Sunday, January 8, 2023

There are 20 top destinations in Portugal

There are 20 top destinations in Portugal - Portugal has a lot to offer for such a small country. This small country has a huge variety of things to see and do, from cosmopolitan cities to small towns and villages, from lively beach resorts to beautiful national parks.

Portugal's location in this sunny part of Western Europe gives it a unique appeal. It takes up a piece of Iberia, shares a border with Spain, and has a beautiful coastline on the Atlantic Ocean.

Its southern part is still a great place to go on vacation because it has beautiful sandy beaches and world-class golf courses. The country's interior, on the other hand, is full of different things: flat plains, wide rivers, deep, green valleys, and distant mountain ranges.

A large number of monuments and historic buildings, many of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, make up Portugal's history. And what gives the country its character is its people, who are open, friendly, and welcoming. Spend some time traveling around the country, and you'll fall in love with its color, taste, and warmth.

See our list of the best places to visit in Portugal to help you plan your trip.

There are 20 top destinations in Portugal

1. Sintra

One of the most beautiful places to visit in Portugal is the charming town of Sintra. This historic and interesting town, which has been recognized by UNESCO for its unique cultural landscape, is worth setting aside a full day to explore. One of the most popular day trips from Lisbon is to go there.

Under the edge of the wooded Serra da Sintra hills, the town is clustered around the famous Palácio Nacional. Its twin chimneys tower over a pretty square surrounded by houses painted in pale pink, ochre, and yellow.


The ancient Castelo dos Mouros, which seems to have been cut out of the granite cliff it runs along, looks down on this picture-postcard scene. The beautiful Palácio da Pena sits on top of the highest hill. In the 1800s, the Portuguese royal family used it as a summer retreat.

For people who like to walk, Sintra has a lot of hiking trails, but you'll need strong legs to climb the steep hills that surround the town. At the highest points of the serra, you can see the Atlantic coast and Cascais in the distance.

2. Lisbon

Lisbon, which is the capital of Portugal, is one of the most beautiful cities in all of Europe. This busy Atlantic port is spread out over a number of hills along the River Tagus, which adds to its beautiful waterfront location. Exploring the city's historic center is like taking a trip through its interesting past. Famous tourist spots like the mighty Castelo de So Jorge and Alfama, the oldest part of Lisbon, are great examples of this history.


A group of museums that are among the best in the world adds to the cultural experience. In the east of the city, away from the center, you can admire the modernity of Parque das Naçes and its crowd-drawing attractions, like the amazing Oceanário.

In Belém, to the west, the beautiful Mosteiro dos Jerónimos and the strange Torre de Belém, both of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, show Portugal's golden Age of Discovery.

In between, you can stroll through pretty squares with trees, walk along wide esplanades along the river, or see jaw-dropping views from the city's many miradouros, or viewpoints.

3. Évora

Évora is one of the most beautiful places in Portugal. It is in the middle of the Alentejo. Évora is known for its amazing collection of well-kept monuments, so you should take your time looking at it.

Its medieval walls hold hundreds of years of history. The impressive Templo Romano, which was built in the second century, the dark but fascinating Sé (cathedral), which was built in the 12th century, and the Igreja de So Francisco, with its gloomy Capela dos Ossos, which was finished in the mid-1550s, show this timeline.


Évora has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of how important it is to history and how well its architectural treasures have been kept. But you'll also love the city's charming market-town feel and down-to-earth personality. It's fun to wander and shop in the city's Moorish alleys, visit interesting museums, and eat lunch in pretty squares where you're treated more like a guest than a tourist.

4. Porto

Oporto, or "Porto," is the second-largest city in Portugal. It is made of granite and has a strong, commercial feel. It is a very different experience from the capital.

Porto is at the mouth of the River Douro and has a waterfront called the Ribeira that is recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. It is also home to some of the best Baroque churches and Neoclassical buildings in the country. The needle-like Torre dos Clérigos and the large Sé, the city's cathedral, stand out.


The famous Ponte Dom Lus I, a double-level iron bridge over the Douro that connects the city to Vila Nova de Gaia, is another famous building. A slow walk along the Ribeira gives you a real sense of the past, and you can breathe in the salty air of the area.

The river is a beautiful way to get to the Douro Valley, which is a green area with terraced hillsides and small towns and villages. Joining one of the many cruises that go along the waterway is a popular way to see the sights.

5. Tavira

Many guidebooks say that Tavira is the most interesting town in the Algarve, and it is true that it is beautiful. The Rio Gilo runs through this nice, quiet town like a smile, and a Roman footbridge connects the two sides.

You can take a nice walk along the water before or after you see the rest of Tavira's historic sites. From the castle walls, you can see the old town and the coast in the area. You can also visit the grand Igreja de Santa do Castelo, where warrior knights are buried.


The Ncleo Islamico, a very interesting museum, is also in the town. One of the highlights is a rare vase with figures from the 11th century.

A good choice, especially during the hot summer months, is to go to the offshore Ilha de Tavira, which has a huge beach with plenty of space even when it's busy. From a dock at Quatro guas, you can take a passenger ferry to get there.

6. Óbidos

What does the king give to the queen as a wedding gift? For the lucky queens of Portugal, it was the beautiful town of bidos. This was a long-standing tradition. It is now open to the public, and the hour-long drive north from Lisbon to get there is well worth it.

bidos is a dream for artists. All of the whitewashed cottages, cafes, and shops selling handmade goods that line the narrow, cobbled streets are surrounded by strong medieval walls.


Also, the Igreja De Santa Maria has a beautiful interior with blue and white azulejos from the 1600s (tiles).

Josefa de bidos, a painter from the 17th century, made some very rare pieces of art that are kept in a museum on the town's beautiful square.

From the top of the battlements, you can see beautiful views of the terra-cotta roofs and the green plains beyond. The fortifications are part of the famous castle, whose keep towers over the lovely scene below like a guardian. The castle is now a pousada, which is a fancy old-style hotel.

7. Coimbra

Coimbra is a well-known city in Portugal. One reason to go there is the historic university on top of a hill. But there are a lot of other things to see and do. Most of them are near the Velha Universidade, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and are worth a full day of sightseeing.

The beautiful Biblioteca Joanina, a Baroque gem with gilded and marbled wood and frescoed ceilings, is without a doubt the best part of a tour of the old university campus. You can also climb to the top of the clock tower, which was built in the 18th century, to get a great view of the whole area. You should visit the impressive Se Velha, which was built in the late 1200s (old cathedral).


Back down in the old town, you can find more old buildings to explore, such as two former convents and the Igreja de Santa Cruz, which was built in 1131 and is where Portugal's first king, Afonso Henriques, is buried.

There are also a number of interesting museums, a botanical garden, and the fun-filled Portugal dos Pequenitos, a park with scale models of the country's most famous traditional buildings.

And the river itself is a nice distraction, with a wide esplanade running along both sides. This is a great place for long, slow walks.

8. Parque Natural da Ria Formosa

The Algarve is known for its beautiful coastline, and the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa is one of its natural wonders. This protected marine habitat is made up of 60 kilometers of marshland, saltpans, shallow water lagoons, and islands made of sand dunes. It goes from Quinta do Lago in the east, past Faro, to Cacela Velha in the west.

The park is a haven for a lot of plants and animals. It has a lot of nature trails that take you close to some of the animals that live in this part of Portugal. Birdwatchers can see rare species like the purple gallinule from hides built on the lakes, while flocks of greater flamingos can be seen on the mudflats. On land, look for the delicate sea daffodil, the growing goosefoot, and, if you're lucky, the Mediterranean chameleon.

Parque Natural da Ria Formosa

One of the walks goes by the famous San Lorenzo golf course, which is a place where many different kinds of birds like to hang out. The park's main office is near Olho. There, people can get maps and other information.

9. Elvas

The military fortifications around Elvas are some of the best examples of military architecture in Europe. They are made up of thick, star-shaped walls. In fact, Elvas is a World Heritage Site because of its defenses from the middle of the 17th century. The town is on a hilltop in the Alentejo, 15 kilometers from the border with Spain.


It's a long drive east, and you might want to combine it with a trip to the nearby Spanish city of Badajoz, but those who make the effort will be rewarded with an impressive set of walls, deep moats, and star-shaped ramparts. Inside this impregnable ring are a maze of steep, cobblestone streets and a number of interesting places to visit, including the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Consolaco, whose unremarkable exterior hides a really beautiful interior.

The Aqueduto da Amoreira, the town's impressive 16th-century aqueduct, can be seen from a castle on the north wall. The castle also has great views of two smaller forts and the Aqueduto da Amoreira.

10. Parque Natural da Serra da Estrela

The Serra da Estrela is called the "star mountains" for a good reason. It has the highest peaks on mainland Portugal. At its highest point, the range, or more accurately the plateau, rises 1,993 meters above sea level. It is a dramatic natural feature of central Portugal. It often has a snow cap in the winter, when skiers take advantage of what is likely Europe's shortest ski season.

Parque Natural da Serra da Estrela

Other than that, the granite cliffs and glacier-carved valleys are perfect for hiking, and there is a network of long-distance paths and tracks that cover the area. Along the way, walkers can see some of the most beautiful countryside and get a sense of the area's traditional culture in places like Linhares and Valezim.

The Serra da Estrela sheepdog lives in the mountains. It is a breed that is only found in Portugal. You will definitely see proud locals walking one of these strong but friendly dogs. The area is also known for Serra cheese, which is deliciously rich and creamy and is thought to be Portugal's best cheese. Look for it in stores that serve a lot of small towns.

11. Braga
Braga is one of the most beautiful cities in Portugal. The place is in the north of the country and has been a religious and business center for a long time. Walking through Braga's historic quarter is like stepping into the 18th century, when most of the mansions, churches, and palaces were built. There are a number of spruce parks and gardens that break up the rough granite that makes up most of the buildings.


The Sé, Braga's cathedral, was started in the 11th century. It is a popular tourist spot and a sign that the city is still the religious capital of Portugal. The main square of the city is a great place to hang out, maybe in one of the cafés that are under the arcades. All that is left of Braga's original defenses is the nearby Torre de Menagem, which was built in the 14th century.

The Bom Jesus do Monte, a beautiful religious sanctuary 1.5 kilometers east of the city, is a good way to spend some time. Bring a picnic and be prepared for a lot of people on the weekends.

12. Guimarães

The old part of Guimares, which was once the capital of Portugal, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This makes sense, since Guimares is a very nice city. In the 12th century, the country's first king, Afonso Henriques, said that this city in the north was where the country began.

Guimares is a very interesting place with a lot of historical sites, including the castle where Afonso was said to have been baptized. Paco dos Duques, the royal palace, has an interesting museum, but the Museu de Alberto Sampaio, in the Romanesque cloister of Nossa Senhora da Oliveira on Largo da Oliveira, has a collection of artifacts that are just as impressive.


In fact, Guimares's famous main square looks like it was taken right out of the Middle Ages, with its intricately carved granite facades, ornate statues, and the Padro do Salado, a 14th-century shrine that stands in front of the monastery.

After you've learned about all this history, you should walk through the medieval quarter's labyrinth of narrow, cobblestone streets and see the well-kept old town houses.

13. Bragança

Braganca is the most remote city in Portugal, and it is also one of the most interesting. To get there, you have to go to the very end of the country. The fact that the old town is completely surrounded by huge granite walls makes it even more interesting.

This walled Cidadela, or "citadel," was built in 1130. It gives you a sense of what life was like in the Middle Ages. The old streets are lined with short, whitewashed cottages, and the ceiling of the church of Santa Maria is painted in a way that makes it stand out. But what really gets people's attention is the dark castle and its strong keep.


The Domus Municipalis, a strange council chamber with a pentagonal shape that dates back to the 15th century, is another great thing to see. It is the only Romanesque building in Portugal that is still standing. Due to the distances, it's best to spend the night in Braganca. The Cidadela is the most obvious attraction, but the Parque Natural de Montesinho, a 70,000-hectare reserve between the city and the border with Spain, is also a great place to visit.

14. Parque Nacional da Peneda-Gerês

The beautiful Parque Nacional da Peneda-Gerês is Portugal's only national park and one of the country's most beautiful natural places. In Portugal's northeast Minho region, near the border with Spain, the rocky terrain covers more than 700 square kilometers and has dramatic mountain scenery, lush, wide-open valleys, tumbling waterfalls, and deep, clear lakes.

This barren but beautiful landscape is made more interesting by traditional villages, hamlets made of granite, and even an old spa town called Caldas do Gerês.

Parque Nacional da Peneda-Gerês

There are still wolves and wild boar in the park's more remote areas, and golden eagles soar through the air on powerful thermals that rise up over dramatic peaks.

People who like being outside are drawn to the park. There are a lot of ways to hike on marked trails, from two-hour strolls to all-day hikes. The most basic places to stay are scattered guesthouses and a few campsites, but there are hotels in the bigger towns.

The countryside is already in full bloom in the spring, making it a great time to visit. But even in the middle of winter, this amazing place is still a very special place.

15. Lagos

Lagos is one of the best resort towns in Portugal. It enjoys the warm Algarve sun and is a favorite vacation spot for thousands of people who come to the south coast of the country every year.

Lagos is known for its beautiful beaches and international marina. It is also home to some magical rock formations, like sandstone cliffs that tower over a series of sea caves and grottoes with strange shapes. If you can pull yourself away from the beach long enough, you can visit these places as part of a fun sightseeing cruise or do other water sports.


Back on solid ground, Lagos' cultural attractions include the impressive Museu Municipal and the Igreja de Santo António, which is right next to it and has one of the most elaborately decorated interiors in the whole region.

And if you like watching the sun go down, you'll love Ponta da Piedade. The lighthouse is a popular place to watch the sun go down over the Atlantic.

16. Mértola

There are a lot of hilltop towns in the Alentejo, but few are as nice as Mértola. Also, this whitewashed smudge of a town sits on top of the River Guadiana, and the view is very pretty. But what really makes this place stand out is that the whole area has been named a Vila Museu, which means it is a museum site.

The Phoenicians built a busy river port, which the Romans and then the Moors used. This is where Mértola got its start. This colorful and varied timeline is the basis for a group of great mini-museums in and around the old town, each of which is about a different time period.


The famous castle on top of a hill, which was built in the 13th century, shows that the Arabs lived there. From the keep, you can see a beautiful view of the surrounding countryside.

On the grounds of the castle, there is an excavated site where you can see proof that Moors, Romans, and Christians lived there. It's no surprise that the church in Mértola, which is just outside the castle walls, was once a mosque.

17. Aveiro

Aveiro is called the "Venice of Portugal" for a reason. This beautiful city is in the Beira Litoral region of the country. It is on the edge of a system of coastal lagoons and is crossed by a network of canals that have become the city's main attraction. Barcos moliceiros, which look like colorful gondolas and were once used to collect seaweed but are now used as unique tourist boats, move through these narrow waterways.

The city is known for its Art Nouveau architecture. Dozens of shops, restaurants, and houses along the water's edge are built in this style from the early 20th century. In fact, there is a museum called the Museu Arte Nova that is all about this kind of art.


But the Museu de Aveiro is a good place to learn more about the city's history and culture. The museum is in the Convento de Jesus, which was built in the 15th century. It has a lot of interesting things, like exhibits about Santa Joana, the daughter of King Afonso V who lived in the convent from 1472 until her death in 1489.

The Vista Alegre porcelain works draw people outside of the city center. Vista Alegre was founded in 1842, and its products are known all over the world for their high quality. There is a museum, the palace of the founder, and a store that sells items at a discount.

18. Faro

Faro is the biggest city in the Algarve and the capital of the region. It has more to offer visitors than they might think. At first glance, this city looks like a generic urban sprawl, with an international airport, a big shopping mall, and a sea of concrete high-rises. But under the modern surface is a city with a lot to see and a lot to say.


Faro's Old Town, or Cidade Velha, is where tourists should go to see the city's history. The impressive Sé is at the center of the Old Town, which is surrounded in part by walls built on Roman foundations in the 1600s (cathedral). This old building was built in the 13th century and has a beautiful Baroque interior with gilded and lacquered wood carvings, inlaid marble, and beautiful azulejo tiles. One of the best things to do is climb the narrow stairs to the top of the medieval tower. From there, you can see a wide view of the neighborhood and the Parque Natural da Ria Formosa.

The fascinating Museu Municipal de Faro is another highlight of the Old Town. It is housed in the peaceful Convent of Our Lady of the Assumption. Igreja do Carmo is outside the walls. The church is known for its spooky Capela dos Ossos (Bone Chapel), which is filled with the skulls and bones of more than 1,000 monks.

19. Parque Natural da Arrábida

The Arrábida Natural Park is only 40 kilometers south of Lisbon, but it feels like a world away from the city noise of Portugal's capital.

This green strip of scrub and woods covers the rocky slopes of the Serra da Arrábida mountain range between the cities of Setbal and Sesimbra. It is a stunningly beautiful place that is separated from the Atlantic Ocean by thin strips of golden sand.

The park is a haven for animals and a great place to bike, hike, and do other things outside. The most daring people can try coasteering, which involves climbing, walking, jumping, and swimming along the rocky coast of Arrábida.

Parque Natural da Arrábida

In fact, there are a lot of great cove beaches along the coast. Praia do Ribeiro do Cavalo is a beautiful beach with outcrops of limestone rock formations that make it a great place to swim, dive, or snorkel.

The Convento da Arrábida is a cultural attraction that can be seen by booking a tour in advance. This mysterious convent was built by Franciscan monks in 1542. It is hidden in a thick bushy area. The monastery building, gardens, shrines, and cells are all part of the tours.

After a busy day of sightseeing, go to Portinho da Arrábida, a harbor village that is so pretty it hurts. Here, you'll find a group of cute restaurants on the water that look out over the clear water of the Bay of Setbal.

20. Beja

Rural sun-drenched The main town in the Baixa Alentejo is called Beja (Lower Altenjo). Julius Caesar started Beja as Pax Julia in 48 BC. It had a good location in the middle of a large area of golden plains and became an important and wealthy city.

Roman influence can still be seen in the area, especially at the Ruinas Romanas de So Cucufate, which are the remains of a villa complex north of Beja.


Most of Beja's monuments, on the other hand, are in the old town, which is very old. Visiting the Museu Regional is a great way to learn about the city's rich history. The museum is known for its Roman artifacts and Flemish paintings. It is housed in the beautiful Convento de Nossa Senhora da Conceicao. History fans should also check out the Museu Visigótico, which is outside the castle walls in the Igreja de Santo Amaro, which was built by the Visigoths.

The castle is always worth a stop, especially for the 40-meter-tall Torre de Menagem keep. You can climb a steep set of stairs to get to the top, where you can see a beautiful view.
There are 20 top destinations in Portugal
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