* Market shopping: Portugal’s daily food markets have suffered from superstore competition, but most showcase an array of fresh products that make them a must for anybody interested in food. They are not for the faint-hearted: butchers’ stalls proudly present glistering arrays of offal, and fishmongers cheerfully gut and scale the day’s catch. Naturally grown fruits and vegetables may lack the shine and same-shape regularity of supermarket goods, but will taste oh so much better. Those in Setúbal, Funchal, and Olhão are among the best.
* Hitting a hot tub: Hot springs bubble up from Portugal’s hills and plains. Spa resorts are scattered about the country. Some have roots going back to Roman times; many maintain an old-world elegance with splendid Belle Epoque hotels or Art Deco baths in marble, brass, and painted azulejo tiles. The charm can be a little faded in some places, but plenty have been restored to their full glory.
* Downing a bica: In a country whose former colonies included Brazil, Angola, and East Timor, it’s no surprise that the country is hooked on coffee. Although you can find local equivalents of lattes and flat whites, the Portuguese mostly get their caffeine fix through tiny espresso shots known as a bica, or simply a café. If you want to blend in, eschew pavement terraces and join the locals lined up at the counter in countless cafes to knock back their bicas, quite possibly with a custard-filled pastel de nata or another treat from the selection of pastries on show.
* Chilling on a beach: While the English complain “it’s not my cup of tea,” the Portuguese say “não é a minha praia”—“it’s not my beach.” The phrase shows how central the beach is to Portuguese life. Inhabitants of Lisbon and Porto will rush out to the cities’ suburban shores at weekends, even in mornings and evenings before and after work. Most beaches have cool bars or restaurants that serve up wonderful fresh shellfish or grilled fish. Surfers from around the world flock to ride the rollers along the west coast at places like Aljezur, Ericeira, and Peniche.
* Wine tasting at a quinta: Port wine from the Douro region has been a major Portuguese export for centuries, but the world has only recently woken up to the wonders of the country’s other wines: darkly brooding reds, playful white vinho verdes from the Minho, bubbly espumantes, sweet moscatels. Excellent tipples are produced the length and breadth of the country, but the Douro region’s terraced hills stand out for their beauty. Sampling wines in one of the Douro’s historic estates (quintas) while gazing out over the landscape is unforgettable.
* Watching the sun set at the end of the earth: The ancients believed the remote Sagres Peninsula at the southwestern tip of Europe was the end of the earth. Prince Henry the Navigator set up there to plot the Age of Discoveries. There are few better places to watch the sun go down. Crowds gather around the clifftop fort and lighthouse at nearby Cape St. Vincent to see the sun turn the sky orange before sinking beneath the waves. There’s nothing but the Atlantic between here and New York. The cocktails served in the fortress cafe help keep out the sometimes chilly winds.
* Party with the saints: Lisbon’s biggest party comes on June 13. To honor Saint Anthony (Santo António), its patron, the city engages in all-night revelry. The streets in the oldest neighborhoods fill with the whiff of sardines on the grill and the sound of guitars and accordions. Hordes of revelers quaffing beer and red wine dance into the wee hours. Celebrations are most intense in the district that wins the marchas populares contest, a singing costumed promenade down the capital’s main boulevard. Eleven days later it’s Porto’s turn, on the night of Saint John (São João). The second-city’s party includes a spectacular fireworks display over the Douro.
* Walking a levada: The island of Madeira is crisscrossed with more than 2,092km (1,300 miles) of hiking trails that follow narrow stone irrigation channels, known as levadas. Walking them offers wonderful views of the island’s mountainous interior and out over the deep blue Atlantic all around. Many lead though the Laurisilva forest, what’s left of the semitropical native vegetation that covered the island before Portuguese explorers arrived in 1419. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Among the most scenic is Levada do Caldeirão Verde, which snakes 4 miles though verdant glades and tumbling ocean views before arriving at a 91-meter (300-ft.) waterfall.
* Taking to the waves on the Tagus: Lisbon’s cutest mode of public transport are the tiny streetcars that weave through the narrow streets. But the famed Tram 28 has fallen victim to its reputation and is now swamped with tourists. A more authentic journey would be to join the thousands of Lisbonites who commute from the south bank of the River Tagus into the city on little orange ferry boats called cacilheiros. For 1.30€ you can admire an unrivaled view of the Lisbon skyline as the boat chugs across for the 10-minute voyage to the dock at Cacilhas, where there’s a welcoming row of riverside seafood restaurants.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.