Mon. Jul 15th, 2024

Traveling through Portugal any time soon? Watch out for tourist traps that may rip you off of authentic experiences.

Like any other loved tourist destination, Portugal has its fair share of tourist traps. Besides, Portugal being one of the cheapest European countries means that you will bump into frequent too-good-to-be-true deals, which may end up being traps.

When preparing for your trip to Portugal, be sure to keep in mind these tourist traps. Just to be clear, we do not recommend skipping some of these iconic places entirely, especially if it is your first time in Portugal.

However, knowing that these places are overcrowded and often overpriced will help you stay safe, save money, and have reasonable expectations. We will also provide you with some tips on how to best enjoy these places if you decide to go.

Sightseeing Buses in Lisbon

Tourist Traps in Portugal Sightseeing Buses in Lisbon
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Do you want to see the significant landmarks without navigating the streets or public transit? Hop-on, hop-off sightseeing buses eliminate the hassle of exploring a new city. Like in other major cities, in Lisbon, these open-top double-decker buses stop at all the main tourist attractions so you can hop on and off as you please.

The buses transport tourists to sights such as Belem Tower, Jerónimos Monastery, and Sao Jorge Castle. At each stop, an audio guide shares info about the attraction.

While these guided bus tours are convenient, the large crowds and strict schedules mean you miss out on discovering places off the beaten path. Do some exploring on your own to find the hidden gems that most tourists who use the bus miss.

Restaurants and Wine Cellars Where There’s Someone at the Door Calling You In

Tourist Traps in Portugal Restaurants and Wine Cellars
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Eateries and wine cellars with someone standing outside trying to usher you in are red flags. These places often have overpriced yet mediocre food and drinks. Many are designed to cater to unsuspecting tourists who are ready to splurge their money.

Take a peek inside. Does the decor look generic and uninspired? That’s another sign that the focus is on hustling tourists, not creating an enjoyable experience. In addition, menus in 3-4 languages target tourists who don’t know better. Locals and visitors in the know go where the menu is primarily in Portuguese. There, the food will likely be of higher quality, and the prices will be lower.

Lisbon’s Tram 28

Tourist Traps in Portugal Lisbon’s Tram 28
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One of Lisbon’s most popular tourist attractions is the rickety old tram, number 28. The tram follows a loop from Baixa-Chiado to Graca, passing by many top attractions like Sao Jorge Castle, Lisbon Cathedral, and the Alfama district.

While riding this tram is an iconic Lisbon experience, the crowds can be intense, especially in the summer. During peak season, you’ll be packed in with dozens of other tourists as the tram crawls up and down the city’s hilly streets.

Riding at off-peak hours means you can hop on and off to explore the city’s landmarks without the usual hassle. Plus, if you go just before the last tram of the night, you’ll get to see the city sparkling under the glow of streetlights and enjoy a peaceful ride without bumping elbows.

Famous Beaches in the Algarve, Like Camilo Beach and Marinha Beach

Tourist Traps in Portugal Famous Beaches
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The Algarve, a stunning coastal region in southern Portugal, is famous for its breathtaking beaches and picturesque landscapes. Camilo Beach and Marinha Beach are the most popular and frequently visited beaches. However, while their beauty is undeniable, these destinations have also garnered a reputation as tourist traps.

Marinha Beach’s fame comes with a downside: the sheer number of visitors can be overwhelming. During the high season, the beach is packed with tourists, making finding a quiet, relaxing spot difficult.

Despite its charm, Camilo Beach’s popularity has led to overcrowding, particularly during the peak tourist season. The small size of the beach means that it can quickly become congested, detracting from the serene experience many visitors seek.

Fado Houses in Very Touristy Spots

Tourist Traps in Portugal Fado Houses in Very Touristy Spots
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Fado houses, or casas de fado, are tiny restaurants where you can eat local Portuguese cuisine as you enjoy Portugal’s most famous musical traditions. However, many casas de fado in popular tourist areas like Alfama in Lisbon cater specifically to tourists. The performances often feel staged and lack genuineness.

Aim to visit a fado house in a less touristy neighborhood like Mouraria or Graca. There, you will enjoy authentic appetizers like Serra da Estrela cheese, chorizo sausage, and tremolos beans while listening to heart-wrenching fado vocals accompanied by the Portuguese guitar.

Algarve Tourist Resort Towns

Tourist Traps in Portugal Algarve Tourist Resort Towns
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For a long time, the Algarve region has been known for offering tranquil beach escapes. Not anymore. Today, the famous beach resorts lining the Algarve coast are major tourist traps. Places like Albufeira, Praia da Rocha, and Vilamoura are packed in the summer with sun-seeking visitors from Northern Europe. While the beaches are beautiful, with scenic cliffs and rock formations, the towns have become overdeveloped. When visiting, you’ll find yourself navigating through a maze of high-rise hotels, crowded bars, and tacky souvenir shops.

Besides, the beaches fill up quickly, with rows of lounge chairs and umbrellas taking over the sand. Prices for food, drinks, and activities are inflated for tourists. If you want to experience authentic Portuguese culture, these resort towns are not the place.

Belem Tower in Lisbon

Tourist Traps in Portugal Belem Tower in Lisbon
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Belem Tower is one of Lisbon’s most popular tourist attractions. It was built in the 16th century to guard the entrance to Lisbon’s harbor. Climbing its narrow spiral staircase to the top provides panoramic views of the river and city. Additionally, you’ll glimpse Lisbon’s maritime history and see stone cannonballs stacked up, ready to defend against intruders.

Welcoming approximately 1.5 million annually, Belem Tower can get very crowded, especially in the summer. As beautiful as this fortification is, the long lines and crowds of tourists can take away from the experience.

Our advice? Go early, like when it opens at 10 am. You’ll encounter fewer people, and the morning light is perfect for taking photos.

Overpriced Restaurants Near Major Tourist Attractions

Tourist Traps in Portugal Overpriced Restaurants
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Visiting Portugal’s top attractions like Jeronimos Monastery, Belem Tower, and Sao Jorge Castle often brings the temptation to dine at one of the touristy restaurants right outside. I mean, you will want to grab a quick meal after the long queues and waiting times at the tourist sites. Resist that urge.

These eateries are geared entirely toward visitors and charge premium prices for mediocre food and service. You’ll pay double the cost for an authentic Portuguese meal.

Instead, walk a few blocks away from the crowds to discover hidden gems where locals dine. You’ll enjoy an inexpensive yet high-quality meal, gain insight into traditional cuisine, and support family-owned businesses. Stumbling upon neighborhood favorites, with daily specials scribbled on chalkboards and wines drawn straight from casks, creates cherished memories.

Pasteis de Bacalhau in Popular Tourist Spots

Tourist Traps in Portugal Pasteis de Bacalhau in Popular Tourist Spots
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Pastéis de Bacalhau is among Portugal’s most iconic culinary delights. It is also known as codfish cakes or codfish fritters. These savory treats are made from shredded codfish, potatoes, onions, parsley, and sometimes a hint of nutmeg, all deep-fried to golden perfection. Locals and tourists love them for their crispy exterior and soft, flavorful interior.

In popular tourist destinations such as Lisbon’s Baixa district or Porto’s Ribeira, the price of Pastéis de Bacalhau can be significantly inflated. Tourists often find themselves paying exorbitant prices for a small serving. Additionally, some establishments may use frozen or pre-made versions to cater to the high demand, sacrificing the freshness and handmade quality that makes these fritters truly special.

Cabo da Roca

Tourist Traps in Portugal Cabo da Roca
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Cabo da Roca is the westernmost point of mainland Portugal and continental Europe. Promoted as an exciting tourist destination, many visitors flock here each year. However, the cape itself is pretty underwhelming. There’s little more than a lighthouse and a souvenir shop.

Undoubtedly, the views are stunning, with the Atlantic crashing against massive sea cliffs. But after a few moments, you will have seen all there is to see. Unless you’re a hardcore lighthouse fan, the site won’t captivate you for long. Save your time and money – the cape is not worth the hype. The “been there, done that” selfie isn’t worth the money you will spend.

You’re better off enjoying the scenic drive to the cape and continuing to more exciting destinations like Sintra or Cascais.

National Palace of Pena

Tourist Traps in Portugal National Palace of Pena
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Opened in 1854, the National Palace of Pena is the most colorful castle in Portugal. For decades, it was the summer residence of the Portuguese royal family. Today, it’s one of the top tourist attractions in Portugal, drawing crowds eager to explore its whimsical design.

Each room here features a different theme with eye-catching details around every corner. The chapel dazzles with gold accents and a crimson altar, while the Arab Room mesmerizes with Mudéjar art and tiles.

Though enchanting, the palace’s small size means it can feel cramped, especially in the busy summer season. Additionally, the entry fee is not justified by the experience provided.

Restaurants Where Food Is Shown in Pictures

Tourist Traps in Portugal Restaurants Where Food Is Shown in Pictures
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The pictures of food displayed outside some restaurants in touristy places are usually more appealing than the actual fare served inside. These eateries rely more on luring tourists with exquisite photos of dishes instead of focusing on the quality and taste of the food.

These tourist trap restaurants are typical in areas with high numbers of travelers, especially foreigners. Some telltale signs you may be in a tourist trap restaurant include an excess of photos in the windows or on the menu and a menu with more focus on pictures than descriptions.


By Lala