What to see in Portugal: cities, regions, attractions and recommended itineraries

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Lluis Enric Mayans

wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

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Portugal is one of the most popular destinations in recent years, thanks to its beautiful cities such as Lisbon and Porto and its wild landscapes, characterized by large beaches and cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. But not only that, this country is much more: an ideal destination for lovers of surfing and water sports, a destination for religious tourism thanks to the cities of Fatima and Coimbra, a place for an unforgettable on the road.

Have we intrigued you? Here it is for you a small guide on what to see in Portugal: cities, regions, attractions and recommended itineraries!


  1. The main tourist regions
  2. Major cities of Portugal
  3. 10 things to see: the most important places of interest in Portugal
  4. The main itineraries in Portugal
  5. Where it is
  6. Travel informed: useful information
  7. What to do in Portugal: activities, excursions and tours
  8. User questions and comments

The main tourist regions

Portugal can be divided into three different macro tourist regions, which correspond to the areas in which the main cities and the main airports connected to Italy and all of Europe are located.
These regions are: Lisbon and central Portugal, Porto and the northern part, Faro and the Algarve, which occupies the southern part of the country.

1 - Lisbon and Central Portugal

Lisbon is definitely the starting point for visiting Portugal, usually the first city you visit. Here is also the main airport of the country, well connected both to Italy and to the rest of Europe, also by numerous low cost flights.

Moreover, this is it well connected to all cities in Central Portugal, so you can move easily and explore the whole area! Among the main cities of this region are Coimbra (198 km from Lisbon, direct train, former capital and beautiful historic city), Evora (134 km, direct train, famous for the Temple of Diana and the ancient University), Setubal ( 50 km, 40 min by car, located between the Reserva Natural do Estuário do Sado and the Parque Natural da Arrábida).

  • Reference airports: Lisbon-Portela Airport in Lisbon
  • Main towns: Lisbon (capital), Coimbra, Setubal, Evora, Castelo Branco
  • Main attractions: Lisbon Alfama, Belem Tower and Jerónimos Monastery, Evora, Coimbra, Fatima and Batalha, Peniche and Reserva Natural das Berlengas, Sintra and Cascais, Cabo de Roca, Setubal and natural parks, Castelo Branco
  • Best time: in the months of May, June, September and October, when the temperatures are excellent and not excessive like those of July and August
  • Getting around: direct connections to other cities by trains and buses. If you want to reach countries further away from the tourist routes and less known, it is essential to rent a car

2 - Porto and Northern Portugal

The reference city for Northern Portugal is Porto, second largest city in the country, served by Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport, with direct flights also from Italy.

To explore this area, the best way is definitely the rental car, especially if you want to visit the Douro Valley, a real gem of this region! The car will help you to discover the different villages, such as Peso da Régua and Pinhão, located along the river (don't miss a cruise along the Douro too). To reach the area of Vila do Conde, where some of the most beautiful beaches are located in the north of Portugal, just take the metro B and in 50 minutes you will arrive at your destination (ticket € 2,80).

  • Reference airports: Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport in Porto
  • Main towns: Porto (capital), Viana do Castelo, Vila Real
  • Main attractions: Porto, beaches of Vila do Conde, Douro Valley, Pinhão, Parque Arqueológico do Vale do Côa, Parque Natural do Douro Internacional, Peso da Régua, cruise on the Douro river, Viana do Castelo
  • Best time: from April to October, as temperatures are more pleasant and the days sunnier. In the winter months there is abundant rainfall
  • Getting around: you can easily move by train. To explore the Douro Valley, the real attraction of this region, it is essential to rent a car to be able to move between the mountain roads and the different villages

3 - Algarve and Southern Portugal

If you want to explore the southernmost part of Portugal, the the perfect starting point is Faro, the capital of the Algarve! The city is in fact served by the Faro Airport, connected to Italy by direct flights operated by Eayjet and Volotea.

The key word for a trip to the Algarve is unspoiled nature! This is indeed an ideal destination for those who love surfing, here you will find some of the best waves in the world! The region is characterized by 150 kilometers of coastline overlooking the Atlantic, where you can admire truly unique cliffs and caves. But not only that: the Algarve is also culture and history, thanks to cities such as Faro, Portimão and Lagos, and thanks to the many events held every year to enhance the territory and its tradition. The best way to discover the area is definitely the rental car, to move freely and reach even the most hidden beaches and villages!

  • Reference airports: Faro Airport to Faro
  • Main towns: Faro (capital), Portimão, Lagos, Albufeira
  • Main attractions: Faro, Albufeira, Portimão, Lagos, Fortaleza de Sagres, Praia da Bordeira and all the beaches on the west coast, Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano and Costa Vicentina, Algar de Benagil, Praia de Albandeira, Vilamoura
  • Best time: to visit all year round, the high season is from May to October (good sea water temperatures, cold the rest of the year) - Find out more
  • Getting around: for Faro and the cities on the coast you can also use public transport, but the best thing is to rent a car, to move freely between villages and beaches

Major cities of Portugal

  1. Lisbon: capital of Portugal, starting point to explore the central part of the country and then move north or south. Here is in fact the main airport. At least 2 or 3 days should be spent in Lisbon to be able to explore it and visit the main attractions - find out more
  2. Porto: main city in the north, served by Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport. It is the perfect starting point for visiting the Douro Valley, a region with incredible landscapes and known for its wine production, first of all the famous port - find out more
  3. Lighthouse: one of the main cities in the southernmost region, that of the Algarve. Excellent starting point to explore this whole area, the wildest in the country, perfect especially if you love the sea and surf. It is served by Faro Airport, connected with Italy by direct flights
  4. Coimbra: former capital of Portugal, it is the perfect base for exploring the whole surrounding area, between Lisbon and Porto. To reach it, arrive in Porto and then move by public transport or rental car - find out more
  5. Fatima: an essential step to experience a journey of a religious nature. It is the perfect starting city and base to visit all the surroundings and to immerse yourself in a real spiritual journey. Arrive in Lisbon and then by train or rental car, move around

10 things to see: the most important places of interest in Portugal

  1. Lisbon: get lost in the Alfama district, admire the Belem Tower and the Jerónimos Monastery, take a photo under the Arco da Rua Augusta, spend a different evening at the LX Factory and admire the panorama from the many panoramic terraces scattered throughout the city - find out more
  2. Porto: take two days to visit the most important city in the north of Portugal. Between churches and museums, take an afternoon to reach nearby Vila do Conde, where some of the most beautiful beaches in the north of the country are located - find out more
  3. Faro and the Algarve region: southernmost region of Portugal, characterized by a wild and unspoiled nature. Its beaches are besieged by surfers and have some of the best waves in the world - book the tour online
  4. Coimbra and the University: a great base for exploring the surroundings. It is known not only for its historical heritage, but also for the wonderful university, one of the oldest in the world and also declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site - book the tour online
  5. Fatima and Batalha Monastery: two destinations that are often combined in a single day trip, both pilgrimage destinations. Fatima is in the place where the Virgin Mary appeared in 1917 and today represents one of the most important Catholic sanctuaries in the world, while in Batalha there is a beautiful monastery dedicated to the Virgin Mary - book the tour online
  6. Douro Valley: incredible valley that develops around the homonymous river, with beautiful villages and vineyards. This is in fact a renowned wine production area, of all the wines the most famous is certainly the Port - find out more
  7. Sintra, Cascais and Cabo de Roca: three locations close to Lisbon, are in fact often combined in a single day excursion that starts from the capital. Cascais is a small seaside resort, Sintra is famous for its Parque and Palácio Nacional da Pena, while Cabo de Roca is the westernmost point of continental Europe - book the tour online
  8. Peniche and Reserva Natural das Berlengas: one of the major fishing ports, in this town the great protagonist is the sea. But, above all, this is the starting point for exploring the small but beautiful Reserva Natural das Berlengas, where the elephant-shaped cliff is located, reachable with a 10 km sail from Peniche
  9. Madeira archipelago: it is off the Portuguese coast and is made up of three islands: Porto Santo, Desertas and the homonymous Madeira. Perfect destination for those who love to relax by the sea but at the same time want to move and explore nature - find out more
  10. Azores Islands: this totally unspoiled and wild archipelago is off the Portuguese coast. A paradise for those who love nature and outdoor activities - find out more

The main itineraries in Portugal

There are so many itineraries to do in Portugal and they vary both in duration and in theme: from a weekend in a few cities to a whole week on the road, from purely cultural trips to travel in the most uncontaminated nature. In short, this country really satisfies every request!
Here are some of the main tours in Portugal:

  1. One week Lisbon and surroundings: the city is also perfect as a base. After three full days, visit the surroundings thanks to the excellent transport network: the fourth day you can dedicate it to Sintra and Cascais, the fifth to Evora.
  2. Three day religious tour of Portugal: the country is an important destination for religious tourism, thanks to the cities of Fatima and Batalha (where there is an important monastery). Arrive in Lisbon, where you can spend the night, then on the second day move to Fatima and visit the city and the sanctuary. On the third day, visit the Batalha Monastery and return to Lisbon.
  3. Between Lisbon and the sea: the west coast is full of beautiful beaches. Hire a car in Lisbon to head north along the coast, sleeping in a different city every night. Stop in Foz (Praia Azul), Santa Cruz (beautiful beaches), Peniche (and take advantage of them for a day trip to the Reserva Natural das Berlengas) and arrive as far as Nazaré (famous surf destination).
  4. Porto and the Douro Valley: perfect if you love nature and good wine. You will need at least five days to enjoy it a little. Once you arrive in Porto, rent a car and go immediately to discover the Valley: stop one night in Peso da Régua, one in Pinhão and one in Vila Nova de Foz Côa, then return to Porto and spend the last day there and a half, taking an afternoon for the beaches of Vila do Conde.
  5. Adventure in the Algarve: perfect if you are adventurous people and who love unspoiled nature. Leave from Faro, rent a car and discover the incredible beaches along the coast, stopping in Albufeira and Portimão and then dedicate a whole day to discover the Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano and Costa Vicentina

Where it is

Portugal it is located in the Iberian Peninsula, in the westernmost part of Europe.
The only European state with which it borders is Spain. while the western and southern coasts are washed by the Atlantic Ocean.
The two archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira, which are located offshore in the Atlantic Ocean and which are part of the country as autonomous regions, also belong to Portugal.

Travel informed: useful information

  • Inhabitants: 10.638.000
  • Capital: Lisbon
  • Languages: Portuguese, English and Spanish in tourist areas
  • Local currency: euro (€)
  • Weather: Atlantic and mild type, continuously influenced by the presence of the Atlantic Ocean, cool and rainy in the north, warmer and sunnier going south. In the inland areas close to Spain, the climate is continental
  • Travel / health insurance: recommended.

    What to do in Portugal: activities, excursions and tours

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