The Best Portuguese Cities to Visit
Few people stick to just one city when visiting Portugal. This is a one stop holiday destination, with multiple city attractions within the country to be explored.
Given its size, travelers to Portugal might choose to stick to either the north, or the south of the country during a trip. The climate makes this country an easy one to explore year round, as there are no harsh winters or extreme weather conditions.
The best cities to visit in Portugal? I’ll tell you.
First and foremost, Lisbon is Portugal’s number one tourist destination. For one, it’s the transportation hub of the country, so most people will arrive and/or depart out of Lisbon main airport.
Lisbon is the capital of Portugal. This is a historic city with a lot to see and do. Lisbon is built across a range of hills, so there is a lot of uphill walking involved when exploring the city center.
Since it is on the coast, the edge of this city is beautifully framed by the Tagus River. One gets the best of both worlds in Lisbon: vibrant city life and beach getaways just a few minutes north via the train.
From Lisbon, on can also easily explore the district of Sintra, which is an important place in terms of Portuguese royal history and architecture.
Once you’re done with the capital, the rest of Portugal’s cities are but a train or plane ride away.
If you head directly north up the coast of Portugal from Lisbon, you’ll eventually come to another beachside city called Porto. This is the second largest city in Portugal, with a population of close to two million.
Porto is famous for a few things. Firstly, it is one of the most picturesque cities in the country, with incredible classic architecture and medieval squares. The colorful facade of the buildings can be seen from all boats incoming into the port.
Porto is also known for its port wine production. Port wine can only carry the name if it is produced in the Douro Valley, a wine country just a few kilometers outside of the city of Porto.
Faro is a working city in Portugal, and many argue that visiting it is not really worth the effort of getting there. It’s the capital of the southernmost Algarve region of the country, and while there might not be much to see attraction wise, this is definitely the place to be if you’re a lover of the sea and sand.
Faro was greatly influenced by the Moors, so much of the city’s architecture still reflects this today. More than this, Faro has some of the most beautiful beaches in the country, with the coastline lying on the southernmost tip of the land.
Turquoise water, colorful plant life and perpetual blue skies are what you can expect.
Somewhere between Lisbon and Porto, lies Coimbra. This was the country’s former capital city and is now a preserved old town with longstanding history both architecturally and culturally.
The medieval era is still very much present in these streets, and the Romanesque churches from the 12 century are still standing.
Coimbra has a dense city scape, and the narrow streets hold many museums, libraries, parks, monuments and even nightlife. I always recommended stopping here for a night or two when moving between Lisbon and Porto.
Guimaraes is home to our Portuguese friends of the far north. Think Porto, but even further.
It’s the tip top of the country, and one of the best preserved cities in terms of medieval ruins and palaces. It is also the home of the Guimaraes Castle; one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal.
As a city, Guimaraes is well divided in terms of building to nature ratio, and there is a lot more greenery present throughout the city center compared to places like Porto or Lisbon. It feels more like an old village in the United Kingdom, and a wonderful place to visit in the winter time since there is no large body of water nearby. Even some of the architecture looks a bit like the old Tudor Houses found in other parts of Europe.
Aveiro is an industrial city on the west coast of Portugal, just before Porto. It sits on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, with a lagoon known as the Ria de Aveiro running through the main city.
These canals have caused travelers to name Aveiro the ‘Venice of Portugal’, and much of the city can be navigated right from the water on the colorful boats, resembling gondolas, that inhabit it.
This city is also known for the exquisite art nouveau buildings. It’s one of the favorite getaway destinations for Portuguese locals; they come during Christmas break and during the year when schools break for holidays.
There aren’t many places in Portugal still rooted in Roman influence, but Evora remains something to be seen. This city is the capital of Portugal’s Alentejo region, in the south-central part of the country.
It’s built around the Roman Temple of Évora, which stands tall right in the heart of the city center. Locals in Evora might refer to this monument as the Temple of Diana.
The rest of the city is the remnants of exquisite Gothic architecture. Evora is the home to the widely famous Chapel of Bones, a chapel where the interior is adored with hundreds of human skulls and skeleton parts.
Since Evora is only 135km from Lisbon, it is entirely possible to do this city as a day trip. One can travel by car in about an hour and fifteen minutes, while the fastest train between Lisbon and Evora currently takes an hour and thirty minutes.