There are so many beautiful famous landmarks in Portugal that are a must-see! Whatever you’re looking for on your trip to Portugal, this gorgeous destination has a truly alluring selection of attractions to visit, for every taste and budget.
Every day experienced here in Portugal can be absolutely different and unique, ranging from vast stretches of beach along the coast to visit, to trendy nightlife in big cities to party the night away, to the fairytale charm of the interior villages just waiting to be photographed.
Some of the best places to visit in Portugal include historic landmarks, beautiful beaches, panoramic views, and natural landmarks. We detail our very favorite Portugal landmarks for you in this blog, so read on!
Best Time to Visit Portugal
There are pros and cons to all months of the year when it comes to traveling to Portugal. There isn’t a “bad” time to travel to Portugal, but the “best” time for you depends on your travel budget, your priorities for your trip, and the sights you wish to see.
Here is a list of the different options for when to book a trip to this stunning country:
Despite the weather obviously being cooler, the winters in Portugal still provide plenty of sunshine for visitors! Winter can be an excellent time to explore the towns and inland regions, even if many beach resorts are winding down during this season. The most cost-effective months to visit Portugal are January and February.
Portugal is most beautiful in the spring (March to May), when the foilage is awakening from the winter and in bloom. Late spring is an affordable time to visit Portugal. In the spring, blossoming flowers bring more color to cities already made cheery with buildings painted in pastel hues.
It can get very hot throughout the summer in Portugal (the months of June to August), especially in central Portugal. During this time, when the sea is warmer than usual, a lot of people visit the beach. The busiest and most expensive time of the year is in August when many Europeans travel for summer.
Fall travel to Portugal is wonderful (particularly between September and October), when there are still plenty of sunny days, mild temperatures, and few people around. In late autumn, travelers can find well-priced deals.
Getting to Portugal FROM CANADA
Toronto and Montreal have direct flights to Lisbon, Portugal. However, if you’re flying from Vancouver, Calgary, Halifax, etc your flight will have a layover.
Best Way to Get Around Portugal
In Portugal, there are three major airports: the Porto airport, the Lisbon Portela airport, and the Faro airport in the Algarve. The Lisbon airport is probably the most convenient airport to fly in and out of for most tourists.
Portugal is not a big country, so taking the rail or bus will get you practically anywhere quickly and easily. Although some lines on regional railways are exceptionally picturesque and frequently less expensive, driving is almost always faster.
Portugal is quite accessible, even for those who don’t wish to rent a car and drive. Portugal’s public transportation is comfortable, dependable, and best of all, reasonably priced. Your options are many, from taking metro, tram, funiculars, and mountain cable cars within the cities, to trains, cars, and planes when traveling between cities.
Entry Requirements for Canadians
Your passport must be valid for at least 3 months beyond the date you choose to travel. There are no visa requirements to enter Portugal for stays under 90 days.
Portugal is open for travelers and there are no longer any Covid-related entry restrictions in place.
The currency used in Portugal is the euro.
How Long to Visit
Any trip to Portugal should last at least seven days if you want to fully experience the country’s culture, traditions, and customs. Those with extra time can take pleasure in exploring new places or staying longer in one place to delve deeper into the destination.
Best Places to Visit in Portugal
Lisbon, the hilly and beautiful capital of Portugal, is on so many travelers’ bucket lists, and for good reason. Ocean views, winding streets, and flowing wine are all abundant here.
Lisbon (Lisboa in Portuguese) is home to an amazing assortment of museums, old buildings, varied music, lively nightlife, stunning plazas, and laid-back cafés.
Lisbon Travel Tips
The Lisboa Cars is the tourist pass for Lisbon. You can use the pass to get cheap or free entrance to Lisbon’s transit, museums, and landmarks. This comprises of more than 80 museums, attractions, and tours in Lisbon, such as the National Pantheon, the Belem Tower, and the Jeronimos Monastery.
The Lisboa Card covers all trips on the Metro, public buses, trams, elevators, and funiculars, including the Santa Justa Elevator, thus getting around the city is also free. The trains to Sintra and Cascais are also included.
The Best Things To Do IN PORTUGAL:
Wander Old Town (Alfama).
Adventure through the area’s narrow, winding streets and treat yourself to the many shops, cafes, and restaurants.
Explore the Belem Tower
Wander the halls of the Belem Tower, enjoying views out various portholes, and visit the pit where prisoners were kept. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a fortification in Lisbon from the 16th century that functioned as a ceremonial entrance to Lisbon as well as a port of embarkation and disembarkation for Portuguese explorers.
Go to the beach!
Lisbon has many beaches that are perfect for soaking in the city’s beautiful weather.
Some of the most popular beaches in Lisbon are:
- Guincho, the best swimming beach, also is great for surfing
- Meco has a peaceful atmosphere
- Tamariz is easy to reach from the city and is good for kids
- Moren is great for a party atmosphere
Visit São Jorge Castle
The Castelo de São Jorge is one of Lisbon’s popular tourist attractions and distinctive historic buildings, it is located on the city’s highest hill and can be seen from almost everywhere in Lisbon.
Ride Tram 28
One of the greatest ways to discover Lisbon’s historic district, the old city, and its neighborhoods is by taking Tram 28. It takes around an hour to travel from Martim Moniz to Campo de Ourique / Prazeres on the tram. The tram is a very well-liked tourist attraction, but locals also rely on it as their primary mode of transportation. You can go early in the morning or later in the evening to avoid crowds.
Visit the Monastery of Jerónimos
Near the Tagus River lies a former monastery of the Order of Saint Jerome called the Jerónimos Monastery or Hieronymites Monastery it is another of the city’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Wander the many museums, such as:
- Museu do Oriente
- the National Museum of Ancient Art
- the National Tile Museum
- Berardo Collection Museum
- Lisboa Story Centre
Go shopping at the Feira da Ladra
Feira da Ladra is a large midweek and weekend market where you can find unique and intriguing antiques and items; practise your haggling before you go!
Visit the Lisbon Oceanarium
Encounter friendly penguins and enquiring moray eels as well as both colorful puffer fish and charging sharks. If you like marine life, this is the place to go!
Experience Lisbon’s Funiculars
Travel up some of Lisbon’s steepest hills easily on the Lisbon Funiculars. Use the funiculars to get picturesque views of the city.
Lounge in Rossio Square
Unwind on the shady benches, take in the ornate Baroque fountains, and observe locals playing dominoes in the park.
Hangout in Bairro Alto
Lisbon’s most popular tourist area, Bairro Alto, is filled with outdoor cafes and international eateries, but it is also the center of the city’s nightlife.
Eat at Lisbon’s most famous food market, the Mercado da Ribeira
Buy local fruits and vegetables every morning of the week. You can also try out eccentric food vendors and cutting-edge restaurants. Sample the regional delicacy of custard tarts, savor great Portuguese wines, and more.
Padrão dos Descobrimentos
This historical monument marks the shore of the Tagus Estuary with its grand architecture and beige stone. Reach the towering landmark by walking along the waterside of Santa Maria de Belém.
Sip Port wine, walk along the Douro River, explore the gorgeous historical buildings, and try a francesinhas (a Portuguese sandwich created in Porto) and cachorrinhos (a must-try Porto snack). There is so much to love about Porto, especially for the first-time visitors.
Explore the cobblestone streets of Porto, and experience the history and culture steeped all throughout the city.
Porto Travel Tips
The official sightseeing pass of the Porto tourism organization is the Porto Card.
The use of public transportation in Porto is unlimited and free with the Porto Card. This applies to the metro (the underground—even to the airport), the city buses, and the suburban trains that run between Trofa, Valongo, and Espinho, a well-liked seaside resort with a sizable sandy beach.
The card currently gets you free admission to 6 sights and museums, 50% discount for many other sights and sightseeing tours, and up to 20 % discount on more than 80 tours and guided tours (including excursions and boat trips on the Minho or Douro; guided tours and wine tastings in the world-famous port wine cellars).
The Best Things To Do:
Wander Cais da Ribeira
Porto’s riverbank district is a very attractive piazza where tourists and locals mix. It can be a touch chaotic, but also a lot of fun to explore! Along the riverbank, every street corner has a bar or restaurant waiting to welcome you in.
Cross the Luís I Bridge
This nearly 45-meter-high bridge spans the Douro river from Porto to Vila Nova de Gaia. From the top level, you can see the Cais da Ribeira. Make sure to stop and admire this icon of Porto.
Explore Gorgeous Churches, such as:
- Church of São Francisco
- Church of Santa Clara
- Porto Cathedral
- Igreja do Carmo
- Chapel of Souls
- Clérigos Church
Admire the Palácio da Bolsa
The Stock Exchange Palace is a historical building in Porto, Portugal. It can be found in the very center of the city. Enter the building to experience the stunning interior! The palace is located right night to the Church of São Francisco.
Learn at the City’s Museums, such as:
- Serralves Museum & Villa
- Soares dos Reis National Museum
- Museu Romântico da Quinta da Macieirinha
- FC Porto Museum
- Casa-Museu Guerra Junqueiro
Walk Through Praça da Liberdade
This is the most significant square in Porto, which connects the new and old parts of the city. The major square of Porto, Praça da Liberdade, links the city’s historic core to its modern area.
Go to a Performance at Casa da Música
The Casa da Msica performance hall is interesting to visit even when there are no performances taking place. Take a tour of the 1,300-seat theatre, or dress up for an evening performance by the Porto Symphony Orchestra.
Watch the Sunset at Foz do Douro
Head to the stylish neighborhood of Foz do Douro, where the Douro River empties into the ocean. There are many contemporary eateries in this neighborhood. This is also an ultra-romantic location to watch the sunset.
Go To The Beach
On a hot day, you can cool yourself down by taking a dip into the Atlantic. There are at least 10 beach options that are only a short distance from the city. A few of our favourites:
- Praia de Matosinhos
- Praia do Carneiro
- Praia da Aguda
- Praia do Molhe
- Praia de Miramar
Take in the View at Muralha Fernandina
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a section of Porto’s 14th-century wall that runs nearly parallel to the funicular. Admire a lovely garden with orange trees surrounding the wall at the entrance. Best of all, there is an unrivaled view of the Douro River from up there.
Bike Through Parque de Cidade
The Parque de Cidade, is the largest urban park in Portugal! Come for the cool pine groves and several sloping lawns if you need a place to wander or cruise on a bike.
Go on a Douro River Trip
There are many river cruises to choose from in Porto. From one-hour-long boat trips in Porto to week-long cruises outside the city, there are lots to explore along the Douro. See port warehouses, Porto landmarks, and various bridges. Leaving Porto you’ll see vineyards while sailing through the port wine area.
Drink Port and Tour Cellars in Porto
These wine cellars can be seen in Vila Nova de Gaia on the Douro’s south bank. A select handful, including Real Companhia Velha, Caves Sandeman, and Taylor’s Port, have long histories that have been recorded in museums.
Go Book Shopping at Livraria Lello
Visit this charming bookstore on Rua das Carmelitas. The shop is frequently hailed as one of the best in the world. Livraria Lello’s Art Nouveau design has several Gothic references in the form of traceries, paintings, and pinnacles on the exterior. The inside features a spectacular stained glass skylight, pipes in the ceiling, and a winding wooden staircase.
Porto Bridge Climb
Climb one of Porto’s most famous structures when accompanied by a guide and outfitted with all the necessary safety measures. At the summit, 65 meters above the river, there is a calm and tranquil area where you may take in the distinctive views.
The Algarve, the southernmost part of Portugal, is well-known for its golf resorts and Atlantic beaches. Today the central coast of the country, running between Lagos and Faro, is studded with hotels, villas, pubs, and restaurants. The capital of this region is Faro.
Algarve Travel Tips
The Algarve Pass
This tourist card gives you a fun opportunity to get to know the Algarve region and the city of Faro. The Algarve pass allows you to visit numerous tourist attractions and take part in a variety of activities while enjoying significant savings.
Milreu Ruins, Megalithic Monuments of Alcalar, Krazy World, Slide & Splash, Zoomarine, Dolphin watching, and Aquashow are just a few of the participating attractions.
The Best Things To Do:
View the Beautiful Ponta da Piedade
Lagos has a headland with a collection of rock formations called Ponta da Piedade, one of Portugal’s most well-known tourist destinations. Descend the steps to reach the crystal-clear water.
Relax on a Beach
- Praia da Falésia – a golden sandy beach that continues for about seven kilometers, surrounded by cliffs and a great place to watch the sunset.
- Praia da Rocha – a good beach for surfing. Follow the coast to discover secret beaches in the area.
Cape St Vincent
You will be standing at the southwestmost point of Europe at this cape in Sagres. This location will give you breathtaking views of the rocky seascapes. There is a lighthouse here, a few gift shops, and an interesting museum where you can learn about the history of the cape.
Church of São Lourenço
Make sure to visit the Baroque church in Loulé that dates back to the 18th century. The interior will astound you, considering the plain whitewashed exterior. Fantastic blue azulejos cover the entire interior, including the ceiling and walls (traditional tin-glazed ceramic tiles).
Found in Carvoeiro are twisted red rock formations. Here, the cliffs have been worn by the sea, leaving behind little caverns, rocky outcrops, and hollows. Daring tourists can descend to obtain a better look at the caves by navigating the steps carved into the rock.
Tavira Island is located south of the city and is only accessible by boat from Quatro-Aguas and the city’s core. The island is regarded as one of the top beaches in the Algarve region. The island is a part of the Ria Formosa Natural Reserve, known for its flamingos and exotic birds.
Go Dolphin Watching
At all of the main marinas along the Algarve, you’ll see tours available for dolphin watching. There are a lot of common and bottlenose dolphins in the waters off the Algarve, so it’s likely you’ll see some on your excursion.
Explore the Lagos Old Town
It’s fun to wander around Lagos’ historic district. Visit the town’s museum, stroll through the winding, cobblestone streets, see the original walls of the old town, and discover intriguing old structures such as the Baroque Church of Santo António.
Arco da Vila
A medieval gateway to the city of Faro, this is considered a unique example of Moorish architecture in Portugal.
Forte de Nossa Senhora da Rocha
The clifftop location and painted walls produce an almost otherworldly view. You can peer through the chapel’s gates or take in the breathtaking ocean views.
Tee Off at a Golf Course
The Algarve is among the top golfing locations in Europe. There are 42 courses at 35 different clubs, so it’s safe to say that wherever you are in the Algarve you’ll never have to drive far for a round of golf.
The best and most popular golf courses are:
- Oceanico in Vilamoura
- Palmares near Lagos
- Quinta da Ria
- Quinta do Lago
These are always obligatory if you’re holidaying with children, and fortunately, the Algarve has a few waterparks competing with the best in Europe. Some of them are:
- Side & Splash – Located in Estômbar is the largest waterpark in Portugal, and one of the largest on the continent, with 16 slides and pools and huge grassy areas.
- Aquashow Park – Located in Quarteira, and perhaps is mostly for older children, as some of the slides are not for the faint-hearted, like FreeFall, the highest slide in Europe at 32 meters.
- Zoomarine Algarve – This waterpark has an animal park with live shows together with its new “Beach” area with a wave pool, fine white sand, and waterslides.
Other Things To See and Do in Portugal
Explore the Benagil Sea Cave
The benagil cave is just a 3-hour drive away from Lisbon. This is probably the most popular sea cave in the entire world and one of the most well-known landmarks in the country. There are just 4 methods to get to the cave — by boat, kayak, or stand-up paddleboard (“SUP”). Travelers often book a tour for these methods. The last method is swimming, but only do this if you’re an extremely strong swimmer since the ocean can be rough and storms can start at any time. The swim takes about 20 minutes.
Visit the Douro Valley
One of the most well-known wine regions in the world is the Douro Valley. There are many ways to explore this cultural landscape, which is listed as a World Heritage Site. There are so many wineries to choose from that offer great views but also a great wine experience, whether it be food and wine tasting, vineyard picnics, vineyard lunches, and all sorts of wine tours.
The oldest wine region in the world is the Douro Wine Region Valley, but there’s so much more to do here than just learn about port wine production. From hiking, going bird watching, staying in quaint country estates, and even participating in traditional grape stomping and exploring the charming towns and villages, you won’t find yourself short on things to do!
See Stunning Churches, Cathedrals, and Monasteries
The most popular tourist destination in Lisbon is the Jeronimos Monastery, which houses Vasco de Gama’s tomb along with the Belem Tower. In 1983, UNESCO designated it as a World Heritage Site. The Portuguese name for this landmark is Mosteiro dos Jerónimos.
Skip-the-line admission to the jerónimos monastery, or get FREE admission to Jeronimos Monastery with the Lisboa Card.
Former Cisterian monastery Alçobaca was established in the 12th century by Afonso Henriques, the first monarch of Portugal and a native of Guimaraes.
This is a must-see sight in Portugal and a UNESCO-listed site. It costs €6 to enter the monastery. This is a great day trip from Lisbon for history and architecture buffs.
The drive takes roughly 1 hour and 20 minutes from Lisbon. Another option is to go on a day trip from Lisbon with a small group tour or you could arrange a private tour.
The Sé Cathedral, which was constructed at the highest part of the city, is Porto’s most significant place of worship. It is situated close to the city’s former city walls in the Batalha neighborhood. The structure’s exterior gives off the impression of a fortress ready for battle.
Entry to the Cathedral is free; if you want to explore the cloisters, it will cost €3 You can access the Casa do Cabildo from the cloister and see the Cathedral Treasure, a collection of its most valuable items.
The Porto Cathedral and its cloisters are two of the city’s top sights and must-sees for tourists.
One of the most visited sites in Porto is the Clérigos Church and its bell tower. To enjoy a stunning view of the old town and the Douro River, we recommend climbing the flight of stairs of the bell tower.
The church is free to enter but bell tower access will cost €5.
Capela de Ossos
A brilliantly morbid celebration of death, the historic Capela dos Ossos (Chapel of Bones) in Faro is a really popular attraction. The Chapel of Bones is exactly what its name implies. Over a thousand skeletons worth of human bones and skulls are meticulously arranged to embellish this unique chapel.
If you want to see the ossuary, make sure to check the hours of operation because it is typically closed to visitors during Mass, the weekend, and around lunchtime. To enter the chapel will cost €2.
Visit Popular Places and Castles
The National Palace of Queluz
The Portuguese royal family constructed this stunning castle in Queluz as a summer residence, but it eventually became the official residence. This royal palace drew inspiration from France’s Versailles. The interior of the palace is gorgeous, but the gardens, which feature fountains and statues, are what make this attraction famous.
Entry to the palace costs 10 € and entry to the gardens is 5€.
The legendary Pena national palace looks like it is straight out of a fairytale. It is located just outside of Lisbon perched high on a hill in Sintra. The palace combines several architectural forms to create one of the most romantic buildings in all of Europe.
Admission to Pena Palace is €14, and access to Pena park will be another €7.50; the Lisboa Card offers a 10% discount for both.
Castelo dos Mouros
Today, the Moorish Castle is a highly well-liked tourist destination that is typically visited along with Pena Palace. Both monuments are close to one another and can be reached on foot or by bus.
You may walk along the fortified stone walls and ascend to the top of the five turrets, which resemble a mini version of China’s Great Wall. From the top, you can see all of Sintra, including Pena Palace, the Sintra National Palace, Chalet Biester, and Quinta da Regaleira, all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.
Tickets to visit the castle cost 8€.
Castelo de São Jorge
Castelo de S. Jorge is now a location where you can admire Portuguese heritage and learn about its history.
Here are just a few things you can do here:
- learn a little bit about Lisboa’s history at the Permanent Exhibition
- investigate the remains of the Moorish neighborhood at the Archaeological Site
- learn about previously unknown views of the city on the Camera Obscura
- stroll through the gardens
- take a break at the Café
- take part in the guided tours
- or just enjoy the music, theatre, dancing, and shops at this remarkable monument in Lisboa
Admission to the castle is 10€ and is open seven days a week.
Honorable Mentions TO VISIT WE COULDN’T LEAVE OUT:
- Guimarães Castle
- Castelo de Óbidos
- Quinta da Regaleira
From Lisbon Travel to Sintra
Despite being an entirely different city and a 30-minute or so drive from Lisbon by vehicle, the picturesque town of Sintra is nevertheless one of the main attractions. The region is home to magnificent palaces built by past Portuguese kings and queens, gorgeous baroque churches, and vibrant dwellings. It is perched high above the legendary Mountains of the Moon.
Although Sintra is a great place to visit for a day trip, some people want to spend many days visiting this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Lisbon to Tróia
You’ll want to make the trek to both the Tagus River Estuary and the Sado River Estuary to reach the sparkling beaches of the Tróia Peninsula. It’s absolutely worth every minute of the roughly two-hour journey.
With many kilometers of oceanfront access along the Atlantic Coast, the area has some of the nicest coastlines in the entire Lower Alentejo. For this region of the country’s west, the oceans are remarkably calm, and the sands glow a soft gold in the sunlight.
The breathtaking Parque Natural da Arrábida is visible on the headlands across the street, and frequent cruises depart from Tróia to view bottlenose dolphins in the water.
Lisbon to Cascais
Enjoy the seafood and sunshine at Cascais, the ideal spot to go if you need some peaceful countryside after the hustle and bustle of downtown Lisbon is probably Cascais.
Due to an influx of wealthy Lisbon residents looking for sun, sea, and sand, this formerly quiet fishing community on the Atlantic Ocean shore, which lies west of the city, has since changed. The now-lively region is home to some of the top seafood eateries and features three distinct cliff-backed golden bays.
Porto to Guimarães
Guimares, a historic city with expansive panoramic views from the hilltops, is a simple day trip from Porto. It lacks a wide variety of entertainment options, like many of the smaller cities in Northern Portugal. However, you’ll enjoy a leisurely day out here, so prepare to explore a charming, historic city.
Explore Guimares Castle in the morning before stopping for lunch. Have lunch at the most atmospheric dining location, the historic plaza. Take Teleférico de Guimares (the cable car) up Penha mountain for the afternoon; you’ll enjoy breathtaking views both from the cable car and the top for a cost of €7 roundtrip.
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