If it feels like your cousin/best friend/sister-in-law are all packing their bags for Portugal, it’s because they are. The colorful European country--tucked along the western coast of Spain--just got much more accessible stateside, thanks to a variety of new and direct flights. (We love you, Jetblue!) But convenience isn’t the only reason U.S. travelers are making the trip.
Such Pretty Cities
Porto is the new Paris
Maybe it’s the cobblestone streets--or range of 17th- and 18th-century port wine cellars--but there’s something old-world about this town beside the Douro River. Save time for a tram ride and for sipping port tonics along the Ribeira. (It’s a tiny bit touristy, but it also has the best views of the double-decker Dom Luis bridge.)
Where to Stay: The Yeatman
This vibrant coastal city is as hilly as San Francisco. Take the train 20 minutes to nearby Belém for Portuguese pastries (Pastéis de Belém is world-famous for its sweets) and sightsee and gallery hop in and around Bairro Alto. Just don’t leave without hearing fado, Portugal’s version of the blues. (Tasca do Chico is the best off-the-radar spot.)
Where to Stay: Valverde Hotel
Home to the historic University of Coimbra and the 18th-century Biblioteca Joanina (a national monument), this central city actually used to be Portugal’s capital. Now, it’s a bustling college town filled with outdoor cafés and breathtaking gardens. (An afternoon at the Jardim Botanico is a can’t-miss.)
Where to Stay: Hotel Oslo Coimbra
Plenty of Beach Access
Oh, those aquamarine blues
Hello, there’s a reason French, Spanish and British tourists all flock to the Algarve. Rent a paddleboard (or a power boat) and explore the prehistoric-looking cliffs and sandy beaches all on your own.
Where to Stay: Dom Manuel Hotel
This Hamptons-esque beach town used to be a sleepy fishing village. Now it’s a shiny and polished shoreline with chichi restaurants, shopping and sand.
Where to Stay: Senhora Da Guia
The opposite of Cascais, this peninsula--which is often compared with Ibiza--offers sand and sun south of Lisbon, minus any crazy crowds. Getting there by ferry is easy or you can rent a car.
Where to Stay: Sublime Comporta
Secure a reservation for lunch at this delicious tapas spot in Porto. Four dishes should be enough for two--just be sure to try the Tuna Tataky. (It’s very similar to tuna tartare, but with a citrusy soy sauce as the base. Yum.)
This funky eatery--located inside Lisbon’s apothecary museum--features the freshest flavors in Portugal, all with a medicinal bent. (For example, the Ibuprofen cocktail.)
Wine Is a Priority
We’re not just talking about the Port
If your trip allows time for a detour to the Douro Valley--the world’s first-ever official wine region--do it. It’s just three hours north of Lisbon and features some of the best reds, whites and ports you’ll ever taste. But that’s not all: The vertical vineyards and white-washed quintas (wine estates) overlooking the Douro River are so breathtaking, no other wine region--ahem, Napa--will ever compare.
STAY: SIX SENSES
This wellness resort features the largest spa in Europe, not to mention stunning hiking trails and a wine library with its own rosé ATM.
EAT: QUINTA NOVA
You might want to hire a cab before driving up, up, up to this restaurant above the clouds. But chef José Pinto makes the trip worth your while with locally sourced meat and veggies (some from his own garden), all perfectly paired with wine.
Don't Forget the Souvenirs
Treat yo’self (or your friends)
You may need to buy a second suitcase--it's hard to resist carrying back at least a couple of bottles of red (or white). While you can find a small selection of Douro wines in the U.S., so many of the wineries don’t distribute beyond Europe, which makes that bottle you bought for 6.5 euros the ultimate gift to bring back.
Fun fact: Both Carole and Pippa Middleton enlisted Portuguese shoemaker Helsar to make their footwear for the Royal Wedding, a testament to one of Portugal’s best-performing industries.
You can’t visit Lisbon without stopping by A Vida Portuguesa, a shop known for locally made artisan goods--including vibrant tiles and serving trays.