The charm of Portugal goes far beyond the pleasant weather, relaxed atmosphere and plentiful beaches – the country is also home to wondrous architecture, exquisite cuisine, fine wine and welcoming people.

Portugal welcomes about 28 million tourists a year, with most of them visiting its historic cities or enjoying an authentic sand-between-your-toes holiday on its many pristine beaches. Of course, there are also travellers who come to golf, surf, attend festivals, sip wine in a lush vineyard, or experience one of its heritage railways, as Portugal does offer varied experiences.

PTG also offers a wide range of escorted rail tours through Portugal’s fascinating landscapes, with each and every tour designed by a seasoned manager who knows the country inside out. With PTG, you really do get to enjoy the best cultural sights and most beautiful scenery Portugal is famous for.

portugal railway holidays

Portugal at a glance

Capital: Lisbon
Language: Portuguese
Money: Euro
Travel advice:

Most restaurants do not add a service charge so it is customary to tip 10% if you are happy with the service. In bars and cafés, customers usually round the bill up to the nearest euro.

  • New Year’s Day – January 1
  • Good Friday – date varies
  • Easter Sunday – date varies
  • Freedom Day – April 25
  • Labour Day – May 1
  • Corpus Christi – date varies
  • Portugal Day – June 10
  • Assumption – August 15
  • Republic Day – October 5
  • All Saints’ Day – November 1
  • Restoration of Independence – December 1
  • Immaculate Conception – December 8
  • Christmas – December 25
  • Olá (hello)
  • Good morning (bom dia)
  • Como você está? (how are you?)
  • Como se diz isto em Português? (What is this called in Portuguese?)
  • Thank you (obrigada)

Exploring Portugal by rail

The richness from the past

Once upon a time, Portugal was the most powerful country in Europe with a vast overseas empire, thanks to its navigational prowess. The country had already established trading posts in Morocco, India, Malaysia and Indonesia by the early 1500s, controlling sea trade that made Portugal rich beyond one’s wildest dream. The Portuguese Crown used some of the money to build a string of monuments, including the Monastery of the Hieronymites and the Tower of Belém in Lisbon.

Catherine of Braganza and tea

In 1662, when Catherine of Braganza moved to England to marry King Charles II, Portugal had occupied Macau for over 100 years. Accordingly, the Portuguese nobility was familiar with tea, among other oriental herbs and spices. England, on the other hand, had no direct trade with China and regarded tea as a novel item sold by a few Dutch traders. When Catherine became Queen, she soon found her tea drinking experience being copied by ladies in the royal court. Over time, the experience – with infused tea leaves served in tiny porcelain teacups and saucers – was spreading to other classes of the society and becoming a beloved national affair.

Along the coast in Portugal, seafood is a regular staple especially bacalhau (dried and salted cod), which is prepared in a variety of ways – it is very common to hear the locals say that they have a different way to cook bacalhau each day without repeating the recipe for a year. If you aren’t a fan of seafood, pork, beef and chicken are widely available, along with vegetarian and vegan options.

Portugal’s most famous tipple is undoubtedly port, a sweet, fortified wine from the Douro region. But the largest wine-producing region is Vinho Verde, which runs from the northwest corner to the east of the Douro region. The most celebrated grape variety grown here is Alvarinho (Albariño in Spanish), capable of producing white wines that are delicious when young, but can also age well for ten years and beyond.

Influenced by the Atlantic Ocean, the climate in Portugal is considered temperate. You can expect cool and rainy weather in the north but as you move south towards the Algarve, the climate turns dry and sunny. Generally, the best time to visit Portugal is from May to September.

Porto, a coastal city in northwest Portugal, has a relatively mild climate throughout the year – July is the hottest month with an average high of 25°C, while January is the coolest month with an average low of 5°C. The city, however, does receive a fair amount of rain, especially from November to February.

Lisbon, in central and southern Portugal, enjoys warm summers as it sits on the estuary of the Tagus river and is sheltered from the cool ocean air. August is the hottest month with an average high of 28°C. The wettest months are from December to February.

The Algarve is the southernmost region of Portugal with a similar climate to Lisbon but with less rainfall. Tourists come in hordes to soak up the sun in July and August when the weather is dry and sunny.

For the hotter months: light cotton or linen clothing, sunglasses, a sun hat, walking shoes, and some warm layers for the cooler evenings.

For the colder months: warm clothes, a hat, a scarf, gloves and waterproofs.

Portugal’s first railway line was between Lisbon and Carregado, a small town some 26 miles away. The network then expanded to other parts of the country, including the Douro line and the Vouga line, the latter is the last surviving metre-gauge railway line in Portugal. 

  • The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel
  • The History of the Siege of Lisbon by José Saramago
  • Journey to Portugal: In Pursuit of Portugal’s History and Culture by José Saramago

Why choose PTG Tour’s escorted rail tours through Portugal

  • Established in 1998, PTG has evolved into a leading tour agency offering rail-based holidays with a focus on culture and heritage.
  • You can choose from a diverse product range, based on your preference and budget.
  • Your escorted rail tour comes with a professional tour leader who will take great care of you, plus local guides when applicable.
  • All hotels and restaurants included in your package are vetted and approved by the local teams.
  • You can travel in confidence as all of our tours are ATOL and ABTA protected.