Can you drink the tap water in Portugal?

The small print: Portugalist may generate a commission from mentioned products or services. This is at no additional cost to you and it does not affect our editorial standards in any way. All content, including comments, should be treated as informational and not advice of any kind, including legal or financial advice. The author makes no representations as to the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors or omissions or damages arising from its display or use. Links to external websites do not constitute an endorsement. [Disclaimer Policy]

Written by: | Last updated on December 20, 2023 | Est. Reading Time: 4 minutes
This article is available in: en_US

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, and there’s no reason to boil it before doing so. The tap water in Portugal isn’t as nice as tap water from other parts of the world (Ireland and Scotland, for example), but it’s 98,83% 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 buying a property, you could also think about getting a special integrated water filter tap (or faucet) installed.

(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.

Differences in Regions

The taste of tap water in Portugal can vary significantly depending on your location within the country. In the northern regions, the tap water tends to have a more pleasant taste, often resembling the quality of expensive bottled water. However, as you move southward towards the Algarve, especially in the southernmost regions, the taste can be less appealing due to variations in mineral content, particularly a higher presence of limestone. This difference in mineral composition can affect the overall flavor of the water.

For those living in the southern parts of Portugal, it’s common to either develop a tolerance for the distinct taste over time or choose to use water filters. It’s important to note that the variation in taste is not an indicator of water safety but rather a matter of personal preference. While the water is generally safe to consume throughout the country, individuals may opt for filtration to enhance the taste to their liking.

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.

I’ve met quite a few brits and most of them seem to have this fear about portuguese tap water. I’ve even met some australians that shared the same concern. All of them talked about an unspecified “water bug” that the locals (us) have adapted to, which reinforces the fear of said bug because now they can’t even believe what the locals say.

Reddit

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. 

Written by

James Cave is the founder of Portugalist and the author of the bestselling book, Moving to Portugal Made Simple. He has visited just about every part of Portugal, including Madeira and all nine islands of the Azores, and lived in several parts of Portugal including Lisbon, the Algarve, and Northern Portugal.