Best things to do in Portugal
Find out more about those top places in Portugal
Located deep in the historic heart of Portugal, Évora is a hidden gem where the medieval world comes to life. There are few towns as unspoiled as Évora in Europe, as its Moorish streets, old world tenements, gothic cathedral and medieval aqueduct have remained remarkably unchanged for nearly 800 years. The town’s history goes back even further with the evocative central square built around fourteen ruined Corinthian columns dating to the Roman era. While it comes as no surprise that the town has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, today Évora is a sleepy market town with a population less than that of the medieval period. However, on the first Tuesday of every month the town comes alive with a huge open-air market held where the finest produce from Southern Portugal is traded.
Capela dos Ossos, which is Portuguese for "chapel of bones" was built long ago in the 15th century. Today, it is one of the most visited tourist attraction sites in the city. As the name suggests, this chapel was built with the bones of an estimated 5000 corpses. Just before the chapel was built, the tombs in Évora couldn't hold all the dead anymore so the bones of the long dead had to be exhumed for new corpses to replace them. The exhumed bones were then cemented together to build the ancient piece that we have today.
Évora has had its own fair share of rulers and because of this it has a number of diverse and interesting histories. This is why the town has many ancient structures that are pieces of evidence of Évora's past. Of these structures is the Roman Temple of the goddess Diana, a UNESCO world heritage site. This temple is one of the most preserved Roman temples in the country.
This site was built about 6000 years ago in the stone age. Many resources were invested in building this site, making it the largest megalithic site in all the Iberian peninsula until today. The site was built with more than 90 stones, and if you look closely, you would see that some of these stones still bear inscriptions on them.
The Cathedral of Évora is the oldest monument in all of Évora and it sits on a hill in the city. The cathedral has many interesting sights for tourists, such as a cathedral museum which holds everything about the history of the place. Being the most important cathedral, it is the seat of the Archdiocese of Évora.
The great tomb of Zambujeiro was erected to keep the corpse of the biggest history makers. As a matter of fact, this tomb is the biggest tomb on the Iberian Peninsula. A mere look at the grand structure of this building already gives away the fact that many resources was invested in constructing the tomb.
In a world where religion appears to play an ever-decreasing role in modern life, the town of Fatima highlights the continued power of faith. In 1917 Fatima was little more than a hillside farming community but following the alleged apparition of the Virgin Mary that year the town quickly blossomed into one of the Catholic Church’s premier sites of pilgrimage. Today, Fatima is packed with hotels, restaurants, gift shops and churches all servicing the vast pilgrimage industry that sees upwards of six million visitors arrive in the town per year. Regardless of your faith, Fatima is an impressive town with two of Portugal’s largest basilicas facing one another at opposite ends of a monumental boulevard. If religion really is not your thing, underneath the nearby villages of Mira de Aire and São Mamede are two of Europe’s largest subterranean cave systems that are home to awe-inspiring rock formations.
This sanctuary is one of the biggest sanctuaries in all Europe but its sheer size alone isn't what brings thousands of tourists to it every year. The sanctuary was built a long time ago, and in the sanctuary is where the Chapel of Apparitions is found. The Virgin Mary was said to have appeared to three kids there to tell them some secrets. It is in this same sanctuary that over 60,000 people have claimed to experience various miraculous sightings.
Basilica of the Holy Trinity is clearly the largest cathedral in all of Portugal. The tomb beneath the Basilica serves as the final resting place of Mario, Jacinta, Lucia, and Francisco. You would also get to see where Virgin Mary was said to have appeared to some shepherd kids.
There are countless caves in all of Portugal alone but not far away from Fatima is where you would find one of the largest concentrations of the caves in the country. The caves here are gorgeous on the inside and can be explored for hours without one getting bored. It is, however, advised that you visit the place with knowledgeable tour guides to keep you from getting lost.
With Portugal being a very religious country, there is an endless number of cathedrals and chapels all scattered around the country. Of them all, the Sanctuary of our Lady Fatima is the most popular where in 1917, the Virgin Mary was said to appear to three shepherd children to tell them three important life secrets. The chapel has been dubbed the Chapel of Apparitions since then.
Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary is the fourth largest church in Europe. Its unique yet imposing structure automatically humbles worshipers and visitors alike. The sheer size of the church attracts many people from different cultures and races during the Catholic mass. It is a site that it totally worth checking out.
Fransisco and Jacinta were two of the three shepherd kids that the Virgin Mary appeared to in 1917. Unfortunately, the kids didn't live for very long after the experience of the apparition. Up till today, their home is a well-visited site. The house is not far from the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima where is said that the apparition occurred.
Located halfway between Lisbon and Porto, Coimbra, once the medieval capital of Portugal, is often overshadowed by its larger neighbors. However, this hidden gem of a university city has a world-class collection of historic monuments and a unique local culture waiting to be explored. Rising steeply from the banks of the Rio Mondego, Coimbra’s premier attraction is the city’s medieval university, which was founded in the year 1290. Beyond the university’s gilded library and plush examinations hall, the city’s Moorish center and gothic cathedral complex are enchanting. What is more, Coimbra has a local culture like no other in Portugal with regional fado music and rebellious student activities bringing a youthful energy to the city that is hard to find in Portugal outwith its two largest metropolises.
One thing that makes the Sé Velha Cathedral stand out is its uncommon architecture. This fact alone attracts countless tourists to it every year. The Cathedral was built long ago in the year 1283, and because of its old age, it has much history to it.
It is not a common occurrence for a university to make the UNESCO list of world heritage sites but this university does. Being one of the oldest universities in Europe, most of the structures in the school have ancient themes. Some of these architectural structures include the Capelos Room, the Medieval and Academic Prison, the Arms Room, the Private Exam Room, and the University Tower.
Biblioteca Joanina, which is Portuguese for "Joanina Library", is clearly the most popular public library in the country. However, it isn't only the countless volumes of ancient books and scrolls that make the library as popular as it is. The unique structure of the library also makes it an interesting sight for the eyes.
This museum is an important museum in the country as it used to be many things before it was finally made into a museum. The museum exhibits objects of science and technological advancements, dating up to 300 years back. The architectural structures of this museum may not be as profound as many other museums in the country but the uniqueness of its design makes it stand out remarkably.
Three hundred years after the nuns who used to live in this monastery abandoned the place, the ruins of the monastery were excavated in the 20th century. The ruined monastery still stands tall today at Coimbra, and it serves as a very popular tourist attraction spot in the country.
While much of Portugal’s Algarve has turned into a sprawl of resort hotels, the old world charm of the town of Lagos provides picturesque respite from the region’s overdevelopment. Perched atop spectacular ochre colored cliffs, Lagos is surrounded by 16th century walls that conceal a captivating town of medieval cobbled streets, café-lined squares and pastel colored fisherman’s houses. For a small town, Lagos’ role in world history is unrivaled. The 15th century home of Prince Henry the Navigator, the town was where a number of Portuguese explorers set off for the New World. What is more, Lagos’ golden beaches are unrivaled in Portugal making the town the perfect cocktail of laid back beach resort and historic treasure trove.
Located at the Barlavento region of Algarve is the beautiful Ponta da Piedade. If there's anything that Ponta da Piedade is famous for, it is its awe-inspiring rock formations and its many inconspicuous grottos. At Ponta da Piedade, it always appears as if nature itself does a full-time job of preserving the beauty of this site.
If one wanted to describe Praia Dona Ana with just one word, the word would be "fascinating". Praia Dona Ana is a beach cove that has tall and majestic looking cliffs surrounding it. The view from the top of the cliffs is totally fascinating, while the beauty of the beach cove makes it all the more beautiful.
The 200-step descent into this sandy cove usually feels like descending into paradise. This is because down at the base of those steps is the cove itself, a perfect edifice of beauty awaits. The cove is surrounded by beautifully colored rocks and a single tunnel that was hand dug. The beauty of this site makes the journey totally worth it.
The tour starts by boarding a kayak from Lagos Marina to Ponta da Piedade. While on your journey, the mesmerizing sights of cliffs and sparkling water bodies will be your company all the way to Ponta da Piedade. On getting to the Ponta da Piedade, the magnificent rock formations and imposing cliffs will have you marveling at its beauty.
Algar de Benagil may not be the most popular site at Lagos but it is in no way inferior in beauty to other popular tourist attraction sites. A boat ride from Lagos Marina is the start of this awe-inspiring tour where you will get to see beautiful sights of amazing rock formations stretching across the horizon.
Dolphins are one of the most intelligent non-human creatures, and you can get a chance to witness their intelligence first hand in Lagos. There are educators around willing to show you how to interact with these remarkably intelligent animals and a number of other fun activities you can participate in await.
With the many rocky sites that are in Lagos, one may be surprised that there is still some rich vegetation around. What's more interesting is that you would find that the site with one of the richest vegetation in the city is Monchique mountain. So while you gaze at the beautiful world around you from the top of the mountain, the smell of fresh vegetation provides a calming sensation.
The beauty of Portugal does not end with the magnificent sights alone. Tasting some local delicacies make for a great way to end every tour. In Lagos, you would be taken to five different spots where you can taste Portugal's best delicacies which do not only look appealing to the eyes, but are also very much appetizing.
While Sintra is often included as a day trip from nearby Lisbon, this verdant gem of a town deserves its time in the spotlight during any tour of Portugal. Perched atop rippling hills, Sintra is a Portuguese fairy tale come to life with pastel colored royal palaces, Moorish fortresses and evocative ruined convents dotting the townscape. As Sintra was a former summer retreat for the Portuguese royal family, it comes as no surprise that the town’s main attractions are the National Palaces of Pena and Sintra, the former of which is an otherworldly medley of onion domes and castellated pastel towers. Nearby, the Capuchos Convent, which was originally built in 1560, is an unforgettable experience torn straight from the pages of Narnia.
On your way to Sintra National Park, the sophisticated and imposing Palace of Pena would definitely get your attention. The palace is seated on a high cliff as if to flaunt its extravagant beauty to all who pass by. On getting to the Park, which is one of the most visited tourist attraction sites in Sintra, there are lots of fun and relaxing activities to engage in.
Structures like the Castelo dos Mouros are quite common in Portugal as a result of the country's history. But of all other structures like it, Castelo dos Mouros (which is Portuguese for "Castle of the Moors") still remains one of the most populars. The castle sits about 400 meters above sea level making it very visible from all sides even with the big forest surrounding it. It is also on the list of UNESCO world heritage sites.
The Romantic Palace in Quinta da Regaleira is a place to be for couples, while the exquisite park makes the place suitable for everyone else. The park features fantastic fountains, lakes, caves, and other awe-inspiring structures. Considering all that this place has, it isn't at all surprising that it makes the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites while still being among Portugal's most visited tourist attraction sites.
This palace served as a home to the Portuguese royalties from the 15th century down to the 19th century. Although the simplicity of the palace's exterior makes it look quite uninteresting for a palace, the interiors of the palace more than make up for it with the highest level of sophistication.
The Palace of Monserrate, built in the 19th century, is not just known for its unique structures which give away the fact that it is a palace even before being told. Botanical gardens in the palace also contributed to its beauty, the park that surrounds the palace has many beautiful sights and natural edifices to offer, making the place a favorite among tourists.
This location used to be a mere fishing village but the sophisticated beauty of the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park quickly made it into an exotic site where royalties from all of Europe come to relax and have fun. The park is filled with beautiful natural sights of clear water bodies and forest. The waterfront here is now known as Portuguese Rivera.
Hidden among the Sintra Mountains is the Convent of the Capuchos. This site served as a home for the Capuchos for a long time and has a lot of history to it. At this site, the tour guides would fill you in about the vibrant history of the Capuchos while showing you their many unique artifacts and edifices.
The strategic location of this place makes it the perfect spot for tourists who are looking to enjoy some spare time on the beach while gazing at the endless Atlantic while the sun bathes them in its warmth. Azenhas do Mar is located on a cliff near Sintra with the Atlantic in front of it, and tall mountains behind.
Lisbon located at the mouth of the Tagus river of Portugal, is one of the oldest cities in Europe. It is the nation’s largest city and also its economic and administrative center. Founded as far back as the Neolithic period the city has grown to a modern day “alpha–level global city”.
The city is known for its various types of architectural works which are scatter round the city, as well as its rich cultural heritage. Some of its best sites include the Lisbon Oceanarium, Rossio Park and Belem Tower.
Open in 1998, the Lisbon Oceanarium is the largest indoor aquarium in Europe. The aquarium is often regarded as the pride of Lisbon. Located at the Parque das Nações, the aquarium was designed by Peter Chermayeff, the popular aquarium designer who also designed the Osaka Oceanarium. It has a plethora of marine creatures separated by tanks for easily identification, some species available include Sea Turtles, Sharks, Sea Snails and Jelly Fish. The Lisbon Oceanarium also has some marine and terrestrial plants but it is most famous for being one of the few aquariums in the world to house a sunfish.
There are various ways to see the city of Lisbon but it is best as a tourist to hop on one of the City’s funiculars. Slowly going out of fashion due to the countries' investment in underground train stations, the funiculars used to be the best way to go round the city. As a tourist you want to go a funicular down the Tram 28 route, there are so many attractions down this route like the R Palma monument, Igreja de São Domingos and Sapadores café.
The Rossio Park is one of Portugal’s most famous parks and one with great historical relevance. The park has been around since the 13th century and it has witnessed celebrations, revolts and executions. The park’s official name is the King Pedro IV square, located at the Pombaline Downtown, it is wonderful place to relax in the evenings and maybe socialize with locals.
The Belem tower is one of the main monuments of Lisbon, officially known as the Tower of Saint Vincent it was completed in 1519. The Tower served as a fortress and a ceremonial gateway to Lisbon. It was designed by Francisco de Arruda and it was built using mainly limestone. The Belem Tower is composed of a bastion and a four-store tower that is 9.4 ft (2.87 m) high. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a good place to begin your city tour.
Also known as the National Museum of the Azulejo, the museum displays the creative spirit of the Spanish. As the name suggests, it is dedicated to the traditional tile work called Azulejo. Established in 1965 the museum is housed in the former Madre de Dues Covent and it features decorative ceramics tiles of different shapes, sizes and colors with some dating as far back as the 15th century.