The top 6 food and drink holidays in Portugal
For more general advice on booking a holiday in Portugal, see our Portugal summer holiday guide. Our guide features expert recommendations for beach, villa, culture, food and drink and activityholidays.
1. A taste of Porto
For a thorough immersion in the food and wine of Portugal, Porto is an obvious starting point, famed as it is for its eponymous fortified wine. A good base while you’re in the city is Infante De Sagres, an elegant 73-room hotel located in the heart of the Unesco-listed old town.
The stunning neo-classical property is festooned with antiques, Persian carpets and crystal chandeliers, and its courtyard patio is an ideal spot for sampling some of Portugal’s aforementioned cuisine. Meanwhile, the D Filipa restaurant offers a selection of local and international fare. There’s also a cocktail bar, which is decorated with fine art.
2. Shellfish in the Ria Formosa
If you want to try your hand at digging for razor clams or finding cockles and mussels, try the warm waters of the Ria Formosa. Recently named one of the seven natural wonders of Portugal, the Ria Formosa Nature Reserve is made up of lagoons, marshes, saltpans, islets and channels on the south coast, all sheltered from the sea by a chain of sandy islands. Oysters are farmed here and cuttlefish and octopus can be found in abundance (as well as seahorses and chameleons).
To see the range of seafood available, visit the noisy, colourful fish market at nearby Olhão, a charming whitewashed town which has thrived on fishing since the middle ages. There’s also a visitor centre with aquarium and exhibitions, which is the starting point for a guided walk through the marshes and dunes. Sample local dishes at the town’s many restaurants.
3. Foodie Lisbon
Hot-spot Lisbon, quite literally given its balmy year-round weather, is seeing an explosion of gourmet food markets, new, Michelin-starred restaurants and cool eateries pulling in the crowds. Start at the domed 19th-century fish market, the Mercado do Ribeira for an overview, where the walls are lined with stalls from many of the top local chefs offering an accessible take on their signature dishes.
Dip into Bairro do Avillez for a taste of typical Portuguese cheeses and melt-in-the-mouth hams, and then climb up one of Lisbon’s seven hills to try the zingy fare at A Cevicheria
4. Experience with local Farmers
Forget work, deadlines and daily routine and enjoy your time off in the Portuguese rural habitat with Portugal Farm Experiences. While relaxing and tasting local food and wines, you will experience ancient traditions and cultures, taste genuine products and take part in their production process. If its production process is not concluded, you will receive it at home, ready to be shared with your family and friends and recall the good times spent in the nature in all Portugal!
5. A gastro tour of Alentejo
Unspoilt, empty plains, studded by the occasional dolmen and storks nesting on telegraph poles, chimneys and treetops, the Alentejo has Portugal richest culinary heritage. This is the land where black pigs graze on acorns, where the pennyroyal herb is king and partridges, wild asparagus and tiny song birds are on the menu at the corner café.
Little has changed over the centuries; the pace of life is slow making it a perfect region to explore by bike. Take in the superb Esporão winery and visit the wine museum in Unesco-listed town of Evora to understand the region’s riches.
Olive oil, hams, sausages and cheeses in endless shapes, sizes and from a variety of milks make this a fascinating journey. Go with local experts We Love Small Hotels who will set you off on a self-guided eight night bicycle tour, taking care of luggage transfers and putting you up in charmingly authentic hotels along the way.
6. Do the Douro
An hour and a half along a curvaceous road from Porto is the magnificent Douro Valley, where green vineyards roll steeply down to the wide river that cuts through it. Here, besides the Port, the non-fortified wine – of late some absolutely delicious whites which brim with the mineral content from the schist used to carve terrace in the steep banks – is getting better and better by the year.
A huge global surge in wine tourism has driven the port and wine houses that line the riverside to open museums, tasting tours and lodges in the valley to people who until recently did their tasting in Porto, allowing visitors a glimpse of the terroir.
Base yourself at the luxurious Six Senses Douro Valley, with its interactive wine library, its delicious slow-cooked, local produce and its sensational spa and explore the region by helicopter, private river cruise or along the N-222 which Avis classified as being the world’s best driving road.