12 Unforgettable Things To Do And See In Portugal


Portugal has become one of the hot spots of European travel destinations in 2022, and for good reason. Its breathtaking beaches, delicious and high-quality food, as well as its bustling cities, make it a place for all vacation types to venture on. As one of the oldest countries in Europe, Portugal has a heck of a lot of history under its belt. It was one of the first global empires in history and one of the longest-lived empires in the world. It has deep roots in fishing and is a major economic activity. It is home to one of the world's oldest universities, as well as one of the world's oldest bookstores. Port wine is not only the national drink but also their most famous export. Last, but definitely not least, it is home to 15 UNESCO World Heritage sites. All in 561km (6hr drive) in length and 218 km (3hr drive) in width land.


Weather-wise, most tourists enjoy coming for the spring season, between March and May, when the beautiful wildflowers bloom. The summer months of June to August can be quite enjoyable but be wary as it can get incredibly hot and busy. Most locals head to a beach close by to cool off. The shoulder season falls during autumn, September, and October, where you can still get some nice warm weather, and cooler nights, but tourism has slowed down quite a bit. Winter can also be an enjoyable time here, although skipping the rainy season of November and December may be a good idea. Portugal can still have some beautiful sunny days, despite its coldness.

When it comes to traveling around the country, thankfully, transportation is abundant here as you can choose from planes, trains, buses, and cars to get you from place to place. With three major airport hubs around the country (Faro, Lisbon, and Porto) you can visit a large chunk of Portugal in a short time. However, despite its relatively small size, this doesn't necessarily mean it's simple to see and do the abundant number of things available here for you!



Lisbon


As the capital city of Portugal and the largest city, there is so much to do when visiting Lisbon.


1. Praça do Comércio



One of the best areas to roam around in and is considered the center of Lisbon sits Praça do Comércio. While in most photos you’ll find the beautiful and open square with monuments and stunning architecture sitting on the river, there is also a mecca of shopping, eating and discovering behind its arch.


2. LX Factory



One of the unique places in Lisbon, of course, comes from a reinvented 1846 fabric production plant. The industrial complex has been transformed into a shopping and eating mecca with its kooky and creative art and weekend market. You can find over 200 businesses here, including food and shopping and design houses, studios, showrooms, offices, and commercial spaces. It's just a fun place to go and see, but you’ll find it even more enjoyable with the market there on Sunday.


3. Palácio Chiado



If it's luxury you seek, the Palácio Chiado is your one-stop shop for beauty, elegance, and crazy good food. This 18th-century palace includes seven restaurants and one tantalizing bar. These seven restaurants include classic Portuguese, as well as national sweet specialties, Japanese Cuisine, grilled meats, and of course vegan options. It truly is a sight to be seen and tasted.


4. Pastel de Nata



If you had to try one thing in Lisbon, it would be the Pastel de Nata. Not that you can't find it all over Portugal, but here in Lisbon is where it all began. Pastéis de Belém was the birthplace of these delicate egg tarts and was created in 1837 by monks of the Jerónimos Monastery. As the place to go, it can get a little busy, but the building's traditional blue and white tiles as well as a window into the process makes the whole experience quite divine.


A Little Outside Of Lisbon


5. Cascais



While Lisbon isn’t very well known for its beaches, there is a coastal village that boasts tradition, history, museums, and enjoyable places to eat and drink. As a vacation spot for Portuguese nobility back in the day, it’s a quick train ride to get to and one may suggest taking. If you do manage to get there, check out the House of Wonders. A colorful and lively vegan café with superb food and a rooftop to enjoy it on.


6. Sintra



To the west, but a little more north, from Cascais sits Sintra. An area that many who travel to Lisbon spend a day discovering. This charming Portuguese town sits in the hills rather than on the water and has some hidden gems around. Specifically, The Palacio Nacional da Pena, a palace with a vibrant exterior and historical interior. The Quinta da Regaleira, a neo-gothic mansion surrounded by gardens with secret passages and a well which is known as the Knights Templar. The Palacio Nacional de Sintra, the OG medieval palace, and The Castelo dos Mouros which is an ancient ruins castle with Moorish architecture. Day trips are readily available and truly not to be missed.


Porto



The city of Porto is a site to be seen. Also known as Oporto, it is the second largest city in Portugal, yet one of the more modern and forward-thinking cities.


7. Historic Centre


A UNESCO world heritage site since 1996, it’s an area you must see even if you’re just stopping through Porto. The difference between this area compared to other historic centers is that it sits on and along the Douro River. Here, you’ll see the colorful housing on the waterfront that dates back to the 14th century, the large metal Luíz I Bridge, 12th century – and reconstructed in the 18th century - Cathedral of Porto, the hand-painted São Bento Station, as well as a host of churches and museums. Hills may be a part of your adventure, but there are plenty of restaurants and bars to stop at, markets and stalls to see, and a pleasant aura of entertainment and excitement around.


8. Port Wine


This fortified wine, produced in the Douro Valley, is something you must try while visiting Porto. The most common you'll try is the sweet red wine which generally comes with desserts, but you also have a white variety to choose from and some semi-dry and dry options. There are plenty of places in Porto to try Port, but our most exciting place is Porto Cruz. It not only has a rooftop bar overlooking the pristine river but a Port museum with a restaurant too.


A Little Outside Of Porto


9. Arouca


Not seen as one of the most touristy places to go but will definitely come to be one in the coming years. Arouca has really stepped up its game and those who enjoy the adventures of hiking and nature along with outstanding quality food can find themselves immersed in it here. The municipality of Arouca is a UNESCO Global Geopark and will have you setting foot on history dating back to around 500 million years. You have waterfalls, hiking trails, and canoeing and kayaking. The 516 Arouca Bridge (a 516 meter) walk above a stunning rocky river was just unveiled not long ago and you can witness the phenomenon of the stone that stops stone. A process where a nodular granite from Castanheira mother stone literally births baby stones on top of it.



Beaches


10. Silver Coast



The distinct silver coast lies directly between Lisbon and Porto, also known to locals as “The Algarve” of the north which actually lays stretched beautifully across the south coast. These coastal areas are ideal for adrenaline junkies who enjoy an array of water sports activities. The most interesting beach to check out is Nazaree which is known for its massive waves – and we truly mean massive – and iconic surf scenes. Ericeira beach, located a little more south, is perfect for your usual beach fun but head a little more south from there and you’ll find Supertubos Beach which hosts surf competitions every October. As these beaches lay between two cities, you’ll not only have beaches to enjoy but you'll be surrounded by mountains and able to delight yourself with traditional Portuguese restaurants, find local villages, golf courses, vineyard resorts and of course, all the friendly locals. 


11. West Coast



The west coast is unique, infact very unique. While the south coast also boasts fantastic beaches and cool vibes, there is just something different about the west coast. You, firstly, have to witness the extravagance surrounding the Farol do Cabo de Sao Vicente. A lighthouse that sits on the most south-western point of Europe. Then you essentially have the whole coast to play with. Beaches like Praia do Castelejo, Praia da Bordeira and Praia da Amália are great to visit. On the other hand, a huge chunk of the coastline is a Natural Park. Called the Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina, its 3.2 kilometers of coastline will stun even those who have seen many beaches.


12. South Coast



Portugal is known for its southern coast, also known as The Algarve, and is filled to the brim with beachy towns ready for vacationers to enjoy. There really is a town for all your wants and needs. Want a family vacation spot with large beaches for the kids to play on? Check out Portimao. If you’d like to come party with your friends or have a bachelor/ette party to celebrate, try out Albufeira. If you’re looking for a mix of adventure, relaxation, a great atmosphere, and good food, head to Lagos. Even fancy vibes can be found in Villamoura. Special mentions to Alvor, Sagres, Vila Do Bispo, Aljezur, Tavira, and Monte Gordo. A good tip: the more beautiful and unique beaches you can see, the more satisfied you'll be!