The woman at the reception spoke to Jon and I in Portuguese and we had no idea what she said. This will be difficult, I thought. After a few hand gestures here and there, we finally checked into our room in Lisbon. I had no idea what Portugal would be like. All I knew was that the famous world navigator who discovered the Philippines, Ferdinand Magellan, was from Portugal (his naval ship was sponsored by Spain) and that Macau was a former Portuguese colony.

RELATED POST: Winter in Andalusia: 10 Days in Spain Itinerary

Winter was coming to Europe. Jon and I decided to spend some time in January in the warmer countries, so we headed south to Spain and Portugal. After almost 2 weeks in Spain, we spent 5 days in Portugal. Our itinerary included Lisbon, Sintra and Porto, three of the most well known tourist spots in the country. Despite such a short stay, we fell in love with Portugal; keep reading to find out why! Here’s what we got up to during our 5 days in Portugal.

5 Days in Portugal Itinerary

Lisbon

It didn’t matter that we didn’t speak nor understand any Portuguese. The language barrier did not put us off from exploring the beautiful capital. Lisbon captured our hearts with its unique and beautiful architecture. Rows of colourful houses line up along the sloping streets. The plazas are big and the surrounding small cafés bring life to them. There are also plenty of pastelerias (bakeries) around Lisbon that serve delicious treats. The popular being the custard tarts or pasteis de nata which is similar to the Portuguese egg tarts you find in Macau.

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We stayed in one of the many uphill neighborhoods that make Lisbon an interesting place. There is an old funicular which allows you to go up the hill towards to the plaza overlooking the city. Across the streets there is an occasional tram that passes by. It is one of the most charming sights in town. The tram goes to the different districts in Lisbon and truly creates a unique atmosphere.

5 Days in Portugal - Lisbon, Sintra and Porto - Funicular in Lisbon

My most memorable moment in Lisbon was the day before my birthday. Jon and I went to the old neighbourhood called Alfama then visited Castelo de São Jorge. The castle itself was not glamorous but the selling point of this place was the view. Jon and I shared a toast with the two glasses of Portuguese wine and watched the magnificent sunset drop over the rest of Lisbon. The sunset at Castelo de São Jorge was definitely one of the highlights of our 5 days in Portugal.

5 Days in Portugal - Lisbon, Sintra and Porto - Sunset in San Jorge

Another fascinating area in Lisbon is the district of Belém. The 25 de Abril Bridge, which closely resembles the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, dominates the river near Belém and on a nearby hill you can see the Cristo Rei (Christ the King), which looks a lot like Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro. At the centre of Belém is the famous Belém tower, an iconic historic structure and the Jeronimos Monastery, a beautiful Gothic style church. These two monuments are UNESCO World Heritage sites and both included in the 7 wonders of Portugal.

READ MORE: The Hills in Lisbon Have Eyes!

5 Days in Portugal - Lisbon, Sintra and Porto - Cathedral in Belem, Lisbon

Where to Stay in Lisbon

Luxury – Valverde Hotel

Mid-Range – My Story Hotel Rossio

Boutique – Santiago de Alfama – Boutique Hotel

Budget – HF Fenix Urban

Sintra

When Jon suggested we celebrate my birthday in Sintra, I didn’t know what to expect. Honestly, I had never heard of this place before and had no idea what it had to offer. I googled the place and saw why it’s a popular day trip from Lisbon. Sintra is like a fairy tale town!

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We took the train from Lisbon to Sintra, a magical small town filled with majestic palaces and castles that I could only imagine in my dreams.

If you think a historic monument means dull and old, the Pena National Palace will change your mind. This bright and colourful palace is considered one of the 7 Wonders of Portugal and known as a major expression of 19th century romanticism. The architecture is astounding with an intricate interior, prominent towers and bold expression of colours.

5 Days in Portugal - Lisbon, Sintra and Porto - Pena Palace, Sintra

Another interesting spot in Sintra is Quinta da Regaleira, a house that seems more like a palace with its beautiful design, impressive grottos and unique underground cave system. It was so much fun exploring this place. There are so many different areas to look into, make sure to visit the underground tower!

5 Days in Portugal - Lisbon, Sintra and Porto - Regaleria, Sintra

The last place we chose for our day trip (there are many palaces and castles in Sintra so it takes more than a day to see them all) was the Castle of the Moors. This medieval style castle is more like a fortification system than an actual castle, with a series of towers and walls all around. It looks a bit like the Great Wall of China. The Castle of the Moors is located on a hill overlooking the scenic countryside. It is a nice spot to end the day and watch the colours of the sky change during sunset.

READ MORE: Crazy Castles and Palaces: A Day Trip to Sintra

5 Days in Portugal - Lisbon, Sintra and Porto - Moorish Castle, Sintra

Where to Stay in Sintra

Luxury – Penha Longa Resort

Mid-Range – Sparrow Sintra Nest

Boutique – Sintra Boutique Hotel

Budget – Hotel Ibis Lisboa Sintra

Porto

Port wine is probably the first thing you will associate with Porto. Jon and I tried it and didn’t enjoy it — it was too strong for the two of us. While some people remember Porto for the wine, we will remember it for its traditional dish, Francesinha, and its beautiful historic district.

The Ribiera or Riverside is the best place to start exploring Porto. This hilly city is set alongside the river and offers a colourful riverside scene lined up with interesting shops and cafés. It is a nice place to hang out and relax.

Dominating the scene in Porto is an impressive steel arch bridge, the Don Luis I Bridge, once considered the longest metal arch bridge in the world. It is a beautiful bridge, an icon that stands out in our photos of Porto. The bridge is directly above the river with two levels, one for regular traffic and one for the metro.

5 Days in Portugal - Lisbon, Sintra and Porto - Don Luis Bridge, Porto

Within the old town are churches, museums, hotels and restaurants. The weather wasn’t great when we were in Porto (it rained a lot!) so we really had just one afternoon to see the sights. It is a charming city and we have to visit again to see it properly. We realized 5 days in Portugal was not really enough to see everything and we need to go back.

5 Days in Portugal - Lisbon, Sintra and Porto - Riviera Shops

Where to Stay in Porto

Luxury – Pestana Vintage Porto Hotel ; World Heritage Site

Mid-Range – Porto A.S. 1829 Hotel

Boutique – Descobertas Boutique Hotel Porto

Budget – Hotel Dom Henrique – Downtown

Have you been to Portugal? Do you have anything to add to our 5 days in Portugal Itinerary? Let us know.

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About the author

Gia Kristel De Guia

Gia, who currently lives in New Zealand, grew up in Manila, lived in Singapore for three years and travelled the world for nearly 2 years. From watching sunsets to hiking mountains, she loves the outdoors. She enjoys living in big cities but takes pleasure staying in quaint, small towns. An aspiring photographer and budding writer, she is the voice behind Mismatched Passports, a travel blog dedicated to the journey around the world with her New Zealander partner, Jon.

23 Comments

  • Hi! I’m going to Portugal in a month for 5 days, and I’m really debating spending extra money to change my flight, so I can have an extra 2-3 days there. Do you think it’s worth the money? I would love to hit put Porto, but I think 5 days is not enough to do that and see the neighboring towns?

    • Hi Danielle, 5 days was good for an intro to Portugal but it did seem a bit short. If you have the chance to have a few days more that would be great. We did realize later on that we rushed during our time in Porto and we would definitely want to spend more time in Sintra. So we would definitely have to go back at some point.
      It really depends if you are ever planning on going back, if so 5 days would be a ideal amount of time just for Lisbon and the nearby towns.

  • I can understand your suprise when the hotel receptionist didn’t speak English! It can be a little difficult, but with some effort and goodwill, one can manage 😉 Just be careful when ordering food LOL The photos are amazing. Portugal seems so beautiful! I have to go <3 Thanks for the lovely post!

  • Hello,

    Love your journey all around the world like these ones 😀

    In your opinion, it’s better to spend 1 week in Andalusia or in Portugal in the winter if I want to escape from the Europe cold?

    Gracias

    • Thank you Huyen!
      Both areas are good for winter however Porto (in Portugal) was still a bit cold when we were there so you may want to spend less time there and more time in Lisbon or other surrounding towns. It really depends on what you want to see and do. Both regions offer great history, architecture and food.

  • Hi- love your post
    I’m hoping to do Lisbon Porto and sintra as well- how many days do you think I need in each place- I hate rushing through cities- I can take about 8-10 days.
    Also,
    How did you get around between the cities?

    • Hi Cherie,
      Thanks! It depends how what you want to do. 5 days was good time but of course it’s always better to have a bit of extra time in a city. You can spend 3-4 days each in Lisbon and Porto and maybe 1-2 days in Sintra (I think there is a beach there so that is probably worth visiting if you have stay there rather than just do a day trip). We travelled by train in between the cities in Portugal and that was very convenient and cheap (about €25 between Lisbon and Porto).

  • Thank you for your post! Our family of four is headed there at the end of March and we’ll have 5 days. I think we’ll just do Lisbon and Sintra. Can you get around Sintra without a car? We were planning on just using public transportation, but we’d love to see the beaches in Sintra. Thanks!

  • Hi Gia,
    I found your blog searching in Pinterest for Lisboa, Porto and Sintra. After reading thuis article I’ve laught real hard! My significant-other and me are traveling in Portugal at the end of next month for a week, but I also celebrate my birthday in Sintra (his birthday is 5 days earlier and we’re in Porto then).
    I love al your tips for Portugal and when I scroll downwarts I see more interesting posts!

  • this is a great guide!! Thank u! we just booked a trip to portugal and i’m going to use this as a main reference point.

  • Hi! I’m planning a honeymoon to Azores and mainland Portugal (Portugal for 5 days and Azores for 4). The only thing is that my husband and I are vegetarian and don’t drink alcohol. Do you think we will be able to survive food-wise? Also is Porto worth it if we don’t drink? Thanks for your advice!

    • Most Portuguese dishes we tried had a lot of meat. However, you can probably find restaurants that serve vegetarian food in Portugal (especially in Lisbon). The pasteis de nata is good if you can make an exception with eggs and dairy. Porto is a great place for its scenery, even if you aren’t into wine. The riviera is very nice and worth a day visit if you are short on time.

  • Thanks for the inspiration! We’ve been talking about doing a family trip to Portugal, but with only a week we’ve had a hard time narrowing down the itinerary! I love the idea of focusing on Lisbon + Porto with a day trip to Sintra. Sounds like we could do it in a (very on-the-go) week!

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