12 Best Cities And Towns In Portugal To Visit – Hand Luggage Only

Portugal easily brags about having some of the best weather in Europe so understandably it’s a popular destination for some of the more ‘weather-challenged parts of Europe’ (I’m looking at you the UK and Ireland 😉) to visit.

24 Hours In Lagos And Sagres In The Algarve, Portugal (16)

That being said, there are so many amazing cities and towns in Portugal absolutely worth visiting and it can be a bit confusing as to where to start.

With that in mind, here are some of the best cities and towns in Portugal worth visiting to start you off on your merry way.

1.) Sintra

The Beautiful Pena Palace Of Sintra, Portugal (58)

The first time someone mentioned visiting Sintra to me (many years ago, I might add), it barely even registered.

I kinda nodded but didn’t pay any attention to it (In my defence, it was during exam times and I was more obsessed with solving equations than travel planning).

The Beautiful Pena Palace Of Sintra, Portugal (41)

Then when we arrived in Portugal, someone else repeated this same suggestion and a quick look at photos of it had us cancelling our plans on one of the days in Portugal and heading over straight away to visit Sintra.

Suffice to say, it was so worth it. Sintra is like this relatively small town in Portugal with huge sites to visit.

Like the kind of sites that would rival even big cities like Porto.

It also has a culmination of so much of Portugal’s history, from ancient Moorish castles to more modern Romanticist palaces.

It’s got beauty after beauty after beauty here and is so worth a visit.

The Beautiful Pena Palace Of Sintra, Portugal (43)

We’ve actually done a post on the best places to visit in Sintra here so I’ll let you have a look at it all here.

2.) Guimaraes

12 Best Cities And Towns In Portugal To Visit

Guimaraes is quite an interesting and important city for Portugal as it’s regarded as Portugal’s birthplace, or the cradle city of Portugal.

Why? Well, this (amongst other reasons) is where the first King of Portugal was born.

These days, Guimaraes is a magnificent, historic city that plays home to some beautiful 11th-centurywonders.

12 Best Cities And Towns In Portugal To Visit

The history of this city is actually what makes it one of the best cities in Portugal to visit and is in large part why the old historic centre is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

12 Best Cities And Towns In Portugal To Visit

Now while you’re in this incredible historic centre be sure to visit the beautiful palace Paco dos Duques de Braganca and the castle in Guimaraes, to mention but a few.

3.) Aveiro

12 Best Cities And Towns In Portugal To Visit
Aveiro is one of the best cities to visit in Portugal thanks to its unique canal network and incredible beaches.

Then you get into the city itself and find so many gorgeous art nouveau buildings making it one of the most well-rounded cities in Portugal to visit for a city break as you can throw in a beach break into the mix too.,

12 Best Cities And Towns In Portugal To Visit

In Aveiro, you’ll also find a lot of that iconic and beautiful azulejo tiles covering a lot of buildings which is just such a visual delight.

12 Best Cities And Towns In Portugal To Visit

The historic centre is actually also relatively walkable so planning a walking route around the sites you want to see, making stops for food and drinks to cool with is a really great way to explore the city.

4.) Porto

Porto is now Portugal’s second-largest city after Lisbon and just continues to grow in popularity and it’s pretty easy to see why.

It’s such a charming city with lots of beautiful sites to see albeit a tad wetter than some of the other cities and towns on this list.

Porto is also home to some gorgeous Baroque mansions and again so many buildings with those traditional Portuguese azulejo tiles, making it one of the best cities in Portugal to visit for just how beautiful it is.

It’s also one of the best places we’ve been to in Portugal for food.

Like one of the places you don’t have to look too hard to find a great meal though as it gets more popular, the more it makes sense to start to look out for reviews of restaurants before you visit as restaurants that depend on tourists visiting don’t care too much about serving bad food.

One disappointed tourist will just replaced by another so financially, things stay the same for them.

Restaurants that cater to locals however rely on repeat business and so those restaurants are the ones you want to go to as they have to make sure the standards are high.

14 Fantastic Things To See In Porto - Portugal (17)

This is a general tip not just for Porto but also for Lisbon and really any other big cities across the world.

Also, when you are in Porto, you should of course try some Porto and in fact, it is possible to do some wine tour from Porto so book those in and go off sampling some of Portugal’s finest.

Stunning Places You Have To See In Portugal (3)

We actually have a list on the best things to do in Porto when you visit so check that out here.

Almost forgot to mention, the old town of Porto is also a UNESCO World Heritage site so there’s that too if you still need some convincing to visit Porto.

5.) Lisbon

Best Things To Do In Lisbon (33)

Lisbon feels like it needs no real introduction.

It’s Portugal’s capital and largest city and probably the first place you’d think about visiting when you think about visiting Portugal.

I’m biased but I think it’s actually one of the best cities to visit in Europe.

So much so that for years, I’ve gone on and on here about how it’s a city I could happily live in.

It’s fun, it’s beautiful, it has great food, it even has beaches you can visit, it’s 30 minutes from Sintra and Cascais and it’s just so easy to fall in love with.

If you’re arriving from anywhere outside of Europe there’s also a big chance that it’s the first city you’ll be arriving into so I recommend making time on your itinerary for a stopover to explore one of the best cities in Portugal.

I was gonna try to list a few places to start you off on your trip to Lisbon here but we’ve already done a blog post showcasing the best places to visit in Lisbon here so I’ll leave that here for your to check out.

6.) Braga

12 Best Cities And Towns In Portugal To Visit

Braga is one of Portugal’s oldest cities and is also one the best cities in Portugal to visit for Portuguese history.

Population wise it’s the 5th largest city in Portugal so you know you won’t be getting bored here soon, especially if you decide to visit for more than a long weekend.

12 Best Cities And Towns In Portugal To Visit

When you’re in Braga you have to visit Se de Braga.

Se de Braga is an ancient Cathedral which is such an iconic place in the city and dates back to the 11th century.

12 Best Cities And Towns In Portugal To Visit

Other spots worth visiting in Braga include the Arco da Porta Nova, Donna Se, the Castle of Braga and Pastelaria A Ritinha.

7.) Nazare

12 Best Cities And Towns In Portugal To Visit

Nazare is perhaps one of the most dramatic towns to visit in Portugal and it’s easy to see why.

It’s a part of Portugal that’s famous for surfing and the waves here are slightly unreal.

The look so tall and the need to prove one’s surfing prowess constantly attracts surfers not just from Portugal or even just from Europe but from all around the world to Nazare.

12 Best Cities And Towns In Portugal To Visit

Fishing here has been historically one of the main economies here, a heritage that its inhabitants are very proud of (even though the waters here can be quite treacherous) and so you will find some of the best seafood in Portugal right here.

12 Best Cities And Towns In Portugal To Visit

Thanks to that source of income for the locals here, Nazare has managed to remain relatively quaint and is such a charming town to visit in Portugal.

It is also worth noting that it’s not too far from Lisbon so it’s relatively easy to visit.

8.) Elvas

12 Best Cities And Towns In Portugal To Visit

Another charming city in Portugal is Elvas.

This city is relatively small, but its narrow cobbled streets will make you feel like you have stepped back in time. It’s just so cute.

12 Best Cities And Towns In Portugal To Visit

The main historic part of Elvas is a walled city and it’s one of the best cities in Portugal to visit for this unique feature as there isn’t really anywhere else in Portugal quite like it.

Thanks to this, Elvas is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, particularly due to the Trace Italienne, Nossa Senhora da Graca Forts and the Santa Luiza star forts which still stand till this day on the city’s outer edges.

12 Best Cities And Towns In Portugal To Visit

Another couple of key spots to visit in Elvas are the Amoreira Aqueduct and the town’s castle.

A weekend is enough time to spend in Elvas though you’re almost guaranteed to fall in love with it and want to come back for more.

9.) Vila Real

12 Best Cities And Towns In Portugal To Visit

About an hour or an hour and a half from Porto, you’ll find Vila Real (I only mention that because you will most likely be arriving into Porto when you want to visit Vila Real) and it’s one of the best cities to visit in Portugal albeit one of the most underrated.

It’s relatively small so most people never really think to visit but it’s so pretty and absolutely worth a visit.

12 Best Cities And Towns In Portugal To Visit

A few places worth checking out when you visit are Saint Peter Church, Cathedral of Vila Real and Fundação da Casa de Mateus.

You can also do some wine tasting when you visit (I highly recommend this, by the way) but be sure to book this in advance of arriving here.

10.) Viseu

12 Best Cities And Towns In Portugal To Visit

Viseu and its incredible historic center are another one of the best cities in Portugal that people love.

And when we say people, we’re not just talking about the tourists that visit, we’re talking about even the locals.

12 Best Cities And Towns In Portugal To Visit

So much so that it has been voted several times as one of the best places in Portugal to live in.

It’s a relatively walkable city so it’s easy to explore on foot (distance-wise).

The easiest way to get here is by arriving in to Porto and a trip here can easily be combined with a trip to Coimbra (below) as they are relatively close to each other.

11.) Coimbra

12 Best Cities And Towns In Portugal To Visit

Coimbra is the largest city in the Coimbra region of Portugal and I only mention this because it’s so easy to mix up the region and the city.

It is famously home to one of the oldest universities in the world – the aptly named University of Coimbra.

12 Best Cities And Towns In Portugal To Visit

This University and the influx of students it brings makes Coimbra one of the best cities in Portugal to visit for nightlife and generally just a fun time.

The University is also a UNESCO World Heritage site and absolutely worth visiting in and of itself.

In addition to the University, Coimbra has a lot of beautiful sites to visit and 4 to 5 days here would be enough time to sink your teeth into the city and leave feeling satisfied but also like you wanna go back to visit again soon.

12.) Cascais

Cascais is a part of the Lisbon-Sintra-Cascais trifecta – a set of 3 amazing cities and town in Portugal just around 30 minutes from each other.

This is by car or even by train.

They’re super easy to travel between and so a key tip would be to try to tie a trip to all three together.

The Beautiful Seaside Town Of Cascais In Portugal... (48)

Cascais’s main draw would be the beach and the more chilled laidback lifestyle here.

It was a haven for many Royal Families in Europe during World War II and continues to be one of the the most important places in Portugal to visit if you want to relax by the beach but still want a bit of city-life (granted in a town, not a city).

So yeah, visit Cascais for the beach, Lisbon for the busy city and Sintra for some of the most beautiful sites in all of Portugal


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