The country of Portugal has so much to offer, it’s difficult to create a list of the top places to see. Consider this article as a starting point for your time in Portugal, but stay open to the unexpected discoveries and hidden gems you might encounter.
Starting in the capital city discover the historic and economic importance of this important destination.
Be Sure To Visit:
– Belém Tower
Officially the Tower of St. Vincent, this 16th-century fortress is the ceremonial gateway into Lisbon and was previously the point where Portuguese explorers would launch their boats. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983.
– Castelo de São Jorge
The fortifications of St. George’s Castle date back to the 1st century BC and human occupation began in the 8th century BC.
– Praça do Comércio
Commerce Square and Palace Yard is one of the largest squares in Europe and faces the harbor that serves as a hub for commerce and transportation. Enjoy watching the sunset over the ocean from a nearby cafe.
In Sintra, you’ll be amazed by the ornately carved walls and marble columns, intricate filigree archways, and tiled floors in some of the prettiest castles in all of Europe.
Be Sure To See:
– Pena Palace
A romantic castle featuring a mix of architectural styles and shades of yellow, red, and grey located on a hilltop above Sintra. Considered one of the seven wonders of Portugal, be sure to stroll the 200 hectares of gardens and parks surrounding the castle.
– Castle of the Moors and the Palace of Sintra
Two more UNESCO sites known for being an important medieval hilltop castle and the best-preserved royal residence in Portugal respectively.
– Cabo da Roca
The western-most point of continental Europe that features a lighthouse that began operating in 1772.
Be sure to sample a drink of the famous wine-based beverage named after this area. As you navigate the hilly, cobblestone streets and meander along the Duoro River estuary, you’re bound to encounter the freshest seafood restaurants around, lots of Port bars, and historic areas in one of the oldest European city centers.
Be sure to see the baroque Church of the Clergymen (Torre dos Clérigos), investigate the Ribiera region of town, and stop for a meal at the Ode Porto Wine House.
This Roman city is well-preserved with many of its medieval walls and monuments still standing. This UNESCO site features the macabre Chapel of Bones which is part of the beautiful Igreja de Sao Francisco church complex, a Roman Temple, and the historic square in the Praça do Giraldo.
Take some time to relax at the natural park Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina and enjoy the stretch of coastline that hasn’t changed for thousands of years.
One of our favorite locations in all of Portugal, the beaches and towns draw foreigners to this southernmost area of the country. Stop in Sagres to see the most dramatic coastline area of this region on the southwest tip of Portugal. Don’t miss the cliffs around Lagos and Lagos Castle, and the cliffs of Ponta de Piedade.
Near the southeast corner of Portugal close to the border with Spain, you’ll find a city filled with 18th Century buildings among 37 churches straddling the River Gilão. This area is one of the best destinations for golfers due to the development of many nearby golf courses.
#7. Parque Natural da Ria Formosa
The Ria Formosa lagoon is a system of barrier islands with six inlets that connect the river to the sea. Part of this area is designated as a natural park, but the location also serves an important economic purpose with seafood farms and the bustling Port of Faro. You’ll find many bars, restaurants, and cafes running along the river waterfront offering fantastic bird watching in this important bird preservation area.
Located in central Portugal, this riverfront city and municipality district was the former capital city of the country. Still a major cultural center this UNESCO site is known as the City of the Students since the University of Coimbra was established in 1290 making it the oldest academic institution in the Portuguese-speaking world.
When you wander around this town, you’ll surely be impressed by the architecture and the history including the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte with its impressive baroque crisscrossing staircase that rises 381 feet.
#10. Amarante, Sortelha, Monsanto, and Cascais
In Amarante, the famous arched stone bridge of Ponte São Gonçalo across the Tâmega River and riverside route dotted with restaurants and cafes are worth a stop. This city was also named part of UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network as a City of Music in 2017.
Sortelha is a tiny medieval village that time forgot. It is dominated by a 12th-century fortification castle on a bluff overlooking the 13th-century town. Bring comfortable walking shoes to explore the castle grounds.
Monsanto is known as the village built around a rock with fewer than 1,000 residents. The biggest thing about this tiny village is the massive boulder surrounded by homes built directly next to and on top of the rock.
Finally, Cascais is a beautiful, historic fishing town with buildings that look like they were taken from a children’s storybook. Perched on the dramatic Atlantic coast, you’re bound to find great seafood at any of the local restaurants.