Portugal is one of the most visited countries in Southern Europe. But with so many differents places and cities the country has to offer, it might be hard to know where to start. Here is our list of the 10 best cities to visit in Portugal !
1 - Lisbon: one of the most pleasant cities in the world
The vibrant capital city of Portugal is a must-see if you visit the country. Lisbon consistently ranks among the cities with the best quality of life in Europe. The city offers a welcoming and safe environment, nice weather and a chill atmosphere all year round.
Lisbon is a city of stunning architectural beauty, with each neighborhood developing its style. You can visit the Belém Tower, the first Portuguese fortification with two levels of firing positions, this Manueline-style masterpiece was built by Francisco de Arruda between 1515 and 1519. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Tower of Belém stands as a testament to the country's rich history and architectural prowess.
Back in the city center, you can discover the charming district of Alfama, the most authentic part of the old town. You can spend the whole afternoon wandering through the narrow streets, sitting at cafes, and visiting the must-see buildings of the neighborhood like São Jorge Castle, a XI century fortified castle with a remarkable 360° view, or the Sé de Lisboa, an iconic cathedral that offers nice views on the city as well.
2 - Sintra: a fairytale-like town 1h away from Lisbon
Sintra is a colorful, vibrant city, just 1h away from the city center of Lisbon. Full of history, you can visit the iconic Pena Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage site. This 19th-century Romanticist castle showcases vibrant colors and intricate architectural details. If you want to walk uphill, then bring some hiking shoes because the slope is quite steep, but in the end, it is worth it!
Another remarkable landmark in the city is Castelo dos Mouros. It is a medieval fortress with a rich history. Built during the 8th and 9th centuries, it offers panoramic views of the surrounding area, including the town of Sintra and the nearby Pena Palace.
This historic site is a testament to the region's Moorish influence and is a popular destination for visitors seeking to explore its ancient walls and immerse themselves in its fascinating past.
3 - Porto: for the culture enthusiasts
Famous for its picturesque riverside location, Porto is a must-see destination for travelers seeking charm, culture, and delectable cuisine.
As Portugal's second-largest city, Porto is renowned for its historic center. A UNESCO World Heritage site, which boasts colorful buildings, narrow streets, and iconic landmarks like the Clérigos Tower and São Bento Station, a train station with impressive drawings on the earthenwares of the wall.
Visitors can indulge in the city's rich history by exploring its port wine cellars, crossing its iconic Dom Luís I Bridge, and enjoying breathtaking views of the Douro River.
4 - Coimbra: between rich history and culture
Home to one of the oldest universities in the world, Coimbra offers a rich blend of history, culture, and beautiful architecture. Indeed, the city served as the country's medieval capital until giving way to Lisbon in 1255.
The city of Coimbra also has a rich culture, being the second home after Lisbon for Fado music, characterized by its melancholic melodies and heartfelt lyrics. In 2011, Fado was recognized by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, acknowledging its significance and cultural value.
The University of Coimbra, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a must-visit attraction. Its grand façade, richly decorated halls, and beautiful courtyards make for a fascinating visit. The University's Botanical Garden, with its diverse collection of plants, is also worth exploring.
5 - Albufeira: the most exciting seaside resort
Albufeira is the dream destination in Portugal for lovers of partying, relaxation and the beach. Located on the Algarve coast, you can enjoy magnificent beaches, as well as a lively holiday atmosphere with many clubs and nightclubs, but also golf spots, and even a large water park.
Praia dos Pescadores (Fisherman's Beach) is the main beach in the old town and is a favorite spot for sunbathing and swimming. Other notable beaches include Praia da Oura, São Rafael Beach, and Falesia Beach.
6 - Évora : a Unesco World Heritage status
Évora is the capital of Portugal's Alentejo region. At the heart of the city lies the inspiring Roman temple, known as the Temple of Diana. This magnificent structure stands as a testament to the city's rich Roman heritage and offers a glimpse into its ancient past. Marvel at the well-preserved columns and intricate details that make this temple a true architectural gem.
A visit to the São Francisco Church is a must. This captivating edifice seamlessly blends elements of Gothic and Baroque styles, creating a visual masterpiece. The highlight of the church is the hauntingly beautiful Chapel of Bones, adorned with the remains of thousands of individuals, serving as a poignant reminder of life's transience.
7 - Aveiro: the "Venice of Portugal"
Aveiro is famous for its picturesque canals and colorful Moliceiro boats, hence the name "Venice of Portugal". While Aveiro's picturesque scenery captivates visitors, it is also renowned for a delectable local treat known as "ovos moles."
Ovos moles, which translates to "soft eggs," is a traditional Portuguese sweet delicacy that originated in Aveiro. These delightful treats consist of a creamy, silky egg yolk filling encased in a thin, delicate wafer-like pastry.
The filling is made by combining egg yolks and sugar, resulting in a velvety texture and a rich, sweet flavor. When you visit Aveiro, be sure to indulge in these irresistible treats!
8 - Guimarães: the "birthplace of Portugal"
Guimarães holds a special place in Portugal's history, as it was here that the first King of Portugal, Afonso Henriques, was born and declared the country's independence in the 12th century. The city's well-preserved medieval center takes you on a journey back in time, with its narrow cobblestone streets, historic buildings, and charming squares.
One of the iconic landmarks of Guimarães is the Guimarães Castle, an imposing fortress that stands as a symbol of the city's historical importance. Built-in the 10th century, the castle offers panoramic views of Guimarães and provides a glimpse into the past as you explore its towers and walls.