We fell in love with Portugal the first time we flew on TAP Air Portugal Airlines. They offer a free layover in either Lisbon or Porto for no extra cost. We now use TAP to fly to Europe as often as we can, and try to stop in Portugal as many times as possible. Portugal has an amazing unique landscape that will undoubtedly spell-bind you and send you back to ancient times with its medieval cities and natural wonders. This small country that borders Spain occupies the western coast part of the Iberian Peninsula and has an incredible coastline that touches the Atlantic Ocean.
Portugal is famous for its fairytale castles, jungle-like farmlands, stone-walled architectural towns and villages, steeply terraced vineyards, soft rolling mountains, exquisite wine, and white sandy beaches in the south. The locals are generally laid-back and have embraced modern culture without losing touch with their ancient culture. The blending of old artistic buildings and beautiful collection of monuments certainly does display the wealth of Portugal’s medieval days.
The Atlantic coastline plays host to several cities and beaches with many resorts and golf courses fighting for ocean view in the south. To understand more about Portugal’s top attractions, let’s explore some of the best places to visit in Portugal.
9 Unique Vacation Spots In Portugal You Don’t Want To Miss
Lisbon, the Capitals city of Portugal
Sprawling down the banks of River Tagus, Lisbon, Portugal’s capital city, sits on top of seven steep hills, giving you a splendid view of the Atlantic coastline.
This iconic city is famous for its fantastic weather, beautiful alley, medieval cathedrals, antique shops, remarkable bridges, and colorful villages. For a trip back in time, you can explore some of Lisbon’s historical heritage, such as The Baixa, also known as the center of tradition, St. George’s Castle, and Alfama, one of the oldest districts in Lisbon.
In the evening, you can roam around the cobblestone alleys while shopping. Or, better yet, watch the sunset while dining at some restaurants and cafes serving traditional cuisines.
Sintra is a famous place, familiar with regular travelers in Portugal. Located in the western side of Lisbon, the captivating town is heavenly and extremely serene. Driving into the magnificent town feels like going to a new world. Sintra welcomes you with manicured gardens, magical palaces, and a beautiful coastline. Its listed as a UNESCO World Heritage town for its impressive villas, palaces, castles and the magical Quinta da Regaleira.
The beaches almost feel untouched, sparsely populated with turquoise blue warm waters. You can play on the soft sandy beach, swim in the soft waves, go deep-sea diving or simply sprawl out and sunbathe on a mild sunny afternoon.
You can later take a stroll on the quiet streets as you mingle with the locals, have dinner in a quiet restaurant by the sea side or on the sidewalk of any of the swanky restaurants in Sintra.
Enclosed in multiple rings of ancient walls with a Moorish castle built in the middle, Óbidos is a hilltop town with spectacular views below. The main attraction in this small town is the Moor Castle – which was converted into a government hotel. locally known as a Pousada, the Moor Castle sits on top of a hill with astonishing views.
The medieval ambiance takes you back 2000 years as you walk down the curved cobblestone streets. The town though sparsely populated is ever bustling with lively activity from the locals. Enjoy your afternoons in the cozy cafes, cute gift shops and bright homes adorned with colorful flowers on the exterior walls. If you travel to Portugal during their festivities, don’t miss out on the October Primordial Music Festival and the Universal Chocolate Festival in March.
The Algarve, Portugal’s Scenic Beaches
Located in Portugal’s southern region, The Algarve is one of Portugal’s most renowned tourist destinations. The Algarve offers an alluring mix for the eyes, from beautiful beaches and scenic landscapes to picturesque towns and traditional mirrored villages.
The Algarve region pays homage to several bustling cities and towns which have different attractions to offer. Tavira is full of ancient castles, bridges, and historical monuments. Lagos is known for its vibrant nightlife while Silves is renowned for its beautiful red-stone palaces.
Head down to the coastal towns of Sagres or Aljezur and immerse yourself in beach activities, water sports including cruising, surfing, and swimming. If you’re not that into sports you can laze around ion th e heavenly beaches as you enjoy the beautiful scenery as you bask on the open beaches.
For a historic tour, visit The Fortaleza de Sagre the ancient school built in the 15th Century and the Roman sanctuary – the Cape of São Vicente, originally known as the Promontorium Sacrum.
Overall Algarve is the hub of beach fun, with fantastic beaches, endless sunshine delectable cuisines, lush golf courses, almost no rain, delicious cuisine, charming locals – and a rich history unchanged from its 18th century going way back from the Roman period.
Remember to carry your SPF sunscreen lotion to avoid sun burns from the scotching sun. It gets really hot in the summer in Portugal, and you want a perfect tan, not a botched skin.
Porto, The Birth-Place Port Wine
Visiting Porto is like taking a stroll through the pages of a storybook. Know for its authentic port wine, this city stretches along the hills spanning the Douro River is cherished for its architectural and natural glamour.
At the heart of Porto, is The Ribeira, an atmospheric pedestrian zone that links the cobblestoned streets with a vibrant riverside walkway. You can opt to stroll around, mingling with the locals while enjoying the buzzing live music as you sip the famous port wine. If you love reading, you have to visit one of the world’s most renowned bookstore, Livraria Lello Bookstore. Additionally, you can treat yourself to a scenic boat-ride to the Douro Valley or explore some of Porto’s architectural treasures, such as the Sao Francisco Church.
In the evening you can visit Pedro Lemos, a popular restaurant in the city, for some traditional Portuguese cooking, you can book yourself for the night at either of these hotel’s Toral Avantgarde, or 336 Rua Da restautacao.
For a laid back adventure, visit the small village town in Nazaré – another unforgettable place on your travel itinerary while in Portugal. Perhaps the most illustrious fishing town in the country, Nazaré is exceptional and industrious. Nazaré has a fishing tradition that dates back thousands of years, with unique fishing tools, and brightly colored orange roof buildings with a backdrop of spectacular waves, along golden Mediterranean sea waters.
it’s a strikingly beautiful place to spend a few days soaking in all that beauty. relax on the beaches in Nazaré and indulge in natural activities like Deepsea diving, swimming or cliff-watching as the waves smash on the rugged coral reefs.
What would be a trip to Nazare without trying out the sea food fresh off the ocean. You’ve got to try some of the delicacies prepared by the top chefs in the region.
You can conclude your trip by checking out the age-old Portuguese fishing customs from the local museum.
With a nickname like “Floating Garden of the Atlantic,” you know you’re in for a fun and relaxing time. Madeira is an archipelago in the Atlantic located between Portugal and North Africa. It’s one of two autonomous regions in the country (along with The Azores) and is popular for its wines, the must-see Orchid Garden and the Laurissilva Forest. Funchal is its capital and largest city which manages to balance modern growth and tradition. This is evident when you look at the well-preserved churches and museums through town. Funchal is a very walk-able sunny city perfect for nature lovers. When the sun goes down, those that love a fun-filled nightlife will appreciate the nightclubs, casinos, and restaurants.
With its historical ruins, white-washed walls, a university, and magnificent architecture dating back to the 16th century, Evora is a fascinating place to visit while in Portugal. Here, you have the opportunity to learn about the Portuguese wine culture by exploring the Alentejo, a remote area with never-ending plains of cork trees and olive vineyards.
You can explore most of Evora’s popular sites on foot as they are near each other. You can start by touring the Cathedral of Evora, an intriguing Gothic structure. Then follow it up by exploring other historical sites such as Giraldo Square, the University of Evora, and finish up your tour, discovering the ruins of the old Evora Roman temple.
In the evening you can take a walk down the narrow streets while shopping. You can check out the following hotels for a good night’s sleep: Alentejo Marmaris Hotel & Spa, Vila Galé Évora, and Pousada Castelo de Estremoz.
Scenically emerging from the River Mondego, Coimbra is an atmospheric city rich in history. Back then, It used to be Portugal’s capital city and is currently home to the University of Coimbra, the oldest university on the planet.
This charming city is play host to some of the best historic sites, scenic gardens, Moorish monuments, Gothic Buildings and a blistering lively culture.
You can start your day visiting the beautiful old Cathedral, then move further down to the medieval Monastery of Santa Clara a Velha for a chance to see the iconic tomb of Queen Isabel. You can spend your afternoon reading books at one of the world’s prestigious libraries, Joanina Library.
Finish off your night listening to the traditional fado music while sipping coffee at the local restaurants or take a walk in one of the lovely parks in the city.
Our Final Word
For far too long, Portugal has been given limited attention by Iberian-bound tourists, who have concentrated entirely on Spain. However, this has changed dramatically, and Portugal is now a darling for many tourists. Kati and I will return again and again in the future. We love it and though it goes back thousands of years, there always seems to be something new to discover.
Portugal became over the last few years one of the most attractive places to visit in Europe. Despite this success, it continues to be a value holiday destination.
This country offers a huge variety of interesting points to visit. Amazing nature and stunning landscapes, wild beaches, rich history, delicious food, and friendly locals! If you are interested in visiting it, you can’t miss our list of best places to visit in Portugal that will inspire you for an exciting adventure to the discovery of this country!
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