Do you want to take a trip to Portugal and you are looking for a complete list of places to tour in this amazing country? Well, stop googling.
Portugal is one of the cherished destinations for numerous travellers, especially in recent years. We are not surprised that it is ahead of the curve. The landscapes are magnificent, the climate pleasant all year round, the cuisine is excellent and the prices are affordable. The country is not even that big, so with a two-week trip, you can practically visit every point of interest, from north to south.
What to see in Portugal: 10 unmissable places
Let’s start from the capital by quoting one of the most famous Portuguese poets, Pessoa, who cited this about the city: “for me, there are no flowers that can stand the comparison with the variety of colours that Lisbon takes in the sunlight.” Perhaps there are no better words to describe the beauty of Lisbon, a seaside city that holds a unique charm in the world.
The city is all ups and downs because it straddles seven hills – just like Rome – overlooking the estuary of the Tagus River. There are several neighbourhoods worth a visit. Castelo, Alfama, Bairro Alto, Chiado, Belém, which all narrate part of the city’s history.
If you are short on time to tour Lisbon and you have to cherry-pick, start from Alfama, the oldest district of the city and undoubtedly the one that reflects its most authentic soul. Here, it seems that time takes a step backwards, with the narrow alleys that open into small squares that look more like courtyards being so small. There are miradouro (viewpoints) that offer unique views of the city – where the Graça Convent is undoubtedly amongst the most beautiful – and the historic 28 tram passes through the viewpoint before continuing towards Bairro Alto. Always at Alfama, you will find the houses of Fado, where you can taste the typical cuisine listening to the singers of Fado singing songs of love towards Lisbon – amongst others.
Bairro Alto, Chiado, Belém
Bairro Alto is the neighbourhood where you want to spend the evening to experience the city nightlife – definitely sparkling. In Chiado you will observe a more elegant (and rich) Lisbon. This neighbourhood was a meeting point for intellectuals and artists and even today remains more sophisticated than its surroundings. Lastly, Belém should be on your list to take photos of the homonymous Tower at sunset and to taste the pasteis de Belém – the authentic one you can find only here!
Sintra, Cabo da Roca and Cascais
This area is perfect for long and short itineraries because it is only an hour’s train ride from Lisbon. We are in the Natural Park of Sintra-Cascais that you can easily tour in one day, even just using public transport. Of course, if you have more time, you can spend a day in Cascais and another in Sintra to visit all the points of interest leisurely.
Cascais is a coastal town where the mood is relaxed and the sun is never shy. It is the perfect destination if you only visit Lisbon and desire to spend a day at sea. The beaches are reminiscent of those of the Algarve, in the south of the country, and the water is definitely inviting, despite being cold from the ocean. Move away from the centre for a ramble to Boca do Inferno, where the cliff opens into a spectacular rift. The sea waves crashing on the rocks create an evocative atmosphere. If you can, come at sunset – it’s worthwhile!
Cabo da Roca
Cabo da Roca is the westernmost point of the European continent and is therefore already a magical place in itself. But don’t expect too much: there is the iconic lighthouse, a bistro and a monument engraved with a poem by Camoes. The real beauty here is nature – and its strength. The waves coming from the Atlantic break violently against the cliff (this is at 140 metres above sea level) and the best way to appreciate its power is by finding a vantage point where you can enjoy the show. There are several hiking trails. Venture along the trails, around every corner there is a new panorama to discover!
Sintra is a small jewel – both for its historical importance and for the beauty of its landscape. The city looks like a village out of a fairy tale and is surrounded by greenery and the various buildings that can be seen among the leaves of the trees increase this air of mystery – even more so if there is some mist!
What should you absolutely see? The Palacio da Pena, a former summer residence of the Portuguese rulers, mixes Arabic, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles and stands out for its bright colours (the exteriors are red and yellow). Nearby is the Castelo dos Mouros, built by the Arabs in the seventh century where you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the entire surrounding area, and lastly Quinta da Regaleira, an estate with a palace and gardens designed to be a real labyrinth – complete with caves, fountains, tunnels and an initiation well. Definitely at the top of the list of things to see in Portugal!
Porto (or Oporto, as it is called in Portuguese) is considered the capital of northern Portugal. Literally, it is very reminiscent of the sister Lisbon. In fact, Porto also rises on the hills and the roads are continuous ups and downs. If the climbs are not a problem, you can visit it on foot. Divided by the Douro River, which contributes to its charm, you will immediately notice that Porto is perfect for photography enthusiasts. Every corner always seems to be posing and ready for a quick snap.
The city is particularly famous for two things: the Azulejo, ceramic tiles decorated with blue and white drawings, and Port wine making its inhabitants very proud. Do not miss the opportunity to wander through the streets of the city to admire the decorated buildings and to sample a wine tasting, accompanied by the typical smoked cod. In Vila Nova de Gaia you can also take a guided tour to discover how wine is produced and visit the cellars. In short: Oporto should be on your list of things to see in Portugal.
What to see in Portugal in 10 days? Spend the first 3 days in Lisbon and then head south, to the magnificent area of the Algarve. You will not regret it, on the contrary: you will write to us to thank us for the advice. This region has incredible beaches and cliffs, which almost resemble the coast of the Big Sur in distant California. On the other hand, with 800 km of coastline, it could not have been otherwise! Here there are numerous seaside resorts but the main ones are Faro and Olhão in the east, Albufeira and Portimão for the central area and Lagos and Sagres for the west.
If you have a dozen available days, we recommend you rent a car and move between these towns. It is the best way to enjoy all the beautiful beaches of this area of Portugal. Near Portimão, we recommend Praia da Marinha and Praia de Benagil, the latter famous for the homonymous cave, which is considered one of the most beautiful caves in the world thanks to the “window on the sky”, an opening in the rock roof.
In the area of Lagos, do not miss Ponta de Piedade. Cliffs overlooking the sea and a myriad of caves and coves among the rocks make this place unique in the world. The whole coast here is deserving thanks to its countless beaches. Many are really small, so if you want to secure a place to lie in the sun, come early in the morning! Do not miss the opportunity to go on a SUP or kayak excursion – at sunset because it is very suggestive, at sunrise to live the experience in total peace and, if luck is on your side, even spot some dolphins!
Moving off the mainland and heading to the islands. The Azores are nicknamed the “pearls of the Atlantic“, and this is no accident! These nine almost always forgotten islands are a real natural paradise and slowly they are becoming a popular destination – especially for those who love trekking and being outdoors. What to see in Portugal in 14 days? Choose at least three islands to visit. Each island has very unique characteristics, so all are worth visiting.
São Miguel is the main island and the most varied – if you are short on time, you can visit just this island to get the right taste of the Azores. Pico is perfect for lovers of trekking, since here is the highest peak of the entire archipelago; the most lively and festive Terceira is suitable for those looking for a mix of excursions and nightlife. São Jorge is charming and beautiful – if you needed to select a colour to describe it, it would be green. If you want to unwind, head to Corvo, the remotest of all islands – there are only 400 inhabitants here – or to Flores, a small wild paradise.
The Alentejo is a region of Portugal that practically covers the area between Lisbon and the Algarve. It is not a destination that one thinks about right away when pondering Portugal but it still deserves a mention, especially because it is one of the most authentic areas of the country. Here you can discover the most folkloristic traditions of Portugal and its historical heritage.
Depart from Évora, one of the largest cities in the region and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Don’t miss the Cathedral, built in 1300, and the downtown, which revolves around Praca do Geraldo, the main square. Among the other towns in the area we recommend Marvão and Castelo de Vide, of medieval origins, Vila Viçosa, with its white marble houses, Monsaraz, whose downtown is an open-air museum, and Campo Maior, to visit during the annual feast dedicated to flowers.
We could not fail to include Fatima among the things to see in Portugal, which attracts over 4 million people every year, including travellers, the faithful and pilgrims. Several apparitions of Our Lady took place here and, whether you are a believer, you cannot help but perceive the great sense of faith that is breathed here. The city doesn’t really offer much more than the Sanctuary: if you are in these parts, visit the basilica and its ten chapels, which represent the life of Jesus.
The town of Nazaré is famous for two things: the beach, perfect for enjoying the sea and the sun, and the waves, which reach massive heights due to the particular shape of the seabed. For this reason, it attracts a lot of surfers every year: right here, in 2018, Hugo Vau beat all the records by dominating a wave of 35 metres, renamed “Big Mama”.
If extreme surfing is not your tipple, Nazaré should still be on your list of things to see in Portugal just for its charm. It’s an ancient fishing village and even today you can breathe the air of old times. Do not miss the port, rendered evocative by the hundreds of moored fishing boats.
If Porto were a miniature Lisbon, Coimbra would be a smaller Porto. A university city, it was the capital of the Kingdom of Portugal, so expect historic buildings and palaces. One example above all, the Royal Palace. Coimbra is a great stop between Lisbon and Porto. Here you can find good food and great music. It is precisely in this town that the tools for fado are made. Stop for a night and enjoy the riverfront at sunset. The next day you will be fresh and ready to continue your trip to Portugal!
We could not close our list of what you should see in Portugal without a touch of romance. Óbidos is a romantic and charming village, thanks to the alleys, the colourful houses and the castle, which dates back to the twelfth century. We recommend you come here in July, during the medieval fair – so you can walk surrounded by knights and people dressed up in costumes. Do not forget to taste the Ginja de Obidos, this region’s typical liqueur, and take a stroll along the city walls, which offer unique views of Óbidos.