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If you longing for cobblestone villages, golden beaches, and captivating cities then Portugal is one such destination that offers you everything from history, scenery and great food and this is just the start – a perfect haven that will certainly quench your thirst for adventure (and food!).
For many years, Portugal was given the short shrift by travelers headed for the Iberian Peninsula whose focus would be solely on a trip to neighboring Spain. The new renaissance that took place in Lisbon turned out to be the driving factor behind a dramatic change that started several years ago.
It was a time when a vast number of hip new restaurants and upscale hotels set up businesses in the city. Consequently, the capital city that was always an afterthought for the tourists became a star attraction on the European travel circuit.
Lisbon continues to grow in popularity today not only as one of the best places to visit in Portugal but in the whole of Europe.
A record number of travelers are seen flocking here every year with most choosing to take their exploring to far-reaching corners of the peninsula.
From the soft rolling vineyards and Douro hills in the north to the massive dramatic cliffs buffering the southern Atlantic shores, Portugal is a country blessed with diversity.
The university city of Coimbra, historical Sagres, and Algarve beaches are among some of the best places to visit in Portugal. Take a stroll on the cobbled Porto alleyways or pay a quick visit to the fairytale-inducing Sintra which Lord Byron himself considered being his favorite, this will ensure your well-rounded and complete Portugal travel.
For those looking for famous Portugal destinations, here’s a quick Portugal travel guide to help you find some of the breathtaking sites in Portugal.
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Table of Contents
Here’s the list of the top places to visit in Portugal
A charming city in Central Portugal, Coimbra stands by the Mondego River and is a treasure trove of beautiful gardens and historic sites. The city is also home to the second style of fado music famous in Portugal while also boasting a lively culture that has at its center one of the oldest universities in Europe.
Getting lost in discovering the various historical attractions in Coimbra, ranging from the Gothic Monastery Santa Clara-a-Velha to the stunning Old Cathedral is the best thing any tourist can do in this city.
Visiting here would go incomplete without a trip to the University of Coimbra where one can admire the Joanina Library, considered one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. It has already become one of the best tourist attractions in the country.
The Azores Archipelago comprises nine volcanic islands standing in the Atlantic Ocean around 1500 km to the west of the capital city of Lisbon.
The place is well known for its quaint seaside towns, hot mineral springs, and world-class whale watching facilities. Every island has a fascinating identity of its own. Sao Miguel is the most significant island in the archipelago and is also called “The Green Island” while the highest mountain in Portugal stands tall in Pico.
Hugging the Atlantic Coast in Central Portugal, the bustling city of Aveiro is often regarded as “the Venice of Portugal” thanks to its picturesque setting involving scenic canals dotted with speed boats and colorful gondolas with beautiful bridges connecting either bank.
Tasty cuisine, gorgeous beaches, and historic sites are the other popular tourist attractions in the city. Aveiro has some gems when it comes to sightseeing as well including the likes of Convento de Jesus, the Sao Goncalo Chapel, and the Aveiro Cathedral, all of which are adorned with astounding artworks and lovely architecture.
Though a small town in southern Portugal’s Alentejo Plains region, the tourist appeal for Evora is enormous. The city has a history that dates back over 2000 years and used to be a prosperous city during the Roman rule.
Evora stands out today as the Alentejo region capital and is revered for the well-preserved Old Town that shelters over 4000 historic structures which include the old Roman temples and walls.
The Cathedral of Evora, dating back to the 13th century, is another highlight of this town and the most important Gothic structures of Portugal. The most massive complex of prehistoric megaliths in the European continent can be found a little outside the city limits and is worth paying a visit.
Globally acclaimed for producing the most exceptional quality of the port wine, Porto is a busy city sprawling along the hills that overlook the Douro River in the northern territories of Portugal.
The Ribeira, a charming pedestrian zone, stands at the heart of the city and is a place on the river that is famous for its atmosphere. The Ribeira is always abuzz with street vendors, restaurants, cafes, and live music.
The Ponte Dom Luis is a dominating attraction in this famous tourist zone. It is a double-deck metal arch bridge that serves as the link between Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia, famous for port wine cellars. Porto is one of the top visited cities in Portugal, and now you know why.
Madeira often goes by the nickname “Floating Garden of the Atlantic” which is a little surprising considering it is a fertile oasis between North Africa and Portugal sitting in the Atlantic Ocean.
Wines, flower gardens, and lush green landscapes are the factors that give this place its popularity. Some of the must-see places for the tourists include the Laurissilva Forest and the Orchid Garden. The vastest concentration of laurel in the world can be seen at the Laurissilva Forest.
Funchal being the largest city also serves as a capital of Madeira and home to many favorite restaurants, tourist resorts, historic fortresses, and churches. The tree-lined Lido Promenade is also seen here and offers spectacular views of the ocean.
Sintra sits nestled in the Sintra Mountains foothills that run along the Lisbon Coast. It is a day’s trip away from Lisbon and ideally should not be missed on a Portugal travel. Sintra offers a spectacular setting featuring castles, royal retreats, pretty villas, and verdant hills.
There are also many famous palaces around town such as the Pena’s Palace, a fantastic castle that is reminiscent of the Neuschwanstein in Germany.
Pena’s Palace was built in the mid-1800s and served as the summer retreat for the royal family of Portugal. Forested parklands surround the palace and have an abundance of exotic flowers, plants, and trees.
Tourists who travel to Portugal Sintra should also not miss out on the ruins of the ancient Castle of the Moors that crown the highest hill in the city. The romantic setting of the Monserrate Palace and its subtropical gardens is another popular attraction.
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Obidos sits on a hilltop in western Portugal’s Centro Region with an old fortified wall encircling it. Among the other main attractions in the city are its historic center and the magnificent medieval castle.
Visitors can take the labyrinth of narrow cobbled streets across the busy squares to reach whitewashed houses spruced up with colorful flowers, quaint shops, and inviting cafes.
The castle is characterized by towers and battlements, massive gates, and a commanding edifice, and has now been turned into a luxurious hotel and is among some of the famous hotels in Portugal. It remains a marvel to behold.
Tourists have unanimously voted Algarve as one of the best places to visit in Portugal thanks to its fabulous cuisine, historic sites, picturesque towns, gorgeous beaches, and sunny Mediterranean climate, all of which is available at reasonably affordable prices.
Situated in the southernmost region of Portugal, Algarve is a treat to the visitor’s eyes with dramatic summer resort dotted cliffs, windswept coasts, traditional whitewashed villages, and a serene landscape of olive groves.
The capital of the region is Faro, and Lagos is the hot spot for nightlife here. Silves is renowned for its red sandstone castle and orange groves while the sophisticated town of Tavira is replete with palaces, bridges, and monuments that date back to the period of Renaissance.
Stretched out along the Tagus River banks close to the Atlantic Ocean, the most significant and capital city of Portugal winds upwards through seven steep hills which form an enchanting destination characterized by colorful neighborhoods, impressive bridges, Gothic cathedrals, quaint shops, alluring alleys, and warm weather.
Lisbon is always reverberating to the tunes of traditional fado music. Alfama is the oldest district in the city and is an old Moorish quarter that is distinguished by the St. George’s Castle, rustic architecture, and cobblestone streets.
Lisbon can be best experienced aboard one of the vintage trams that wind along with the famous tourist attractions, gardens, and historic quarters in the Portugal countryside.
Read more about Lisbon, Portugal:
One of the main attractions of a Portugal travel is surfing, and the small fishing village of Ericeira has a big reputation for helping tourists catch the waves. The place is easily accessible from Lisbon and is one of the closest beach towns to the capital city which happens to make it among the busiest.
Sitting along the cliffs fringing the coastline and watching the other surfers do their stuff is not the only thing tourists look forward to with Ericeira being home to some of the best restaurants to indulge in delicious, fresh seafood.
The Alentejo region offers a much-needed break from the maddening crowd. Its capital city of Evora is another beautiful spot to be in with a mysterious nature and rich history that makes it the perfect destination to be in for Halloween.
Presence of the Capela dos Ossos or the Chapel of Bones only serves to enhance its reputation in this regard with the walls of this 16th-century church being filled with approximately 5000 human bones.
Other historical sites should not be missed such as the Cathedral of Evora and the Roman Temple. Evora, along with its nearby villages, offers the ideal retreat into nature for those looking to hide away and indulge in genuinely comforting food and some extraordinary wine.
Tourists who wish to travel back in time and experience an authentic feel of the old Portugal should consider Monsanto as part of their travel to Portugal itinerary.
There is nothing better than visiting the most Portuguese village the country has to offer, a place that has witnessed bare minimum change over hundreds of years. A hidden gem, it is relatively unknown with a characteristic that becomes evident upon arrival – Monsanto is built under, in, and around huge boulders.
The first Portuguese capital is worth visiting. Afonso I, the first king of Portugal, had chosen to rule the country from its birthplace of Guimaraes back in the 12th century. Ever since then the city has come to be known as “The Birthplace of Portugal.”
Tourists can enjoy a trip to the same castle that used to be the residence of the king and many other historical figures. Guimaraes enjoys easy accessibility by bus and car from Porto which is only 50 kilometers away.
A place that brings together the old and the new, the third largest Portuguese city is also one of its oldest and enjoys a robust youthful following. In the year 2012, this place also earned the label of European Youth Capital, attracting students from the University of Minho located close by.
The site is replete with bars, restaurants, shops, and cafes which give a truly vibrant atmosphere to Braga while the city has also been famous for its religious values. The local cathedral is Portugal’s oldest while tourists can enjoy an entirely spiritual retreat at the stunning Bom Jesus do Monte. 116meters of stairs take visitors to the top of a hill in the woods for breathtaking views.
Portugal is one of the major countries in the European continent and enjoys political stability. Tourism has picked up considerably in recent years and has turned into a dominant driving force of the national economy.
With so many options regarding places to see in Portugal, it is little wonder that the country has such popularity in the tourism space and has something to offer visitors of all ages.
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Founder of Pretty Wild World and one of the leading experts in Europe travel, the Nordics, and Scandinavia Destinations.
Evan Kristine has been mentioned in big publications such as The Huffington Post and the Thought Catalog has been sharing her useful travel tips and hacks to the world for more than five years now.
Nowadays, she is a full-time traveler exploring and documenting her journey around the world providing you the next best travel idea for your great next adventure.