Is Portugal Safe for Solo Female Travelers?

17 min readJun 2, 2023


Lisbon, Cascais, Sintra, Coimbra, and Porto. This guide is about tips on must-visit places and things to do in the top 5 best cities in Portugal.

You’re ready to plan your next vacation and wondering where to go? Look no further! Over the last few years, Portugal has soared to the top of many people’s travel bucket lists. The country has become a favorite for travelers around the globe, thanks to its pristine beaches, rich culture, warm weather, affordability, and, most importantly, breathtaking cities and landscapes. Despite its small size, Portugal packs a punch! Moreover, Portugal is one of the safest countries in Europe and the world, making it an excellent option for solo travelers.

With so much to offer, you won’t be disappointed no matter where you go in Portugal. However, in this guide, you will find information on five great places you can add to your itinerary!

View over the Douro River in Porto

General Information and Recommendations

Is Portugal safe for female travelers? Portugal is known to be a safe place for women who travel alone. It is considered one of the safest countries in Europe and the world, offering a friendly and welcoming atmosphere that makes it a great choice for solo female travelers.

What is the best month to travel to Portugal? The peak tourist season is from June to August. However, there are a number of festivals and activities that take place in May and June, making it a great time to visit. If you prefer to avoid the crowds, April, May, or September might be better options and are also good times to visit.

What is the best way to travel around Portugal? Traveling through Portugal is incredibly easy and inexpensive with their public transportation. The trains are also generally punctual, so do not hesitate to take advantage of the buses and trains!

What is Portugal famous for? When visiting Portugal, you definitely need to see a fado performance! This style of music is unique to Portugal and is an important part of the culture.

What is Portugal’s main food? There are so many Portuguese foods you should try while you are visiting! For something savory, try caldo verde (a kale soup) or bacalhau (codfish). If you have a sweet tooth, try the famous pastéis de nata (custard tarts) or pão de Deus (the bread of God).

5 Best Cities in Portugal to Add to Your Travel Itinerary

1. Lisbon

View of the Ponte 25 de Abril and the Tejo River

How many days do you need in Lisbon? : 2–3 days

As the capital of Portugal and the country’s largest city, Lisbon is a must-see for anyone visiting Portugal. Lisbon offers an exciting mix of old and new with its rich culture and thriving nightlife. Here, you can get your first taste of Portuguese culture and all it has to offer!

What Is Lisbon Famous For?:

✳️ Miradouro: Scattered throughout Lisbon are a number of miradouro, or viewpoints. These viewpoints offer visitors breathtaking scenes of Lisbon, and it is well worth it to stop at any of them!

  • Miradouro da Nossa Senhora do Monte, Portas do Sol, Miradouro do Recolnimento, and the Miradouro de Santa Luzia offer some of the nicest views of Lisbon.

✳️ Visit Lisbon’s oldest neighborhoods: Lisbon was hit with a pretty destructive earthquake in the 1700s, meaning much of this historic capital was forced to rebuild. Four neighborhoods, Almafa (the city’s oldest neighborhood), Mouraria, Madragoa, and Bairro Alto, survived the quake and are home to some of Lisbon’s most iconic streets and architecture.

The Padrão dos Descobrimentos in Belém.

✳️ Castelo de São Jorge (St. George Castle): The castle is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. Built in the 11th century, this castle has stood the test of time and offers visitors the chance to learn more about Portugal’s past. The castle also has incredible views over Lisbon.

✳️ Botanical Gardens: If you want a break from the hustle and bustle in the city, stop at the Botanical Gardens. The gardens also feature a butterfly greenhouse, the only one open to the public in Europe.

✳️ Praça do Comércio (Commerce Plaza): This expansive square located close to Baixa, the heart of Lisbon, offers a breathtaking view of the Tagus River.

✳️ Belém: A trip to Lisbon would not be complete without a stop in Belém.

  • While wandering through this area of Lisbon, check out the Torre de Belém, an iconic medieval tower, and the Padrão dos Descobrimentos, an impressive sculpture honoring Portugal’s seafaring past.
  • The Mosteiro dos Jerónimos is also located in Belém. This monastery showcases impressive 16th century architecture and is a wonder to behold both inside and out.
The Torre de Belém

Things to Do in Lisbon :

✳️ Pastéis de Belém: You’ve probably heard of pastéis de nata, Portugal’s famous custard tarts, but did you know they originated in Belém? Stop by the bakery “Pastéis de Belém” after stopping at the monastery to try some of the best pastries in Lisbon!

✳️ Seafood: Being right on the coast, Lisbon is famous for its seafood! Be sure to try some if you get the chance!

  • Tip: When you go out to eat, any bread, olives, etc. placed on a table are not free! They usually are not that expensive, but do not touch them if you do not want to pay any extra.
Portugal’s world famous pastéis de natas.

✳️ Photo spots: Whether you are looking for some great locations for Instagram or just want to appreciate the beauty of Lisbon, these locations fit the bill!

-Stopping at any of the miradouro will give you Instagram-worthy pictures!

-Head to the Ponte 25 de Abril (The 25th of April Bridge) to take some pictures at the iconic bridge reminiscent of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco (added bonus: you’ll get some great pics along the river too!).‍

✳️ Best Tips:

You will hear me repeat this throughout most of the guide, but Lisbon is best explored on foot! You will find beautiful side streets and charming locations just walking through the city. Lisbon is hilly, so be sure to wear good walking shoes! If you cannot walk the long distances, take one of the city’s historic trams.

2. Cascais

Praia de Santa Marta and the Santa Marta Lighthouse

How many days do you need in Cascais : 1–2 days

Located about 30 minutes outside of Lisbon by train, Cascais is the perfect day trip for anyone staying in Lisbon. This former playground for Portuguese royals is famous for its pristine beaches. While it is the perfect destination for anyone ready to enjoy a day at the beach, it also boasts a charming city center, incredible architecture, and some impressive nature. Like Lisbon, you can enjoy plenty of good food here as well, in particular seafood.

What Is Cascais Famous For:

✳️ Catch some rays! Cascais has a number of beaches to pick from, but these are my personal favorites.

  • Praia da Ribeira (Riviera Beach): this beach is likely the most visited beach in Cascais, as it is located right off the city center. It is a large, but often crowded beach. With impressive views and its central location, this beach is great for someone who does not want to venture too far away from the city center. There are also a wide variety of water sports available at this beach, including sailing, windsurfing, and paddleboarding.
  • If you want to go surfing, check out Guincho Beach.
  • Praia da Rainha: A favorite of a former Portuguese queen, Praia da Rainha (The Queen’s Beach), is a stunning beach in the heart of Cascais. It is quite small, but one of the nicest in the city! This beach can also be crowded, but is a one to visit, nonetheless.
  • Praia de Santa Marta (Saint Marta Beach): With its breathtaking views of both the ocean and the Santa Marta Lighthouse, Praia de Santa Marta won my heart as the best beach in Cascais. This beach is also quite calm and relaxed in comparison to the previous beaches, making it an ideal spot to pause, appreciate nature’s beauty, and enjoy the moment.
Boca do Inferno

✳️ Visit Boca do Inferno (The Mouth of Hell): Despite its name, Boca do Inferno offers some of the best natural landscapes in Cascais. While it is accessible by bike, e-scooter, and bus, I would recommend walking along the coastline to take in the impressive cliffs located along the way.

✳️ Stroll through downtown Cascais: Cascais’ city center is a feast for the eyes with its stunning architecture and design. You’ll also see some cool street art hidden along the way. There are plenty of cute shops for anyone looking to do a little shopping!

Things to Do in Cascais :

For those with a sweet tooth, try nozes and areias, which are sweet treats local to Cascais.

Rua Frederico Arouca

✳️ Photo spots:

- Praia de Santa Marta

- Santa Marta Lighthouse

- Boca do Inferno

- Rua Frederico Arouca, one of the main shopping streets

Praia da Rainha

3. Sintra

Palácio de Pena

How many days do you need in Sintra?: 1–2 days

Sintra, with its microclimate, is usually slightly cooler than its neighbor, Lisbon, which made it the ideal getaway for wealthy royals in the past trying to escape the heat. While there are no longer royals vacationing here, they left their mark on Sintra. Boasting several palaces, charming architecture, and quaint markets, Sintra is a must-see! The city is only 40 minutes outside of Lisbon by train, making it the perfect day trip, although I would recommend spending two days here!

What Is Sintra Famous For?:

✳️ Palaces: As a former getaway for the royals and other members of the upper class, Sintra is home to a number of palaces.

  • Palácio de Pena (Pena Palace): This is the most iconic palace in Sintra, with its bold and bright exterior. As one of the “Seven Wonders of Portugal”, it is well worth a visit to this beautiful palace. It is possible to visit the grounds and tour the castle. As an added bonus, if the weather is good, you will also have stunning views of both Sintra and Lisbon in the distance.
  • Quinta da Regaleira: This is another iconic palace located close to the city center. This slightly newer palace is unique due to its architecture and expansive property, featuring exquisite gardens.
  • Sintra National Palace: The oldest palace in Sintra is the National Palace. Built around the 11th century, this palace has seen its fair share of Portuguese royals, and even has connections to the time when Sintra was under Islamic rule. Today, it is a museum that is open to the public.
Palácio de Pena

✳️ Downtown Sintra: Downtown Sintra looks like something straight out of a postcard, with its beautiful architecture, colorful streets, and impressive views. Stop at Casa Piriquita for some delicious pastries to enjoy while wandering through the small streets that Portugal is famous for.

✳️ Cabo da Roca (Cape Roca): If you have access to a car, the Western-most point in Europe is also worth a visit!

✳️ Visit the markets: You can find all kinds of treasures at the markets in Sintra, including fresh baked goods, delicious produce, and beautiful Portuguese pottery. My personal favorite is the São Pedro market, which takes place on the 2nd and 4th Sundays of the month. Try the fresh breads made in a stone oven right at the market!

Cabo da Roca

Things to Do in Sintra:

✳️ Basically anything at the markets! I am serious when I say you cannot go wrong with Portuguese baked goods and pastries!

✳️ Queijadas: These sweet treats originate from Sintra! Buy some at the market or visit one of the many fábrica das queijadas located in Sintra. My recommendation, though, is to visit Casa Piriquita, located directly in the city center.

✳️ Travesseiros: literally translated as “pillow”, this pastry also originates from Sintra. You can try the original at Casa Piriquita!

✳️ As in Cascais and Lisbon, you can get very good seafood in Sintra.

✳️ For delicious foods and cakes, try Café da Natalia! You won’t be disappointed!

Downtown Sintra

✳️ Photo spots:

- Rua Padarias: This is a cute street right in the city center.

- Praça da República (Square of the Republic): This central square offers an incredible view over Sintra and the Sintra National Palace.

4. Coimbra

A view of Coimbra from the Ponte de Santa Clara bridge

How many days do you need in Coimbra? : 2 days

Portugal’s fourth largest city may not be one you have heard of before, but it should certainly be on your itinerary when visiting Portugal! What sets Coimbra apart from other Portuguese cities is its rich, old-world feel and a special charm that stems from its mix of stunning architecture, steep winding streets, and the thriving student population attending Portugal’s oldest university. Coimbra truly encapsulates the best of what Portugal has to offer!

What Is Coimbra Famous For?:

✳️ The University of Coimbra: The university is both literally and figuratively at the heart of Coimbra. It plays a pivotal role in the culture of the city, but also has some incredible buildings spread out throughout the city you should visit.

  • Biblioteca Joanina (Joanina Library): The university library is likely the most iconic building you can tour in the university. While you do have to purchase a ticket to view, your ticket gives you access to other portions of the university and free admission to two other museums in Coimbra.
  • Capela de São Miguel (Saint Miguel Chapel): This small church located next to the library is also worth a visit and can be viewed with your ticket to the library.
  • The Botanical Gardens: These lush gardens offer a calm respite from the city and feature a number of sections inspired by other countries and cultures.
Coimbra’s botanical gardens

✳️ Churches: Coimbra is home to several magnificent churches worth visiting while wandering through the city.

  • Igreja de Santa Cruz (Santa Cruz Church): This church is the final resting place for several Portuguese monarchs and is beautiful!
  • Sé Velha: The old cathedral is a a nearly 900-year old church with stunning architectural features and a beautiful cloister.
  • Sé Nova: This far newer cathedral is a former Jesuit church built prior to the expulsion of the Jesuits from Portugal.

✳️ Ruins of the Mosteiro de Santa Clara-A-Velha (The Old Saint Clara Monastery): This former monastery was relocated following flooding from the Mondego River. Today, the ruins remain and can be visited.

  • You can also visit the monastery that was built to replace this! The Mosteiro de Santa Clara-a-Nova is located a short walk away from the ruins.

✳️ City Center: Coimbra is full of picturesque winding roads and small lanes. It is worthwhile to get lost in these small streets. You’ll find small archways, like the Torre de Almedina, student dorms (repúblicas), and medieval houses along the way.

One of Coimbra’s side streets: Rua do Arco Almedina

Things to Do in Coimbra :

✳️ More pastries! Two famous pastries from Coimbra and the surrounding area are Pastel de Tentugal and Pastel de Santa Clara. You can try them at the bakeries on Rua Ferreira Borges, the main shopping street in Coimbra.

✳️ Attend a fado performance: Coimbra is home to a unique form of fado that differs from other styles heard across the country. Get a taste of fado by attending a small concert! You can go to Fado ao Centro, which is a venue designed for tourists to learn more about fado while enjoying a musical performance, or you can go to a number of bars and restaurants to hear live performances with locals.

Fado performance at Fado ao Centro

✳️ Photo spots:

- Bridges spanning the Mondego River: Crossing the bridge and wandering along the river gives you not only spectacular views of the city and the water, it also gives you the chance to see the ruins of the Santa Clara Monastery and explore another part of the city.

- Largo da Portagem (Portagem Square) and Rua Ferreira Borges: The square is surrounded by stunning architecture and leads to the stunning main shopping street.

- Botanical Gardens

- Paço das Escolas: This is the main square at the heart of the university. The Biblioteca Joanina is located here, so take some time before your tour to take in the views over the river.

Rua Ferreira Borges at night

✳️ Best Tips:

- The city is best discovered on foot, but it is incredibly hilly. Wear good walking shoes when you visit!

- The city is located between Lisbon and Porto, which makes it a great stop for anyone traveling between the two cities.‍

5. Porto

View of the Douro River from Vila Nova de Gaia

How many days do you need in Porto: 2–3 days

Saving the best for last? While Porto may be the last city featured on this list, it is one of the best places to visit while traveling through Portugal. The city is a true gem, with its incomparable views of the Douro River, buildings covered in azulejos (those blue tiles Portugal is famous for), and delicious port wine you can enjoy throughout the city.

What is Porto famous for?:

Inside Livraria Lello

✳️ Azulejos: Porto is full of the stunning blue and white tiles that Portugal is famous for! You will find them on and inside buildings as you wander through the city, but there are several places famous for their azulejos.

  • São Bento Train Station: This train station in central Porto has a main hall full of azulejos. The design is stunning, and you should stop by even if you aren’t planning on taking a train ride.
  • Igreja do Carmo (Carmo Church): The façade of this church is covered in azulejos, making it one of the most beautiful churches in the city. It’s worthwhile going inside, as the interior is just as beautiful as the exterior!
  • Chapel of Souls: Located on the main shopping street, Rua de Santa Catarina, has a façade made entirely out of azulejos. When you walk down Rua de Santa Catarina, be sure to stop and take in this absolute masterpiece.
  • Igreja Paroquial de Santo Ildefonso (Church of Saint Ildefonso): This church is another work of art constructed out of azulejos. It’s also worth popping in to see the interior of the church.
  • Extra tip: If you want to add another church to your list, check out the Sé! The cathedral is one of the most important churches in Porto.
Igreja do Carmo

‍✳️ Livraria Lello (Lello Bookshop): Livraria Lello is one of the oldest bookstores in Portugal and is often cited as one of the most popular bookstores in the world. It features Art Nouveau and Art Deco elements, as well as an iconic red staircase, which make this bookstore so unique. It does cost 5€ to enter, but if you purchase a book, your entry fee functions as a discount on the book.

  • Tip: Buy your ticket in advance to shorten your wait time! You can book it the same day without any issue.

✳️ Serralves: If you are into art, this museum is the perfect place to stop! It features various modern art exhibitions, which change regularly, as well as permanent pieces in the museum’s gardens.

✳️ Mercado de Bolhão (Bolhão Market): Although the traditional market hall in Porto is currently being renovated, you can visit the temporary market hall to try all kinds of local foods and yummy produce!

  • My tip: check out the bakery and try broa de mel (honey bread)!

✳️Take a ride on a traditional street car: While this is very touristy, it is still a fun experience. There is also a street car that runs along the Douro River, so I recommend taking that one for the best views!‍

Things to Do in Porto

✳️ Port Wine: Port Wine originates from Porto, so you will be able to enjoy this delicious dessert wine throughout the city. If you want to learn more about how the wine is produced, there are a large number of wine cellars you can visit along the Douro River. Many include a wine sampling at the end of your tour. Otherwise, you can enjoy the wine after a meal at many restaurants! Just be careful: port wine has an alcohol content of about 20%!

✳️ Francesinha: This sandwich is a classic in Porto! It is very filling, so you may want to have it for lunch and take a long digestive stroll afterwards. For a vegan version, try the Lupin Snack Bar!

  • If you are looking for a cool vegan place to try in Porto, I also recommend visiting the cat café O Porto dos Gatos!‍
View of the Douro River along the Ribeira

✳️ Photo spots:

- Rua de Arnaldo Gama: This small street, close to the Estatua de Arndaldo Gama, offers a stunning view of the river and the bridges in Porto. You can also take the staircase down to the river!

-Rua das Flores: The “Flower Street” is as pretty as its name! Wander down here for some gorgeous views and beautiful architecture.

-Jadrim do Morro (Morro Garden): Although you have to cross the Luis I Bridge and go to Vila Nova de Gaia, the gardens offer the most iconic views of Porto.

  • The bridge itself is also a great place for photos!

-The Gardens of the Palácio de Cristal (The Crystal Palace): Not only are the gardens themselves stunning, but you will also have beautiful views of Porto and the Douro River.

-Ribeira (Riviera): Walk along the edge of the Douro for fantastic views of the river and the city!

A side street off of the Rua das Flores

✳️ Best Tips:

-Although Porto is very hilly, it is very walkable. The best way to explore Porto and really take in its vibe, unique architecture, street art, etc. is to go on foot! You will find so many unique side streets, cool restaurants, and other hidden gems this way!

-Going in May or June is ideal, as the weather is nice. You will also see tuna (not fish!) performing in the streets, which is a unique part of Portuguese student culture. These musical groups feature students wearing traditional garb, performing traditional Portuguese songs, and serenading crowds with beautiful love songs (and who knows, you may be chosen to be serenaded to!).

  • Portugal’s biggest festival (São João Festival) also takes place in Porto at the end of June, so you will see the city decorated in preparation for the event or even get to experience it yourself if you plan properly!

So, are you ready to book your ticket to Portugal yet? Hopefully this guide has given you a taste of what to expect on a trip to Portugal and provides you with a good starting point for planning your own journey! While every city in this guide is incredible, it truly just scratches the surface of all that Portugal has to offer. No matter where you decide to go in Portugal, you will have a wonderful time and get to experience the country’s rich culture and beauty that it is famous for. Also, if you are looking for a travel buddy for your trip, you can find a companion by download the NomadHer app now! Boa viagem e divirta-se!

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👩 Katie Bathgate, the NomadHer article contributor, is currently living in Germany to pursue her master’s degree. Living in Europe means traveling is pretty easy, and it has only fueled her wanderlust! When she’s not studying, she’s dreaming about her next trip, reading, baking, or learning new languages. She’s excited to engage with the NomadHer community in a new way and looks forward to connecting with more female solo travelers.




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