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Best 10 Things to do in Portugal

Portugal is a wonderful land of surprises. As well as its world-famous beaches and golf courses, Portugal has a fascinating depth of culture and history on top of its natural beauty spots, cuisine and wine.

Portugal has such a wealth of attractions that we found it tough to whittle it down to just 10. But we’re sure you’ll agree that our best 10 things to do in Portugal will create a rich assortment of experiences for you during your holiday.

Visit the Algarve beaches

Portugal is famous for its beaches and one of the best places to go - certainly one of the most popular - is the Algarve.

Whether you’re looking for glorious golden sand beaches for sunbathing or iconic coves for snorkelling, the Algarve delivers. Here are a few of our favourite beaches on the Algarve:

  • The emblematic rock formations at Praia de Sao Rafael beach create a unique and enchanting scene. As well as relaxing on the sand and drinking in those gorgeous views, we'd highly recommend snorkelling around the rocks to seek out the rich marine life
  • Staying in Albufeira? Praia dos Pescadores - fishermen's beach - close to the town centre is a firm favourite with families. It has showers and sunbeds to hire as well as being surrounded by restaurants and bars for much-needed snacks and cool drinks.
  • Just south of stylish Vilamoura is the fabulous Praia da Falesia with its backdrop of rust-red cliffs.
  • Praia de Vale do Lobo is a fabulous stretch of sandy beach in prime golf country. At sunset, head to one of the bars for a sundowner cocktail and to soak up the best views in this part of Portugal.
  • The eye-catching cliffs and Praia da Rocha and Praia dos Tres Castelos make super backdrops for your Instagram photos. The main beach at Praia da Rocha is ideal for sunbathers and surfers alike.
  • Visit Isla Deserta, one of five islands on the Rio Formosa, which is an uninhabited natural paradise.

Stay in one of our villas in the Algarve and discover the charming towns of Vilamoura, Albufeira, Alvor, Luz & many more. Discover all our available villas in the Algarve now.

Marvel at historic Lisbon’s Belém Tower

Built to defend Lisbon from enemy ships in the 16th century, the Belém Tower is a remarkably romantic-looking building. It's one of Lisbon's many iconic monuments and has been rightly designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Compare the landmark tower to other great Lisbon monuments such as the Moorish Castelo de San Jorge, Jerónimos Monastery, Lisbon Cathedral and Praça do Comércio to see which is your favourite.

While in Lisbon, try the renowned pastéis de nata - Portuguese custard tarts - at the Antiga Confeitaria de Belém where they've been baking them for more than a century. 

Wander through Portugal’s natural parks

If you are an outdoor enthusiast, hiker or walker we highly recommend a trek around or up the largest mountain on mainland Portugal with a visit to the Serra da Estrela national park. Translating as the 'mountain of stars', this dreamy landscape will not disappoint with its immense granite peaks, the deepest ravines and glacial valleys.

Also explore the lagoons, wetlands and sandy beaches at Ria Formosa. No wonder it's a favourite stopover for migratory birds. Marvel at the beach paradise that is Parque Natural da Arrábida or the forest with cork trees in Peneda-Geres national park too.

Sip port in Porto

There is no finer place to taste port than in its birthplace. On the south side of Porto, in Gaia, are many port houses. You can try the well-known brands such as Sandeman's and Cockburn's but we'd recommend you tackle something from the smaller port makers too, such as the oldest port house in Porto, Kopke Port House, which opened in 1638.

Whilst in Porto you can also climb the 225 steps of the Torre dos Clérigos, look inside the Baroque Igreja de São Francisco, go to Sea Life Porto and visit the cathedral. There is so much to do!

Take in the sights at Sintra

After visiting Porto, why not make a detour to Sintra to see the very romantic Romanticist Pena National Palace?

Make sure your phone is fully charged as you’re only ever seconds away from another photo opportunity when visiting this charming and historic town.

The Sintra Mountains, known in the Ancient World as the Moon Mountains, were the legendary refuge of Diana the Huntress. It's still a place to discover myths and legends.

In Sintra are the beautiful Pena Palace, Moorish Castle at the top of Sintra Mountains, and Sintra National Palace. If you don't have time to visit them all, definitely spare a couple of hours to wander around the Pena Palace. You'll soon discover why it’s one of Portugal's most visited monuments and yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Have a day trip to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Évora

Walk through Portugal's lengthy and diverse history during a day trip to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Évora. This inland town has a well-preserved old town which is partially surrounded by medieval walls and a wealth of monuments from Roman times to the present day.Top sites include the Roman Temple of Évora, Évora Cathedral, the Chapel of Bones decorated with human skulls and bones, Royal Palace and the university.

Visit the extraordinary battle abbey

The Mosteiro da Batalha is, undoubtedly, one of the most impressive buildings in Portugal - and that's high praise indeed. It's wonderfully Gothic, romantic and medieval rolled into one spectacular building. It impressed UNESCO who declared it a World Heritage Site and it houses the most important stained glass windows in the country. Take more than a passing glimpse at the door as you enter - it is decorated with the sculptures of 78 characters from the Old Testament.  

Coimbra: Feel the intellectual force at Portugal’s oldest university

Certainly one of the best places to go in Portugal for atmosphere and history is Coimbra, home to the country’s oldest and most prestigious university founded in 1290. Stroll through the cobbled streets, visit the imposing cathedral, and the university and its Baroque library. The riverside city dates back to Roman times and has a rich, diverse history that you can practically feel as you walk past its ancient walls and monuments.

Visit the famous Madeira Botanical Garden

Take your time and wear comfortable shoes as you roam around the 80,000m2 Madeira Botanical Garden. The fascinating and very vibrant collection of flowers and plants makes for a dream day out. Plus you get far-reaching ocean views and can take a cable car up to Monte Parish for even more magnificent panoramic views.

Book a Douro River boat trip

Another natural gem and one of our favourite things to do in Portugal for families is a relaxing Douro River boat trip.

The green banks and terraced vineyards lining the river are a sight to behold. It's arguably one of the most beautiful boat trips you can experience. Tours can last from an hour to all day.  Wine lovers will appreciate a tour that includes a visit to a vineyard to learn more about how Douro wines are made - and you get to sample them too!

Want to find more places to visit during your stay in Portugal? Take a look at our Best Places to Visit in Portugal article as we feature many of the fascinating towns and regions to visit during your stay.

We offer a great range of holiday home rentals and villa rentals in some of the most beautiful destinations. Visit all our available villas in Portugal and discover all this country has to offer.

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