Top Places in Portugal You Must Visit

Portugal is a country nestled on the western coast of the Iberian Peninsula. This magical destination enchants visitors with its rich history, stunning landscapes, and vibrant culture. From the bustling streets of Lisbon to the picturesque towns of Braga, Portugal offers countless unforgettable experiences. In this travel guide, I’ll share my favorite places in Portugal. I’ll also explain why each one should be near the top of your bucket list. Let’s explore the top places in Portugal!

Lisbon: A tapestry of history, culture, and cuisine

No list of the best places in Portugal for travelers is complete without Lisbon. As the capital and largest city of Portugal, Lisbon is a vibrant metropolis that effortlessly blends tradition with modernity. Steeped in history, this city offers a captivating journey through time. Begin your exploration in Alfama, the historic heart of Lisbon. There, narrow streets, ancient churches, and traditional fado music create an enchanting atmosphere. Visit the iconic São Jorge Castle, perched high on a hill, for panoramic views of the city.

Lisbon is one of my favorite places in Portugal for its views, churches, and cuisine | David's Been Here

Lisbon is also a city of contrasts. Its contemporary neighborhoods like Alcantara and Bairro Alto offer a lively nightlife scene and trendy boutiques. Indulge in the local cuisine by sampling delicious pastéis de nata, traditional custard tarts, and fresh seafood dishes. Take a quick trip to Belém, where you can marvel at the grandeur of the Jerónimos Monastery. Don’t miss the iconic Tower of Belém while you’re there!

Braga: One of the best places in Portugal for history

Nestled in the northwestern region of Portugal, Braga is a city steeped in religious and architectural significance. Known as the oldest Portuguese city, it is home to more than thirty churches. Begin your exploration at Braga Cathedral, a magnificent example of Romanesque architecture. Discover the religious capital of Portugal as you explore the Bom Jesus do Monte, a stunning sanctuary perched on a hilltop. It’s accessible via a grand staircase adorned with fountains and sculptures.

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The spectacular architecture and churches in Braga make it one of the must-see places in Portugal | David's Been Here

Braga is not only one of the top cities in Portugal for ancient marvels, but also a vibrant hub of modern life. With a large student population, the city buzzes with energy, offering a thriving dining and nightlife options. Explore the charming streets of the historic center, where baroque buildings and charming boutiques await. Don’t miss the opportunity to marvel at the local glasswork, a centuries-old tradition that continues to thrive in Braga.

Leiria: A picturesque town of charm and beauty

Situated halfway between Lisbon and Porto, the picturesque town of Leiria is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. With its cobbled streets, terra cotta rooftops, and friendly atmosphere, Leiria exudes a unique charm. Start your journey by exploring Leiria Castle, a majestic fortress that overlooks the town. From its vantage point, you can admire breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.

The charming town of Leiria is a hidden gem between Lisbon and Porto | David's Been Here

Leiria’s location near the River Lis and the Atlantic Ocean makes it an ideal destination for beach lovers. In the spring and summer, the town comes alive with hot and sunny weather, creating the perfect backdrop for a relaxing beach getaway. Explore the town center, where you’ll find a variety of shops selling the town’s famous glass items. Indulge in the local delicacy, bolo de pinhão, a scrumptious cake made with pine nuts. It’s one of the most beautiful places in Portugal and should be on your to-do list!

Coimbra: A city of history and education

Located in the Centro region of Portugal, Coimbra boasts a rich history and a vibrant student culture. Known for its prestigious 13th-century university, Coimbra offers a fascinating blend of academia, history, and arts. Begin your exploration at the University of Coimbra, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and immerse yourself in the captivating ambiance of this ancient institution.

Coimbra has a rich history and the arts, and has a vibrant academic culture | David's Been Here

Coimbra’s architecture is a testament to its storied past. Explore the streets of Cidade Alta, the upper city, where you’ll find medieval buildings and impressive landmarks. Among them is Santa Cruz Monastery, the final resting place of King Afonso Henriques. Immerse yourself in the soulful melodies of Coimbra Fado, a unique style of Portuguese music characterized by its haunting lyrics and multiple guitars.

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Porto: Where history and tradition meet

No trip to Portugal is complete without visiting Porto, a city renowned for its port wine and rich cultural heritage. Begin your journey at Ribeira, the picturesque waterfront district, where colorful houses line the banks of the Douro River. Cross the iconic Dom Luís I Bridge to Vila Nova de Gaia to taste the city’s world-famous port wine.

The seaside city of Porto is one of the best places in Portugal for its waterfront and stunning architecture | David's Been Here

Explore the historic center of Porto, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and marvel at architectural wonders like the São Bento Railway Station, adorned with stunning azulejo tiles. Visit the Livraria Lello, a captivating bookstore that inspired the Harry Potter series, and sample the local delicacies. The iconic Francesinha sandwich and pastel de nata make Porto one of my favorite places in Portugal!

Sintra: A fairytale escape

Nestled in the hills of the Serra de Sintra, just a short drive from Lisbon, lies the enchanting town of Sintra. Known for its fairytale-like palaces and lush gardens, Sintra is a destination that will transport you to another world. Explore the colorful Pena Palace, a whimsical blend of architectural styles set atop a hill, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape.

Pena Palace in Sintra is one of the most unique buildings in all of Portugal | David's Been Here
Photo by Renato Marzan on Unsplash

Discover the mystique of Quinta da Regaleira, a Gothic mansion surrounded by a mystical garden filled with secret tunnels, grottoes, and symbolic wells. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the Moorish Castle, an ancient fortress that offers panoramic views of Sintra and beyond. Indulge in the local delicacies, such as the famous queijadas de Sintra, traditional pastries made with cheese and cinnamon.

Évora: A journey to Portugal’s past

Located in the heart of the Alentejo region, Évora is a city that takes you on a journey through centuries of history. Step back in time as you wander through the well-preserved historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Visit the imposing Temple of Diana, a Roman temple dating back to the 1st century AD, and marvel at the grandeur of the Cathedral of Évora, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture.

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History lovers should not miss the chance to explore Portugal's past in Evora | David's Been Here

Explore the eerie beauty of the Chapel of Bones, a macabre chapel adorned with human bones, reflecting the transience of life. It’s one of the more macabre places in Portugal, but it’s well worth a visit! Stroll through the narrow streets of the city to find charming cafes, traditional craft shops, and local markets. Sample the flavors of Alentejo cuisine, known for its hearty dishes like açorda and porco à alentejana.

Aveiro: The Venice of Portugal

Known as the “Venice of Portugal,” Aveiro is a charming coastal town that captivates visitors with its colorful moliceiro boats, charming canals, and Art Nouveau architecture. Take a leisurely boat ride along the peaceful canals, admiring the picturesque traditional fishing houses and beautiful gardens. It’s one of the most relaxing places in Portugal for travelers!

Aveiro is one of the top places in Portugal for its beautiful canals and Art Nouveau architecture | David's Been Here

Explore the historic center of Aveiro, where you’ll find stunning examples of Art Nouveau architecture, such as the Aveiro Museum and the São Gonçalinho Chapel. Indulge in the local delicacies, such as the famous ovos moles, sweet egg-based pastries, and fresh seafood dishes. Don’t miss the opportunity to relax on the beautiful beaches of Costa Nova, known for its striped wooden houses.

Guimarães: The birthplace of Portugal

Located in the northern region of Portugal, Guimarães is a city of great historical significance, often referred to as the “birthplace of Portugal.” Explore the medieval heart of the city, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and discover the imposing Guimarães Castle, a symbol of Portuguese independence. Visit the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza, a stunning example of medieval architecture.

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Guimarães in northern Portugal is known as the birthplace of the country | David's Been Here

Immerse yourself in the charming squares and narrow streets of the city’s historic center, and soak in the captivating ambiance. Explore the local markets, where you can sample regional delicacies and purchase traditional crafts. Don’t miss the opportunity to try the local dish vitela assada, a succulent roasted veal.

Faro: gateway to the Algarve

Situated on the southern coast of Portugal, Faro serves as the gateway to the stunning Algarve region. Explore the historic center of Faro, surrounded by ancient city walls, and discover architectural gems like the Faro Cathedral and the Carmo Church. Take a stroll along the charming streets of the old town, where traditional white-washed houses and quaint squares await.

Photo by rashid khreiss on Unsplash

Experience the natural beauty of the Ria Formosa Natural Park, a protected wetland area teeming with birdlife and stunning lagoons. Relax on the beautiful beaches of Faro, such as Praia de Faro, where golden sands and crystal-clear waters create a perfect oasis. Don’t forget to indulge in the flavors of Algarve cuisine! It’s known for its fresh seafood dishes and sweet almond-based desserts, which automatically makes it one of my favorite places in Portugal!.

Visit the top places in Portugal today

Portugal, a country that seamlessly blends history, culture, and natural beauty, offers a tapestry of experiences for every traveler. From the vibrant streets of Lisbon to the fairytale-like town of Sintra, from the ancient charm of Coimbra to the picturesque canals of Aveiro, each of the top places in Portugal has its own unique allure. Embark on an unforgettable journey through this enchanting country, and let Portugal’s rich heritage and warm hospitality captivate your heart.

The city of Porto, Portugal | David's Been Here
Photo by Nick Karvounis on Unsplash

Are you planning a trip to Portugal? I hope this guide inspires you to plan a trip you will never forget! And if you’ve ever been to Portugal, leave me a comment and let me know if there are any other cities you’d add to my list!

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