After a European getaway? Look no further than Portugal! Portugal has lots to offer, from dreamy beaches to rolling wine regions, bustling cities and more. I spent about a week in Portugal in 2017 and while I was able to see quite a lot, I wish I had more time. So let’s jump into it! Here’s my 1-2 week Portugal backpacking guide.
ALGARVE REGION (Lagos/Faro – 2-5 days):
If you’re like myself and can’t get enough of the beach, Portugal’s Algarve region will be right up your alley! With lots to do in both Faro and Lagos, you can either pick one or go with both if time allows it. Here’s a little more on both spots:
Lagos is a small town and sits right along the beach! There is no shortage of spots to sit back and soak up the sun on a nice day. Praia da Dona Ana is consistently rated as one of the world’s nicest beaches and can’t be left out of this Portugal backpacking guide!
If you’re not the type of lay on the beach all day, there’s heaps of activities such as paddle boarding and kayaking. You can easily rent them along the beach or can find guided tours in the town for a reasonable price.
Faro is about double the size of Lagos and closer to Spain. It’s a less touristy spot in comparison to Lagos, so if you’re looking to get away from the crowds, this may be your best bet!
Faro does have beaches but they’re a bit further out from the main city and most easily reached by car. This city is for the architecture lovers who can wander around looking at the beautiful cathedrals, museums and old buildings.
Having not been to Faro I can’t give you the full picture when it comes to nightlife but have heard that the Rua do Prior is the place to be!
Lagos on the other hand is a bit of a blur. I mean can you really blame me for living it up while on this coastal paradise? You can find a list of the best bars to check out here.
TIP: Remember to stay properly hydrated! Lots of drinking + lots of time out in the sun = a complete disaster. Take it from someone who was so dehydrated my limbs went numb while kayaking and was carried off the beach and almost hospitalized! Don’t make the same mistake I did.
LISBON (2-5 days):
A visit to the capital has to be included in my Portugal backpacking guide. Lisbon is a really interesting city with a lot more than what meets the eye.
- Miradouro de Santa Luzia – This observation desk will provide you with some pretty neat views if I say so myself! Just check out my photo above.
- Rua Nova do Carvalho/Pink Street – Originally known as the red light district of Portugal, Pink Street has made a comeback! The area was refurbished in 2011, painting the street and closing the doors on brothels to open new bars. You’ll also get a unique experience at night (but we’ll get into that below)!
- Free walking tour – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again … free walking tours are the best way to see European cities. You’ll get a really great overview of the city and can come back to spots you’re interested in later if you didn’t get enough time. Bonus: You get a great workout too!
If there’s one thing I remember from Lisbon, it’s the amazing nightlife! Similarly to how Spain does things, people don’t really start heading out for the night anytime before 1 AM. So have a late dinner with a few drinks and you won’t feel like you’re missing out on anything if you go out between 1-2 AM!
While there are lots of clubs scattered throughout the city I’d recommend checking out these two areas:
1. Bairro Alto
Bairro Alto is a part of Lisbon that’s up the hill and can be found by walking up narrow and steep streets. You’ll know you’ve reached your destination once you start hearing the cheerful roar of people drinking among the streets! You’ll also find that there’s too many bars and restaurants to count.
Bairro Alto is probably one of the coolest spots I’ve been out drinking! While there’s nothing super memorable about the bars/clubs itself, you can’t find that type of atmosphere anywhere else. I had the most fun drinking along the streets and talking to new friendly locals/other tourists .
10/10 would recommend!
2. Pink Street
Pink Street is a whole new experience at night than it is during the day. The crowds are still around but everyone is drinking so it’s a different vibe. Try out the bustling clubs and bars on Pink Street after a night out in Bairro Alto for the full experience!
If you’ve been following my travels at all, you’ll know I almost always stay in hostels. While they’re usually pretty standard, I was happy to encounter one that stood out upon the many I’ve stayed at in the past!
If you’re going to be in Lisbon for a few nights I’d stay at Hub New Lisbon Hostel. Why is that, you may ask? Simply put: there was a ball pit. Take a look below and tell me you don’t want to jump in for yourself! Besides the ball bit I remember the architecture of the building being really beautiful and the rooms were large.
You can book the hostel on HostelWorld here.
BELÉM (1 day):
Belém is just a short ways away from Lisbon and can be done as a half or full day trip! Besides the Belém Tower and walking along the seaside, you MUST go to the Jerónimos Monastery (pictured above). This gothic monastery is stunning and makes for some great snaps!
Now let’s get to the good stuff … Pastel de natas! If you haven’t heard of them before, they’re the most delicious Portuguese custards. And when I say delicious, I mean you’re going to want to eat anywhere between 5-10 a day ‘delicious’!
While you can find a decent Pastel de natas just about anywhere in Portugal, the best spot is Pastéis de Belém. It’s the original spot to get this tasty treat so there is guaranteed line no matter what. BUT let me tell you that it’s well worth the wait! The line moves quickly, the pastel de natas are cheap and taste like no other.
SINTRA/CABO DA ROCA (1 day):
If you’re after another short day trip just outside of Lisbon, look no further than Sintra. Sintra is just a quick 40 minute train ride from Lisbon, making it very easily accessible. Pena Palace is also a must on my Portugal backpacking guide. This colourful castle was built in the 1840’s and has beautiful gardens surrounding it.
If you’re big into castles you should also check out Castelo dos Mouros, a Moorish Medieval castle with lots to see and do!
Cabo da Roca is also in the same area and easy to get to when you’re done exploring Sintra. Just ask the locals which bus will take you there and you should have no problems!
Not only is it the most western point of Europe but it offers breathtaking views of the ocean rolling in and crashing against the sand and rocks far below. Be sure to hold onto your hat and other belongings because it’s crazy windy there.
PORTO (2-5 days):
After little to no deliberation, I decided that Porto was my favourite city in Portugal. Bold statement, I know! Let me fill you in on why you CAN’T skip out on Porto when you visit Portugal!
My Portugal backpacking guide wouldn’t be complete without telling you about the nightlife in Porto! I found Porto had a more relaxed feel when it came to partying/drinking than other parts of the country. While there are many bars and clubs to check out, I’d suggest grabbing a bottle of wine with friends and sitting at a park to watch the sunset!
Reasons why Porto is underrated:
- Port wine – Need I say more? Porto is home to Port wine which is typically served as a dessert wine. You can hop on a wine tour for a reasonable price. I went with one through my hostel – Porto Wine Hostel.
- Cool knooks & crannies around the city – You can wander around the streets of Porto for hours without getting bored. There’s so much colour and lots to see around every corner. If you don’t stumble upon it on your own, be sure to check out the Senhor da Boa Fortuna (pictured below). The saying means “the shrines of good fortune” so it seems like the perfect place to stop by during your travels.
- Waterfront views – Porto has many parks and streets that are above sea level providing you with amazing views of the Douro River! There are also many parks and greenery surrounding the city which is great.
Before you go …
Looking for other travel itineraries? You can find all of my backpacking itineraries here and let me know what you thought of this Portugal backpacking itinerary! Always feel free to contact me with any questions & follow me on Instagram to see my past, present and future adventures.
You can also see a little mashup video I put together of my time in Portugal below.
Until next time!