Top Destinations in Portugal: What to Do and Visit

Melissa Giroux, better known as A Broken Backpack, is a full-time traveler, blogger, and digital nomad! Originally from Canada, she’s been traveling the globe since June 2014. We partnered up with her so that she could share some insights for one of our favorite destinations in Europe: the top destinations in Portugal.

Lisbon street. Credit: LauraRinke / Pixabay

What are the top destinations in Portugal?

Portugal is a must-visit country when in Europe. Portuguese food is one of the finest cuisines in the world, the charming towns will surely work their spell on you, the cost of travel is considerably less than most Western European countries, and let’s not forget about their famous port wine. Portugal is a versatile country offering a large variety of activities, landscapes, and experiences. You can easily head to the Iberian Peninsula for a weekend getaway from many places across Europe and the UK or make it a longer one or two-week trip if you’re coming from a further away.

We’ve broken down the country in four regions with the top destinations in Portugal to make it easier to plan your travels:

  • Porto and the north
  • The center of Portugal
  • The capital city of Lisbon and its surroundings
  • The Algarve and the south

Porto and the north of Portugal

Porto. Credit: nathsegato / Pixabay

Porto is a charming city located in the north of Portugal. This is the region where you will want to go if you’re planning on cruising in the Douro Valley, sampling many delicious wines a lot while getting lost in the magical vineyards that blanket the rolling hills of the Valley. If you’re looking for other activities, Porto has a lot more to offer. This historic city has many museums and sightseeing activities that rival the most famous European cities. Porto’s historic charm, its river, the Douro, and its maze of steep and narrow cobbled streets home to beautiful plazas makes it one of the top destinations in Portugal.

If you’re planning on spending more time in the north, you should also consider heading to Braga and Guimaraes, which are two small towns known for their history and culture. If you’re an outdoor lover, you must visit Peneda-Geres National Park, where you’ll find several beautiful waterfalls and natural pools. It’s ideal for camping or for a day trip in nature.

Center of Portugal

Photo by Clifford Yeo on Unsplash

If you’re traveling by bus from Porto to Lisbon, a bit further south, you should make a few stops in the center of Portugal along the way. We highly recommend the towns of Aveiro and Coimbra.  

Aveiro, coined the Venice of Portugal, is where you’ll find gondolas (barcos moliceiros) and little canals in the city. There’s also a beach and you’ll be able to spot the famous stripped beach houses along the coast. 

Coimbra, a student city located on the coast, has a vibrant and hip atmosphere. With many bars and restaurants with cheap prices and high-quality food and drinks, you can experience the best nightlight that Portugal has to offer. You can also visit several museums in Coimbra or go for a walk in the old town part.

Lisbon and surroundings

Rossio square and Santa Justa elevator in Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon is one of the most popular destinations in Portugal and tops many lists of the best places to visit in Europe. Known for its beautiful viewpoints and quaint yellow trams, most travelers will spend a good chunk of their time in the capital.

While you’re in the area, don’t miss out on Sintra and Cascais, hidden gems located Lisbon. Sintra, a World Heritage Site where you can find several colorful castles and palaces with spectacular views, is only 1 hour away from Lisbon by public transport! Cascais is perfect for coastal views, natural parks, and beaches. Also, 1 hour away by public transport, Cascais is the perfect escape plan for those who want a short break from the city.

Santa Marta Lighthouse and Museum in Cascais, Lisbon district, Portugal

The Algarve

Lagos, Algarve region, Portugal

The Algarve is located in the southernmost region of Portugal and is known for its amazing beaches, rock formations, and towering cliffs. 

Our favorite spot is surely Lagos, a charming town that gives you access to some of the most scenic spots in Algarve. Grab a kayak and enjoy the views directly from the water or simply sit and relax while enjoying the sunset. Lagos also has a bustling nightlife with multiple bars, restaurants and clubs.

The Algarve is filled with multiple spots that are also worth a visit such as Albufeira, Faro, and Portimão.

Which one of these top destinations in Portugal is on your list? Is Portugal the next place on your bucket list?


This post was written by Melissa Giroux, better known as A Broken Backpack, is a Canadian travel blogger who has been on the road since June 2014! Read more about her adventures on her website, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.