What are the prettiest places in Portugal? I asked a group of international travellers and here’s what they came up with.
Lisbon is the capital of Portugal, it’s also the largest city in the country and one of the oldest cities in Western Europe.. It has been named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I’ve been to Lisbon twice. The first time was for a semester abroad program in college. The second time was for 6 weeks (I know, a bit excessive). I have to say that Lisbon is probably my favorite place that I have visited so far. Some of my favorite things to do in Lisbon include: exploring all of the different neighborhoods, getting lost in Alfama (the oldest neighborhood), and just enjoying life during one of their “happy hours. “
My favorite neighborhood in Lisbon is Praça do Comércio. It is constantly packed with tourists and locals alike. It’s also the point where all major pedestrian streets meet up (such as Restauradores, Rua Augusta, Bairro Alto, etc.). There are also a lot of great places to eat and shop. During the summer there are free concerts held every week, which is always fun to go to!
Praça do Comércio may be my favorite neighborhood in Lisbon, but Baixa is where it’s at. This area has so many great shops like shoe stores and clothing boutiques. There are also a lot of bars including many that have live music on the weekends. This is also where the famous “Armazéns do Chiado” used to be. It was an old shopping mall that has now been converted into a luxury hotel (which I hear is also very good). I was a bit disappointed in this neighborhood. Everything seemed a little more expensive and I didn’t enjoy seeing the new buildings going up.
Alfama is where I really felt like I was getting away from the tourist crowds. I loved walking around and seeing all of the different houses. There is also a lot of great food to be found there, which made me feel like an insider more so than other neighborhoods.
Getting lost in Alfama certainly has become one of my favorite things to do in Lisbon. It’s a lot to see and it’s always fun to try and find the “hidden” arches, bridges, or entrances (I have yet to find any). I also loved running into the locals and talking to them.
I love any place that has a happy hour, but I think that the ones in Lisbon are some of my favorites. The one on Rua de Santa Catarina is especially fun, because it’s always crowded with people trying to get their drinks before it’s over. Like I said before, Lisbon seems like a great place for people to live (a lot of the houses are really beautiful) but also enjoy life!
-Micah in San Diego
Coimbra is one of the oldest cities in Portugal. During medieval times Coimbra was one of the most important universities in Europe, along with Paris and Bologna. Coimbra is best known for its university, Universidade de Coimbra. The main square is Praça da República, which was once used as a marketplace but now has a coffee shop and the main library. It also has the best market in Portugal, Praça do Mercado.
The city of Coimbra is dotted with one of Europe’s largest medieval castles, Castelo de São Jorge. It contains ruins of other castles that were destroyed during wars; the royal dungeon; houses that were built for religious orders; and stops on various tours like the old church tour and castle climb (which I did not do). There is also a small historical museum/museum of science, but it’s hard to find.
An interesting thing about Coimbra is that unlike most other major cities in Portugal, the daily iron market still exists (I’m not sure why). The smell was so strong that it made me nauseous.
There are a lot of old cafes and restaurants, mainly on Rua das Portas de Sant’Iago. There are also some cool restaurants near the university area (and the castle) that serve very good food and wine.
The main downside to Coimbra is that the city isn’t very big, so there aren’t a lot of things to do. It has one cinema and one discoteca (once every two weeks) but I couldn’t find much else. There are a lot of nice buildings but nothing really to see.
-Eli in Austin, Texas
Evora was my first stop in Portugal and my first time traveling alone. What I liked best about Evora is that you can walk almost anywhere. I was allowed to go into the small town of Batalha on my own and looked at the old castle. I would definitely recommend this route to others. I wouldn’t say that Evora is the prettiest place in Portugal but it’s definitely worth the visit.
-Sophie in Orlando, Florida
Viana do Castelo
Viana do Castelo is a fairly uncommon destination for world travelers. It has a typical small town feel with various shops and businesses on the main streets and residential neighborhoods nearby. The river is beautiful; however, not much of a beach area or park was available for leisure time activities. Across the bridge from Viana do Castelo there is Praia de Esmoriz which I found to be more enjoyable than the town itself. The restaurants were more affordable and the beach area was larger. The main attractions for Viana do Castelo are the bridge, a castle with a small museum, and the small historical museum. Both of these museums were in Portuguese so I found them uninteresting. My favorite part of Viana do Castelo was visiting the older neighborhoods to see some historic architecture and taking pictures of the river.
-Anna in Rio de Janeiro
Benagil cave is one of the prettiest places in Portugal with amazing colorful rock formations inside. It’s really cute and the small village has a very laid back feel to it. The locals are always willing to help you out if you need some guidance or directions. The cave officially closes at 7:00 PM which is a bit of a bummer but definitely worth visiting for the experience!
-Liv in New York, New York
Douro Valley was a great little region. It’s quiet with beautiful views of the valley and hills around it. There are some caves but I didn’t go inside them because they were closed for repairs when I went there. I liked seeing some of the older villages like Dao and others. There are also a lot of small towns in the area that are very picturesque and have great food. A lot of people that live there make a living off of tourism but there is an old manthat sells his sculptures to tourists. If you don’t want to buy it he’ll ask for one Euro, if you do then you get to keep it. I bought one that has two cows looking out over the valley. It was much more beautiful than it sounds.
-Mark in Jupiter, Florida
Sintra is a town that you can easily walk through, and it’s really cool if you do. It’s a very old town with old castles sitting on the hills around it. I think that the most interesting part about Sintra is that this area of Portugal was home to a lot of nobility during medieval times. If you walk from one side of the city to another you’ll come across the ruins of an old palace, and there are also some very pretty marble walls throughout the historic parts of the city.maranta is a small village near the coast that has been preserved in the same way. It’s very quaint with lots of cobblestone streets and pretty little old houses surrounding a tiny church. I was there on a Friday night, and it was kind of a ghost town; however, they had closed all of the shops so it was very peaceful.
-Matt in Melbourne
I think that Braga is one of the most attractive cities in Portugal. It’s situated on top of a hill overlooking some amazing cliffs and beaches. My friends and I visited Braga on our last day in Portugal. We went at night when the town was lit up with lights, all of the shops were open, and we could see some amazing views of the cliffs. Every shop had a different style so it gave the city an old-fashioned feel. There were also different foods on sale from a variety of cultures that made me feel like I was traveling around Europe instead of being in Portugal. There are a few nice restaurants by the water as well that you can eat at if you have time before or after your activity. They serve some amazing seafood.
-Bob in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Amarante is probably my favorite city in the whole world. It’s very small but it’s unique in its own way with its medieval stone buildings and cobblestone streets. The winding roads make it feel like you’re going nowhere fast and there are a lot of hidden corners with various little shops and cafes. I loved all the old architecture and couldn’t get enough of it! There is also a nice view of the town from above if you climb up the hill on Rua da Argozelo (the main road). You can get an even better perspective walking up to São Roque church as well.
-Kit in Miami, Florida
Porto is a wonderful city with a lot of great attractions! I loved walking around the river and visiting the different churches. The Dom Luis I Bridge is also very cool; it’s one of Europe’s largest and old bridges. The top has several piers with cafes that overlook the river, making it seem like you’re sailing while you eat your lunch. Down by the river there are also lots of boats that you can take out for a ride or even sign up for a boat tour to visit some of the smaller islands in the area.
-Anne in Los Angeles, California
Sortelha is a small fishing village on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. The sea is very rough so it’s not ideal for swimming but you can walk down to the beach and eat lunch. Sortelha is also a great place to see waves coming in. It’s pretty amazing to watch them break when they get really big and see how far they go out. There are some cliffs nearby that you can walk along as well; I would recommend that if you come here! Well, I say take off but most people don’t need to because it takes less then an hour. You can either take the train or drive here too.
-David in New York, New York
Cascais is a very nice and quaint little town. It reminds me of an upscale Portuguese resort town. We stayed at the Hotel Mimosa and it had a nice pool area to hang out at. There are lots of restaurants in Cascais that were open later then normal restaurants for dinner as well which I think is cool. The only downside is that there isn’t much to do here but walk around town, buy souvenirs, eat at one of the cafes, or hit the beach.
-Jin in Hanoi, Vietnam
Algarve is a beautiful area. The beaches are nice and clean and the water is pretty clear. There is also a lot of palm trees which are pretty. The best beaches are near Tavira, whose hotel I stayed at. The main town on the island has over 40 churches. It’s a very peaceful place and extremely relaxing on the beach! From Tavira you have to take a bus to Lagos on the other side of the island because it does not have its own airport but I was told that they run buses every 10 minutes during certain times of day (this might be less than 10 minutes).
-Eli in New York, New York
The Azores islands are spectacular! They are very green and volcanic. There is an old volcano that has a village on top. It is extremely picturesque to be on the top of the volcano and seeing the ocean below you. You have to take a hike up to get there though. There is another island where you can see lava flowing into the ocean while you are standing on land but I didn’t go there because I was informed that it was far and expensive to book a tour for it. The other island with the lava is angrier and not a good place to be due to the weather. Is there any way that we can visit it?
-Claire in New York, New York
Coimbra is a small city with a pretty castle. It even has some of the most beautiful buildings I’ve seen in Portugal. The city has plenty of good restaurants and is located on a river. There’s also a small harbor where you can see the fishing boats go out to sea. It is a really pleasant place to spend a few days. It’s also located near other small towns like Condeixa and Figueira de Castelo Rodrigo that are worth visiting.
-Luka in New York, New York
Viana do Castelo
Viana do Castelo is very small but has some interesting parts to it. The main attraction is the one-of-a-kind bridge that crosses the river Minho. It’s shaped like a gothic arch with four towers at each end of it. They say that they are inspired by the rose window of the cathedral in Chartres, France which I visited when I was a student studying abroad there two years ago.
-Bob in Seattle, Washington
Benagil cave is in Portugal, near Porto. You get to see a cool area of old rock formations and it’s not as crowded as some of the other caves. It’s a good experience for anyone who hasn’t been to a cave before. It has small areas off the path so you can go exploring if you’d like. There are also rocks that people have collected throughout the area which are really cool! There are also places to sit and chill out for a little bit.
-Mikayla in Hong Kong
Douro Valley has some of the most beautiful scenery. It is a large, flat area that has different types of grapes and vineyards all over it. The climate there is perfect for grape growing and wine making so there are nice little wineries all over the place. They make the wine right at the wineries and sell it there as well. If you want to get a good look at the vines you can take a little train ride through and around them; I highly recommend doing this! It’s one of my favorite memories from when I was in Portugal.