Overlooking view of Sintra skyline from the top of the mountains, one of the best cities in Portugal

17 Best Cities in Portugal (in 2023)

It may not be one of Europe’s largest countries, but there are still a lot of unique cities in Portugal to visit. Portugal’s beautiful cities are filled with historic streets, amazing restaurants, UNESCO World Heritage sites, and breathtaking beaches. 

When I visited the country, I was amazed at the difference in the activities and vibe across the cities in Portugal, even though it’s only five hours from top to bottom. Many of the most incredible cities don’t pop up on lists of the best places to visit in Portugal, but I’m here to let you in on insider knowledge. 

These are the 17 best cities in Portugal. Let’s get into it. 

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17 Best Portugal Cities


The hilly capital city of Portugal has picturesque architecture and an abundance of dynamic neighborhoods.  

View of the colorful buildings along the street of Lisbon
Colorful buildings in a quieter section of Lisbon

🏠 Population: 3 million | 📍 Google Maps | Website | Best Places to Stay in Lisbon | 👉 Browse Hotels in Lisbon on Booking

Lisbon is easily the most iconic Portuguese city – it is the largest city in the country and Portugal’s capital, after all. Lisbon has an international airport and the bustling city is a staple on any Portugal itinerary

There are a wealth of things to do in Lisbon. You could visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site such as Belem Tower or Jerónimos Monastery or spend time at the city’s array of museums, such as the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum or the National Coach Museum. 

Alternatively, it’s just as fun to just walk around the city. Get a feel for Lisbon’s neighborhoods, including Bairro Alto, Belem, and Alfama, and take in the city’s architecture. There is a lot to do in Lisbon with or without firm plans. 


This northern Portuguese city is the second largest in Portugal and is known for creating Port wine. 

View of the boats and the skyline of Porto in the background
Porto skyline with boats in the foreground

🏠 Population: 1.3 million | 📍 Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse Hotels in Porto on Booking

Porto is located on the coast of northern Portugal and is the second-largest city in the country. Some of the best things to do in Portugal are conveniently located in Porto. 

Porto is also one of the most famous cities in Portugal, largely thanks to its world-renowned Port wine. You won’t want to leave without a tour and tasting at Caves Ferreira. 

Porto is a historic city and has a gorgeous UNESCO-listed historic center and the 143-year-old Luís I Bridge. There are unique things to do in Porto as well, like visiting the gorgeous Livaria Lello that actually inspired the Harry Potter wizarding world written by JK Rowling.


A magical city in the mountains complete with an array of impressive castles and palaces.

View of the people admiring the overlooking view of Sintra from Pena Palace
People looking over the views at Pena Palace in Sintra

🏠 Population: 377,000 | 📍 Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse Hotels in Sintra on Booking

Sintra is a mountain city that’s one of the best day trips from Lisbon as it’s only 30 minutes away from the capital city. Although it’s close by, it’s a completely different vibe than Lisbon with its vast green landscapes and the litany of castles to visit. 

Besides being naturally beautiful, there is a lot of history and culture to explore in Sintra. The city itself is even a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

In Sintra, you can wander elaborate palaces like the Moorish Castle, the National Palace of Sintra, Quinta da Regaleira, and the colorful Pena Palace where the Portuguese Royal family once lived. 

👉 Pro Tip: It’s difficult to get around in Sintra because it’s all steep hills. That’s why I’d recommend joining a tour like this Private Day tour With Private Guide to Palaces of Sintra & Gardens. They’ll take you everywhere, so you don’t need to buy expensive rides up the mountain. 


A coastal city with a rich fishing culture, amazing restaurants, and the most intense surfing beach in the world. 

A downhill street surrounded by buildings leading to the beach in Nazare
Looking down a street in Nazare Toward the beach
A mural in one of the buildings in Nazare
Street art in Nazare

🏠 Population: 14,881 | 📍 Google Maps | Website | Best Places to Stay in Nazare | 👉 Browse Hotels in Nazare on Booking

Nazare is a charming fishing city on the Atlantic Ocean that’s one of the best cities in Portugal for a beach holiday. There are two main beautiful beaches in the city, Nazare Beach and Praia do Norte. The latter is world-famous for having the biggest waves ever surfed. 

The best thing to do in Nazare is to spend all day lounging on the beaches. Then, in the evening, eat your way through the city’s delicious restaurants, such as Pangeia and Bontà. There is also a local fish market to get a feel for the local trade right on the stunning coastline. 


A vibrant college city in Portugal that’s home to one of the oldest universities in all of Europe.

View of the tourists at the Jardim da Manga fountain
Jardim da Manga fountain

🏠 Population: 140,000 | 📍 Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse Hotels in Coimbra on Booking

Coimbra is a major university city in central Portugal that’s home to one of the oldest educational institutions in the world. The University of Coimbra has been teaching the minds of tomorrow for 733 years and counting. There are quite a lot of things to do in Coimbra, too. 

The city features a bunch of gorgeous churches, like Se Velha, and historic attractions like the remains of the Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Velha. There are also quite a few lush botanical gardens, such as Jardins da Quinta das Lágrimas and Penedo da Saudade. 


This UNESCO-listed Medieval city offers visitors a variety of attractions with over 2,000 years of history to explore.

View of the white painted buildings around the cobbled streets of Evora
The cobbled streets of Evora

🏠 Population: 53,000 | 📍 Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse Hotels in Evora on Booking

Evora is a tiny city with Medieval roots, cobbled streets, and a great deal of rich history to dive into. Despite its size, there are many interesting attractions all within walking distance. 

You can fit a visit to the city’s Roman Temple ruins, the Cathedral of Evora, and Aqueduto da Água de Prata into just an afternoon. Don’t forget to check out Evora’s most macabre attraction, the Chapel of Bones, which is decorated with thousands of human bones. 


A lowkey city with pristine natural beaches that are ideal for calmer beach holidays.

Overlooking view of the city center of Setubal and the coast from a downstairs
Walking downstairs toward the city center of Setubal with views of boats on the coast
Aerial view of a beach surrounded by lush mountains in Setubal
Beaches near Setubal

🏠 Population: 122,000 | 📍 Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse Hotels in Setubal on Booking

Setubal is one of the best cities in Portugal for wild, natural beaches. Tucked away inside Setubal’s national parks, you’ll find secret coves with some of the best beaches in Portugal. Don’t miss Praia de Galapinhos, Figueirinha Beach, and Portinho da Arrabida. 

Setubal is also a seafood heaven thanks to its coastal location. It’s especially known for the local delicacy of choco frito, or fried cuttlefish. Some of the top restaurants in Setubal are Sem Horas, Xtoria, and Casa Santiago specifically for the cuttlefish dish. 

👉 Pro Tip: You can find more private, low-traffic beaches on the Troia Peninsula, which is a quick and cheap ferry ride from Setubal. 


A gorgeous, architecturally diverse city in the mountains of northern Portugal. 

View of the illuminated skyline of Braga from The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Sameiro
Views over Braga from The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Sameiro

🏠 Population: 193,000 | 📍 Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse Hotels in Braga on Booking

Braga is the biggest city in the far north region of Portugal. It’s a traditional mountain community with breathtaking architecture and interesting sights.  

The most popular thing to do in Braga is visiting the holy Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte. It’s a really memorable attraction with its steep rows of royal staircases leading up to the main shrine. 

There are quite a few other impressive architectural feats in Braga as well, including Arco da Porta Nova, Palacio do Raio, and the Garden of Santa Barbara. It’s also one of the most affordable cities to live in Portugal.  


A charming city in Central Portugal less than an hour south of Porto known for its winding canals reminiscent of Venice.

Night view of the traditional boats docked on the canal in Aveiro
Traditional boats on the canal in Aveiro (photo: Matyas Rehak / Shutterstock)

🏠 Population: 80,000 | 📍 Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse Hotels in Aveiro on Booking

The distinguishing feature of Aveiro is the big canal that runs through the city, giving it the name the Venice of Portugal. Throughout the day there are colorful boats taking passengers up and down these waters. 

Boat rides are readily available, but I’d recommend booking them online to get the best price. This Aveiro & Costa Nova Half Day Tour from Porto with Moliceiro River Cruise is a great option for visitors coming from Porto for the day. 

The city offers visitors plenty of shopping at Forum Aveiro. Alternatively, take the chance to learn the area’s background at the beautiful Museum of Aveiro, which was established an incredible 565 years ago. 


A stunning beachy paradise filled with spots for surfing, delicious fish, and shopping.

Aerial view of the crowded Ribeira Beach and city center of Cascais
Views over Cascais city center and Ribeira Beach

🏠 Population: 214,000 | 📍 Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse Hotels in Cascais on Booking

Cascais is one of the most beautiful cities in Portugal by a landslide. The coastal city is located less than an hour west of Lisbon and is a favorite destination across Europe for its beach scene. 

Some of the best beaches in Portugal are located in Cascais. You’re in for an exceptionally gorgeous dip in the ocean at beaches like Praia da Rainha and Praia da Duquesa.

This is the place to try some delicious seafood in Portugal. Cascais has a long history as a fishing district and their product is unmatched. Don’t forget to check out the city’s infamous natural cliff formation of Boca do Inferno, or Mouth of Hell in English. 


An easily accessible city on Portugal’s Southern coast with gorgeous natural attractions and yummy seafood.

View of the people dining in the historic center of Faro
People dining in the historic center of Faro

🏠 Population: 67,000 | 📍 Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse Hotels in Faro on Booking

Faro is the capital of the adored Algarve region. It’s the easiest place in the area to reach from Lisbon. It takes around 3 hours on the train to get from Portugal’s capital to Faro. This southern Portuguese city is flush with activities.

Pass through the Arco da Vila landmark to reach Faro’s historic Old Town tucked within ancient city walls. Visit the city’s interesting Portuguese museums, like the Museu Regional do Algarve and the Municipal Museum of Faroto.

Faro also boasts a ton of tempting beaches that are perfect for a summer vacation, like Praia de Faro, Praia da Gaivota, and Barrinha Beach. Faro is also a good starting point or home base to explore the rest of the Algarve region.


A port city with excellent bars and a renowned historic center within walking distance from scenic cliffside beaches. 

Aerial view of the long boardwalk and the cityscape of Lagos
Views over the city of Lagos

🏠 Population: 31,000 | 📍 Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse Hotels in Lagos on Booking

Lagos is famous in Portugal for its distinct cliff beaches and high-quality nightlife. Simply strolling around the historic city center of Lagos even has its own appeal to it. 

The best beaches in Lagos include Praia do Camilo, Praia Dona Ana, and Praia do Pinhão. The city also offers other natural attractions, such as the otherworldly cliff formations of Ponta da Piedade. You can hike along Seven Hanging Valleys Trail for exceptional views over the area. 

All in all, Lagos is a multi-faceted city that can be a good match for any type of traveler. There are calm enough beaches for families, outdoor activities for adventurers, and plenty of bars for partiers. 


A popular city on the Algarve coast with water activities, iconic natural attractions, and a ripe nightlife scene. 

View of the cityscape from Praia de Albufeira
The city in front of Praia de Albufeira (photo: Sun_Shine / Shutterstock)

🏠 Population: 37,000 | 📍 Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse Hotels in Albufeira on Booking

Albufeira is the most popular tourist destination in southern Portugal. The city attracts millions of eager visitors each year. The only city in Portugal that receives more tourists than Albufeira during the high season is Lisbon.

It’s one of the best cities in the Algarve because it has everything that people love about this region, all neatly wrapped up in one convenient city. There are exceptional beaches like Praia da Falésia along with majestic viewpoints for watching the sunset like Miradouro do Pau da Bandeira.

Albufeira is right near one of Portugal’s most famous natural sites – Benagil Cave. However, the only reliable way to reach this famous spot is with a guided boat tour, like this Caves and Coastline Cruise from Albufeira to Benagil


The easygoing capital city of Portugal’s Madeira Island features jaw-dropping scenery and lots of wine culture.

View of the lush and beautiful landscape of Madeira Botanical Gardens with Funchal skyline in the background
Famous Madeira Botanical Gardens with Funchal in the background

🏠 Population: 105,000 | 📍 Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse Hotels in Funchal on Booking

Funchal is the capital of the Portuguese island of Madeira near Africa. Funchal is very different from most mainland cities in Portugal. It has a definitively romantic atmosphere that’s ideal for a honeymoon or any other type of special getaway. 

Funchal features two of Portugal’s most stunning collections of colorful flora – Madeira Botanical Gardens and Monte Palace Tropical Gardens. Both of these diverse gardens feature thousands of plants from around the world and provide stellar views over Funchal and the island’s coast. 

To get an even better perspective of Funchal, you can ride the cable car over the top of the mountain where you’ll get the very best views over the city. 

👉 Pro Tip: Wine is a huge thing in Funchal because the city produces the delicious Madeira wine. Stop by the local Blandy’s Wine Lodge for an in-depth tour of the production process and tastings. You can also join a tour, like this Full-Day Madeira Wine Tasting Tour starting in Funchal.  


A surfing hotspot with far-reaching, windy beaches and a picturesque small-town energy.

Aerial view of the waterfront city of Peniche
Aerial view over the city of Peniche

🏠 Population: 26,000 | 📍 Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse Hotels in Peniche on Booking

Peniche is a tiny surfing paradise located about an hour and a half north of Lisbon. Even though this city is just a small knob off the coast of Portugal, it is absolutely surrounded by 5-star beaches for water sports. 

Praia da Gambôa, Praia dos Supertubos, Baleal Beach, and Praia de Peniche de Cima all provide the optimal conditions for a thrilling surf session. It’s also one of the best cities in Portugal to learn how to surf with schools like Waterlost and Special Surf 78.

Peniche is a fantastic beach vacation destination in Portugal for non-surfing visitors, too. There are endless stretches of spotless beach in this cute, coastal city. Plus it’s much less hectic than some of the most famous beach hotspots in the south. 


A fishing city and the second-largest municipality of the Algarve offers beaches, a famous racetrack, and easy access to the region.

Aerial view of the deep blue ocean and crowded Rocha Beach in Portimao
Rocha Beach and Portimao

🏠 Population: 49,000 | 📍 Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse Hotels in Portimão on Booking

Portimão, the second-biggest city in the Algarve, is the perfect spot to kick off a trip around this enticing region. It’s sandwiched right between Lagos and Albufeira, so there is quite a lot happening all around. Public transportation can take you to neighboring cities for day trips. 

The Algarve International Circuit is also located in Portimao. The Portuguese Grand Prix is hosted at this bustling race track every spring. 

Portimão has plenty of beautiful beaches that make this coastline famous, such as Praia dos Três Castelos and Praia do Vau. The city is also renowned for its fresh, decadent seafood at places like Taberna da Maré and Spot3 right on the beach. 


A less-touristy beach city in the Alentejo region with immaculate architecture and swimming spots.

Picturesque view of the boats and the cityscape of Sines
Sines, Portugal

🏠 Population: 14,000 | 📍 Google Maps | Website | 👉 Browse Hotels in Sines on Booking

Sines is one of the smaller cities in Portugal, but don’t let that give you the misguided impression that it’s boring. The fishing city isn’t as touristy as other coastal cities. It maintains this traditional charm that’s a breath of fresh air after visiting busier places and attractions.

There are clear, long stretches of beach around the city, including Praia de São Torpes and Praia Vasco da Gama near the city center. The historic center of Sines is very beautiful in itself and it’s also easily walkable. This area is home to Castelo de Sines and a bunch of restaurants. 

FAQs About Cities in Portugal

What are the 4 major cities in Portugal?

The 4 main cities in Portugal are Lisbon, Porto, Braga, and Setubal. These cities in Portugal have the largest populations. Lisbon has a population of over half a million residents and Porto has around 250,000 residents. Both Braga and Setubal have close to 120,000 residents each. 

Where is the most beautiful city in Portugal?

Sintra is the most beautiful city in Portugal. Sintra is located up in the mountains about 30 minutes outside of Lisbon and surrounded by gorgeous views everywhere you go. The city is also home to exquisite castles, including Pena Palace and Castelo dos Mouros. 

What is the most affordable city in Portugal?

The most affordable city in Portugal is Braga in the far north. The average cost of living without rent for a single person in Braga is around $639 per month. This is significantly cheaper than other cities in Portugal and across Europe. 

What is the most walkable city in Portugal?

Lisbon is the most walkable city in Portugal. Although Lisbon is very hilly and gets hot during the summer, it is still very easy to walk around and the city’s public transportation is fantastic. Small cities in Portugal, like Evora and Sines, are also very walkable. 

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You’re all caught up on the best cities in Portugal! Which city caught your eye the most? Before your trip, read over my complete Portugal packing list so you don’t show up with the wrong stuff.  

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