Thinking of spending 10 days in Portugal? There’s such a bewildering range of places to visit in Portugal, so where do you start? You can’t see everything in this time, but you want to experience the best of Portugal during your visit. Whether you’re planning a Portugal road trip or using trains and buses, our Portugal 10 day itinerary could be just the answer.
The Portugal 10 days itinerary we’ve devised takes you to the magnificent capital, Lisbon, before heading to Évora, the former royal capital that’s one of the best cities in Portugal to visit. We then continue across the rural Alentejo plains to one of the most beautiful villages in Europe, Monsaraz, on a hilltop overlooking the Spanish border.
Our 10 day Portugal itinerary then takes you south to the stunning coast of the Algarve. It’s best known for its glorious southern coastline, with sublime beaches, especially around Lagos, surrounded by fairytale rock formations and arches. However, some of the best Algarve beaches are along the Costa Vicentina, in the far west of the region. These are a very different proposition, pummelled by prime Atlantic surf with some of the best walks in Portugal along the clifftops.
It’s a lot to pack in, but if you follow our Portugal itinerary 10 days is enough. And it may just leave you wanting more.
- 1 PORTUGAL 10 DAY ITINERARY – THE HIGHLIGHTS
- 2 LISBON INTRODUCTION
- 3 DAY 1 – AROUND THE ALFAMA, LISBON
- 4 DAY 2 – EXPLORE BELEM, LISBON
- 5 DAY 3 – BAIXA, BAIRRO ALTO AND CHIADO
- 6 DAY 4 – DAY TRIP TO SINTRA
- 7 DAY 5 – LISBON TO EVORA
- 8 DAY 6 – MONSARAZ
- 9 DAY 7 – TO THE ALGARVE
- 10 DAY 8 – LAGOS AND AROUND
- 11 DAY 9 – COSTA VICENTINA
- 12 DAY 10 – AROUND THE ALGARVE
PORTUGAL 10 DAY ITINERARY – THE HIGHLIGHTS
The famous Lisbon miradouros, a series of viewpoints around the hills overlooking the city
Biting into scrumptious pasteis de Belem, some of the best Portuguese custard tarts you’ll ever taste
The view from the Castelo over the breathtaking village of Monsaraz, near the Spanish border
The walk along the clifftops of the Ponta da Piedade just outside Lagos, past some of the best beaches in Portugal
Watching the sun sizzling down beyond the horizon at Cape St Vincent, the southwestern-most point of mainland Europe
The Portuguese capital is the country’s most compelling city. It’s in the west of the country, close to the Atlantic coast.
Lisbon has one of the finest settings of any European city, spread across several hills with gorgeous views from the miradouro terraces and down side streets. It’s also wonderfully romantic, with its creaking yellow trams hauling themselves up implausibly steep hills.
It has some wonderful treasures, from the Moorish (11th century) castle the some of the greatest monuments of the Golden Age of Discoveries in the 15th and 16th centuries. Add in a salt cod (bacalhau), main course, and a sneaky custard tart or two for dessert. Follow this with a glass of port and catch a performance of Lisbon fado music. You may not understand the words, but can join in the soulful lament, in your case that it has taken you so long to visit Lisbon.
DAY 1 – AROUND THE ALFAMA, LISBON
The Alfama district of Lisbon is the city’s oldest and most intriguing. It’s a mini-labyrinth of narrow lanes, alleyways and staircases, the street layout a remnant from the Moorish occupation.
The top of the hill is home to the Castelo de Sao Jorge, one of the oldest buildings in the city. There are wonderful views from the terrace, over the flat Baixa part of the city below and the river Tagus (Tejo) beyond.
It’s also well worth stopping down the hill at the Sé de Lisboa, Lisbon Cathedral. This austerely beautiful church built by Crusaders over the site of a mosque.
The Alfama is near the end of the famous tram 28 Lisbon route, which runs up and down the hills of the city. Forget trying to get on during the daytime: it’s jam-packed more tightly than a tin of Portuguese sardines, and you won’t get to see anything. Gangs of pickpockets also prey on passengers, so don’t give them the chance. If you want to make this journey, your best bet is to get to Prazeres for the first two or three runs of the day (the first is at 0600). You may also get lucky towards the end of the day.
Alfama is one of the best places to enjoy fado in Lisbon. It’s a somewhat melancholic form of music, with many songs essentially laments about the harshness of life. It’s incredibly evocative music: the songs recall Lisbon as powerfully as Edith Piaf’s are redolent of Paris. The Museu do Fado is a great introduction. Also listen to the great Amalia Rodrigues on YouTube – this is a great place to begin. There are several Lisbon fado restaurants and bars around Alfama, including Duetos da Sé, just behind the Cathedral.
DAY 2 – EXPLORE BELEM, LISBON
The seaside suburb of Belém is an essential part of any Lisbon itinerary. It’s home to three of the best attractions in Lisbon, two of which comprise a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Belém was the departure point for some of the Portuguese Voyages of Discovery, which took them around the coast of Africa to India and South East Asia. The ornate Jeronimos Monastery (Mosteiro dos Jeronimos) was where many sailors prayed before departing on their great journeys. The fortified riverside Torre de Belem (Belem Tower) has stood guard to the entry to the city since 1519, and is one of the most iconic images of Portugal. Both are outstanding examples of Manueline architecture, a unique Portuguese take on Gothic.
The other riverside attraction is the Padrão dos Descobrimentos, the Monument to the Discoveries. The series of statues looking across the river represent the Portuguese explorers and sailors. The viewing platform also gives a great view of the riverfront and Belém.
If you have even the tiniest hint of a sweet tooth, be sure to make a pilgrimage to the Antiga Confeitaria de Belém. It’s the home of the famous Pasteis de Belém, a delicious melt-in-the-mouth version of the Portuguese custard tart. You can eat in or take away a box of the best pastries in Lisbon. Get there early for the fresh cakes. The coffee’s pretty fine too.
Belém is a half-hour tram ride (on the 15) from Praça da Figueira in the centre of Lisbon.
DAY 3 – BAIXA, BAIRRO ALTO AND CHIADO
Baixa is the flat area of central Lisbon, and the districts of Bairro Alto and Chiado occupy the hill immediately to the west.
The hill is very steep, but the journey is eased by the grand wrought iron Elevador de Santa Justa, a lift from Baixa street level to Bairro Alto. The Elevador da Gloria tram also cranks its way up an incredibly steep hill just behind Rossio station. You could always work off the custard tart calories climbing the 300+ steps of the Calçada do Duque.
Praça do Comercio, which faces the river, is the best place to start exploring Baixa. The Lisbon Story Centre is one of the most impressive Lisbon museums. You’re taken on a series of interactive displays, so you get a taste of the Age of Discoveries and the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, which flattened the whole district. Across the square, the arch leading to Rua da Augusta doubles as another Lisbon miradouro, with a good view over the Baixa.
The other main hub in Baixa is Rossio, also known as Praça Dom Pedro IV. It’s a favourite meeting place, with several cafes and bars around the square. It’s also home to one of the world’s smallest, most localised drinking scenes. This is where you can try ginjinha, the local sweet cherry liqueur. You can drink it with or without an alcohol-soaked cherry. I recommend it with a cherry, which gives the drink a nice potent, piquant kick.
Bairro Alto is home to some of the best Lisbon nightlife and restaurants. The Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcantara has one of the best views in Lisbon, looking over Rossio station to the Castelo de São Jorge in Alfama.
Neighbouring Chiado has some of the best cafes in Lisbon, including A Brasileira, long ago a haunt of writers and intellectuals. The interior, a mix of Art Nouveau and Art Deco, is breathtakingly opulent.
DAY 4 – DAY TRIP TO SINTRA
There are several wonderful day trips from Lisbon, from the beaches of Cascais and Estoril to the sublime whitewashed town of Obidos to the north. However, we suggest spending this one ‘spare’ day in your Portugal trip at Sintra, a 50- minute train ride away from Rossio station.
SIntra is really a destination in itself, one of the best places to visit in Portugal and worth of a stay of two or three days. It’s a small, exotic and enchanting town in the hills and forests to the north of Lisbon, with attractions spread around. It’s impossible to do it justice in a day – I certainly didn’t – but it’s worth venturing out to this magical place, even for a brief taste of it.
The star attraction is the Palacio Nacional da Pena, a fairytale castle on a crag high above the surrounding countryside. There’s also an amazing 10th century Moorish castle (Castelo dos Mouros) a steep climb from Sintra-Vila.
Also in Sintra-Vila, the Palacio Nacional de Sintra is another wondrous place. It’s a mixture of Moorish and Manueline architecture, prominent with its twin white chimneys.
Sintra also has some stunning gardens, including at the Quinta da Regaleira house and Monserrate Palace. The latter is 3.5 km west of Sintra-Vila, with glorious tropical gardens and glades to explore.
There are onward buses from Sintra-Vila station to some of the sites, but with all the logistics involved it’s well worth considering Sintra tours from Lisbon.
If you’re going it alone, train times from Rossio to Sintra can be found here.
DAY 5 – LISBON TO EVORA
Evora, the capital of the Alentejo region, is a popular day trip from Lisbon, but it deserves more than that, and so do you. It’s around 50 miles (80 km) inland from Lisbon, two hours by train or bus.
Evora is one of the best cities to visit in Portugal. It has the most complete and intact historic centre in the country, and has been a Roman provincial capital, a Moorish citadel and the home of Portuguese kings during the Golden Age of Discoveries.
We visited on our most recent Portugal roadtrip, and opted to drive rather than go with public transport because of the greater reach our own vehicle gave us. We absolutely fell in love with it, and are so glad we stayed a few nights. It’s not exactly crowded with tourists, and at night it becomes even more charming and atmospheric. It gave us a lasting appreciation of this beautiful city, one of the most underrated cities in Europe.
There are enough things to do in Evora to keep you there several days. The Cathedral (Sé) is like a hilltop eastern city, with its lantern tower and turrets. The Roman Templo de Diana is beautifully preserved, partly thanks to having once been part of the city’s abattoir, of all things. There’s also a fine set of walls, a 16th century aqueduct and several wonderful churches. One of them has a chapel of bones, lined with skulls and leg bones dug up from local cemeteries. It was built as a memento mori, a reminder that one day we’ll all just be bones, just like these poor souls.
However, the greatest pleasure in visiting Evora is wandering the medina-like streets at night, having the whole of this exquisite city to yourself.
DAY 6 – MONSARAZ
Monsaraz is one of the most beautiful villages in Europe. It’s a small hilltop village overlooking the Barragem do Alqueva lakes and the Spanish border, a pretty long way from anywhere.
It consists of two long streets, with an obligatory Castle at one end, several churches and sublime views in all directions. There are also a few restaurants and artisan craft shops, but it’s a long way from the mass tourism parts of Europe have been swamped by in recent years. At night it’s like a deserted film set, and like at Evora, you have it all to yourself. Make the most of it!
Monsaraz is easy to reach if you’re seeing Portugal by car. It’s less than an hour from Evora, and you could see it on a day trip or stay there overnight. Otherwise you can see Monsaraz on a day tour from Lisbon. Buses do run from Evora to Monsaraz, with a change at Reguengos de Monsaraz, 17 km (10 miles) away. There are two a day each way with long waits for connections. Our advice: drive it or book a tour.
DAY 7 – TO THE ALGARVE
If you’re keeping your carbon footprint to a minimum, you can enjoy a few hours on the train or bus south to the Algarve. Three trains run daily from Evora to Lagos, changing at Pinhal Novo and Tunes (pronounced ‘Toonsh’). If you’re getting the Lagos to Lisbon train, you need to catch the ferry from Praça do Comercio to the waiting train across the river at Barreiro, and also change at Tunes. If you’re driving, the Lisbon to Algarve run can take as little as two and a half hours.
The Algarve is top of many people’s list of where to go in Portugal, because of its amazing beaches and coastline. It covers the southern coast of Portugal, and the southernmost 30 km (20 miles) of the west coast as well. We suggest Lagos as a base for the Algarve. It’s a pretty historic town with some of the best beaches in the Algarve on its doorstep. After Monsaraz the many bars, pubs and restaurants of Lagos – many with touts beckoning you inside – will come as a bit of a shock. But it’s quieter than Albufeira, further along the coast.
After checking in at your Lagos accommodation, head down to Praia Dona Ana, a beach just outside the town. It’s a small crescent of sand, backed by magnificent cliffs and surrounded by fantastic rock formations. It was once voted the most beautiful beach in the world by readers of Conde Nast Traveller magazine.
DAY 8 – LAGOS AND AROUND
Some of the best Portugal coastline is in the area around Lagos, particularly around the Ponta da Piedade headland south of the town. Apart from Praia Dona Ana, there is also the smaller Praia do Pinhão and, further down the coast, Praia do Camilo. The latter is another of our favourites, with fantastical sea arches and stacks all around the cove.
Leave the car behind to walk along the clifftops. Some paths take you down to the shoreline, from where you can catch boats around the headland, to see the fairytale coastline and grottoes up close. These are some of the best Algarve boat trips you’ll find, taking you to some amazing nooks and corners beneath the cliffs.
Lagos itself is also worth a few hours’ exploration. There’s the small fortress by the shore, Forte Ponte da Bandeira, Europe’s first Slave Market and the lavish Baroque church of Santo Antonio.
You may also have time to see some of the Algarve beaches to the east of Lagos. Some of the best I’ve visited are Praia dos Tres Irmãos near Portimão, and Praia da Marinha, near Alvor.
DAY 9 – COSTA VICENTINA
The Romans and, indeed, many that followed them, believed that the Algarve was the end of the world. The headland of Cape St Vincent, just to the west of the town of Sagres, is the south-westernmost point in Algarve, Portugal and mainland Europe. The lighthouse there is a wonderful place to watch the sun sink into the sea: this was once the limit of the known world.
The south coast to Sagres is partly developed, but the rest of the Costa Vicentina is completely untouched. It’s part of the Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina, which gives it protected status. It has a remote, edge of the world feel to it. The beaches are very different in character to those east of Lagos. There’s no shelter from the sea here: the beaches bear the full brunt of the breaking Atlantic waves.
These are prime surf beaches, and surf schools run at Sagres and Praia do Amado. The latter is one of the best Algarve beaches with an incredible setting beneath ochre cliffs and green hills. Another of our recommendations is the estuary beach of Praia da Amoreira, near the small town of Aljezur.
The Rota Vicentina long distance path continues along the length of the coast and into Alentejo to the north. I only did some short sections, but as a coast walking connoisseur I can say you’ll find some of the best walks in Europe along this remote coastline.
DAY 10 – AROUND THE ALGARVE
It’s the final day of your 10 day trip to Portugal, and the Algarve is yours to explore. Some of the inland towns, such as the ancient capital Silves and the whitewashed village of Alte, merit going out of your way to visit. Silves in particular is one of the best places in Algarve to visit, with its distinctive Moorish castle and later cathedral high above the town.
There’s a great choice of alternative Algarve day trips. There’s the provincial capital Faro, where you’ll also find the only Algarve airport. Or you could head east to the pretty town of Tavira, which also has excellent sandy beaches nearby. If you’re heading onto Spain, the border is only around 10 km (6 miles) to the east.
David Angel is a British writer and photographer who has been travelling and photographing the world for over 25 years. His work is regularly featured in worldwide media including the BBC, the Guardian, the Times and the Sunday Times.