Luís I Bridge for breathtaking views. Visit Serralves for a slice of contemporary art, and head to a Port Wine Cellar for a world-famous Port wine-tasting experience. Porto is readily reachable by train, plane, or car, making it a medium-haul yet worthwhile escape.

Exploring Nature at Peneda-Gerês National Park

If nature reigns supreme on your list of things to do in Portugal, Peneda-Gerês National Park must feature. Portugal’s only national park is a haven for wildlife, adventure, and rustic village life. Embark on a hike to discover waterfalls, historic sites, and diverse wildlife or try water sports in the river Cavado. You can drive to the park from Porto or Braga in a few hours.

Transportation Options

Exploring Portugal has never been easier, thanks to its excellent transportation system that includes trains, buses, and flights.

  • Trains: Portugal’s extensive train network, operated by Comboios De Portugal (CP), connects major cities and many charming towns. Trains are affordable and comfortable, offering stunning views of the Portuguese landscape. The Lisbon-Porto line is particularly popular.
  • Buses: For places not connected by rail or for more budget-friendly travel, the Rede Expressos bus network is a viable option. For example, the bus is a great choice for reaching the southwestern Alentejo region or the surf haven of Peniche.
  • Flights: For long-distance travel, such as Lisbon to Madeira or the Azores, flying is the most convenient option. TAP Air Portugal and budget airlines Ryanair and easyJet offer regular domestic flights in the country.
  • Car Rentals: If you wish for more freedom and flexibility, renting a car is a popular choice, especially for families and groups. This allows for convenient access to remote Lisbon beaches or the dramatic cliffs of the Algarve.

Recommended Activities

Depending on your interests, there are so many things to do in Portugal to cater to any traveler. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Historical Exploration: Visit the castles of Guimarães, the UNESCO-recognized Convent of Christ in Tomar, or the Roman ruins of Conímbriga for a peek into Portugal’s vibrant history.
  • Wine Tours: Explore the Douro Valley, the oldest demarcated wine region globally, home to famous Port wine. Several wineries offer tours and tastings.
  • Nature Activities: Hiking in the Peneda-Gerês National Park, surfing in Nazaré or Sagres, or bird-watching in the Algarve’s Ria Formosa Natural Park are great options for nature enthusiasts.
  • Culinary Experiences: Take a cooking class in Lisbon or Porto, visit a local market for fresh produce, or join a food tour to sample regional specialties.

Local Events

Local events form a vital part of Portugal’s cultural fabric. Whether it’s a music festival, gastronomical fair, or traditional fiesta, these events provide a vivid glimpse into the Portuguese lifestyle.

  • Festas de Lisboa (June): A month-long celebration marked by street parties, concerts, parades, and popular “marchas populares,” a traditional sort of street dance and song.
  • National Gastronomy Festival in Santarém (October-November): A great place to taste all of Portugal on a single plate. This event showcases regional gastronomy, folk dances, and traditional games.
  • Madeira’s Flower Festival (May): A stunning spectacle of float parades, flowers, and celebrations, marking the advent of Spring.
  • Semana Santa in Braga (Easter week): Experience Portugal’s religious heritage through this event marked by processions, traditional rituals, and festive foods.

Explore Portugal

While each of these destinations boasts a distinct character and diverse attractions, they all offer memorable experiences steeped in Portuguese culture and scenic beauty. As an expat, you may initially spend weekdays navigating your new life, learning a new language, or exploring local lifestyles. At Expats Portugal, we encourage you to make time to experience the remarkable wonders of your temporary home during weekends.

Planning and packing for these trips add to the thrill of discovering Portugal’s mesmerizing landscapes, historical treasures, and vibrant local life. Be it Sintra’s fairy-tale charm, Lagos’s beach allure, or Évora’s historical grandeur, weekend trips provide a wonderful way to understand Portugal’s soul and the chance to create your unique travel story.

To delve deeper into the myriad of exciting activities and destinations Portugal has on offer, visit our lifestyle section designed specifically for expats. Here, you can find more useful tips on seamlessly blending into and making the most of the Portuguese lifestyle.

Enjoy your weekend adventures in Portugal! Your wanderlust is an invitation to experience and embrace all that Portugal has to offer. Beautifully diverse, endlessly exciting, and captivatingly friendly – that’s Portugal, waiting for you to explore.



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