From Porto to Lisbon and everywhere in between, Musement takes a look at 16 of Portugal’s most emblematic sites and attractions.
We have selected about 16 places that we believe best represent Portugal. How many have you already visited?
1. BelémTower, Lisbon
Belém Tower is a symbol of Lisbon as well as the best example of the city’s Manueline architecture. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the tower is currently one of the Portuguese capital’s most visited sites. The Francisco-de-Arruda designed monument dates back to the 16th century and is adorned with the Lisbon coat of arms. In the past, the tower was the tax-collecting center for ships that wanted to enter the city.
2. Pena Palace, Sintra
The Palacio da Pena is located in the city of Sintra, the former summer residence of Portugal’s kings. This colorful 19th-century fortification is perched atop of the Sierra de Sintra, surrounded by mountains and dream forests. Its famous silhouette is not the only attraction of Sintra, as the city hosts a rich literary heritage, as well as other Romantic buildings that contributed to its World Heritage classification.
3. Convent of Christ, Tomar
The Convent of Christ also sits atop a hill, presiding over the city of Tomar, in central Portugal. Specifically, it is located within the walls of Templar Castle, an amalgam Gothic, Romanesque, Manueline, and Renaissance styles. It’s worth mentioning the convent’s impressive 16-century cloister, the Charola dos Templarios and the Ventana do Capítulo.
4. Castelo de Sao Jorge, Lisbon
Also located in the Portuguese capital, the Castle of San Jorge is not only one of Lisbon’s most emblematic monuments, but one of Portugal as a whole. A former Muslim fortress named Castelo dos Mouros, the structure became the Royal Palace and experienced its era of greatest splendor. In 1755, a devastating earthquake destroyed it, although it was restored in the 20th century. Take the opportunity to contemplate the views over the city from the heights, among other points of interest you can see the Plaza del Comercio and the river Tagus.
5. National Palace of Mafra
Approximately 20 miles from Lisbon, the National Palace of Mafra is the undisputed symbol of Portuguese Baroque. In addition to the palace, the complex includes a Franciscan convent and a basilica, which is why it is also called the Real Convento de Mafra. Built by João V during the 18th century, Johann Friedrich Ludwig turned it into the palace it is today.
6. Ribeira District, Porto
If you like wine, you can not miss the district of Ribeira de Oporto, one of the most Instagrammable places in Porto. Visit the different cellars of Vilanova de Gaia and taste the famous Port wine right on the banks of the Duero River after crossing Cross the Dom Luis bridge. As you head out, stroll along the shore, a lively area with many bars, cafes, vendors and street music that will give you the perfect setting to enjoy the sun and quiet side of the port.
7. Cliffs of Lagos
The spectacular cliffs in the southern city of Lagos will undoubtedly impress you. Following the Algarve coast, the region’s dramatic ochre-colored landscape is the best reason to visit, with Ponta da Piedade as its emblem. As one of the Portuguese holiday destinations par excellence that has not (yet) been overwhelmed by mass tourism, you can enjoy beautiful beaches during the day and leisure time in the evenings without renouncing the charm of a picturesque city like Lagos.
8. Óbidos Castle
Approximately 40 miles from Lisbon, Óbidos is easy to reach and highly recommended for a day trip, as the city’s medieval architecture is a wonder: you only need to contemplate its castle. Stroll through the narrow streets of the fortified citadel and, if you want to practice your swing, don’t miss the Óbidos golf complexes, exclusive resorts with all kinds of luxuries, some even outfitted with a spa.
9. Bom Jesus do Monte, Braga
The sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte dates back to the early 18th century and is a well-known pilgrimage site in Portugal. Located in Braga, in the north of the country, the monument stands out for its baroque zigzag staircase, that drops more than 500 feet. Nicknamed “the Rome of Portugal”, Braga is one of the country’s oldest cities and a great religious center, although it also hosts a large community of university students who liven up the streets.
10. Hiking in the Peneda-Gerês National Park
Portugal not only boasts of monuments since one of its most interesting places is the natural paradise that you will find in Peneda-Gerês National Park in the northwest. Here, you can cycle or hike through lush forests, pools, rivers, and valleys, and perhaps end the excursion with a good family picnic on one of the park’s river beaches. It is a perfect place to spend a day in contact with nature.
11. Roman Temple of Évora
Évora is what is known as a city museum because all the city’s monuments are dazzling and in a good state of conservation, rendering it a World Heritage site. Located in the Alentejo region, Évora is between Lisbon and Extremadura, making it an ideal place to stop on the way to the Portuguese capital. Its Roman temple, where you can still admire the complete podium and some the portico’s columns, deserves a special mention.
12. Ducal Palace of Guimaraes
The city of Guimaraes is located near Porto, so if you’re in town, you should spend a few hours visiting the so-called “cradle of Portugal”. Here the first king of Portugal, Alfonso Henriquez, was born. This charming historic city boasts a great variety of monuments and national buildings, among which you can not miss the medieval castle and the 15th-century Palace of the Dukes of Bragança, in addition to many stately homes such as the house Mota Prego.
13. Historic Center of Coimbra
Coimbra, located between Lisbon and Porto, is known for hosting one of Europe’s oldest universities (in operation since the 13th century) and some of the most beautiful libraries in the world. It is also considered Portugal’s most romantic city, where its old cathedral and monastery occupy a privileged place. If you want to take a picture of Coimbra, capture the historic center with your camera from the opposite bank of the Mondego River.
14. Beaches of Madeira
This island belonging to Portugal located in the Atlantic Ocean is a true oasis that offers extremely beautiful landscapes. Much of Madeira is tinged a vibrant green, endless meadows, mountains, and cliffs that end in dream beaches. Its capital, Funchal, is a good starting point for exploring the island. Whether it’s hiking, fishing, surfing, whale watching, or just relaxing on the beach, Madeira’s outdoor activities are varied.
15. Azores Archipelago
Also in the Atlantic are the Azores, another natural paradise worth highlighting among the best places to visit in Portugal. The archipelago consists of nine islands of volcanic origin, each with its own identity, which in turn are divided into three groups: Sao Miguel, Santa Maria and the islets of Formigas; Terceira, Graciosa, Sao Jorge, Pico and Faial, and Flores and Corvo. The island of Pico is home to the country’s highest mountain, which stands at an altitude of moe than 7700 feet.
16. Lisbon Oceanarium
Located in the Parque das Nações area of Lisbon, the oceanarium is the largest aquarium in Europe. Since its inauguration in 1998, it has become one of Portugal’s most popular cultural attractions. The large central tank is home to sharks, stingrays, barracudas, and more.
The aquarium has four marine habitats with fauna and flora representing the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, and Antarctic oceans.