Despite being a relatively small country, Portugal is one of the most beautiful destinations in Europe. Here you can find many spectacular things to see and do. Even if you were to travel the country for an entire year, there are enough gorgeous locales to visit a different pretty place every day! Cities built with colorful tiled streets, volcanic islands where nature reigns supreme, charming wine regions, coastal villages that feel like fairytales, and centuries-old castles are just a few of the landscapes you can expect to find in this beautiful country. Here is the ultimate list of the most beautiful cities in Portugal to include on your itinerary.
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Most Beautiful Places in Portugal
1. The Algarve
Millions of tourists visit the Algarve region of Portugal every year and for good reason. While technically not a city, this region on the coastline of southern Portugal is famous for its sandy beaches, clear waters, and white-washed beach towns. Faro is the biggest city in the Algarve and Lagos is also a gateway city. Many travelers like to stay in the resorts and villas in smaller villages during the summer months for their big annual vacation.
Spend your days lounging at the beach or by the pool or rent a car and take a road trip along the dramatic coast. Enjoy the scenic, spectacular views along the cliffs, hike around the sea stacks, try water sports like kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding, and hit up a vineyard or two.
It’s impossible to list the most beautiful places in Portugal without including Lisbon! Located on the Tagus River, the Portuguese capital city is a wonderful example of how picturesque the cities are in this country. Despite its many hills (like Rome and Athens, there are at least seven), Lisbon has a fairly compact and walkable historical center which you will fall head over heels in love with.
Lisbon’s striking architecture spans the centuries, but it’s the vibrant Moorish-tiled buildings along the narrow streets of the Alfama neighborhood that will captivate you. City squares like Praça do Comércio and Praça Dom Pedro IV will also make an impression. And of course there are the charming old yellow trams that maneuver through the city center.
Although you may not be a fan of Lisbon’s hills, the city offers many incredible vantage points. Don’t miss an opportunity to witness spectacular views out to sea. Head to Castelo de São Jorge and ride up the Elevador Santa Justa to see across Lisbon’s rooftops.
A day trip to Sintra should be on your Portugal itinerary. It is only a short drive or bus ride on a guided tour from Lisbon. You can easily visit two of the most beautiful places in Portugal on the same vacation!
Located on the coast, Sintra is a gorgeous small town in a natural park. It’s the perfect blend of seaside charm and fairy tale architecture. It feels as though you’re walking inside the pages of a storybook.
Sintra is famous for its many medieval castles and palaces, including the Royal Palace of Pena, a stunning 19th-century palace that is considered one of the most beautiful in Europe. Its bright yellow and red facade makes it a true gem and it’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Aside from visiting the Palace of Pena, there are plenty of other gorgeous things worth checking out in Sintra during your visit. The Quinta de Regaleira is another jewel, especially if you love architecture and wouldn’t mind spending several hours exploring the mansion and its perfectly manicured gardens and secret passageways.
For Moorish architecture, make sure to visit the Castelo dos Mouros, which is hidden away in the mountains and boasts the ruins of an Arabian palace.
As the country’s second-largest city, Porto is one of northern Portugal’s most important cultural hubs and one of the most beautiful cities. This city on the Atlantic coast is a great place to visit as an alternative to Lisbon if you’ve already visited the capital. The city of Porto is small and easy to navigate, which makes it a treat to visit for those who love strolling through picturesque streets and alleys.
The main attractions include the Clérigos Church with its landmark bell tower, the bridges over the Douro River to Vila Nova de Gaia, and several other historical monuments that date back to the Middle Ages.
Some of the best things to do in Porto include exploring the Igreja de São Francisco, the Sé Cathedral, and the Mercado do Porto Belo. Porto is, unsurprisingly, the home of port wine so you’ll also find many dark and cozy port wine cellars dotted all around the historic center.
5. Douro Valley
If you really love wine and port, you should visit Portugal’s most famous and beautiful wine region. The Douro Valley encompasses Porto and Douro around the River Douro where the region gets its name. They are two of the biggest wine-producing areas in the country. Only port produced in either of these gorgeous locations can be labeled port wine! It’s a lush, green landscape with acres of wine terraces stretching along the rolling hills as far as the eye can see.
Aside from port, the vineyards at Douro Valley also produce rich, unfortified wines. Rabigato, Tinta Cao, Viosinho, Tinta Barroca, and Touriga France are just a few of the varietals that hail from the area. You can tour the vineyards, go wine tasting, and soak up the views.
Some of the most beautiful places in Portugal aren’t the major cities or anywhere on the mainland, they’re the gorgeous Portuguese Islands! Madeira is an archipelago of four islands off the coast of Morocco. The largest island is a popular coastal destination known for its subtropical climate and volcanic landscapes with lots of rugged high cliffs and beautiful beaches. Some of the best places to visit in Madeira include the island’s largest city Funchal and Porto Moniz.
On the coast of Porto Moniz, you’ll discover natural, volcanic swimming pools that were formed when strong tides hit the cliffs. Bathing in these waters is a truly unique experience.
The hillside town of Funchal is known for the beautiful garden of Jardim Botânico da Madeira and Monte Palace Tropical Garden high in the mountains. This beautiful city is the best base for nature lovers to explore the rest of the natural wonders of Madeira on day trips.
7. Azores Islands
Speaking of islands and nature lovers, the Azores is a beautiful bucket-list destination for all adventurous travelers. While officially part of Portugal, the Azores is an archipelago of nine volcanic islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. They sit halfway between Europe and North America.
Despite some architectural influences, it’s worlds away from the Portuguese mainland. The Azores is perfect if you love lush green yet rugged landscapes and outdoor activities. If you find beauty in built-up cities and skyscrapers, this is not the destination for you!
Some of the amazing things to do in the Azores include caving, whale watching, dolphin spotting, snorkeling, swimming in volcanic hot springs, and hiking. São Miguel Island is the largest island in the Azores and two of the best hot springs to check out are Poca da Dona Beija Hot Springs and Terra Nostra Hot Springs. Ponta Delgada, the capital of the Azores archipelago, is a great base for exploring the island.
8. Peneda-Gerês National Park
Spanning a whopping 175,000 acres on the northern Spanish border, Peneda-Gerês is the only national park in the country. This is one of the most beautiful places in Portugal and a good place to visit to escape the cities and heavy tourist crowds in the summer.
Hiking, rafting, rock climbing, zip-lining, and waterfall hunting are just some of the outdoor activities you can try at Peneda-Gerês National Park. Wildlife here is spectacular as you can spot wolves, deer, boar, badgers, otters, and wild horses. Always keep your eyes open while hiking or find a local guide who will be able to show you all the hot spots.
Peneda-Gerês National Park is also a fantastic place to discover a unique side of Portuguese village life. It’s home to dozens of granite villages that haven’t changed much since the 12th century. These villages are inhabited by residents who live a traditional way of life and you’ll see most women wearing black and shepherding farm animals without heavy machinery.
Not as popular as Porto or Lisbon, Coimbra is another important city in Portugal. Its rich history and beautiful architecture make it a worthy addition to this list. It’s a little more off the usual tourist trail but its student population keeps it lively.
Coimbra was the capital of Portugal from 1139 until 1260. It is home to the University of Coimbra which dates to 1290, making it one of the oldest universities in the world. While newer parts of this Portuguese city look fairly plain and industrial, stick to the labyrinthine streets of the Old Town and you’ll understand what all the fuss is about.
This small city is also famous for being the final resting place of the first king of Portugal, Afonso Henriques. You can visit his tomb (as well as the tomb of his successor) at the Santa Cruz Church. This 12th-century Catholic place of worship boasts intricate stonemasonry and examples of Portugal’s famous blue and white tiles. Coimbra’s two cathedrals – Sé Velha and the New Cathedral – are also incredible examples of architecture from different periods.
Located on the Costa do Prata, Nazaré is a popular seaside resort town known for its namesake beach and Praia do Norte beach. It draws thousands of tourists every summer who want to sunbathe on Nazaré’s white, soft sandy beaches and surf on the enormous waves. Its strong current is due to an underwater geomorphological phenomenon known as the Nazaré Canyon which creates epic waves.
Although this is a popular destination for water sports lovers, there are many other things to do in Nazaré and dozens of reasons why it’s one of the most beautiful cities in Portugal.
This former fishing village has retained its charm despite the many resorts. Hike up to Farol da Nazaré to find a photogenic red lighthouse and sensational views along the rugged cliffs and coastline. Many visitors love hiking up Monte de São Bartolomeu for views over the entire town and visiting the sea cave of Forno de Orca.
Founded by the Romans in 16 BC, Braga boasts over 2,000 years of history. It is one of the oldest cities, if not the oldest city, in Portugal. It’s located just north of Porto and is known for its beautiful Catholic chapels, cathedrals, and religious art museums.
One of the must-see religious structures is the Bom Jesus Staircase climbing up to the church on top of Bom Jesus do Monte. This is an incredible viewpoint across the city and countryside. There’s also a manicured formal garden next to the staircase and an elevator if you have limited mobility.
The staircase itself is made up of stone with parts painted white and has 577 steps in a zig-zag pattern. It’s supposed to depict the ascent to heaven and it’s quite a beautiful sight.
Are you looking for another tourist attraction to visit in Braga? Arco da Porta, Jardim de Santa Barbara, Igreja Misericordia, and Braga Cathedral are also well worth visiting.
12. Serra da Estrela Natural Park
While not technically a national park, Serra da Estrela Natural Park is a nature reserve. It is the largest area of protected land in the country. This mountainous region boasts the highest point in mainland Portugal, Torre Trig or Torre Serra da Estrela, which is 6,538 ft tall. It’s not a mountain peak but rather a stone marking the highest point of a plateau.
While you might think the best time to visit Serra da Estrela Natural Park is in the summer when the flowers bloom and the hiking trails open, that’s not necessarily the case. This is one of the most beautiful places in Portugal because it’s high enough for snowfall in winter and there’s even a ski resort! Granted, it doesn’t have the dramatic slopes of the Swiss Alps but with the lakes and the clear sky, it’s a unique and gorgeous part of the country.
Sintra is a fantastic day trip destination from Lisbon but Óbidos is another great choice. For centuries, it was owned by the reigning queen of Portugal, until 1282 when it was gifted to Queen Isabel upon her marriage. It’s one of the most beautiful cities in Portugal because it’s one of the best examples of walled medieval towns in the country.
Because it’s a walled city, there are naturally lots of grand gates like the Porta da Vila. Castelo de Óbidos is a medieval castle that sits on a hill in Óbidos dating back to the 9th century. It’s been so well-preserved that you can book hotel rooms to stay in this castle! Wander around Óbidos and you’ll love the cobblestone lanes, traditional white townhouses, and flower boxes on every window.
Open up Google Maps, search for Peniche, and you’ll instantly understand why this coastal town must be one of the most beautiful places in Portugal. It’s practically all coastline with dreamy sea views in every direction.
Historically, it was a fishing village but today it draws beach lovers and water sports enthusiasts looking for surfing, windsurfing, bodyboarding, kitesurfing, and diving opportunities.
One of the most beautiful parts of the town is the well-preserved Cabo Carvoeiro Lighthouse which sits next to the rocky cliffs. Peniche’s best beaches are those on the north coast: Praia da Gambôa, Praia de Peniche de Cima, and Praia Baleal Norte. Take the ferry out to the UNESCO-certified Berlengas Islands where you may be able to spot octopus and manta rays.
Portugal has 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and Évora Old Town is one of them. This partially-walled medieval city is home to several historic buildings from different periods, including a Roman temple.
Traditional white townhouses surround the 18th-century cathedral with an accessible roof where you can gaze out at this pretty city. This church is next to Templo Romano Évora which is a ruined temple built for Emperor Augustus 2,000 years ago. The chilling Chapel of Bones and a 16th-century aqueduct are among the varied collection of beautiful structures in Évora.
Just because Fátima is most famous for its connection to a certified miracle, doesn’t mean that it’s not also beautiful! In 1917, the Virgin Mary appeared to three peasant children on a pasture just outside of this village. In Portugal, the Virgin Mary is known as Fátima hence the name of the village.
Unsurprisingly, there are lots of picturesque religious statues, churches, and sanctuaries as this is a popular place of pilgrimage. The Parish Church of Fátima is a quaint but well-cared-for church, although it doesn’t hold a candle to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Nettle on top of the mountain outside of the village.
For a country with so much coastline, you would think that there would be more canals like those found in the Netherlands and Belgium. Aveiro, just south of Porto, is one of the most distinguished canal-laden cities so it’s also a unique and one of the most beautiful cities in Portugal.
Make the most of the waterways by traveling in style on a barco moliceiro. This is a colorful boat used for harvesting seaweed but also for ferrying tourists up and down the canal. The Cathedral of Aviero has a beautiful bell tower, and the city center is characterized by the most grand Art Deco buildings. Aviero is a mish mash of such different styles and eras, but it pulls it off!
Just south of Sintra and west of Lisbon, Cascais is a coastal resort city known for its beaches, and marina, and for being one of the most expensive areas to live in Portugal.
Cascais made a name for itself in the fishing industry but today it’s all about real estate. You can lap up the opulence of Cascais by strolling along the harbor and admiring the expensive yachts. Make time to enjoy the fountains, palm trees, and beautiful beaches like Praia da Ribeira de Cascais.
Located between Porto and the Douro Valley, Amarante is one of the oldest settlements in Portugal (founded in 360 BC) and is surrounded by lush, green vineyards. It’s a small city of only around 11,000 people, yet has some of the most stunning medieval, Roman, and Renaissance architecture.
The pièce de résistance of Amarante is the Ponte de São Gonçalo bridge over the Tâmega River. It connects the southern half of the city with the incredible Baroque 16th-century church, Igreja de São Gonçalo.
Forget the Palace of Versailles and Buckingham Palace, Mafra boasts one of the most extravagant and largest palaces in Europe. It’s the most important example of baroque architecture in Portugal measuring almost 4 hectares with 1,200 rooms. This 18th-century building alone is one of the reasons you should visit Mafra. It even has its own colony of bats!
The reason why Mafra has such a grand palace is because it’s located in the countryside, not far from Lisbon, next to prime hunting locations. The monarchy built Mafra National Palace as a second home for the monarchy and included a Franciscan Friary as well as a library and church.
Ask anyone who has visited Marvão and they will tell you that this is one of the most impressive, spectacular villages in the country. Located on a hill in the Alentejo region of Portugal, this village is protected by a medieval wall and an intact fortress built in the 8th century by a Muslim knight. This place is a fantastic stop-off during a road trip through Portugal if you’re looking for tranquility, beautiful gardens, and incredible hilltop vistas.
Don’t Miss the Most Beautiful Cities in Portugal on Your Next Trip
As you can see from this long list, there are lots of absolutely stunning cities, towns, and regions in this country. It includes only the most beautiful cities in Portugal but it wouldn’t have been difficult to keep going!
Whether you’re looking for beautiful beaches, vibrant, historic, and colorful cities, or the most dramatic areas of lush natural beauty, Portugal has you covered. You should have plenty of inspiration for your Portugal itinerary to help you plan your next trip to the Iberian peninsula!