After a Covid-induced hiatus from tourism, Portugal’s sun-kissed attractions are again drawing record-breaking visitor numbers. While Europeans have enjoyed its charms for years, North Americans are now joining them in ever-growing numbers, thanks in part to airlines opening up more direct transatlantic flights.
Why the sudden buzz? After all, Portugal’s surf-lapped beaches, heritage-packed cities, and vine-covered hillsides have always been there.
Peace of mind is a factor. Friendly, laid-back Portugal is now considered of the world’s most peaceful countries, enjoying low crime and stable politics, and it enjoys more than 300 days of sunshine a year.
Then there’s the price tag. Portugal is the cheapest country in Western Europe.
I crisscrossed the country to research the brand-new edition of Frommer’s Portugal to help you find the best. The book, which is fully independent and partnership-free, as all of Frommer's titles are, has just been published and is now available in our Bookstore in both paper and as an e-book.
Back in the 1970s, package tours that offered a cocktail of busy beaches and cheap booze fired Portugal’s first tourism boom. Vacations like that are still popular in big resorts like Vilamoura, Albufeira, and Praia da Rocha on the Algarve’s heavily developed central strip, but thankfully, Portugal has much more to offer, and Frommer's Portugal covers it all.
A 3-hour train journey between the capital, Lisbon, to the second city of Porto can cost less than US $15 if you book online. Stand at the bar of an old-style café, and you can knock back a shot of excellent espresso for 70¢.
On the shady terrace of a tasca (tavern) in Faro, capital of the southern Algarve region, I recently paid the equivalent of $12 for a lunch of clams in thick, cilantro-scented corn broth, a flask of white wine, coffee ,and a slice of chilled local melon.
A country the size of Maine, Portugal packs in 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Among them: the historic core of Porto where a maze of alleys and centuries-old port wine lodges hug the steep banks of the Douro river; Évora, a whitewashed city whose medieval cathedral and Roman temple ruins loom over the plains of the Alentejo region; and the hills of Sintra, located a 30-minute train ride out of Lisbon, where a cluster of phantasmagorical palaces protrude from the forested slopes.
Portugal's vast selection of beaches, all covered in this new guide, include surfer hangouts like Ericeira, Peniche, and Nazaré, home of the world’s biggest waves.
If that’s a little challenging, the soft, white sands curving around the bay at Comporta have become a jet-set hideaway, with a plethora of luxury boutique hotels. Even in the height of the Algarve’s summer season, Frommer’s Portugal, can guide you to tranquility on sand-bar islands or secluded West Coast coves.
New attractions in this edition include a glittering Lisbon museum showcasing the crown jewels of Portugal’s royal family (deposed when a republic was proclaimed in 1910); the restored Bulhão Market, a foodies’ delight in Porto; and a network of wooden walkways opening up hiking trails in the mountainous interior.
There is a downside. Sprouting vacation rental inventory has pushed up housing prices, forcing locals out of downtown Lisbon and Porto. Although crumbling buildings have been spruced up, some of the Old World atmosphere has gone.
In my old Lisbon neighborhood, stores and taverns serving local communities have lost out to boutiques and hipster cafés where global nomads munch avocado toasts.
Frommer’s Portugal will help you navigate that changing landscape, finding the best of the new and guiding you to holdouts of the old Portugal, times villages, nightspots resounding with plaintive fado music, and pastelarias serving up the creamiest pasteis de nata.
Frommer's Portugal is now available in our Bookstore in both paper and e-book editions.