Portugal is a varied and fascinating country that is a great destination to spend a fantastic holiday. In this guide, you will find details about our 10 favorite places to visit in Portugal, information that we hope will inspire you to plan your holiday or visit in Portugal.
Nº 10) Tavira, a traditional beach destination
Tavira is the charming beach resort that is located in the eastern part of the Algarve. While many towns along the southern coastline of the Algarve have undergone a radical transformation (sometimes for the worse) due to mass tourism, the very nice town of Tavira has managed to preserve its traditional character and heritage.
The cobblestone streets of the historic center of Tavira are dotted with relaxing family cafes and restaurants, while the wonderful beaches are only a short ferry ride away. We include Tavira among our 10 favorite destinations in Portugal for being the best population with beaches and a relaxed Algarve atmosphere, as well as for its easy access from Faro Airport. Tavira attracts a slightly more mature type of visitor and is a highly suitable destination in which to spend a great week’s holiday.
Nº 9) Coimbra, University City
Coimbra is Portugal’s oldest university town and offers an intriguing mix of historical sights and the energy of youth, brought by the city’s large student population. It is common to see these students all over Coimbra, wearing their black tunics, as they hasten to their classes or later in groups, performing classical songs.
Coimbra is a small town that can be easily explored in a single day, but its inclusion on the main north-south railway, halfway between the main cities of Lisbon and Porto, means that it is a popular destination in which to make a stop to split the long journey in two.
Nº 8) Sesimbra, beautiful beach tourist destination
Sesimbra is a beautiful tourist city located south of Lisbon on the Setúbal Peninsula. This small town is one of the favorite summer destinations of the Portuguese, who travel here en masse during their short holiday period, while outside the high season, the town becomes a peaceful and leisurely place.
In the vicinity of Sesimbra, there is a beautiful coastline with steep cliffs and glorious beaches, while inland you can find the amazing wooded hills of the Arrabida National Park. Sesimbra is virtually unknown to foreign visitors, yet a short bus ride from Lisbon is all it takes to reach this region, which together is a very pleasant alternative destination for a beach holiday.
Nº 7) Evora, Historic City
Evora is a delicious city located in the heart of the dry and arid Alentejo region. The city is famous for its beautiful Roman Temple, carefully preserved, as well as for the sinister chapel of the bones, but the historical importance of this ancient trading center is reflected above all in the high number of national monuments that house the city walls.
Life in Evora develops at a slow pace, imposed by the intensity of the heat of its summers, but has a lively university population during the course. For visitors with a rental car, Evora is a good base from which to explore the incredible Alentejo region, with excellent bus services to Lisbon for visitors who prefer to use public transport.
Nº 6) Guimarães
Guimarães is the historical birthplace of the nation of Portugal, the cradle of the first king of Portugal and site where the budding country was formed in 1128. The city center has retained its traditional historical appeal, with its cobbled squares surrounded by imposing Gothic buildings and charming traditional-style houses.
The ancient stone castle stands on the highest point of the city, while a cable car transports visitors to the observation point of Montanha da Penha, with its panoramic views over Guimarães and its offer of pleasant hiking trails. Guimarães is a charming city with a compact size that makes it easy to visit as a day trip from Oporto.
Nº 5) Vila Nova de Milfontes
Vila Nova de Milfontes stretches along part of the most dramatic and amazing coastline to be found in Portugal. This small fishing village is located in the heart of the Southwest Alentejo National Park, which spreads along the wild and rugged coastline of the Western Alentejo region. The sleepy little village of Vila Nova de Milfontes arouses the adoration of the Portuguese, who transform it into a bustling tourist center during their short summer holidays, while once the summer is over, the small town becomes a peaceful and welcoming destination for visitors.
As the population is oriented to attract and welcome Portuguese tourists, you can expect to find delicious traditional food offers with excellent value for money, with a multitude of dishes prepared from fresh catch fresh from the sea. Vila Nova is the least accessible of our 5 favorite towns in Portugal, but each of its beaches, immaculate and deserted, makes it simply worth the effort to get there.
Nº 4) Sintra
Sintra is situated in the middle of the magnificent pine-covered hills of the Serra de Sintra, and its somewhat cooler climate was the determining factor that convinced the Portuguese nobility to establish their summer retreats in this town. The nobles built luxurious palaces, and after them, the Portuguese elite who came later built various equally opulent residences. Today these palaces and stately mansions are open to the public, and Sintra is considered the best destination for a day trip from Lisbon.
Most Sintra visitors choose a pre-established itinerary and visit the Gothic National Palace, the ruins of the Sintra Castle (Castelo dos Mouros) and the wonderful Pena Palace, but Sintra has enough additional places of interest to fill a whole second day exploring them. Sintra is connected to Lisbon by a direct train service and is easily accessible for any tourist.
Nº 3) Lakes
Lagos is the best tourist destination on the Algarve coastline, as it mixes a lively and sociable urban center around a historic center that has miraculously not been affected by mass tourism. Lagos offers a respectable selection of wonderful beaches, its Praia de Dona Ana is considered the most picturesque beach in Portugal.
Following the coast, we can find the impressive cliffs of Ponte da Piedade, a series of sandstone cliffs heavily eroded by climatic conditions that require a boat to be explored thoroughly. The center of Lagos reflects the varied history of the city, with its large stretches of ancient city walls and the small fortress that protects the estuary in the harbor.
Lagos is a great place from which to explore the western edge of the Algarve, and among the destinations, it offers as day trips we can highlight Sagres, Portimão, and Silves. Lagos has a more sophisticated and family-friendly atmosphere than the neighboring resort of Praia de Rocha, which is the perfect place to head to if you want to enjoy the nightlife and parties. For more information about Lagos
No. 2) Porto
Porto is the charming and fascinating capital of the north of Portugal, with world fame due to the port, its sweet and characteristic alcoholic beverage. This drink is intertwined with the fortunes and history of Porto and is still stored in the enormous cellars that extend along the banks of the Douro River. Port tasting visits are a nice way to become an expert in this delicious drink, which can be savored in the many bars that stretch along the scenic riverfront of the city.
Porto offers beautiful churches, imposing historic buildings and pleasant pleasure cruises along the Douro River. In the event that you are going to spend a long holiday in Oporto, the city has some very nice beaches and offers quite a few interesting one-day excursions, all easily accessible by train.
Oporto is fast becoming a respected tourist destination, and with the increase in low-cost flights, it is becoming a very popular alternative tourist destination to make an urban getaway. Unfortunately, Oporto’s climate is always considerably more humid than the Algarve or Lisbon’s, so it ranks second in our Top 5 of Portuguese populations.
Nº 1) Lisbon
Lisbon is a large, vibrant and varied city, open-minded and liberal in character, but one that has not forgotten its heritage or its past. It is a pleasure to explore this city full of big squares that open to narrow cobbled streets, crossed here and there by the picturesque network of its particular trams. Lisbon has a multitude of districts, different areas and characteristics of the city, each of which is proud of its own history and the architectural styles that are unique to it.
To make Lisbon an even better holiday destination, the capital has magnificent beaches just a short train ride away, meaning that a visit to Lisbon can be both a beach holiday and an urban getaway. Lisbon is a suitable destination for all types of tourists, whether they are families, young couples or more mature travelers. Lisbon is simply a perfect destination to spend a wonderful holiday and a beautiful city that all visitors fall in love with, and is rightfully ranked first among our 5 favorite destinations in Portugal.