How To Spend 10 Days In Portugal, the Perfect Ten Day Itinerary
Updated: Aug 30
Planning a trip to Portugal? There's nothing as romantic as an idyllic road trip through Portugal. And I have the perfect ten day itinerary.
Portugal stuns with its vintage-y cities, charming medieval villages, beautiful seacoast, and delicious food and wine. Top this all off with a dollop of historic UNESCO sites and some soulful Fado music, and you have the perfect sensual and cultural vacation.
I was recently in sun-drenched Portugal again on a blissy geographical cure. This is the 10 day itinerary for Portugal that I followed, which I wouldn't alter one bit if I had a do-over. You'll have three bases: Lisbon (4 nights), Coimbra (2 nights), and Porto (4 nights).
My itinerary starts in Lisbon and ends in Porto. But you could easily reverse the order and start in Porto.
I've written many articles about the two cities, which you'll find on my Portugal page and which I'll also link to below where relevant. If you wanted to extend this 10 day Portugal itinerary, you should head to the Algarve for some R&R.
Recommended 10 Day itinerary for Portugal
Day 1: Arrive in Lisbon and explore
Day 2: Explore Lisbon
Day 3: Explore Belem, Lisbon's UNESCO suburb
Day 4: Day Trip to Sintra
Day 5: Visit Obidos and Alcobaca Monastery en route to Coimbra
Day 6: Explore Coimbra
Day 7: Visit the Roman Ruins of Conimbriga en route to Porto & Half day in Porto
Day 8: Explore Porto
Day 9: Day Trip to Guimaraes and Citania de Breiteros
Day 10: Tour the Douro Valley
The Best Way To Explore Portugal in 10 Days
Day 1: Arrive in Lisbon
Lisbon is a feast for the eyes. It’s an artistic ensemble of sparkling azulejos, eye candy vistas, pastels houses, and melancholic Fado music. There are no "must see" attractions in Lisbon. But there are plenty of tourist traps you should skip in your short time there, like the Santa Justa Elevator.
You're likely going to arrive in Lisbon in the late afternoon. So begin by exploring Rossio Square in the bustling city center, Baixa.
Admire the wavy tile mosaics around the King Pedro IV statue. Then head down Rua Augusta to the Praça de Comércio, the showy 18th century square with a triumphal arch. But don't dine here; the squares are mostly filled with tourist restaurants.
Instead, head to Lisbon's Chiado neighborhood. It's a rather arty upscale neighborhood filled with lovely cafes, chic art galleries, bookshops, and tony boutiques.
Visit the evocative Carmo Convent there. The convent was founded in 1389 by Portuguese knight Nuno Álvares Pereira, who had won the favor of the King of Portugal, João I. It's a memorial to the worst day of Lisbon’s history, when a 1755 earthquake demolished much of the city including the convent.
The romantic ruins remain today, as a memorial -- a glorious shambles really. It's a strangely affecting place, sharply contrasting with Lisbon's Pombaline architecture. You can visit the church rooms and a tiny archaeological museum.
After visiting, settle in at an authentic Chiado eatery, like Taberna da Rua das Flores or Cantinho do Avillez. For a Michelin dining experience, try Alma (which just got a second Michelin star) or Belcanto.
Day 2: Explore Lisbon
Wake up and head to Lisbon's most charming neighborhood, the colorful old world Alfama.
Steeped in history, immortalized in Fado, and rising over Lisbon, Alfama is one of Lisbon's most authentic districts. A city outside a city. With steep stairways tumbling down to Baixa below and Castelo São Jorge (St. George's Castle) standing guard above, Alfama is incredibly beautiful and photogenic.
You needn't bother going inside the castle. It's just a 20th century recreation of the Moorish castle that previously existed there. And there are other free miradouros, or viewpoints, in Alfama -- Largo das Portas do Sol and Miradouro da Graça.
You can follow a specific walking tour in Alfama. Or just surrender to the lively chaos and get lost in the maze of tangled streets. While you're there, admire the sparkling azulejo tiles that adorn the buildings and streets. I like to think that Lisbon was given the nickname “Queen of the Sea” because its tile bedecked buildings resemble precious stones that decorate crowns.
Housed in a sublime 16th century convent, this unique museum covers the entire history of the azulejo (hand-painted tile). But the Gulbenkian Museum is also a splendid option. Both museums are somewhat off-center. But Ubers are very cheap in Lisbon.
In the evening, head to Time Out Market for dinner. It’s located in a cool converted warehouse. It’s foodie heaven, with some of Lisbon’s best chefs serving incredible food in the many food stalls. There are also wine bars galore. Portuguese wine is cheap and tasty.
Day 3: Explore Belem, Lisbon's UNESCO Neighborhood
In the architecturally-rich suburb of Belém, you'll have a respite from the hustle and bustle of glamorous Lisbon. Atlantic breezes flow, grandiose Manueline monuments dazzle, and boats glide along the wide Tagus River.
You'll be cast back to the Age of Discoveries, when the world was Portugal’s colonial oyster.
Visiting Belem could easily take up an entire day, if you're so inclined. Here's my own travel guide to the top 10 sites in Belem.
1. Jeronimos Monastery
With limited time, your top priority is Jerónimos Monastery. It's a glorious 500 year old UNESCO site and a mandatory destination in Lisbon. It's the premiere example of Manueline architecture in Portugal and the #1 site in Belem.
Manueline architecture was a short lived late Gothic artistic movement that lasted 30 years in the early 16th century. It's a distinctively Portuguese style, named after its key influencer, King Manuel I, who reigned from 1495 to 1521 during the Age of Discoveries.
There’s nothing like the moment you walk into the monastery's two level cloister, honey colored and dripping with organic detail. You'll be wowed by the delicately scalloped arches, twisting turrets, and columns intertwined with leaves, vines, and knots. And the gargoyles and beasties on the upper facade.
2. Tower of Belem
The Tower of Belém is a beautiful Manueline-Gothic style structure, which is also part of Lisbon’s UNESCO designation. It’s just a 15 minute stroll along the river from the Jeronimos Monastery.
Perched proudly on the Belem's waterfront is a huge 56 meter statue-monument called the Monument to the Discoveries. Built in 1960, it was commissioned to mark the 500th anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator.
When you're done gorging on Belem's Manueline architecture, stop in for a delicious Portuguese pasty at the famous Pastéis de Belém. Then head back to Lisbon.
At the evening, head to Lisbon's nightlife spot, the hilly neighborhood of Bairro Alto for food and drink. Or take in a Fado show there.
Day 4: Day Trip to Nearby Sintra
Day 4 takes you to nearby Sintra. It's a gorgeous rock star of a town torn from a storybook. But Sintra's is uber popular, and a tricky place to visit on a day trip.
I have decided views about how to tackle the town, which boasts numerous UNESCO castles and palaces. Here are my tips for decoding Sintra, some of which are decidedly unconventional but I felt enhanced my recent visit.
1. Pena Palace
Most people adore Pena Palace, and the lines for the interior are epic. Pena Palace has a real Mad King Ludwig feel. I couldn't decide whether the colorful palace was a real life "fairytale" or a tacky pastiche on steroids.
I decided just to enjoy the extreme whimsy and differentness of the place, a creation of King Ferdinand II, a genius who dared to be different.
2. Quinta da Regaleira
My personal favorite palace in Sintra is the bewitching Quinta da Regaleira. Quinta was built by eccentric and superstitious millionaire Antonio Monteiro. It's an extravagant stony affair with follies and a mysterious initiation well.
The buildings are adorned with a heady mix of Gothic, Egyptian, Moorish, Neo-Manueline, and Renaissance features. There are gargoyles and carvings associated with Masonry, the Knights Templar, and the Rosicrucians.
In the palace brochure, Quinta is described as an "imaginary universe of symbolism and metaphor." It felt that way to me, very Pans Labyrinth-esque.
Day 5: Visit Obidos and Alcobaca Monastery En Route to Coimbra
Obidos and Alcobaca Monastery were two of my favorite stops in Portugal.
Just an hour from Lisbon, pretty Obidos is a dreamy UNESCO village, perched fetchingly on a hill and encircled with stout medieval walls.
It's decorated with splashes of blue and yellow paint and filled with bougainvilla-covered whitewashed homes. You'll be seduced by its beauty and shabby chic romantic aura.
Stroll down the main drag, Rua Direita, which runs from the Porta da Vila to Obidos Castle. It's stuffed with whitewashed buildings, quirky bars and cafes, exquisite shops, and ubiquitous ginjinha stands. The iron street lamps and chipped stone facades complete the vintage look.
The real magic of Obidos lies off the main drag. So veer towards Obidos' quiet maze of pathways to enjoy the quiet, color, and romance.
You won't find another person in sight. This is where you'll find the intangible fairy dust of Obidos, and its greatest gift to the traveler.
2. Alcobaca Monastery
Just 30+ minutes north of Obidos is Alcobaca Monastery. I was dazzled by Lisbon's Jeronimos Monastery. Still, that didn't diminish my awe at seeing the austere beauty of Alcobaca, which is also a UNESCO site.
The monastery was founded almost 800 years ago in 1153. Construction took place over centuries and it’s a mix of Gothic and Cistercian architecture with intricate workmanship. The monks moved into their new stone digs in 1223, and the church was finished in 1252.
The monastery is more impressive inside than the outside. Despite the overwrought Baroque overlay, once you enter the doors, everything changes. The monastery becomes a monument to simplicity and majesty. There's no riotous Baroque carnival inside. It feels light and airy.
In the transept, you’ll find the monastery's greatest possession: two magnificent royal tombs lying opposite each other. They provide a gripping and tragic back story, in contrast to all the Cistercian austerity.
They are the "his and hers" marble tombs of the star-crossed lovers King Pedro I of Portugal and the catastrophically beautiful Inês de Castro of Spain. Theirs is a tragic medieval tale of obsessive love and political intrigue, the Portuguese equivalent of Romeo & Juliet. Inês was murdered by Pedro’s father to end their affair.
Day 6: Explore Coimbra
Day 6 is dedicated to exploring Coimbra, which some call the "Athens of Portugal." Coimbra is often neglected by travelers in Portugal, and it shouldn't be.
Perched on the Rio Mondego, Coimbra was Portugal's medieval capital. And the city still has steeply stacked houses tumbling down its historic old town.
1. Coimbra University
For starters, you'll be bowled over by the architectural splendor of Coimbra's #1 site -- Coimbra University -- sitting at the highest point in Coimbra. It's yet another of Portugal's UNESCO sites. The swirling black cape uniforms of its students look very Harry Potter-esque.
Founded by royal charter in 1290, Coimbra University is a UNESCO site that’s old. One of the oldest universities in the world, older than Oxford University. It's vast courtyard contains a cluster of 16th to 18th century buildings.
The university's palace boasts the Great Hall of Acts, whose current design dates from 1655. The university's chapel has beautiful painted ceilings. But the main event is the over the top Joanina Library. You will be given a timed entry slot, so don't wander away and miss your time window.
2. Baroque Library
The famous library was built from 1717-28 during the reign of Joao V. It's also, not exactly shockingly, known as the Baroque Library. It has a large central hall with a nave like structure divided into three main rooms, clad in beautiful gilded bookshelves. It looks and feels more like a museum than a library.
3. Coimbra Old Town
Once you've visited the university, head into Coimbra's old town. Coimbra has a melancholy beauty all its own. Coimbra has its own pottery style, its own version of Fado, and an attitude. It's a stylish place, where black caped students, tony cafes, and ancient monuments all blissfully co-mingle.
The main pedestrianized street is Rua Ferreira. It's lined with elegant old buildings and the Igreja de Santa Cruz, with a magnificent tiled interior. Stop in at the Carlos Tomás pottery shop, to see the artist at work and select some distinctive Moorish-influenced Coimbra Pottery.
4. Se Velha
Off the main drag, you find some steep and narrower streets. Here, you'll find Coimbra's Old Cathedral, Se Velha. The austere 12th century Sé is one of Portugal's finest examples of Romanesque architecture. The main portal and facade are particularly striking, almost gold in the warm afternoon sunshine.
Finish your day with some Portuguese food. You'll have endless options for great food in Coimbra. We settled in at DUX Taberna Urbana, for a contemporary take on traditional dishes.
Day 7: Visit the Roman Ruins of Conimbriga En Route To Porto
The next day depart Coimbra. Stop at the Roman Ruins of Conimbriga en route to Porto. History and archaeology buffs will be in 7th heaven.
Conimbriga is one of the largest Roman settlements outside Italy, dating from as early as the first Iron Age in the 9th century B.C. Romans built an amphitheater for over 10, 000 people, city walls, three bathing complexes (with stone heating ducts) temples, and several residences.
Conimbriga wasn't excavated until the late 19th century. Only about 20% of the entire city is currently unearthed. The highlight of Conimbriga is its exquisite and well-preserved collection of colorful mosaic floors. The ones at the House of Fountains are especially remarkable.
Depending on how long you stay to admire the ruins, you should have part of the afternoon to explore Porto. Colorful vintagey Porto is a travel photographer's dream. Or just a dream. It's so dreamy that, right now, Porto's one of Europe's hottest destination.
Porto's magical, has a pretty palette, and is full of Baroque churches, azulejo tiles, and dreamy cobblestone streets. And hills. While those hills may make your quads burn, they provide amazing vistas to view some of Porto's visual treats.
I spent an afternoon just meandering around and finding all of Porto's beautiful azulejos decorations. Azulejos are everywhere -- on gorgeous churches, train stations, facades. Here's what I saw on my lengthy azulejo-based stroll.
3. Livraria Lello
You'll likely come across Livraria Lello, Porto's uber-popular and photogenic bookshop. It's considered one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world and classified as a National Monument.
Livraria Lello is renowned for its lovely art deco, art nouveau, and gothic interior. It also claims bragging rights as the rumored inspiration for J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter book series.
The late afternoon is a much better time to visit than early morning. People start lining up way before opening time.
4. Cais de Ribeira
When you've gotten the lay of the land, head to the Cais de Ribeira for a cocktail or some pottery shopping. The riverside quarter of Porto is a medieval warren of narrow winding streets and pastel painted facades in faded glory. Tall and colorful row houses are crammed along the river bank. And there are plenty of trendy bars, cafes, shops, street artists, and entertainers.
That night, have dinner at an authentic Portuguese restaurant like Casa Aleixo, Cafeina, or Brasao Coliseu. If you want a beautiful space (though rather touristy), try Cafe Majestic. The Art Nouveau decor, vintage mirrors, and period lighting inside made me swoon.
If you're feeling casual and really adventurous, now's the time to try Portugal's "heart attack" sandwich, the Francesinha. It consists of ham, sausage, and steak, topped with cheese, beer and egg. You can get a traditional sandwich at Francesinha Cafe or a more modern version of the extreme comfort food at Porto Cruz.