Are you planning a trip to Portugal this summer? If yes, then you’re in the right place. In this article, you will find the best places to visit in Portugal. You will find the most famous Portuguese destinations there, such as Lisbon, Porto, or Madeira. There is also something for all tastes since you will discover, for example, ideas for cultural and historical visits, hiking roads, or even the most beautiful beaches in the country.
Best places to visit in Portugal
Should we still present Lisbon ?! It is undoubtedly the ideal destination if you are visiting Portugal for the first time. Lisbon is a perfect destination for a city trip and one of the most beautiful and best places to visit in Portugal. The capital of the country has many assets to please. It is a lively and dynamic city; it has a sunny climate and a Mediterranean atmosphere. With its famous vibrant Alfama district, its colorful streets, its facades covered with azulejos, its vintage tram, its many watchtowers, and its delicious pastries de Belem, Lisbon will undoubtedly be your favorite city in Portugal. Additionally, Lisbon is rich in historical and cultural heritage.
Nearest Airport: Lisbon (LIS) Airport.
Castelo de São Jorge.
Erected on the highest hill in Lisbon, Castelo de São Jorge dominates the Portuguese capital. Its origin dates back to Roman times, and its structure has continued to evolve over the centuries. Moors, Muslims, and Christians contributed to the development of Castelo de São Jorge, and certain parts are still relatively well preserved, such as the fortifications. Fortress then royal palace from the 13th century, you can discover the castle’s history in more detail through its museum. Also, don’t miss the Ulysses Tower, which houses a dark room. Despite being an undeniable historical attraction, its principal asset remains the magnificent panoramic views from its ramparts.
The Jerónimos Monastery
Located southwest of Lisbon, the Jerónimos Monastery is one of the flagship monuments of the Belém district and one of the best places to visit in Portugal. It was King Manuel I who initiated it at the end of the 15th century. The aim was to honor the discoveries of the navigator and explorer Vasco da Gama. The construction of the monastery was financed in large part by the wealth brought back from his travels. The Jerónimos Monastery is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With its four sides of 55 m each and its two floors, the monastery’s cloister is impressive, as are its decorations. You can also admire the chiseled stone patterns as delicate as lace adorn the walls representing vines, seashells, leaves, and animals. Additionally, inside the church, explore the magnificent amber stone vault. To discover the Jerónimos Monastery, Belém district and other amazing places in Lisbon, we invite you to take part in our Best Of Lisbon Semi-Private Tour. It is the best way to explore the most beautiful parts of Lisbon with a private guide.
The Alfama district
For a total immersion in Portuguese culture, nothing better than a visit to the Alfama district. It is the beating heart of the Portuguese capital. Of all Lisbon’s neighborhoods, Alfama is the one that withstood the earthquake the best. Its streets exude a crazy charm with their vaulted passages and flowered balconies. The streets of Alfama allow you to stroll in peace and take the time to admire the facades of the buildings. Moreover, they are covered with azulejos, these earthenware tiles so typical of the capital. Additionally, the Alfama district is the cradle of fado, that melancholy music so dear to the Portuguese.
The Belém Tower.
The Belém Tower is undoubtedly the symbol of Lisbon and one of the best places to visit in Portugal. It was built by the initiative of King Manuel I between 1515 and 1521 in honor of navigators. The tower had several roles, including being a vanguard post, protecting the entrance to the city, and the nearby Jerónimos Monastery. Subsequently, the Belém Tower became a lighthouse and then a prison. On the architectural side, the Belém Tower is a subtle blend of Manueline and Moorish art. 35 m high, it consists of narrow staircases, turrets, and balconies. Suppose you want to discover the Belém Tower as well as other beautiful places in Lisbon by Bicycle. In that case, we suggest you opt for our unique Belém Pelo Riverside e-Bike Tour activity.
The second-largest city in Portugal, Porto has nothing to envy its neighbor further south, Lisbon. More intimate than Lisbon, Porto is a delightful destination and one of the best places to visit in Portugal. It is a great place to stroll on the quays along the Douro or in the steep alleys of the Ribeira district.
Nearest Airport: Porto (OPO) Airport.
The Douro is the river that crosses the city of Porto. Do not hesitate to admire it from one of the many bridges in the town; this will offer you panoramas, each more beautiful than the next. Most famous of all is the Dom Luis I Bridge, a two-level metal bridge designed by a disciple of Gustave Eiffel to link old Porto to Vila Nova de Gaia, renowned for its wine cellars.
São Francisco Church.
São Francisco Church is a must-do in Porto, making it one of the best places to visit in Portugal. Located in the Piazza Infante Dom Henrique, its construction in Gothic style began in the 14th century, and today it is one of the most beautiful churches in the country. It is especially its interior that catches the eye with its three luxurious naves richly decorated with wood and gilding and the superb Tree of Jesse.
Palácio da Bolsa.
Palácio da Bolsa was built between 1842 and 1910. This gigantic monument in neoclassical style is undoubtedly one of the best places to visit in Portugal. It was initially the seat of the city’s association of traders and today serves as the Porto Chamber of Commerce seat. The richly decorated interior of the building contrasts with its rather austere exterior. You will first see the large interior courtyard with its high windows and its splendid glass roof. Then, you will take a large granite staircase to arrive in luxurious rooms, particularly the famous Moorish salon covered with about 20 kg of gold decorated after the Alhambra motifs in Granada.
The Bolhão Market.
The Bolhão Market is housed in a substantial neoclassical building dating from 1914. It has a central courtyard and two floors. These halls invite you to taste the culinary specialties of Portugal. You will find all the fresh products at the Bolhão market. In this symbolic place, a typical traditional atmosphere reigns. If you want to discover the true face of the city of Porto, this is the place to visit.
Visiting Portugal also means discovering its islands like Madeira. Nicknamed the Island of Flowers, Madeira is a true paradise for visitors who are on the move. Madeira will fascinate you with its green landscapes, lush gardens, and volcanic peaks. Sports enthusiasts will find endless possibilities for hiking, paragliding, surfing, etc. Additionally, Madeira Island is renowned for being an incredible diving spot. If you want to experience diving next to numerous types of whales and dolphins, Sonema offers you the opportunity to do it by participating in our extraordinary Whales / Dolphins watching Tour activity.
Nearest Airport: Cristiano Ronaldo Madeira International Airport.
Perched steeply at 580 m above sea level, Cabo Girao will reveal the natural beauty of Madera to you. Imagine walking on a glass gazebo overlooking the cultivated fields at the foot of the cliffs. Access to Cabo Girao is free but is very busy, especially in the high season.
Boaventura e Miradouro Da Beira Da Quinta.
This little-known place in Madeira is breathtakingly beautiful. The wild landscapes of the north coast of Madeira are genuinely breathtaking. It is a great place to experience the sheer mountains, two wave-battered islands, and a waterfall that drops steeply into the ocean.
Jardim Do Mar.
In Jardim do Mar, everything exudes sweetness, making it one of the best places to visit in Portugal. From the white church facing the sea to the cobbled streets descending under the bunches of bougainvillea towards the seaside promenade. If you want to stroll in Jardim do Mar, we invite you to pass in front of the old mill, follow the drawings of mosaics on the floor as you descend the stairs that plunge into the infinite blue of the ocean. Then, at the very end of the walk, we recommend that you push through the door of Portinho, an adorable café housed in an old stone house, tastefully renovated.
The Madeira laurisilva is an integral part of the identity of Madeira Island and is even listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This primary forest of endemic laurels occupies 20% of the island of Madeira. If you want to discover Madeira laurisilva, we recommend taking the road from Ribeiro Frio to Balcões. Very short and easy, this circuit winds for 1 km through the forest along a Levada to reach the Miradouro dos Balcões, a peninsula that offers a breathtaking view of the Madeira mountains.
Sesimbra is a pretty fishing town located at the Serra da Arrábida on the southern slope. This pleasant seaside resort of around 24,000 inhabitants is located less than an hour from Lisbon and only 30 kilometers west of Setúbal. Sesimbra is one of the best places to visit in Portugal because of its white-sand beaches with crystal clear waters and its delicious seafood. The town has, in particular, the ruins of a large castle, located 200 meters above sea level, which allows one to enjoy a breathtaking view of the ocean and the harbor.
Nearest Airport: Lisbon (LIS) Airport.
The Sesimbra Castle is undoubtedly the most photographed monument in the city and one of Portugal’s best places to visit. It is located on a massif surrounded by mountains with only one opening to the south, which overlooks the sea and part of the town. Nearby you will find the Igreja de Santa Maria, founded in the 12th century and rebuilt in the 18th century to then become a small cemetery with the castle in the background.
Cape Espichel is the southwestern tip of the Arrabida chain; it is a genuinely fantastic place swept by the sea breeze. The ocean does not hesitate to undermine the cliffs of more than 100 meters of the sheer drop. Off Cape Espichel, a historic battle gave victory to the Portuguese over the Moors in 1180 when Admiral Dom Fuas Roupinho offered this victory to King Alfonso I.
La Costa de Caparica.
Located in Aldeia do Meco, between Lagoa de Albufeira and the pretty village of Sesimbra, La Costa de Caparica beach has many surprises in store for you. It is one of the most beautiful beaches, where you can enjoy the unique landscapes and stunning views of the Sesimbra Castle. Additionally, it is a beach with waves, with fine sand and large cliffs behind it. In short, Costa de Caparica is a true paradise in Sesimbra.
Serra da Arrábida.
The Serra da Arrábida is a mountain whose highest point; Mount Formosinho, is 501 meters above sea level. This magnificent place was declared a natural park in 1976. With 10,800 hectares, Serra da Arrábida is home to some of the best beaches in the region with breathtaking landscapes of rare beauty. On the southern slope, the Serra is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean with splendid beaches and coves and limestone cliffs. While on the northern slope, it is a whole different landscape bordered by orchards, vineyards, and olive trees. La Serra da Arrábida is also known as the site of several activities such as Rock Climbing, hiking, kayaking, and Coasteering. Sonema gives you the chance to live all these experiences via its multiple special activities. Don’t hesitate to check them out!
Tavira and Lagos.
Tavira is one of the most beautiful towns in the Algarve region, and it is also home to wonderful sandy beaches. The city is magnificent and has vibrant architecture and oriental charm. Additionally, in the Algarve region, you have Lagos, one of the region’s ports cities. Lagos is a new trendy tourist destination with its unmissable beaches and pretty city center.
Nearest Airport: FARO (FAO) Airport.
Without a doubt, one of the best places to visit in Portugal is Tavira Castle. This emblem, dating from the Moorish period of the city, has walls from the Almoravid dynasty dating back to the 1000s. Today, Tavira Castle offers you the opportunity to discover many fascinating remains. Additionally, Tavira Castle offers splendid views from its towers.
Tavira is famous for sheltering eleven kilometers of golden sand, and its beaches are suitable for practicing water sports. There are several beaches in Tavira; the most notable ones are Praia da Ilha de Tavira and Terra Estreita beach. You will find a few bars and restaurants on these two beaches, but you can quickly get away from these landscaped places for a long walk by the ocean.
Lagos Fort, known in Portuguese as Forte da Ponta da Bandeira, is a holdover from the days when the port of Lagos had to be protected from sea attacks. The construction of the fort of Lagos dates from the 17th century. His visit mainly involves being able to access the upper floor and enjoy Lagos and the ocean view. Inside, there are a few rooms dedicated to temporary exhibitions and a chapel whose walls and ceiling are covered with azulejos, making it one of the most beautiful and best places to visit in Portugal.
Lagos City Center.
Lagos city center is quite pretty, with pretty streets and alleys and small squares dotted around. Among the notable places to discover during the walk-in downtown Lagos, you will find the Castelo dos Governadores, an ancient castle that will lead you towards the old town of Lagos. Another place to discover during the walk is the Church of Santa Maria; it is located in a large square and houses a statue of Infante D. Henrique and a large fountain.
Sintra is a beautiful coastal town located a short distance from Lisbon. It is also a city full of history and sights and a city part of the UNESCO World Heritage. Sonema offers you the opportunity to discover the incredible city of Sintra and explore the mesmerizing seaside resort “Cascais”. So don’t miss the opportunity to admire two of the best places to visit in Portugal by participating in our Tour Of Sintra & Cascais.
Nearest Airport: Lisbon (LIS) Airport.
Palácio Nacional de Sintra.
The Palácio Nacional de Sintra is one of the best places to visit in Portugal because it perfectly reflects the architectural beauty of the country and the region of Sintra. The palace is easily recognizable thanks to its unique architecture with its two substantial white cones. Built in the 12th century on the foundations of an Alcáçova (Moorish fortress), it served as the residence of the Kings of Portugal. The palace grew in the 14th and 15th centuries to combine Manueline architecture and Arab aesthetics.
Castelo dos Mouros.
Dating from the 10th century during the Iberian occupation, the Castelo dos Mouros is a fortification built by Muslims on the region’s hills, already invested in the Neolithic and then Roman times. The castle is placed at an altitude of 412 meters; it served as an outpost to monitor the Atlantic Ocean and control overland routes to Lisbon. It was during the reconquest in the 12th century that it became Portuguese. Additionally, it benefited from restorations during the 19th and 20th centuries. If you want to fully discover Castelo dos Mouros and other incredible nearby places, we have put together a special Pena Palace and Moorish Castle Tour. So don’t miss it out!
Palacio Nacional da Pena.
Built by Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha on a former monastery site, The Palacio Nacional da Pena arouses your architectural curiosity with its romantic aesthetic. Around the palace, you will find a park with an English garden suitable for a picturesque stroll with several monuments.