Are you planning a trip to Portugal and don’t really know where to start from? The Portugal “must-see” list below covers the best places to visit in Portugal in 2020 and the best things to do in Portugal selected by travel bloggers. Make sure that you include at least a few bucket list worthy places in your Portugal travel itinerary. We hope it will serve as inspiration for your next holidays in Portugal!
Most people think of the mainland when they think of the best places to go in Portugal. However, some of the most beautiful Portuguese pearls are hidden in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Let me introduce you to the Azores islands, a Portuguese archipelago 2 hours and 30 minutes by flight from Lisbon. The largest, and many also find this to be the most beautiful, of these islands is São Miguel. Since all the islands are gorgeous, one can argue if São Miguel is truly the most beautiful, but what is certain is that it is the most versatile of them all.
For starters, São Miguel is the only island where you find the relaxing natural hot springs that are one of the highlights of the Azores Islands. You can go bathing in the beautiful Parque Terra Nostra or in the rainforest-like Caldeiras de Lagoa das Furnas. Your muscles will be grateful if you splash in one of these baths after you’ve done one of the beautiful but sometimes brisk walks. The most beautiful hike, the one that made the island famous, takes you along the priceless view on Sete Cidades.
São Miguel is also known for its stunning waterfalls and for the excellent whale watching opportunities. Some whale species populate the area year-round. Nature lovers will immediately fall in love with this island. When are you going?
Contributed by Sylvia from Wapiti Travel / FB: wapititravel
The Algarve Coast of Portugal is an absolutely stunning place, but one of the best places to visit is Benagil Cave. The coast around the Algarve is made of limestone and over time layers of limestone built up to create Benagil Cave. Benagil Cave is a light-filled cave with a round dome at the top. It has its own white sand beach that is secluded. The dome is much larger than you would think, and there are a couple of arched entrances to the cave.
The cave is located off of Benagil Beach, and you can either kayak or take a boat trip there to see the cave. I would recommend the boat trip as you will be able to see more of the coastline as well. Benagil Cave is a popular destination and for a good reason. Not only can you go inside the cave, but you can also walk on top of it and look down into the dome.
I highly recommend taking a tour to visit this cave. It has been named one of the top 10 coolest caves in the world. Well worth a visit, so be sure to add this to your Portugal must-see list.
Contributed by Nicole from Nicole LaBarge Travel Blog
Braga is located in the northwestern part of Portugal, and it is the third-largest urban center in Portugal. We were surprised that it is called Portuguese Rome. In Braga, there are over thirty churches and the oldest cathedral in Portugal. An old proverb says:
“Lisbon is having fun, Porto is working, and Braga is praying.”
The town itself is perfect for a stroll. You can sit on a bench in the city center, drink coffee, or have a look at the various monuments. In fact, wherever you go, you’ll definitely come across something worth attention.
One of the most famous tourist attractions here is the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte located 5 km from Braga. The famous baroque church of Igreja Bom Jesus is located on a hill. To get there, you have to go up very photogenic 100-meter stairs. You can also take a funicular which links Braga to the hill. In their lower part of the staircase, there is a Way of the Cross with three fountains – one of them shows the wounds of Christ, the second one represents five human senses, and the last one – three divine virtues. After climbing to the top of the hill, you can relax while admiring the beautiful view. In our opinion it is a Portugal must-see.
Cabo da Roca
Whether as a day trip or a stop on a road trip from Lisbon, you have to pay a visit to Cabo da Roca, the most westerly point of mainland Europe. Not only is it a unique geographical location, but also a perfect spot to enjoy some beautiful panoramic views of the Atlantic coast. With the ocean’s waves crashing on the jagged cliffs and the sea breeze, it is absolute magic. Another thing to admire in Cabo da Roca is the lighthouse. Originally, it began operating in 1772, which makes it one of the oldest lighthouses along the Portuguese coast. For maximum enchantment, it’s highly recommendable to visit Cabo da Roca during sunset time.
After absorbing all the beauty surrounding you, head to Cabo da Roca’s gift shop to purchase a personalized (and handwritten) certificate confirming you have been to Europe’s westernmost point. Cabo da Roca is also one of the most interesting places to visit in Portugal if you love hiking. As a part of the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, it is the starting point of numerous walking trails stretching along the coast. Most of them can be suitable even for non-hikers. It’s a great way to add something active to your trip.
Contributed by Or from My Path in the World / IG: mypathintheworld
Most people have heard about the famous pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. But while the most known Camino starts Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France, only a few people know that there are Caminos all over Europe. You could start walking your own Camino at the door of your house even!
However, Camino Portugues became a great and well-developed alternative during the past years. Starting in Lisbon, the Camino leads after 616km to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain. That’s some distance to walk, isn’t it? However, as most hikers have just limited time, Porto became the most popular starting point of this Camino. The distance between Porto and Santiago de Compostela is 246 km. You can choose between walking the coastal road or the classic inland route. Both routes merge back to one central Camino shortly before leaving Portugal in Valenca. However, no matter which route you take, they both take around 12 days to complete.
The inland route leads you through rural Portuguese villages, forests, fields, and through beautiful countryside. While you will spend most of your time walking, you can expect some sightseeing as well, for example, in Barcelos or Ponte de Lima. Walking the Camino Portuguese is not necessarily only a spiritual experience though. Many are choosing to walk the Camino as a sportive challenge or even to experience the best of Portugal during slow travel.
Contributed by Lena from Four on a world trip / IG: fouronaworldtrip
My favorite place in Portugal had to be Coimbra, which I visited as I traveled north from Faro. Coimbra is a small university city (it has the oldest university in Portugal) located about halfway between Porto and Lisbon.
The one thing you cannot miss is visiting the university. It’s set at the top of a hill overlooking the city, and the views from there are amazing. Portugal’s oldest kings used to live here. Here you can visit the ceremonial hall, the university chapel, and even climb the tower for breathtaking views of the city with the river running through it. The biggest highlight of the university has to be the baroque library, built in the 1720’s it’s absolutely stunning. It has three sections to it, is two stories high, and the decoration inside has to be seen to be believed. This has to be seen as part of a guided tour, and when you buy your ticket, you are told your time slot.
Aside from the university, there are many monasteries that you can visit as well as Coimbra’s Cathedrals. The old cathedral built around 1139 and the new cathedral in 1543. Not to be missed too is a walk along the river, there is a fountain too which on an evening transforms with lights and color.
If you still have time, then visit Conimbriga, it’s just outside Coimbra and is the most intact set of roman ruins in Portugal. It was a walled city, and you can visit one of the houses that have been excavated.
Contributed by Clare from ilive4travel / FB: ilive4travel
Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, is a lesser-known hidden gem of the world and one of the best cities to visit in Portugal. Located at a point where the Tagus River estuary intersects the Atlantic Ocean, the riverfront, romantic landscapes of Lisbon will take your breath away. Getting lost becomes a pleasant experience to remember as you explore the many twists and turns of Lisbon’s cobblestone alley. They are filled with quaint shops and lines of colorful houses.
One of the best experiences in Lisbon is a ride on the vintage tram 28. It will take you to a magical journey through the city’s historic quarters and gardens. Watch out for the colorful districts of Alfama and Fado, which are hard to miss because of their captivating traditional vibe. Once the seat of royalty, it is in the Alfama District that you will find the Sao Jorge Castle. A climb to the top ramparts of the castle will allow you to appreciate the charming city from the top.
The city where you will find the best restaurants in Portugal. It is here that you shall find the best introduction to Portuguese cuisine. One restaurant that should be on top of your foodie list is the A Casa Do Bacalhau, which translates to the House of Cod. Situated in an ancient structure that was once the stables of the Duke of Lafoes, it is here that you will find Portugal’s best codfish dishes. After you taste the food here, you will understand the Portuguese obsession for cod.
Contributed by Karolina from Lazy Travel Blog / FB: karolinapatryk
Lisbon: Castelo de São Jorge
Located right in the heart of Portugal is the largest and most popular city in the country: Lisbon. And located directly in the heart of Lisbon is the Castelo de São Jorge, a Portugal must-see site for anyone visiting this beautiful country.
Castelo de São Jorge makes for a perfect activity on your first or second day in Lisbon. The Castelo de São Jorge, will be a great historic site for you to learn about Lisbon’s rich and storied history. The hill on which this castle sits has been occupied for over 2,000 years, mainly by the leading power in Lisbon at the time. The castle has been constantly rebuilt and renovated by the current resident and has been standing for hundreds of years, dating back to the Roman occupation of the land.
On top of the historic role, Castelo de São Jorge has plated, it also makes for a great first stop because of the view and the central nature of the castle. It is located atop a hill that overlooks all of Lisbon. You will get an incredible view of the orange roofs and architecture throughout the city as it spreads before you all the way to the waterfront. The view is jaw-dropping, and the Castelo de São Jorge gives the perfect viewpoints to see it. This is truly one of the best places in Portugal. Do yourself a favor and plan a visit while you’re in Portugal!
Contributed by Julie & Zach from Ruhls of the Road / IG: ruhlsoftheroad
The Monasteries of Batalha and Alcobaça
In Central Portugal, there are not one, not two, but three UNESCO World Heritage Sites that simply must be visited. They form a triangle of UNESCO sites that can easily be visited in one day and from Lisbon if you are visiting the Portuguese capital. They are the monasteries of Tomar, Batalha, and Alcobaça.
During a road trip in the central half of the country, we stumbled upon these Portuguese gems when the weather changed our original plans. We were visiting Central Portugal with kids and needed somewhere interesting to go, and a quick search lead us to the monastery at Batalha. Our son enjoys castle visits, so we told him this was like a castle, and in we went. From Batalha, we visited Alcobaça but didn’t quite make it to Tomar.
The main chapels of all the monasteries are free to enter, but you must pay to see behind the scenes. And believe me, it’s worth paying to visit the cloisters and smaller chapels and naves. The outer facades of the monasteries are stunning, and the architecture inside is awe-inspiring. Hidden cloisters with little gardens, a medieval kitchen with the biggest bread oven, and long, quiet corridors lead you around inner square gardens that are peaceful.
We had not been aware of these gems of Central Portugal but are so glad weather changed our original plans to lead us to them. Lying just an hour and a half’s drive from Lisbon, these three monasteries make for a great day trip from the city. If you are visiting Portugal, you must make time to pay them a visit.
Contributed by Cath from Passports and Adventures / FB: PassportsandAdventures
Nazare, a seaside resort located about 80 miles (ca. 129 km) from Lisbon, is one of my favorite places in Portugal. The town has won international recognition since it has some of the highest waves (up to 78 feet (ca. 24 m)) on the planet. Nazare consists of three neighborhoods:
- Praia (along the beach)
- Sitio (located at the top of a cliff)
- Pederneira (situated on a hill behind the beach).
I recommend exploring Sitio first. In there, you are going to find the Suberco Viewpoint, a spot offering glorious views of the region. The viewpoint is located next to a big plaza housing, Our Lady of Nazare Sanctuary. The plaza is lined with vendors selling local delicacies like ginjinha (cherry liqueur) and tremoços (lupine beans). Then, it is time to walk to the Nazare lighthouse for views of Prai do Norte and a museum dedicated to surfing. A restaurant called Arimar has delicious food, affordable prices, and outstanding views.
From Sitio, you can access Praia by funicular, a flight of stairs or car. In this neighborhood, you can sunbath on the long stretch of sand, stroll the esplanade, spend some time at a beach bar, practice water sports, relax at a spa, or take an excursion to see dolphins. There are tons of options!
If eating is your thing, make sure to have a seafood feast at places such as A Tasquinha, Restaurant Maria do Mar and Taberna D’Adelia. For a treat, head to a bakery to have a pastel de nata or a bola de Berlim.
Contributed by Ruth from Tanama Tales / FB: tanamatales
Obidos, Portugal, is a small, well-preserved medieval town that needs to be on your list when you visit Portugal. You will feel like you have gone back in time. While you could just walk around and admire the scenery, there are a few things you shouldn’t miss.
First, for the best views of the city, be sure to do the city wall walk. Then, try the local cherry-flavored liquor, Ginja, served in a small chocolate cup. You will find many shops selling Ginja along with other gifts along the town’s main road. If you are interested in history, peek inside the Santa Maria Church, where King Afonso V married his cousin Isabel in 1444.
In the summer, the Medieval Festival is the headline event. Bring your own medieval costume or rent one there. You can hang out with knights, minstrels, jugglers, noblemen, beggars, and dancers. Then, check out the stalls selling just about everything close to the castle.
Obidos is not far from Lisbon, so it makes for an easy day trip. Since Obidos is only served by regional trains, your best options to get there are to take a bus or drive. It’s worth the hour drive. You will love this hidden gem!
Contributed by Anisa from Two Traveling Texans / IG: 2travelingtxns
Porto: Azulejo Churches
Among the many exciting things to do in Porto, spotting azulejo-clad churches was my favorite. Azulejos have long been part of the Portuguese way of life. These beautiful blue tiles have adorned homes, offices, and, most importantly, churches across Portugal. In Porto, you can see many churches with elaborately decorated, azulejo facades. Very often, these tiles depict biblical stories. And sometimes carefully thought-out patterns. Whatever the motive, azulejos make the churches look extremely picturesque. Therefore, beautiful Instagram backdrops!
The Church of Carmo is one of the prettiest ones. No doubt, it has been quite popular among photographers in recent times. Another very impressive façade is that of Capela das Almas, a 13th-century church that stands on Rua de Santa Catarina. Porto Cathedral, on the other hand, has some of the oldest collections of azulejos in Portugal. And if you are looking for an offbeat spot, do visit the Church of Saint Ildefonso, which is exceptionally picturesque and without the crowds.
Apart from churches, you can see these gorgeous blue tiles (sometimes green and yellow too) while wandering the narrow streets of Porto, eating at a traditional pastelaria, or simply checking into the São Bento train station. They are literally everywhere.
Contributed by Soumya from Stories by Soumya
Porto: Viewpoint at Monastery of Serra do Pilar
There are plenty of amazing viewpoints in Portugal that you won’t want to miss and add to your Portugal must-see list. However, if you’re short on time and truly need to reduce the selection of places you visit, make sure you don’t miss the stunning view from the Monastery of Serra do Pilar, in Vila Nova de Gaia.
Portugal is a country of water. From the sea to the rivers that crisscross the country, water in itself is a part of Portuguese culture. From this magical viewpoint, you can witness the Douro River in all its glory, and truly appreciate the beauty of Porto’s historic center and Porto tourist attractions: from the colorful houses in the Ribeira waterfront and the maze of small winding streets to the churches and palaces spread out across the city. Porto is also a city of bridges, and from this viewpoint, you can see all the five bridges that connect Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia.
However, more than the views themselves, what makes this place one of our favorites in the country is the fact that from the up top, you get to witness life in the city, the constant movement, the changing skies, and the new buildings that pop up. The terrace by the monastery is the perfect place to unwind, breathe inspiration, and wait for the sun to go down over the city.
Contributed by Maria & Rui from Two Find a Way / FB: twofindaway
Sagres is a remote, idyllic village that can be accessed by a short bus ride from Lagos. The charm of this place lies in the raw, untouched vibe that it exudes. Unlike most famous towns in Portugal that are thronged by tourists, Sagres still remains relatively unknown. Even during peak travel seasons, you will find very few tourists in Sagres. In fact, if you plan to go on a day trip to Sagres, you will have to ensure that you plan your commute within Sagres as soon as you reach the small village to avoid being stranded.
Once in Sagres, head to the golden sand beach – Praia de Mareta, one of the best beaches not just in Algarve, but in all of Portugal. From here you could either check out the other beaches in Sagres or drive to the westernmost point of Mainland Europe to Cabo de Sao Vicente. Cabo de Sao Vicente was considered to be the end of the world during the medieval times and although that has been proven wrong, the view of the vast expanse of ocean that this place offers is spellbinding. From here, go back to Fortaleza de Sagres to end your day watching a spectacular sunset.
Contributed by Vrushali from Couple of Journeys
Sintra: Quinta da Regaleira
Any trip to Sintra, Portugal, should include a visit to Quinta da Regaleira. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is full of interest and charm with its gothic palace, extensive gardens, and grottoes. It was designed by Italian architect Luigi Manini, built in the late 1800s, and has been owned by several different people throughout the years.
Wandering the grounds here is like exploring Manini’s imagination. The way things are designed and laid out creates a ton of visual interest and curiosity. There are waterfalls and wells. You will find a pond you have to cross by using stepping stones. The gothic palace is designed in such a way that it looks very distinct when compared to other famous estates. Photographers will love exploring the grounds, and there’s something beautiful and interesting around every corner.
While it is not as colorful as it’s neighbor the Pena Palace, it is more entertaining, in my opinion, because you never know what you will find down the next path. I also found it to be much less crowded than Pena Palace. I wish we would’ve visited Quinta da Regaleira in the morning instead of the afternoon. Due to the closing time, we didn’t have as much time to explore as I would’ve liked.
Tickets can be purchased online in advance, which is always a good idea to avoid waiting in lines. I would recommend setting aside at least 3 hours to visit Quinta da Regaleira. It is well worth the visit!
Zambujeira do Mar
Zambujeira do Mar is a small and tranquil seaside village in the Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina. Surrounded by dramatic cliffs and stunning beaches, this is a haven for backpackers looking for peace and chill. If you love clifftop walks with views that will leave you speechless, rolling waves from the Atlantic, and delicious freshly caught fish cooked in an authentic family-run restaurant, then you’re in the right place!
Zambujeira do Mar lies on the Rota Vicentina, 750 km of trails following the mighty Atlantic coast of the Algarve and Alentejo regions. You can hike on marked trails in either direction from the village, enjoying rugged scenery and striking coastal views. Or head for the beautiful main beach where you will find a consistent swell and everything you need to catch a few waves. You may well have the beach to yourself on weekdays, but it will be busy come the weekend!If you come in August, expect crowds. Join the party at Festival Sudoeste, where you will find live music and free camping.
You will find loads of good value places to stay, with hospitable locals who will look after you well. Along Main Street, which stops at the beach, you will find lots of fish restaurants selling the days catch. Sardines and Tuna are the must-try’s here… I’d give the salt-cod a miss!
Portugal Must-See: Few words from us
We hope that our list of 16 beautiful places in Portugal gave you at least a few ideas on where to go in Portugal so you can now prepare your own Portugal “must-see” list and combine our proposals into one Portugal itinerary. Let us know in the comment and don’t forget to visit the travel blogs of our contributors!
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