Best Things to Do in Portugal (2023)

Despite sharing the Iberian peninsula with one of the world's most visited countries, Portugal's lures are not widely known internationally. But whether you're looking for major cities full of rich culture, beautiful beaches for swimming, sunbathing and surfing, picturesque landscapes or top quality cuisine, you'll find it in Portugal. Here's how to make the most of your time in this fascinating European country.

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Visit the Bookstore That Was the Inspiration for Hogwarts

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Address

R. das Carmelitas 144, 4050-161 Porto, Portugal

Phone+351 22 200 2037

"Harry Potter" fans, rejoice! If you happen to be visiting Porto during your time in Portugal, head to Livraria Lello, the world-famous bookstore that helped inspire the look and feel of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Author J.K. Rowling spent some time teaching English here in the 1990s and was no doubt a fan of the shop's twisting staircases, wooden interiors and whimsical design. Its spiral staircase makes a captivating centerpiece, making visitors feel as if they're completely surrounded by books, which, in and of itself, is quite magical.

02of 20

Treat Yourself to Traditional Portuguese Custard Tarts

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If you only indulge in one type of sweet treat during your trip, make it pastéis de nata, or cream pastries, a traditional Portuguese tart made with puff pastry, egg custard, powdered sugar, and a pinch of nutmeg or cinnamon. Sometimes referred to as pastel de nata (which just means one pastry, whereas pastéis is the plural form of the word), the popular dessert can be found all over Portugal.

Head to Pastéis de Belém, located next door to Mosteiro dos Jerónimos in Lisbon, to taste them at the bakery where they were first created by Hieronymite monks in the 1830s who got creative with egg yolks after using the egg whites to starch their robes.

Address

R. de Belém 84 92, 1300-085 Lisboa, Portugal

Phone+351 21 363 7423

03of 20

See Portuguese Fado Music Performed Live

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Fado is Portugal's homegrown folk music and there are two main types, the mournful Lisbon style and the more upbeat Coimbra style, each named after the cities they were developed in. Wherever you end up in the country, try and see them both, as it's easy to book your own spot at many bars.​

If you're staying in Lisbon, head to local favorite Tasca do Chico, a cash-only institution since it opened in 1993, with two locations in Bairro Alto (the original) and Alfama, and where shows start nightly at 8 p.m. If Porto is your base this trip, try Casa da Mariquinhas, a Fado house since 1968, located in the heart of the city, and where the price of admission (roughly $40) also includes a prix fixe dinner menu.

Address

R. do Diário de Notícias 39, 1200-141 Lisboa, Portugal

Phone+351 961 339 696

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Don't Forget to Visit the Azores

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Don't forget about the Azores, an archipelago off the coast of Portugal that's known for its environmentally friendly hotels, sustainable tourism ventures, and incredible natural scenery. There's something for every taste and budget, whether you're into hiking, cycling, diving, surfing, birdwatching, yachting, big game fishing, horseback riding, paragliding, kayaking, canoeing, golfing, canyoning, whale watching, or any number of other outdoor activities found among its nine islands.

Visit Furnas on São Miguel Island, a tiny town that's situated inside a volcanic crater, adjacent to three spectacular caldera lakes (one is pictured here), and home to some of the area's best geothermal pools.

Address

Furnas Lake, 9675, Portugal
(Video) Portugal Bucket List Ideas | 15 Best Things to Do in Portugal | Best Places to Visit in Portugal

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Spend time the Capital City of Lisbon

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Portugal's capital city is teeming with culture and historical sights and is home to a great nightlife scene with something to suit every taste, interest, and budget. For a real treat, hop on historic Lisbon Tram 28, which takes you past many popular sites and through various neighborhoods, or spend some time wandering around the medieval streets of the Alfama district. Afterward, admire views of Lisbon from St. George's Castle or one of the many ​mirodouros (look-out points).

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Drink Some Port in the City of Porto

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Address

Porto, Portugal

While port wine, usually just referred to as port, is undoubtedly Portugal's most popular export, it's not really the same until you've tried its myriad forms in Portugal. Visit Porto and tour the producers' cellars, where you can learn about how the wine is made and sample some of its most famous varieties—for an even more in-depth experience, visit the Douro valley where the grapes are grown.

Otherwise in Porto, visit the Ribeirinha promenade, a historic waterfront area, stop at a cafe or wine bar and take in beautiful views along the river of Villa de Gaia, where all the port cellars are, and the Dom Luis I bridge.

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Explore the Douro Valley

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Address

Douro, 3260 Figueiró dos Vinhos, Portugal

While the Douro Valley is where most of the vineyards producing port are actually located, the city of Porto is where the wine is actually aged, bottled, and stored. It's the oldest demarcated wine region in the world and even if you have no interest in port or its production process, it is worth a visit to this beautiful part of the country for its scenery alone—picture rolling vineyards, lush backroads to drive on, and open blue sky as far as the eye can see.

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Hit the Beach

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Address

8650 Sagres, Portugal

Southern Portugal's Algarve region sports an amazing coastline home to stunning beaches, beautiful waters, and striking cliffs with hidden coves. You'll find whatever type of beach you're looking for, whether for swimming, sunbathing, something a bit more secluded, or full of fellow sun worshippers. The beaches along the country's most southwestern point, such as Sagres, provide excellent surfing conditions whether you want to try taking on the waves yourself or sit back and watch the pros do their thing.

Can't make it to the Algarve?Try Praia da Adraga, located just 45 minutes from Lisbon and one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe. Also nearby is Matosinhos Beach, just a 15-minute subway ride away, where you can surf, sunbathe, or go for a swim. Given the influence of the Atlantic Ocean, the water can be quite cold, even during the summer months, but it still is a great way to pass a sunny afternoon. Equipment for surfing, like boards and wetsuits, can be rented from vendors on the beach.

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(Video) 10 Best Places to Visit in Portugal - Travel Video

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Visit the Bom Jesus do Monte Sanctuary

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Address

Estrada do Bom Jesus, 4715-056 Tenões, Portugal

Phone+351 253 676 636

Bom Jesus do Monte is a religious sanctuary located about 45 minutes from Porto just outside the town of Braga. Perched on top of a hill, you'll find the church and gardens, which you can either ride the funicular up to or walk up the amazing zig-zagging staircase. For the best of both worlds, take the funicular up to the top and walk down the stairs, as each of the landings here has something interesting to see.

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Tour Sintra From Lisbon

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Address

2710 Sintra, Portugal

Sintra is one of the most popular day trips from Lisbon where you can visit three palaces—Regaleira, Pena, and the Royal Palaces—as well as the Moorish Castle. Afterward, go for a stroll through Sintra's historic center, relax by the waterfront, or spend some time unwinding in its nature parks.

If you're short on time but want to fit in as much sightseeing as possible during your trip, considerbooking one of the many organized day trips to Sintra from Lisbon. Trips typicallyinclude some time in Sintra as well as a visit to nearby Cabo de Roca, continental Europe's most westerly point, as well as other points along the beautiful Estoril Coast.

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Visit the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos

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Located in Lisbon's Belém district, Mosteiro dos Jerónimos is an incredibly ornate monastery that was built in the 16th century. This extraordinary work of architecture was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the 1980s and today, you can freely explore the monastery, its altar, cloister, and refectory, among other sites.

Address

Praça do Império 1400-206 Lisboa, 1400-206 Lisboa, Portugal

Phone+351 21 362 0034

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Climb to the Top of Torre de Belém

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Belém is one of Lisbon's most popular neighborhoods, so why not get an incredible bird's eye view of it, too? Climb to the top of Torre de Belém, or Belém Tower (also called the Tower of St. Vincent), the 16th-century fortified tower that's a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well as a famous landmark within the capital city.

Address

Av. Brasília, 1400-038 Lisboa, Portugal

Phone+351 21 362 0034

WebVisit website

(Video) 25 things to do in Lisbon, Portugal (2022)

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Learn About Aquatic Life at the Oceanário de Lisboa

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Billed as the largest indoor aquarium in Europe, Oceanário de Lisboa opened in 1998. The main aquarium holds more than five million liters of water, which all combine to showcase four different marine habitats. In addition to fish, the site also houses mammals, birds, and amphibians.

Address

Esplanada Dom Carlos I s/nº, 1990-005 Lisboa, Portugal

Phone+351 21 891 7000

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Admire World-Class Art at Museu Calouste Gulbenkian

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Calouste Gulbenkian founded this incredible Lisbon museum as part of his last will, featuring a wide-ranging collection that includes everything from European illuminated manuscripts to Greco-Roman art and Hermitage paintings. The museum also houses special exhibits highlighting the most unique pieces from Gulbenkian's collections.

Address

Av. de Berna 45A, 1067-001 Lisboa, Portugal

Phone+351 21 782 3000

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See Archaelogical Landmarks in Évora

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Évora, located in Portugal's Alentejo region, is home to its namesake Roman temple, also referred to as the Temple of Diana. The ruinshere are in remarkably good shape given their age and showcase an incredible contrast to the town's traditional Portuguese architecture.

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Visit an 18th-Century Baroque Palace

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About a 35-minute drive from Lisbon, Palácio Nacional de Mafra, also called Mafra National Palace, is a stunning monumental Baroque landmark. Built in the early 18th century, the palace includes more than 1,200 rooms, many of which are incredibly opulent, featuring marble and gold details.

Address

Terreiro D. João V, 2640 Mafra, Portugal

Get directions

(Video) Lisbon: What NOT to Do in Lisbon, Portugal

Phone+351 261 817 550

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Enjoy a Memorable Pastry in Amarante

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Amarante is a picturesque riverside town about an hour's drive from Porto that's become famous for a very, ahem, unique pastry. In this conservative town, you'll spot bolos (or cakes) shaped like a distinctive part of the male anatomy. The tradition dates back to pre-Pagan fertility rituals but still holds strong, even today.

Address

4600 Amarante, Portugal

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Walk Along Cabo de Roca

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This rugged stretch of Portugal is also the westernmost point of mainland Europe. If you're near Sintra or Cascais, you can walk the windswept cliffs and a make a short visit to the adjacent lighthouse. Visitors from the West Coast of the U.S. will be struck by how similar the landscape is to California's coastline.

Address

Estrada do Cabo da Roca s/n, 2705-001 Colares, Portugal

Phone+351 21 928 0081

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Visit Ria Formosa Nature Park

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Ria Formosa, which became a national park in 1987, is a labyrinth of islands, canals, lagoons, swamps, and marshes, all full of fascinating plant and animal life. Stop by the Environmental Education Centre of Marim to get better acquainted with the park's many ecosystems along with the creatures who call it home. Beyond that, there are plenty of other hiking trails, beaches, and places to explore.

Address

8700-225 Faro, Portugal

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Admire Contemporary Art at Serralves

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Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves, or the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art, is one of Portugal's most important cultural institutions, consisting of a contemporary art museum, a park, and a villa. Exhibitions frequently change, showcasing work from innovative Portuguese artists and world-class modern giants like Joan Miró and Robert Mapplethorpe.

FAQs

What is the most beautiful area of Portugal? ›

5 Most Beautiful Regions in Portugal
  • Algarve. The Algarve is one of the best regions to visit in Portugal if you're looking for a sunshine-filled beach break. ...
  • Lisbon and the Tagus Valley. ...
  • Alentejo. ...
  • Porto and Northern Portugal. ...
  • Central Portugal.
Jun 16, 2021

What is Portugal best known for? ›

Portugal is famous for its typical seafood dishes, popular beach destinations, and 16th to 19th-century architecture, from when this country was a powerful maritime empire. It's also known for its soccer legends, fado music, historical cities, and port wine.

What is the number one tourist attraction in Portugal? ›

Oceanário de Lisboa, Lisbon

Arguably Portugal's most popular and family-friendly visitor attraction, Lisbon's oceanarium is brilliantly conceived to highlight the world's diverse ocean habitats.

Is 10 days in Portugal enough? ›

No, 10 days is not nearly enough time to see everything there is to see in Portugal. It's true that Portugal is a relatively small country, compared to other countries in Western Europe like Spain, France, and Italy. It's also true that there's just too much ground to cover in 10 days.

Which is nicer Porto or Lisbon? ›

Lisbon has more tourist attractions, sights, and museums

While Porto has some worthwhile cathedrals and sights (like the Harry Potteresque bookstore), Porto is more about enjoying the city, strolling the streets, taking in views, and tasting Port wine at the Port lodges.

Is Portugal expensive to visit? ›

Portugal is considered one of the least expensive destinations in Western Europe, with an average cost of €68-115 per person per day, you will find it stacks up well as a holiday destination and is less expensive than many European options.

What should u buy in Portugal? ›

Here are 10 that make for great mementos and gifts.
  • Portuguese wine. Portugal is the world's top port wine producer. ...
  • Cork products. In souvenir shops, street stalls and malls throughout Portugal, you'll find cork products. ...
  • Azulejos. ...
  • Pottery. ...
  • Rooster of Barcelos (Galo de Barcelos) ...
  • Embroidery. ...
  • Shoes. ...
  • Canned sardines.
Jul 26, 2017

What is typical Portuguese food? ›

Portuguese cuisine is famous for its delicious seafood. Beyond Bacalhau or Portuguese codfish and sardines, octopus or polvo is another popular Portuguese seafood dish loved by all. Polvo à la lagareiro is a famous octopus dish that you will find across the country.

What is the best time of year to go to Portugal? ›

Spring and fall offer the best combination of good weather, long days, and plenty of tourist and cultural activities — particularly during Holy Week, Lisbon's series of June festivals (which peak on St. Anthony's Day, June 13), and Porto's celebrations of St. John's Day (June 23–24).

How long is the train from Porto to Lisbon? ›

The average journey time by train between Porto and Lisbon is 3 hours and 39 minutes, with around 18 trains per day. The journey time may be longer on weekends and holidays, so use our Journey Planner on this page to search for a specific travel date.

How many days do you need in Lisbon? ›

3 days is the ideal amount of time to spend in Lisbon. That will give you enough time to visit everything you want to see in the city center, and still have time to relax. If you only have 2 days, that would be enough to see Lisbon, but less time for coffee shops, lazy strolls, and activities.

What is the best time to visit Portugal? ›

Spring and fall offer the best combination of good weather, long days, and plenty of tourist and cultural activities — particularly during Holy Week, Lisbon's series of June festivals (which peak on St. Anthony's Day, June 13), and Porto's celebrations of St. John's Day (June 23–24).

How long is the train from Porto to Lisbon? ›

The average journey time by train between Porto and Lisbon is 3 hours and 39 minutes, with around 18 trains per day. The journey time may be longer on weekends and holidays, so use our Journey Planner on this page to search for a specific travel date.

Is Madeira worth visiting? ›

A four-hour flight from London and Paris, this stunning subtropical island is often compared to Hawaii for its volcanic landscapes, rugged coastline, and botanical wonders. We've highlighted nine reasons to visit Madeira including stunning scenery, natural lava swimming pools, and world-class fireworks.

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