There are incredible places to visit in Portugal, the country offers a variety of destinations for all types of tourism – historical tourism, religious tourism, ecotourism, just to name a few. There are also amazing places for those searching for multi-cultural cities and beaches, tranquility in the countryside, mountain trails, snow, and our favorite topic, gastronomy tourism.
Among so many, we chose 15 cities and places that offer many things to do and see. Check out more about what to visit in Portugal.
What to visit in Portugal: Ideas for your travel itinerary
Considered the capital of the North, Porto is the city that gives Portugal its name. Its historic center is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site with several sights such as the Sé Cathedral, the Torre dos Clérigos, and the Cais da Ribeira, located on the banks of the Douro River.
The city is also known for its viewpoints and plenty of museums. With several cultural events throughout the year, Porto has already been named the European Capital of Culture.
Porto’s gastronomy is highlighted by centuries-old dishes such as Tripas à Moda do Porto and its delicious sandwiches like bifanas, ham sandwiches, and the iconic Francesinha sandwich. From Porto, you can take incredible tours of the Douro Valley and Vinho Verde.
Also, you can cross the bridge Luís I that connects Porto to Vila Nova de Gaia to visit the most famous cellars of Port wine and enjoy a view that is the city’s postcard with its colorful tiny houses on the banks of the Douro River.
The Douro Valley is the oldest demarcated wine region in Portugal (and in the world) in which the famous Port wine is produced.
Traveling along the course of the Douro River is an unforgettable travel route in Portugal. The Douro Valley tour starts at the mouth of the river between the cities of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia and goes inland in the Alto Douro Wine Region.
The region’s vineyards are planted on steep slopes and provide a landscape so beautiful and unique that it became a World Heritage Site.
The trip through the valley usually begins in Porto and can be done by car, train, helicopter, or river cruise. There are several types of tours through the Quintas (as the vineyards are called in Portugal). Some include tastings, lunch, and even grape picking (between August and October) and other guided experiences.
Peneda-Gerês National Park
The Peneda-Gerês National Park is the only one classified as a national park in Portugal and is located in the far northwest, 100 kilometers from Porto.
The park is considered a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. It has one of the most exuberant natural landscapes in the country, standing out for its fauna and flora diversity.
The best time to visit Peneda-Gerês Park is during the summer. You can enjoy the beautiful waterfalls with translucent waters such as the Portela do Homem Gerês. Besides the natural attractions, the park is also home to two important pilgrimage centers: the Sanctuary of Nossa Senhora da Peneda and São Bento da Porta Aberta.
In historical tourism, a tip is to visit the castles of Castro Laboreiro and Lindoso, monuments from the time of the Roman occupation.
Bragança is located in Portugal’s northeast region with a history that dates back to the 2nd century. Its historical center is home to one of the most famous castles in Portugal, the Bragança Castle.
Several museums recount the history of Bragança, such as the Center for the Interpretation of the Sephardic Culture of the Northeast Transmontano, where it is possible to learn about the Jewish immigrants’ history. They arrived in the city in the 15th century, expelled from Spain.
The gastronomy stands out for its dishes based on game meat such as wild boar, partridge, and hare. Dishes with codfish, goatling, and lamb are also highly appreciated, being ingredients used in several dishes.
Braga and Guimarães
Braga and Guimarães are must-see destinations if you like to do historical tourism in Portugal.
Braga is located in the far north and is one of the oldest cities in Portugal, founded by the Romans around 16 BC as Bracara Augusta. The city, which has already been elected as the Best European Destination, is full of places with inestimable historical value, such as the Bom Jesus do Monte Sanctuary, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The city of Guimarães, known as the cradle city, was where D. Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal, was born. Located in the District of Braga, it has already taken the title of European Capital of Culture. One of the most famous sights is the Guimarães Castle, built in the 10th century as protection against Viking and Moorish attacks.
Close to Porto, Aveiro is known as the “Portuguese Venice” for its fluvial canals. You can take trips on moliceiros, boats similar to Italian gondolas. Another famous tourist attraction in Aveiro is the nice colorful striped houses (called Palheiros) located on the Costa Nova beach.
For architecture lovers, the city of Aveiro is famous for its Art-Nouveau style constructions such as the Museum of Art Nouveau and the City Museum. As for gastronomy, Aveiro is famous for its fresh fish and seafood and the sweet Ovos Moles (made with egg yolk and sugar), typical of the city.
Located in the district of Leiria (central region of Portugal), the city of Nazaré is known worldwide for its beach with giant waves. Still, if you want to see it up close, you will have to visit in the winter.
In the summer, the beach is ideal for traveling with the family or for those who like excitement. The city has a vibrant nightlife during the high season. Among the tourist attractions in Nazaré, we can mention Nossa Senhora de Nazaré Church, the Forte de São Miguel Arcanjo, and the Miradouro do Suberco to enjoy a beautiful view of the beach.
Curiosity: A typical female costume in the city is the “Sete Saias” (as the name says, the skirt is composed of seven layers of colored skirts), used initially by fishermen’s wives. The tradition is kept until today by local residents.
The village of Óbidos is a must-see destination for history lovers and a great place to visit near Lisbon. Occupied by Moors, Visigoths, and Romans, the town is known as the “Village of Queens” since the village was a wedding gift from King Dinis to his fiancée, Queen Isabel.
The town’s main attraction is the Óbidos Castle, considered one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal, and its walls, which surround most of the town and can be walked on foot.
Other famous sights are the Porta da Vila and the narrow and charming Rua Direita (Right Street) with its tiny white houses. Óbidos is famous for producing Ginjinha, a liqueur made from the sour cherry, a fruit of the cherry family.
Lisbon and region
The Portuguese capital has attractions for every type of tourist. You can visit several historical monuments such as the São Jorge Castle (the castle offers a panoramic view of the city, besides its beautiful garden and archaeological site), the National Pantheon, the Praça do Comércio, and the Torre de Belém (the last two can also be seen on a boat tour on the Tagus River, which is very worthwhile).
Not sure where to stay in Lisbon? Check out our tips!
If you enjoy gastronomy, Lisbon is a true paradise with many dishes based on codfish, grilled sardines, soups, stews, and the famous pastel de Belém. Lisbon’s markets are a great option for snacking and strolling, usually close to good restaurants and small shops. A cultural tip is to watch a Fado performance, the country’s traditional music style.
There are many places near Lisbon that you can travel by car, such as Sintra, Coimbra, Fátima, and Batalha, the latter famous for the Batalha Monastery, a Seven Wonders of the country.
Serra da Estrela
Serra da Estrela is considered one of the best places to visit in Portugal in the winter. It is located in the central region, 300 kilometers from Lisbon. One of its highlights is the Serra da Estrela Tower, the highest point in continental Portugal (at 1,993 meters, second only to Montanha do Pico located in the Azores archipelago). The region is also home to glacial valleys and a ski resort, the only one in Portugal.
Out of winter, the Serra da Estrela Natural Park attracts many people in search of ecotourism with its many trails, rivers, and waterfalls.
The place is also famous among Portuguese cheese lovers. It is there that the Serra da Estrela cheese is produced, a cheese with Protected Designation of Origin (DOP), made with sheep milk and thistle flower.
Lousã and the Schist Villages
Xisto House | © Visual Communications Aldeias de Xisto | © Rui T Guedes
The mountain range of Lousã is in central Portugal, and its main attraction is the Schist Villages. These are mountain villages with centuries-old houses made of schist, a dark-colored, laminated rock. The villages can be visited by car or on foot.
The mountain also has other sights such as the Trevim Swing, located at the highest point of the mountains (a great place to take pictures), river beaches, and the Lousã Castle. As for gastronomy, the region has several traditional foods like chanfana de cabra (goat meat roasted with red wine) and dishes made with game meat like wild boar and deer.
Évora is one of the most visited cities in Alentejo and is known as the Museum City. Its historic center was considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to monuments such as the Roman Temple (remnant of the Roman occupation with more than 2,000 years), the Chapel of Bones of the Church of São Francisco (decorated with human bones and skulls), the Évora Wall, a remnant from the 14th century and the Água da Prata Aqueduct constructed in the 16th century. If you want to stay close to Lisbon, Évora is an excellent option.
The city is located in Alentejo, the largest olive oil-producing region in Portugal. Its typical dishes are based on pork, lamb, and various soups, always accompanied by the famous Alentejo bread.
For tourists who appreciate history and architecture, a tip is to visit the city of Santarém. Located in Portugal’s central region, the city is known as the “Capital of Gothic” due to several buildings of this architectural style.
The main tourist attractions in Santarém are the Jardim das Portas do Sol, with a beautiful view of the Tejo River and its many churches and cathedrals, such as the Igreja da Graça an example of Gothic architecture, and the site of Pedro Álvares Cabral’s tomb.
The Alentejo Coast is more than 150 kilometers long and comprises five municipalities (Alcácer do Sal, Grândola, Odemira, Santiago do Cacém, and Sines).
The region is known for its stunning wild beaches with rock formations such as the beaches of Farol (Vila Nova de Milfontes) and Zambujeira do Mar. If you like hiking, a tip is to follow the Vicentina Route, between the Alentejo and the Algarve regions. The route is composed of the Historic Trail and the Fishermen’s Trail (a trail that runs along the coast) with almost 450 kilometers of total length.
Located in southern Portugal, the Algarve region is famous for its beaches – many of them with cliffs and caves that contrast with the emerald green sea. Without a doubt, one of the best holiday destinations in Portugal.
For hikers, the Algarve cannot be left out. It has a 300-kilometer long hiking route, with the Seven Hanging Valleys trail as the highlight.
The region also has historical cities like Silves and Tavira, with Roman and Muslim influences.
The Algarve’s gastronomy stands out for its dishes based on fish and seafood, such as horse mackerel and pork with clams (a type of mollusk), wines, and aguardente de medronho, made with a typical fruit of the region.
Although the south coast can get very crowded, you can find many hotels in the Algarve to relax, enjoy nature and still be close to the best beaches.
Extra! The Islands of Portugal
The Azores archipelago is located in the Atlantic Ocean. It is divided into three groups of islands:
- The Eastern Group (Santa Maria and São Miguel islands)
- The Central Group (Terceira, Graciosa, São Jorge, Pico and Faial islands)
- The Western Group (Corvo and Flores islands)
All the islands have volcanic origins and are famous for ecotourism due to the diversity of natural parks and various boat tour options. The natural beauty of the Azores is spectacular. It makes the archipelago one of the most beautiful places to visit in Portugal.
The largest and main island is São Miguel, with several tourist attractions such as Ponta Delgada’s city (capital of the archipelago) and many lagoons, such as the Lagoon of the Seven Cities.
Other examples of attractions in Azores are the city of Angra do Heroísmo, considered Historical Heritage by UNESCO (Terceira island), Pico Mountain (Pico island) and Lagoa do Caldeirão (Corvo island).
Madeira Island is considered and continues to be the best island destination in the world for several years in a row. Located in the archipelago of Madeira, it is close to the coast of Morocco and is also of volcanic origin.
The island attracts many surfers and nature lovers. Besides the natural pools, one of Madeira’s tourist highlights is the Laurissilva Forest, a humid subtropical forest considered a Natural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.
Madeira’s gastronomy is also an attraction in itself. There are dishes made with seafood such as Swordfish fillet, typical fruits such as custard apple, purple passion fruit, and tabaibo. The drinks include Madeira Wine, a famous fortified wine, and Madeira Rum, a sugar cane brandy to make the famous drink Poncha.