4 days in portugal with street art

4 Days in Portugal: Best Ideas for a Short Trip

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Updated: 9 March 2023

I am – no doubt – obsessed with Portugal. After taking a solo Easter holiday in Portugal, I immediately fell in love with this country and knew I wanted to encourage responsible tourism on my blog, especially to my anxious readers who may not take many international trips. 

Portugal is fabulous. 

I mean, where else can you eat endless Pastel de nata? I still have tasty dreams about these perfect squishy egg tart pastries. 

Like many Americans, I don’t always have plenty of free time to explore the world. But we can all dream, right?

So, even though 2 weeks in Portugal would an ideal length of time for an in-depth vacation, I still wanted to share some suggestions for a shorter trip to Portugal: four days to be exact!

see pretty tiles with 4 days in portugal

Portugal Travel Tips

So, are you planning a short adventure to Portugal? I’m so excited for you!

Why is Portugal such a great option for travelers? 

Portugal is beautiful, safe, and fun. You’ll discover castles and beaches. Eat fresh seafood and pastries for reasonable prices. Ogle at colorful architecture and tiles. And the hostels are the best in all of Europe.

As I’ve implied, this small European country is one of my favorite places to visit. 

Additionally, Portugal is very accessible so I don’t recommend stressing over the logistics of your trip. In my personal experience, the trains are efficient. Going from one city to the next is a breeze (most of the time). 

However, you’ll still want to do your research ahead of time. On this blog, I’ve written another guide on things you should know before visiting Portugal that you might find worthwhile, as you plan your vacation to Portugal.

Let’s get started!

4 days in portugal holiday in lisbon

Arriving in Portugal

You’ll likely arrive in Portugal at Lisbon Portela Airport, which is the international hub and Portugal’s largest airport. You’ll need to go through passport control, so make sure you schedule your activities for later in the day.

Upon your arrival, you will also need to ensure that your credit and debit cards are “unblocked.” Go to the ATM machine to receive your Euros. Not all places accept credit cards in Portugal.

I personally think ATM machines have the best rates. You’ll receive a much better value than the exchange booths that you’ll see in the airport. 

Lisbon’s metro extends to its international airport. Using the metro is the cheapest option for going to the city center. The “Aeroporto – Saldanha’ line” will successfully get you downtown in twenty minutes!

As always, keep a close eye on your belongings. Although Lisbon (and Portugal!) is perfectly safe, you don’t want to be an easy target for pickpockets. I personally recommend a Pacsafe ani-theft shoulder bag for peace of mind.

If you want to splurge on a cab, go for it, but you should know the price ahead of time and actually read the meter. I’ve heard some stories about cabs cheating tourists out of their money. 

4 days in portugal is plenty of time

Getting Around Portugal

With 4 days in Portugal, you need to be mindful of your time.

In this brief itinerary, I recommend splitting your time between Lisbon and Porto, which are the country’s two largest cities. 

Train is the best way to see Portugal, at least when it comes to following this itinerary. Comboios de Portugal provides efficient train service throughout the country. The trains are also comfortable and clean.

If you’re visiting in the busy season, then I personally recommend buying your ticket between Lisbon and Porto ahead of time. 

However, keep in mind that strikes can and do happen in Portugal, which might affect train service. Always check with your accommodation to ensure that trains are running on a regular schedule. You don’t want to get stuck! 

In Lisbon and Porto, the metro services provide the best transportation for seeing sights around the cities. Validate your tickets ahead of time at the machines. 

seeing porto with four days in portugal
Got 4 days in Portugal? See Porto!

What to Pack for 4 Days in Portugal

I could dedicate an entire post on what to pack in Portugal, but in the meantime, I’ll give you a shortened version of the essentials for your short trip.

  • Sunblock, sunblock, sunblock. Don’t make my mistake in Portugal. I looked like a lobster. Bring some travel sized sunblock with you, because that sun is strong. 
  • Comfortable shoes. Lisbon and Porto are notorious for their cobblestone streets. Wear comfortable flat shoes so your feet don’t hate you at the end of your 4 days in Portugal.
  • Lonely Planet Portugal Guidebook. In my opinion, LP writes the best guidebooks. Bring a guidebook on Portugal to see the country’s best attractions, eat at the best restaurants, and more. 
  • A great camera. In addition to your camera phone, Sony’s A6400 is the perfect lightweight mirrorless camera to take on your adventures to Portugal.
  • Travel Insurance. Don’t leave for Portugal without travel insurance. You don’t want to pay huge out of pocket costs for illness or cancellations. I always use World Nomads on my trips and never had any problems. 

Last but not least, for travelers packing light, I would invest in a lovely carry-on suitcase. My favorite suitcase is the TUMI hardbody international carry-on. I love the wheels. Plus investing in a well-made piece of luggage is worth the higher price.

4 Days in Portugal: A Detailed Guide

Day 1: Arrival in Lisbon

Yay, you’ve made it to Portugal!

After dropping off you bags at your accommodation, you’ll want to spend today exploring everything Lisbon has to offer. 

Lisbon is super compact and easy to get around even though it’s Portugal’s capital city. The tourist infrastructure is great, and most people speak English very well. 

For a day in Lisbon, I would recommend exploring the most popular neighborhoods. The Alfama is the oldest neighborhood in Lisbon, and gives you a taste of what the city looked like before the earthquake in 1755. Get lost in this area. You’ll find great shops and eateries everywhere. 

I also highly suggest a visit to Belém. Take the Number 15 Tram to reach Belém. Don’t miss exploring the highly ornate Jerónimos Monastery or snapping pictures of 16th-century Tower of Belém and the sail-shaped Discoveries Monument. Lastly, sample some delicious Pastéis de Belém.

Take a guided walking tour to learn all about Lisbon’s rich history. You’ll cover plenty of ground on a limited amount of time.

see alfama with 4 days in portugal

Where to Stay

You will need two nights accommodation in Lisbon. Luckily for you, you have plenty of options! Not to mention, Lisbon has some of the greatest hostels in the world, making Portugal ideal for solo travelers

For hostels, I recommend Home Lisbon Hostel. This is such a friendly hostel that makes you feel like you’re in the comfort of your own home. Plus, Mama cooks the best affordable Portuguese meals! So good! You won’t regret staying here. 

However, Lisbon also has several wonderful boutique hotels for travelers who don’t want to stay in a hostel. Hotel Britania Art Deco and Heritage Avenida Liberdale both offer exceptional experiences for visitors who want to pamper themselves on their 4 day trip to Portugal. 

go to sintra with

Day 2: A Day Trip to Sintra from Lisbon

Okay, even though you only have 4 days in Portugal, you cannot skip taking a day trip to Sintra.

This small town, with its dreamy greenscapes and hills, is the most popular day trip to take from Lisbon. 

In Sintra, you’ll see three marvelous castles: Pena Palace, Quinta da Regaleira, and Castelo dos Mouros. Each castle is unique and open to visitors. However, I would recommend seeing one castle in detail rather than run yourself ragged trying to see all of them. 

You can reach Sintra by train, or if you’re concerned about time, you can book yourself on a guided day tour of Sintra and see as much as feasibly possible! 

When you return to Lisbon, I recommend experiencing the nightlife in the Bairro Alto. This area is home to many unique and trendy bars.

If you’re not into nightlife, never fear! You can still enjoy this area in the late afternoon and see its popular attractions, such as Bica Funicular and São Roque Church.

4 days in portugal where to go: porto

Day 3: Arrival in Porto

In the morning, take the 2 hour high speed train to Portugal’s great second city: Porto in the north. 

Porto has a different, more serious vibe than Lisbon, but I still loved my time here.

My favorite thing to do in Porto is to chill out with a glass of port near the river. Porto’s riverfront or Cais da Ribeira is the perfect place to do some people-watching, especially considering the area’s popularity with tourists. You’ll also enjoy some spectacular views near the Ponte de Dom Luis I, which is Porto’s iconic bridge. 

Furthermore, Porto is well known for its stunning blue tiles, which you can see in the pretty São Bento Railway Station. Find a small gift shop to take a piece of tile home with you.

Last but not least, make sure to grab a meal in the historical Bolhão Market. Sample all the delicious treats! Just don’t count calories. You can diet when you get home, haha.

gazing across the river in porto

Where to Stay

Like Lisbon, you’ll need two nights accommodation in Porto. 

I personally recommend that you stay at Gallery Hostel. I seriously love this place. Why? Because this accommodation is considered a “luxury” hostel, which is perfect for meeting people and still having the comforts of home. 

Again, for those of you seeking a fancy visit, check out some of Porto’s boutique hotels. PortoBay Teatro and Infante Sagres are wonderful options for your trip. 

visiting porto in portugal

Day 4: Porto, Departure 

It’s your last day in Porto. I know, I know. Time has quickly disappeared. 

Take whatever flight works best for your schedule. However, if you’re flexible, then I’d recommend taking an evening flight if possible, because you’d be able to squeeze in another attraction that’s located in northern Portugal. 

By leaving late, you can make some time to visit the nearby Douro Valley, which is known for its exquisite wines. To save time, I recommend taking a Douro Valley Wine Tour that includes visiting three vineyards, as well as lunch. The cultural landscape of Douro Valley makes it a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

You’ll likely depart Porto from Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport, which is located 11 km. out of town. 

in portugal see castles

Final Words on 4 Days in Portugal

I hope you guys enjoyed reading my itinerary for a short vacation to Portugal.

Of course, as you travel, keep in mind that it’s impossible to see everything with only 4 days in Portugal. I know I end up with a broken heart whenever I try to “see it all.”

You’ll need to pace yourself, and accept that you’ll have to make a return trip in the future (and is that really so bad?).

For those you thinking that this itinerary is too fast for you, absolutely feel free to adjust my advice to suit your personal needs. I know that every traveler is different. 

In particular, if you’re a slower traveler, then I’d honestly suggest basing yourself in either Lisbon or Porto, and seeing all the attractions and day trips in the city of your choice. 

Have a great time in Portugal!

palm trees in lisbon portugal
Enjoy your 4 days in Portugal!

Have you ever gone to Portugal? What are your top suggestions for spending 4 days in Portugal? Share all your thoughts in the comments!

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