From world-famous cities and isolated villages to vibrant beaches and spectacular National Parks, Portugal offers a vast array of visitor attractions and services. It occupies the wedge of ibéria with the Borders of Spain as well as the magnificent coastline with the Atlantic and Portugals location at this sunny corner of West-Europe lends it an exclusive appeal. The southern parts of the island are still popular vacation destinations with glorious sandy beaches and golf courses.
A round-up of the best places to visit in mainland Portugal – but we are sure there’s more to find!
If you are planning to visit Portugal any time soon – here are our top suggestions.
Lisbon – the Capital city
Did you know that Lisbon (Portugal’s capital city) is known as the architectural, narrow cobbled streets and cultural pearl of Western Europe and one of the oldest towns in the world? The original capital of the Country was Guimarães. In the mid-13th century, Lisbon became the Portuguese Capital.
Lisbon has a very mild climate for Europe. It is sunny throughout the year, with an annual average of 2900-3300 hours of sunshine. The Tagus Iberia is the largest river in Lisbon and is believed to be large enough to hold all the warships on the planet.
Lisbon has a symbol of a Raven. For quite some time, the city had a cult for Raven. The clan even had a large cage with ravens in the São Jorge Castle.
The main port in Portugal is the Port of Lisbon, located where the River Tagus and the Atlantic Ocean meet. It was a global maritime power during the 15th and 16th centuries. There are five major ports in Portugal, including Aveiro, the seaport of Douro, Leixões in the north, Lisbon, Setúbal, and Sines in the south. On a cruise, your ship will dock in Leixões Port, located in the Matosinhos District.
The Port of Setúbal has been recognized as an ‘EcoPort’ by the European Sea Ports Organisation, recognizing the excellent environmental quality of the port. Portugal’s top 5 commodity exports are petroleum, tobacco, olive oil, copper ore, and pig meat. Importable items of the nation are machinery and transport commodities, chemicals, textiles, and agricultural products.
Lisbon city center is so full of history; it truly is one of Portugal’s best places to visit. Many independent restaurants and cafes line the streets, and you won’t be able to resist the sweet treats! Lisbon truly is one of the best places in Portugal. Read on for more places to visit in Portugal.
Natas (the most amazing custard tarts!)
Monks and nuns originally baked many of Portugal’s best cakes. In fact, the original recipe for Pastel de Nata came from the monks at the Jerónimos Monastery in Belem, Lisbon. In 1834, when the monastery closed, the formula was sold to the eventual owners of the Fábrica de Pastéis de Belém, which opened in 1837.
Pastel de Nata looks like a cross between a custard tart and a cake. The outside is crispy and flaky, while the inside is creamy and sweet. To order this in Lisbon, request “u pastel de nata.” However, other regions call it by different names. Want to try one of these tasty pastries? They are best tried from a local bakery. Head of down to one of the best place to see in Portugal and try them.
The Trams of Lisbon
Here are some interesting facts about the historic trams of Lisbon.
Trams first appeared in Lisbon in 1873. They were called Carros Americanos and were first built in the United States.
It was on the 31st of August 1901, the first electric tram (Eléctricos) departed from Cais Sodré towards Algés.
Green and red trams are specifically for tourists. The green ones were recently added to the system in May 2015. Inside, the Cobrador had two roles: to validate the ticket and to get rid of the penduras, people who climbed the tram for a free ride.
Around Christmas, you might spot the Christmas Tram with Santa on the driver’s seat.
Benagil Cave, also referred to as Algar de Benagil, is probably the most famous of all the sea caves in Algarve, Portugal. You’ll see many beautiful villages and stunning sea caves. The dome is impressive with its colorful rings and a blue opening at the top. To get to Benagil Cave, you’ll need to either kayak, take a small boat tour, or swim, but beware, the ocean is rough, and even the best swimmers should take caution.
Azores – a beautiful and unique Portuguese archipelago
Made up of nine different islands and situated far from Portugal’s coastal coast in the mid-Atlantic, the Azores might be the perfect place for anyone looking for adventure, but they are also a perfect place for those searching for beauty and wonder.
Each travel destination is unique, and we strongly encourage the visitor to learn the most about it, and we want to give you all of that information. Expect vineyards, spectacular scenery, fishing villages, and lush pastures.
São Miguel Island
Experience the magical island of São Miguel with the waterfalls of the Azores being one of the most enchanting features. To reach the waterfall, you’ll follow the PRC29SMI trail, which takes you along an old power plant pipeline.
It requires climbing stairs, so shoes are a must. A little trip for anyone who decides to visit this trail; make sure you go up to the top of the waterfall. You’ll pass a small lookout point on your right so that you can see the waterfall from above. Continue on that path, and you’ll reach the serene water before the drop.
The Batalha Monastery is one of the most significant religious buildings in Portugal. King João accredited this gothic monastery in gratitude for the 1385 victory in the battle of Aljubarrota, and the grand designs took over a hundred years to construct. The leading portal has a myriad of carved arches and magnificent stone statues, which cover most of the western wall.
The lower figures represent the Apostles, above them are angels, and at the pinnacle is a statue of Christ. You can visit the main church for free and revel in its high vaulted ceilings and original stained glass windows. However, you must attend the paid sections to experience the real magic of the monastery.
The Palacio da Pena is one of the most beautiful places in Sintra as well as one of the seven wonders of Portugal. It shares an array of Neo-Gothic, Neo-Manueline, Neo-Islamic, and Neo-Renaissance architectural styles and a prime example of 19th-century Romanticism. Initially, it was a monastery donated to the Order of Saint Jerome by Manuel I.
It was reduced to ruins after the Lisbon Earthquake. In the restoration of 1994, the original colors were restored outside the Palace. These colors included an old rose for the old monastery and an ocher for the New Palace. The work of the Pena Palace ended in the mid-1860s, although later interior decoration campaigns were carried out.
Porto and Douro – Northern Portugal
In northern Portugal, Porto and Douro are two complementary destinations, both with the charm and delight of romantic locations. Porto is an ancient city that passed its name to Portugal as well as Port wine. Porto and Douro are located by the mouth of the River Douro and are classified as World Heritage Sites since 1996. Tourists admire the typical housing and granite monuments. Grab a tipple in Porto! Porto is one of the country’s largest cities that sits in the north of the country.
This hilly city is one heck of a place to visit; think cobbled streets, fresh seafood, and copious amounts of port that’ll keep you sozzled all evening! On our last visit, I kept forgetting that port was much more alcoholic than ‘regular wines’. As you can imagine, an almighty hangover and bouts of feeling sorry for myself ensued.
Taking the tram towards the beaches or riding along the river is quite romantic. Take a stroll around the Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves with its luscious park, or the new Casa da Música and the praised Metro do Porto. Visit the Museu do Douro, where you will see objects about the region while enjoying a drink.
The Douro River
The Douro River is a historically significant river of the Iberian Peninsula, creating a magnificent waterway for cruise ships. The Douro River cruises run from Porto, Portugal to Vega de Terron, Spain – a gorgeous place to spend some time! Most cruises are round trip from Porto. The most eminent structure on the river, the Dom Luis I Bridge, stretches to 951 feet long.
You get a variety of Portugal and Spain on Douro River Cruises, meaning excellent Paella from Spain and Port wines from Portugal, along with Flamenco dancers and Portuguese pingo (like espresso).
Let’s learn a little about the city of Porto!
Portugal got its name from the city of Porto (Portus Cale) before Lisbon was the capital of Portugal. The city is nicknamed Invicta because Porto was never conquered and even survived a siege.
The most typical dish in Porto is the Francesinha (Frency). It is composed of meat and sausages, cheese, and beer-tomato sauce. Porto’s most famous export is Port wine.
Porto, the home to one of the three biggest football teams in Portugal, Futebol Clube do Porto (FCP). Porto also hosts one of Europe’s largest street festivals, St John’s Festival. Porto really is one of the best places to visit in Portugal.
Are you ready to learn some fun facts about Aveiro?
Aveiro is known for bold Art Nouveau buildings, human-made canals, and ornate vessels.
Costa Nova Beach in Aveiro is a must for seafood lovers; crabs, goose barnacles, shrimp, and whelks from the lagoon can be prepared for you on the Cais dos Pescadores. The tourists often herald the town of Aveiro as being the Venice of Portugal.
The cityscape is crisscrossed by canals that you can navigate on painted gondola-style boats known as Moliceiros. The Romans were the first to recognize Aveiro as a harbor. The harbor is the best-sheltered harbor on the Iberian Peninsula western side. Aveiro’s prized monument is the Moistero de Jesus, built between the 15th and 17th centuries.
Portugal’s architecture made its artistic statement. It developed its style, like all aspects of Portuguese culture noted in the history of the country, and many people have settled and influenced the current Portuguese territory. These settlers include Romans and Suebians, among other related Germanic peoples, Visigoths, and Arabs.
Influence from the main European artistic centers, such as Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, and Neoclassicism, are also present. Among the primary local manifestations of Portuguese architecture are the Manueline, the exuberant Portuguese version of late Gothic, and the Pombaline style that developed after the Great Lisbon earthquake of 1755.
Padrão dos Descobrimentos
The Monument to the Discoveries or Padrão dos Descobrimentos in Portuguese is a monument constructed in 1939 in honor of the Portuguese Discoveries of the golden XV and XVI centuries. It is also known as Monument to Navigators and designed by the Portuguese architect José Angelo Cottinelli Telmo.
Each side of this monument features 33 heroes of the Portuguese Discoveries, and the sculpture of Infante D. Henriques (Henry the Navigator) is found on the edge of the caravel. He was the most significant person in the Discoveries. You can climb up to the 6th floor, by stairs or elevator. Try to reach the highest point of this monument to enjoy one of the favorite views over Belém and Tagus River.
Classic Portuguese Azulejos tiles
Tiles (called Azulejos) are everywhere in Portugal. They decorate walls of churches and monasteries, palaces, ordinary houses, park seats, fountains, shops, and train stations. Azulejos date back to the 13th century, and the word Azulejo stems from Arabic roots, meaning ‘small polished stone.’ King Manuel I was astonished by the Alhambra in Granada (Spain) and decided to have his Palace in Sintra decorated with the same vibrant ceramic tiles.
When visiting a church or cathedral in Portugal, many are decorated in Azulejos, depicting a style that started during the 16th century. Birds and leaves were frequently symbols used as decoration, possibly inspired by Asian fabrics. Famous sites known for their Azulejo art include the Sao Bento Railway Station in Porto, and the Buçaco Palace.
Portugal is a gorgeous country and home to some of the most beautiful and secluded beaches in the world. The country’s coastline stretches for over 1,000 kilometers, and is littered with sandy coves and rocky cliffs. From the picturesque Algarve region in the south to the wilds of the Atlantic Coast in the north, there are plenty of beaches to choose from.
Some of the most popular beaches in Portugal include Praia da Marinha in Lagoa, Costa da Caparica near Lisbon, and Dona Ana Beach in Lagos. Praia da Marinha is known for its dramatic cliffs and crystal-clear waters, while Costa da Caparica is a long sandy beach that is popular with locals and visitors alike. Dona Ana Beach is one of the most secluded beaches in Portugal, and features dramatic cliffs and crystal-clear waters.
Bragare is Portugal’s largest city. A city to the north, the town is renowned for a long tradition as a religious and commercial centre. Walking around the historical center of Braga you’ll be entered into an 18th-century city of magnificent mansions and impressive cathedrals, as well as impressive palaces. Several spruce gardens and parks break up the imposing granite veneer characteristic for most of the buildings. Braga was established in the 10th century with its Cathedral Sé proving a popular tourist attraction that symbolizes its position as a bishopric and church, and it remains a major ecclesiastical center for Portugal in Portugal.
The most beautiful destination on this map, Tavira, certainly possesses all of these picturesque features. This charming, laid back vibe small town neighborhood has a Roman bridge that connects both sides. The waterfront provides an exciting walk before or after exploring Tavira’s remaining historical treasures. Castle walls give spectacular views over Old City and its neighbor’s shoreline.
You can also explore Igreja Santa Do Castelo, the grand cathedral where warriors’ Knights are buried. The city also has an amazing museum, Ncleo Islamic. Highlighting this is an ancient and rare figure vase.
Sopotnic Vilamoura, considered to be the heart of the Algarve, is known for its absorbent beauty and its natural beauty as well – a truly beautiful town. But today, tourism is growing and has become renowned for the luxuriant spa and golf courses and as a paradise for discerning food lovers. Vilamoura is where one can put his feet up. The Algarve offers countless beaches to explore in just minutes. Some of Portugal’s finest wind-surfs occur on beaches nearby. It’s definitely worth visiting for food lovers and wine lovers.
One of the most popular tourist destinations in Portugal, Lagos soaks up the sunshine from the Algarve and is an ideal holiday destination for thousands of tourists. Lagos – formerly known for its stunning beach fronting both sides of its International Marina – is also a home of incredibly magical rocks and sandstone walls which rise above several rocky islands.
There is also a series of sea caves and strange-shaped cliffs. Alternatively, they are possible when visiting them during a relaxing sightseeing tour, among many watersport activities. It’s easy to spend a lot of time here with some of the Algarve’s best beautiful beaches. Enjoy many day trips to visit the caves, dolphin watching, or water sports. This really is an amazing place to visit in Portugal.
This old fishing village today offers dozens of destinations for visitors domestically and internationally. The beaches of white tans, parasailing, jet skiing, dolphin watching, and diving are not surprising. Two good beaches worth looking at are Praia da Oura and Praia dos Pescadors. The smaller secluded beaches with plenty of charm are ideal for families. Take the boat into the countryside to explore appealing villages, narrow streets, and the finest restaurants on offer. Also, remember to keep in mind the amazing nightlife.
Cascais – a pretty cosmopolitan coastal resort and a great place to visit in Portugal
Once a sleepy fishing community, Calcassis is a fashionable beach resort near Lisbon. It’s famed for a glorious beach, elegant nightlife, watersports, and adventure pursuits that have an elegant cosmopolitan quality. Besides being extremely acclaimed among artists and artisans for its exquisite landscape, the museum has some outstanding artworks that remain prominent in the Museum Cond de Castro Guimares. Another attraction is the elegant new marina filled with yachts dazzling in the sunshine.
What month is the best to go to Portugal?
The best time to visit Portugal is during the spring months (March-May) when Portugal is blooming and waking from winter. If it is autumn (between September and Oct. ), you will find things a little quieter but also still quite warm.
That’s our starter for the best places to visit in Portugal. If you would like to travel to Portugal for less and even travel for free, check out our travel club membership: http://www.thetravelclub.info
More about Portugal – Top Tips for your first amazing visit to Portugal: https://greatescapetravel.blog/top-tips-for-your-first-amazing-visit-to-portugal/
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