A sunny, friendly, and laid-back Southern European country on the Iberian Peninsula, this is a place that borders Spain and has a feel of a Mediterranean country but still has a strong cultural identity of its own. Visitors flock to Portugal for affordable food and wine, ancient history and architecture, and of course, its famously beautiful beaches. With its cities fast becoming chic hotspots and gorgeous coastline where you still can escape the crowds, Portugal is also entering a new era of cool. So what are you waiting for? Here are twenty of the best and most beautiful places to visit in Portugal…
1. Lisbon – a sunny picture-perfect capital and easily one of the best places to visit in Portugal
Being the capital of Portugal, Lisbon is an obvious place to start. It receives around half the fuss of other European capitals, but can easily equal them in beauty and charm and is a must-see attraction in Portugal. A lot of its appeal probably lies in its deep-rooted history, coming second only to Athens in the oldest European capital stakes.
It’s actually a beautiful mix of old and new, and alongside the city’s endearing old-fashioned qualities, there is also plenty to please the boutique crowds. Visit the Gothic cathedrals, historic cafes, vintage trams, and the narrow lanes of Lisbon’s lovely backstreets, and don’t forget the vibrant alfresco coffee bars and fabulous restaurants.
The city is built on a series of hills, meaning that everywhere you venture within Lisbon you are practically guaranteed to have a gorgeous view. For unique places to stay check out our post Top 12 cool and unusual hotels in Lisbon.
My must-do highlights of Lisbon
- Explore the delightful maze of narrow cobbled streets and ancient houses of Alfama (one of Lisbon’s oldest areas) which are lined with shops selling traditional crafts and cafes.
- Explore the magnificent Mosteiro dos Jeronimos dating from 1502 a masterpiece of Manueline and Gothic architecture.
- Wander the steep cobbled streets of bohemian Bairro Alto.
- Take in the incredible panoramic views of Libson at the highest point in the city – Miradouro da Senhora do Monte.
- Taste a custard tart at Manteigaria, where many of the locals admit this is where the best custard tarts in Lisbon are made.
- Go for dinner at Bica do Sapato which has gorgeous sea views and a kitchen run by one of Portugal’s most admired chefs.
- Get your retail fix at Colombo Mall, one of the largest shopping centres in Lisbon.
Our cool and unusual hotel pick for Lisbon – Dear Lisbon, Charming House
- Rua de Marcos Marreiros, 13, Misericordia, 1200-254 Lisbon, Portugal
- To book, check prices or availability for Dear Lisbon, Charming House
A gorgeous 4k travel video of Lisbon…
2. Praia da Marinha – the beautiful beach in the Algarve, one of the best places to visit in Portugal
Because of its proximity to the crowded Algarve region, many dismiss the beautiful beach at Praia da Marinha. Located on the Atlantic coast in Caramujeira, Lagoa Municipality, Algarve it’s one of the top attractions in Portugal and is considered by many to be the best beach in Portugal and is classed as one of the Top 100 beaches of the world.
It’s a seriously spectacular stretch of sand, ideal for snorkeling, and the striking rocky cliff faces set it apart from other beautiful Mediterranean beaches.
My must-do highlights of Praia de Marinha
- Explore the incredible and unique rock formations, cliffs, caves, and rock pools.
- Go snorkeling – the water quality and clarity here is exceptional and many different species of marine life can be spotted. Snorkeling equipment can be hired or alternatively you can go diving.
- Explore the coastline, caves, and grottoes and even go dolphin-spotting by boat or for a unique trip charter a luxury boat, or even a pirate ship!
- Eat at the O’Rustico a nearby friendly authentically rustic restaurant which attracts both locals and tourists.
- Swim, sunbathe or just soak up the rays – summer temperatures reach 35°C in the Algarve but with a cooling sea breeze to keep things bearable!
My cool and unusual hotel pick near Praia da Marinha – Casa Bela Moura, Boutique Hotel & Wine
- Estrada de Porches Casa Bela Moura, 8400-450 Porches, Portugal
- To book, check prices or availability for Casa Bela Moura, Boutique Hotel & Wine
A video showing the beauty of Praia da Marinha in 4k Ultra HD…
3. Cascais – a pretty cosmopolitan coastal resort and a great place to visit in Portugal
Once a sleepy little fishing village, Cascais is now a chic coastal resort (just west of Lisbon) and one of my personal favourite places to holiday in Portugal. Famed for its glorious beaches, sophisticated nightlife, water sports and adventure pursuits the area has an elegant cosmopolitan, quality that is hard to beat.
It’s also eternally popular with artisans, writers and artists, due to its exquisite scenery, it boasts a remarkable selection of art, proudly displayed in The Conde de Castro Guimares Museum. Another of the town’s attractions is the smart new marina filled with yachts which shimmer and glisten in the bright sunshine.
My must-do highlights of Cascais
- Take a wander around Centro Historico de Cascais which is filled with wonderful architecture, shops, eateries and a lovely atmosphere.
- Discover Boca do Inferno a striking chasm located in the seaside cliffs close to the city.
- Laze around on Praia do Tamariz a wonderful beach with soft golden sand.
- Visit the cosmopolitan Caiscia Marina where yachts and boats gently bob.
- Eat at Monte Mar which is home to some of the best views (if dining outdoors). It sits right on top of the ocean where waves lap softly into the rocks just below.
My cool and unusual hotel pick for Cascais – Hotel Baia
- Avenida Marginal, 2754-509 Cascais, Portugal
- To book, check prices or availability for Hotel Baia
Where to find Cascais…
4. Sintra – a pretty resort town known for its unique hilltop 19th-century palace
Located in a privileged position the foothills of Portugal’s Sintra Mountains, near the capital, Lisbon, it’s said to be one of Lord Byron’s favorite Portuguese haunts. It’s an exceptional village and easily one of the top-rated attractions in Portugal – ripe with richly colored buildings and breathtaking architecture.
Palaces, turrets, a romantic Moorish castle, and a misty dense forest are all part of this sweet little place. The vegetation is lush and exotic due to the microclimate. There are a host of historic buildings to take a look at, as well as clusters of leafy mansions with immaculate lawns and stunningly decorative features.
My must-do highlights of Sintra
- Spend a good part of the day exploring the beautiful Quinta da Regaleira built at the turn of the 20th century and classified as World Heritage by UNESCO this is a very romantic architectural complex made up of a wonderful Palace, a Chapel, and gardens with grottos.
- Visit The Moorish Castle Castelo dos Mouros which is steeped in wonderful history and offers fantastic views.
- Take a scenic ride on the Sintra Tram.
- Discover the hidden beautiful beach of Praia da Ursa.
- Eat at Romaria de Baco which offers traditional Portuguese food with a modern twist (and is away from the tourist crowds).
My cool and unusual hotel pick for Sintra – Sintra Bliss Hotel
- Rua Dr. Alfredo Da Costa, Nº23, 2710-524 Sintra, Portugal
- To book, check prices or availability for Sinta Bliss Hotel
Where to find Sintra…
5. The Algarve region – the holidaymakers favourite and one of the best places to visit in Portugal
Yes it’s developed and touristy but it’s also popular for a reason – it’s one of the top tourist attractions in Portugal. Not only is the weather mild here all year round but when you come to the Algarve you are going to be treated to the most stunning golden beaches stretching as far as the eye can see. It also offers some of the best golf in the country!
My must-do highlights of the Algarve Region
- Relax on one of the region’s wonderful beaches – Praia da Marinha Falesia Beach, Praia Da Cordoama, Odeceixe Beach and Praia dos Tres Irmaos are some of the most beautiful.
- Go on a wild dolphin watching boat tour.
- Discover the region’s best-hidden secrets and most scenic spots in a fun jeep safari.
- Explore the caves and grottos by boat.
- Discover Portuguese Guitar and music.
- Go wine tasting at a vineyard.
- Explore Ponta Da Piedale, a headland with a group of striking yellow-golden coastal rock formations that are up to 20 meters high (located along the coastline of the town of Lagos). They are one of the most famous attractions in Portugal.
- Eat at Al Quimia an innovative and highly respected restaurant serving up creative regional fayre.
My cool and unusual hotel pick in the Algarve – Palmares Beach House Hotel
- Campo de Golfe de Palmares, 8600-250 Lagos, Portugal
- To book, check prices or availability for Palmares Beach House Hotel
6. Porto – Portugal’s charming and beautiful second biggest city
With its 14th century walls, medieval winding streets, colourful picturesque houses, bell tower and ornate tiles there is much to see in the newly fashionable city of Porto. It’s the country’s second-biggest city, located on the coast in the Northwest and an increasingly popular place to visit in Portugal.
Sit under the arches at Placa da Ribeira (the riverfront square) and watch the boats float past and then take a visit to the palatial 19th-century Palácio de Bolsa. Most apartments in the area have terraces that overlook the tranquil waters. Declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, it’s a combination of old-world charm with cobbled streets and a bustling metropolitan culture, making it a very intriguing travel destination indeed!
My must-do highlights of Porto
- Explore Rua das Flores a wonderful pedestrianized street filled with newly restored buildings, unique shops, and independent eateries, bars, and cafes.
- Take a stroll down the dock of Ribeira do Porto where you can gaze at the river Douro or just enjoy one of the most beautiful and liveliest districts in Porto’s historic centre.
- Check out the Ponte de Dom Luis I the impressive bridge built in 1886, which links Porto and Gaia.
- Discover Praia de Matosinhos a beach sought beloved by adrenaline-lovers since it’s known for strong waves, perfect for surf-related activities.
- See the exquisite Palacio da bolsa a historical building in Porto, Portugal. The palace was built in the 19th century in Neoclassical style which is now a designated World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
- Drink wine at the Miradouro Ignez which has a deck overlooking Porto’s red-tiled rooftops and the Douro River.
- Eat at Pedro Lemos, one of the most popular restaurants in the city which offers a menu proudly grounded in the traditions of Portuguese cooking.
My cool and unusual hotel pick for Porto – Torel Avantgarde
- 336 Rua da Restauração, União de Freguesias do Centro, 4050-506 Porto
- To book, check prices or availability for Torel Avantgarde
7. Douro Valley – Portugal’s most scenic wine regions with beautiful landscapes to explore
Easily one of the best highlights of a trip to Portugal. The river Douro winds through Spain and Northern Portugal. It was once a wild turbulent river, but the clever introduction of eight vast dams has tamed its spirit and it is now is very tranquil and peaceful. The beauty of the area isn’t limited to these still and shimmering waters, though. Bordered by stunning sweeping hills and expanses of delicate almond blossoms, it really is a beautiful part of the world.
The area remains, for the most part, unspoilt, with roads zigzagging through the mountains and cruise boats softly pressing through the water. The Douro Valley is famed for supplying grapes to the best Port companies. In fact, you can see all of the major names proudly displayed on the hillside vineyards, which change colour through the seasons as the vines mature.
My must-do highlights in Douro Valley
- Visit the wonderful Mateus Palace – both the palace and grounds are breathtaking!
- Go for a hot air balloon ride at sunrise.
- Take a boat trip or a river cruise on the beautiful Douro River.
- Go on a wine and food tour – the vineyards and cuisine are one of the highlights here!
- Eat at the very romantic Restaurante Rabelo in pretty little Pinhão a place encircled by terraced hillsides that produce some of the world’s best port.
- Go for a scenic train journey on their historic steam train.
My cool and unusual hotel pick for the Douro Valley – Casas Do Coro
- Largo Do Coro, 6430-081 Marialva, Portugal
- Click here to book with Booking.com
Where to find the Douro Valley…
8. Aveiro – Portugal’s answer to Venice
Set along a lagoon – Ria de Aveiro – this is a fabulous easy-on-the-eye destination to take a trip to if you’re touring Portugal. A truly maritime city, it is no surprise that Aveiro is a great place to head to if you love the idea of walking along some truly charming quays and beautiful canals navigated by colourful boats.
There are other things that are great to do in this city too, including popping to the museum to take in the religious art, gaze at Art Noveau buildings, or head to the sandy beaches for a spot of fun in the sun.
My must-see highlights in Aveiro
- Go on a Moliceiro boat ride – easily one of the best highlights of a trip here, these are colourful gondola type boats traditional to the area.
- Explore the beautiful Nova Beach, a lovely sandy beach lined with colourful houses.
- Gaze at wonderful Art Nouveau in downtown Aveiro.
- Eat at Salpoente – a unique Michelin star restaurant and art exhibition serving up fantastic Portuguese cuisine.
My cool and unusual hotel pick for Aveiro – Costa Nova hotel
- Rua Arrais Ançã 16, 3830-455 Costa Nova, Portugal
- Click here to book with Booking.com
Where to find Aveiro…
9. Obidos – one of the prettiest places to visit in Portugal
One of the most picturesque locations in Portugal. This is an ancient fortified town located in the Estremadura Province. In the 13th century, Portuguese Queen Isabel was so enchanted by the village of Obidos that her husband, King Denis I, gave it to her as a present.
This prompted a tradition of Portuguese kings buying this picturesque village for their queens, which lasted for many centuries. When you visit this beautiful spot, you’ll understand exactly why Isabel fell in love with it!
My must-see highlights of Obidos
- Wander around the historic village just soaking up the sights!
- Visit Castelo de Obidos the well-preserved medieval castle which offers stunning views.
- Explore Rua Direita a road filled with lots of shops and restaurants to explore
- Discover Lagoa de Obidos, a lagoon that extends between the municipalities of Óbidos and Caldas da Rainha.
- Eat at Nova Casa de Ramiro a charming and traditional restaurant serving up a variety of delicious dishes.
My cool and unusual hotel pick for Obidos – The Literary Man Obidos Hotel
- Dom João D´Ornelas, 2510-074 Óbidos, Portugal
- Click here to book with Booking.com
10. Sagres – a laid back coastal town which attracts surfers and backpackers
This place is located in the Algarve but is much less over-developed than the towns further east. It’s a place popular with beachgoers, surfers, digital nomads, hippies and people who just want to kick back for a while.
It has a secluded end-of-the-world feel (very different to the rest of the Algarve) and is home to a gorgeous sandy beach, great surf, and sea-carved cliffs. It has a cool, laid back vibe due to its proximity away from the crowds in the rest of the region.
My must-do highlights in Sagres
- Go surfing! – the west coast of the Algarve has gained a reputation as being one of Europe’s best-surfing destinations, and Sagres is its surfing capital!
- Explore Cape Saint Vincent a headland that is one of the southwesternmost points of Portugal and of mainland Europe.
- Check out the wonderful beaches – Martinhal Beach and Mareta Beach are some of the best.
My cool and unusual hotel pick for Sagres – Memmo Baleeira, Design Hotel
- Sítio da Baleeira, 8650-357 Sagres, Portugal
- Click here to book with Booking.com
Where to find Sagres…
11. Marvao – a pretty and tranquil hilltop town to visit in Portugal
Nestled peacefully between Castelo de Vide and Portalegre, and only a few kilometres from Spain this idyllic place is perched on the highest crest of the Serra de São. The beautiful medieval mountainside town in Alentejo that still has its original 13th-century walls and is perfectly preserved.
The streets wind seductively between the surrounding walls, making Marvao a very beautiful place to visit. As you can imagine, the views from across the town are not to be missed. The lovely hotel Pousada do Marvao, Santa Maria, is the ideal place to stay here – it consists of two of the village houses that have been converted, ensuring it is in keeping with the rest of the town.
12. Salema – a picturesque historic village turned popular South coastal resort
Situated three hours South of the capital, near Cape Sagres, Salema is a beautifully tranquil beach resort and one of the best spots in Portugal, especially if you want to be near the coast.
Although located in the package holiday favourite the Algarve, this pretty village remains comparatively untouched by the ravages of tourism, offering just a scattering of eating places, a traditional outdoor market, one small main street, and clusters of pretty white stucco houses. This peaceful fishing village is located between two sharp cliffs with a glorious sandy beach rolling between.
13. Evora – a charming world heritage site town
Évora is a Portuguese city in the municipality of Évora and the capital of Portugal’s south-central Alentejo region. The beautifully preserved historic town has been classed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and when you visit, you’ll soon discover why. Encircled by white-washed houses, it’s home to a 2000-year-old Templo Romano, a 16th-century aqueduct that can be followed by foot for five miles and the incredible Capela da Ossos – a sinister crypt – which displays the full skeletons of over 5000 Evora residents.
14. Sado Estuary – a scenic Natural Reserve which is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Portugal
If being up close and personal to some rather fascinating creatures is your idea of a great way to spend a day, then this nature reserve should be a destination on your Portugal itinerary. A little off the beaten track, it has a home between Alcácer do Sal, Comporta, and Setúba.
Not only is it home to a multitude of different birds, but if you are lucky enough you may also see a dolphin or two as well. With marshes, sandbanks, woods, reeds and so much more, this is the place to head to soak up some of the wildlife that calls the area it’s home.
15. Coimbra – a historic and pretty riverfront city
History is something that you are going to find in this wonderful city as this was Portugal’s former capital. Based on the banks of the River Mondego, Coimbra is home to one of the oldest universities, not only in Portugal but across the whole of Europe too.
So prized is the university that it has actually made its way onto the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list and when you get the chance to explore the city you are likely to see why this is. Also visit for its 18th-century bell tower, the famous baroque library and Romanesque cathedral.
16. Amarante – a striking riverside town in Portugal
Found in the northern part of the country, this is a handsome and elegant riverside town which has origins as far back as 4th century BC. Here picturesque balconies overhanging a river, and unique striking bridges stride the water. Amarante and the other parts of the Minho region are also famous for its grapes.
In fact, it in this area that the unique green wine is made. Aside from being a great place to drink some wine, Amarante is an attractive riverside town to visit in Portugal and ensures no matter where you are you are going you’ll get the very best in a picture-perfect view!
17. Azores – a beautiful and unique Portuguese archipelago
Made up of nine different islands and located way off the coast of Portugal in the mid-Atlantic, The Azores may be the ideal place for those who are looking for adventure, however, they are also a great place for those who are searching for beauty and awe-inspiring scenery too.
An unusual travel destination, every single one of the islands has its own charm to bring and in order to really absorb it, we advise you to try and discover as much as you can. Expect vineyards, dramatic landscapes, fishing villages, green pastures, and lake-filled calderas, and don’t forget your walking boots and surfboard!
18. Praia Da Amoreira – a beautiful and peaceful beach in the Algarve
Part of the Algarve, Praia Da Amoreira is a beach that is thought of as being a best-kept secret. Although once people realize just how beautiful it is, that will change things will soon. A stunning beach with the perfect combination of clear waters and golden sand, you can choose this beach if you are a fan of lazing around in the sunshine, or equally choose it if you like the idea of being able to explore rock pools and discover wildlife. It really can offer you everything that you need.
19. Guimaraes – home to a UNESCO listed old town and one of the best places to visit in Portugal
A historic city based in the North of Portugal this place filled with fantastic medieval buildings like the hilltop, 10th-century Guimarães Castle, with its panoramic city views. If there is one thing that you will soon realise about Guimaraes is that it has a definite royal air about it.
Perhaps it is the history and culture of the city (its old town has World heritage site status), or maybe it is the stunning castle and palace. Either way, if you want to be able to capture some amazing photos, then this particular city is a great Portuguese destination to add to your list.
20. Tavira Island – a peaceful and beautiful sandy island
Found off of the coast of Portugal and only accessible by boat (from the town of Tavira, a small city on Portugal’s Algarve coast), those who make the trip over to Tavira Island will be rewarded with not only a beautiful, peaceful place but also a stunning beach too.
Thought to offer one of the best beaches in the entire Algarve region – an accolade which is hard to achieve – not only will you see the sun here, but you will also be likely to see a wealth of nature and wildlife too – a fantastic natural place to see in Portugal!
21. Sortelha – one of the best historical villages in Portugal
Located in the North East of the country near the Spanish border, Sortelha is known to be one of the oldest towns in the entire country of Portugal, and with its age has definitely come a rather impressive amount of beauty too. It is a place whereby you can really feel that you are walking amongst history and with the medieval tombs, the renaissance style church, or the streets and alleys that you take around the city, you are definitely going to find some picture-perfect moments.
So, there you have it, some of the most beautiful sights that Portugal has to offer, in order to truly experience them for yourself, travel to Portugal and discover this fascinating, beautiful and cultural country for yourself!