Even though it’s one of Europe’s smaller countries, there is a deceptively long list of places to visit in Portugal.
Portugal’s cities and quaint towns are known around the globe for their high-end food and beguiling nightlife. From the west coast to southern Portugal, you’ll find beautiful beaches, fishing villages, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and lots of wine.
Since there are lots of places to visit in Portugal, it can be pretty difficult to narrow down the best choices for your Portugal itinerary.
During my month in Portugal, I explored some of the best places to visit in Portugal and picked my favorites destinations in Portugal to share with you:
Table of Contents
- 19 Best Places to Visit in Portugal
- FAQs About Portugal Destinations
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19 Best Places to Visit in Portugal
Portugal’s capital city is filled with cobbled streets, world-class food, and traditional Fado music.
The first place you think of when you’re considering a trip to Portugal is usually Lisbon and rightfully so. Lisbon is the Portuguese capital and you could easily spend an entire vacation just getting to know this special city. It’s the type of place that just feels undeniably alluring.
In this hilly city, you’ll find historical wonders like Belem Tower and Ribeira Palace which once housed the Portuguese royal family. There is plenty of culture, including many of the best museums in Portugal, like the fantastic art collection at the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum.
You’ll also find family-friendly attractions in Lisbon like Oceanário de Lisboa. See our full list of the best things to do in Lisbon for more.
For food, there are tons of restaurants and marketplaces like LxFactory and Time Out Market. For nightlife, you’ll never run out of fun in the neighborhoods of Bairro Alto and Principe Real. Plus, if you ever get bored in this busy city, there are many fun day trips from Lisbon to consider.
All in all, Lisbon is one of the best places to visit in Portugal for almost any sort of traveler.
Known around the globe for its port wine, this is the country’s second-largest city located right along the Douro River.
Porto, the second largest city in Portugal, is another one of the country’s top destinations. The attractive riverside town offers visitors an eclectic mix of stunning architecture and a wealth of art.
Wander over the Dom Luís I Bridge at sunset for beautiful views over the city and the Douro River. Line up at the iconic Livaria Lello bookstore for the perfect Instagram shot. Check out the baroque interiors of the São Francisco Church and the 19th century Palácio de Bolsa, which housed an early stock market.
Porto is also one of the best places to visit in the entire world for wine tasting. Specifically, port wine is made in this region and Porto has lots of port wine cellars to try the specialty.
There is less of a touristy atmosphere in Porto. Porto is more relaxed compared to Lisbon, which makes it the perfect Portuguese destination for couples, friends, or families.
👉 Pro Tip: If you plan on indulging in the region’s wine, consider a day trip to Vila Nova de Gaia only 15 minutes outside of the city across the Douro River. This area is practically a watering hole for delicious port wine.
This archipelago is a natural playground of sprawling cliffsides, waterfalls, and hikes.
If you’re in the mood for a calming island getaway, Madeirã might be more your speed. Madeirã is an archipelago consisting of two visitable islands called Madeira and Porto Santo.
The landscapes of these islands are something plucked straight out of heaven. It’s even nicknamed the Floating Garden of the Atlantic. There are deep, blue natural pools and giant rocky cliffs over the North Atlantic Ocean. Black sand beaches and thick, green foliage stretch up the mountainsides.
It’s just a treasure trove of natural beauty and you will be in awe of it all. Madeirã is geared more towards nature lovers than people who want to explore Portugal’s historic cities.
🚗 How to Get There: As an island chain, Madeirã is a little more complicated to reach than other Portuguese destinations. You can fly into the Madeirã Airport internationally or from Lisbon. Or, you can catch the ferry to the Port of Funchal from several European ports.
A cozy coastal town with glorious beaches that provide surfers with some of the world’s biggest waves.
For constant relaxing beach days in a small town with everything you could possibly need or want, you’ll want to visit Nazare. One of the best things to do in Nazare is its clean sandy beach that runs along the coastline. Stretching behind the beach are a collection of cute streets with a diverse array of restaurants and shops selling local crafts.
Nazare is also one of the best places for surfing in the county. From November to February, Nazare’s Praia do Norte beach in particular gets hit with some of the biggest waves in the world. For novice surfers, the summer months provide a pleasant, calmer environment to learn the sport.
Coastal towns like Nazare have some of the freshest seafood you can get your hands on. Or, for Italian food, try Bontà Italian Bistro in Nazare. The Italian couple who owns it changes the menu based on what products are best that day and it is divine. It might have been one of the best meals of my whole life and it was definitely the best lasagna I’ve ever had.
A busy port city renowned for its sweet wine and seafood only an hour from the Lisbon coast.
Setubal is an interesting place that features a lot of different types of experiences in one area. It’s a port city with tons of high-quality seafood and fish restaurants. However, if you drive a little outside of town there are a bunch of immaculate beaches hidden away if you know where to look. Like Praia dos Galapos in Arrabida Natural Park.
Plus, Setubal is only 45 minutes to an hour outside of Lisbon and easily accessible by train or bus. So, you can even venture off to have a city experience if you want.
If you want a little bit of everything when you visit Portugal, Setubal might be the perfect place to visit.
This small town in the Algarve is one of Portugal’s top summer tourist destinations, famous for iconic beaches, unique topography, and raging nightlife.
Portugal’s Algarve region is known for some of the most beautiful beaches in Europe. And some of the best can be found in Lagos, a walled old town that fills up with tourists from around the continent each summer.
Within a short distance of the town of Lagos you’ll find iconic spots like Praia do Camilo, a gorgeous cove, and Ponta de Piedade, known for some of the best ocean views in Portugal. The unique rocky formations in Lagos are best visited as part of a boat tour. You’ll find several on offer in the Marina de Lagos.
Lagos is also known as a summer party destination, but that’s not the only reason to come here. Its location in the center of the Algarve makes it the perfect base for day trips to explore other places in Portugal, including the next one on our list.
👉 Pro Tip: Lagos is an extremely popular place to visit in Portugal and gets very busy during the summer months. If you want to enjoy the beaches of Lagos without all the crowds, consider visiting in October or April during the shoulder season. See our guide to the best time to visit Portugal for more.
The capital of the Algarve region is blessed with daily sun skies and a charming Old Town.
Faro is another gem of the Algarve that attracts thousands of visitors eager to take advantage of the good weather and beautiful scenery. It’s actually the capital of the whole Algarve region, which is one of the most popular places to explore in the whole country of Portugal.
In addition to its hallmark beaches, though, Faro also has quite a few historic sites. Including the medieval Santa Maria Cathedral and the Roman Ruins of Milreu. Along with tons of Portuguese and international restaurants to satisfy any craving you might have.
👉 Pro Tip: Plan on visiting the enchanting country of Spain, too? You can catch the bus right from Faro to Seville and the journey takes less than 3 hours. It’s a way easier way to get to Portugal’s neighboring country and comes with way more affordable travel costs.
A historical city in northern Portugal with some of the country’s most magnificent monuments and architecture.
Moving away from the southern beachy reaches of Portugal, let’s go all the way north to the city of Braga. This place is a mecca of Portuguese history and you’re bound to learn a lot about the country by visiting.
There are lots of historic attractions like Braga Tower, Arco da Porta Nova, and Bom Jesus do Monte. Braga’s Old Town in itself is a sight to behold. Or, you can go to Sameiro Sanctuary atop Monte Sameiro hill for a dose of history and views overlooking Braga.
If you want to get lost in the northern Portuguese nature, there is lots of stuff to do at the enormous Peneda-Gerês National Park a little outside of the city. Such as hiking, horseback riding, canyoning, standup paddle boarding, and more.
A mountain town so magical that it qualifies as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has inspired artists and poets.
Sintra is an ethereal must-see town in the mountains that’s only a little over 30 minutes from Lisbon on the train. The town and attractions are so awe-inspiring that the “cultural landscape of Sintra” is denoted as a treasured world heritage site. There are a bunch of things to do and places to explore in this seemingly tiny town on top of the mountains.
The Park and National Palace of Pena is a captivating display of Romanticist architecture. From Castelo dos Mouros, the views are so wide-reaching that you can see all the way to the ocean. You can check out the 19th-century mansion called the Palace of Monserrate. Or, my personal favorite, the winding, trippy Initiation Well.
A charming city filled with rich history, ancient ruins, and a lively restaurant scene.
Evora is one of those cities that is basically a tourist attraction all on its own. The city is even ranked as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The ancient streets winding their way around Evora date back to the Roman era.
Inside the town square, you’ll find restaurants serving up Alentejo-style food and places to grab a drink well into the evening.
One of Portugal’s biggest college cities that’s home to the oldest university in the country.
Located on the banks of the Mondego River, Coimbra is Portugal’s famous university city. When you roam the area, the energetic feeling of it being a college town is palpable. But, it brings an element of fun to a trip.
Coimbra is home to several impressive cathedrals, architectural pieces, and gardens. Plus, one of the most beautiful libraries in the world: Biblioteca Joanina. Alternatively, there are always activities available on the river. Like kayaking and kneeboarding.
A hub of fresh fish delicacies and pristine beaches in the western Algarve region.
Another Algarve alternative in the south of Portugal is Portimão. This is a particularly fun daytime vacation destination for families with kids. It has gorgeous roomy beaches and the waters are usually pretty calm and temperate.
However, when the sun goes down, Portimão can turn into party central pretty fast. Though, everything stays pretty contained to specific areas like Avenida Tomas Cabreira and Praia da Rocha beach. Making it an exciting spot for young travelers, too.
Often called the Venice of Portugal, this city is known for its maze of canals filled with colorful boats.
Located on Portugal’s west coast about an hour south of Porto, you’ll find Aveiro. A distant cousin of Venice in style, Aveiro sits next to a lagoon called Ria de Aveiro. The lagoon links to a network of three canals that carry vibrantly colored, skinny boats throughout the city.
The canals and lagoon are the stars of the show when it comes to Aveiro. However, the city is also known for its Art Nouveau architecture that you can appreciate just by walking around.
Just outside the city, there are some tempting beach day trips under 20 minutes away like Costa Nova and São Jacinto Beach.
A Portuguese archipelago consisting of nine islands in the mid-Atlantic that are a nature lover’s paradise.
Taking a step (or a boat) away from mainland Portugal, let’s talk about the magnificent Azores Islands. This Atlantic archipelago includes nine different islands. Popular destinations include Flores Island, Sao Miguel Island, Santa Maria Island, and Terceira Island.
From thermal baths in the middle of nature to volcanic mountains like Mount Pico. You can even take a tour through an ancient lava tube called Algar do Carvão on these otherworldly islands. It gives you a glimpse of nature in a way most destinations can’t provide anymore.
It’s also a fantastic place for animal enthusiasts because a ton of species call it home or stop over during certain seasons. It’s a particularly great place to spot sperm whales and bottlenose dolphins all year.
A small historic city with a magnificent medieval castle in Central Portugal near the Spanish border.
One of the oldest cities in Portugal is Sortelha. It’s one of those magical places where history has been preserved fairly immaculately. The super little city is located in central Portugal near the border of Spain and it looks like something plucked straight from a dream.
They seriously picked the perfect place to build this city.
Sortelha’s most impressive and visited attraction is its incredible medieval castle of the same name. The Castle of Sortelha remains remarkably intact for ruins from the 13th century. You can even wander the grounds of this attraction completely for free.
A northern Portuguese city with expansive natural parks, gardens, and an 18th-century palace.
Vila Real is a lesser-known Portuese destination, but it’s definitely one of the country’s best-kept secrets. Located in the Douro Valley region of the north, Vila Real exudes both natural and architectural beauty. The royal family of Portugal used to visit the city for vacation all the time. So, you can imagine how special of a place it is.
The town is speckled with pieces of history. Like the Cathedral of Vila Real, which is one of the best examples of Gothic cathedrals. Plus, there are outdoor attractions and views galore in Alvão Natural Park.
A fishing village turned inviting resort town with tons of shopping, delicious cuisine, and stunning beaches.
A popular southern Spain alternative to Lisbon or the Algarve is the fishing village of Cascais. Located on the Atlantic Coast, it’s one of the top resort destinations in the whole country for its laid-back charm. It’s a fantastic destination for an easygoing vacation with shopping, gambling, and lounging.
In Cascais, make sure you make a visit to Boca do Inferno cave and cliff formation. It’s one of the most staggering natural attractions in the country. There are also a bunch of gorgeous beaches like Tamariz Beach, Praia da Rainha, and Poça Beach. If you want a touch of Las Vegas on your Portugal trip, you can always test your luck or catch a show at the Casino Estoril.
One of northern Portugal’s most picturesque towns known for its mix of architectural styles and traditional desserts.
The northern region of Portugal is the setting for a bunch of adorable towns, but one of the best is easily Amarante. Located on the Tâmega River, the first thing that people see in the town of Amarante is the 18th-century Ponte de São Gonçalo Bridge.
The town also features a modern art museum, a huge park filled with exotic trees, and several beautiful churches. This location is a better fit for travelers who want a more chill, tranquil experience in Portugal. The downside of this is that there isn’t really much of a club or nightlife scene.
👉 Always Forget Something? Just use my handy checklist of things to bring to Portugal.
A quaint beach town on the western coast that’s known as Portugal’s capital for surfing.
If there is one place in Portugal that surfers have to visit at least once in their lifetime, it’s Peniche. The beach town is designated as the country’s surfing capital.
As you might have guessed, there are beautiful beaches with a copious amount of gushing waves. Praia da Gambôa and Praia dos Supertubos provide extra good conditions for surfing. But there are lots of different beaches in Peniche for all types of visitors.
The town also features some historical attractions like the Fort of Peniche political prison from the 16th century. Along with some humbling viewpoints such as Miradouro da Cruz dos Remédios on the coastline.
FAQs About Portugal Destinations
What is the most beautiful area of Portugal?
The Algarve region is the most beautiful area of Portugal. There are many beautiful places to visit in Portugal. But this particular coastline has some of the most breathtaking beaches and natural scenery in the entire country. There are over 100 unique beaches to explore across the entire Algarve region.
What part of Portugal should I visit?
Visitors traveling to Portugal for the first time should visit Lisbon. As the capital city of the country, it’s an excellent jumping-off point to get into Portugal’s culture. There is an abundance of historical sites, exceptional restaurants, and bars along the city’s narrow cobbled streets. Plus, Lisbon is situated in an ideal location to travel down to the south coast or push further north.
What is the most beautiful town in Portugal?
Óbidos is one of the most beautiful towns in Portugal. Its historical architecture gives the hillside village a dreamy feel that transports visitors back in time.
What is the number one tourist attraction in Portugal?
Saint George’s Castle or Castelo de São Jorge in the Alfama neighborhood of Lisbon is the number one tourist attraction in Portugal. The castle receives over 2 million visitors every year. This popular attraction is open all year round and costs $10 depending on the current exchange rate.
👉 Read Next: Best Places to Go in Spain
Thanks for reading my list of the best places to visit in Portugal! Next up, check out my list of the best things to do in Portugal.
Now that you’ve learned about all the best places to visit in Portugal, which ones are going on your bucket list?
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