20 Best Cities in Portugal to Visit This Year

Written By: The Planet D

Are you searching for the best cities in Portugal? Then look no further. After visiting the country multiple times, we have compiled this list of cities that we think should be on your bucket list. When most people think of Portugal, they think of the stunning beaches of the Algarve or the historic capital of Lisbon, but there are many other small towns and cities that make up this beautiful country.

Beautiful Cities in Portugal

Best Portugal Cities Lisbon

While most visitors spend their time on the mainland Portugal is also blessed with some beautiful islands off of its coast. There is the Garden Isle of Madeira and the archipelago of the Azores, which are there to tempt you even more. In truth, Portugal has a little something for everyone and is much more economical than other comparable European Cities like Greece or Italy. So let’s explore the most beautiful cities in Portugal.

With so many incredible cities, it can be challenging to plan a vacation in Portugal. What cities are the best ones to go to? What should you make sure to experience when you travel to Portugal? What are the best cities in Portugal for relaxation or to explore its rich history?

In 1139, Alfonso Henriques declared himself King of Portugal. Since then, the country has grown into a gorgeous land of history and culture. Portugal covers 800 kilometers along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean and boasts some of the best beaches in the world, as well as a great mix of rugged and scenic landscapes.

If you want to know where to go in Portugal, then you’ve come to the right place.

1. Lisbon (Portuguese Capital)

Best Cities in Portugal Lisbon

No list of the best cities in Portugal would be complete without including the largest city in Portugal, Lisbon. If you don’t mind the crowds, then you should know that there’s a reason why Lisbon is quickly making its way to becoming one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Europe. It’s a beautiful city with phenomenal weather. 

One of the things we love about Lisbon is that it is a big city but still has that small-town feel. Wander its cobbled streets and admire its beautifully painted buildings, which are tucked nicely among seven imposing hills. If you’re into postcard-worthy scenery and beautiful Gothic architecture, you’ll find plenty of that here in Lisbon.

Furthermore, it’s so easy to fly in and out of, especially from the United States. You can spend days here enjoying the Cathedral and food market or just exploring and enjoying the city’s architecture. And from here, you can easily go just about anywhere.

2. Porto

Cities in Portugal Porto

Porto is the largest city in Northern Portugal and one of the major cities in the country. Sadly, it is often overlooked as a tourist destination in favor of Lisbon. However, it has just as much charm and character as Lisbon.

Located along the Douro River, Porto and Gaia (the city on the other side of the river) have become our favorite cities in the country. There is just so much to see and do that we have returned three times to continue our exploration of the city.

Here, you can explore winding streets and architecture. There are also plenty of Port wineries where you can discover a new favorite, or you can spend your time exploring the ancient churches.  Not to mention that if you’re planning to spend most of your trip in Northern Portugal, Porto is a great spot to set up base and take day trips from.

3. Sintra

Beautiful cities in Portugal Sintra

Sintra is the former favored summer residence of the Portuguese royal family and much of their nobility. For this reason, there are many gorgeous estates and fairy-tale castles to explore around this city. If you are into beautiful architecture, then Sintra is one of the best cities in Portugal.

The colorful Pena Palace and its adjacent park are absolutely worth exploring while you’re in the area. Nearby there is the Moorish Castle, so you might as well make your way there when you’re done.

You should also take the time to explore Quinta de Regaleira. Keep an eye on the weather, because you won’t want to miss the beautiful gardens. You don’t want to leave Sintra without wandering the narrow streets or visiting the old town.

4. Alcobaça and Batalha

Cities in Portugal Alcobaca

Alobaça and Batalha are both home to monasteries that are classified as UNESCO World Heritage Site. Both of the monasteries are some of the oldest in Portugal and are rich in history. Alcobaça monastery was founded in 1153 and completed in the mid-13th century, making it the oldest example of Gothic architecture in Portugal.

The monastery in Alcobaça is home to the tombs of several members of the Portuguese royal family. Visitors can see these gorgeous places of rest when they come to visit.

Construction of the Batalha monastery began in 1386 to commemorate the 1385 Battle of Aljubarrota. Part of it has still never been finished to this day.

An earthquake in 1834 damaged and abandoned the monastery. A few years later, King Ferdinand II ordered its restoration, which was completed in the early 20th century. At that time, it was also declared a national monument.

It’s easy to visit Batalha’s and Alobaça’s monasteries on the same day if you plan properly. If you are in Lisbon and time is tight, you can take this Private Tour, which will take you to both Alboaca and Batalha.

5. Leiria

Top cities in Portugal Leiria

Those who like to explore castles should make time to visit Leira. It sits between Porto and Lisbon. So, if you’re planning a road trip across the country, this is a great spot to stop, stretch your legs, and get something to eat.

Take your time exploring the incredible castle here and enjoy the view of the entire city from the top of it. Sitting atop a hill overlooking the city like St. George´s Castle in Lisbon, it is a place that you should visit while you are in Portugal if you love history and architecture. Snap a few photos of this amazing site, and then you’re free to continue on to the next stop on your itinerary. 

6. Cascais

Cities in Portugal Cascais

If you’re looking for more relaxed cities in Portugal, Cascais might just be the place for you. This quiet town has some of the most beautiful beaches in the country, making it the perfect place to sit back in the sun with a drink and a good book. Not to mention there’s delicious seafood you can get around town as well.

And while you’re here, you should definitely check out the historic center and the Estoril Casino. The historical fort in the city is one of those places you cannot miss, even if you are staying in Lisbon, as Cascais is just a short drive from the capital city. When you visit Cascais, you should make sure to get out on the water. This sunset cruise is the perfect way to end the day.

7. Costa Nova

Costa Nova City in Portugal

Costa Nova is a popular summer vacation destination for both Portuguese residents and international tourists. It’s an adorable town with colorful striped houses lining vast promenades, where you can explore and enjoy the town’s atmosphere. 

Those who like seafood will enjoy exploring the local fish market, and the beach here is simply stunning. If you’re looking to get some good vacation photos, then this is the place to do it. There are so many beautiful and colorful spots to stop and get a great photo for your scrapbook. You can visit it in tandem with Aviero as they are very close to one another.

8. Tomar

Cities in Portugal town of Tomar

Tomar is the former seat of the Order of the Knights Templar. It sits in central Portugal and is a bit of hidden gem when you are looking at the best cities in Portugal.

The monastery here, Convento de Cristo, was built in 1160. Because of its history with the Knights Templar, it is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Explore the monastery and take in the splendor of one of the most important pieces of medieval architecture that still stands today.

And if you time it right, you can even witness the Tray’s Festival and how the city is decorated with flowers for it.

9. Èvora

Cities in Portugal  Evora

Èvora is a less popular Portuguese town for tourists to visit, which means it’ll be so much easier for you to explore and enjoy. It’s a good choice for a quieter day trip, but there’s also enough to do here to justify spending the night in this small city. There’s the Chapel of Bones, Roman Temple ruins, the town square, and the gorgeous Cathedral to enjoy here.

Try going up to the roof of the Cathedral here and take in the gorgeous views for a truly special experience. And, of course, don’t forget to take photos while you’re up there.

10. Braga

Cities in Portugal Braga

Braga is one of the oldest cities in Portugal, making it a noteworthy historical destination. It’s also one of the most important religious destinations in the country. There are over thirty churches in this city alone. It is no wonder it is considered the religious center of Portugal.

One such church is the Braga Cathedral. It’s the oldest in the country since it was built in the 12th century. 

There’s also the Bom Jesus do Monte Sanctuary, a popular pilgrimage site. Many devout Catholics climb the baroque staircase, which has 580 steps on their knees, to reach the church at the top.

Remember to spend some time in the city center, where you can enjoy the colorful buildings, family-owned restaurants, and incredible history.

11. Fátima

Cities in Portugal Fatima

If you’re looking for a religious pilgrimage, you should definitely visit Fátima as well. In 1917, three shepherd children reported that the Virgin Mary appeared to them between May 13th and October 13th. The Catholic Church later recognized these sightings, making the city a site of pilgrimage for many devout Catholics.

You can visit the Our Lady of Fátima Sanctuary and even the Chapel of Apparitions, where the Virgin Mary appeared to the shepherd children. If you arrive during Easter, you can also participate in the festivals celebrating the anniversary of the apparitions.

12. Tavira

Towns in Portugal Tavira

For another less crowded and relaxing day trip, you should put Tavira on your list of towns to visit. It’s popular with Portuguese residents but not international tourists. 

We loved exploring the historic center of town. You’ll see the various different cultures, from the Moors to the Romans, in Portuguese architecture throughout its long history. You can get some beautiful photos of the colorful buildings and cobbled streets throughout the city center.

And when you’re done, you can check out the nearby beaches for a relaxing way to end the day. The city’s beaches are located in the Parque Natural de Ria Formosa, which has some of the finest white sands in the whole Algarve region.

13. Guimarães

cities in portugal guimaraes

Guimarães is often considered one of the country’s most important places. Many refer to it as “the birthplace of Portugal.”

It is because people believe that the first king of Portugal was born in this city. Furthermore, the Battle of São Mamede was fought very close by, which was an important landmark in establishing Portugal as an independent kingdom in 1139.

Because of its long history and political importance, there are many incredible sights to see while you’re here. We stayed here for a few days and really loved it—a lot of history, great food, and amazing people.

14. Monsaraz

Monsaraz Cities in Portugal

An hour’s drive east of Èvora is the medieval city of Monsaraz. It’s easy to see the influences of the medieval era as soon as you see this fortified city. 

The main draw here is the Monsaraz Castle. Visitors are encouraged to walk along the walls and pass the bullfighting ring inside the castle. Afterward, exploring the ancient streets of the town is a great way to immerse yourself in history.

Because of its natural vantage point, the views from all over the city are incredible. Make sure to take your time here; it is a place that is meant to be savored and not rushed through.

15. Funchal

Cities in Portugal Funchal on Madeira

Unlike the rest of the cities on this list, Funchal isn’t on Portugal’s mainland. It’s the capital of the Portuguese island of Madeira. 

This is the place to go for those who want to be a bit more adventurous. If you enjoy hiking and trying unusual fruits, then this should definitely be on your list of places to go in Portugal.

You have to go out of your way to get here, but we promise it’s well worth the effort to spend a few days exploring this town.

16. Coimbra

Portuguese Cities Coimbra

Coimbra is the former capital of Portugal. It’s also home to one of the oldest universities in the world, which happens to be one of the oldest active universities in the world. 

The school was established in 1290, and it’s said that it was part of the inspiration for the Harry Potter series. While you’re here, make sure to check out the Coimbra University library and Biblioteca Joanina.

Furthermore, the historic city itself has a lot to offer. Before you leave, make sure to check out the many churches and Cathedrals around the city.

17. Óbidos

Obidos town in Portugal

If you’re planning to stay near Lisbon, then this is another great day trip to add to your itinerary. Those interested in Medieval history will love the chance to immerse themselves in it here. From the moment you enter the city walls, you’ll see stunning white-washed houses and cobblestone streets to explore. 

If you plan your trip right, you might get to see wonderful events such as the annual Chocolate Festival, the Medieval Festival, or the Christmas Village in this gorgeous town, which King Dinis I gifted to Queen Isabel.

18. Lagos

Portugal Cities Lagos

If you want to see a town with something for everyone, look no further than Lagos. This bustling city in southern Portugal is a great place to learn some history, relax, or do a little bit of both.

There are several stunning beaches to enjoy here as well as delicious restaurants to eat at in the historic city center. And the best part is that almost everything can be reached either on foot or by public transportation. Don’t miss the sunset from Ponta Da Piedade; it is one you will never forget. Read more: Best Things to do in Lagos

19. Aveiro

Aveiro Portugal Azores

If you’re going to be in Porto for a while, then take the hour-long train ride to Aveiro. Located on the west coast of Portugal, this city is often referred to as the “Venice of Portugal” since you can see many colorful Moliceiros traveling up and down the canal. While you’re here, you should definitely take a tour of the city on one of these charming gondolas.

The colorful homes are also a great backdrop for anyone who wants to get some fun vacation photos to hang on their walls. And don’t forget to try some Ovos Moles de Aveiro while you’re here. Also read:

20. Nazaré

Nazare City in Portugal

If you’re interested in the local traditional culture of Portugal, then this is a good place to do that. During the summer months, you might find that it’s very similar to most other tourist destinations in Portugal. However, outside of the peak tourist season, this town becomes a quiet spot with traditional clothing and fishing to be seen.

Of course, it’s a fishing town, so you have to be sure to try some of the best seafood you’ll ever eat while you’re here too.

Visit These Cities in Portugal This Year

If you’re planning a trip to Portugal this year, then you need to be sure to put as many of these cities on your itinerary as you can. There are the best cities in Portugal to visit right now. Every one of them is gorgeous and full of history and culture that you won’t want to miss.

So, to ensure that you plan your trip to these Portugal cities well, we have all the information and resources you need to make your trip run smoothly. Check out our Travel Resources today and get started planning your trip.

Travel Planning Resources

Looking to book your next trip? Why not use these resources that are tried and tested by yours truly.

Book Your Flights: Start planning your trip by finding the best flight deals on Skyscanner. We have used them for years and have found that they have the best flight deals.

Book your Hotel: Find the best prices on hotels with these two providers. If you are located in Europe use Booking.com and if you are anywhere else use TripAdvisor.

Find Apartment Rentals: You will find the cheapest prices on apartment rentals with VRBO

Travel Insurance: Don't leave home without it. Here is what we recommend:

  • Safety Wing - Occasional Travelers.
  • Medjet - Global air medical transport and travel security.

Book Your Activities: Looking for walking tours, skip-the-line tickets, private guides, and more? Then we recommend Get Your Guide.

Need more help planning your trip? Make sure to check out our Resources Page where we highlight all the great companies that we trust when we are traveling.

About The Planet D

Dave Bouskill and Debra Corbeil are the owners and founders of The Planet D. After traveling to 115 countries, on all 7 continents over the past 13 years they have become one of the foremost experts in travel. Being recognized as top travel bloggers and influencers by the likes of Forbes Magazine, the Society of American Travel Writers and USA Today has allowed them to become leaders in their field.

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2 thoughts on “20 Best Cities in Portugal to Visit This Year”

  1. Hey guys.

    I’m Portuguese and I have to say this is a very nice list for foreigners to check before traveling to my country. 😉 Portugal have many more beautiful places than those found next to Porto or Lisbon.

    Great work!