10 PORTUGAL DESTINATIONS
THAT ARE WONDERFULLY DIFFERENT
It may be famous for its fantastic beach resorts in the Algarve, but Portugal's landscape is wonderfully diverse with a whole host of holidays waiting to be had in each region. Whether your perfect escape consists of cultural towns, golden sand beaches, lively cities or fairytale castles, we've found 10 popular Portugal destinations that offer uniquely different experiences.
ALGARVE FOR BEACH HOLIDAYS
Sun, sea and endless sandy beaches welcome you to the alluring Algarve coast in southern Portugal, also known for its popular resorts like Albufeira, Vilamoura and Lagos, plus a medley of gorgeous golf resorts and whitewashed fishing villages. Head up the forested Monchique mountain to look down on a green stretch of the seaside and discover secluded coves, verdant hillsides, hiking trails and medieval castles. Dive into the clear waters and breeze the waves with a spot of surfing, or dance all night at beachfront bars in swinging resorts like Praia de Rocha. The Algarve enjoys lusciously long summers, making it perfect for sunny short-haul beach holidays.
Discover the top 8 things to do in the Algarve for fabulous family and couples holidays.
LISBON FOR A FABULOUS CITY BREAK
The elegant capital city of Lisbon boasts a happy mix of cosmopolitan and old heritage characteristics. Set along the River Tagus, it greets visitors with grand palaces, churches and monuments, with cosy neighbourhoods where you can go sightseeing and shopping. Check out the Parque das Nacoes, where you can spend time at the entertainment park and sprawling Oceanario de Lisboa aquarium. If you fancy exploring, hop on a tram and discover the cobblestone streets at a faster pace or enjoy a relaxed walk to the hilly Alfama area, below St. George’s Fort. Be sure to wander down Baixa located in the heart of Lisbon too, it's brimming with traditional shops where traders have done business for centuries.
MADEIRA FOR NATURE LOVERS
The gorgeous resort of Madeira is made up four islands, famous for its namesake wine, warm climate and volcanic landscape. Go surfing at the pebble beach, discover the exotic gardens or simply admire the sight of waves crashing against dramatic cliffs. Explore its capital Funchal on a leisurely walk and you'll pass ancient cathedrals, sunlit squares, a pretty harbour that comes alive at night and a handful of stylish restaurants and bars by the waterfront. If you want to add a touch of class, visit Canico De Baixo for it's boutique hotels, stylish bars and old quarters steeped in history.
AZORES FOR WATERSPORTS
The Azores is made up of 9 islands created from volcanic acitivity in the Atlantic Ocean, and is without doubt one of Portugal's most stunning secret gems. This holiday spot is popular for yachting, diving, whale-watching and all things watersports, making it a great destination if you enjoy swapping lazy afternoons spent on the sunlounger for fun-loving activities in the sea. The mild temperatures make diving a possibility all year round, which is fantastic if you're visiting Santa Maria Island, boasting a whopping 55 diving sites in total. Discover underwater plains and caves and keep your eyes peeled for weird and wonderful marine life. If you prefer staying on dry land, visit the large town of Vila Franca do Campo for its fruit plantations.
PORTO FOR WINE
The second largest city of Portugal and sitting at the mouth of the Douro River, Porto gave the country its name and the world its fortified port wine. The city’s best known for its picturesque Cais da Ribeira riverfront, lined with cafes and bars, the waters bobbing with Rabelo boats. Feast your eyes on ancient buildings, crumbling churches and narrow alleyways, where you can discover vast cellars that house the country’s popular port wine. In the evening, head to a lively wine bar or hop on a leisurely river cruise where you can admire the colourfully lit buildings that line the banks. The weather is fairly mild, but it’s sunniest from late April to September.
SINTRA FOR ITS FAIRYTALE PALACES
You’re sure to fall in love with the coastal town of Sintra, which sits pretty on the foothills of a mountain, edged by cliffs that plunge deep into the Atlantic. This small town is home to vibrant gardens, castles and palaces that look as though they've been plucked straight out of a fairytale, standing tall with turrets and battlements. If you're after culture, check out the grand Castle of the Moors perched atop a hill, the romantic and colourful Pena National Palace and spend time at the park in Quinta da Regaleira - with pretty lakes and fountains. Sintra village (a UNESCO World Heritage site) is also worth visiting, besides the nearby villages of Cascais and Estoril. Spring and early Autumn are the best times to visit Sintra, for guaranteed sun and less chances of unpredictable weather.
LOULÉ FOR HISTORY LOVERS
The traditional market town of Loulé makes for a great day trip (especially in Spring and Autumn) thanks to its historic monuments, cobbled streets, pretty plazas and lively shopping excursions. Check out the main church of Igreja de Clemente, rebuilt from an old mosque and overlooking the picturesque Amuados gardens. Located along a side street is also the impressive Nossa Senhora da Conceição chapel, where the altar is decorated in gold. Drop in on a Saturday morning to pick up handcrafted souvenirs from the gypsy market held near the old town.
MONSARAZ FOR ITS COUNTRYSIDE
The hilltop village of Monsaraz stands next to the Portuguese-Spanish border, its medieval walls overlooking miles of lush Mediterranean countryside. Picture rolling hills, olive groves and the crystal clear waters of river Guadiana flowing along the border. You can also explore forts built by the Knights Templar and rock monuments from prehistoric times.
COIMBRA FOR ARTS AND CULTURE
Coimbra, the former capital of Portugal, is most famous for its University of Coimbra, which overlooks the Mondego River and is entered through a massive iron gate. Founded in 1290 by King Dinis, it’s among the oldest universities in Europe and you can spot its students in the city, identified by their black capes. The historic buildings surround a colonnaded central square, while its Alta and Sofia wings that made up the former royal residence include the grand Biblioteca Joanina library, established in 1717 by King João V. If you climb the iconic 18th-century clock tower, you get a panoramic view of charming Coimbra. The city itself, filled with meandering streets and medieval churches, wears a romantic air.
AVEIRO FOR ITS CANALS
Aveiro’s beautiful canals that wind through the city have earned it the nickname "Venice of Portugal". Stroll through the town, which stands on the banks of a lagoon, to discover charming bridges, pretty courtyards, streets lined with white-washed houses and the majestic Cathedral of Aveiro. The canals also lead you to several sandy beaches, such as Costa Nova and Barra which lie conveniently close to the city centre - perfect if you fancy the best of both worlds.