From beachside bliss in Estoril to hipster heaven in Porto, the variety of luxury hotels in Portugal can make it difficult to know where to begin. Worry not. Thanks to a simple-to-navigate rail network you can mix up city breaks with coastal and country getaways – for the best of both worlds.
You can experience Lisbon’s finest in just a couple of days.
Despite seeming sprawling (and steep), it’s easy to get about on the city’s colour-coded tram lines.
Take the vintage, trundling green trams to Sé de Lisboa (Lisbon Cathedral) and up to Castelo de Sao Jorge.
In between, hop off at Miradouro Das Portos for views across the rust-red Alfama rooftops.
Providing you haven’t over-indulged on Pastéis de Belém custard tarts (and the chocolate quente hasn’t left you in a cocoa coma), spend the evening with foodie favourite José Avillez.
His double Michelin-starred Belcanto is a major player on Europe’s food scene, Cantinho Do Avillez dishes up modern takes on Portuguese classics, while Mini Bar Teatro offers gastronomy with a side of glamour. Just bring an appetite for the imaginative ten-course tasting menu – ‘exploding olives’ anyone?
You can get from Portugal’s capital to the seaside in just 30 minutes by train.
The wild and windswept Atlantic coast beats against rocky shores in Estoril and little pockets of amber sand draw locals on sunny days – Praia do Tamariz is a particular favourite.
Just along the coast is cosmopolitan Cascais.
Its cobbled streets lined with little restaurants and ice cream parlours may remind you of a Cornish seaside village. From here you can follow the red cycle path all the way to Guincho and the cusp of Serra de Sintra National Park. Praia do Guincho is Point Break paradise.
Even if you’re not at one with the waves, it’s a sensational section of coastline with unspoilt dunes and little else but sand and surf for miles. So be sure to bring drinks, snacks and towels.
Combine Lisbon with the Portuguese Riviera at Palácio Estoril Hotel, Golf & Spa.
… TO PORTO
City-of-the-minute Porto is turning heads and it’s easy to see why. Avant-garde restaurants rub shoulders with age-old port lodges.
UNESCO is firmly stamped on the heritage here. And the River Douro and Atlantic Ocean are never far away. Plus you can reach Beaux-Arts São Bento station from Lisbon within three hours.
From that point it’s all about Port: Port-flavoured gelato, porto tónico cocktails and guided tastings.
To get to Vila Nova de Gaia, home to the main Port warehouses, cross (and stop to snap) the impressive Ponte de Dom Luís I. Or if you’re happy to linger in waterside Ribeira, climb Torre de Clérigos with your camera on its panoramic setting before dipping into Bacchus Vini for tawny tasting and platters of cheeses.
If you didn’t sample José Avillez’s molecular gastronomy in Lisbon, you’ve got another chance at his Porto version of Cantinho do Avillez. By contrast, O Paparico is all old stone walls and flickering candles – perfect for a romantic, authentic Portuguese dinner.
Hotel Infante Sagres perfectly captures Porto’s heritage charm and contemporary cool.
… TO FARO
You’ll want a week or more to combine Lisbon and Faro – it involves about a four-hour train journey. But it’s worth it to discover a city that’s much more than a gateway to Algarve package holidays.
While Porto draws the in-crowd, Faro remains over-looked, making it ripe for exploration. By day you can marvel at the medieval walled old town (Cidade Velha) and 13th-century cathedral with its bell tower views.
After dark, Faro’s contemporary side comes out and its nightlife gets into full swing.
You can also get back to nature in the westerly Ria Formosa wetlands. The little village of Estoi is also easy to reach. It’s a beautiful base if you prefer not to stay in the city – but still want to enjoy Faro at 10km away – and history buffs will love seeing the Milreu Roman ruins up close.
Pousada Palacio de Estoi is grand, glamorous and glorious when bathed in Algarve sunshine.
For an in-depth Lisbon guide, read our 24-hour guide to the city that (really) never sleeps.