Portugal Must-See Places Beyond Lisbon
How can you not be enamored with Portugal? We discovered a country saturated with rich history, overwhelming natural beauty, deeply devout communities, and authentic charm.
Our list of Portugal’s must-see places to visit will take you from big cities to traditional villages; rural countryside to rugged cliffside; and sandy beaches to cobblestone streets.
Here are the best places to visit in Portugal arranged from north to south.
1. Peneda-Geres National Park
Peneda-Geres National Park, located in the northwest part of the country, is the only national park in Portugal. It is vast. It is stunning. And it is an explorers dream. The park is chock-full of scenic drives, stunning views, cascading waterfalls, ancient Roman roads and dense oak forests.
2. Sistelo Village
Just outside the Peneda-Geres National Park borders, you will find the tiny village of Sistelo, known for its famous idyllic terraces called “solcalcos.” They are a vital agricultural facet to the rural community, but provide a stunning landscape to experience as an outsider.
3. Bom Jesus do Monte in Braga
Bom Jesus do Monte, meaning Good Jesus of the Mount, is a fascinating pilgrimage site set high on a hilltop overlooking the city. The impressive zigzag stairway, containing seventeen landings adorned with fountains and statues, leads visitors to the church and beautiful grounds.
Guimaraes won us over with its 1,000-year-old castle, medieval vibe and delightful streets. Visit what many locals consider the birthplace of Portugal since the first king of the country was born here.
5. Douro Valley
Douro Valley, the world’s first officially designated wine region, is an absolute delight. Two roads on either side of the Douro River will transport you with mesmerizing views of slow-moving water and steep terraced vineyards cut into the mountainside.
Porto, Portugal’s second largest city, is home to one of the oldest European centers. Its historical core was proclaimed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996. Enjoy cobblestone streets lined with colorful buildings, the lull of vintage boats bobbing in the water, and buzzing nightlife. And let’s not forget to mention sipping on savory port wine in the land where it was first conceived.
7. Costa Nova
Costa Nova’s candy-striped houses are a throwback to a simpler time. A system once used by fisherman to help the homes stand out against the faded sand tones, now add a colorful splash to beach rentals. Enjoy a day lounging on the soft sandy beach or an active one out on the inviting waters of the Atlantic.
Located on a shallow coastal lagoon, Aveiro is known for its brightly painted boats, picturesque canals, and laidback fishing village vibe. Although I think it’s bit of a stretch to refer to it by its nickname the “Venice of Portugal,” it does radiate similar charm as the gondola-studded city and it is a place well worth a visit.
9. Coimbra University
Coimbra University is the oldest university in Portugal and one of the oldest universities in continuous operation in the world. Highlights of the visit include the ornamental Chapel of São Miguel, the one-of-a-kind Joanine Library, and gorgeous views from the University Tower.
10. Convent of Christ
Situated on a hill looking over the town of Tomar, the Convent of Christ was founded as the headquarters of the Knights Templar. When the group was disbanded in the 14th century, the site was reestablished as the Order of Christ, who supported Portugal’s maritime efforts of exploration and colonization. Plan to spend the entire day marveling at the amazing level of detail and architecture of the magnificent grounds.
11. The Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima
There is a strong sense of faith and devotion at the Shrine of our Lady of Fatima. We were taken off guard at how large the area is, it is one of the largest shrines in the world of its kind. In 1917, three children claimed to have seen an apparition of the Virgin Mary on multiple occasions. People have been visiting the location ever since. Religious or not, Fatima is a compelling place.
The lovable town of Óbidos, tightly hugged by medieval walls, is about an hour’s drive north from Lisbon. The lively historic center is a maze of flower-lined cobblestone streets buzzing with shops and restaurants. A visit is not complete without trying the traditional Portueguese drink of Ginja, a berry liqueur served in edible chocolate cups.
13. Pena Palace
If fairy tale is what you are looking for, fairy tale is what you get at Pena Palace. The Romanticist castle, with sweeping views of the surrounding area, is perched high in the lush green Sintra Mountains. A visit feels like a leap into a magical setting of a Brothers Grimm story.
14. Quinta da Regaleira
Quinta da Regaleira, an enchanting estate located near the historic center of Sintra, is an adult playground. The wooded gardens are home to hidden tunnels, dark grottos, underground wells, and spiral staircases all surrounding an impressive 20th century Gothic residence. A unique and extraordinary place, Quinta da Regaleira should not be missed.
Don’t let the vibrant nightlife or “most-visited” term fool you into thinking Lagos is a tourist trap. Don’t get me wrong there are souvenir shops and tourists aplenty, but the Algarve gem also has natural beauty, quiet nooks, and historical charm mixed in as well.
Have you visited Portugal? What was your favorite stop?
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