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Mr. Harper's Travel Guide

Portugal is blessed with a diverse landscape and a sun-drenched coastline. The country is split by the Tagus River. The north is chiefly mountainous and indented by steep valleys, whereas the south is a land of rolling plains. Traditional Portuguese architecture is extremely distinctive, especially ...

Portugal is blessed with a diverse landscape and a sun-drenched coastline. The country is split by the Tagus River. The north is chiefly mountainous and indented by steep valleys, whereas the south is a land of rolling plains. Traditional Portuguese architecture is extremely distinctive, especially the highly ornamented Manueline style from the early 16th century. Fish is integral to the country’s cuisine, especially dry cod (bacalhau), grilled sardines and caldeirada, a potato-based fish stew. Wines have been produced in Portugal since the time of the Roman Empire. The country is renowned for its pousadas, a chain of lodgings in historic buildings. It also offers an ever-expanding number of golf courses.


Portugal has an agreeable climate, with mild winters and summers that are dry and warm but seldom oppressively hot. The Mediterranean Algarve region is the sunniest, driest and warmest part of the country.


Passport (valid for six months beyond end of stay and containing at least two unstamped pages). Visit, and for travelers’ health information,

bird icon Recommended Luxury Hotels in Portugal

All Andrew Harper-recommended hotels offer impeccable accommodations and high levels of personal service. Only the best of the best make our list, so we rate them on a scale from bird icon 90 to 100.

Best Restaurants in Portugal

Also owned by Avillez, this popular bistro specializes in hearty Portuguese comfort food, including appealing starters such as tartlets with partridge, bacon and chive; and chicken liver sautéed with onion and Port marmalade. The far-ranging main courses include lamb tagine with vegetable couscous and yogurt sauce, and giant red shrimp from the Algarve with Thai seasonings.

Rua dos Duques de Bragança 7 Lisbon US$55.

This popular seafood restaurant just across the street from the main market in the busy fishing port of Olhão offers huge portions of freshly caught shellfish and fish, and also has a pleasant sidewalk terrace for outdoor dining. Try the grilled octopus, monkfish skewers, grilled squid and John Dory. The service can be slow. Excellent value for the money.

Avenida 5 de Outubro 122 Olhão The Algarve

Located in the Bairro Alto, this lively restaurant draws a well-heeled crowd for the modern Portuguese dishes of Bosnian-born chef Ljubomir Stanisic. Stanisic creates tasting menus that change constantly, featuring dishes such as cuttlefish cappuccino; trout tartare with tapioca, tomato gazpacho and onion pickle; and European lobster with red mullet, caviar and foie gras.

Rua do Teixeira 35 Lisbon US$75. Tasting menu, US$65.

Diners here enjoy some of Lisbon’s finest seafood — as well as game — in a masculine atmosphere engendered by paneled walls, stained glass and dark leather chairs. You can always be sure of finding a wide selection of shellfish. Additionally, look for sea bass cooked in a tomato sauce with ham, onions and white wine; or turbot in a rich broth. Superb partridge and duck are served with rice in the local style.

Rua das Portas de Santo Antão 23 Lisbon US$95.

Located in the attractive little village of Mora, this simple restaurant is a fine place to discover the hearty country cooking of the Alentejo. It opened in 1954 and specializes in dishes such as partridge cooked with rice, grilled local pork with garlic sauce, and the delicious little almond cookies known as queijinho do céu de Mora.

Rua de Pavia 1 Mora The Alentejo

After a stint at Tavares, one of the oldest restaurants in Lisbon, brilliant young chef José Avillez moved to Belcanto. Avillez creates intricate dishes with mysterious names such as “A Horta da Galinha dos Ovos de Ouro” (“The Garden of the Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs”), a lovely starter of eggs with crunchy bread and mushrooms; or “Mergulho no Mar” (“Dip in the Sea”), which is a succulent composition of sea bass, seaweed and shellfish. Other dishes not to miss include the excellent suckling pig with fried potatoes, orange and salad. Closed Sunday and Monday.

Largo de São Carlos 10 Lisbon US$110. Menus, US$135-US$155.

Hidden in a side street in Evora, this pleasant, old-fashioned establishment with a vaulted white ceiling serves excellent and very reasonably priced Portuguese comfort food. Start with some melon and Chaves ham, then try the arroz de tamboril (rice with monkfish) or pork stewed with clams, before flan or homemade semolina cake for dessert. The wine list is small but well-chosen.

Rua Pedro Simões 9-A Evora The Alentejo

An 18th-century townhouse provides a luxurious setting for one of the city’s loveliest restaurants. Attention to detail and the freshest ingredients produce superlative dishes such as grouper in mussel broth with portobello mushroom, red pepper and spinach; and terrine of suckling pig with rösti potatoes, broad beans and tomato stew. Closed Sunday.

Travessa das Amoreiras 1 Lisbon US$85.

Overlooking the Praia (Beach) de Mareta in Sagres, this simple seafood restaurant has fine views of the sea and is as good for lunch — maybe a salad — as it is for dinner, when you can order dishes such as sautéed squid, grilled sardines or grilled lobster.

Praia da Mareta Sagres The Algarve

Even if you’re not staying at this dramatically modern hotel in the countryside near Evora, its excellent restaurant is open to the public for lunch and dinner from Wednesday to Sunday (Monday and Tuesday are for hotel guests only). Chef Miguel Laffan worked at several restaurants in France before returning to Portugal, and his cooking is refined, original and beautifully presented. Laffan is especially talented at inventing modern takes on traditional Portuguese dishes, such as wild bass with summer vegetables, and chorizo with an oyster vichyssoise.

Estrada Nacional 4, Herdade das Valadas Montemor-o-Novo The Alentejo

Run by Vitor Sobral, a Portuguese food celebrity, this friendly, good-value restaurant is perfect for a casual but delicious meal of Portuguese comfort food. Starters are made for sharing, and among those not to miss are the selections of cured hams, cheeses (the Portuguese cheeses are particularly wonderful), olives and croquettes, while excellent main courses include sautéed shrimp with garlic sauce. Dinner only Monday and closed Sunday.

Rua Domingos Sequeira 41C Lisbon US$45.
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