How far from Porto is Valenca
Portugal's Top 10: The Best Cities in Portugal
Portugal is a fascinating and varied country with lively cities, beautiful beaches and an extremely pleasant climate. The country is not very big geographically, but still offers an incredible variety of landscapes, cultures and people.
Historically and culturally, Portugal was or is shaped by the adjacent ocean. This influence can be seen, for example, in the large seafaring cities of Lisbon and Porto, but also in the lively beach resorts of the Algarve or the traditional fishing towns along the Atlantic coast.
This diversity continues inland: from lush vineyards along the Duero to the arid hills of the Alentejo. In the midst of an impressive natural landscape there are old cities, whose city walls bear witness to their lively past. Some regions have not yet been discovered by tourists at all.
Portugal is a fantastic vacation destination. This travel guide tells you which ten places we think you should definitely see.
Related articles:The best beaches in Portugal – Vacation spots in Portugal – 1 week in Portugal (Recommended itineraries with maps)
Obidos is a lovely little town with beautiful walls and a popular day trip destination from Lisbon.
Carvoeiro in the Algarve - a popular family vacation destination
Our top 10: The ten best cities in Portugal
Here is our personal leaderboard of cities you should definitely visit:
10) Viana do Castelo
6) Vila Nova de Milfontes
In the following we would like to explain why we have included the individual cities in our list of the best.
Our list starts with a region in the very north of Portugal that many simply overlook. Viana do Castelo is the largest city in the region. The people are hardworking; the entire area lives from shipbuilding.
The city's tourist attraction is already recognizable at first glance: the chapel Santuário de Santa Luzia, which towers high above Viana do Castelo. From the chapel's roof dome, the rugged Costa Verde can be seen, stretching both north and south.
The Costa Verde is the rough stretch of coast in the north of the country with beautiful beaches, jagged rocks and the mighty ocean.
Viana do Castelo is little known among tourists, but there is a lot to discover in the city: a lovely city center, a busy port and friendly people. The beautiful Ponte de Lima or the border town of Valença in the north are ideal day trip destinations.
Our personal opinion: If you want to escape the tourist crowds in summer, the region in the far north of Portugal is for you.
Related articles:Viana do Castelo
The chapel Santuário de Santa Luzia: The Gothic style makes the chapel appear much older than it actually is. It was not completed until 1904.
The Praça da República is the main plaza in Viana do Castelo
Nazaré is famous for its colossal waves in winter (November to January), which can reach 30 m and attract brave surfers from all over the world.
Surfing on 30 m high waves - in winter in Nazaré
But Nazaré not only offers excellent conditions for surfers, the city is also one of the best beach resorts in Portugal. A beautiful sandy beach, a characterful town and a rich fishing heritage await you.
Directly above Nazaré is the Sitio headland with a charming historic city center, a lighthouse and a view over Praia do Norto, where huge waves break in winter.
In summer there is a lively holiday atmosphere in Nazaré. Nevertheless, the city retains its typical Portuguese character. If you are spending your vacation in Nazaré, day trips to the Gothic monastery in Alcobaça, the old town in Batalha or the fishing town of Peniche are ideal.
Our personal opinion: There is no need to travel all the way to the Algarve to relax on beautiful beaches. Around Nazaré and along the Costa de Prata you can expect magnificent dream beaches.
Related articles:Overview Nazaré – Travel guide to Batalha - Guide to Peniche
View from the headland Sitio to the beautiful beach in Nazaré
The Farol da Nazaré lighthouse on a calm summer day
Guimarães is considered to be the historical birthplace of Portugal. Here the first king of the country, Alfonso I, was born and the country was founded in 1128.
The long history is evident in the various monuments and landmarks that can be found all over the lovely cobblestone streets of Guimarães city center. You can expect an old castle, a medieval chateau, a Gothic monastery and beautiful streets with traditional houses. You will have a great time exploring Guimarães. South of the city is the Serra da Penha with picturesque hiking trails and fantastic viewpoints.
Guimarães is a lovely little town that is easy to explore on a day trip from Porto.
Related articles:Overview of Guimarães
The old castle of Guimarães
A traditional house in the old town of Guimarães
Sintra is located in the middle of the pine forests of the Serra de Sintra. Magical castles and extraordinary mansions are hidden deep. The hills around Sintra have a slightly cooler climate than Lisbon. The Portuguese nobility used to spend the summer months in this region.
In the middle of Sintra there is a medieval castle, the ruins of a Moorish castle, numerous mansions and the Pena Palace, one of the most beautiful buildings in Portugal. Sintra is the best day trip destination from Lisbon and is connected to the Portuguese capital via a direct train connection.
Our personal opinion: We love Sintra. However, the city has completely surrendered to mass tourism. It's no fun waiting an hour or more for a tourist bus or waiting in line at the ticket offices. If fewer tourists were to visit Sintra, the city would be number two on our list.
Related articles:Overview of Sintra – Day trip to Sintra
The colorful Pena Palace is the highlight of any visit to Sintra.
The Castelo dos Mouros high above Sintra once served to protect the city.
No 6) Vila Nova de Milfontes
Most Portuguese fall in love with Vila Nova de Milfontes, regardless of the fact that Portugal is blessed with beautiful beaches.
Vila Nova de Milfontes is located in the heart of the wild, rugged Alentejo. The region is dominated by the mighty ocean. So it's no wonder that you come across windswept landscapes and huge beaches there. This travel destination is an absolute highlight, especially for those who love the rugged beauty of nature or who want to spend a lot of time outdoors and have fun hiking, biking or surfing.
The Portuguese love Vila Nova de Milfontes. During the summer holidays (mid-July to August), the peaceful town is transformed into a lively holiday resort. Outside the summer season, you can spend a few quiet and relaxing days in Vila Nova de Milfontes.
Vila Nova de Milfontes is located on the banks of the Mira River.
The pristine Praia do Almograve beach, south of Vila Nova de Milfontes
Lagos is the best seaside resort on the Algarve coast as it is a lively and sociable city with a historic city center that has not been affected by mass tourism.
Lagos offers a variety of beautiful beaches, including Don Anna Beach, considered to be the most picturesque in Portugal.
A little further along the coast are the Ponte Piede cliffs, a series of heavily weathered sandstone cliffs that are best explored from a boat.
The modern marina of Lagos with its attractive bars and restaurants
The center of Lagos reflects the eventful history of the city: large sections are reminiscent of the old city wall and the narrow fort guards the estuary with the port entrance. Lagos is an excellent destination from which to explore the western end of the Algarve, with day trips including Sagres, Portimão and Silves.
Lagos has a more neat and family-friendly atmosphere than its seaside neighbor, Praia da Rocha - this is where you should go for nightlife and partying.
Related articles:Overview Lagos
The cliffs of the Ponta da Piedade headland
The old town of Lagos with a view over the port facilities
Porto, very modestly, ranks second among cities after Lisbon. The city has numerous sights and leisure activities and was only discovered some time ago by major tour operators.
While the working-class mentality is humble in Porto, the city has a rich history, a vibrant nightlife and a thriving arts and crafts scene. Porto is undoubtedly an up-and-coming city and can easily rival Lisbon. The city is ideal for a short city break.
Within Porto are the characterful districts of Ribeira and Baixa. You also have the opportunity to take a relaxing boat trip on the Duero or try different port wines. In the past, numerous boats brought port wine to the city from the Duero Valley.
This was stored there in huge port wine cellars, which are located directly on the banks of the Duero. These cellars are still in use today. All major producers offer tours of their cellars and tastings of their ports.
If you want to stay longer in Porto, there are fun day trips to Guimarães (see number 8 on this list), Braga or Lamego. In the summer months, the beaches in Matosinhos, Vila do Conde or Povoa de Varzim are worth a visit.
Our personal opinion: Porto is the ideal destination for a city break in the summer months. Many cities in southern Europe struggle with mass tourism in the main travel season. In contrast, Porto offers a quiet holiday atmosphere with empty beaches and no queues at the entrance to the numerous tourist attractions.
Related articles:Overview postage – 1 week in Porto
The bridge Ponte Luís I is one of the symbols of Porto.
The Ribeira district in Porto
Evora is a delightful town in the heart of the arid, arid region of the Alentejo.
The city is famous for its beautifully preserved Roman temple and the somewhat creepy chapel made of bones. The historical importance of the former trading town can be recognized by the large number of national buildings and monuments within the city walls.
The pace of life in Evora is rather slow due to the very hot summers, but during the semester you come across a large young student population here. For visitors with rental cars, Evora is a great base from which to explore the entire Alentejo, but there are also excellent bus links into Lisbon for those who rely on public transport.
Related articles:Overview Evora
The shops and houses that are in the arches of the aqueduct (Aqueduto da Àgua de Prata)
Beautiful cobblestone streets in Evora
Tavira is our favorite vacation destination in Portugal. Many cities along the Algarve have surrendered to mass tourism. Tavira, on the other hand, has hardly changed in recent years and has retained its unmistakable character and rich Portuguese charm.
The city is located on the quieter eastern Algarve. Tavira was an important trading town during the Moors (9th century) and a major trading port in the 14th century.
Tavira is a popular holiday destination, yet it has retained its original Portuguese charm.
This eventful history is evident everywhere in the cobblestone streets and in the small plazas. Numerous old defenses are right next to traditionally tiled villas.
The beaches around Tavira are all on the protected coast of the Ria Formosa National Park. These include some of the most beautiful pristine beaches in the entire Algarve.
Our personal opinion: If you're looking for a relaxed and genuine Portuguese vacation experience, you're guaranteed to find it in Tavira.
Related articles:Overview of Tavira
Cemitério das Âncoras, Praia do Barril
The Igreja de Santa Maria do Castelo church was once the largest mosque in the Algarve.
Lisbon is a vibrant and diverse city that is forward-thinking and liberal, but at the same time has not forgotten its past and heritage. Exploring the city is a pleasure: large plazas give way to narrow cobblestone streets that are divided by the curious tram network.
Lisbon has many diverse and very diverse boroughs, and each of them prides itself on its own unique history and architectural styles.
The old Alfama district leads up to the castle
The crowning glory of Lisbon as a travel destination are fantastic beaches just a short train ride away, so a visit to Lisbon can mean both a beach holiday and a city tour.
Lisbon is a destination for every category of tourist - from families, young couples to the more mature traveler. Lisbon is simply a wonderful travel destination that all visitors fall in love with, and it is rightly one of the top 5 destinations in our list. For a complete travel guide to Lisbon please click here.
Rossio: a lively plaza in the traditional heart of Lisbon
No matter where you are in Lisbon, the Tagus is never far away.
Discover Portugal in all its splendor with our travel guides
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