When going to Portugal, you might be tempted to visit only the main cities. Lisbon (the capital), Algarve with its famous beaches or Porto, with its picturesque alleys. Nevertheless, if you want to avoid the crowds, we have prepared a list with the best places to visit in Portugal. Whether you are a mountain monk or a beach baby, there is something for everybody in this beautiful country!
Parque Nacional Peneda-Gerês
Starting by the north, we find the National Park of Peneda-Gerês. It is the only National Park in the country that is part of the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves, and one of the best places to visit in Portugal.
Located between the cities of Viana do Castelo and Braga, it is only accessible between May and September. During the winter not all trails may be accessible. Also, if you are a fan of aquatic sports, such as canoeing, it might be even more pleasant to try it during the warmest season.
If you are an admirer of antique landscapes, you should drop by Castro Laboreiro. It has a castle along with medieval churches and bridge, old community ovens, where the villagers used to bake bread, windmills and even their own breed of dogs. Another castle you can visit in the area is the charming village of Lindoso. Most of its houses still made from granite, somethings still common to see in remote villages of Portugal. In Lindoso, you can also see a vast blue lake, courtesy of the dam nearby.
There are many other places for sightseeing and trekking, so take comfortable footwear and a good camera with you. Afterwards, drop by any of the small taverns hiding between the villages and eat some ‘Rojoes’, a typical dish from Minho, made mainly of marinated fried pork pieces.
If you are en route between Porto and Lisbon, you should think about making a pitstop in Coimbra. Home to the second oldest university in Europe, Coimbra is one of the best places to visit in Portugal. Its historical centre – known as Alta and Sofia – is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you visit between September and May, you will probably be lucky enough to find students wearing an all-black outfit, with a cape and everything. You may not be in Hogwarts or Winterfell, in Game of Thrones’ Westeros, but for sure there is definitely a wave of magic going on.
Coimbra has numerous places to visit: the Old and New Cathedral – (Se Velha and Se Nova, in Portuguese) or the ‘Quinta das Lagrimas’ (roughly translated to Farm of Tears). The latter is where allegedly the tragic ending to the story of Pedro and Ines took place. There are also lots of medieval monasteries and of course, the Tower of the University. From there, you can see the sun setting behind the river Mondego.
Coimbra is a party city, with a vibrant community of international students. The city is known for its unique taverns, where you can eat ‘like a horse’ for low prices. If you are a meat lover, make sure to taste the roasted piglet (Leitao), a treat much appreciated by Portuguese people. Do not forget to try the conventual sweets, such as Barrigas de Freira (Nun’s Bellies) or de Pastries of Tentugal.
Peso da Regua
At the heart of the Douro Valley, this town offers breathtaking views of the vineyards on the banks of the river. If you are a wine enthusiast, then you couldn’t have picked a better location. Not only will you be in the place where you can drink authentic Porto Wine, but you can see how it grows, fortifies and ages.
One of the best ways to enjoy this place is to take the historic train. The vintage carriages are pulled by a Henschel & Son locomotive from 1925. It goes up to 50km, where you can go alongside the valley, feeling like a time traveller. You can also rent a bike and cycle the trails that cross the green and blue landscapes or hop on a cruise along the river.
After a long day of hiking, you should try the rice on the oven or the roasted goat in a traditional restaurant. Portugal is not a very vegetarian-friendly country, although you may still enjoy the sweet candies called ‘Rebuçados da Regua’, who are typically taken with tea or coffee.
Heading a bit south, near the coast, you will find a seaside city called Peniche. One of Portugal’s main fishing ports, the town is surrounded by breathtaking beaches, which offer perfect conditions for surf lovers. The waves are well appreciated by enthusiasts of this sport, especially in the beaches of Baleal and Medao.
One of the most iconic places for sightseeing is Cabo Carvoeiro, guarded by an 82 ft lighthouse. However, the real gem of Peniche is the tiny archipelago located just nearby, called the Berlengas. Its rocky islands are accessible only by boats, which are coming and going many times per day from the mainland. Here you can enjoy a very different scenario, with the very narrow coastline ending in a marvellous fort.
In Peniche you can enjoy a cuisine that matches its long history related to the sea and fishing. The fish soups and stews are two of their main gastronomy attractions, along with seafood, like grilled lobsters and shrimps.
Portugal is full of hidden gems, like Lagos in the south coast or Alentejo, between Lisbon and Algarve. However, our list of the best places to visit in Portugal couldn’t be completed without Sintra.
Long years of history, narrated by princesses and kings, are booked in this village. There many palaces, castles and other noteworthy charming places to visit. The colourful Palacio da Pena, Quinta da Regaleira and Castelo dos Mouros (Moors Castle) are just a few. Nonetheless, there are many more sightseeing spots you might not want to miss.
Sintra has a perfect location and is home to the westernmost point in Europe: ‘Cabo da Roca’. Here the poet Camoes has once said ‘Here it is where the land ends and the sea starts. Its enormous cliffs are home to many rare species of birds, making it a popular spot for birdwatchers worldwide. And, if all this travelling around castles and cliffs made you hungry, Sintra got you covered. With many traditional fish and meat dishes, Sintra’s culinary is most known for the sweet pastries called Queijadas.
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We hope you enjoyed our guide on the best places to visit in Portugal. If you are looking for luggage storage in Porto or Lisbon, check out our Stasher’s luggage storage options in Portugal. Partnered with illustrious holiday chains, such as Premier Inn, we offer an affordable and fully insured alternative to left luggage lockers.