The best things to do and places to see in Portugal
Discover Portugal whether on a shoestring or one city break at a time. With an intriguing culture, long stretching gold coastlines and beautiful landscape, Portugal offers visitors endless biking and adventure opportunities, as well as romantic riverside regions and idyllic summer seaside spots. Explore the ancient streets of Lisbon, roam the cobbled streets of Porto or surf on the beach beaches of the notorious Algarve.
Cycling Routes and Roads in Portugal
Often overlooked with neighbors Spain and not-far-away France stealing the thunder, Portugal is actually a great place to get on your bike and see the sights. Not only can you tour cities and towns on two wheels, but the national parks, vineyards and mountainous range offer even more in terms of road cycling and mountain biking. Take a coastal road and discover the West Coast without worrying about the weather, as Portugal’s climate is mild most of the year!
Top Experiences: things to do in Portugal
Exploring Portugal’s timeworn capital is a good place to start and the perfect sun kissed location to delve into the delicious delicacies on offer. Situated further north along the coast, Porto lies at the mouth of the Douro River and is one of Portugal’s most popular metropolitan stays, not to mention top wine regions and renowned for its famous port wine.
Adventure seekers should contemplate visiting the Azores in the Atlantic Ocean and discover this luscious green archipelago which promises plenty of opportunities for happy hikers and nature lovers.
Portugal’s mainland is layered with natural parks, nature reserves, dazzling coastline and fascination rock formations. Visit Ria Formosa Natural Park and get lost in an array of sand dunes, lagoons and salt pans that stretch out for 60 kilometers.
If you’re looking to get stuck in to Portuguese culture, why not attend a Fado concert and witness the Portuguese singing and music which dates back to the 1820s.
Sightseeing in Portugal
Vintage wooden trams cart by in Lisbon city center and historic buildings add a unique elegance to this coastal capital. Torre de Belém is one of Lisbon’s top Gothic sights and guards the city harbor entrance. Mosteiro dos Jerónimos is a must-visit for history and architecture enthusiasts (note that you can avoid the €10 admission fee with free entry on the first Sunday of the month!), as is Alfama, Lisbon’s most ancient district. Palacio da Pena and the surrounding gardens is less than an hour’s drive from Lisbon if you want to soak up more Portuguese culture and history. This region, Sintra, is largely carpeted with luscious, green woodland and has a natural park apt for restless explorers.
Sights to see in Porto include the Clérigos Tower which you can climb to get a panoramic view, Porto’s impressive cathedral and São Bento Train Station which is decorated with up to 20,000 tiles and has been voted one of the most beautiful railway stations in the world. Check out the sight of inspiration for JK Rowling’s famous books. Rowling lived in Porto in the 90s and was a regular at the Livraria Lello. It is said that the delicate woodwork and magical theme inspired the creation and design of the Harry Potter scene. You can enter the bookshop to admire the carved wooden detail and symmetrically intertwined ceiling, just make sure you book in advance if you’re visiting Porto in peak season.
The Algarve coastline in the south of Portugal is renowned for its incredible beaches and surf. Lagos is a historic area of Portugal spoilt by the scenic coastline. Dona Ana beach is one of Portugal’s most picturesque beaches.
Discover Portugal by Interest: Portuguese food and culture
The Portuguese are renowned for their pastel de nata pastry tarts and other delicious cakes, but there is a lot more to discover when it comes to Portuguese gastronomy. Seafood dishes such as cataplana and bacalhau are rated exquisite amongst both locals and visitors. Be sure to try a Alheira de Mirandela dish, a typical sausage which is acclaimed for having saved hundreds of lives during the Spanish inquisition.
Music Festivals in Portugal
Portugal has its fair share of music festivals with NOS Alive, one of Portugal’s biggest music festivals, taking place in Lisbon every year. NOS Primavera Sound is arguably just as big but not quite as colossal as Barcelona’s version. Whereas Rock in Rio Lisboa only comes round every two years and is said to be one of Europe’s best festivals. Our theory is to keep the crowds in suspense and coming back for more! Sudoeste based in Zambujeira do Mar is also every two years and is another popular choice, as well as festivals, Paredes de Coura and Boom Festival.
Shopping in Portugal
Whether you wish to browse the street markets of coastal towns or would rather dive into the cobbled streets of metropolitan hubs lined with boutiques and gift shops, Portugal has something for every avid shopper. You can find traditional treats and authentic Portuguese handbags, clothes and more or alternatively, branch out with the range of creative styles on offer thanks to local artists and entrepreneurs. Both shopping centers and town markets can be found in the same city and be sure to look out for hand painted Portuguese crockery or the famous tile print which can be used to decorate almost anything!
Travel Tips: things to know before visiting Portugal
One thing you should definitely know is that Portugal gets around 2,800 hours of sunshine a year, which beats Greece’s capital, Athens. Visiting Portugal in spring and autumn is a great way of avoiding summer crowds and traveling at cooler temperatures, too.
Portugal is famed for its artistic tile design, so expect to see tiles adorning more than just the beautiful buildings. Cork is also a major material, with the Portuguese Montado landscape producing half of the world’s cork on an annual basis.
Visitors planning a trip to Portugal should have no fear when it comes to approaching locals who are lovely and very welcoming in general. Rest assured that you will feel safe exploring this magnificent country. The only thing to consider regarding safety is pickpocketing. However, this is a worldwide problem, especially in tourist areas, and merely a case of taking care of your belongings.
Fun fact: It was Portugal’s Princess Catherine of Braganza who introduced tea to the Brits when she married King Charles II.
Cities to Visit in Portugal
Lisbon is a Portuguese cultural hub with an international touch and better yet, by the sea. From Lisbon you can get to some of Portugal’s best beaches, meaning you can combine a city break and beach vacation in one. Be sure to check out the Gothic and Medieval architecture and spend an afternoon absorbing the atmosphere in Alfama.
Porto is fast becoming one of Europe’s most visited cities and also a favored city break for couples. Sit on the riverside with a (very) good cup of coffee and wake up to the chilled out cafe vibes of Porto’s downtown Ribeira. There are plenty of markets and shopping opportunities, too.
Aveiro is one of the most interesting cities in Portugal and truly charming. The Venice of Portugal, hop on a gondola and glide by as you take in the varying town houses and their stately appearances. Try Ovos Moles de Aveiro, a local sweet treat. You won’t regret it!
Évora is an inland city located in the south. Stay in the heart of the Old Town and spend a weekend touring the medieval walls, Roman ruins and ancient monuments. Évora is a member of the Most Ancient European Towns Network and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Coimbra is a city situated in North Central Portugal. Europe’s first ever university was built here and and the city remains very academic and prestigious to date. The River Mondego flows through the city and creates a beautiful evening ambience if you are looking for a calm city break with fewer tourists.