15 Best Cities to Visit in Portugal

Martina Rosado
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Map of cities in Portugal

By far the most attractive Portuguese city, Lisbon has a rich history, beautiful architecture, and a great cafe culture. The center of the city is the Baixa, that’s right in the heart of things and is a great place to spend a few days wandering the narrow streets.

Porto

Known to be one of the most affordable European cities, in Porto there is always something going on. You’ll rarely be bored with so much to do. Food is excellent and there are a few amazing museums. It’s refreshing to go to a city so old and be grateful for all of its quirks.

Coimbra

If you are into history, Coimbra is one of the top destinations. The University of Coimbra is a great place to explore, and you can spend many days hiking the castle grounds of the city.

Aveiro

One of the many islands in Portugal, Aveiro seems to have been dropped into the coast of continental Portugal. The modern buildings of the city stand out along the water and blend well with the traditional architecture in the oldest part of town. The food and wine in the island is world-class, so this is a must visit place when you are in the area.

Faro

Faro

Faro is one of the most picturesque cities of the Algarve. This ideal city is located at the monte clube, a hillock. Though it was attacked by the Moors a few times, it attained its present appearance in the year 1238. The old part of the city is characterized by narrow streets, these are usually paved with red and black stone. Its buildings, in sandstone and limestone, are some of the most ornate in Europe. The various styles that can be found there include classical, baroque, Gothic, Renaissance and Islamic.

Most of the old buildings were damaged during the earthquake of 1855, but with time, they have recovered and were modified till they fitted in with the new architectural style that came into being. The Castle of Faro, the city’s landmark, is one of the most recognizable castles in Europe. The palace is home to the municipal offices, the municipality and the courts. The palace is situated on top of the most noticeable hillock in the city.

The Cathedral, another landmark in the city is also made of sandstone. Completed in 1569, it is a Gothic temple and a masterpiece of Manueline architecture. It is a basilica with no naves in the nave. In the interior, there is an octagonal dome supported by octagonal columns.

Figueira da Foz

Figueira da Foz is located in the province of Guarda in the district of Aveiro in the north of Portugal. The city borders the Atlantic Ocean and Figueira da Foz estuary.

Known as the principal centre of the Portuguese wine and meat industries, the city also has a large gem industry and a good fishery.

Grab a coffee and take a break on one of the two beaches in the city. Hike up to the top of the city walls and appreciate the views of the town from above.

There are dozens of medieval houses in town that have been known to host medieval style festivals. There is plenty of shopping, great food, and interesting historical architecture and museums. Buy some truffles to take home or try your luck at the casino.

On the final night, take part in the “Poesia Trocada,” a treasure hunt of poetry where revelers hunt for local poets in costume all over town and recite their poetry for the winners.

Viseu

You never had a chance to visit the town that inspired the beauty that is Viseu, but as a side trip while traveling through Portugal, I highly recommend it as a vacation. The city is one of the most unique in the country and rivaled some of my favourite spots in Germany, Spain, Italy and beyond.

Viseu was named the best by Conde Nast Traveler in 2002. It’s the pearl of the northern region of Portugal and it’s easy to see why. Aside from the narrow white-stone streets, the town also happens to be one of the country’s historical gems.

The castle has been voted one of the most romantic historical sights in Europe. It’s one of the more popular wedding venues in the country and the monastery is popular destination for day and night time activities.

If the stone walls and historic township sounds interesting, be sure to take in the arts and culture as well. The city holds an annual artisanal market and holds many different festivals throughout the year.

Whether you want a peaceful weekend getaway from the big city or a quick trip to see the things the country has to offer, I highly recommend Viseu.

Leiria

Guarda

The capital of Guarda region has a population of 17000 and is known for its beaches, situated between Alentejo and Douro wine valleys. By doing a little research before your trip, planning might be easier for you, as you can find accommodations that suit your budget.

Every year, a lot of people visit Guarda. In fact, Guarda has been named by Condê Nast's Traveler of the Year, as one of the most important destinations in Europe.

If you're looking for a place to pitch a tent at, then you'll be pleased to learn of Guarda's relatively few hotels, but there are a few sites which don't require tent accommodations. The only place that's perfect for tent camping would be by the river in the area of Barca, and you could do so on a paradise. But the only problem is that there are a few more people who can do that with you.

Viana do Castelo

If you're interested in wine, then the city of Viana do Castelo in the Porto region of Portugal is the place to be. The quality here is excellent, while the price is really low for such superb wines.

This is the oldest wine region in Portugal, and is still a vital part of the wine making landscape. You're almost guaranteed to find it here, and you can find a high selection of wines from all kinds of grape types.

You could easily drink yourself silly here. Where else will you find an aged three-figure wine that's easy on the pocketbook?

Guimaraes

There are many reasons to travel to Portugal, and some of the reasons to come to the beautiful country include the wonderful sights and majestic architecture of the cities, along with pristine beaches and gorgeous countryside. However, there are also a great variety of choirs and festivals in Portugal to make an excursion into the country a cultural experience.

One of the big draws of traveling to the country of Portugal, particularly to the city of Guimaraes, is the unique architecture in this town of Guimaraes. The city is both the capital of the province and the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Guimaraes.

However, you don't have to just visit the city of Guimaraes, since you can also choose to travel to the nearby town of Tomar. This town is well-known for the beautifully constructed Convento de Cristo, and this convent, along with its church, offers a century of history unlike any other place in Portugal or even other parts of the world.

If you want to experience the architectural splendor and romanticism that these two different cities each offer, then Portugal can be the destination of your dreams.

Here are some of the attractions you can enjoy when you travel to Portugal and the surrounding cities:

Palace of Ajuda in Lisbon

Funchal

(Madeira)

Funchal (Funchal), or simply Funchal in English, is the capital city of the Portuguese autonomous region of Madeira. The population of the city is around 124,562 (2007), and the metropolitan population is about 305,000 people, which makes it the largest city in the autonomous region of Madeira and the fourth-largest city in Portugal.

It is located in southeastern Madeira, about 15 km (9.3 mi) from the island's main airport Madeira Airport, with almost 38,000 inhabitants per square kilometre.

The city is the second-most populated city in the Portuguese region of Madeira, and is the economic and cultural center of the island. Since the early 19th century Funchal has been influenced by global currents, with a cosmopolitan character, an important fortification system, round-the-year events, and the cultural benefits from an expanding university population.

Funchal is the capital of the municipality of Funchal, which includes the cities of Monte and Ribeira Grande. The municipality includes the island of Madeira within its borders, which includes the three largest cities: Funchal, Machico and Monchique; It is the second most populous municipality in Madeira and the biggest urban center outside the three main cities of Madeira.

The capital city of Madeira is officially designated as the Cultural Capital of Portugal for 2013.

Evora

Located in Extremadura Province in southwestern central Portugal, Evora is the fourth largest city in the country and is considered one of the finest examples of Portuguese architecture, with many museums and monuments.

The first sign that you’re in the right place is the Bridge of Sighs, a Roman-style bridge. Evora also has what’s considered the best wine cellar in all of Portugal. Evora offers many things to do, such as the famous “Monument to the Discoveries” and the University Museum of Art, housed in a 14th-century home.

The Cathedral of Evora is the church where Martin Luther was married. More museums can be found throughout the city, and walking through the downtown shopping district is always a nice way to relax. Evora is a centrally located city in Portugal, making it an ideal place to enjoy travel that takes you between a variety of European cities and is only a three-hour drive from Madrid.

For more travel inspiration from Portugal, NewYork and its enchanted destinations, read 5 Trips to See in the USA and 3 Best Places to Visit in the USA.

Coimbra

Braga

Anyone that has traveled throughout Europe has probably heard of Braga. Considered the most beautiful city in Portugal, Braga is smaller city than some of the other landmarks and attractions. However, Braga is also much less crowded and makes it an ideal place for a weekend getaway.

There are lots to see and do. You can start by doing some interesting activities among the historical sites, or just enjoy the town. Enjoying the town begins with a stroll along the river bank. There is even a statue of the mythical character Hercules.

There are many choices for where to eat in this area. One of the most popular restaurants is the Charcoal Grill. This restaurant is known for its grilled foods and seafood. You can choose from grilled fish, burgers, or your choice of meat.

If you are a foodie, you can book a cooking class at this restaurant. The class lasts for 2 hours and includes a lesson, demonstration, and tasting of the dishes. You may even get to chat with the chef. A weekend getaway to Braga will be worth while coming back to this restaurant and participating in the culinary activities.

Braga is located in the northern region of Portugal. It is located in the middle of two mountain ranges and is known for its relative isolation.

Aveiro

This charming city set in the warm borderlands with France is a great place to kick back in the sun. The entire city was moved at the turn of the 20th century, bringing the architecture of the past to the present … and it’s one of several places in the area for you to visit.

Aveiro is a major port city and a major transit hub for trains, buses and ferries that ply the city’s eastern and western coasts. You can go to a variety of sights and festivals or instead just relax on the beach and enjoy the water more like the locals do. A drive to the top of Mount Tomar gives you a scenic view of the area, as does the Monte da Lua restaurant with its views that go along with the food.

There are also walks and hikes you can take, including the nature trail around the mountainside at Monte da Lua. For those who like roof-top activities, you can climb the old turrets that used to guard the port and multiply the impressions you’re getting.

The waterfront in Aveiro is full of restaurants and bars and a popular place to hang out after a long day of doing other things.

Sintra

Sintra is an incredible place to visit, wherever you are in Portugal. It combines all the great parts of Portugal in a small area, which makes it an excellent choice for couples, families and adventurous young travelers alike.

For families, Sintra is an ideal destination, particularly with children, because of its history and its many fun things to do and see.

For those who like to spend weekends, it’s also an ideal destination to burn off all the alcohol they’ve been drinking at the beachside bars, which is not something that you’ll mind at all.

What attracts many to Sintra are the natural sights, particularly the magnificent Moorish castle, dating from the 16th century and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Pena National Palace, one of only three medieval buildings in the world to have survived the great Lisbon earthquake of 1755. It also offers stunning views of the traditional walled village of Sintra.

Sintra’s uneven landscape has long been home to a succession of civilizations based in the hills and valleys that nestle in the spectacularly scenic region. The plains are on the route of an important Roman road providing the traveling world with gold and incense, the traditional gifts by which the coming of Christianity was announced.

Porto

(Portugal)

Porto, a city in northern Portugal, is the fastest-growing city in all of Europe. It’s not the most appealing destination, but it is the best for history lovers. Rental apartments in Porto are a bargain, and the smart traveler should look for a flat in the Casaril quarter.

The city is beautiful because it was spared from the war that destroyed lots of European cities.

It’s been a hub for the European trade and arts for many centuries. Timeless treasures, such as Porto’s cathedral, first opened its doors in the late 1400s. The magnificent structure is packed with treasures and is well worth a trip to see.

The Portuguese people are very hospitable and friendly. They love to go to the coast. Porto is a good city for wine and food. One thing you should definitely try is the codfish from the nearby Atlantic Coast.

It’s as delicious as it is to look at. When you’re visiting for any length of time, rent a house or apartment in the outskirts. This allows you to experience the country’s quaint villages without the maddening city life.

Lisbon

Portugal.

Lisbon is massive and is packed with thousands of historical monuments and tourist attractions. The city is not only known for its rich cultural side but is also famous for its nightlife, shopping centers, food, sunny weather and the fact that the people are very friendly.

It has an array of districts from coastal locations, to historic to cosmopolitan. Lisbon is definitely worth visiting.