17 Best Places to Visit in Portugal

Martina Rosado
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Viana do Castelo

35 km from Portugal’s capital city of Lisbon, lies the beautiful village of Viana do Castelo. This picturesque town overlooks the Douro River, and one could spend the entire morning simply wandering around the town.

The streets are lined with quaint 19th century buildings with alleyways and backstreets reminiscent of a European city. The center of the town is a beautiful square where people like to gather and chat.

6th in the list of 17 best places to visit in Portugal.

Monsaraz

Nazare

The most popular destination while swimming with the dolphins, is the coastal village of Nazaré. This busy fishing port offers much more than the pool of dolphins. Zoomed in, the village is defined by the triangular point formed by three of the most interesting beaches on the Costa Vicentina. These neighborhoods, as they are called, stand out due to their simplicity and tranquility.

The most visited beach is the Praia da Vieira with easy access by public transport and only 400 meters from the town centre.

This is the perfect place to enjoy a swim, walk up and down the main promenade, or sit on the grass and enjoy the cool breeze. There are, of course, cottages and beach-side restaurants to relax in.

A maze of gardens and trails, with you following the pristine waters all the way to the ocean or meandering through them around bays, streams and creeks.

Aqua Magic, on the beach of São Sebastião, offers a more natural environment in which to enjoy a swim with the dolphins. This centre is an official concession with the Cetacean Secretariat of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation.

The project includes a nature reserve that protects the black dolphins and the mangroves. It is open year-round to both international and local tourists.

Peneda-Geres National Park

One of the original “Seven Natural Wonders of Portugal,” Peneda-Geres National Park is often referred to simply as …Peneda. The park’s landscape is unique for its fissured, intersecting, and karstic features: the result of thousands of years of erosion and earthquakes.

The dramatic landscape begs for exploration, and visitors usually want to experience the park by taking the pilgrimage trail that begins at the entrance gates.

There are a handful of trails that make the Peneda terrain accessible for a range of activities and visitors, from day hikes to multiday treks. The most popular trail by far is the 500-kilometer (3-hour drive) trek known as the Way of St. James, or simply, the Camino de Santiago Trail.

The Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, commonly known as The Way of Saint James, is a religious expression of the travel land that runs from Land’s End, Cornwall, England, to Santiago de Compostela, in Galicia, Spain.

The Camino de Santiago is a popular tourist trail and is also a way of life to many who choose to walk it. The best time of year to travel is during the summer, when the weather is mild and there are fewer mosquitoes. Cycling or hiking supplies are best, especially while camping.

Braga

(Barcelos)

The oldest city in Portugal, Braga is steeped in history and culture. Built as a Roman city in 200 BC, it remained as the capital for the Roman province of Gallaecia, becoming the springboard for many of the Celtic invasions that occurred in the region hundreds of years later.

With the rise of the Visigoths as a new ruling faction in the region, Braga became the main city of the Gothic kingdom, and it retains much of the medieval architecture that was built during that time.

Continue to the next page for more places to visit in Portugal.

Tomar

This small town is one of the best places to visit in Portugal, especially as a base for exploring the ancient buildings of the region. In addition to the churches and monasteries, you can get great views of the surrounding fields and farms. It is very quiet and peaceful, and the town has made many efforts to conserve its heritage.

Guimaraes

Coimbra

This city is in the beautiful Mondego River valley in the province of Coimbra. Situated on the “C– coast, it is famous for its university founded in 1101.

Silves

Silves is a city in the southwest of Portugal, and it is clear that the builders of the town were inspired by the Roman city of Ossonoba. It has the oldest ethnic marker, a column, in Portugal, and the ruins of a temple to Diana.

Granada

Granada is of course, known for its Moorish culture. The climate in this region is mild and humid. There is even a monument to the Spanish Hapsburgs, who defeated the Moors here.

Alcobaca

The Iron Age settlement of Pessegueiro, Alcobaca, is one of the best in this region, offering an important glimpse into its history. Alcobaca is often talked about when people are discussing the origins of the Romans.

Coimbra

Azores

The Azores Islands are a group of nine islands that form an autonomous region of Portugal. These islands are a real highlight for anyone visiting Portugal. They are remote islands located 1500 km away from mainland.

Due to their remoteness, the islands have been untouched by the modern world. Europeans started visiting the islands only in the 18th century.

The first humans settlers of the archipelago arrived from Europe in about 2500 BC. The islanders relied on agriculture and fishing. In the east lies the capital of the autonomous region of the Azores: Terceira Island.

The main industries today are fishing and tourism.

Aveiro

A wonderful town about 50 kilometers northwest from Porto that, despite its size, has many interesting places to visit, such as:

The Cave of the Astrolabe is the symbol of Aveiro. Climbing to the top of a rock you can visit by a small and beautiful clear spring, this cave is one of the most emblematic places in Aveiro.

At the top of the rock – where you can only visit in Spanish – you will find remains of an astrolabe, probably used by Portuguese sailors when they were searching for the fabled land of ‘El Dorado’; in Aveiro they found Asia instead!

The Stone Cross

Not quite a traditional monument, the stone cross forms an important part of the territory of Aveiro. If you have the time, you can explore this prehistoric survey that can be traced back to the Celts, and that has been rebuilt after the Conquest.

The Tower of Santa Marta

Surrounded by a park, the tower of Santa Marta is a symbol of Aveiro. You will find a splendid park in the Picadou, behind the Tower of Santa Marta.

The Dwarf House

In the park of the Shrine of Our Lady of Life in Perefeita you will find a beautiful garden where you will find a small house.

Evora

Obidos

Obidos, in the Bragança District, is a beautiful village in the heart of red wine country. The castle was built in the 12th century and while the village owes its prosperity and the construction of the castle to the gold and silver mines, it is still a rich and colorful place.

It is also the birthplace of Saint John of Avila, a 14th century monk who invented the so called ‘Devotions of the Heart’, a set of eight short spiritual meditations which have been translated into more than twenty languages.

The best advice about Obidos is to take your time discovering it. You can do so by walking through the narrow streets, taking snapshots in windows, and tasting the delicious cheese, butter and wine from the local producers.

The castle and the center of the town are a must-see. There are many small shops and restaurants, and you’ll find some of the best ones in the area, like the Cafe do Castelo, the best place to try the local cheese, butter and wine.

Porto

Madeira

Portugal.

If you’re trying to decide between Porto and the other picture perfect beaches of the Algarve, you might want to ask yourself why you’re vacationing there in the first place. Although the Algarve is the most visited spot in Southern Europe, the travel industry gets caught up in the idea of the beaches and winter sun. The truth is that the Algarve’s more relaxed pace is what makes it so enjoyable, particularly the small island of Madeira.

The island has a definite Old World charm and a laid-back attitude that any traveler would envy. If you plan on making the island an entire vacation, you’ll enjoy the sea, the sun, the seafood, and the music. If you choose to spend some time here and discover the island’s southern beaches, you’ll have a much more relaxing time at a place where you can wander around and take some time off.

You’ll want to take the train from the capital, Funchal. This is one of the easiest ways to get around, especially if you want to go to the south beaches. You can also take a cruise, but they are more expensive.

Sintra

Sintra is the major town on the Sintra Peninsula. The town, which is also known as “Versalho” or “The Versalho” ranges from low-lying hills to the steeply shelving, forested slopes of the mountain range in the west.

Sintra, if you have visited is a great place with plenty of great hiking trails and stunning views. It is a little reminiscent of the Highlands of Scotland, which is why it is such a stunning sight during the autumn and early winter months.

The landscape is interesting in itself, but the town of Sintra itself is interesting as well. It is a small Portuguese town with a large number of Dutch influences driving its culture. Sintra is the gateway to the Sintra Mountains where there are amazing natural parks.

There are several castles and palaces to visit in and around Sintra, including the Pena National Palace and the Monserrate Palace. There is a cozy little town square where you can spend some time admiring the architecture and come here to relax and soak in the laid back atmosphere.

Algarve

Algarve, a coastal area in southwestern Portugal, is the most visited area in the country, with around 1.3 million tourists in 2012, according to the National Statistics Institute (INE). With its mild Mediterranean climate, crystalline water, white-sand beaches and lush green natural landscapes, it’s no wonder that the Algarve is one of the best places to go in Portugal.

Caparica Beach

The Caparica Beach of the Caparica Bay is the first beach you come across when visiting the Algarve. Located in the south of the city of Faro, Caparica Beach is a 10-minute drive from the city center. The beach is mostly surrounded by fields, green grass and palm trees.

Lagos

This municipality is the largest and one of the two main municipalities of the Algarve, and the second most populated, with a population of around 104,581 people.

The reason for its popularity with tourists comes from its obvious beauty. Lagos attracts thousands of visitors every year, especially in summer, for the mild climate, beaches and caves.

The most popular areas in Lagos are Matosinhos, Calvistero and Praia das Ma??ias.

Lisbon

Map of Portugal