Portugal villa holiday guide
Portugal exudes style in culture, art, and architecture with first-class resorts and a rich past. And with cobbled streets to explore as well as turquoise seas to paddle, it’s a top choice for families and couples
Portugal villa holiday guide
Portugal has held on to its own character throughout the years, making it a historical wonder to explore under the sun. Fado music is shaped by nostalgia for the nation’s great seafaring days, and the tiles that line the walls in many a chic restaurant sport designs that evolved from Moorish art. A villa holiday allows you to reach beyond the resorts to discover a rich history and friendly, quietly proud people. With the main language spoken being Portuguese, English is also well-used. Euros are the accepted currency.
When to visit Portugal
With temperatures reaching the hot early 30s in the country’s peak month of August, the rest of the year in Portugal remains warm, with even the ‘winter’ months achieving temperatures in the mid-to-late teens during the day. Evenings can be cooler from December to March, but our villas with private pools and hot tubs are heated, so you can take advantage of the Portuguese night sky any time of year.
Visit Portuguese cities
With Henry the Navigator at the prow, Lisbon’s Discoveries Monument gives a nostalgic nod to the Portuguese capital’s maritime past. Up-river, St. George’s Castle glances across the city’s red rooftops towards a revamped waterfront. Visitors slip through the cobbled streets of Porto’s Medieval Ribeira district across the River Douro to sample the port in Vila Nova da Gaia’s wine warehouses. One of Portugal’s most sedate cities, Guimarães boasts of heroic deeds and the founding of the nation, a complete contrast to Faro’s palm tree-edged marina and pedestrian shopping streets.
Discover the coast
Algarve beaches have plenty of sun and the turquoise sea, and birdwatchers sit patiently on the wetlands of the Ria Formosa Natural Park to spot egrets and purple heron. Lisbon locals escape city life at the 19th-century resort of Cascais or head for the surf on the Costa da Caparica. From Porto, it’s a short train ride to the white sands at Espinho and on to Aveiro, where visitors can rent moliceiros (traditional fishing boats). A selection of our luxury villas are available close to Portugal’s coast in locations such as Albufeira; ideal for those seeking a place to surf or swim in the sea.
Uncover Portugal’s nightlife
The Algarve nightlife centres on Albufeira, where the party usually continues till dawn, Vilamoura entertains a cocktail-drinking crowd who prefer the casino to the club. In Lisbon and Porto, you will find something to suit all tastes, from traditional fado music to opera, rock, and jazz, chic bars, and vast dance-music clubs. Most Portuguese towns and cities have a busy calendar of music and festivals: in June, visit Lisbon for street parties during its annual Festas and Porto for the Serralves em Festa contemporary. With some of our villas sleeping up to 14 people, you can easily enjoy the buzzing Portuguese nightlife with a group of friends on holiday.
Eating and drinking in Portugal
Portugal’s traditional dishes, such as tripe from Porto or coçido stew with pigs’ feet, might test the most adventurous diner, but there are more conservative specialities to sample, too. Try a francesinha toasted sandwich with gravy in Porto or bacalhau (salt-cod) fish dishes in 101 different local styles. You will find skewers of fish, stuffed squid, and sardines by the coast in the Algarve, and hearty pork stews inland. From fruity Dãoreds to rich port wine from the Douro and vinho verde (literally ‘green wine’) from the north, you are rarely far from a good bottle. And make room for desserts, traditionally made with eggs, cream, almonds, fruit, and honey.
Experience the shopping
In Lisbon’s Vasco da Gama Shopping and Arrábida in Porto, you can browse the fashions, watch a Hollywood film, enjoy a fast-food lunch or four-course dinner, and do your weekly shopping under one roof. For something that shouts ‘Portugal’ a little louder, visit craft shops in Barcelos for a colourful, ornamental Portuguese cockerel, buy azulejos tiles in Lisbon, hand-made lace in Vila do Conde, and wicker in Monchique. Visit Lisbon’s Feira da Ladra (Thieves’ Market) for bric-a-brac and gypsy markets in the Algarve for crafts. Before you leave (or as you arrive to enjoy in your villa) stock up on port wine and ginginha cherry liqueur.
Explore Portugal’s Countryside
Take a day trip from Porto up the River Douro into the heart of Portugal’s port wine region, where you will see the rows of vines lined on terraces. Hugging the northern border of Portugal, Peneda-Gerês National Park is an ancient landscape dotted with dolmen graves and protected species, including the last of Europe’s wild wolves. In the heart of the hot, dry Guadiana Valley, in south-east Alentejo, the Pulo do Lobo (Wolf’s Leap) is a 33m waterfall that drops into a deep gorge of jagged rock. If exploring these rural surroundings is top of your holiday list, look to a villa with a private pool in order to cool off in the summer months.
Portuguese arts and culture
Lisbon has the best of Portugal’s art museums, including religious triptychs in the National Museum of Ancient Art and modern masterpieces at the Berardo Museum. Designed by prized architect Alvaro Siza Vieira, Porto’s Serralves Foundation hosts exhibitions by avant-garde artists such as folk-inspired, Lisbon-born painter Paula Rego. Seek out Manueline (late Gothic) masterpieces like the window of the Convent of Christ in Tomar, and the tiled fresco on the wall of Porto’s São Bento Station. You can follow the trail of 20th-century poet Fernando Pessoa around Lisbon’s cafes and pay homage to 16th-century poet Luis de Camões at his resting place in Jerónimos Monastery.