PORTUGAL What to See and Do

PORTUGAL What to See and Do – Guide 2024

Visiting Portugal is an experience for all the senses, thanks to its historical , cultural and architectural heritage , among breathtaking landscapes overlooking the ocean, offering numerous things to see and do. One of the most sought-after destinations in recent years for its beauty, which over time has fascinated travellers, writers and artists from all over the world. It is impossible not to be amazed at the sight of its coasts washed by immense waves, in the small medieval villages or in its cities of art . From the capital Lisbon , to the green north, passing through the arid Algarve , let’s discover together the destinations not to be missed in the country. In this way, you can organize your itinerary for an unforgettable trip to Portugal.

Portugal, Why Visit It

There are many reasons to visit Portugal, thanks to the numerous activities to do and artistic and natural beauties to see here. This country offers us so much to discover, from its wonderful beaches , ideal for lovers of water sports or for a relaxing holiday. Its typical tasty cuisine based on fish and seafood dishes, the numerous historical monuments in the wonderful cities of art, the result of the meeting between the traditions and the different peoples who have succeeded one another here during its long history . But even those who love to immerse themselves in uncontaminated nature during a visit to Portugal will find wonderful protected green areas , islands that seem like paradises on earth, incredible fauna and flora and turquoise waters to dive into. The most deep-rooted tradition of the country, as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is undoubtedly Fado : the song that you will hear in the streets of Lisbon, the capital of Portugal.

Furthermore, in addition to the things to see in Portugal you will find numerous activities to do for those who love walking , such as walking the Via Algarviana to discover the cliffs, among ancient medieval villages or along the coast. If you want to travel around the country by bike, don’t miss the 214 km Ecovia do Litoral , one of the longest cycling routes in Europe. Let’s go together to discover this country on the Iberian Peninsula , bordering Spain and the Atlantic Ocean , shaped by great kings, explorers and a culture deeply rooted in this ancient maritime empire .

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Read also: Portugal on the road – a trip to Portugal

What to see in Portugal – 10 Things to see

After having introduced Portugal to you, let’s now answer the question that brought you here: what to visit in Portugal during our trip? This country, in fact, will be able to accommodate every type of traveler based on your interests. For those looking for a relaxing, adventurous trip or to delve deeper into the culture and history of this people.

1. Lisbon

When visiting Portugal you absolutely cannot miss its capital : Lisbon. A city that has fascinated travellers, writers and filmmakers from all over the world thanks to its melancholic atmosphere but at the same time the vital hub of the country. In fact, Lisbon is one of the most beautiful European capitals. Rich in history and tradition and the place of origin of Fado , a typical Portuguese song, the iconic tram 28 is present in the collective imagination of this city . Stroll on foot through its elegant historic districts, but don’t miss its new part, where there are trendy clubs, modern art museums and futuristic architecture. The city overlooks the Atlantic Ocean, on the west coast of the country, in the center.

Among the attractions to see in the capital of Portugal, don’t miss the Castle of Sao Jorge , on one of the hills in the city. An ancient Moorish fortress surrounded by greenery. Take a tour of the ancient Alfama neighborhood to discover Fado, take tram 28 which will take you through the historic streets, admiring them in a unique way. Visit the Jeronimos Monastery , a perfect example of the Manueline style in Belém and, among the things to do, go to the Oceanarium : one of the largest aquariums in the world. An ideal place to spend a few hours and admire otters, penguins, rays and sharks, right in the center of the capital.

tram 28
Lisbon’s iconic tram 28

2. Porto

Also called the capital of the North , Porto is famous for its bridges and the famous wine of the same name, a must visit in Portugal. Located in the north-west of the country, overlooking the coast, get lost in its medieval neighborhoods by the river, such as that of Ribeira where you can stop in one of its ancient bars, or observe the historic buildings, such as the church of São Francisco , a perfect example of the Portuguese Baroque style, or the 19th century Palácio de Bolsa , an old stock exchange market. Porto is a pearl of the country that conquers travelers, observing its decadent architecture , which gives the place a unique atmosphere overlooking a breathtaking panorama of the ocean. Another factor that characterizes the city are its very steep climbs .

Among the things to see in this Portuguese city, visit its historic center, which occupies most of the place. In the Ribeira district , admire the houses with azulejo decorations and stop for a tasty break in its restaurants overlooking the pier. Another symbol of the city is its Dom Luis I Bridge , over the Douro river and dating back to 1881 , built by an assistant of Gustave Eiffel. An iron soul that stands out in the architecture of the city, as well as being indispensable for the liveability of Porto itself. On a hill we find the Cathedral , but São Bento station is also worth a visit for its architecture and wonderful decorations.

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Porto and the Douro River

3. Sintra

On the hills we find the city of Sintra, about 30 km from Lisbon. This city retains an ancient history linked to the Portuguese royal family . Immersed in the woods, among colorful buildings with Moorish and Manueline architecture . Sintra deserves a place in our guide to places to visit in Portugal not only for its famous Palácio da Pena , but also for its atmosphere from another dimension, which has inspired Portuguese literature and international artists. Furthermore, the city presents an invaluable cultural and artistic heritage , preserving an elegance of other times, among fascinating buildings and small picturesque streets in the historic center. All these elements combine to make this city unique, overlooking the ocean and offering postcard views.

Furthermore, Sintra is located near Cabo do Roca : end of the world for the ancients. Despite being a small city, there are many historic buildings here, as it was one of the favorite destinations for rich nobles and kings. Furthermore, the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site . To enjoy a walk surrounded by greenery, don’t miss the Parque da Pena : over 200 hectares of gardens, including enormous sequoias, viewpoints, camellias and plants. Furthermore, here there is also a romantic chalet that King Ferdinand had built for meetings with his lover and second wife Edla. Also located on the hills of the city is the Castelo dos Mouros , dating back to the Moorish period and rebuilt after being destroyed in 1147.

sintra national palace
Il National Palace of Pena

4. Obidos

A gift from King Dionysius I to his wife Isabel, this wonderful medieval village cannot be missing from the list of places to visit in Portugal. Refined town that certainly reflects the queen’s femininity, surrounded by green hills and with a wonderful castle. Stroll through the small streets of the historic center, admiring its white houses with flowering balconies and iconic colored doors. An experience that we recommend if you don’t know what to do in Portugal is walking on the city walls dating back to the Moorish period , before the castle .

This fortress , initially with an austere appearance, was modified in the 16th century, adding iconic Manuelite architecture and, today, it is one of the best resorts in the country. Furthermore, in Obidos don’t miss its churches, such as the Santa Maria or the Igreja da Misericórdia , among frescoes, tiles and paintings from different eras. This village hosts a very famous festival in the country, the chocolate festival ! Unmissable for those with a sweet tooth who want to savor this local specialty, especially with ginjinha : a cherry liqueur served in chocolate cups.

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Óbidos Castle and the city walls

5. Nazareth

Nazaré is a very famous place to visit in Portugal, but above all known worldwide among surfers . Every year, in fact, this location overlooking the ocean attracts numerous athletes who come here looking for the perfect giant wave against the backdrop of its iconic lighthouse . Thanks to the particular shape of the seabed, in fact, this is the ideal place to admire the big waves , which some adrenaline lovers will try to ride, rising over 30 m ! Nazaré, however, is not only a surfing paradise , but also wonderful beaches , sunsets over the Atlantic and breathtaking views, like the one we can see from the over 300 m promontory where its lighthouse is located overlooking the ocean.

Right here, inside the lighthouse, it is possible to visit the museum which preserves boards of famous surfers and understand how these enormous waves are formed. On the O Sitio promontory , don’t miss a visit to the 12th century Capela da Memória and the 17th century Church of Our Lady of Nazaré . On the top of the promontory is the fort of São Miguel Arcanjo , built to counter pirates; today incredible spot to take photos of the lighthouse.

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Il Forte de São Miguel Archangel and l’Onda Forte

6. Algarve

Visiting the Algarve, a region south of Portugal on the Atlantic, represents an unmissable experience during your trip to the country surrounded by history, nature and a unique cultural heritage. Furthermore, this part of the country is also the most developed for tourism in all of Europe. Not only trips to the sea, but also immersions in its incredible nature , on golden beaches and turquoise waters, between cliffs and magnificent waves. But the Algarve contains beautiful cities and nature reserves . If during the summer it is targeted for beach holidays, in winter it is the ideal place with mild temperatures for a peaceful trip.

Furthermore, the region also offers profound culinary traditions , with typical fish-based dishes, to be tasted between a visit to one of its numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites between the coast and the hinterland. Among the things to see in this area of ​​Portugal, don’t miss the hills of Monchique , with its characteristic villages. Here too there are numerous top locations among surfers, such as Vilamoura and Albufeira . One of the most beautiful beaches is undoubtedly Praia de Albandeira , wild and isolated, but also Praia do Ançao , equipped with many services. The main cities to visit here are Lagos , Albufeira and Faro ; without forgetting the delightful villages in the hinterland.

Algarve Marinha Beach
Marinha Beach in the Algarve

7. Guimaraes

Ancient capital of Portugal, Guimarães, in the north of the country, deserves to be visited not only for its historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2001. Here, there is no shortage of architectural and landscape beauties to see during the best Portugal itinerary. This was also the city that gave birth to the country’s first king . In this city we can see historical monuments , palaces and museums that contain incredible collections. Not just a real open-air museum , but Guimarães always has an eye towards the future and a modern soul, as we can see in its premises which come alive during the evening. The best time of the year to visit this city is during the Festa de Cidade e Gualterianas .

At this time the city comes alive with a rich program, including markets, dances, live music, bullfights, fireworks displays and much more. Stroll through its ancient centre, among the labyrinthine streets, admiring the loggias and balconies, the towers and historic buildings. But the most iconic place in the city remains the Castelo de Guimarães , where you will feel like you are on a film location. Here, don’t miss the Igreja de São Miguel do Castelo , where the first king was baptized and a burial place for nobles. Finally, visit the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza , renovated in the 1900s, and explore its sumptuous interiors, admiring the collections of armour, furniture and tapestries.

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The main square of Guimaraes

8. Braga

Among the most important cities to visit during a trip to Portugal, we find Braga. Famous for its Universida de do Minho , one of the most popular among young people. For this reason, Braga has a dynamic soul, with many clubs and restaurants, ideal for fully experiencing Portuguese night life and tasting the food and wine specialties that this land has to offer. Among the things to do in this town, visit its historic center, where you can admire museums, churches and buy local handicraft products . Among the main attractions do not miss its cathedral , one of the most important in the country and archdiocese.

In its architecture, the facade , from the 15th century, the tower and the upper interiors in full Baroque style , dating back to the 17th century, stand out above all. Visit the Episcopal Palace of Braga , also called the Archdiocese, composed of different buildings, giving it a unique and asymmetric structure. Inside, we can also observe the Santa Barbara Garden , a richly decorated and well-kept green area. For an out-of-town excursion, however, don’t miss the sanctuaries on the nearby mountains, that of Sameiro and Bom Jesus do Monte with its iconic monumental staircase made up of around 600 steps .

Good Jesus of Monte Braga
The Sanctuary of Bom Jesus di Monte

9. Coimbra

Near the Mondego River , visiting the city of Coimbra is an experience that will remain in your heart forever. Furthermore, this location is also home to one of the oldest universities in all of Europe. Despite having a history that has its origins in the founding of Portugal, this city has an eye towards the future. With a rich cultural heritage that combines with its avant-garde structures, such as the university center itself and the Pedro and Inês bridge . Among the places to see if you are in this city of Portugal, visit the ancient center, where you can walk in wonderful gardens or observe the river thanks to a short river cruise .

Furthermore, the city is also famous for its typical sweets that are a must-try here: the pastéis de Santa Clara . If you want to discover its history more closely, visit the University headquarters in the Alta neighborhood of Coimbra, where there are architecture from the medieval and Renaissance era , such as the tower or the Joanina Library . If you visit the city in May , witness the Queima das Fitas ritual : when recent graduates celebrate by singing the Fado de Coimbra . To discover the history of the city, visit the Machado de Castro National Museum , one of the largest in the country. Furthermore, Coimbra also has numerous churches and monasteries overlooking the river, such as that of Santa-Clara-a-velha and Santa Cruz . For families, however, we recommend visiting the Portugal dos Pequenitos theme park , loved by children.

bussaco palace coimbra portugal what to visit
Il Palácio Hotel do Bussaco

10. Evora

Finally, if you are still wondering what things to visit in Portugal, go to ancient Évora. Stroll through its narrow streets, visiting its main monuments and the beauties of this city, with a great cultural heritage . In the past, Évora was the seat of the Portuguese royal family , leading to the development of the country in the 15th century , still preserving numerous beauties of the period and becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its historic center, the Praça do Giraldo , is ideal for a stop among its clubs, as well as for visiting the Igreja de Santo Antão and its wonderful marble fountain that represents the main streets.

Among the best places of interest in the city we cannot exclude from our guide on the best attractions to see in this Portuguese city its museum , the Eugénio de Almeida foundation and the 16th century University. Furthermore, if you want to take a break surrounded by greenery, stroll through the gardens of Palácio de D. Manuel , where you can also visit the small Ermida de São Brás chapel . Just outside the center of Évora you can find numerous spots to observe the panorama of the Alentejo region . Among the symbols of this city, the Temple of Diana and the Sé tower are also worth a visit.

Evora cathedral courtyard
The courtyard of the ancient cathedral of Evora

5 Things to do in Portugal, experiences not to be missed

During your stay in Portugal, in addition to visiting the main attractions and cities that we have seen before in our guide , we also want to point out the activities that you can do in this country, thus making your stay truly unique. Between culture , adventure , tradition and food and wine itineraries , a trip to Portugal will certainly be able to meet the needs of all travellers.

So let’s not waste time and discover together the 5 experiences not to be missed in Portugal .

1. Listen to Fado

Symbol of Portugal’s deep-rooted traditions, fado represents not only a typical song accompanied by the guitar , but also the feelings of a very proud people. The essence of this song contains the pain of unrequited love , the nostalgia of the beloved, the conquests and losses of everyday life. A story of encounters, life, shortcomings; all of this is pure inspiration for fado. Among fado singers, we can recognize professionals and vagabonds , especially in the historic center of Lisbon .

Fado was born in the 19th century among the popular Portuguese neighborhoods, narrating the love between the singer Maria Severa Onofriana and the Count of Vimioso. Among the things to do in Portugal, go to Bairro Alto in Lisbon and attend one of these performances, immortalized by the successful singer of the 50s Amália Rodrigues , becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011 . Furthermore, to discover its history, visit the Fado Museum of Alfama , where you can admire a rich collection.

person playing guitar

2. Discover its typical cuisine

Sardinhas, pasteis de nata or bacalhau à bras a la tripas, Portugal offers an incredible variety of typical dishes to try. Union between its history, the peoples who followed on this land, together with the traditions and the connection with the sea ; Portuguese cuisine has developed over the centuries creating delicacies. Thanks to the proximity to the Ocean , the raw materials are very fresh, guaranteeing the best catch , but also excellent meats thanks to the enormous inland pastures. In short, the elements you will find in these dishes are always excellent and you will hardly be disappointed. One of the most used ingredients is cod , also called Bacalhau , cooked stewed, fried, breaded and in many other variations.

Octopus also plays a very important role, as in Polvo à Lagareiro , always accompanied by tasty typical sauces based on garlic and parsley. In summer, raw octopus, in the form of carpaccio , is much appreciated , but an excellent sandwich with pork in sauce is also a very popular and economical snack. If you’re craving pizza, try its Portuguese variant: Bola de Lamego . A focaccia with a rich filling, which can be cheese, meat, fish or vegetarian. Among the most popular seafood , don’t miss the tasty clams with which Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato is prepared , or enjoy a simple platter of typical products, very popular between Évora and Coimbra.

Cataplana Portuguese typical dish what to do
Cataplana, a typical Portuguese dish based on fish, shellfish and octopus

3. Attend its traditional festivals

Among the things to see in Portugal, don’t miss its lively popular festivals , which are very popular in some cities of the country. Among the various spiritual pilgrimages , festivals and fairs, visiting the country during these allows you to experience the true vibrant soul of tradition, with cities full of colours, flowers and music. The perfect time also to take unique photos during your trip! One of the most heartfelt holidays is held during Easter in Braga , during the Semana Santa , when homes and streets are decorated with lights and decorations everywhere. In this period it is also possible to attend the parades of the Farricocos : hooded religious men.

If you want to visit the country in May , however, don’t miss the Ribbon Bonfire in Coimbra , when university students burn the colored ribbons of their faculties. In the same month in the city of Madeira the picturesque Flower Festival is held , when every corner is decorated with floral decorations, creating an enchanting atmosphere. For Saint Anthony , patron saint of Lisbon , a great celebration is held in June for many days, ending on the 12th. In this period it is possible to witness popular marches, processions and parties in every place of the city. Each area organizes collective dinners and parties in its streets , enlivening the whole city with dances and music. In Porto , also in June, the Feira de Porto is held during the 24th or 25th. During these days, the Festas Sanjoaninas is also celebrated in the Azores .

4. Look for the perfect wave

Surfers in Portugal will find a true paradise among its waves , riding its ocean is absolutely an experience not to be missed for lovers of this sport. With over 800 km of coastline and numerous islands, there are very famous spots , which attract surfers from all over the world every year. Between Lisbon and Sintra is Ericeira , a small village considered a world-wide reserve for surfing, especially its Praia do Coxos or Ribeira d’Ilhas beach , where the surfing world championships are also held . Other unmissable spots are those of la Peniche , between Consolação and Super Tubos, famous for having the best left-handed waves in the country.

But the perfect wave in Portugal was recorded in Nazaré , in the Praia do Norte , when the Hawaiian Macnamara broke every record by riding the 30 m wave, the true mecca of surfing worldwide. The Vicenza coast in the Algarve also offers coastlines with fantastic waves, such as on the beach of Arrifana or Carrapateira . Professionals usually go looking for the best waves on the island of Madeira or in the Azores, in São Miguel for example.

time lapse photography surfer in wave water

5. Walk the Portuguese Way

Much less known than the French Way , the Portuguese path that leads to the city of Santiago de Compostela is still among the experiences to do in Portugal if you want to have an experience full of spirituality. Furthermore, this path is undertaken by religious and non-religious people, as it is seen as an act to be done to experience something that could even change one’s life forever, reflecting during this walk of over 640 km . The beginning of this route starts from the capital Lisbon , crossing Santarém , the city of Coimbra and Porto , for a total of 26 stages .

In about 11 days , thus crossing the whole country and reaching Galicia. An adventure that retraces the footsteps of an ancient pilgrimage of centuries, crossing beautiful landscapes, cities with incredible historical and architectural heritage, coming into contact with one’s soul. Furthermore, based on one’s experience and the time available, it is possible to carry out some variations of this path, such as that of Fatima or the Espiritual .

What to see in Portugal, recommended itineraries

So, after seeing what to see, visit and do in Portugal you are ready to pack your bags and leave !

Therefore, let’s discover the itineraries together based on your needs. Here’s what to see in Portugal in 3, 4, 5, 7 or 10 days !

Portugal What to See in 3 Days

If you only have 3 days at your disposal to see Portugal, we recommend a weekend away which consists of a short itinerary in the city of Lisbon , the country’s capital, discovering its wonders in the best way.

Portugal What to See in 4 days

With an extra day at your disposal, we recommend visiting the main cities of the country: Lisbon and Porto , thus discovering the essence of the country.

Portugal What to See in 5 Days

With 5 days in Portugal our Mini Group Tour Portugal will allow you to discover the culture and traditions of this wonderful country. Starting from Lisbon, discovering the village of Obidos, the places of worship of Alcobaca and Batalha, the magnificent village of Nazaré and Fatima.

Portugal What to See in 10 Days

Finally, with 10 days at your disposal we recommend a cultural group trip to visit the land of the great navigators in the best way, starting from Porto . Then passing through Braga and Guimaraes, Tomar, Evora and medieval Marvao. Proceeding towards the capital Lisbon , Sintra, Cape de Roca and Nazaré, finishing the journey in Fatima, thus discovering the nature, history and traditions of this land full of wonders.

Available DaysWhat see
What to see in Portugal in 3 daysLisbon
What to see in Portugal in 4 daysLisbon, Porto
What to see in Portugal in 5 daysLisbona, Obidos, Alcobaca, Batalha, Nazaré, Fatima
What to see in Portugal in 7 daysLisbona, Obidos, Alcobaca, Batalha, Nazaré, Fatima, Porto, Guimaraes, Braga, Coimbra, Tomar, Castelo de Vide, Marvao, Sintra, Cabo da Roca

Lisbona, Sintra, Porto, Guimaraes, Braga, Santiago de Compostela, Coimbra, Fatima, Obidos, Nazaré, Batalha, Alcobaca

What to see in Portugal in 10 daysPorto, Lisbona, Guimaraes,
Braga, Coimbra, Tomar, Castelo de Vide, Marvao, Obidos, Evora, Sintra, Cabo da Roca, Nazarè, Batalha, Alcobaca, Fatima

How to Visit Portugal?

Now that you have a clearer idea of ​​what to see on your trip to the country, before leaving we recommend that you find out as much information as possible about the documents needed for entry. Visit our Safe Travel section for all the necessary information and the various restrictions.

Furthermore, thanks to its climate the best time to visit the country is from March to May . In this way, you will be able to travel in the best way, thanks to its always mild temperatures and mitigated by the presence of the Ocean.

Plan your trip yourself

Read also: Lisbon the city of light – A guide to Lisbon

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