Destination

woman with a dog climbing steps towards a large, historic, brown and white building

Looking for the most beautiful places to visit in Portugal? This small country tucked away in the south-west corner of Europe offers a great variety of vibrant cities, charming towns, and natural beauty.

From the jaw-dropping cliffs and rock formations in Algarve to the narrow streets in Porto, there are so many amazing places to visit.

After traveling excessively in Portugal over the last 10 years, I have visited some pretty amazing destinations and here I’ll share the most beautiful places you should add to your Portugal bucket list.

The Most Beautiful Places to Visit in Portugal

1. Braga

Bom Jesus do Monte in Braga, Portugal

Braga is mainly known for its impressive Bom Jesus do Monte sanctuary which sits on a hill on the outskirts of the city. There are a whopping 573 steps up a majestic staircase to reach the sanctuary. But, if that sounds too much for you, you can take the funicular next to it.

Braga has a lot more to offer though than this famous sanctuary (and a few other ones nearby like Sameiro Sanctuary). The city is one of the oldest pilgrimage destinations in Portugal and holds a whole lot of beautiful churches including the Cathedral which is well worth a visit.

You can also walk through the colorful flower garden of Jardim de Santa Barbara and enjoy the arched ruins in the City Hall and Library.

It is possible to go on a day trip to Braga from Porto, but I highly recommend spending at least one night here to see all the sanctuaries and still have enough time to explore the city itself as well.

2. Faro

Typical Portuguese street lined with historic brown and white buildings
One of the most beautiful places to visit in Portugal

In my opinion, Faro is the most underrated city in southern Portugal.

It might look a bit rough around the edges with plenty of abandoned buildings (as is quite normal to see in Portugal) but give it a chance and you will see all the charm in the abandoned buildings (think plants growing around old windows and beautiful rustic doors), and appreciate the beauty of the churches and street art that dot the city.

The city’s marina is small but full of life and nearby you find top attractions like the Arco de Vila, Faro Cathedral (make sure you climb to the rooftop for sweeping views of the marina and Ria Formosa Natural Park!), and the chilling Bone Chapel.

But for one of the best things to do in Faro, head to Ria Formosa Natural Park. You can take boat trips from the marina to explore the barrier islands, go bird watching, or search for dolphins on the open ocean.

You can also go hiking and even see flamingos in the natural park. I love walking the Ludo Trail as you often see flamingos in the salt pans on your way back and it is possible to extend the hike on the boardwalk further up or cross the footbridge to the beach.

Faro Beach is also absolutely stunning. You can drive across, cycle, or take the bus for a day at the beach from the old town.

3. Lisbon

A classic yellow tram with historic buildings in the background

Portugal’s stunning capital is a must-visit. It oozes history and culture and offers so many incredible viewpoints from the 7 hills it is built upon. The narrow, cobbled streets are steep, so you might want to include a couple of trips on the iconic yellow tram during your itinerary.

Make sure you visit Sao Jorge Castle where you can walk the castle walls overlooking the city. It sits on top of the Alfama district where you find fantastic restaurants and bars, and some of the best Fado joints (a soulful Portuguese music genre).

For the best nightlife, head to Bairro Alto where bars and clubs are open until the early mornings.

Take the tram to the Belem Tower and the Jerome Monastery in the Belem district to see the impressive UNESCO World Heritage Sites from the Age of Discovery which set Portugal on the map. This is also the best place to try the delicious Pastel de Belem!

Also Read: What It’s Like to Live in Lisbon – Interview With an Expat & Digital Nomad

4. Porto

Aerial view of Porto from the Clerigos Tower
A view of Porto from the Clerigos Tower

Porto is probably the most beloved city in Portugal with a vibe like no other.

You’ll find incredibly talented artists busking on every street corner. Narrow streets embrace you between attractions, and the food is amazing. And my is this city beautiful!

The city is quite hilly, offering you beautiful views of the river from so many different parts. The cathedral has some of the best views and you should not miss out on climbing the Clerigo Tower.

Porto has a magnitude of wonderful attractions, including the Lello Library (also referred to as the Harry Potter Library), the Sao Bento Train Station with its 20.000 blue and white tiles depicting life in Porto, the picturesque Crystal Palace Gardens, and the Carmelitas Church (which is actually two churches hugging the narrowest house in Porto).

Porto is famous for its Port wine which you can try in one of the wine cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia across the river from Porto. You should also make time for a boat trip along the Douro River, whether you choose a 6 Bridges tour or join a longer Douro Valley wine-tasting adventure.

5. Tavira

Bridge over a canal with historic buildings in the background

Set in the eastern Algarve, you might wonder if Tavira is worth visiting. The small coastal town is set amidst Ria Formosa Natural Park and offers a tranquil vibe compared to the central and western Algarve.

The old town is super charming with its cobbled streets, the remains of Tavira Castle and its lush rose garden, and the Roman Bridge crossing the Gilao River. There are plenty of restaurants and cafes to enjoy nice Portuguese food or international dishes.

But the best part about Tavira is Tavira Island. You can either take the boat from the town center (in summer) which takes you to Tavira Beach, or walk across a pedestrian bridge in Pedra d’El Rei about a 10 minute’s drive from Tavira (there are buses!) which takes you to Barril Beach.

The latter is a fabulous option as you can take a small tourist train across the island. The train line was once used for transporting fishing gear when tuna fishing was thriving in Tavira. On Barril Beach you also find the Anchor Cemetery, a set of around 200 large, rusty anchors that are placed perfectly in the sand dunes as a reminder of Tavira’s prosperity in the tuna fishing times.

6. Lagos

a cobblestone town square with a terrace, several people and historical buildings

Lagos is one of the most popular coastal towns in Portugal and not without a reason.

Set in the most picturesque part of western Algarve you find incredible beaches with hidden coves and small tunnels in the limestone rock leading to more secluded beaches. Lagos town is full of energy with cafes, bars, and restaurants around every corner.

Lagos boasts some epic street art too if you take your time wandering away from the tourist center.

Walk along the rugged cliffs to Ponta da Piedade rock formations or take a boat trip to explore it from the water. Believe me, it is one of the most beautiful natural places in the Algarve.

You can also go on a kayak tour to explore the coast. It is not allowed to rent kayaks anymore due to some accidents that have occurred in recent years, but going with a guide gives you plenty of information and fun facts about the area and the guide will point out the best spots.

7. Cascais

Several people on a beach with historical gray, brown and white buildings in the background

Cascais is a beautiful Portuguese town on the coast near Lisbon where you can enjoy the sweeping beaches in summer.

There are several palaces set on the waterfront worth checking out. You’ll find the Santa Marta Lighthouse here, and if you walk a little further, you reach Boca do Inferno (Hell’s Mouth) which is a dramatic open cave where the water smashes in through an opening in the rock wall. The viewing platform is free to visit.

Cascais has a charming town center with pedestrian streets and plenty of bars and restaurants to enjoy food and drinks.

8. Aveiro

Traditional Portuguese boats on a canal with a colorful row of houses in the background

Aveiro is nicknamed the Venice of Portugal due to its canals and the colorful Moliceiro boats. These long, wooden boats were once used to remove algae from the canals, but now they have been painted in vibrant colors and are used to take tourists around the canals instead. These boat tours are a great way to learn more about the history and the places you pass.

Aveiro has a great pedestrian area with shops, restaurants, and cafés. Make sure you visit the cathedral and Aveiro Museum which is set in the 15th-century Convent of Jesus of the Female Dominican Order.

Make sure you rent a bike and head to the picturesque Costa Nova which is recognized for its colorful striped beach houses. There is also a lovely boardwalk taking you through the marshes and saltwater lagoons of Aveiro which is perfect to walk or cycle along.

9. Evora

Several pillars, part of a Roman ruin, with white buildings in the background

Evora is located in the heart of Portugal, about an hour and a half inland from Lisbon. It is mainly known for its impressive bone chapel, but there is a lot more to the city than this macabre attraction.

Evora’s streets are packed with historic buildings, beautiful churches, old arched porticos, and Roman ruins.

Make sure you visit Evora Cathedral and climb the 106 steps to the rooftop for panoramic views. Go to see the 16th-century Church of Nossa Senhora da Graça, and stroll around the beautiful public gardens where you will find some 19th-century ruins that are a popular photo stop.

Evora is also home to a 15th-century aqueduct that stretches 18 kilometers, needless to say it goes way beyond the city.

The city also boasts some beautiful old city walls which you will see as you walk under stone arches in the charming old town streets.

10. Alvor

An empty street leading to a blue and white church

If you are looking for a relaxing place to visit in Portugal on the coast, Alvor will capture your heart.

The small fisherman’s town is built on the hillside overlooking Ria de Alvor Nature Reserve. Stroll the steep streets, visit the church, and enjoy restaurants and bars.

The town is really lively in summer but still holds a tranquil vibe.

You can walk the boardwalk to check out remote beaches and go birdwatching. Or head to the impressive Praia dos Tres Irmaos where you can walk through tunnels and arches to reach other, more secluded beaches with impressive rock formations.

Conclusion: Places to Visit in Portugal

Portugal is a beautiful, diverse country with many great places to visit.

I hope this article has given you an idea of which beautiful towns or cities you’d like to visit on your next trip to Portugal!

Also Read:

  • Sailing in the Azores, Portugal
  • Volunteering With Whales in the Azores
  • Travel Planning – How to Plan a Perfect Trip
  • Things to Know Before Traveling to Europe as an American

 

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