Last Updated on April 9, 2023
Europe’s West Coast has become quite fashionable. Travel experts say the buzz focused on visiting Portugal is more than deserved. Located in southwestern Europe, Portugal is bordered by Spain to the east and the Atlantic Ocean to the west.
Known for its rich history, stunning natural landscapes, and vibrant culture, Portugal’s 1,000 miles of shore and California-like climate are attracting visitors in growing numbers.
Golden beaches, mountainous parks and lush river valleys are among the best treasures of this small country on the Iberian Peninsula. It’s no surprise when you consider that from bustling cities to quiet fishing villages, there are so many amazing unique places to visit.
How to choose?
That depends on what you enjoy as a traveler. Whether it be a visit to just one city, or a multi-destination trip, we’re more than happy to help with suggestions.
Start Your Adventure in Historic Lisbon
Lisbon, Portugal’s capital city, is a great place to start your adventure and the country’s political, economic and cultural heart.
Seven iconic hills overlook Lisbon’s picture-perfect panorama of white-domed cathedrals, impressive city squares and cobblestone walkways. The city is known for its colorful buildings, charming streets and delicious food.
Take a stroll through the historic Alfama district offering stunning views of the city from the top of the hill.
Visit the iconic Tower of Belem, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which dates back to the 16th century.
Of course, no trip to Lisbon is complete without trying the famous pastel de nata, a delicious egg tart pastry.
If you’re into the nightlife scene, Lisbon has plenty of all-night clubs, drinking dens and brassy jazz clubs to suit your fancy.
Algarve for Beach Lovers
If you love the beach, the Algarve region in the south of Portugal is your golden ticket for a premier vacation destination.
The Algarve is redolent of the Mediterranean with almond groves, citrus plantations and home to some of the most stunning sun-kissed beaches in Europe. It’s here you’ll likely see pods of dolphins frolicking off shore.
Praia da Rocha and Praia do Vau are two popular spots for sunbathing and swimming. You can also take a boat tour of the famous open-sky Benagil Cave, a natural geologic wonder that attracts visitors from all over the world.
Porto for History Buffs
Porto is known for its rich history and stunning architecture, including the iconic Dom Luis Bridge and the Baroque-style Clérigos Tower.
The Duoro Valley is a picturesque region in northern Portugal known for its vineyards, wineries and stunning landscapes. Port wine from the Duoro region has been a major Portuguese export for centuries.
This is where you can tour historic port wine cellars and taste some of the best wines in the world that wine lovers are declaring vintage wonders. Sampling these treasures in one of Duoro’s historic estates (quintas) while gazing at the landscape is unforgettable.
Fishing Village of Nazaré
If you’re looking for a more relaxed Portuguese experience, head to the charming fishing village of Nazaré located about 120 kilometers north of Lisbon. This town is known for its colorful boats and stunning coastline stretching for miles along the Atlantic Ocean.
The town’s fishermen have a long history of using traditional methods to catch fish, and you can still see them at work along the beach. The boats are brightly painted with intricate designs, and they make for a wonderful sight against the azure waters of the Atlantic.
Nazaré is also famous for its traditional costumes as its women wear brightly colored skirts and headscarves, and are often be seen walking through the streets carrying baskets of fish on their heads.
Increasingly, Nazaré has become a destination for the world’s top big wave surfers with waves cresting to 100-feet, an astonishing site to behold – from a safe distance.
Sintra’s Stunning Palaces and Gardens
No trip to Portugal is complete without a visit to Sintra, the charming town located in the hills just outside Lisbon.
Sintra is home to stunning palaces and gardens, including the iconic Pena Palace.
One of the town’s main attractions is the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, which covers an area of over 145 square kilometers. The park is home to lush forests, stunning gardens, and breathtaking landscapes, and offers a range of outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling, and horseback riding.
The city is also famous for its unique microclimate, which is cooler and more humid than the surrounding area. This climate has allowed a range of exotic plants and trees to flourish in the area, including palm trees, bamboo, and ferns.
Évora- A UNESCO Heritage Site
This historic city located in the Alentejo region of Portugal, approximately 130 kilometers east of Lisbon, has a rich history dating back to Roman times. It is beloved for its stunning architecture, ancient ruins, and vibrant cultural scene.
One of the main attractions of Évora is the historic city center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city center is home to a number of impressive structures, including the Roman Temple of Évora, which dates back to the 1st century AD, and the Cathedral of Évora was built in the 13th century and features a stunning mix of Gothic and Baroque architectural styles.
Another highlight is the ancient walls which date back to the Roman era. The walls were built to protect the city from invaders, and they are still largely intact today. Visitors can walk along the top for stunning views of the city and the surrounding countryside.
Coimbra’s Vibrant Cultural Scene
The romantic city center of Coimbra is filled with gorgeous buildings and monuments, including the Sé Velha, a Romanesque cathedral that dates back to the 12th century, and the Igreja de Santa Cruz, a Gothic church that’s the final resting place of several Portuguese monarchs. The Biblioteca Joanina, a baroque library built in the 18th century, is also a sought-after site, with its stunning architecture and magnificent decorations.
One of the most popular attractions in Coimbra is the University of Coimbra. Located on a hill overlooking the city, the school features a beautiful baroque library, a chapel, and several museums. Visitors can take a guided tour of the university and learn about its history, architecture and academic traditions.
Coimbra is also renowned for its vibrant cultural scene with a number of theaters, concert halls, and museums. The Machado de Castro National Museum is a must-see attraction with its collection of Roman and medieval artifacts including mosaics, sculptures, and ceramics.
We realize we’re just touching on the jewels of Portugal here and that there’s so much more to explore than the highlights we have listed. Though it’s a small country, it is spectacularly diverse and fascinating, and its rich culture and history spans centuries and continents.