On the Atlantic coast of the Iberian Peninsula lies a small country, which today has become one of the most visited in Europe. This is Portugal - a country of numerous fairs, festivals, which keeps centuries-old traditions and culture of its people. Here in rural areas you can still see women carrying shopping baskets on their heads, here is still the best coffee in Europe, and it is served exclusively in cups. The traditional crafts of fishing, textile production and wine-making still flourish here. Don’t know what to see in Portugal? Especially for you we have compiled a list of popular places in this country, which included the most interesting sights of Portugal.
It is in Portugal where you can feel as far away from home as ever - at the very edge of the world, because the country is located at the westernmost cape of Europe, and further there is only the ocean, beyond which there are uncharted lands.
No matter where you choose to spend your vacation or weekend in Portugal, traveling around the country is incredibly interesting. You will be accompanied by guides in Portugal who not only have an impeccable knowledge of history and traditions, but also a sincere desire to show tourists the beauty of their homeland.
A true favorite among the medieval castles of Portugal can be considered the castle of Obidos, located on a hill, which offers a wonderful view of the surroundings of the city of the same name: vineyards, windmills, bright terracotta roofs of the surrounding houses.
The castle itself attracts many tourists with its crenellated walls, preserved from the Middle Ages to the present day in remarkably good condition. The castle as we see it today was built in the 13th century and before that, during the Roman Empire, there were public baths and a square which played the role of political center of the settlement. After the fall of the Roman Empire, when the Visigoths came to power, a fortress was built on this site, around which the settlement was formed, the future city of Obidos. In the 8th century the fortress fell into the hands of the Muslims, and it was only in the 13th century that King Afonso of Portugal recaptured the edifice.
Later, for several centuries, the fortress was a favorite place for royal festivities and celebrations.
Today, this Portuguese landmark has preserved its appearance, so it attracts many tourists - you can walk around the castle, study its architecture - arched passageways, medieval bas-reliefs, and from a height look at the magnificent views of the surrounding area.
The age of the great discoveries has brought a lot of memorable events and historical monuments to world history, and thanks to this modern tourists will definitely find something to see in Portugal. For example, the Portuguese capital Lisbon houses a unique monument of Portuguese architecture - Torri de Belem, which has become the most important landmark of Portugal. It was originally built to commemorate the world-famous expedition of Vasco da Gama, who discovered the trade route to India. The tower played the role of a lighthouse, showing the way to sailors on long voyages. Its construction lasted six years, from 1515 to 1521, during the reign of King Manuel I. It was from these shores that daring and adventurous sailors set out in search of new trade routes.
During the Napoleonic wars the structure fell into a dilapidated state, but was completely reconstructed in 1845. For a while the walls of the tower even housed a prison and an armory.
Today the tower has become a site of cultural and historical heritage and since 1983 it is included in the list of UNESCO.
The Torri de Belem is built in the late Gothic Manueline style. Openwork balconies, Arab-style turrets, crenellated walls, knightly coats of arms and images of ropes - many such decorations can be seen in this structure and the views from its summit are superb.
Official website: http://www.torrebelem.gov.pt/en/
Sintra is a suburb of the Portuguese capital and the most important in terms of attractions in Portugal. Not far from Sintra, in the mountains, is the unusual Pena Castle Palace. Its uniqueness is that originally it was based on an empty monastery, which was built here back in the 12th century in honor of Our Lady. Over time, the temple has fallen into disrepair.
The unremarkable and neglected chapel, lost in the mountains, was only remembered in the 16th century when King Manuel I, being very religious, turned his attention to the church and the rather large empty land around it. Since then, and reconstruction of the shrine began - he was rebuilt from stone and stood for about 2 centuries until a powerful earthquake known throughout Europe, which turned the monastery into ruins.
Only in 1838, King Fernando II bought the land, along with the ruins of the temple and the beautiful surrounding areas on the mountain. He orders the construction of a palace on these lands, which later became the summer residence of the royal family. The romantic Fernando contributed a great deal to the decoration of the castle and its surroundings. The result is a beautiful and majestic structure with an exotic exterior that is a mixture of several styles, striking facades and a wonderful park with winding paths, cozy pavilions and the lush colors of exotic plants.
Official website: https://www.parquesdesintra.pt/
The seaside country of Portugal has been closely linked to the sea throughout its history, so if you’re interested in Portugal’s sea-related attractions, there’s plenty to visit in Portugal. Portugal’s capital Lisbon is home to one of the largest oceanariums in the world. Every year more than a million visitors come to observe the life of sea inhabitants through the panoramic glass.
The advantage of the Lisbon oceanarium is that it is not just for the general public’s entertainment, but also for educational purposes. For example, the Oceanarium has a marine biology and oceanography department with many science lessons that will be of interest to adults and children alike.
The architectural peculiarity of the Aquarium in Lisbon is that it was built right on the water, on the banks of the Tagus River and it is connected to the mainland by a 2-level ramp. The Aquarium opened to the public in 1998 and in 2011 another building was opened for temporary exhibitions.
The huge aquarium has about 500 species of fish, marine mammals, invertebrates and plants. In all, the aquarium has four zones, each corresponding to a different part of the planet:
Official website: https://www.oceanario.pt/en
Those wishing to go back in time a few centuries have something to see in Portugal: this is the Alto-Doro Valley, a popular wine region at the head of the Douro River, near the city of Porto. The region, known for producing quality wine, does not use any modern technology or advanced achievements. Manual labor still thrives here as a way to reproduce all the winemaking processes.
The Alto-Doro area has long been known for having produced wine of exceptional taste and quality for 2 thousand years. The local climatic conditions have the kind of weather peculiarities that allow for generous harvests of different grape varieties. The area is characterized by its steep terrain, protected from wind and moisture by the mountains of Montemuro and Maran, which creates a dry and hot climate, most favorable for the ripening of grapes and for the production of aromatic fortified wines. The wine produced here has won first prizes in international competitions, which once again confirms the quality of the local products.
Travelling through Portugal’s wine attractions you can have a wine tasting in one of the local wineries and purchase a delicious wine or port. If you wish, you can take part in the harvest and the subsequent wine festival, a taste of life in this beautiful and fertile land.
The city of Alcobaca is known for its important Portuguese landmark, the Abbey of Santa Maria de Alcobaca, founded in the 12th century. Today it is not just an important historical monument, but also the largest church in Portugal.
The abbey building is made up of 5 cloisters, a library, 7 bedrooms and an impressive sized kitchen. The finishing of the facade of the temple is a mix of several styles, for the reason that the building was completed in different eras. The Gothic door and the main circular window of the monastery, for example, are parts of the original church, while the flanking bell towers and the Baroque statues of saints were not added until the 17th and 18th centuries.
As a whole, the monastery is a monumental architectural structure, 220 meters long, consisting of 3 parts - the Church itself, as well as the North and South wings.
The construction of the monastery began in 1178, lasted almost a century and was completed only in 1252. Today it is a site of high historical importance to Portugal and is a well-preserved example of Cistercian architecture. The importance of the shrine in Portuguese history is that Kings Afonso II, Afonso III and Pedro I and other royal families were buried here in the 13th and 14th centuries. In 1989 the monastery was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Official website: http://www.mosteiroalcobaca
When it comes to the natural beauty of Portugal, you can say there is room for leisure and contemplation: striking mountain landscapes, numerous lakes, rivers and waterfalls, lush green mountain meadows - in short, you will find something to see in Portugal. Despite the natural diversity, there is only one protected area in Portugal, the Peneda Jeres National Park. This protected area stretches between the Peneda and Jerez mountain ranges.
Peneda Jeres is a mountain reserve with rich flora, waterfalls, rivers, fast streams and villages built of gray granite.
As for fauna, in the territories of the park can be found roe deer, Iberian wolf, stunted horses, brown bears, mountain goats, bulls of the barroza breed. The luxuriant vegetation is represented by varieties of oaks, birches, bird cherry, and the only forest of pine trees in Portugal. There are also endemic plants, including some species of ferns and lilies.
The park is partly inhabited, with the small town of Canisada to the southwest. Near this town, a dam has been erected to span the river and form a picturesque reservoir. There are many hiking trails through the reserve, and in some places there is even an ancient Roman road that leads northward, with ruins of centuries-old structures along the sides.
One of the most beautiful Portuguese cities, in fact a Portuguese landmark itself, is located closer to the east of the country, in the province of Alto Alentejo. It is the museum city of evora, framed by wonderful olive groves, vineyards, flowering meadows, turning the town into a veritable garden. The city itself includes a lot of historical sights - ancient buildings, temples, palaces and cathedrals that reflect the rich history of the city.
The history of evora began about two thousand years ago, and over the centuries it has been shaped by Roman and Moorish culture, which is why the city is considered the spiritual center of the country. The historic part of the city is surrounded by fortress walls, and inside the maze of its narrow ancient streets, ancient restored structures intertwined with sunny Renaissance squares, observation decks, Gothic churches, cathedrals and Manuelino-style palaces. All in all, the different eras are an unusually variegated mix of architectural styles from different eras.
It is difficult anywhere else to find such an accumulation of historical and architectural monuments, concentrated in such a small territory. Numerous monuments, along with fine cheeses and wines, lure visitors from all over the world to evora. In 1986, the city-museum of evora was recognized by UNESCO as a monument of world culture.
The Portuguese city of Guimarães is the cultural and historical center of the country, and its main symbol is the medieval Guimarães Castle, which has become a historical landmark in Portugal. Today the castle has been restored and has hardly retained its original appearance. The fortress on the site of the castle, the hill of Monte Largo, was first erected in the 7th century. The modern look of the castle acquired much later - in the 12th century.
Until the end of the 9th century, the area was under Arab rule and was called Vimaranesh. Later, when the Portuguese conquered the land, Count Diogo Fernandes became the owner of the fortress. At that time, a monastery was founded at the foot of the hill, a solitary donjon was erected and surrounded by a protective wall, and a small settlement sprang up around the cloister. The fortress gradually strengthened, grew and expanded.
Many years later, the castle passed into the possession of the King of Leon and Castile - Alfonso VI Henry of Burgundy, who founded his residence here. Later, the first king, Afonso Henriques I, who was born and raised within these walls, completely rebuilt Guimarães. In the 14th century, the whole settlement was surrounded by a defensive wall, 8 gates and 8 towers, each 28 meters high.
In the course of time the fortress has lost its military value, many fortifications were demolished. And only in the 30s of the 20th century the castle was completely restored. Today, the castle is in the form of a heraldic shield, only 4 of the 28 towers have survived, each of which is accessed by stone stairs. A suspension bridge connects the central gate and the western wall. Visitors can explore all the rooms of the fortress and climb its walls, from where there are beautiful views of the city of Guimarães.
Official website: http://www.guimaraesturismo.com/
Not far from the Portuguese capital, off the coast of Estoril, is the small beach resort town of Cascais. Cascais was the summer residence of the royal family during the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, making it a pioneer destination in Portugal. Today it is one of Portugal’s most prestigious resorts and has retained the unique atmosphere of the Middle Ages.
The land where today’s urban life in Cascais is bustling was settled by the first inhabitants in the 12th century. Located on the Atlantic coast, close to the capital, the settlement quickly became prosperous and was the focus of many conflicts between different nations. Today, this historic center is literally filled with architectural treasures.
So if you plan a trip to Cascais you’ll certainly find plenty to see in Portugal, with plenty to choose from:
The finishing touch to your trip to the edge of Europe will be excursions in Portugal to places from our additional list of interesting places in this amazing state. You can go sightseeing by rented car, public transport or as part of a tour group.
The Algarve region, protected from the north by mountains, has a culture, climate and scenery different from the rest of Portugal. Its beautiful coastline and mild climate make the Algarve one of the most popular tourist destinations in Portugal. One of the attractions of Portugal is located here in the Algarve region. Praia da Marina is a small and secluded sector of the coast which is set apart from the main infrastructure of the resort so you can enjoy the peace and quiet, the rocky landscape and the clean pebble beach.
The beach has not only an exquisite beauty, but also a steep shoreline, so you have to go down a long and steep staircase to get to the water, but it’s worth it. Below you will discover the coast from a new perspective - the set of island rocks, with fanciful shapes due to prolonged exposure to water and wind, in an ensemble with the sea creating a strikingly beautiful landscape.
On the beach you can not only swim or bask in the sun, but lovers of outdoor activities can explore the local bays, caves and grottoes.
Despite the wild scenery, the beach itself is well-organized - there is a parking lot, restaurant, rental equipment for swimming, lifeguards. There is also an opportunity to snorkel and explore the rich underwater world - it may not be as rich as in the Red Sea, but all kinds of shrimp, motley fish and starfish are present in abundance.
The secrets of the past, which hold some amazing places on earth, have always stirred the minds of scientists and ordinary citizens who happen to be there. Lovers of historical mysteries and riddles are something to see in Portugal - one of the most mysterious places in the country is located in the town of Sintra, 30 kilometers from Lisbon. This park estate Quinta da Regaleira. Every meter of land here is full of puzzles which have been puzzled over for centuries by scientists from all over the world.
The cultural landscape on which the park is located has a rich history of thousands of years. There are archaeological sites leading back to the Early Neolithic period (5th millennium B.C.), all the way to the Iron Age (before the 2nd century B.C.).
In 1147, the first king of Portugal, Afonso Henriques, built a substantial palace that became the royal residence. Over the centuries, the palace has changed owners, each of whom has contributed to the improvement of the castle. In 1904, the palace was bought by Antonio Monteiro, a wealthy entomologist, who invested a lot of money into the restoration of the monument of architecture.
Today, the estate, in addition to the palace, consists of a chapel with numerous frescoes, stained-glass windows, stucco, and also includes enigmatic landscapes. There are grottos, wells, and a mysterious system of underground tunnels connected by two spiral wells. A pair of these wells, called “initiation wells,” has become one of the park’s most interesting and mysterious features. These unusual “upside-down towers” were intended for a secret initiation rite.
The Quinta da Regaleira keeps the memory of the rich history of this land alive and opens to visitors a window on the past, lifting the veil of historical mystery.
Official website: http://www.regaleira.pt/en
Fans of religious shrines will find something to visit in Portugal - not far from Braga, in the north of the country, is the church of Bon Jesús do Monti, which translates as “the church of Saint Jesus on the mountain”. The sanctuary, built on a hill 564 meters high, has become one of the most visited pilgrimage sites. It is an entire complex, consisting directly of the 116-meter-high church, the Via Sacra staircase of 581 Baroque steps, and an extensive park.
The history of the shrine began in the 14th century, when a cross was erected on the mentioned hill. Some 50 years later, the Chapel of the Holy Cross was erected here and soon afterwards, numerous pilgrims from Braga and other nearby regions began to visit the shrine.
In the 15th and 16th centuries, two more chapels were built on the mountain, and in the 17th century, the brotherhood of Bon Jesús do Monti was founded. The pilgrimage soon resulted in a steep path on the slopes of the hill, along which more and more miniature chapels created in the form of grottoes appeared.
In the 18th century the main construction began, the chapels were completed and a grand staircase of 581 steps was built, at the end of which rises the main church.
In the 19th century, an excellent green park with many paths, gardens and ponds was laid out in the vicinity of the shrine. In 1882 the first cable car in Portugal was built to connect the sanctuary to Braga. Today it is the oldest elevator in the world that operates with the help of counterweights.
To compose a tourist itinerary in the westernmost European country, it is worth considering in advance the most interesting sights in Portugal. The presentation is not without the glorious town of Aveiro, the “little Venice” known for its water channels, Art Nouveau architecture and bright narrow “moliceiroos” boats. Thanks to its very venerable age, the town has preserved many historical sites, such as the modern art museum from the beginning of the last century with its Art Nouveau facade, one of the most famous porcelain factories in the world, the Cathedral, which combines Mannerist, Modernist and Baroque styles, the Maritime Museum, which tells the history of seafaring and fishing in Aveiro. In between excursions, you can relax in one of the many restaurants or head to the beaches of Costa Nova.
Not far from the town of Almada, part of the Lisbon region, a stone statue of Christ the Savior overlooks Lisbon and its surroundings from a hundred meters high. This monument is of great historical importance to the people of Portugal because it was erected in honor of the prayers of the people heard by God to protect the country’s population during the bloody events of the Second World War. Construction of the monument began in 1949 and was funded by public donations, and it was unveiled in May 1959. The monument stands on a 113-meter high hill above the Tagus River, consisting of a 75-meter pedestal and a 28-meter statue mounted on it. At the foot of the monument is a chapel and an elevator that takes visitors to the observation deck. Cristo Rey, which means “Christ the King” in Portuguese, is considered a miniature replica of the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Brazil.
The only one in the whole of Portugal, the largest collection of toys devoted to the history of puppets and puppet theaters, is in Lisbon. There are more than four thousand exhibits from more than 30 countries. Since 2008 the museum houses the famous African and Asian marionette and mask collection of about 500 exhibits by collector Francisco Capelo. The Puppet Museum often hosts puppet shows and workshops where you can make your own puppet. For those traveling with children, the museum has a playroom where kids can play with puppets and be part of the show.
Official website: https://www.museu
When planning your itinerary in Portugal, it is impossible to ignore another imposing structure - the longest bridge in Europe. Vasco da Gama crosses the Tagus River northeast of Lisbon and is over 17 kilometers long. Previously there was already a bridge across the Tagus, but as the volume of traffic increased, the decision was made to build a larger and more powerful crossing. Despite the magnitude of Vasco da Gama’s construction, construction specialists needed only three years from 1995 to 1998 to bring the idea to life, of which only one and a half were needed for actual construction, while the remaining one and a half was spent on careful preparation for construction and detailed engineering calculations. Such a responsible approach provided the cable-stayed bridge with unusual qualities - resistance to wind speeds of up to 250 km/h and to earthquakes, 4.5 times more powerful than the famous Lisbon earthquake in the 18th century.
Portugal’s capital city deserves special tourist attention. Lisbon, despite being at a crucial point in history due to a major earthquake, still harbors historical echoes from centuries past. The most valuable cultural treasures are in the National Museum of Ancient Art, and the Jeronimos Monastery, a 16th century monastery and national symbol of the state, holds priceless symbols of spiritual heritage. The grandiose Late Gothic monument of Portuguese architecture is situated in the western part of the city. The facade is characterized by the use of nautical motifs and intricate sculptural elements. As it was built during an era of voyaging and discovery, it is the resting place of Vasco da Gama, the famous Portuguese navigator, whose tomb can still be visited today.
When choosing what to see in northern Portugal, the northern capital, Porto, is worth a special mention. In this atmospheric and authentic city, along with its colorful neighborhoods, pompous squares, and modernist structures, one of Porto’s symbols is popular and steadily recognized: the Don Luís railway, pedestrian and automobile bridge, built in the late 19th century. Powerful and at the same time elegant and openwork construction of metal is 385 meters long and connects Porto with the town of Villa Nova di Gaia. The bridge has two levels - the first for cars and the second for the subway, with pedestrian zones on both levels. Here you can not only walk, crossing from one bank of the Douro River to the other, but also admire the beautiful views of the river and surroundings from a height.
A thousand kilometers southwest of mainland Portugal is a beautiful and flourishing island of volcanic origin. Its land, washed by the Atlantic Ocean, is the tip of an underwater volcano, a piece of land of only 740 square kilometers, astonishing lush greenery and flowers. Magnificent green landscapes of the island - in many respects the merit of a favorable climate, due to the warm current of the Gulf Stream. The year-round comfortable weather with no stifling heat and plenty of clear days make this island an ideal place for a nature vacation. Perhaps the best way to explore the island is to take a hike, especially since there are plenty of hiking trails offering mysterious caves, rushing waterfalls, pristine forests, visiting fishing villages and small villages with white-white houses.
Perhaps one of the most beloved tourist spots on the Portuguese island of Madeira is the tropical garden located on Mount Monte in Funchal. When looking for what to see in Portugal in the spring, this is the place to choose. In the last month of spring, the lush greenery of the park reveals itself in all its glory, delighting you with the lushness of the fresh spring colors. The park has several different zones, created at different times, such as the Oriental garden in the Chinese style with pavilions, the Central Lake with swans, ducks and herons, the corner of Portuguese ceramics azulejo, cafe and observation platform. And crowning all this splendor is the snow-white Monte Palace, built in the 18th century by the British consul. Today the palace houses a museum with a collection of sculptures and minerals from all over the world.
Official website: https://montepalace
Lasting tours to Cape Roca, one of the most mysterious and enigmatic places, the westernmost tip of the European continent, are in constant demand. To visit this place - means to literally see the edge of the world, where 150-meter high cliff opens spectacular panoramas of the bottomless and boundless Atlantic Ocean. It was from these shores that numerous expeditions were once set off - brave sailors set out to meet the marine elements, making expeditions to China, Africa and the New World. Among the notable places on the cape - the old lighthouse of the 18th century, a number of viewing platforms along the coast, sparse and almost wild beach Praia da Adraga, where you can rest from the bustle of excursions. The coastline of the promontory is transformed during sunset, when you can watch the sun slowly “sink” into the vast ocean waters.
Going to the south of Portugal, Vilamoura is worth a visit - a relatively young town, and yet a developed tourist center, one of Europe’s largest luxury resorts. It is located right on the oceanic coast, which provides excellent conditions for a comfortable beach holiday - there are four large equipped beaches, where you can engage in various water sports, relax on the white sand and just enjoy the beautiful scenery. There are also many high-class hotels, SPA centers, restaurants, beauty salons, casinos, golf clubs, as well as Europe’s largest yacht club. Shopping lovers can stroll through the small stores, where you can buy souvenirs in the sea theme, traditional tiles with beautiful painting, handmade jewelry and many other memorabilia.
Tourists in Porto are sure to choose this famous place, the Lello & Sons Bookstore. People come here not only to buy one of the books, but also just to admire the magnificent architectural creation. The founders of the store in 1894 were the Lello brothers, who commissioned the engineer Francisco Javier Estevez to build a new building for the future library. The result of this work can be admired to this day: the artistic wood carvings, the curved staircase, the stained glass mosaics on the ceiling glass and the luxurious art deco facade are impressive.
Official website: https://www.livrarialello
Traveling 1,500 kilometers across the ocean from mainland Portugal, you can visit a picturesque, isolated corner of subtropical nature - the Azores. In total, the archipelago includes 9 islands, occupying a total area of about 2300 square kilometers. The largest of them is the island of San Miguel, where the capital of this autonomous region - Ponta Delgada is located. This island is also famous for the highest point of Portugal - it is an active volcano peak height of over 2300 meters. Holidays in the Azores are a reason to get away from the bustling Portuguese cities and merge with the pristine nature. Among the activities on the island are such as sea fishing and whale watching on rented yachts, hiking to an extinct volcano, bathing in thermal pools, visiting extremely beautiful lakes, waterfalls and natural parks.