Portugal is a small country with so much to visit. Whether you're interested in cityscapes or nature, beaches or mountains, here you can find the destination for your next holiday. To help you, we've listed the ten most important places to visit in the country.
The Portuguese capital is one of the country's main tourist attractions, with approximately ten million international visitors every year. The mild, sunny climate, the riverside scenery and low prices when compared to other European capitals make the city attractive at any time of year.
What to see:
- Historic Centre:
the best way to get to know the real Lisbon is to explore the narrow streets of the city's historic quarters. Watch a fado show in Alfama, walk up from Mouraria to St George's Castle, have a drink in Bairro Alto or stroll through the traditional shops in Baixa and Chiado are some of the ways to experience the best the capital has to offer.
- Belém: away from the city centre, Belém was built to reflect the grandeur of Portugal's maritime expansion in the 15th century. The Jerónimos Monastery, a Monument to the Discoveries and the Belém Tower are the main attractions here, as well as the popular Pastéis de Belém cakes.
- Monsanto: this Portuguese romantic village, just 30 minutes from Lisbon, is very popular with tourists. Its impressive monuments and picturesque houses form a perfect balance against the natural landscape of the mountains where it is located. Travesseiros de Sintra are a typical local sweet - a delicate puff pastry filled with egg cream and almonds.
- Sintra: this Portuguese romantic village, just 30 minutes from Lisbon, is very popular with tourists. Its impressive monuments and picturesque houses form a perfect balance against the natural landscape of the mountains where it is located. Travesseiros de Sintra are a typical local sweet - a delicate puff pastry filled with egg cream and almonds.
- Cascais: a Portuguese coastal town 30 minutes away from the capital. It is one of the main tourist attractions in the Lisbon region, particularly in summer, thanks to its well-known beaches. It's the perfect destination to escape the hustle and bustle of the big city and enjoy a traditional atmosphere.
The “Invicta city”, capital of Northern Portugal, is a popular tourist attraction in the Country. With a historic centre classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is packed with historic monuments and centuries-old bridges that cross the idyllic Douro River. “Francesinha” and “Tripas à Moda do Porto”, traditional local dishes, are part of experiencing this city.
What to see:
- Port Wine Cellars: these are located in Vila Nova de Gaia, on the other side of the river, where the famous Port Wine is stored and aged. Visitors can learn about the history of this wine and discover its dozens of varieties.
- Ribeira: the landmark of the city of Porto, with its cluster of small colourful houses on the banks of the Douro. This is a very busy tourist area with many cafés and restaurants overlooking Gaia and its Wine Cellars.
- Clérigos Tower: the city's crown jewel. Built in a visible Baroque style and more than 75 metres high, it marks the city’s skyline, offering a unique panoramic view of the city.
- Lello Bookshop: recognised as one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world. Located in the historic centre of Porto, it was regarded for years as a source of inspiration for J.K. Rowling (who even lived in the city) for the books in the well-known Harry Potter saga - and you can see why. The colours, stained glass windows and architecture of this historic building feed the imagination of any visitor.
- Serralves Park: this green space right in the heart of Porto stretches over an impressive 18 hectares, and also includes the House (a unique example of Art Deco architecture in the country) as well as the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art.
Peneda-Gerês National Park
The country's only national park is located in the northernmost part of the country, on the border with Galicia (Spain). It has more than 70,000 hectares of natural landscape in its purest state, crystal-clear waters and trails of breathtaking beauty.
The Azores archipelago is formed by nine islands divided into three groups, each offering a unique world of undiscovered natural landscapes. The volcanic origin of the archipelago can be found in its natural landscape (the Capelinhos volcano, on Faial island; the geysers and thermal waters, on S. Miguel island; or the Fajãs, on S. Jorge island) as well as in its culture, where the greatest example is Cozido das Furnas, a traditional dish of the archipelago, cooked under the ground.
An archipelago that includes the island of Madeira, Porto Santo, the Desertas Islands and the Selvagens Islands, with two thirds of its territory made up of protected areas. The year-round mild temperatures invite you to enjoy outdoor activities, whether it's walking along waterways, golf, boating or scuba diving. Madeira wine and bolo do caco cake are some of the region's gastronomic delicacies.
Serra da Estrela
The highest mountain in mainland Portugal is known for being the only place in the country where snow sports can be practised. But this natural park offers much more than that. There are some 375 kilometres of hiking, horse-riding and cycling trails, springs and lakes with fresh, crystal-clear water for the hottest days and historic villages that are unique sights in the region. Serra cheese and Seia bread are traditional gastronomic products that you cannot miss.
The southern region of Portugal is particularly well known for its many kilometres of white sandy beaches. But the Algarve landscape offers far more than an enviable tan.
What to see:
- Faro: the capital of the Algarve is often neglected by visitors to the region. However, the city offers a true journey into the past through its historic centre, with its narrow streets and alleyways that stand still in time.
- Vicentine Coast: the west coast of the Algarve is part of the Natural Park that begins further north, in southwest Alentejo. The beaches with rough seas, surrounded by wild nature, are a stark contrast to the rest of the Algarve's more urbanised landscape. Travelling along the Vicentine Route by car, motorbike or bicycle has become a popular activity for the more adventurous tourists.
- Serra de Monchique: located in inland Algarve, it is often overlooked by tourists. Here you'll find Fóia, the highest point in the Algarve, from where you can enjoy a fantastic view over the entire region.
- Ria Formosa: this natural park stretches along 60 kilometres of the coast of the Algarve. For bird-watching enthusiasts, the area is an important transit route for migrations between northern Europe and Africa, where rare species can be spotted. This region is also known for the Portuguese Water Dog, an endangered breed from the Algarve.
- Tavira: the influence of the Arab occupation can be seen in the city's architecture - the distinctive “scissor” or hipped roofs that carve out the landscape, or the “reixa” doors of the historic centre are characteristic elements of Tavira's buildings.
Braga and Guimarães
The proximity between these two cities in the north of Portugal warrants a joint visit. Braga is one of the oldest cities in the country and Guimarães is the birthplace of Portugal's first king. A taste of the local cuisine is essential to complete the experience - roast kid, “sarrabulho” porridge or codfish served Minho style are some of the typical delicacies.
Known as the Venice of Portugal, this city on the Centre coast is intersected by a network of canals through which “moliceiro” boats pass. Also emblematic of the city are “ovos moles”, a sweet made with eggs and sugar and stored in wooden barrels or wrapped in a crust of wafer dough in various shapes. Another distinctive feature of the area are the rickety haystacks on Costa Nova beach, which are very popular among visitors.
With a historic centre surrounded and protected by a vast walled belt that UNESCO has classified as a World Heritage Site, Évora is an open-air history book. The capital of the Alentejo region, it gives you the chance to taste the best of the region - Alentejo açorda (bread stew), lamb stew or shark soup are just a few examples of the stars of the local gastronomy.