Known well for its soccer and its hero, Christiano Ronaldo’s home country, Portugal is also an excellent tourist destination in Europe. This warm country has something for everyone, from picture-perfect natural scenes to magnificent old castles and adventure sports to museums. Today, we will look into the things to do in Portugal.
In the yore, Portugal was a great naval power in the waters around Europe. Accordingly, there is much to see about maritime matters here. Over eight hundred kilometers of atlantic coastline graces the country, offering picture-perfect beaches, quaint seaside villages, adventurous grottos and pirate coves, and so much more.
The cultural tourism value of Portugal is immense, with its great history and mix of many races. There are many small and big islands off the coast as well, providing much seclusion and different kinds of holiday opportunities. Wherever you choose to go, we can bet Portugal will not disappoint you.
- List of top 10 things to do in Portugal
- Frequently Asked Questions about Portugal visit
- BookOnBoard’s Guide to Portugal
List of top 10 things to do in Portugal
- Visit the fairytale castles of Pena and Sintra
- Take some awesome shots at Cabo da Roca
- See the Padrão dos Descobrimentos
- Laze around on Praia Da Rocha
- Admire the huge Vasco da Gama Bridge
- Explore the Quinta da Regaleira gardens
- Walk up to the Castelo dos Mouros
- Zipline across the Spain-Portugal border
- Spend a day (or week) in Piodao village
- Play in the caves and grottos in Algarve
You may have noticed that we have excluded most of Lisbon from this list. That’s absolutely right! Lisbon is so packed full of tourist attractions that once you start talking about it, it’s difficult to stop. So, we will cover the capital of Portugal in a separate article. For now, let’s investigate the most popular tourist attractions in the rest of Portugal.
Castles of Sintra
If you are a fan of castles, Portugal is your pilgrimage. The cities (and the surroundings) of Sintra and Pena are famous for the numerous castles, forts, and defensive megastructures in and around them. Many of these castles are not only strong and defensive but absolutely picture-perfect! Indeed, sometimes you will find yourself wondering if this or that castle, seen from afar, is a fairytale or fantasy movie set or not.
The most famous castles in Pena and Sintra are Pena Palace, Sintra National Palace, Monserrate Palace, etc. This would be the favorite stop for those who are awed by incredible architecture and the overwhelming smell of history. The castle gardens are often equally wonderful, with many secrets waiting for you to discover.
Cabo Da Roca
Also known as Cape Roca, this is one of the spots you may have seen already numerous times. For example, in picture postcards, in a computer or mobile wallpapers, etc. Yes, this place is so scenic that it has been an inspiration for many tranquil natural photos. Many photoshoots and movie shootings take place here. Located on the westernmost point of the Sintra mountain range, seeing this coastal viewpoint is one of the top things to do in Portugal.
Whether you visit here by the sea or by the road, the area will offer you an equally interesting journey. The cliffs rise 150 meters over the sea, offering beautiful panoramic views. I hope you got enough space on your camera! Visit the lighthouse ruins for a romantic afternoon. Alternatively, go see the fort ruins on the hiking trails around here.
Padrão dos Descobrimentos
This is the only place in Lisbon we will talk about here, such is its significance. The Padrão dos Descobrimentos is a monument to Portuguese maritime explorers of yore. The concrete contemporary monument celebrates the Portuguese age of discovery during the 15th and 16th centuries. It is located along the northern bank of the Tagus River estuary. This is the spot through which classical era ships departed for trading with Asian countries, and for adventure voyages to the unknown!
The bold and imposing monument was built first in 1940 with wood and plaster, then reconstructed with mighty concrete in 1960. There is a viewing platform and a museum in the structure. The former offers great panoramic views of the area, and the later provides lots of fun learning opportunities about how Portugal became the mightiest seafaring nation at that time. The austere neoclassicism of this beautiful monument hides many symbological hints. Many of which puzzle and excite history students visiting here from around the world.
Praia Da Rocha
Visiting a coastal country and not enjoying a lazy day on the beach? Ach, that won’t do! Praia Da Rocha is one of the most popular beaches in Portugal. And so, it has to be on your itinerary as well. It is a famous beach and resort area in the south of Portimao. It’s well known for its beach soccer tournament, Mundialito de Futebol de Praia. Some of the world’s best beach soccer teams come to play here!
Other than the beautiful beach, you have plenty to explore in this beach town – marinas, bars, restaurants, nightclubs, etc. Some of the hotels here are from medieval times, meaning you can experience staying in a palace or castle here. You got plenty of water sports and island exploration opportunities from here as well. The beach avenue is packed with shops and street food, making it a great evening walk. Though, so much attraction in one place means that this place is always packed full of tourists, rain or shine.
Vasco da Gama Bridge
Spanning a massive 17-kilometer long stretch, the Vasco da Gama Bridge is the second-longest bridge in Europe. It is a rather recent construction, completed in 1998. The bridge celebrates the discovery of the sea route from Europe to India by the famous explorer, Vasco Da Gama. The stark, barebones architecture of the bridge lets you enjoy the natural scenery here undistracted.
The bridge authorities don’t advertise it, but you should know that it is among the safest bridges in the world. The foundations extend 95 meters down to the bedrock and the pillars are reinforced to withstand gales as high as 250 KMPH. It lies on a major fault and experiences earthquakes often, blowing them off like dust in hand. It can theoretically withstand 4 times the magnitude of the seismic forces that generally is common in the area. Even Godzilla will have trouble with this massive structure.
Quinta da Regaleira Gardens
One of the most famous tourist attractions in Portugal is the Quinta da Regaleira Castle. It is one of the fairytale castles in Sintra, but we have singled it out because of its exceptional gardens. The castle itself is no doubt a great attraction with its white facade and beautiful architecture, though half-hidden in the wilderness now. That is part of the charm, I guess. But finish your tour in the building quickly – the real attraction is the gardens.
This place truly looks like somewhere fairies might live. The beautifully wild garden holds many secret nooks and crannies with hidden structures and statues. You never know what you might find on the next turn! Tumbling down multiple levels of a steep hill, the garden is mostly composed of old trees, giant ferns and rose bushes. Many tiny waterfalls and other features dot the area, with caves and grottos and towers abound!
There are two spiral wells here, famous for their structure. The intact of them is called the Initiation Well and has certainly inspired many artists and fantasy game developers. Spiral down the path inside the well to find many hidden paths, underground caves and waterways, and pools. This area is truly magical and kids will simply love it. You’ll only notice the time when you get hungry. For that, the tiny cafe in the garden provides excellent small meals. Or even better, bring a picnic basket and find a secluded spot.
Castelo dos Mouros
Translated as “Castle of the Moors”, this is one of the best examples of Moorish architecture in Portugal. It is a classic hilltop ninth century castle located in the central Portuguese civil parish of Santa Maria e São Miguel, about 25 kilometers from Lisbon. This old, half-ruined castle was of great strategic importance in the time of the Reconquista. Laters, the Christian forces captured it and thus ended its glory days. Much of the castle is fighting a slow battle yet – but with the overgrowing forest around it.
Today, you can visit this UNESCO world heritage site by walking up the hill. This beautiful and imposing creation of the north African Moors stands on top of the hill, offering panoramic views of the beautiful countryside and the medieval-looking town below. It looks very different from most other castles in Portugal with its rough, no-nonsense looks. It’s as severe as the huge boulders around it on the hill. Those of you who love massive battlements, ramparts, rough stone walls, and high watchtowers will love this place.
How do you go from one country to another? You take a plane, train, or bus even. Or just drive. If you’re near the border, you can cross it on foot, on a boat – or even dig under the fences if you want to get arrested. But how about zip-lining from one country to another?
Yes, you read that right. The PointeZero zipline stretches nearly a kilometer from Spain to Portugal. Technically, you have to go to Spain first to visit this attraction. Take a short drive across the border and up to Huelva, Spain. Then you harness up and hook on to the line, and they push you off.
You hang on for dear life as you streak off, reaching up to 80 KMPH speeds. Beneath you, the yawning Guadiana river waits for you to slip once, just once. As you traverse the line, not only you go across the border, but also one hour back in time, thanks to the time difference between Spain and Portugal. Yeah, who needs a hot tub while you have a zipline, right? And all of that happens only within a breathless minute.
If you are going to Portugal just for some escape from the city bustle and some rest, I suggest you go to Piodao and spend the whole holiday here. Situated in the center of the country, it is known as the most beautiful village in Portugal. With its medieval little buildings on the hillside and pretty little stone bridges, this place straight out of a fantasy storybook. Naturally, it is classified as a national treasure in Portugal.
The village was established many hundreds of years ago, and the people of Piodao work hard to preserve that medieval, laid-back flavor. They are generally very tourist-friendly people, as long as you don’t disfigure or dirty the place in any way. Though the small village can house only so many tourists. That’s why you need to book well in advance. This picture-postcard place is one of those which looks beautiful in any weather or season.
Spectacular limestone caves and grottos line the Atlantic coastline in Algarve. It is quite near the Praia Da Rocha beach, making it best visited by boat or kayak. The area has many beautiful geographic features created by erosion. Magnificent sea caves with tiny, secluded beaches welcome couples or families who seek a bit of privacy. Beaches like Ponta da Piedade are famous with their limestone tours and natural oculus on the cave roofs.
If you are visiting from the land, the seaside cliffs are equally great for hiking. The dramatic coastline forms many inspirational views from far and near. The golden rocks rise up to 20 meters from the clear deep blue water, making a sort of dreamlike view. Many grottos and water caves can be visited by kayak or boat. There is also a lighthouse on the clifftop, guiding ships away from boats since 1913. Fanciful weird shapes in the rock-like castles or pyramids can often be seen around here, the results of thousands of years of erosion.
Frequently Asked Questions about Portugal visit
1. How is the accommodation in Portugal?
As an european country there are many cheap places to stay in portugal. Some of the most affordable hotels in portugal are:
- Ericeira Chill Hill Hostel – from $20
- Hans Brinker Hostel – from $21
- Viriato Rooms – from $22
- Casa Rafel Home – from $24
- Guesthouse of Alcobaca – from $25
Please note that all prices are for two adults staying one night on first-second July, with no extras.
2. What should I eat in Portugal?
Cafes. Hands down, that’s the first thing that comes into mind. Because Portugal has the highest concentration of cafes per head. And that is certified by many visitors to this wonderful country. With the award of 23 Michelin stars around the country, it shows clearly how great is the quality of food as well. The most popular places to eat in Portugal include:
- The Yeatman, Porto – hilltop restaurant with a great view and unique seafood
- Midori, Sintra – Japanese traditional delicacies with a Michelin star
- Noélia & Jerónimo, Algarve – inventive additions to local dishes, extremely crowded
- Choupana, Alentejo – exceptional seaside views with surf hitting the terrace, catch of the day specials
3. Are there any good Portugal Holiday Packages?
- Portugal in Depth – 10 nights
- Tour of Southern Portugal – 4 days
- Northern Portugal with Santiago de Compostela – 10 nights
- Wonders of Portugal – 3 days
- Knights Templar Historic Tour – 3 days
- The Portuguese Escape – 8 nights
4. How much is the air fare to Portugal?
- New York
- Iberia – from $413
- Tap Air – from $418
- Level – from $433
- JetBlue – from $609
- Air Europa – from $655
- WizzAir – from $47
- RyanAir – from $48
- Easyjet – from $75
- Tap Air – from $79
- British Airways – from $154
- Aeroflot- from $408
- Turkish Airlines – from $491
- KLM – from $678
- Emirates – from $681
- Lufthansa – from $730
- New Delhi
- KLM – from $343
- Alitalia – from $360
- Air France – from $365
- Etihad – from $371
- Aeroflot – from $392
- British Airways – from $618
- ANA – from $701
- Cathay Pacific – from $762
- Garuda Indonesia – from $807
- China southern – from $810
Please note that the above fares are indicative of one person traveling one-way in economy class on the first of July only. All prices mentioned in this article are subjected to change.
BookOnBoard’s Guide to Portugal
As you have just seen Portugal is a country of natural and man-made wonders. Just go ahead and google it, you’ll find plenty more attractions here. We know how complicated it can be to figure out the things to do in Portugal. That’s the very reason why we’ve composed this travel guide.
In this article, we have tried to inform you about many important facts about this fascinating country. For example, Best Places to visit in Portugal, Cheapest places to stay in Portugal, Most popular places to eat in Portugal, Fun things to do in Portugal, Affordable hotels in Portugal, Low cost flights to Portugal, Portugal Holiday Packages, and much more!
We hope you like our guide! Please let us know your thoughts and suggestions. You can use the comment form below or you can email us. Also, do check out our travel guides to other European places! Till then, stay safe!