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TOURIST DESTINATIONS IN PORTUGAL

Where to Go and What to Do


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Almourol Castle Portugal's largest cities are all majestically-sited by grand rivers and are a delightful mix of the historical and the contemporary -- Lisbon is one of Europe's most alluring capitals, while it is hard to beat charismatic Porto's singular atmosphere and magnificent setting.
Coimbra, dominated by one of the world's oldest universities also demands attention, but even more memorable is exploring the country's timeless medieval towns (especially Obidos, Marvão, and Monsaraz) and picturesque coastal villages (such as Nazaré, Tavira, Ericeira, and Cascais).

Castles dominate the skyline, particularly in the enchanting province of Alentejo (a region characterized by stork nests, cork trees, and white medieval villages), but the most imposing are at Almourol, Santa Maria da Feira, Obidos, Leiria, and Porto de Mós. Most of them are romantic ruins, while others have been beautifully restored and now function as hotels called "pousadas" (no visit to Portugal is complete without a stay at one of them).

To go further back in time, admire the world's largest outdoor gallery of Stone Age art in Côa Valley (a World Heritage Site), step through ancient Celtic settlements (Citânia de Briteiros), walk around mysterious prehistoric stone circles, megaliths, and dolmens (the one in Zambujeiro is the largest in Europe), and don't overlook the fine Roman ruins in Conimbriga (with its excellently-preserved mosaics) and Evora (with its graceful Temple of Diana).

The Portuguese royal family became one of the richest in Europe due to the Great Discoveries, so the country's extravagant palaces should also rank high on your list of must-sees. Buçaco Palace Pena Palace in Sintra (guaranteed to be one of the most romantic towns you'll visit anywhere in the world) is one of the country's most fantastic sights, while more royal splendor is found in Queluz, Mafra, and Vila Viçosa.

The wealth generated from the golden Age of Discovery also led to the building of some of Europe's finest medieval monuments (in Alcobaça, Batalha, and Tomar), and the creation of great baroque treasures and architectural masterpieces with ornate stonework. Prepare yourself for some incredible and intriguing church interiors -- Evora's and Porto's São Francisco churches (one completely decorated with human bones and skulls, the other spilling with gold), Tile mural in Obidos or Lisbon's São Roque Church (showcasing one of the world's richest chapels), are just a few examples.
Just as striking are the huge blue and white tile panels covering entire interiors of train stations (particularly that of Porto's São Bento Station) and churches (the most stunning of all being São Lourenço in Almancil).

For inspiring religious mysticism head to one of the most famous shrines in the world in Fátima, while the spectacular baroque sanctuaries in Braga and Lamego attract both the devout and the curious.
Even more mystical sites are found along the coast at dramatic capes - Cabo da Roca is Europe's westernmost point, while Prince Henry the Navigator's Cabo de São Vicente was once believed to be the end of the world Street cafe in Viana do Castelo -- standing at either one of them won't fail to impress you and make you understand why so many voyages of discovery departed from here.

Portugal is also a major golf destination and offers some of Europe's top leisure complexes and resorts. Vilamoura, Quinta do Lago, and Vale do Lobo offer the most sophisticated facilities, while closer to the capital there's the choice of top golf courses and Europe's largest casino in Estoril, world-class surfing in Cascais, and golden sand in Troia. Beach lovers will have to make some tough choices throughout most of the country, as the coastline seems endless, offering some of Europe's finest sandy beaches, most with the European Union's Blue Flag for excellence.

Algarve beach There are more opportunities to enjoy the outdoors in the natural parks of Arrábida and Serra da Estrela, Buçaco forest, and Gerês National Park - ideal destinations for walkers and nature lovers. True wilderness is found in Montesinho Natural Park, while calm, relaxing moments in a cruise down the Douro River and surrounding wine region (with its magical World Heritage landscapes) is an experience to remember.

All of these aspects of Portugal are explored on this guide. All you need to do is click on the links below. To help you decide where to head first, take a look at the list and for more information on the best of Portugal and its regions, see our introduction to Portugal.

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The Best of Portugal's Cities and Villages



Obidos house Major MONUMENTS - Batalha Abbey, Alcobaça Abbey, Tomar's Convent of Christ, Lisbon's Jeronimos Monastery and Belem Tower, Braga's Bom Jesus Sanctuary, Coimbra University

Most impressive PALACES - Pena Palace, National Palace, Queluz Palace, Mafra Palace, Ajuda Palace, Regaleira Palace, Buçaco Palace, Mateus Palace

Most imposing CASTLES - Almourol, Santa Maria da Feira, Porto de Mós, Sintra's Moorish Castle, Leiria

Most enchanting MEDIEVAL TOWNS - Obidos, Monsaraz, Marvão, Castelo de Vide

Most charming REMOTE VILLAGES - Piodão, Monsanto, Belmonte

Most picturesque COASTAL TOWNS - Nazaré, Tavira, Ericeira, Cascais

Prettiest SMALL CITIES & TOWNS - Viana do Castelo, Guimarães, Ponte de Lima, Barcelos

Best RESORT TOWNS - Lagos, Vilamoura, Vale do Lobo, Quinta do Lago, Albufeira

Choose the best hotels for you in Lisbon, Porto, Sintra, Cascais, Estoril, Fatima, Albufeira, Faro, Lagos, Vilamoura, Funchal (Madeira), and more.





CITIES, TOWNS AND VILLAGES IN PORTUGAL
AROUND LISBON
AND TAGUS VALLEY
Alcobaça
Arrábida
Azeitão
Batalha
Cascais
Ericeira
Estoril
Fatima
Leiria
Mafra
Nazaré
Obidos
Palmela
Peniche
Queluz
Santarém
Sesimbra
Setubal
Sintra
Tomar
ALENTEJO
Beja
Castelo de Vide
Elvas
Estremoz
Evora
Marvão
Mértola
Monsaraz
Vila Viçosa

ALGARVE
Albufeira
Faro
Lagos
Sagres
Silves
Tavira
Vila Real de Santo António
Vilamoura
BEIRAS (CENTRAL PORTUGAL)
Aveiro
Belmonte
Buçaco
Coimbra
Conimbriga
Figueira da Foz
Guarda
Monsanto
Piodão
Serra da Estrela
Viseu

PORTO AND DOURO
Amarante
Lamego
Porto
MINHO
Barcelos
Braga
Gerês National Park
Guimarães
Ponte de Lima
Ponte da Barca
Viana do Castelo

TRAS-OS-MONTES
Bragança
Chaves
Vila Real

THE ISLANDS
Azores
Madeira