The 13 Most Charming Portugal Coastal Towns That You Should Visit This Year
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Despite being a small country, Portugal is incredibly diverse from North to South. It is a destination full of activities that appeal to all types of travelers, and each region holds incredible surprises that will make your trip even more interesting. In this post, I will take you around the most famous landmarks in Portugal, from beautiful beaches to historical sites and medieval castles!
Portugal combines natural beauty with history and culture, making it the perfect European destination. The traditional cuisine, culture, and friendliness of the Portuguese people are just as attractive as its beautiful landscape.
Besides, it is easy to plan a Portugal itinerary through several cities because the country is so small.
Located on the western coast of the Iberian Peninsula, Portugal is sought-after by visitors mainly because of its amazing mild climate which is one of the best in Europe. Thousands of tourists from all over the world disembark there daily.
And all this fame comes with plenty of reasons behind it. From the Sintra castles to the Algarve beaches, Portugal pleases everyone with its natural and historical landmarks. You should also know that besides being beautiful, the country is one of the most budget-friendly travel options in Europe.
Overall, it is a fascinating land with stunning natural landmarks, some of the best wines in the world, unparalleled cuisine, and charismatic and welcoming people making this a great place for solo travelers as it is very easy to meet people. So, let’s discover the most famous landmarks in Portugal.
How to move around Portugal
Before moving forward to the amazing landmarks of Portugal list, I would like to spend a few words on how to move around Portugal. I believe it’s very important for you to know in advance how you will manage to get to the most interesting places, before deciding where to go.
So, here you go.
Most tourist cities have adequate public transportation. Sintra, Porto, and Lisbon for example offer the double-decker tourist bus that stops at all attractions.
Find the best car rental deals and explore around freely, at your own pace. My favorite way to enjoy a destination!
From one city to another some buses or trains are convenient and affordable, which is perfect if you are traveling alone. However, to visit some of the landmarks of Portugal, renting a car will definitely provide more freedom and comfort.
Driving around the country is easy and very affordable. Remember that the distances are very short between one city and another, as it is possible to cross the whole country from north to south in about 6 hours by car. So, take advantage of this recommendation and go on an amazing road trip through the cities of Portugal!
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The most famous landmarks in Portugal
Landmarks in Portugal Northern Region
Bom Jesus do Monte, Braga
The famous complex of Bom Jesus do Monte is formed by stairs leading to a beautiful and preserved garden (Parque do Bom Jesus), an elevator (funicular), and the Church of Bom Jesus, besides some restaurant and hotel structures.
The Sanctuary is one of the postcards of Braga, so be sure to visit it and enjoy the beautiful view from the top of the hill.
Jardim de Santa Barbara, Braga
Overlooked by a medieval castle, the Santa Barbara Garden in Braga is extraordinarily beautiful. A perfect place to take a walk, contemplate the beautiful flowers and fountains, or read a book. In other words, it is a little oasis in this city that otherwise does not have a lot of green.
Castelo de Guimarães
Built-in the 10th century to defend the region from constant attacks, Guimarães Castle is considered the cradle of nationality. Located in the highest point of Guimarães and with over 1000 years of existence, the castle was elected as one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal in 2007.
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Famous for being the demarcated region for the production of the grapes used to make the world-famous Port and Douro wines, the Douro Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. On a ride along the River Douro, it is possible to observe beautiful landscapes with vineyards and, of course, go on several wine tastings!
Portugal Landmarks in Porto
Dom Luis Bridge
Connecting the cities of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia, the famous metal bridge was designed by a disciple of Gustav Eiffel and allows the passage of people, cars, and the subway. It is from the top of D. Luís I Bridge that you will have the best views of Porto and the Douro River.
The Lello Bookstore is a mandatory stop in Porto. The bookstore became famous for being an inspiration for the Harry Potter series and has now entered the list of tourist attractions in the city. The Lello Bookstore also stands out for its architectural style. On the facade, of neo-Gothic style, two figures stand out, symbolizing Art and Science.
Landmakrs in Portugal Central Region
Costa Nova do Prado, Aveiro
Surrounded by picturesque colorful little houses, this coastal region is one of Portugal’s top summer destinations.
Visitors can enjoy strolling through the villages, a gastronomic tour of delicious restaurants, or cooling off on the beach.
There you can find old sailing clubs, kitesurfing, canoeing and surfing schools, among other water sports.
Coimbra University, Coimbra
One of the oldest universities in Portugal is located in the city of Coimbra, and it is one of the most famous landmarks in Portugal. The Paço das Escolas, where the main historic buildings of the University are located, is simply breathtaking.
Also, be sure to visit the Joanine Library. And try to visit during the week, when it’s more vibrant and alive since this is a city of students.
Also called the Monastery of Santa Maria da Vitória, the historic attraction was built over two centuries during the reign of seven different kings of Portugal.
Elected in 2007 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the building features Gothic architecture and Manueline style.
And it is said that the architect responsible was blind and that few believed that the construction would actually stand. But it all worked out in the end!
Sanctuary of Our Lady, Fátima
It is relatively common for Catholics from all over the world to include the city of Fátima in their Portugal itinerary. And the highlight is the Sanctuary of Fatima, a temple built in honor of the Virgin Mary.
The is part of a complex which occupies an area twice the size of St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican. Approximately 6 million people pass through this sanctuary every year and the basilica hosts daily masses in different languages.
Convento de Cristo, Tomar
Located in Santarém, the city of Tomar has two very important landmarks, the Castle of Tomar and the Convent of Christ.
The latter is a very prestigious religious place in Portugal. The complex also encompasses the conventual enclosure – today called Mata dos Sete Montes, the hermitage of the Immaculate Conception, and the Pegões Aqueduct.
In other words, it is a monumental complex and not just a single convent. This is another Portuguese UNESCO World Heritage Site.
More about Portugal
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- What do they speak in Portugal?
- Is Lisbon Worth Visiting? 9 Reasons Why it is!
- The 13 Best Hikes in Portugal That You Don’t Want to Miss 
- Where to Stay In Cascais Portugal – A Guide to the Best Areas and Hotels
- Surfing in Portugal: The Complete Guide to the Top 27 Surfing Spots
- Where to Stay in Porto, Portugal — A Guide to the Best Areas and Hotels
- 4 ways to get from Lisbon to Algarve Portugal – The ultimate guide for 2023
- 17 Things You Should Know Before Renting a Car in Portugal
Forte de São Miguel Arcanjo, Nazaré
This traditional fishing spot, sanctuary, and bathhouse has been open for public visitation since 2014 and offers a privileged view of the Village of Nazaré.
It is also a meeting point for enthusiasts of the region’s huge waves and hosts numerous surf championships, such as the acclaimed Giants of Nazaré.
The Alcobaça Monastery is the ideal place if you love architecture and love stories, as it is the eternal resting place of Don Pedro and Dona Inês, the Portuguese “Romeo and Juliet”.
Their tombs are near the altar, one opposite the other so that, according to legend, “they can look each other in the eye when they awaken on the day of final judgment”.
Óbidos Castle, Leiria
Considered one of the most beautiful castles in Portugal, the Óbidos Castle is a great tour to get acquainted with the constructions of the Portuguese imperial period.
Those who stay at the building’s inn can even eat and sleep in the castle itself. It is also possible to walk along the castle walls that reach 42 ft in height and get an incredible view of the medieval features of the picturesque town.
Mafra National Palace
Mafra National Palace is the largest baroque monument in the country, it took almost fifteen years to be built and includes a church, a convent, and a palace.
It is worth visiting the luxurious rooms that hosted the court of King Dom João V and the Basilica lined with marble from floor to ceiling.
Landmakrs in Sintra Portugal
Pena National Palace
Did you ever associate Sintra with the playful image of the red and yellow castle? Well, that is the Pena Palace, Sintra’s most famous postcard and one of the most visited royal palaces in Portugal.
Situated in the Parque da Pena, one of Sintra’s highest points, the palace is considered one of the 7 Wonders of Portugal in 2007.
You may also want to check out all the other Sintra Castles.
Castelo dos Mouros
Another interesting spot in Sintra is the Moorish Castle. Built by North African Moors during the 9th century, the castle used to be a military base to protect Sintra.
It is actually a ruined castle that lies nestled even further up in the Sintra Mountains than the Pena Palace.
Actually, the Moorish Castle is quite different from the other attractions in town, and it also offers the most beautiful view of the region.
Quinta da Regaleira
Featuring several mysterious buildings, a palace, and gardens, Quinta da Regaleira is a space of enigmatic beauty.
Thanks to the genius minds behind the project, the former summer royal residence was transformed into an enchanted woodland oasis.
Scattered throughout the woods you will find Greek statues, a neo-gothic chapel, towers, gardens, fountains, caves, and labyrinths.
Quinta da Regaleira’s highlight is the Initiation Well which stands out thanks to its nine-level underground spiral staircase.
Cabo da Roca
Descending the Sintra Mountains towards the sea, you will reach the westernmost point of mainland Portugal: Cabo da Roca. It is worth going there to admire the landscape and the sun setting into the Atlantic Ocean with its historical red lighthouse standing on top of the cliffs as a background.
Portugal Landmarks – Lisbon
Castelo de São Jorge
Built to protect Lisbon from imminent attacks, the Castelo de São Jorge is one of the oldest buildings in the city and a national monument. Situated on top of a hill, the building is marked by more than 8 centuries of battles and Moorish history.
Besides admiring the castle’s construction, it is possible to climb one of the towers for a privileged view of the Lisbon landscape from a height of more than 320 ft.
The castle complex consists of the castle itself, some auxiliary buildings, ruins, gardens, and a large square with a terrace.
Elevador de Santa Justa
This iron elevator was built over 100 years ago to connect the Lower Town to the Upper Town. Today, it is one of Lisbon’s main landmarks, as it offers visitors a panoramic view of the entire city.
Take advantage of the café located at the top of the attraction to have a snack while admiring the São Jorge Castle, downtown Lisbon, the ruins of the Carmo Convent Church, and Rossio square.
Praça do Comércio
Next to the Tagus River in downtown Lisbon is Praça do Comércio, one of the largest squares in Europe!
The place has enormous historical importance and gathers constructions full of beautiful details that render many hours of contemplation. In the region, there are also several restaurants available, great to enjoy a bit of the Portuguese cuisine.
Padrão dos Descobrimentos
Another tourist attraction that is located next to the Tagus River and is one of the most historic landmarks alluding to the Portuguese navigations is the Padrão dos Descobrimentos.
The iconic monument is 184 ft high and has 32 characters that portray the navigators that are part of world history.
The cool thing is that you can climb to the top of the monument and have an amazing view of Lisbon.
Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1983, the Jerónimos Monastery is one of Portugal’s main tourist attractions.
The monument, besides having enchanting architecture, took 90 years to be completed and carries the history of the old Portuguese monastic complexes.
Today, the Jerónimos Monastery serves as a resting place for King Manuel and his descendants in the church’s main chapel and side chapels to the monastery.
Torre de Belém
Proclaimed UNESCO World Heritage Site, the 98 ft tall tower was erected with the mission of being a defense tower of the Tagus River basin. With Islamic and oriental influences, the structure is composed of a medieval keep, in Moorish style.
Built more than 500 years ago, Belem Tower has served as a fort, prison, customs house, and lighthouse. Nowadays, it is the most famous landmark in Portugal and Lisbon’s main postcard.
25 de Abril Bridge
25 de Abril Bridge is Portugal’s most famous red bridge that crosses the Tagus River and connects Lisbon to the city of Almada.
Formerly, the bridge was known as Salazar Bridge but later had its name changed when Portugal freed itself from its dictator.
It is a road-rail suspension bridge and it counts with an elevator featuring a beautiful view of the river.
Cristo Rei Statue
Located on the south bank of Lisbon, across the Tagus River and the 25 de Abril Bridge, the National Sanctuary of Christ the King houses a Christ the Redeemer statue which reminds the one in Rio de Janeiro.
It is an important landmark and a very cool tourist spot to visit, where you can even climb up to get a privileged view of the city.
Landmarks in Alentejo Portugal
Forte de Nossa Senhora da Graça, Elvas
Also known as Forte Conde de Lippe, this is considered a military masterpiece from the 18th century and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Located in the Alcaçova village, the attraction is part of Turismo Militar, a project that offers historical tours based on Portuguese heroes.
Roman Temple, Évora
Another Alentejo building that is considered a Unesco World Heritage Site is the Roman temple that stands in the historic center of Évora.
Also known as Diana Temple, this is the main tourist attraction in the city. It is a very important monument that marks the Roman presence in Portuguese territory, and its construction dates back to the 1st century AD.
Chapel of Bones, Évora
One of Portugal’s most popular places is the Capela dos Ossos in Évora. And no wonder, for this place is as unusual as it is creepy.
Built in the 17th century by monks, the walls of the chapel are literally filled with human bones. There is a sign at the entrance that says ” We bones that are here, for yours we wait“, indicating the idea that death always comes, for anyone.
Castelo de Mourão
Located near the border with Spain, Mourão Castle stands on the bank of the Guadiana River, above a former medieval village.
Built in 1343, there are still traces of its schist, marble, and granite masonry. Although most of it is in ruins, some parts of the wall can be accessed so you can enjoy a beautiful view of the surroundings.
Part of a hydroelectric power plant, the Alqueva Dam is considered an engineering masterpiece. Its construction brought much-needed water to the southern Alentejo region. Taking a night tour to the Alqueva Lake Observatory is a chance to appreciate the sky in detail with the help of a telescope, without the interference of urban pollution.
Landmarks in Algarve Portugal
This is the biggest postcard of the Algarve and one of the most beautiful caves you will ever see! The Benagil sea cave in the middle of the sea, with a hole in the ceiling, is a work of art.
Be sure to go and plan to visit around noon, which is the time when the light enters the cave with greater intensity. The only ways to access are by kayak, paddleboards, or boat, making a perfect day trip activity. Definitely to include in your Algarve Itinerary.
Ponta da Piedade
Formed by cliffs and other rock formations, Ponta da Piedade is not exactly a beach. But it is still one of the most beautiful natural areas in the region and a mandatory stop in any Algarve itinerary.
Located close to Lagos, it is a great place for photography and more recently for hiking, as wooden walkways have recently been built to Canavial Beach.
Fortaleza de Sagres
Built between the 11th and 18th centuries, Sagres Fortress is a must-see in the Algarve. Dedicate at least one hour of your day to get to know all its relics, among them a wind rose over 130 ft high. Besides its undeniable historical value, the site also provides a privileged panoramic view of the entire coast and its incredible cliffs.
Portugal Landmarks in the Azores Islands
On the island of Pico, you will find the highest mountain in Portugal surrounded by blue seas.
This is actually a former volcano and around it, there are fields of wild vegetation and the small village Lajes do Pico, which has a little more than 1800 inhabitants.
This part of the Azores is reminiscent of those idyllic fairy tale scenarios, but with a difference: it is all real!
Caldeira das Sete Cidades, São Miguel
Also called Sete Cidades Lake, as it is a freshwater lake, Caldeira das Sete Cidades is the largest lake on the Azores archipelago. The lake is on São Miguel Island, one of the main islands of the Azores.
It is also one of the most visited and amazing tourist spots in the archipelago. On a cloudless day, the view is spectacular and can provide hours of tireless contemplation.
When is the best time to visit Portugal?
We are talking about a country to be visited in warmer months. During summer, you can enjoy boat trips and visit the cities without the discomfort of the cold.
Not to mention enjoy the bars and restaurants on the sidewalk and explore the most famous landmarks in Portugal.
But of course, during the winter the country is also beautiful, and no temperature can hide such beauty.
Also, it is worth considering that because the country is in the south of Europe it has a very mild climate, the temperatures do not drop that much, so you can visit it all year round.
However, I think autumn and spring are the best periods because you get away from the intense heat and the crowds of summer vacation.
Read more about the best time to visit Portugal
About the Author
I’m Camila, an Oceanographer from Brazil which is where my journey began. My studies have taken me to unique places around the world since I was a teenager. I found in my academic career the chance to come across different cultures and languages while working as a scientist. By having lived in several countries I have been able to share my experiences as a travel content writer for the last 4 years and I still have plenty more to tell. I have a great passion for the outdoors and animals, especially dogs and seals (which, let’s be honest, are basically sea dogs!).