When people think of Portugal, they often envision the bustling cities of Lisbon and Porto or perhaps the sunny beaches of the Algarve. However, Portugal has much more to offer than just its major destinations. The country is filled with charming small towns and villages that are well worth a visit. Where to go? Check out these seven unique places to start with!
There are many things to do in Tavira, so spending at least a day here is worth planning. One of the highlights of Tavira is its nearby island, known as Ilha de Tavira. This island is a natural paradise, with unspoiled beaches, crystal-clear waters, and a laid-back atmosphere. You can take a short ferry ride from Tavira to reach the island, and once there, you can relax on the beach, swim in the sea, or explore the local flora and fauna. Tavira’s historic center is also a delight to explore.
The town is home to many beautiful churches, such as the Igreja de Santa Maria do Castelo, which dates back to the 13th century. Next to the church, you can visit Tavira Castle, another must-see attraction. The Moors built this impressive structure to defend the town against Christian invaders. Today, the castle is open to visitors, and you can climb to the top for panoramic views of Tavira and the surrounding countryside. Lastly, check out the Roman bridge that spans the Gilão River. In this area are many restaurants where you can enjoy a traditional Portuguese meal.
Located in central Portugal, Óbidos is a charming medieval town known for its historical architecture, narrow streets, and impressive castle walls. Óbidos is small, and you may see most places in two hours. But staying overnight is fantastic, and you can even sleep in the castle! One of the highlights of Óbidos is its castle walls, which date back to the 14th century. They surround the town, and you can walk along these walls to enjoy the panoramic views over the city.
The historic center of Óbidos is another must-see attraction. The town is home to many beautiful churches, such as the Igreja de São Pedro, which dates back to the 12th century. There are many festivals in Óbidos, so make sure you visit the town during one of them. Examples are the chocolate festival in March, the annual medieval fair in July, and the Christmas village Vila Natal in December.
Ericeira (Área Metropolitana de Lisboa)
Ericeira is truly a surfer’s Paradise. It’s a small fishing village located on the Atlantic coast, just a short drive from Lisbon. The town has become a popular destination for surfers due to its consistent waves and laid-back atmosphere. It’s now known as one of the best surf spots in Europe! With over 12 surf breaks, it’s a perfect place to catch some waves. You can take surf lessons or rent a board from one of the many surf shops in the area.
Ericeira has also retained its traditional Portuguese charm, with white-washed houses, cobbled streets, and a bustling fishing port. The Forte de Mil Regos, an old fortress located on a hill overlooking the sea, is a popular attraction, as is the Museu Municipal. Some great hikes around the area offer stunning views of the coastline. Visit Miradouro Ribeira d’Ilhas, for example, or enjoy the view from Miradouro Sala das Visitas.
Évora is a small town in the heart of Alentejo, and it’s a beautiful city with a rich history and culture. One of the main sights in the UNESCO World Heritage town is the Cathedral of Évora. Climb on top of the roof for a spectacular view of the area and the city! Next to the cathedral, you’ll discover the Roman Temple of Évora, built in the 1st century AD! And that’s not the only ancient sight in the area. The prehistoric stone circle of Almendres Cromlech is located just outside Évora and is one of the largest megalithic sites in Europe!
If you prefer to stay in town, visiting the Chapel of Bones is worth visiting. Although eerie, it’s a fascinating place! The chapel is decorated with the bones of more than 5,000 monks and is a must-see for anyone visiting Évora! Alentejo is also famous for its wine, and Évora is the perfect spot to organize a wine-tasting tour in the area.
Aveiro is a charming city located in central Portugal, known for its picturesque canals, colorful boats, and beautiful architecture. Unsurprisingly, one of the top things to do in Aveiro is to ride a traditional moliceiro boat and explore the canals while admiring the city’s stunning Art Nouveau buildings. Most tours take around 45 minutes, and you’ll get a great introduction to the town. If you prefer to walk, you can take a stroll along the Ria de Aveiro to enjoy the views.
Another must-see attraction is the Aveiro Cathedral, a beautiful Romanesque-style building that dates back to the 15th century. Nature lovers will also appreciate visiting Aveiro as there are fabulous spots to discover. Enjoy the views over the saltpans Salinas de Aveiro, or visit Praia da Barra for a walk on the beach. Bird-watchers will enjoy the nature reserve Dunas de São Jacinto.
Tomar is a historic city known for the Knights Templar, an elite fighting force and semi-religious order. You’ll learn all about this at the Convent of Christ, a UNESCO World Heritage site that dates back to the 12th century. One of the highlights is the Rotunda, a Templar Carola with eight pillars filled with paintings by Portuguese artists and historic wooden sculptures. Next to the Convent of Christ is an impressive medieval castle with gorgeous gardens.
Tomar also has a long Jewish history, and one of the main sites is the Synagogue of Tomar, a 15th-century synagogue that is now a museum. It is one of the best-preserved examples of medieval Jewish architecture in Portugal. After the sights, you can also take a stroll through the historic center of Tomar, with its cobbled streets and beautiful buildings. The city is home to several museums, including the Museu Luso-Hebraico Abraham Zacuto, which explores the Jewish history of the region.
Sintra (Área Metropolitana de Lisboa)
Sintra is a picturesque town located in the Lisbon region of Portugal, famous for its stunning palaces, castles, and lush natural surroundings. There are many things to do in Sintra, making it a popular tourist destination. It’s the number one day trip from Lisbon! One of the most famous attractions in Sintra is Pena Palace, a beautiful palace that was once the summer residence of the Portuguese royal family.
You can explore the palace’s stunning rooms and admire its intricate tilework and ornate decorations. Discover how to get to Pena Palace and which sites you should not miss! Close to Pena Palace, you can also visit Castelo dos Mouros, a medieval castle that was built in the 8th century and offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside.
Another must-see attraction in Sintra is the Quinta da Regaleira, a gorgeous palace, and gardens full of hidden grottos, tunnels, and fountains. The gardens are a beautiful and tranquil place to explore. The site is full of magic and mystery, and a guided tour is advisable. This way, you’ll learn more about the Knights Templar and Freemasons. Visitors can also explore The castle’s walls and towers have been well-preserved, and visitors can explore the ruins and learn about the castle’s fascinating history.
Nature lovers will enjoy exploring the Parque Natural de Sintra-Cascais, a beautiful park that is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna. The park has several hiking trails that offer stunning views of the coast and the surrounding mountains.