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If you’re thinking of taking a trip to Portugal, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Knowing what to see and local customs for restaurants will help you feel confident. My insider tips can help make your first visit to Portugal go smoothly.

This southern European country certainly doesn’t lack natural or architectural beauty. It’s no wonder you have a desire to visit Portugal. There’s a never-ending number of things to do and see. So, where should you even begin? Here are some top recommendations for visiting this magnificent nation for your first time.

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Top Tips For Your First Visit To Portugal

What places should I check out? Well, Portugal is a relatively small country. It leaves you wanting to come back again and again. We recommend not overwhelming yourself on your first visit to Portugal by trying to see it all.

What happens is you only end up spending a short time in each city. You could spend a whole week in just Lisbon. Portugal has more to offer besides monasteries, churches, and beaches. Immerse yourself in the culture of cities and small towns.



As the capital of Portugal, Lisbon is full of vibrant culture, historical sights, and friendly natives. Also, Lisbon is an ideal place to take delight in authentic Portuguese cuisine and enjoy live entertainment. Listen to some of the best Portuguese folk music! Lisbon is known for its traditional Fado performances.

Things To Do In Lisbon

Save with Tourist Cards

Portugal offers tourists cards such as Lisbon Card and Porto Card, which gives discounted or free public transportation.



One of the most stunning Gothic churches in Europe. Upon entering the church, you’ll notice its stunning 16th century stained glass windows and architectural details. Due to its significance, the church preserve is a World Heritage Monument.

The Abbey of Santa Maria

santa maria portugal

The most significant building of the Cistercian order in Europe, wander through this historical site for hours if you wish. There’s certainly a lot to see, including a monastery, seven dorms, a library, a kitchen, and the church.

You can enter the church for free, but the monastery costs 6 euros each. My opinion is that it’s well worth the admission price to see the Hall of the Kings (19 statues remain), the Refractory, and the Monks’ Dormitory. In the Chapter Cloister, the dormitory occupies the entire first floor.

On our trip to Portugal in 2019, we also saw many other monasteries, including Batalha. A combo ticket for 15€ will save you money if you plan on visiting more attractions.

The Beaches

portugal beach
beach in southern portugal
beach in lagos portugal

Portugal’s coastline provides some of the most breathtaking beaches in the world. Algarve beaches include Sagres, Aveiro, and Praia da Adraga. Don’t be afraid to take a breather from your explorations and relax on the shorelines of the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf Stream.


What are some of the most popular dishes and foods?

portugal food

Waiters often bring you a little dish of olives, bread, cheese, or meats when you sit down at a table. These are not free. So send them back, so you don’t get charged.  Try a glass of Vinho Verde (green wine) with the delicious food, or finish your meal with a glass of port.

1.  Arroz de Cabidela

It might seem daunting once you know what this dish derives from, but this chicken blood rice is a native favorite in Portugal. You can also get this dish made with rabbit and rabbit blood.

2.  Alheira

This delightful lunch includes sausage, typically prepared with french fries and fried eggs.

3.  Bacalhau A Bras

Cod is shredded and sauteed to perfection and served with onion, straw fried potatoes, eggs, parsley, and garlic.

4.  Arroz Doce

As an authentic Portuguese dessert, this dish is a must-try for anyone with a sweet tooth. This creamy rice pudding is topped with cinnamon and caramel custard to add to the burst of flavor.

5.  Caldo Verde

On a chilly night, treat yourself with this fantastic soup. It’s merely potato, onions, and shredded kale, cooked in garlic and olive oil, and yet it certainly doesn’t lack in flavor!

6.  Pastel de nata

Originating in Lisbon, this custard tart is an indigenous staple, and you certainly can’t leave the country without giving it a try.

Now that you have some of our top tips for your first trip to Portugal, let’s start planning your stay! You’ll be amazed by the nation’s delicious food options and breathtaking sights!

tips for visiting portugal