What’s the best place to visit in Portugal? Lisbon? Porto? The Algarve? We’re breaking down eight of our favorite places all across this beautiful, culture-filled, Southwestern European destination.
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8 of the best places to visit in Portugal
Read on to discover the eight best places to visit in Portugal.
(P.S. Wondering when to travel? Check out our guide to the best time to visit Portugal.)
1. Lisbon: Portugal’s historic capital & most cosmopolitan city
From strolling through the city’s storied streets to sampling some of the best (and freshest) seafood in Europe, there’s a lot to do in Lisbon. The city is one of the oldest on the continent, exchanging hands numerous times over the centuries — with each new civilization leaving its mark on the city's architecture and culture.
Lisbon also is easily Portugal’s most cosmopolitan city.
São Jorge Castle (Castelo de S. Jorge) in Alfama — one of the best areas to stay in Lisbon — and the Jerónimos Monastery are just a couple of the coolest landmarks that stand out, the former of which offers incredible views of the city and the mouth of the Tagus River, which extends out into the Atlantic. But for all the ancient sights, the city also has a contemporary side, with a thriving nightlife and excellent gastronomy.
The capital’s central location also makes it one of the best places to visit in Portugal if you’re keen on exploring beyond the city’s borders. For example, there are tons of great day trips from Lisbon, and many of those destinations are mentioned below.
2. Porto: one of the best places to visit in Portugal for culture & wine junkies
Like Lisbon, there is so much to do in Porto, Portugal. Both cities are steeped in history and culture, both offer immediate access to the ocean (beaches, cruises, amazing seafood…) and both are home to vibrant nightlife.
But they’re also distinct.
Porto is much smaller and doesn’t have quite the same cosmopolitan vibe as Lisbon, making it a great destination for travelers who really want to immerse themselves in Portuguese culture. There’s less of an international presence here, and this affects everything from the city’s cuisine (you have to try Porto's signature dish, francesinha) to shopping and beyond.
On another note, the city is perhaps best known for its chief export, port wine, a fortified wine harvested in the Douro Valley and generally brewed within the city.
Clérigos Church and Tower (Igreja e Torre dos Clérigos) and the Livraria Lello bookstore (which inspired scenes in the Harry Potter franchise) are among the city’s coolest sights, but there’s no shortage of interesting places to check out.
(Interested in a road trip? Check out our guide to traveling from Lisbon to Porto.)
3. Sintra: a favorite day-trip destination from Lisbon nestled in the mountains
A popular day trip from Lisbon, Sintra offers elaborate castles and scenic landscapes to explore. The whole area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and offers a glimpse into the lives of the royal family that once occupied the eccentric, yet beautiful National Palace of Pena. Sintra is also home to the Park and Palace of Monserrate, which displays a rare meld of Moorish, Gothic and Indian influences, as well as the Quinta da Regaleira, which was built in the early 1900s.
Of course, you can certainly spend more than a day in Sintra. The area also hosts lovely resorts, and there’s plenty to do beyond sightseeing, like enjoying championship golf courses, tons of hiking trails and more.
4 & 5. Coimbra and Aveiro: a great mix of Portugal’s old & new
Roughly halfway between Porto and Lisbon, you’ll find the charming riverfront city of Coimbra, Portugal’s former capital. The city is teeming with historical sights, from one of the oldest universities in Europe to stunning examples of Romanesque and Baroque architecture.
Meanwhile, the canal-filled city of Aveiro is less than an hour north of Coimbra by car (about 25 minutes by train), and sits between the Aveiro Lagoon and the Atlantic Ocean. Here you can enjoy a mix of nautical fun, from canal rides through the city to three of Portugal’s coolest beaches. There are also a ton of hiking trails through the wetlands at the Passadiços de Aveiro (Aveiro Walkways).
Both cities offer a lovely collection of museums and a more intimate experience compared to Portugal’s larger cities.
(Ready to catch some waves along Portugal’s stunning shores. Read about the best beach resorts in Portugal.)
6. Évora: one of the best places to visit in Portugal for couples
Another great day trip from Lisbon and an ideal Portuguese destination for relaxed travelers, Évora is a small city that was founded by the Celts thousands of years ago before it was conquered by the Romans around 57 BCE.
Like many of the best places to visit in Portugal, Évora has a unique cultural background spanning half a dozen civilizations that have all influenced the city’s ornate architecture. The medieval Old-World theme lends the city an intimate vibe that couples may find especially enticing. Moreover, couples may also enjoy Évora’s upscale hotels and spas.
Interested in visiting Évora? Connect with Fora to plan and book your trip.
7. The Algarve: Portugal’s most famous region, with charming towns & gorgeous beaches to explore
The Algarve may just be the best place to visit in Portugal if you’re looking for a little bit of everything the country has to offer. The weather’s comfortable and warm throughout most of the year, the scenery is beautiful and there are a bunch of cool towns to explore.
Faro, the region’s capital and largest city, offers a small urban hub — but the real draw may be beach towns like Lagos (see our Lagos itinerary), Sagres and Albufeira. Each offers a mix of elegant and historic architecture, delicious regional cuisine and a laid-back ambiance that’s ideal for a relaxing getaway.
The best hotels in Algarve, Portugal capitalize on the region’s idyllic scenery, too, with ritzy beach resorts and boutique hotels in quaint towns.
8. Braga: one of the coolest cities to visit in northern Portugal
Braga is best known for its religious significance and architecture. But as the northernmost city on our list of the best places to visit in Portugal, it offers a distinct experience from the coastal cities of Lisbon and Porto, the latter of which is only about 45 minutes away by car.
Despite Braga’s historical heritage — it’s the oldest city in Portugal — the city actually has a somewhat youthful energy cultivated by its large student population. Naturally, Braga has a lively nightlife with plenty of trendy bars, restaurants and clubs all catering to different interests.
Ready to visit the best place in Portugal? Connect with Fora
Can’t wait to visit the best places in Portugal? Book and plan your trip with Fora. From finding the best hotels (and unlocking A+ hotel perks) to expert itinerary building, we’ll make sure your trip is the best it can possibly be.
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