Portugal has a lot to offer. Not only beautiful beaches and picturesque cities but also incredible history and nature. Below we have listed 17 sights that are worth a visit during your holidays in Portugal. Portugal's charm does not lie in one or two main attractions, but a multitude of smaller sights. We would recommend to rent a car and to go on a road trip through Portugal. It is approximately 7 hours by car from the northern border to Spain to the Algarve, and two weeks would be ideal to discover the beauty of Portugal. Of course, the list is not exhaustive. If you would like to suggest a different location, please contact us!
The Algar Seco is a rock formation near Carvoeiro, a popular holiday resort for vacationers. The rock from shell limestone has been shaped by wind and waves for thousands of years to form a breathtaking stretch of coast in the Algarve. From Carvoeiro, it is approximately 2 km to the Algar Seco, and it is very easy to get there by car thanks to the many parking options. However, it is more beautiful to walk on the Carvoeiro Boardwalk. So you can enjoy the view of the sea, the rocky coast, and the fresh air. Fresh air naturally makes you hungry: The Boneca Bar restaurant not only serves a delicious breakfast for all early risers but also fresh fish. Dinner, in particular, can be enjoyed with a glass of wine while the sun goes down.
Where the earth ends and the sea begins, you will find the westernmost point of the mainland of the European continent. The Cabo da Roca is located on the Atlantic coast and is about 140 meters above sea level. The view seems almost endless and invites you to watch the sunset. The landmark, the red and white lighthouse cannot be visited, but still looks beautiful on souvenir photos. It was put into operation in 1772 and is the third oldest lighthouse on the Portuguese coast. The slopes are covered with the edible midday flower and rare peregrine and kestrels nest in the rock walls. If you have visited the Cabo da Roca, you can have a certificate issued at the tourist office, which confirms your visit and which you can keep as a souvenir along with the photos you have taken. There is a restaurant directly at the viewpoint that is open all day where you can get lunch and dinner and have a breathtaking view of the ocean.
The neighborhood (Bairro) of Alfama is the oldest district and was once the heart of Lisbon. Because it is close to the Tejo, it was considered a place of poor fishers and dockworkers in the Middle Ages. Today it is very well known for its lively nightlife. The many narrow streets still show the original charm of Lisbon, and you can experience the true way of life of the Portuguese. Alfama offers many small Portuguese restaurants, souvenir shops where you can buy traditional Portuguese tiles and fantastic viewpoints over the Tejo and the entire old town. The best way to get lost in Alfama is to explore the small streets on your own. Especially in summer, you can see some Portuguese barbecuing in front of their houses and the famous sour cherry liqueur Ginjinha is sold in many corners. In Alfama, you will also find the Castelo de São Jorge. The Castelo was home to kings until the 16th century, and today it is a popular attraction with a fantastic view over Lisbon.
The Livraria Lello is one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world. In 1869 it was opened under the name Chardron and bought in 1894 by José Pinto de Sousa Lello. It was not until 1906 that the bookshop opened under its current name and received great attention among the culturally interested residents in Porto. Rumor has it that the bookshop was used, among other things, as inspiration for the Harry Potter novels. The author J.K. Rowling lived in Porto at the beginning of the 90s and often stayed in the Livraria Lello to write. The Art Nouveau building with its neo-Gothic facade was planned and built by engineer Xavier Esteves. The busts of important writers, which are inside the bookshop, were created by the sculptor Romão Júnior. The curved wooden staircase inside the bookstore is a unique eye-catcher and a popular image motive for many tourists. The stairs lead to the open upper level, on which a small bar has been set up, where visitors can enjoy port wine. The bookshop not only sells Portuguese books but also has a large selection of international bestsellers for tourists to bring souvenirs home.
The Bone Chapel (Capela dos Ossos) in Faro belongs to the Baroque Carmelite church Nossa Senhora do Carmo, built in the 18th century and is probably one of the most bizarre sights in Portugal. The bones of more than 1000 Carmelite monks were processed in the chapel, which was inaugurated in 1816. Among other bones, 1245 skulls were used for the construction of the whole building. The bones excavated because the cemetery in Faro was overcrowded at the time. Nevertheless, the monks should still be remembered, so the bones were put on display in the chapel. Many will find it a little macabre, but it is still worth a visit.
Besides the Cabo da Roca, the Cabo de São Vicente also marks an end to the mainland of Europe: the most southwestern point. In contrast to the numerous beaches in the Algarve, the country is getting a little meager, the wind is rougher, and the rocks are getting higher and steeper. In a small parking lot, lined with food and souvenir stands, you can enjoy the "last Bratwurst before America" a snack stand run by a German couple since 1996. On the coast, or "at the end of the world," there are beautiful hiking trails that often are deserted. Sturdy footwear is definitely recommended here, as there are mainly unpaved paths that can be very slippery, especially when it is raining. On stormy days, the waves can splash up to 70 meters high. On such days it is also worth packing a rain jacket so that you don't get wet. The Cabo de São Vicente is also called the "viewpoint to America." Of course, you can't really see America, but it surely makes you want to dream. The almost 24-meter high lighthouse has the strongest beacon in Europe and can be seen up until 48 km over the sea.
The small beach town of Nazaré is particularly well known among surfers. Every year around the wintertime, many surf competitions take place here, in which popular surfers ride waves up until 30 meters. This is not only exciting for the surfers but also for visitors who can watch the spectacle from the cliffs. Due to the high waves and the stormy weather, visitors should wear waterproof clothing to avoid getting wet. But Nazaré also has calmer traditions. The Portuguese coastal city is closely linked to fishing, and in summer, especially on Saturdays, you can observe these fishing traditions. Then the nets filled with fish arrive from the sea, and the fishmongers, still traditionally dressed in their seven skirts, call out their sales offers. Usually, you will not understand what they are saying because these are specific sales codes. The small town is a rather quiet place and is only overrun by surfers and visitors during the winter months. A visit in summer is also worthwhile. Here you can take a stroll on the beach and have some fresh fish in one of the many traditional Portuguese restaurants
Évora, located in the Alentejo, is another beautiful Portuguese city worth visiting. The Praça do Girlado represents the city center. The surrounding commercial buildings were built in the 16th century and still show the wealth of the town at that time. The old town is surrounded by the Roman city wall and has been a UNESCO World Heritage since 1986. From the Arabic to the classical Baroque era, almost every time has left its architectural influences in Évora. Here you can also find some handicraft and souvenir shops, where you can buy not only the typical Portuguese tiles but all sorts of handmade products made of cork and other natural materials. Évora is a rather quiet spot and has no notable attractions that would attract thousands of tourists. However, the small town has a lot to offer for those interested in history and culture, and the many old buildings attract those who are interested in architecture.
The Pena Palace (Palácio Nacional da Pena) is a romanticist castle and park in Sintra. It was built in 1840 on the old ruins of a monastery and is located on top of a granite rock massif, the Serra de Sintra. Especially in summer, the gardens and parks around the castle invite many tourists to take a stroll around and explore. In addition to native pines, oaks, and gorse, exotic plants such as Tasmanian tree ferns, Japanese azaleas, and California sequoias grow here. The castle and the surrounding cultural landscape have also been UNESCO World Heritage since 1995. The castle itself is colorful and has painted terraces, a breathtaking wall, and mythical sculptures. The colorful monument stands out from the surrounding green forests. The path up to the castle is steep but, if you are fit enough, a walk uphill is doable. However, it is advisable to take the bus 434, especially during the summer months. The trip costs around €7 for both ways. Once at the top you have a fantastic view from the large panoramic terrace. You can see the whole landscape, and if the weather is good, you can even see the ocean.
The Palacio Nacional de Mafra is the largest palace and monastery complex in Portugal and was designed by the Swabian architect Johann Friedrich Ludwig. The whole construction took 13 years (1717 - 1730) and was only fully completed in 1750. The baroque-style building consists mainly of Gold, which has been imported from Portugals Brasilian colonies. The palace complex is located in the municipality of Mafra, around 40 km northwest of Lisbon, and was declared a World Heritage by UNESCO in July 2019. The entire area is home to the palace, convent, and the basilica. Of course, everything can be visited, and this is best done on your own or with a tour guide. In the basilica, you will find a complex of six organs. Also very significant are the two chimes with a total of 114 bells (57 in each tower), which were made in Antwerp in the 18th century and are considered the largest chimes in the world. The Rococo library is located in the western wing of the convent. 40.000 valuable books can be found in the 83-meter long hall and were systematized in the 18th and 19th centuries by the monks from Arrabida in a form that is still valid today. The book range holds some valuable pieces. The Portuguese and foreign works printed in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries are extremely rare, such as the 22 foreign incunabula and 41 geographical maps.
Nature enthusiasts will feel at home on this beach. It is one of the more hidden spots in Portugal, with untouched nature and the sea waves that consistently hit the rocks. To get to this beach, you have to climb a somewhat steep path down the cliffs so sturdy shoes are a must. There are paved hiking trails and viewing platforms all around, which offer you a fascinating view of the land and the sea. One should not expect a white and long sandy beach here because the Praia da Samarra is quite rocky. You can still go swimming, and it almost feels like being out in the open sea. There are no restaurants or cafes here, so it is advisable to bring some snacks so you can stay a whole day to relax and enjoy this fascinating spot.
Also called Cristo Rei is a well-known Christ statue in Alamada, on the other side of the Tejo. With arms outstretched, the figure of the Christ King turns to the Ponte 25 Abril and the city of Lisbon. The statue itself is 28 meters high and is located on a 75-meter high base, which makes it the seventh-tallest statue of Christ in the world. The Archbishop of Lisbon Dom Manuel Gonçalves Cerejeira was inspired by the Cristo Redentor when he visited the capital of Brazil in 1934 and wanted to have a replica built in Lisbon. However, this should only be built if God would spare Portugal from the second World War. After the war ended, the construction of the statue began on December 18, 1949. The Christ sculpture was created by the Portuguese sculptor Francisco Franco de Sousa and was inaugurated on May 17, 1959, on Whit Sunday. Today you can visit the statue and have a beautiful view of the Ponte 25 Abril and all of Lisbon from the observation deck. You can either arrive by car or take the ferry to Cacilhas and from there the bus to the Cristo Rei.
Tavira Island is an 11 km long sandbar or island and is located between the Ria Formosa Nature Park and the Atlantic. The island is the only one in the natural park where also trees and plants grow. On the long strip of sand, are not only small beach bars and restaurants, but also pretty little holiday homes that can be rented the whole year. There are no historical sights on the Ilha de Tavira, but it invites you to enjoy the sun and relax as much as you can. Some sections are so remote that you can't see other people for miles. You can reach the island by boat from Tavira. The ferries leave every hour to either bring or pick up tourists.
The Praia da Costa Nova is probably best known for its colorful wooden houses, which are lined up close together on the quayside. From here you also have the best view of the beach. These "palheiros" were originally built to protect the equipment of the fishermen and have been restored in recent years and were converted into pretty little holiday homes. The small fishing village not only offers a bit of history but also excellent little restaurants that serve freshly caught fish for lunch and dinner. In the evening, you can enjoy a glass of wine on the promenade or go down to the beach and watch the sunset. As calm as it is, the waves can be high enough to attract surfers. In summer, you can find a perfect mix of relaxation, tranquility, and action here.
The Peneda Gerês National Park is in the north of Portugal, close to the Spanish border. This nature reserve got its name because it is made up of the two mountains Peneda and Gerês. Here you will not only experience breathtaking nature but could also spot the Iberian wolf. The symbol of the park is the deer, and you will surely see some of them while strolling around. In addition to wolves and deer, you can often see the "garranos," wild ponies galloping through the mountains. The national park also offers the only holly forest in Portugal and some other exotic plants, such as the Gerês lily, which gives the lush and green nature a splash of blue-violet color. Rivers cross the mountains, and through the hilly landscape, you can often see them ending in small waterfalls. You can also go canoeing on the rivers or get rid of excess energy during canyoning or hiking as the nature reserve offers plenty of hiking trails. The most popular one is probably the still very well-preserved Roman Road, on which you can admire the almost twothousand-year-old milestones.
Sé Velha (old cathedral) is a Catholic church in the city of Coimbra. The old church was built in the Romanesque style and is one of the oldest monuments in Portugal. The construction of the building began in 1164. A church already existed on the site but was destroyed in an Arab attack. The original loopholes on the facade give the impression of standing in front of a huge castle. Over the centuries, the facade but also the interior of the church was supplemented by the influences of various bishops. In the 16th century, Bishop D. Jorge de Almeida added Renaissance elements to the building. Construction of the monastery began in 1218, under the rule of King Alfonso II, which was one of the first Gothic works in Portugal. It is also worth to visit the capitals decorated with floral and animal motifs and the Renaissance altar carved out of wood by Olivier de Grand, and Jeans d`Ypres. Due to the many combined styles, it is worth taking a tour of the cathedral. The Gothic cloister is the perfect place to explore by yourself and enjoy the quiet.
The Torre de Belém (Belém Tower) is one of the most famous landmarks in Portugal. It is located in the district with the same name and was built in the Manueline style. It is one of the few buildings that survived the earthquake of 1755. On the top floor of the tower, at just under 35 meters, there is a viewing platform where you can enjoy the fascinating view over Belém. The tower was built between 1515 and 1521, within just six years and symbolized the heyday of the Portuguese maritime and commercial empire and also welcomed the incoming merchant ships as a lighthouse. The statue "Our Lady of Safe Homecoming" looks down on the sea and symbolized protection for the many sailors. On the north side, you can find a sculpture of a rhinoceros head, which was the first plastic representation of this animal in Europe at the time. It is the image of the Panzerhorn that Afonso de Albuquerque brought back from his trip to India in 1515. He presented this template to Albrecht Dürer, who made the woodcut for it. The interior of the tower was used as a prison and also to store weapons until the 19th century. Since 1983 it has also been a UNESCO World Heritage.
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