Top 5 destinations in Portugal
As the world gradually opens and we’re allowed to travel again, planning a trip is high on our priority list – anyone else? Somewhere that we’re quite looking forward to visiting is the much loved Portugal. Known for its beautiful sceneries, good weather and amazing food and wine – who doesn’t love a glass of Port or a pastel de nata – Portugal is small in size but generous in its variety of unique places to visit. Whether you’re looking for sandy beaches with turquoise water, small towns deep in tradition, or breath-taking views, Portugal has it all – and much more to offer! To help you get your planning started, we chose the top 5 destinations in the country.
We know it’s a cliché but believe us, Lisbon is totally worth the visit. The biggest city and the country’s capital, Lisbon is colourful, charming and captivating. No short of great restaurants, bars and nightlife options, it’ll also keep you busy during the day. Wandering through the neighbourhoods of Alfama, Chiado and Príncipe Real is like a history lesson with its historic buildings, vintage trams and traditional façades – every narrow corner brings a delightful surprise. Comfortable shoes are a must to climb the hilly streets – but don’t let that deter you. We promise the view from São Jorge Castle or the Miradouro de Santa Luzia – just to name a few of the amazing viewpoints around there – will make you forget about the walk. Don’t forget to stop by Manteigaria at Largo de Camões to grab the best pastel de nata you’ve ever had on your way to Cais do Sodré, which is just a short stroll from Chiado where you can see the sunset by the Tagus river.
It comes as no surprise that Porto is a World Heritage city. If you’re looking for scenic views of the Douro river and a great gastronomic experience, Porto is your best choice. Go for a jaunt on either side of the river and amuse yourself – the Porto side is called Ribeira, with plenty of restaurants and shops, while the other side is Vila Nova de Gaia, a city on its own which is famous for its wine cellars and Port. There are around 20 Port cellars that are open to the public, so pick yours and go for a wine tasting. Once you’re back in Porto, admire the view and the interior of the Sé Cathedral, the opulence of the Church of São Francisco, and if you’re a book worm like us, stop by Lello bookstore – one of the oldest and ranked the third most beautiful bookstore in the world by Lonely Planet.
In the same region as Porto, the Douro Valley is home to the namesake river, which rises in central Spain and goes all the way to the north of Portugal. Even though Port tasting and wine cellars are must-go when in the area, the Douro Valley isn’t just – to be honest we think it’s quite a big deal anyways – about wine. Besides visiting Quintas – the Portuguese equivalent for estate – and helping in the grapes’ harvest – if you time it well to go between mid-September and the beginning of October – you’ll be amazed at the terraced vineyards on the hillsides of the Douro. Different from any other locality in Portugal, you can best appreciate the scenery on a boat trip along the river. There are plenty of tour options, both short ones that take around an hour – like the ones starting in Pinhão which also has a beautiful train station decorated with the typical Portuguese tiles – or long ones taking 6 hours – like the ones going from Peso da Régua, where you’ll also find the Douro Museum. We highly recommend visiting the small towns in the region between one wine tasting and another.
The Algarve, in the south of Portugal, is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world – you’ve probably been there yourself or have seen it on an Instagram post. Popular among the British, it’s not hard to understand why. The water’s shades of blue and green meet the white sandy beaches sheltered by the rocks and coves. There are over 100 miles of coastline and a variety of villages and resort towns so you’re sure to find a holiday option that suits your style. Even though there are international and domestic flights to Faro – which is the main hub in Algarve – and both trains and bus services connecting the Algarve to other cities in Portugal, we’d advise you to hire a car once you get there. This will allow you to stop at different beaches and travel between the villages in your own time. There are quite a few options of places to visit but our favourite ones are Lagos – where you can find the Dona Ana and Camilo beaches, some of the most beautiful ones in the region – and Albufeira, with its idyllic cobblestoned streets and great infrastructure.
The four-island archipelago – in which one of them is also named Madeira – is around a 4-hour trip by plane from the UK – the city of Funchal is its main point. Madeira is the perfect holiday destination to connect with nature, go for walks and hikes and admire the landscape. Even though is a popular tourist destination, is far less busy than mainland Portugal. Its subtropical climate provides a variety of fruits, flowers and vegetation. The levadas – man-made aqueducts on the side of the mountains – are some of the must-see attractions, alongside the numerous viewpoints where you can admire splendid sceneries. Visiting Funchal’s historic centre and trying out the local culinary also can’t be missed. If you’re more on a beach vibe, get a ferry to the neighbouring island of Porto Santo – while the island of Madeira itself has only a few beaches, Porto Santo has plenty of options to offer.
Have you visited any of our top spots?
By Manuela Rio Tinto