The Best Places To Visit In Portugal

Are you traveling to Portugal and looking for the best places to visit in Portugal? Look no further!

Portugal is a magical country full of amazing places to visit. Although it is a small country, there is such a diverse selection of architecture, landscapes, and landmarks to discover that will all wow and amaze you! If you are looking for a list of the best places to visit in Portugal to inspire your visit, then this list is for you.

One of the things that makes Portugal so special is the inviting and vibrant atmosphere of the country. In every city, town, village and beyond you will feel the welcoming atmosphere which only makes traveling in Portugal even more special. In addition to this, Portugal is stunning in a variety of ways. The landscapes, the buildings, and the views are like nothing else in Europe and offer a very unique experience. 

If you are looking for culture, history, beauty, beaches, wine or anything else, Portugal has it. The diversity of Portugal and wide array of offerings for its visitors will amaze you and choosing one city to visit is often a challenge. That is why it is best to plan to visit two or three places in Portugal when you visit. Use this list of the best places to visit in Portugal to plan where you want to visit most!

Lagos

The Best Places to Visit in Portugal 

Lagos

Lagos is one of the most beautiful places in the world and easily one of the best places to visit in Portugal. This small town sits in the famous Algarve region, along the Southern Coast of Portugal, and is more often than not the highlight of a trip to Portugal. It’s known for its unique beauty, extreme landscapes, and coastal vibes.

A visit to Lagos feels and looks like you’ve left Europe and travelled to Bali, with its surfing community, plethora of beaches and warm sun filled days. 

What makes Lagos so special is its extreme, orange hued cliffs that make up the coast. The beaches in Lagos sit at the bottom of these cliffs and the views of these unique rock formations are like nothing else in the world. All along the coast you can walk high in the cliffs, or during low tide along the beaches, and admire these stunning rock formations.

This is an idyllic place to visit for anyone looking for a beach vacation. You can expect warm, sunny days that are perfect for beach days. Spending the day at the beach is one of the more popular things to do in Lagos, with the most unique and beautiful beach being Camilo Beach.

Before relaxing on the beach in Lagos you MUST visit stunning Ponta da Piedade which is one of the most famous viewpoints in the Algarve. From the top you can admire the rock formations and huge cliffs, plus you can walk down and view the blue waters and orange cliffs from below. You can book a guided tour here, or opt for a kayak tour such as this one that brings you all around with a guide explaining things along the way. 

GOOD TO KNOW: Another great beach at just 40 minutes drive from Lagos is Praia Da Amoreira.

These guided tours may help you make the most of Lagos and its surroundings:

Sagres

GOOD TO KNOW: If you are searching for a truly dramatic spot, there’s no dispute that Sagres is one of the lesser-known yet best places to visit in Portugal. Not only it is one of the best places in Europe to go surfing, but it’s also where you’ll find Cape Saint Vincent and some gorgeous beaches such as Martinhal and Mareta. You can visit Sagres and Cape Saint Vincent on day trips from Lagos (click here for more information). You can also enjoy a Sagres sunset tour (check it out here).

TIP: Make sure to also check out Salema, a lovely fishing village at about 25 minutes drive from Lagos, with a beautiful sandy beach and cliffs.

Albufeira

Albufeira

Just a short distance from Lagos sits the quaint and underrated town of Albufeira. As another town in the Algarve region, Albufeira has similarities with Lagos, but still has a very unique charm and enchantment.

What makes Albufeira special is its small town feel, where wandering the streets and exploring the beaches feels slightly more intimate. This makes it the perfect seaside village to enjoy a relaxing and memorable Portuguese getaway. 

There are many amazing things to do in Albufeira. This is the perfect place to stroll around admiring the whitewashed architecture and huge sandy beaches. Make sure to visit São Rafael Beach! From wine tasting, to dolphin watching, to boat tours, and beyond you can find a ton to do in this small coastal town to fill an entire itinerary. 

But there is also another side to Albufeira that makes one of the most interesting places to visit in Portugal, and that is its nightlife! Albufeira has a vibrant nightlife scene that is perfect for travelers looking for beauty by day and party by night. By going to Candido dos Reis at night you can have your choice of a ton of bars, clubs, and pubs and enjoy cheap drinks in an exciting atmosphere.

These guided tours may help you make the most of Albufeira and its surroundings:

GOOD TO KNOW: At about 30 minutes drive from Albufeira, Praia da Marinha is one of Portugal top attractions. This gorgeous sandy beach is a great place for snorkeling, and you will find many beautiful caves, cliffs and rock pools. It’s definitely a must-see.

best places to visit in Portugal

Lisbon

Lisbon is the capital city of Portugal and one of the best places to visit in Portugal for history and culture lovers. The city is known for its hilly terrain, colorful buildings, and stunning sites and attractions. As one of the most touristy places in Portugal, there is no wonder as to why people from around the world flock to this magical city to enjoy some of the best of what Portugal has to offer. 

Lisbon is the largest city in Portugal and has enough things to do to keep you entertained for days! This makes it the perfect place to stay in for a while to fully explore and immerse yourself in the Portuguese culture. Plus, as the capital city, Lisbon is full of historic sights and things to see which make it all the more enticing.

The highlight of Lisbon is the charming streets and architecture. You could easily spend hours wandering the cobblestone streets, walking up and down the huge hills, discovering more and more beauty as you move through the city, the best area for this is Alfama District. The streets of Lisbon are some of the most Instagrammable in the world making it one of the best places to visit in Portugal for photographers.

There are a ton of amazing things to do to do in Lisbon, more than just exploring the wonderful streets. Many people want to see the iconic view of the city from above which can be admired from Miradouro da Graça. Some other amazing things to do are walk down the famous Rua Augusta, visit the ornate Monastery Jeronimos (get your tickets in advance here), listening to Fado music and much more! You can surely find a ton of amazing things to do in Lisbon to keep you entertained. 

These are the best guided tours of Lisbon:

You may also want to consider getting a Lisbon Card. Get yours here.

cascais

GOOD TO KNOW: West of Lisbon, Cascais is one of the best places to visit in Portugal for holidays, blessed with beautiful beaches where you can practice all sorts of water sports (the best is by far Praia do Tamariz); an incredible nightlife scene, and a bunch of interesting sights such as the Conde de Castro Guimares Museum (a well curated art gallery) and the Caiscia Marina marina. Guided tours of Cascais departing from Lisbon usually also go to Sintra. Check them out here.

TIP: If you feel the need to get away from the hustle and bustle of Lisbon, Arrábida Natural Park, at around 40 km south of the city, is just about the perfect place where you can enjoy hiking, climbing, biking and other adventure sports, as well as wildlife spotting and swimming in one of the stunning beaches such as Praia do Ribeiro do Cavalo. Interesting sights in the area include the 1542 Franciscan Convento da Arrábida, and Portinho da Arrábida, a village in the Bay of Setúbal. For day trips from Lisbon, click here.

Make sure to read my posts:

things to do in Portugal

Sintra

Sintra is one of the best places to visit in Portugal for anyone looking to escape reality for a while and transport into a fairytale fantasy world.  Home to some of Portugal’s most beautiful castles and pieces of architecture, the forested landscape make it even more charming to visit.

Sintra is home to four main attractions: Castle of the Moors, Pena Palace, Quinta da Regaleira, and the National Palace. The Castle of the Moors is an old fortress that was built between the 8th and 9th centuries. The fortress itself is well preserved and the views from the top are amazing.

Pena Palace is the most famous and beautiful building in Sintra. It is a multi colored palace that sits high in the mountains and is a sight to behold. The bright colors pop, and the whimsical design of the palace is amazing. Quinta da Regaleira is a beautiful stone palace and UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Sintra National Palace is an old palace that is not the most popular attraction in Sintra but well worth a visit if time permits. 

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Sintra can be easily seen on day trips departing from Lisbon. It only takes 20 minutes by train from Lisbon to Sintra and then you can spend the day exploring. The city is free to enter but the cost of attractions varies from €15-20. This one also goes to Cascais and Cabo da Roca. You can book it here. If you’d rather visit independently, make sure to get your Pena Palace tickets in advance. You can get them here.

GOOD TO KNOW: At 30 minutes drive north of Sintra (about 45 minutes from Lisbon), Ericeira is a lovely fishing village and one of the best places to visit in Portugal to go surfing and to taste the country’s famous seafood. You can book a surfing lesson here.

things to do in Portugal

Óbidos

One hour drive north of Lisbon, in the Estremadura province, Óbidos is one of the most beautiful small towns in Portugal. According to history, the village was donated by King Denis I to his wife, Queen Isabel who, in the 13th century, fell in love with it. From then on, a tradition was established by which kings would buy beautiful villages for their queens!

Óbidos is a fortified town that’s a maze of scenic cobblestone streets that are a photographer’s dream. Its main landmarks are the beautiful Igreja De Santa Maria, whose interior is adorned with 17th century azulejos; the town’s museum and the city walls, from where you can enjoy great views. 

Other things to do in Óbidos include trying the local cherry liquor, Ginja de Óbidos, which is traditionally served in tiny chocolate cups. If you wish to explore the surroundings, make sure to go to the nearby lagoon – Lagoa de Obidos.

GOOD TO KNOW: The Castle is now a luxury hotel – Pousada do Castelo.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: You can visit Óbidos on day trips from Lisbon such as this one or this one. Keep in mind that day trips typically go to other places too such as Fatima, Batalha and Nazaré.

Faro

Faro

If you manage to scratch beneath the surface, you will agree that Faro is one of the best places to visit in Portugal. It’s Old Town – Cidade Velha – is definitely worth seeing. The main features are the 16th century walls that were built over the Roman foundations, and the beautiful Baroque cathedral that dates back to the 13th century. 

Other things to do in Faro include climbing the medieval tower for views of the city; visiting the Museu Municipal de Faro, and the Igreja do Carmo, which has a Bone Chapel preserving the skulls and bones of more than 1000 monks.

Parque Natural da Ria Formosa

Located east of Albufeira in the Algarve region, Parque Natural da Ria Formosa is one of the best places to visit in Portugal for nature lovers. With saltpans, water lagoons and sand dune islands, it’s the perfect place to enjoy nature walks (keep your eyes open for the sea daffodil) and observe the local wildlife. Expect to find an incredible variety of birds, including flamingoes. The visitors’ information center is near Olhão.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: You can visit Parque Natural da Ria Formosa on guided tours departing from Faro such as this one. Alternatively, you can opt for a boat tour departing from Olhão such as this one.

Tavira

Tavira

Located in the Algarve region, Tavira is easily one of the best places to visit in Portugal. The best sights in town include a Roman footbridge over the Rio Gilão; the castle, from where you can enjoy views of the old town and of the coast; the beautiful Igreia de Santa do Castelo church; and the Núcleo Islâmico museum. 

The waterfront is an ideal place for a walk; and you can also visit the nearby Tavira Island, home of a paradisiac beach.

TIP: A tuk tuk tour may help you make the most of the city. You can book it here.

Evora

The Alentejo Region

Known to be one of the best places to visit in Portugal, the Alentejo region has a lot to offer to its visitors. 

The main city, Évora, is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and a real treasure chest with many impressive sights and quite simply a pleasant place to walk around and get lost in the narrow alleys.

Among the places to visit in Évora there are the Templo Romano (Roman Temple), which dates back to the 2nd century; the 12th century Sé (cathedral) and the 16th century Igreja de São Francisco, famous for its Capela dos Ossos (Chapel of Bones).

GOOD TO KNOW: You can visit Évora on a day trip from Lisbon such as this one. If you wish to visit independently, consider joining a guided tour such as this one once there.

Another place not to miss in the Alentejo region include Elvas, where you’ll find a fantastic example of military architecture whose 17th century fortifications are in a star shape and so unique that they are a recognized UNESCO World Heritage site. Remarkable sites include the Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Consolação and the castle set on the north wall, from where you can get to the Aqueduto da Amoreira, a well kept 16th century aqueduct.

Finally, Marvao, in the Serra de São, is a lovely medieval town with beautifully preserved 13th century walls and offering stunning views of the surrounding region.

Coimbra

Coimbra

The Velha Universidade, a UNESCO World Heritage site is only one of the many reasons why Coimbra, once the capital of the country, is one of the best places to visit in Portugal.

Other unmissable sights are the beautifully kept Baroque Biblioteca Joanina; the 12th century Se Velha (the old cathedral); the 18th century clock tower; and the 1131 Igreja de Santa Cruz, where Portugal’s first king, Afonso Henriques, is buried. Make sure not to miss a walk along the banks of the Montego River. 

GOOD TO KNOW: A guided tour may be a good idea to visit the University of Coimbra. Check this out.

best places to visit in Portugal

Porto

Porto is an intriguing and unique city in Portugal that should be on everyone’s travel itinerary. Beyond its stunning beauty, Porto is full of hidden surprises and interesting attractions that are sure to entice anyone! Plus, Porto is just as historic and cultural as Lisbon, but attracts fewer tourists so exploring is less busy!

One of Porto’s highlights is the architecture. The city is made up of stunning colorful houses, churches covered in famous azulejo tiles (such as the Igreja Paroquial de Santo Ildefonso), and a huge bridge that crosses the city Luis I Bridge (AKA Ponte Dom Luis I). These things make Porto a feast for the eyes and exploring these beauties is a wonderful experience. 

Porto has also some unique and special features like its Port Wine cellars! If you are a wine lover then Porto is the city for you. There are a ton of Port Wine Cellar tours that will bring you into the old cellars and let you sample the famous wine from this region. You may want to check out this 3-hour Port wine walking tour with tastings.

Make sure to read my post 18 Cool Things To Do In Porto.

Douro Valley

In addition to this, Porto is famous for being a place with many ties to the famous Harry Potter. J.K Rowling lived in Porto for some time and some places in the city were used to inspire the books. If you are a Harry Potter fan then a visit to the beautiful Livraria Lello Library is a must. 

From churches to buildings to Harry Potter inspiration, Porto is full of beauty and excitement. Porto is a very unique place and one of the best places to visit in Portugal for travelers looking for a getaway that offers more than meets the eye.

GOOD TO KNOW: Porto is a perfect starting point to explore the Douro Valley, easily one of the best places to visit in Portugal, a gorgeous unspoilt area famous for its wine production. You can visit it on day trips from Porto such as this one.

To make the most of Porto, you may want to join one of these guided tours:

Check out my posts 10 Fantastic Day Trips From Porto and The Best Restaurants In Porto For The Best Porto Food.

Portugal attractions

Aveiro

Known as the “Venice of Portugal,” Aveiro is located in the region of the Beira Litoral and sits on a series of lagoons and canals. The city is known for its many Art Nouveau buildings, examples of which can be found scattered around town.

While exploring the colorful canals – where you can spot the beautiful barcos moliceiros (which will certainly remind you of Venetian gondolas) is definitely the best thing to do, when in Aveiro make sure to also visit the Museu Arte Nova (which as the name says is dedicated to Art Nouveau) and the Museu de Aveiro, which is located in the 15th century Convento de Jesus and whose has a collection dedicated to the life of Santa Joana, who lived in the convent until her death in 1489.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Aveiro is at around 50 minutes drive south of Porto. You can visit it on day trips such as this one.

things to do in Portugal

Braga

Easily visited on day trips from Porto (for the best guided tour click here), Braga is one of the best places to visit in Portugal. The city features a gorgeous historic center with beautiful mansions and churches, the most important of which is the 11th century cathedral.

Make sure not to miss the main square, packed with lovely cafés located under the arcades and where you’ll find the 14th century Torre de Menagem. At 1.5 km from the city, the sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte is another great place to visit. 

GOOD TO KNOW: At less than one hour drive from Braga, Amarante is one of the most picturesque cities in Portugal, also famous for the production of green wine. 

Guimarães

Guimarães

At less than one hour from Porto you’ll find Guimarães, the first capital of the country, a UNESCO World Heritage site and definitely one of the best places to visit in Portugal. Its main landmarks include the castle and the royal palace (Paço dos Duques); as well as the beautiful main square and the 14th century shrine of the Padrão do Salado. 

The best museum in town is the Museu de Alberto Sampaio, located in the Romanesque cloister of Nossa Senhora da Oliveira.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Guimarães can be easily visited on day trips from Porto, that usually also go to Braga. For more information, click here.

Peneda-Gerês National Park

Peneda-Gerês National Park

Parque Nacional da Peneda-Gerês is the only national park in the country, so  you’ll want to visit! It’s located in the northeast Minho region on the border with Spain and is a place of lush vegetation, beautiful lakes with clear waters, waterfalls and scattered with incredibly scenic villages. Living in the park there are several species of animals, including wolves and wild boars, as well as golden eagles.

It’s a perfect place to go hiking since you will find a great variety of trails of different difficulties, especially if you are visiting Portugal during the Spring.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: You can visit the national park on day trips from Porto such as this one or this one.

Sao Miguel

The Islands

Madeira

Madeira is a fairly small island located between Portugal and the Canary Islands and blessed with fabulous subtropical weather, which makes it the perfect place to visit for winter sun. The main city, Funchal, is a lovely place to explore. Don’t forget to also visit the house that belonged to Christopher Columbus and the Madeira Wine Museum.

GOOD TO KNOW: The nearby island of Porto Santo has the best beaches!

São Miguel

The largest island of the Azores is a beautiful destination packed to the brim with things to see and do. Make sure to visit to enjoy its hiking trails, waterfalls and the twin lakes Lagoa das Sete Cidades, and don’t miss Furnas, a small village sitting on the volcano.

Bragança

Lesser known places to visit in Portugal

Bragança

If you’re keen on getting off-the-beaten path, Bragança may be a great option. Located at around 3 hours drive from Porto, if features a well kept citadel dating back to 1130! The best places to visit in town are the castle, the Domus Municipalis, a council chamber which is fantastic example of Romanesque civic architecture of a bizarre pentagonal  shape that was built in the 15th century. The Church of Santa Maria is another impressive sight. 

GOOD TO KNOW: If you decide to spend a few days in the area, make sure to also visit the nearby Parque Natural de Montesinho, on the border with Spain.

Sortelha

In the North East of Portugal at about 3 hours drive from Porto and more than 3 from Lisbon, and close to the border with Spain, Sortelha is a gorgeous medieval small town with a charming history, a gorgeous renaissance style church, and narrow alleys galore. It’s an incredibly photogenic spot!

Serra da Estrela

Serra da Estrela – or Star Mountains, in English – is home to the highest peaks in the country, reaching almost 2000 meters above sea level. It’s one of the best places to visit in Portugal to go hiking, and villages such as Linhares and Valezim are the perfect places to stop. This is the only place in Portugal where you can actually go skiing – so consider this option if you are visiting in the winter. You may want to consider this day ski-trip from Porto here.

Porto

Monsanto

The village of Monsanto, at 3 hours drive from Lisbon, counts no more than 1000 inhabitants and is built around, into and under massive boulders. It’s one of the most unique places to visit in Portugal.

Mértola 

This lovely small town in Alentejo deserves to be mentioned among the best places to visit in Portugal. It is a Vila Museu – a museum town located on the banks of the River Guadiana. Though its origins are Phoenician, it is clear that it went under the influence of the Romans and the Moors. The most impressive sight is the 13th century hilltop castle – built by the Moors. The church was once a mosque!

Beja

Located in the Baixa Alentejo, this is another well preserved Roman town. Its most notable sites is the Museu Regional, located in the Convento de Nossa Senhora da Conceição. North of the city you will find the Ruinas Romanas de São Cucufate and the castle, where you can access the Torre de Menagem for impressive views.

Sado Estuary

Close to Lisbon, the Sado Estuary is a fantastic place for birdwatching and other wildlife spotting.

Portugal

Useful Information To Plan Your Trip To Portugal

When to visit Portugal

Portugal is a great place to visit all year long. Each season offers something different and depending on the type of traveler you are is how you can decide when you’d like to visit. 

The spring months – March to May – in Portugal welcome warm temperatures and sunny days. You can expect days with highs over 20 degrees and may find yourself enjoying summer like temperatures in months like March and April. Plus, during these months there are fewer tourists than in the summer so you can enjoy the country with fewer people.

The summer months – June to August – are hot! If you love hot summers then a visit to Portugal during the summer months is what you need. With temperatures over 30 degrees be sure to prepare for the hot days and bring sunscreen. Also, there are far more tourists in Portugal in summer than in the other months which means more people and higher costs. 

September to November are the perfect months to visit for those looking to extend their summer a few months longer. You can get temperatures in the 20s and high teens in the fall and enjoy the last of the summer heat. These months also have less tourists.

Winter – December to February – is the least touristy time in Portugal. You can still expect warmer temperatures and sun, but it is not super hot. 

Portugal travel tips

Some tips for anyone visiting Portugal:

  • The currency used here is Euros
  • The country is very small and you can get around quite easily by train or bus
  • Rent a car if you plan on visiting multiple places
  • Always wear sunscreen
  • Vegetarians may have a harder time finding vegetarian food options, but it is not at all impossible
  • Get a rechargeable metro card in Lisbon and Porto 
  • Most museums are free on Sundays 
  • Wear comfortable shoes, you will be walking quite a bit, and up and down many hills

Portugal truly is a unique and amazing country to visit. There is so much beauty and diversity in the small area of land that will wow you from start to finish. Using this list to find the best places to visit in Portugal will have you ready for your next adventure in this stunning country. 

This post was contributed by Samantha Karen, the founder of Sam Sees World. She is a twenty something traveler on a mission to explore the world to seek the new and unknown so she can document her experiences and inspire others to explore. Her objective is to learn about the world while also searching for her place in it. You can follow Sam on Pinterest and on Instagram too.

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Discover the best places to visit in Portugal - via @clautavani
Read about the best places to visit in Portugal - via @clautavani
Read about the best tourist attractions in Portugal - via @clautavani

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