Can you drink the tap water in Portugal?

By | Last updated: May 20, 2020

Full Transparency: Portugalist earns money via adverts and some links to partner websites. There is no additional cost to you and it does not affect our editorial standards, but we like to be upfront about these things.

One question that Portugalist gets asked a lot is whether or not the tap water is safe to drink.

The short answer is: yes, you can drink the tap water in Portugal. It isn’t as nice as tap water from other parts of the world (Ireland and Scotland, for example), but it’s perfectly safe to drink.

You’ll see plenty of Portuguese people buying bottled water, but that’s just because it tastes nicer. The only downside is carrying the bottles home and recycling them when you’re done – and, of course, all the plastic that gets used. 

Portuguese bottled water

Alternatively, some people who live in Portugal long-term invest in a Brita filter. This takes away the unpleasant taste, and means you don’t have to buy as many big plastic bottles of water. The filters last around 2 months each, and you can buy them in bundles from Amazon and in the supermarkets as well.

(If you’re just visiting Portugal, a Brita Filter would probably take up a lot of room in your suitcase, so go for one of the travel Brita Filters instead.)

If you don’t have any bottled water or a Brita Filter, add a squeeze of lemon juice. It hides the flavour somewhat.

Why do people think it’s not safe to drink?

Water in Europe, especially Western Europe, is pretty much always safe to drink. That hasn’t always been the case, however.

During the First and Second World War, the water did become contaminated and, British and American soldiers wrote home complaining about the undrinkable water. That was a long time ago but, for some reason, many people still think the water in places like France, Spain, and Portugal is unsafe to drink.

Some people won’t even brush their teeth with European tap water. I’m not talking about old people who grew up during the war, either. Often it’s young people. The rumours that you can’t drink the water in Europe is just something that seems to get passed down from generation to generation.

Many people also think that just because the water tastes bad, that means it is bad. That also isn’t true. Hard water, and water that has a noticeable amount of chlorine in it, tastes bad but that’s it.

Can I ask for tap water in a restaurant?

Bottled water is very expensive in Portuguese restaurants, and often costs around €4-5 per large bottle. The same bottle probably costs less than €0.50 in the supermarket.

You won’t get served tap water in a restaurant unless you specifically ask for it but, if you ask for it, you should get it. Be aware that because it’s not something that the Portuguese ask for, so you might get a strange look if they’ve never been asked before. For many people, it’s worth it if it means saving on the cost of bottled water.

Have you tried the tap water in Portugal? Do you drink it or buy bottled water? Let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment below. 

Where to next:

18 thoughts on “Can you drink the tap water in Portugal?”

  1. We have just returned from a short visit to Porto and Coimbra, and want to thank you for this post, although the information here leaves us feeling VERY frustrated about our recent experience.

    In both cities, *every* restaurant or cafe, and our Porto hotel, refused point blank to serve us tap water when we requested this. At home in the UK we usually only ever drink tap water – and we like to drink a lot of water with dinner – so this was extremely frustrating. Worse, most places would only sell us a tiny bottle of mineral water, not even a large bottle adequate for 2 people over dinner.

    At our Porto hotel, our request for tap water (after we had already drunk a 70cl bottle of their bottled water but had a 5-course dinner to get through) resulted in the staff going into a huddled conference over our request. We were told by the manager that hotels/restaurants in Porto are not permitted to serve tap water because Porto’s water is ‘not certificated’ for human consumption. (The hotel staff spent an extensive part of our meal ‘explaining’ this, too, which wasn’t pleasant.) We asked why, in that case, no bottled water had been provided in our room on check-in more than 24 hours earlier – nor had we been advised not to drink the tap water, so of course we had been drinking it in our room. We were told that this had been ‘a mistake’. We found this pretty weird, as surely if the tap water is genuinely non-potable guests would be advised of this on arrival!

    Is it genuinely true that Porto has ‘uncertificated’ tap water? (We were told that, in contrast, Vila Nova de Gaia, across the Douro, does have ‘certificated’ drinking water’.) From your article and most of the comments here, my impression now is that the staff at our hotel had been trained in very elaborate bullshit.

    Reply
    • Hi Claire,

      With the exception of people saying the water is unsafe to drink, your experience is not uncommon. Restaurants aren’t used to serving tap water (although they shouldn’t refuse you) and often they only have small bottles of water available (particularly for sparkling water).

      It’s a moneymaker basically. I’ve travelled in other countries where the water genuinely isn’t safe to drink, particularly in Thailand, and most restaurants and cafés there provide free drinking water.

      I haven’t heard of Porto tap water not being safe to drink and, as you say, if that were the case there would be signs warning you not to drink the water. I’ve never seen one of these signs in any hotel or Airbnb that I’ve stayed at in Porto.

      Interestingly, here’s an article from Aguas do Porto encouraging people to drink the tap water: https://www.aguasdoporto.pt/noticias-aguas-do-porto/beba-agua-do-porto-e-boa-todos-os-dias . Admittedly it’s from 2015 so something might have changed since then but, according to the article, the water in Porto is excellent in 99.7% of cases and the people from Porto should be drinking tap water more often 🙂

      Reply
  2. We’re absolutely amazed at the amounts of bottled water that are bought in the supermarkets here. We’ve always drunk tap water here and it tastes perfectly pleasant (far nicer than some of the hard water found in parts of the UK). Encouraging people to drink tap water would also help to tackle the massive problem of plastic bottles being dumped everywhere. Perhaps it’s time for a huge public information campaign?

    Reply
    • Hi Tracy,

      Yes, it’s a big issue.

      The tap water isn’t great everywhere in Portugal, I have to say, but I’ve been putting it through a Brita Filter and that gets rid of any nasty tastes. I think you can also get Brita Filter taps installed.

      A public information campaign sounds like a good idea, but I wonder if it’ll be enough to get people to change?

      Reply
  3. Water is a really important element in our environment. We need to use that element properly. We should not waste this anyhow.
    Thanks for your good guide on saving water.

    Reply
  4. We live near Castelo Branco, to get tab water we have to spend €6000,- plus mondley fee plus the cost of the used wather, and than the water taste very much like chlorine. But they drink it also in the hospitals.
    We have a boarhole of 90 meters but that contains much ferro and mangane, also very much e-coli and such micro organisme, dont drink tells the lab! A filter will cost € 3000 on top of the boarhole and pump € 6000,- , is a total of € 9000,-
    But than are the mondley costs very low for infinite water..

    Reply
  5. I drank tap water in Porto and it tastes fine! I can’t comment on how conditions are in Portugal exactly, but for most Western countries the level of testing for public water is extremely high. Treated water is checked for over a hundred parameters such as pesticides, radiation, and others such as total dissolved solids. These tests are done pre and post delivery through the pipes. The calculated risk of you being harmed by tap water, say by developing cancer is 1 in 1000000, the same risk of you dying in a natural disaster! That’s not a made up figure, that is literally the legal standard municipal water must meet It’s important to remember that the taste of the water and safety are two very different things. Municipalities add chlorine to prevent infection during delivery, as it is better to have water that tastes bad instead of it being unsafe. As Portugal is in the European Union and is subject to many of the same laws and health standards all EU countries must follow, I can’t imagine why this wouldn’t be the case for tap water in Portugal.

    Reply
    • Hi Steffen,

      Yep, it’s perfectly drinkable although the flavour mightn’t be as nice as bottled water. A lot of people do ask this question, though, which is why I added this article.

      Reply
  6. Water is a lot more complexed than if it tastes good, I believe this article is incorrect as it doesn’t take into a lot of factors which contribute to water safety, mainly those around Micro Bacteria. The two main factors which cause concern is:

    1) From the well water, the absorption of pesticides, animal waste and contaminants into the ground, cases have seen pseudomonas, Fecal Coliforms as well as high TPC above normal levels. Legionella is naturally occurring in groundwater, combine this with storage tanks, a shower (or any form of aeration) and elderly people (which are at highest risk) and you get Pneumonia type symptoms

    2) From large roof storage tanks which are never cleaned – Stagnation promotes biofilm growth which lines tanks, tanks should be cleaned every 6 months minimum no matter the size. In the biofilm can house all sorts of micro-bacteria such as Legionella, Psuedo and coliforms. If you have a tank on your property get it cleaned today by a professional.

    As for the supply from the municipality, it will contain chlorine which although shouldn’t harm in regular amounts makes the water taste and smell bad, also factors which effect is the state of the pipes, mild steel or GI pipes will corrode and give you an orange water which contains iron, again not great for the body in large doses. Consult a water equipment supplier if any of the above and get your water tested at a properly approved lab for Microbacteria you may well be surprised with the results.

    James

    Reply
  7. Sometimes the water in Portimao smells strongly of chloride. The municipality encourages us to drink the tap water, but I don’t think it is healthy.

    Reply
    • Yeah, the water in Portimão and Lagos can be a bit like that unfortunately. As to the safety of it, I think you have to make that decision yourself.

      I love Portimão, but it’s not the best place smell-wise 🙂

      Reply
    • I’m a Portuguese living in England and I can tell you from personal experience that the water in England is much worse than in Portugal, full of dirt and a chalk-like substance when boiled. Portuguese water (at least in Lisbon) is totally safe and tastes fresher.

      Reply
      • Quite true Maria, the area we moved from ( Bristol) in the UK had very heavy lime deposits. Used to spend a lot of time cleaning out the system. We live in Messines in the Algarve now, the water is drinkable but better if it is filtered.Monchique bottled water is very good.

        Reply
  8. It can be frustrating paying 3e in s restaurant for 20c bottle of water.we ve drank tap water here and it’s fine.feels better than adding to the mountain of plastic bottles

    Reply

Leave a Comment