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 most beautiful places to visit in Portugal…
Lisbon – Portugal’s postcard-perfect capital
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 narrow lanes of Lisbon’s lovely backstreets and don’t forget the vibrant 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 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.
Check out this gorgeous video of Lisbon which shows the city highlights in cinematic high definition…
Sintra – a beautiful royal sanctuary
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.
This video shows exactly why Sintra is one of the most beautiful places in Portugal…
Porto – Portugal’s charming second biggest city
With its 14th century walls, medieval winding streets, colourfully 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!
This wonderful video shows the city of Porto in timelapse…
Douro Valley – Portugal’s most scenic wine regions
Easily one the 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.
Check out this video showcasing the Douro Valley’s most beautiful scenes…
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.
Obidos – one of the prettiest towns 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!
Cascais – cosmopolitan coastal resort
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.
Praia da Marinha – iconically beautiful beach
Because of its proximity to 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. Ideal for snorkelling and striking rocky cliff faces, it’s no wonder that this destination is so popular.
Marvao – tranquil and pretty hilltop town
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.
Salema – historic village turned popular 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.
Evora – 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.
Sado Estuary – a beautiful Natural Reserve
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 its home.
Coimbra – a historic 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.
Amarante – a striking riverside town
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!
Algarve – holiday makers favourite
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 best golf in the country.
Azores – 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!
Praia Da Amoreira – a beautiful peaceful beach
Part of the Algarve, Praia Da Amoreira is a beach that is thought of as being a best-kept secret. Although once people realise 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.
Guimaraes – home to a UNESCO listed old town
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.
Tavira Island – 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 take 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!
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!