Railroad Trip PORTUGAL

On my railroad trip through Portugal, I’ll show you that travelling the country by train is easy-peasy, cheap, and fun.

Houses in Porto, first stop in PORTUGAL - complete guide to a railroad-trip
Picturesque Portugal: The beauty of everyday life.

Let me guide you from mesmerizing Porto all the way to Lisbon – with some amazing whistle stops in between.

Do you hear the whistle blow? Quick – jump on the train and let’s go!

On Portugal

I must say that for decades, I haven’t been really interested in Portugal. I always thought it was a smaller, poorer version of Spain; yes, that was very ignorant and I’m only admitting this to you, so pssst!

Twice I had to spend a day on a long haul flight – that’s how I wrote the 24 hours in Lisbon-guide for my 24 hours in…-series – and found it pretty charming.

On my recent railroad trip, I became one of the country’s biggest fans under the Portuguese sun.

Lovely cobblestone alleys and impressive architecture. Traditional Azulejos and cool’n’contemporary art. Hearty sardines and sweet’n’creamy natas.

All this took me by storm – and I’ll be back as soon as I can to experience more of this small yet so varied country on the Iberian Peninsula.

A Little Bit of Portugal’s History

Portugal Getting Big

This country, that is home to only a bit over 10 million people, had – like Spain – its gilded conquerer and colonial age in the 15th and 16th century.

The Padrão dos Descobrimentos in Belém is a reminder of these ages of ‘discoveries’ – which of course is a euphemism. Just like the Spaniards – and later the British and the French – they travelled to other continents, abused and exploited the inhabitants or – like in Africa – robbed and enslaved them; yeah, and once they were on it, they also discovered…whatever.

Actually, that’s how the atoll of Cape Verde got inhabited: The islands – notably Ribeira Grande on the main island Santiago – functioned as a cruel stopover where the kidnapped Africans were “trained“. Obviously, this means that those poor people were broken to become compliant slaves. Eventually, they were shipped to the New World.

Padrao dos Descobrimentos in Belem in PORTUGAL - complete guide to a railroad-trip
The Padrao dos Descobrimentos remembers the explorers that conquered countries around the globe. Obviously, it does not remember the blood that was shed.

Anyway, there can still be found traces of Portugal’s glorious times around the planet. Apart from Australia, there are Portuguese-speaking countries on every continent which is a heritage from those colonial times.

On the other hand, obviously, a major part of Portugal’s present beauty stems from that wealthy era.

Portugal Getting Small

But the times, they were a-changing. After becoming an annex of Spain, in the final phase of the Portuguese monarchy, the country suffered from big poverty. Portuguese people had an extremely low education – 80 percent of them were illiterate. Finally, the economic problems led to national bankruptcy in 1891.

In 1910, Portugal became a republic, but sadly the former minister of finance, António de Oliveira Salazar, created what he called the Estado Novo in 1933, the New State. It was a dictatorial regime akin to fascism that lasted till the Carnation Revolution in 1974.

After some tough years, currently, Portugal’s economy is doing pleasantly well.

On Railroad Trips

I’m very much into road trips. Since I’m not driving, I’m depending on trains. Well, sometimes I take buses.  When there are no trains. Or when taking a bus is far cheaper.

For my week in Portugal, I had chosen a railroad trip.

Going by bus is nice, too, but there are certain disadvantages to it. Like I’m writing on a fast train from Lisbon to Porto right now – I could not do that on a bus. I couldn’t even read a book or flip through a magazine: I tend to get unpleasantly motion sick when reading or writing on a bus.

So for me, preferably trains.

Eating on the Railroad

I think what I love most about travelling by train is the food. No, of course not the food they are more or less serving on the train, that’s mostly gross.
No, I’m preparing my own gourmet food.
No, not on the train, the evening before I leave.

I’m making these enormous sandwiches that put every Louisiana Po’Boy to shame. A piece of artisan bread, smeared with some deli mayonnaise, topped with layers and layers of French ham and Swiss cheese, a couple of apple slices Sounds weird? It’s super-yummy and gives the sandwich a fresh crunch. It’s better when the apple is not too sweet and works also with pears; you’re welcome!, sprinkled with a fistful of chives.

Sorry for the smell, my fellow travellers, but it’s just too good.

A Portuguese Francezinha, a Portuguese sandwich
Talking ’bout sandwiches: This is a Francezinha, a Portuguese sandwich, filled with loads of meat and slices of Coldcut, covered with melted cheese and soaked in gravy. Ok, even my hyper-travel-sandwiches cannot compete with that.

I hardly ever make such a rich sandwich when I eat at home.
It’s a travel or at least an outdoorsy sandwich.
Indoor food is healthier.

Relaxing on the Railroad

But there are more railroad trip amenities such as the leisure to read a nice book, to read the other passengers’ minds or not to read at all, but just watch earth passing by. It’s totally ok if you fall asleep from time to time since the monotone sound and movement rocks you to sleep.

It is so relaxing.

You see, while a road trip by car takes you across the same country and landscape, you can hardly enjoy any of the sketched activities or rather passivities – unless you’re keen to kill yourself and others on the road: I hope you are not eating or reading or working or falling asleep!

Yes, you can risk a short glance at the landscape around you, but just a really short one – and now: eyes back on the road!

Travelling Legends

I must admit that there are a couple of road trips by car that are quite sexy – like the legendary Thelma and Louise or classic Bonnie and Clyde.
At the same time, they tend to be more some sort of flight or escape, they have often something desperate and dangerous to them. They are rather races over the highway than meandering unhurriedly over rolling hills and through mellow valleys.

No wonder no car ever became a legend by a road trip – but think about the trains that make you all dreamy: The Trans-Siberian Express, the Orient Express, the Hirma Bingham – aaah, just mentioning their names takes you back in time when ladies used to travel in dresses and hats, taking all these chic travel accessories in leather trunks. Not light and handy, but definitely classy.

Practical Information 

Getting There

Obviously, since the country is located on the westernmost coast of Europe, you can travel to Portugal by train and even by long-distance bus – especially when you are coming from Spain or France.

However, most visitors come by plane so that it’s convenient that also many low-cost airlines are going to Portugal.

There are three international airports in Portugal: Porto in the north, Faro on the southern coast, and, of course, Lisbon.

Getting Around

Travelling by public transport like Comboios de Portugal, the national train company, was very reliable and pretty cheap, whereby I think that it would have been even cheaper buying tickets online.

Since I always had questions, I bought my pickets at the regular price which was totally fine. For instance, I paid about 25 €uros from Lisbon to Porto, travelling second class with an included seat reservation.

Obviously, you can do the same trips by bus. A very popular bus company is Rede Expressos with many convenient connections at reasonable prices.

PORTUGAL Northwest of Lisbon - complete guide to a railroad-trip
A view of the beautiful landscape of Portugal north-west of Lisbon.

Of course, there are also domestic flights for instance by Portugaglia Airlines, a subsidiary of the national airline TAP. However, since the distances are not that long and taking trains so very convenient, the high price is not worth it; at least that’s what I think.

As in most other European countries, the local and regional public transportation was great, too. There were buses, trams, and subways taking me everywhere I needed to go at a relatively cheap price.

Where to Sleep

Portugal is a relatively cheap European country and you get clean comfortable rooms at surprisingly reasonable prices.

Entrance to the Universal Boutique Hotel in Figueira da Foz, Portugal
Welcome to the Universal Boutique Hotel*, the oldest hotel of Figueira da Foz.

On my trip, I had booked the other accommodations through booking.com*.

Booking.com

Where to Eat

Given the fact that Portugal is a major tourist destination, restaurants and eateries, in general, are on the cheaper side.

The local cuisine is quite similar to Spanish food with lots of shellfish and fish – especially sardines.

Yes, there are, of course, the yummy natas, vanilla custard in a small basket of filo dough – just delish, especially with a good Galão, basically a Caffe latte, or a Bica, a strong expresso.

Portuguese Snacks
A selection of hearty snacks and a sweet dessert – accompanied by a typical Galão, Portuguese coffee with milk.

Nevertheless, I’m rather into hearty food. So I was delighted by the Bolinhos and Pastéis. These are potato-based deep-fried dumplings, typically with Bacalhau, codfish. But they come also with other ingredients like ham, cheese, or veggies.
The perfect snack – and available basically everywhere.

Money

Since 2001, 19 European countries paying with €uros, and Portugal is one of them. The exchange rate is 1 US$ = 0,92 EUR (April 2020), but you can check the conversion on this page.

Euro coins and bills as well as credit dards
Cash’n’Cards

Cards are accepted basically everywhere.

Language

Actually, I was impressed by how excellent many Portuguese speak English. However, it’s always nice to be able to say at least some pleasantries in the local language so you might want to pick up some words e. g. online with babbel.com. The first lesson, which already covers all the hellos and thank yous, is even free.

Map

This is the route I travelled

Places I Visited

The detailed information on each of my stops is found on these pages

Pinnable Pictures

If you choose to pin this post for later, please use one of these pictures:

Pinnable Picture on Post on PORTUGAL - the complete guide to a railroad-trip
PORTUGAL
Pinnable Picture on Post on PORTUGAL - the complete guide to a railroad-trip
PORTUGAL
Pinnable Picture on Post on PORTUGAL - the complete guide to a railroad-trip
PORTUGAL

* This is an affiliate link. If you book through this page, not only do you get the best deal, I also get a small commission that helps me run this blog. Thank you so much for supporting me!

Did You Enjoy This Post? Then You Might Like Also These:

48 Replies to “Railroad Trip PORTUGAL”

  1. I literally giggled when you admitted that you thought Portugal is just the poorer version of Spain, because I'm also guilty for exactly the same idea! 😛

    But my guess about the country is probably wrong by the time I started seeing pictures of Portugal, from Lisbon to Porto and Sintra. So far, I've only seen the pictures through some travel blogs that I come across but hopefully one day I'll also get a chance to take my step in the land of Vasco da Gama. 😛

    Fun facts though, did you know that despite the ups and downs of the Portuguese, they're actually the oldest country in Europe as in they've got exactly the same defined border since 1100s?! 😀

    1. Within minute so Portuguese soil, I became a huge fan. The architecture, the landscape, the food – it's insanely beautiful.

      I didn't know that they were Europe's oldest defined country, but come to think of it, it doesn't surprise me; all the others went back and forth and had to be unified at some point, that's true.

  2. Who needs wikipedia?!… great stuff, thanks for the insight. I'm a big fan of the Portuguese society and their current approach to a lot of social issues. Hopefully I'll get there someday.

    1. I hope so, too, Cheryl, because it's really great.
      Who needs Wikipedia? Haha, I do, sometimes, if I need a picture of something I wasn't able to photograph and want to be sure not to violate anybody's copyright 😉

  3. Isn't Portugal the new "it girl" of travel. I hope we can get there before the rest of the world catches up and it becomes too touristy.

    Traveling by train is so much fun. Watching the world rush by builds so much excitement for the destination. In ways that I think flight can not.

    Your tips are outstanding as always. No wonder you have so many dedicated blog followers.

    Thanks for sharing. Keep travel blogging. Adventure is better shared with friends!

    1. I thought the new 'it girl' was Iceland….
      However, Portugal was packed, and it was only June, so I imagine July and August must be crazy. I would definitely go as much off season as possible.
      That was the advantage of train travel, though: Not many tourist go by train.
      And thanks – again! – for your kind words.

  4. Portugal is high on my list of European countries to visit. It looks so lovely and packed with historic towns and cities. I'll definitely consider jumping on the train as rail journeys are a fantastic way to see the countryside.

    1. Going by train was great and relaxing: Always a couple of hours for just reading or writing or listen to music and watch the world – in this case the Portuguese part of the world – passing by. Ommmm….

  5. Portugal is high on my wish list. Thanks for providing detailed information about train route. I enjoy train ride and so I would prefer rail route here.

  6. Portugal is one of the popular destinations now in Europe. Great read to know all details about your Portugal trip. Cool to enjoy train ride in Europe. It definitely save a huge money.

  7. Very informative post. I don't want to refer anywhere else on my visit to Portugal. Thanks for sharing.

  8. i absolutely love that you give a history lesson here. I've never been to Europe at all but have always been so fascinated by how much history there is. everything is so old! I'm a big fan of history so it's cool to see a travel post with that tie-in!

  9. I've heard good things about Portugal and plan on visiting someday. These beautiful pictures make me more motivated to do so! Thanks!

  10. I’ve always wanted to visit this beautiful country! I absolutely love your gorgeous photographs! DaisyGirl

  11. Portugal is on my bucket list of places to visit! It's awesome that they have a great rail system over there. The landscape and the architecture looks beautiful. Hopefully I can get there some day! 🙂

  12. Sort of funny when you say that youdy earlier thought of Portugal as a smaller version of Spain although at times, we tend to be quick to judge. But even so, Portugal is pretty and I tend to prefer rail-road transport since it's not only cheap but fun!

  13. Portugal has been on my list for over a year now, but I am noticing that this year a lot of people are talking about it so it might soon go the Iceland way! I agree with you on how train travel can be so much fun. I would love to do a train trip like this one someday 🙂

  14. It's so nice to hear that traveling by train really changed your opinion of Portugal. It's on my list to visit maybe in 2019. Lisbon particularly looks so incredible!

  15. Great photos and updates about Portugal especially about their economic status. What about the foods? also like tapas? 😉 Were you in the city?

    1. No, not really Tapas. Actually, I liked Portuguese food – their way of preparing things – better than Spanish.
      Which city do you mean?

  16. I have never been to Portugal. I would love to one day its on my bucket list. Your pictures are amazing and it gives me a motivation to visit portugal a bit sooner

  17. After hearing stories from friends about Portugal and now I'm reading this I'm more than convinced to visit the country. Your photos do the justice. You captured beautifully the beauty of Portugal.

  18. What great advice! I love Portugal, we have had some amazing holidays there although not for a long while now. I need to go back!

  19. Another place in my travel bucket list that I have yet to visit! It sure would be interesting to travel to all those places by train. I would really enjoy the views and the laid back, stress free way to travel to Portugal's beautiful cities.

  20. Portugal is high on our bucket list and this post will be super helpful to us and everyone else while planning the trip. Indeed, your pictures have intrigued us to visit the place soon.

  21. I'm so glad you enjoyed Portugal! I have fond memories of it as a child, especially the older towns. I like the idea of a train tour though. Interesting.

  22. I liked the usage of the word Euphemism here 🙂 They were in Goa too!
    I did a 5 day tour of Portugal doing some of the whistle stops like yours. Lisbon is wonderful city to tour. I would love to go back.

  23. I've always heard how easy it is to get around by train in Portugal, but we've never tried it. We have friends who are retiring in Lisbon, so it may be a good opportunity for us to visit.

  24. We have been only to Lisbon and Sintra in Portugal. For us Lisbon is quaint and charming. We stayed in old quarters and fell in love with the neighborhood. We did a day trip to Sintra by train and yes it was very convenient and comfortable. Cant wait to visit again and explore other cities.

  25. Thanks for a walk through at Portugal. We would love to travel as family if time and budget permits. As for now, Japan and. Singapore was next on our bucket list. We hope to include more countriea as well.

  26. I've ready so many great posts about Portugal and each time it moves up my list. Exploring by train is so handy when traveling and its good to know you found using their system easy and budget-friendly.

  27. I always think of Portugal is the lesser know and less important tick stuck to Spain. I keep reading more and more articles about Portugal and every time I do, I really want to visit. The country looks like it has a rich culture that is all its own.

  28. Being from Goa, I've been somewhat influenced by the Portuguese culture that rubbed off on us colonials. The food, the language and even the architecture in Goa has Portuguese influences so I've always wanted to visit Portugal.

  29. Nice blog! It described a trip to Portugal, nicely. Though it lacked description about best things to do in Portugal still information about a rail trip is also necessary. Anyways, I found these blogs over the internet that described Portugal tourist attraction and there it was, ‘the best things to do in Portugal!’

  30. ….best things to do in Portugal…and that would be what? It is not possible to describe the best things to do in any country since they differ according to personality and interest. For others, surfing might be the best thing to do there – I'm not surfing, I'm into art, so I focus on that.

  31. Love reading posts about Portugal as I lived there for two years. You know, I never ever took a train journey though, and I love travelling by train. Have to say, I never liked the francesinha sandwich – it was always recommended for hangovers. I was definitely a pastel de nata girl!

  32. Your blog is so so informative. In fact I would plan for a trip to Portugal and follow your article. Earlier I read about Porto it was just too good. All details covered so nicely, hats off to you.

  33. Admiring the time and energy you put into your website and detailed information you present. It’s great to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same out of date rehashed material. Wonderful read! I’ve bookmarked your site and I’m including your RSS feeds to my Google account.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *