Portugal sits on the Iberian Peninsula. Although a small European nation, the country is a tourist paradise due to its delicious gastronomy, idyllic climate, rich cultural history, and affordable travel costs.
Interestingly, Portugal used to be a vast empire with trading routes from China’s Macau to Nigeria’s Benin.
15 Best Places to visit in Portugal in 2022
Porto and Lisbon are two common destinations for those looking for a short vacation. However, there are so many gorgeous places in this country beyond the two major cities.
Portugal is a tourist hub that punches above its weight for a nation of its size with diverse culinary delights, rich cultural heritage, and fascinating landscapes from city to city.
And as travel experts, we’re here to inspire you. That’s why we’ve hand-picked the 15 best places to visit in Portugal to help inspire your next trip to this gorgeous country.
The best place to start is Lisbon, the nation’s capital. Lisbon is without a shadow of a doubt one of Europe’s most captivating cities. The region is a blend of:
- Open plazas
- Stunning cathedrals
- Small cafes
Additionally, you’ll love this city for its welcoming, warm residents, colorful buildings, and sunny weather. Lisbon has one of the most exciting nightlife in Europe, with quaint sleepy streets that burst into life when it’s nighttime.
Whether cocktails, bar hopping, or dancing from dawn till dusk, the city has something for every type of person. The bars are free to enter and open till the wee hours of the morning. You’ll also love the modest entrance fee for many famous Lisbon clubs like the Kremlin or Club Noir.
From Bifana to Bacalhau, the city is a fantastic place to sample the best delicacies from all over the country. You’ll fall in love with the Pasteis de Nata, a local favorite invented by Belem Monks hundreds of years ago.
How better to describe this city than the namesake of the country? Porto is the second-largest city – after Lisbon and is the birthplace of port wine. The town sits on the banks of the Douro, rising along the hills of this iconic river.
It’s picturesque and steeped in history. Despite its small size, the city will make you swoon; from the Six Bridges to delicious port wine, you’re sure to return to this gem of a destination.
Avid book lovers will be enchanted by the Livralia Lello, the most beautiful bookshop in the world right in the city center. The Art Nouveau Architecture has inspired writing greats like J.K Rowling, who once resided in the city.
After looking at books, your next stop is the Clerigos Tower, with the city’s best views right at the top. You’ll have to go up 225 steps, but the cinematic views are well worth the effort.
If you feel like refueling, there’s no better place to eat in this town than Café Santiago. The Francesinha Santiago is this café’s special and one that’s renowned across the city.
Portugal is a coastal country with glorious beaches. The beaches in the Algarve will steal your heart and set your soul alight. It’s dotted with epic archways, coves, caves, beautiful weather all year round, and is a haven for surfers.
There’s so much to do in this region; you might as well spend all your vacation time here. Algarve has some of the best hiking activities. You can start by paying a visit to Ferragudo, a fantastic fishing village with a mix of traditional charm and the coastal freshness of the sea.
Come along with your camera and capture the whitewashed houses and flowered streets. Sports fanatics will put the high winds of the Praia do Amado to good use, with many international surfing events like windsurfing and water-skiing taking place annually.
Nazare is in Oeste under the Extremadura province in Leria. It’s a small town known for huge tides and perhaps the largest waves in the world.
The Nazare waters are the ultimate test for every surfer, attracting professional surf boarders who love to test their mettle on the monstrous waves here. Waves in Nazare often surpass 65 feet and, under the right conditions, can get up to 100 feet.
This little seaside town doesn’t boast as many sites as the more famous cities. But the scenery, cultural heritage, and monster-sized waves make it one of the best places to visit in Portugal.
5. Peneda-Geres National Park
Potential visitors to Portugal may think of Porto and Lisbon when considering a trip. Still, the Peneda-Geres National Park is one destination that will give both cities a run for their money.
The scenic park sits on the border between Spain and Portugal, spanning 72290 hectares. Also known as Geres, the park is the only one of its kind in the country. The place is rife with abundant fauna, including:
- Wild horses
In the same vein, Peneda-Geres is the location of many granite villages like the Castro Laboreiro, a timeless town 1000 meters above sea level. Hikers will love the rolling foothills with various hiking trails and campgrounds dotted all over the park.
You can explore this destination by vehicle or go on a guided tour with family and friends. Some of the best hiking trails include:
- Miradouro Velhoda Pedra Bela
- Poco Azul
- Miradouro da Pedra
Braga is one of Europe’s oldest cities and Portugal’s third-largest. The city is home to several cathedrals and churches that date back centuries. Amongst the many religious structures in this city, the Braga Cathedral does not fail to astonish.
It’s an architectural masterpiece with a fusion of Gothic, Manueline, Baroque, Romanesque, and Renaissance elements, similar to Notre Dame in France.
Moreover, footy fans will enjoy a visit to the Estadio Municipal de Braga, home to S.C. Braga and the best side in the Primeira Liga – after the Big Three of Sporting Lisbon, Benfica, and Porto.
The beautiful town of Tomar is famous for the Knights Templar, which made this place their headquarters in the 12th century.
You can still see relics from that era, like the Convento de Cristo built by Hualdim Pais with the permission of Afonso Henriques – the first king of Portugal.
The Convent of Christ is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one that you have to see on your visit to this country. It has a 3.7-mile aqueduct that channels water into the convent. You can walk on it to enjoy the stunning countryside scenes.
The town’s main green space is the Mata Nacional dos Sete Montes or the Seven Hills National Forest, the perfect location for a picnic, jogging, or casual stroll.
The convent may be the apple of the town’s eye, but there’s so much more to this small town. The beautifully paved streets, historical feel, and annual cultural events make Tomar one of the best places to visit in Portugal.
Enthralling Sintra is a UNESCO gem that attracts tourists from all parts of the globe due to its incredible cultural landscape. It is a place worth setting aside a day or two to soak in the sights. This glittering town is 37 minutes from Lisbon and an excellent destination for a day trip.
Your first port of call must be the Palacio Nacional – or Town Palace with its renowned twin conical chimneys that overlook the small city. The palace was built in the Medieval Era and is still in excellent condition.
It retains most of its historical beauty that you can see today. It’s open daily from 9:30 AM to 7:00 PM, and sections like the Coat of Arms are worth paying a little extra. There are hiking trails aplenty in this region.
Still, you’ll need to come prepared to conquer the towering hills in this spectacular town. The Serra’s highest points offer panoramic views of the Atlantic coast and even far beyond.
Once upon a time, the city of Coimbra was Portugal’s capital. Even though so much has changed since then, it’s still a treasure trove of historical sites, enchanting gardens, and the Coimbra University – famed for its historical value.
The city has a laid-back appeal for the lazy traveler without the wealth of activities that make Lisbon and Porto a tourist favorite. But you cannot enjoy a better Portuguese experience than in this city built on the Mondego River.
Coimbra is home to Portugal’s most extensive botanical garden, a dazzling green space that dates back to 1773. You can find more than 1200 plant species from different corners of the globe, including:
- Coral trees
It’s all beautifully laid out to offer you a relaxing calm away from the beehive of activities in the major cities.
10. Zoomarine Algarve
If you’re vacationing in Portugal with family, Zoomarine Algarve should be the first destination on your bucket list. It’s arguably the best theme park in this country, with various types of thrilling and fun activities for all age groups.
As the name implies, “Zoo Marine” has different animal species you’d find in a zoo and an aquarium. You can interact with the dolphins, feed the giraffes, or have fun on the various water slides in this theme park. The 30-hectare park also features a 4D cinematic experience that will blow your mind.
The Pirate’s Bay is another kiddie’s delight with numerous sword fighting scenes that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Stop by the aviary to view the many tropical birds on display like the cockatoo, macaw, and parrots.
ZooMarine’s aviary offers an educational experience that teaches you the different birds and habitats suitable for survival. The park covers a lot of ground, and you can take a dip at the Wave Beach or go on a wild ride through the Jurassic River.
11. The Azores
The Azores is the perfect destination for nature lovers who’d like to visit Portugal. The Archipelago is situated smack dab in the halfway point between The Americas and Europe with nine unique islands, each with various things to do. You can:
- Go island hopping
- Explore caves
- Relax at a hot spring
- Swim with dolphins
- Go whale watching
The Algar do Carvao is one place you have to visit, and you can find this fantastic lava cave on Terceira Island. The only other place to find such a unique cave is 1899 miles away in Iceland.
If you’ve never visited Iceland, you won’t find anything as breathtaking when you stare at the crystal-clear water. Most tourists visit the Azores because of its spectacular marine reserves and nature parks.
Still, it also has some of the loveliest cities and seaside towns like the Angra do Heroísmo and Praia da Vitória.
Read Next: The Best Island Vacations in 2022
Obidos is located in Oeste and is one of the many beautiful villages suitable for a rustic vacation. The town has a timeless appeal due to its medieval ambiance, with the Obidos Castle the main attraction.
It was once a palace for royalty but is now a government hotel. The historical feel of this place provides evergreen memories when you visit the Igreja de Santa Maria. The 17th-century paintings and tile panels by Josefa D’Obidos remain in excellent condition after hundreds of years.
They are on exhibition for a small fee. You can take a stroll to the Municipal Museum to view mementos of the Napoleonic Wars, and it’s worth mentioning Napoleon Bonaparte suffered heavy losses in battle close to this town.
Ginja de Obidos is available across the country. Still, you’d be making a mistake to leave this town without having a taste of its most famous cherry liqueur.
Elvas is located in the Easternmost part of Portugal on the border with Spain. For hundreds of years, the town was the center of a dispute between Portugal and its Spanish neighbors.
In response, the country built one of the most formidable defenses in the form of the Nossa Senhora da Graca Fort. It’s impossible to grasp the scale of this star-shaped fort built in the 18th century.
The fort proved invaluable during the Portuguese Restoration war at the Siege of Elvas and the Peninsular Wars. The enemy could not capture it in both events.
Other noteworthy places of interest include Castelo de Elvas, a medieval castle built in the 6th century when the Moors were in control of this region. The castle also forms part of the city’s defense.
It is Portugal’s hardiest castle, surviving uncountable sieges and battles in its long battle-hardened history. Elvas may have other pleasant diversions, like the Ponta da Ajuda and Praca da Republica, but it remains a fantastic destination for military buffs and historians.
14. Funchal, Madeira
Soccer fans worldwide consider Funchal a mecca of sorts, considering it’s the birthplace of five-time Balon’D’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo.
Apart from soccer, there are many other reasons to visit this city, like exploring the old town of Zona Velha, one of the liveliest places in the city center, and the location of many of the city’s cafes and restaurants.
It does get quite hectic when the cruise ships come to town, but it retains that authentic local feel. Artsy folks will love the Rua da Santa Maria, a shanty once flood-prone and now transformed into an outdoor work of art.
This Madeira gem is still picking up steam, but it has the promise of being a tourist magnet in the future!
Evora packs a lot of punch for its weight because it’s been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1986. The museum city has a history that dates back to the ancient Roman Empire and is home to over 4,000 historical monuments.
Interestingly, the old kings of Portugal made Evora their home in the 16th century, and the town still retains that royal prestige of times past. Most of Evora’s favorite places of interest are within walking distance, making the city enjoyable to discover on foot.
The Evora Museum has a permanent collection of:
- Religious artifacts
- Archeological curiosities from Portuguese covenants
Moreover, the Alentejo region is known for its superior farm produce and mouth-watering traditional delicacies, like gazpacho a alentejana and queijadas de Évora.
Things to Consider When Visiting Portugal
Portugal is a historic country and one of Europe’s oldest. The tiny nation is spoilt for choice for festivals and attractions. To make the most out of your vacation, consider the following tips:
Algarve, Porto, and Lisbon are three cities that get crowded in the summertime. However, these places are surprisingly quiet in the offseason. For instance, the best time to visit Algarve is in Autumn. If you’d still want to see the beach in summer, head towards the Centro and Alentejo district.
Portugal is one country where the local food and drink are excellent without burning a hole through your pocket. Order the local produce always.
Additionally, the advantages of the ocean make seafood plentiful no matter which region you’re visiting. The house wine is high quality, and you can find fantastic value in the local spirits and beers.
Starters Aren’t Always Free
Many Portuguese restaurants will present some starters to you before placing an order. These starters may range from exotic seafood to a small bowl of olives. However, they are unlikely to be free with the costs added to your food bill.
Some menus charge for individual items, and this includes the bread basket. Others have a cover charge for each individual.
It’s worth mentioning starters are usually inexpensive. Be wary of seafood. Despite its abundance, seafood often has a high price. Always check the cost of the starter and decline if you don’t need a food item.
Poor Road Safety
Portugal’s road safety records are amongst the worst in Europe. The country has many back roads in bad condition. On the flip side, toll-paying automobile routes often lack traffic and are excellently maintained.
Enquire from your car hire company how best to pay road tolls. The country has cheap train service, albeit slow. However, traveling between two cities by train can be costly. Your best bet is to travel by coach, which you can find in most cities.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you need more information about the best places to visit in Portugal, here are the answers to a few FAQs:
Do they speak English in Portugal?
English is the most common language spoken in Portugal – after Portuguese, of course. Only a fraction of the Portuguese people speak English natively. Still, the abundance of tourist activity makes English the language of choice across the country.
What is the best part of Portugal to visit?
The Algarve is arguably the best part of Portugal to visit. The region has hundreds of beaches, beautiful hotels, and arguably the most delicious cuisine in the country.
What should I not miss in Portugal?
You should never miss a visit to Lisbon or pass up attending one of the many festivals in this country. The Belem Tower and Porto Old Town are a must-see when visiting Portugal.
Are ten days enough to visit Portugal?
Portugal may be geographically tiny compared to other Western countries, like Germany, Spain, Italy, and France. However, there’s so much to do and see that ten days wouldn’t cut it to cover all the significant destinations in the country. We recommend setting aside two weeks for your trip.
Is Portugal Expensive to visit?
Portugal is a super affordable European vacation destination, with an average cost of $150 per individual per day. It’s the perfect getaway for people looking to travel Europe on a budget.
So, What Is the Best Place to Visit in Portugal?
It would be unfair to pick one destination as Portugal’s best place to visit. The coastal country is dotted with historic cities, like Evora and Lisbon, beautiful stone villages to the North, and the vast wine country towards the Atlantic.
There’s no shortage of breathtaking places to capture your imagination and fulfill your holiday desires. The country is amongst the safest globally, with warm, friendly locals that try to make you feel at home. Safe travels!