36 Best Places to Visit in Portugal

36 Best Places to Visit in Portugal
© Altezza | Dreamstime.com

Portugal, the small country in the west of Europe, has a wealth of great sights for a varied vacation. Impressive churches and monasteries, fairy-tale castles, beautiful gardens, exciting museums and historic towns and villages. There is a lot to discover in Portugal. We present you the 36 best places to visit in Portugal here.

36. Coimbra

Coimbra univerisity
© Eva Urbanova | Dreamstime.com

Coimbra today has more than 143,000 inhabitants, of which around 30,000 are students. The origin of Coimbra probably lies in the time of the Celts, but the Romans founded the then city of Aeminium on the site of the present city. At that time it was located on the Roman road from Olisipo to Bracara Augusta and was an important station.

The foundations of the aqueduct from the 16th century still exist from that period. When the independent Kingdom of Portugal was founded and until 1256, Coimbra was the second capital of Portugal. Only when Lisbon became the capital did Coimbra’s importance diminish, but it always remained an important university city. Founded in 1290 by King Dom Dinis, the university is the oldest in the country and one of the oldest in Europe.

Coimbra is rich in exhibitions, theaters and museums. In the Torre de Almedina – the medieval tower – the remains of the city walls can be seen. They are accompanied by an exhibition on the history of the city and its fortifications. In the Museum Edificio Chiado you can see a collection of paintings by the most important painters of the country from the 19th and 20th centuries. In the Museu Nacional de Machado de Castro shows works of Portuguese sculptors.

Among the most important buildings is, of course, the University, located on the highest point of the upper old town. It has a baroque clock and bell tower and a library with some 300,000 precious books. The Se Nova Cathedral, of course, is also among them, dating from 1598. The Botanical Garden is home to ancient tree giants, and 18th-century tropical houses house the corresponding plants.

35. Azores

© Dieniti | Dreamstime.com

The Azores consist of 9 inhabited islands: São Miguel, Santa Maria, Terceira, Graciosa, São Jorge, Pico, Faial, Flores and Corvo. It is 1,370 kilometers to the European mainland.

Volcanoes with azure crater lakes, waterfalls in the jungle, hot springs and Portugal’s highest mountain. The Azores are a true natural wonder. Hiking, surfing, diving, whale watching: The islands offer a great program for outdoor enthusiasts.

A few years ago, vacationing in the Azores was still a real insider tip. But since low-cost airlines have added the archipelago to their program, the number of visitors has increased significantly.

Why you should go to the Azores: The nature is unique and there is not yet much to see of mass tourism.

What you should do in the Azores: Visit the hot springs of Furnas, take a crater hike at Sete Cidades, enjoy the view from the top of Ponta do Pico (2,351 meters) and go in search of whales and dolphins.

34. Braga

© Wessel Cirkel | Dreamstime.com

Braga was conquered by the Romans as early as 138 BC. Moors and Christians were involved in the development over time and eventually contributed to the fact that Braga today has city rights and can now boast some major employers. These are primarily Grundig and Bosch, which build car radios and the Toll Collect toll system here in Braga.

Two large universities provide the necessary new blood in terms of education. The 2004 European soccer championship was partly held here, and the club’s soccer stadium was the venue for two matches. For visitors to the city, the cultural and historical attractions probably play a role when they arrive here.

Mostly passing through, they can take part in the regular events. These are not only the book fair in March, but also the Braga Jazz, the processions in June or the theater festival in July. These festivities and events ensure a regular crowd.

The European Road that passes through Braga provides good access to the surrounding regions and makes the city the center of its 23 municipalities.

33. Évora

Évora, Portugal
© Zastavkin | Dreamstime.com

Thanks to its long history, Évora has a wonderful old town and numerous monuments of great artistic and historical importance. Strolling through the narrow streets of the old city, you will encounter buildings from the past two millennia.

The heart of the old town is the central Praça do Giraldo. The spacious square is surrounded by stately houses with ornate balcony lattices, whose arcades provide welcome shade in summer. A large marble fountain offers weary visitors a place to sit, and at the front of the fairground stands proudly the important 16th-century church of Santo Antão. Those who turn into the adjacent pedestrian zone from here enter directly into the hustle and bustle of the old town.

At almost every corner you can find the traces of different eras and cultures. The great temple of Diana with its 14 Corinthian columns remains from the Romans and is today considered the landmark of the city. Right next door stands the mighty Gothic cathedral of Évora from the 12th century. The equally famous and creepy Bone Chapel next to the Franciscan church today reminds us of the transience of existence: more than 5,000 skulls and bones are embedded in the walls and columns.

The rule of the Moors, who ruled Évora between 715 and 1165, is reflected in the northern part of the city. The so-called “Moorish Quarter” is still well preserved today, and the oriental architecture is well worth seeing.

In contrast to the city itself, the population is young and lively: Évora is home to the second oldest university in the country. Especially in the evenings, students populate the bars and restaurants, creating a lively hustle and bustle within the old walls.

32. Aveiro

Traditional boats on the canal in Aveiro
© Acnaleksy | Dreamstime.com

Natural lagoons, charming architecture and the colorful boats make Aveiro a special city. Aveiro is located between the Atlantic Ocean and the adjacent mountains. This means beautiful landscapes, wide coastlines and beautiful parks and gardens. It is fun to explore the city. The old town, with its historic buildings and old cobblestone streets, invites visitors to take a stroll. There visitors can find small stores, restaurants and also galleries and a lively nightlife.

The lagoons and boats are the biggest sights in Aveiro. If you want to see the charming city from a completely different perspective, you must take a city tour on one of the colorful boats. The porcelain factory Vista Alegre is not only a nice destination for porcelain fans, also the lighthouse in Praia da Barra, the oldest lighthouse in Portugal should be part of the sightseeing program. The two neighboring towns of Luso and Curia offer relaxation and recreation. Hot springs spring up there, and the natural landscape is also beautiful.

31. Ferragudo

Ferragudo on the Algarve Portugal
© Devy | Dreamstime.com

Already in prehistoric times, the area around Ferragudo was settled, as evidenced by findings. The Phoenicians, Carthaginians and Romans have also left their traces in the area. The first written reference about the present village dates back to the 14th century. Between 1502 and 1537, a castle was built in Ferragudo by order of the Bishop of Silves. On June 30, 1999, the village was granted the rank of a small town (“Vila”).

Today, Ferragudo is home to a number of hotels, apartments and restaurants. In addition, there is a huge camping site with several hundred pitches. Ferragudo is especially popular with bathers, because around the town there are a number of small beaches and secluded bays. For example, there is Praia Grande, a little north of Ferragudo. The most beautiful and largest beach has several bars and restaurants. Here you can also rent kayaks or jet skis. In addition, there are a number of other small beaches such as Praia do Pintadinho, Praia do Torrado or Praia dos Caneiros. Bathing pleasure on lonely sandy beaches is guaranteed here.

30. Alcobaca

Alcobaca Monastery
© Saiko3p | Dreamstime.com

The place belongs to the historical province of Extremadura about 10 kilometers from the Atlantic coast. This was quite different at the time of the Middle Ages, when the sea extended like a lagoon from Pedernira to in front of Alcobacas near Fervenca. Alcobaca is 3.1 km² in size, together with the district of the same name it is 408.1 km² and a total population of 56,569 people.

The history of Alcobaca dates back to the Bronze Age, at the time of the Romans it was called Helcobatiae. Emperor Augustus determined that Alcobaca should belong to the province of Lusitania at that time, which today is called Santarem. A Roman road ran through the territory of Alcobaca at that time. It connected the Roman cities of Colipo, Araducta and Eburobritium.

Alcobaca is best known for its monastery, the Mosteiro de Alcobaca. It is one of the largest, most famous and oldest monasteries in the country and is included in the World Heritage List. In 1178 the construction of the monastery was started, and in 1240 the first section with the church and the first cloister was completed. The castle of Alcobaca above the monastery is also famous.

Churches located on the other side of the river date from the same period. They are popular sightseeing destinations among tourists, as are the shameful piles. At that time, the land donated to the monastery was cultivated and farmed. The Meierhöfe were a result of this and a total of 13 towns that belonged to the monastery like Alcobaca. Vineyards were cultivated, nut trees and olive trees were planted and later also fruit. For this Alcobaca is known until today.

29. Sintra

Sintra, Portugal
© Europhotos | Dreamstime.com

The city of Sintra and the surrounding Parque Natural de Sintra-Caiscais is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, many castles and palaces are located here and can be visited.

The Royal Palace is located in the middle of the town in the old town. It is easily recognizable by its two chimneys, the two towering cones that rise above the kitchen. Various influences and architectural styles are combined in the building, from Arabic elements (such as the carved ceilings inside) to Portuguese azulejos. Another highlight is the grotto, which was used as a refrigerator.

The history of the palace began in the times when the country was still under the influence of Islam. The Moors had two castles, the Castelo dos Mouros on top of the mountain and the residence down in the city, today’s Palacio National. It was enlarged in the 14th century by João I and remodeled in the 16th century by Manuel I to its present form.

The fairy-tale castle is located only 2 kilometers from Sintra, but on top of a mountain. In 1840, Ferdinand II commissioned Wilhelm Ludwig von Eschwege to build the castle, which is reminiscent of Neuschwanstein, on the walls of the old Jerome monastery. The result was an almost wild mixture of different styles ranging from neo-Renaissance, neo-Gothic, neo-Manuelinian to Moorish elements. Below the castle lies an elaborately designed park, which can also be visited.

28. Viana do Castelo

Sanctuary of Santa Luzia at Viana do Castelo in Portugal
© Dudlajzov | Dreamstime.com

At the mouth of the Rio Lima sits Viana do Castelo, which is well worth seeing. Thanks to its favorable location in the north of Portugal, the city is the perfect starting point to this part of the country and should not be missed on any tour. The best place to start your tour of the town is on the Monte de Santa Luzia. Up here, not only the impressive architecture of the Sagrado Coração de Jesus attracts visitors, but also the magnificent view. It quickly becomes clear up here: Viana do Castelo has always been closely connected with the sea.

You can see part of this interwoven history in the harbor. Here anchors the museum ship Gil Eannes, which once served the cod fishermen as a hospital on the high seas. Even today, numerous ships set sail every day – a small spectacle that you should not miss. The picturesque old town with the historic Praça da República, one of the most beautiful squares in the country, is just as bustling.

27. Tomar

Knights of the Templar Convents of Christ castle - Tomar Portugal
© Nikolai Sorokin | Dreamstime.com

The city is known for the Convento de Cristo (Monastery of Christ), a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which also dominates the cityscape. It is a combination of castle and monastery of the Knights Templar.

The Convent of Christ or “Convento de Christo” is located in the Portuguese city of Tomar. The Convento da ordem do Christo was founded in 1162 by the Knights Templar. In 1305, the Convento da ordem do Christo became the property of the Order of the Knights of Christ, which had just been founded in Portugal. This change of ownership was due to the dissolution of the Order of the Knights Templar by Pope Clement V. 

 In the 12th century, work began on the actual central building of the monastery church. This building was erected in the Romanesque style. The builders were the Knights Templar. The monastery church is a breathtaking sight from the outside. The building of the Convento da ordem do Christo monastery church is a 16-sided polygon. It has round windows, a powerful buttress as well as a bell tower. The interior of the monastery church is also worth seeing: For example, here you can marvel at an octagon that has been connected to the gallery by individual arches. The famous Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem served as the architectural model for the construction of the monastery church.

26. Porto

Ribeira, the old town of Porto, Portugal
© Xantana | Dreamstime.com

Porto developed over time into one of the most important industrial and commercial cities in the country. The old town of Porto is particularly impressive with its numerous buildings from different eras. A multitude of churches in baroque style await visitors and transport the viewer to a time long past. Many of the old houses were built of granite and left in their original style. One of the oldest buildings is a hotel and dates back to 1880. Starting from the banks of the Duoro, narrow winding streets with dense housing terraced up a slope. This structure of the old town Ribeira brought the city of Porto since 1996 the title of World Heritage Site of UNESCO.

The Sea Life in Porto presents on an area of more than 2.400 square meters in 31 basins more than 5.800 sea inhabitants. Besides rays and sharks, you can also watch giant turtles slowly glide through the water.

The most famous export of Porto is the port wine. The vineyards specially planted for this purpose are located along the Rio Douro. For the production of the port wine only grapes from this area may be used, this was determined by law in 1756. Vintage Port is considered a very high quality wine and is very popular among wine lovers. A typical Portuguese dish is offal or tripe combined with a white bean stew. As a tourist, you should try the culinary preferences of the region to get to know the culinary delicacies of this region.

25. Óbidos

Obidos village
© Carlos Caetano | Dreamstime.com

Óbidos has a great peculiarity. Almost all buildings and the castle from the Middle Ages have been preserved until today. There are hardly any newer buildings that disturb the overall picture. A trip to Óbidos is a journey into the Portuguese Middle Ages.

In the many narrow streets there are numerous nice restaurants and handicraft stores. Some nice street cafés invite you to take in some of the medieval atmosphere and tranquility in a relaxed atmosphere.

Óbidos is a synthesis of the arts with elements from the Middle Ages, Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance. Each age has left its stone traces in the city. Óbidos can almost be described as a kind of huge open-air museum, which, however, does not charge an entrance fee and has a lot of atmosphere due to the narrow streets and old buildings.

The castle on the hill inside the city walls is visible from afar. It was built under Moorish rule and after the reconquest by the Christians in 1148, it was rebuilt and enlarged several times. It also served as a royal residence for a long time. The earthquake of 1755 caused great damage. Nevertheless, in 1808, when a good 50 years later from the castle was fired the first cannon shot of the Battle of Roliça. In this battle, the Portuguese, in an alliance with the British, defeated Napoleon for the first time.

The historic city wall of Óbidos is preserved in large parts and is very suitable for a walk around the city. The elevated viewpoint from the wall gives you many interesting views of the backyards and houses of the city.

24. Funchal, Maderia

Funchal – Madeira island, Portugal
© Marius Dorin Balate | Dreamstime.com

There are many reasons to come to Funchal. Firstly, of course, the always pleasantly warm climate attracts, because even in winter you can still walk in the sun in Funchal. On the other hand Funchal has a breathtaking natural landscape of dense forests smelling of eucalyptus and a beautiful coastline.

There is little crime in Funchal, the city is cosmopolitan, cosmopolitan and always lovable. Every year the capital of Madeira is the destination of numerous cruise ships and many of the visitors do not want to leave the city after a stroll. Funchal is versatile, you can hike in the nearby mountains, shop in the elegant downtown stores, or have a coffee or a glass of wine in one of the many beautiful cafes on the promenade and enjoy the view of the blue Atlantic Ocean.

All animal lovers have the opportunity in Funchal to take a boat out into the Atlantic to watch whales or go swimming with dolphins. In the past Funchal was a stronghold of pirates and became rich and powerful through the cultivation of wine and fennel. Until the 1960s, the rumor persisted that Funchal was the island of well-heeled pensioners from Europe and especially from England. Today, however, the island capital of Madeira presents itself quite differently to its guests. Funchal is a modern and vibrant city with a distinct nightlife, which is, however, much more stylish and discreet than in many other places. Those who spend their vacations in Funchal will be happy to return to this thriving city in Madeira.

23. The Algarve

Beautiful beach near Lagos town, Algarve region, Portugal
© Poike2017 | Dreamstime.com

The region in the south of Portugal has much more to offer than sun, beach and many vacationers. You will also find great sights such as castles, fortresses, churches, palaces and museums. In addition, the beautiful nature offers you many exciting places that you should definitely see on a vacation in the Algarve.

Spectacular are highlights like Ponta da Piedade near Lagos, the cave of Benagil or the steep cliffs of Cabo de São Vicente in the very southwest of the Algarve. If you like to spend time in nature, you will love these places.

Interesting historical monuments can be found in many towns and villages. Centuries-old fortresses, architectural masterpieces like churches and palaces and many other testimonies of the long history of the Algarve.

22. Lisbon

Lisbon, Portugal
© Europhotos | Dreamstime.com

The Portuguese capital Lisbon, located at the point where the Tagus River flows into the Atlantic Ocean, has a rich and magnificent history. Also, the history of seafaring is felt everywhere. In the 15th century, the famous explorers set out from here to find their way to India. Countless sights can be found in Lisbon – there is something for everyone. The famous landmark, the “Torre de Belem”, the famous old town “Alfama”, and a variety of museums.

In the evening it is a must to experience the heart-warming Fado singing in one of the many restaurants – you will find especially good Fado restaurants in the Barrio Alto district. You should also not miss the Baixa, the lower town, with its large squares, such as Rossio Square. Lisbon can be visited all year round due to its favorable climate. A visit is always worthwhile – the city is located quite picturesquely on 7 hills on the banks of the Tagus.

21. Monsaraz

Aerial view of the historic village of Monsaraz in Alentejo with the Alqueva dam reservoir on the background; Concept for travel in Portugal and Alentejo and most beautiful places in Portugal
©Tiago Fernandez/stock.adobe.com

The small village of Monsaraz is located in the east of the Alentejo, just a few kilometers from the Spanish border. It is about 54 km to Évora and 190 km to Lisbon.

Monsaraz is located on the Alqueva reservoir, which supplies the dry region with water from the Rio Guadiana.

The beautiful medieval town is an absolute highlight on any tour through Portugal. The narrow streets of the village and its whitewashed houses will take you on a journey into the past. The most important sights are the old castle, the Matriz church and the former Palace of Justice.

Every year in July, Monsaraz is transformed into a large open-air museum, where you will have a good opportunity to learn about the customs and traditions of the Alentejo.

20. Portimão

© Stevanzz | Dreamstime.com

The city of Portimão is located in the Algarve in Portugal and has about 45,400 inhabitants. The region is particularly popular as a vacation destination, not only because it has the most sunny days in Europe. It is also very scenic and small towns such as Portimão are popular with vacationers as a destination for excursions or as a change from beach vacations.

The first settlements in Portimão date back to the Neolithic Age. From the time of the Romans there are numerous traces, not only remains of buildings, but also vessels or coins found here. Due to the proximity to the African continent, architectural influences of the Arabs can also be seen, for example the typical chimneys on many houses.

Some buildings have simply been given a different purpose and today serve as a chapel, for example. It was not until the 15th century that the region became more populated by people and after some destruction, especially the function as a port town could be developed. Besides canned food, dried fruit and fish and fish products are produced and handled. Since 1924 Portimão has the city rights.

Through continuous expansion, the port has been enlarged so that today cruise ships also dock there. It is also the home port of the ships for round trips that offer tourists spectacular views of the cliffs of the Algarve. Of course, the city now also has a marina and some beaches. Praia da Rocha is also one of the most famous on the Algarve coast because of its rock formation. Forte Santa Catarina, the former fortress, is one of the special historical highlights in Portimão and the surrounding area.

19. Nazare

© Zastavkin | Dreamstime.com

Those who want to comfortably overcome the distance from the beach to Sitio, use the mountain railroad, which comfortably overcomes the height difference of 110 meters. Before its importance for tourism, Nazaré was known only as a place of pilgrimage. Pilgrims provided prosperity for the parish. Today, the population of about 10,200 is joined by many tourists, vacationers and believers who regularly visit the Abbey of Alcobaςa, one of the 13 towns that founded the ancient city of Pederneira.

In addition to tourism, the people of Nazaré still live from fishing. The fishing port was completely renewed and enlarged in the 80s. For the vacationers the protected and 2 kilometers long sandy beach is the attraction, but very many visit the city also because of its importance as a pilgrimage site. This also gave the city its name, which is based on the Holy City of Jerusalem. Here, the veneration of the Virgin Mary is carried out by the Nossa Senhora da Nazaré. Parts of the church and the former palace were converted into a hospital. It was not until 1936 that Nazaré was granted modern municipal rights, which quickly stimulated the growth of its population.

18. Guimarães

Sao Tiago Square in Guimarães

The old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The history of the city dates back to around 960, when a rich Galician countess named Mumadona Dias is said to have founded the Castelo de Vimaranes. In 1096 it was granted municipal rights by Henry of Burgundy, who also made it the capital of his county of Portuguale in the same year.

In the 15th century the Dukes of Bragança had dominion in the town, it was elevated from the status of small town to that of a city in 1853. From this period there is a whole series of historical and sacred buildings or monuments to admire. Among them, for example, there are three museums that are even of international cultural importance. These are the Museu Alberto Sampaio for sacred art, the Museu de Arte Primitiva Moderna for modern naive art and the Museu da Socidedade Martins Sarmento.

Of course, the historic old town is also one of the things that visitors should see when they pay a visit to Guimarães. The Castelo and the churches Igreja do Sao Miguel do Castelo or Igrefa Nossa Senhora da Oliveira can also be considered worth seeing. Furthermore, there are palaces that are also among the sights.

The Castelo is an old Romanesque castle from the middle of the 10th century. Of course, the city also offers the opportunity for a shopping spree and a cozy place in a café or restaurant can also be found. Regularly held events always attract visitors and tourists to the city. The Battle of Flowers, the Linen Festival and many other festivities always delight all visitors.

17. Albufeira

Main street in Albufeira, Portugal
© Vvoevale | Dreamstime.com

During the vacation season, the streets of the city are bustling with activity. Of course, one must not forget the beautiful beaches Praia do Penedo and Praia dos Pescadores west of Albufeira. The landmark of Albufeira is an unmissable clock tower (“Torre de Relógio”) on Rua Bernadino de Sousa. It is crowned with a beautifully decorated bell.

Albufeira was already an important trading center in the 8th century, perched on the rock and almost impregnable. Today it is one of the most popular resorts in the Algarve in Portugal. The former small fishing village has become a popular tourist resort and since the 60’s it has become more and more a vacation center, today it has over already 16,000 inhabitants. Who would like to enjoy the plump life in the southern sun, is right here.

In summer, Albufeira with its many bars, clubs and restaurants is considered the central meeting place on the Algarve coast. Tourists from all over the world appreciate not only the hospitality of the inhabitants, but especially the typical southern flair. The small streets of the town invite you to stroll, stores and boutiques are particularly tempting in this flair.

The old town district has no special monuments to offer, but still attracts many vacationers. This must be due to the small restaurants, which, together with the bistros and the cordial nature of the inhabitants, ensure a constant influx of visitors. In addition, there is plenty of sun, a beautiful blue Algarve and a beach with room for all vacationers. You can stay here for three weeks, whether in a caravan, in a vacation apartment or in a small hotel.

16. Ponta Delgada

Main square of Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel Island, Azores, Portugal
© Olena Buyskykh | Dreamstime.com

Yet the small town on the Atlantic Ocean is a beautiful destination, because Ponta Delgada has a lot to offer, which will surprise some visitors. Young and old, modern and historic, lively and quiet, Ponta Delgada has many faces. It is a unique mix of modern and old houses that makes the city so interesting and charming. Founded in 1499, Ponta Delgada was for a long time a kind of gateway between Europe and the New World America, at the other end of the ocean.

From Ponta Delgada the ships sailed and from here the goods like exotic spices and plants, were sent to the rest of Europe. It was the tropical plants that made the city rich. Even today there are wide fields of orange trees outside the gates of Ponta Delgada and pineapples are also grown here.

If you take a look at the skyline of the port city, you might think Ponta Delgada is a city of the world, but the impression is deceiving, because the capital of the Azores is never as hectic and never as noisy as a real big city. In Ponta Delgada you can find many beautiful parks that invite you to walk and linger, but also take a stroll along the seemingly endless waterfront. Here you will find restaurants and small cafes, stores and always a fantastic view of the Atlantic Ocean, which is especially spectacular at sunset.

The city center is also worth a visit. Here still stand the magnificent mansions of the rich merchants who became wealthy in Ponta Delgada. The old town is colorful, cheerful and lively, but it always remains manageable and that makes the capital of the Azores so lovable. You should visit it, the small big city of Ponta Delgada.

15. Vilamoura

© Jacek Sopotnicki | Dreamstime.com

Vilamoura is located between Albufeira and Faro on the beach Algarve in southern Portugal. It is about 25 km to Faro airport. The resort borders directly on the former fishing village of Quarteira.

The resort of Vilamoura was created solely for tourism in the Algarve. The place has one of the largest marinas in Europe and five immaculate golf courses, designed, among others, by golf legend Arnold Palmer.

The most interesting attraction is the Museu Cerro da Vile, which houses an archaeological site of a Roman settlement. Otherwise, Vilamoura has a lot of restaurants, cafes, bars, clubs and a casino.

As befits a resort in the Algarve, the city also has some magnificent beaches. Very popular is the Praia de Falésia, where also many surfers and surfers cavort. With the Vale do Lobo and the Quinta do Lago, two of the most exclusive resorts in the Algarve are located near Vilamoura.

14. Fatima

© Alessio Viviani | Dreamstime.com

Fátima, located about 139 kilometers north of Lisbon in Portugal, is still a place of pilgrimage with very special significance for visitors. The city itself has about 11,540 inhabitants and a size of about 70 km². It is not only the most important place of pilgrimage in Portugal, but also one of the most important within the Roman Catholic Church. Similar to Lourdes, visitors to Fátima hope for a miraculous healing.

This belief is based on the assumption that on May 13, 1917, three shepherd children in a field believed they had seen the apparition of the Virgin Mary. The Virgin told them to come to the same place every year on the 13th of the month. The children were supposed to keep quiet about it, but as children are, one of them broke this oath and so on the next 13th not only the children came to the agreed place, but also a number of curious people. After the crowd grew in the next few months, the apparition itself announced a miracle.

Allegedly, on the next 13th, all those present saw the miracle of the sun. This is said to have taken place in the form of the sun turning like a silver disc, like a wheel of fire. This observation was declared “credible by the Bishop of Leiria and the public veneration of Our Lady of Fatima was permitted”. Only one of the three children survived a flu that was prevalent at the time and was told three secrets that were released for publication.

The Santuário de Fátima was built on the site where the miracle is said to have taken place. Opposite the old Basilica Antiga, the new church Igreja da Santissima Trindade was inaugurated, which is the fourth largest Catholic church in the world, with about 9000 seats, and so far also the largest new church construction of the 21st century. Between these two churches is the largest church forecourt in the world.

13. The Douro Valley

Douro Valley
© Richard Semik | Dreamstime.com

In addition to Porto and its sister city Vila Nova de Gaia, there are several other interesting towns and villages in the Douro Valley.

Worth seeing are Pinhão, with numerous famous wineries and a train station decorated with azulejos, Miranda de Douro, in the middle of a beautiful landscape and historic village center, and Peso des Régua, where you can visit the exciting Douro Museum.

Just a few kilometers from the Douro is the old episcopal town of Lamego, with its famous sanctuary. Beautiful small wine towns along the Douro are also Barcos, Favaios, Provesende, Ucanha, Salzedas and Trevões.

In Vila Nova de Gaia you will find the numerous port wine cellars, which of course you should not miss during a visit to the Douro Valley.

Several spectacular viewpoints also await you in the Douro Valley. Highlights are the Miradouro de São Leonardo da Galafura near Peso des Régua, the Miradouro de Casal de Loivos and the Miradouro de São Salvador do Mundo near São João da Pesqueira.

The region at the headwaters of the Douro River (Alto Douro) is the oldest wine-growing region in the world. Only here the grapes for the world famous port wine are cultivated. Wine has been produced here for over 250 years.

In recent years, a new generation of winemakers has ensured that the Douro Valley also produces top international red and white wines.

There are about 50 wineries in the Douro Valley, located along the official wine route. The vines are located on the steep banks of the Douro River, protected by dry stone walls that support the terraces. During the grape harvest in October, wine festivals are held all over the region, where you can taste the delicious wines.

12. Peneda-Geres National Park

Peneda-Geres National Park
© Sergey Peterman | Dreamstime.com

The scenic beauty of the landscape is unparalleled: Discover beautiful river valleys, rugged cliffs, fern forests, waterfalls and secluded mountain villages with terraced fields.

The approximately 702 square kilometer park in northern Portugal on the Spanish border was founded in 1971 and declared a biosphere reserve by UNESCO.

Most of the park’s attractions can be found within easy reach of the main roads.

Among the most popular are the ruins of the flooded village of Vilarinho das Furnas. It is located in the Vilarinho das Furnas reservoir on the Rio Homem, and its roofs emerge when the water level is low.

Lindoso is a traditional village with a castle and stone houses from the Middle Ages. Here you will see the typical small corn barns espigueiros. The barns, built on stilts, were used to protect the corn from mice, rot and rats.

In Portugal, faith is still actively lived today. Numerous shrines bear witness to this. Among the most beautiful are the shrines of Nossa Senhora da Abadia, Senhora da Peneda and São Bento da Porta Aberta.

The 17th-century spa town of Gerês offers not only beautiful architecture, but also good shopping and a thermal spa: in addition to local handicrafts, you can buy medicinal teas, honey and jams here at a good price. The thermal baths of Gerês are among the most famous in the country and were already appreciated by the Romans. The surrounding landscape also impresses with its beauty.

11. Faro

Faro, Portugal
© Filipe Varela | Dreamstime.com

The origin goes back to the time of the Phoenicians and even then the port was the main reason for popularity. It was a trading center for food and has provided around itself for the settlement of people.Today Faro offers vacationers and tourists many attractions, first of all the Baroque Carmelite Church of Nossa Senhora do Carmo. It is so famous because it houses a bone chapel decorated with skulls and bones.

The archaeological museum, previously a monastery and famous for its Renaissance cloister, or the maritime museum are also highlights for vacationers. The Algarve is more than popular with vacationers who love sea, sand and secluded bays. Excursions to the region can be an enrichment on vacation, visitors interested in culture will find many beautiful sightseeing points here in Faro and its surroundings. The only airport in the Algarve is located here in Faro, as well as a port for sailors. Since Faro also has its own university since 1979, not only vacationers will come here, but also people who use the university for studying and the city for living.

10. Estoi

Estoi Palace
© Carlos Neto | Dreamstime.com

Estói is located a few Klimoter north of Faro and has one of the most interesting sights in the Algarve with its rococo palace. The tranquil village of Estoí is located 10 km north of Faro. A few minutes away is the A22 freeway, which runs from Lagos to Andalusia in Spain.

In Estoí there is not much of the hustle and bustle of the Algarve resorts. Only during the day some excursionists come here, but in the evening a tranquil village life prevails again.

The highlight of Estoí is the Palácio do Visconde de Estoi (Palace of the Count of Estói). The palace and its romantic garden from the late 18th century are without a doubt one of the most beautiful sights in the Algarve.

There is not much else to see in Estoí. In the center of the village there are a few idyllic squares and a small church.

9. Estoril

© Dudlajzov | Dreamstime.com

As archaeological findings prove, there has been a settlement in Estoril since the time around the birth of Christ. Remains of Roman villas have been found. After the 8th century Estoril belonged to the Caliphate of Cordoba and in 1147 it fell to the first king of Portugal, Alfonso I. For a long time the inhabitants of Estoril lived only from fishing. The Portuguese explorers also started from Estoril and, as evidenced by the presence of fortifications, the town obviously had to protect itself from pirate attacks.

Estoril has always been a place of exile for kings and rulers. Thus, the Spanish pretender to the throne Juan de Borbon y Battenberg, Miklos Horthy from Hungary, Umberto II of Italy and also Charles II of Romania lived here.

In the early 20th century, Estoril was one of the tourist attractions in Portugal. Mondane hostels still stand along palm-lined avenues, providing the perfect cliché image. These end at the beach, which is very busy in summer. The casinos, which were built early on, have also contributed to its notoriety, and scenes for international films have been shot there more often. Not only various festivals, but also sporting events ensure to this day that Estoril is known in the region.

8. The 12 Historic Villages

© Vítor Ribeiro | Dreamstime.com

The 12 Historic Villages in Portugal, built of slate and granite, preserve within their ancient walls stories of times gone by and keep traditions alive. The Aldeias Historicas are located in enchanting landscapes around the Serra da Erstela in Central Portugal (Regiao Centro) and keep a piece of Portugal’s enchanting culture alive. A real insider tip!

The plan was ingenious and seems to have succeeded. In 1994, the “Program for the Regeneration of Historic Villages” was developed by the EU to protect cultural-historic villages in the mountainous inland of Portugal from decay, migration and obsolescence. In the Serra da Estrela area, ten of the most beautiful but semi-abandoned villages have been listed: Piódão, Monsanto, Almeida, Castelo Mendo, Castelo Novo, Castelo Rodrigo, Idanha-a-Velha, Linhares da Beira, Marialva and Sortelha.

They have been classified as particularly valuable from an architectural, cultural-historical, landscape or archaeological point of view. Thus, each of these places either has a very special story to tell, a very special architectural style, or is located in a particularly interesting geographical location.

In 2000, the villages of Belmonte and Trancoso were also included, bringing the number of historic villages in Portugal to 12.

The program has been very well received by the population. The inhabitants have adapted to tourism, and restaurants and guesthouses have opened.

Portugal’s historic villages are a perfect destination for nature lovers. In peace and seclusion, you quickly forget the stress of everyday life. You will not find big hotel castles or mass tourism, but indescribable peace and tranquility with the possibility to get deep insights into the rustic Portugal.

7. Costa Nova do Prado

Costa Nova, Portugal: colorful striped houses in beach village
© Iuliia Lavrinenko | Dreamstime.com

What seems like an Instagram miracle today was once a viable solution: In the eighth century, the first fishermen settled on the Costa Nova, suspecting that access to the sea was less dangerous here. So they started building simple straw barns – the first step towards the fishermen’s cottages of today.

At first, the fishermen did not give their new base a name. It was not until the 19th century that they thought about it and decided on Costa Nova.

Again, the choice was more practical than romantic. In order to distinguish this section of the coast from the older one on the beach of São Jacinto, the so-called Costa Velha, they decided on Costa Nova – so from then on there was the old and the new coast.

When the fishermen built their barns, they realized that the ground was too soft because of the proximity to the coast and the sand. Therefore, they used jetties that were rammed into the sand. On the outside, long logs were placed horizontally. These pile dwellings were called palheiros.

The idea of painting the long logs outside in bright colors did not come to the fishermen because it looked pretty. On the contrary, because they thought the colors of the sand and the coast blended, they decided to paint the houses in bright colors so that they could be seen better from the water.

During the 19th century, people used the sea not only for fishing, but also for bathing for the first time. This was now considered respectable and above all healthy, since doctors considered the high iodine content in the water to have healing properties. The first tourists came to the Costa Nova – and over the years drove away more and more fishermen who found the hustle and bustle too much.

6. Setúbal

© Clement Mantion Pierre Olivier | Dreamstime.com

The first were probably the Celts, who settled at least in the coastal region, after coming by boats from the south. Today, there are still cult and burial sites in the region that testify to them. The Romans, who came later, were mainly involved in fish processing in the Setúbal region. This is proven by excavations of a Roman settlement called Cetóbriga, which can be found on the opposite peninsula of Troia.

After 711, the Moors conquered the region and dominated it until the 12th century. Foundation walls of the old town partially date back to this period, the region was reconquered by the Christians and declared a Portuguese kingdom. From 1343 the town was surrounded by a closed city wall, it partially survived the great earthquake of 1755. From this time Setúbal developed not only into a rich city, but also the center of seafarers and explorers.

Visitors to the city will find many historical monuments that refer to times gone by. But they can also relax in the Serra da Arrábida Nature Reserve, where the Convento de Nossa Senhora da Arrábida is located in the middle of the forested area. The beautiful mix of ancient culture and nature makes a stay in Setúbal delightful.

5. Amarante

Cityscape of Amarante in Portugal
© Dudlajzov | Dreamstime.com

Nestled in the picturesque landscape of the Marão Mountains, which turn into lovely undulating hills around Amarante, the small town stands out with its stately old buildings nestling on both banks of the Tâmega. Archaeological findings from the Old Stone Age and the Bronze Age prove that the region must have been inhabited even then. However, historians still disagree about how the town got its name.

While some assume that it goes back to the Roman commander Amarantus, others see the origin of the name in the term ad Maranus (Latin for “near the mountain Marão”). However, the small town became famous at a different time, namely when the inhabitants successfully defended themselves against Napoleon’s forces and defended the historical, but also strategically important bridge over the Tâmega.

Nowadays it seems that Amarante has to recover from its partly turbulent past and life in the tranquil old town alleys is leisurely. Strolling along the two banks of the river, you can always discover beautiful hidden corners. The heart of the small town still beats in the old core, which is characterized by baroque churches such as the Igreja de São Pedro and restored facades of stately houses. Many cafés and restaurants are located directly on the waterfront around the famous bridge São Gonçalo.

4. Cascais

Cascais Palace Seixas
© Bennymarty | Dreamstime.com

Cascais was once a fashionable seaside resort for the rich and famous in Portugal. Today, the town is a popular destination for Lisboners and tourists.

Cascais is just under 35 km from Lisbon and by train you can be there in less than an hour. The town is connected to the neighboring town of Estoril by a seafront promenade.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Portuguese jet set was in Cascais. Even today, the town has spruced itself up with classy boutiques and chic restaurants. In addition, you will find some interesting sights and of course great beaches.

However, you can swim here, if at all, only in the summer months. During the rest of the year, the water temperatures are sometimes below 15 degrees.

3. Lagos

Beach near Lagos
© Daliu80 | Dreamstime.com

Lagos impresses its visitors with its historical townscape, but also with its enchanting beaches. In Lagos, the Portuguese traditions are preserved. At the same time, the city has something cosmopolitan and this mixture makes Lagos so attractive. Lagos was almost completely destroyed during a strong earthquake in 1755. The city was rebuilt and the houses today are beautiful witnesses of the times. Characteristic are the shady courtyards, the wrought-iron balconies and the colorful flowers with which the balconies are planted.

Lagos is known far beyond its borders for its enchanting beaches. Meia Praia is probably the most famous beach in Lagos. Especially families with children will feel at home here. The sand is light and fine-grained and the sea slopes gently. This is ideal especially for children and non-swimmers. The bay of Praia de Boneca is picturesque and those who like it lonely will certainly feel at home at Praia Dona Ana. All those who want to discover the beautiful coast can do it by boat. Diving and all kinds of water sports are also possible.

The city wall from the 14th century is one of the historical buildings of Lagos worth seeing. But visitors should also visit the Castelo dos Governadores, the governor’s palace. The castle was built in the 15th century in Moorish style and offers a great view of the Algarve coast. Impressive is the church of Saint Anthony, built in the 18th century. Especially the gold carvings on the altar make the church one of the most beautiful in Portugal.

2. Alvor

Alvor, Portugal
© Elena Krivorotova | Dreamstime.com

The typical white painted houses and narrow streets are typical of the region, Alvor has preserved the character even beyond modern times. The remains of a Roman villa, the Moors and the Christians were here early on, making the history of the small town richer. As a fishing village, it became a commercial village, like many here in the region, and a church was built as early as the 16th century. However, earthquakes have ensured that many buildings were destroyed again and again, but this church has always been rebuilt and reconstructed.

Today Alvor is also known as a tourist destination on the excursions here in the region. The proximity to the coastal road facilitates the visit, in Alvor is a moderate bustle in the bathing season. However, this is definitely advantageous for the acquisitions in fishing, handicrafts and retail. The gastronomy also thrives on the seasonal conquest by tourists, who like to explore the small old fishing villages of yesteryear and take the opportunity for a swim on the beautiful Algarve coast.

1. Angra do Heroismo

Angra do Heroismo
© Diego Matteo Muzzini | Dreamstime.com

Angra do Heroismo – meaning Bay of Heroism – is the name of a Portuguese town on the Azores island of Terceira. The city consists of the municipalities of Nossa Senhora da Conceicao, Santa Luzia, Sao Pedro and Sé. The town of Angra received its nickname from Queen Maria II because the town was particularly steadfast on the side of the traditionalists during the Miguelist War.

At the same time, Angra do Heroismo is also the oldest city in the Azores. It received the city charter in 1534 and at the same time was elevated by Pope Paul III to the episcopal see of the Diocese of Angra. The cathedral was built from 1570. The earthquake of 1755 triggered a tsunami that flooded the city with water up to the town hall square.

In 1980, there was another major earthquake that severely damaged parts of the city as well as the cathedral. In 1982, the two towers collapsed, were rebuilt and the church was consecrated for the second time in 1985.

The old town of Angra, which is well worth seeing, is laid out like a chessboard. The two towers of the cathedral rise clearly from it, as does the baroque church Igreja da Misericordia. In the old town, the baroque Palacio dos Bettencourts palace and the 1866 City Hall on the busy Praca Velha are the focal points. In the western part of the city, the modern building of the University was built.

A popular meeting place is the well-known park, located in the center and called Jardim Duque de Terceira. It is enriched by several fountains, lava stone walls, arbors, a pavilion and a monument. The green area of the monastery borders the park. On the site of the Alto da Memoria obelisk was the first fortress built on the island in 1474.

Click Video to see the 36 Best Places in Portugal

Map of the 36 Best Places in Portugal