Things to Do in Portugal: 24 Excellent Attractions

Updated On: September 15, 2023

Things to Do in Portugal

Whether it’s the charming streets of Lisbon, the tranquil vineyards of the Douro Valley, or the dramatic landscapes of the Algarve, there are endless interesting things to do in Portugal.

Things to Do in Portugal
There are many historical things to do in Portugal.

As tourists venture through Portugal’s attractions, they embark on a journey of discovery, leaving with cherished memories and a deep appreciation for this remarkable country’s beauty, history, and warmth.

To help you experience all that the country has to offer, we’ve explored 24 of the best things to do in Portugal for tourists.

Things to Do in Portugal
Lisbon is a great city with many attractions.

Lisbon’s Rich Heritage

Belem Tower

Belem Tower stands proudly along the Tagus River, a symbol of Portugal’s maritime history and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Visiting this iconic structure is one of the most fascinating things to do in Portugal.

Built in the 16th century as a defence fortress, the tower’s unique Manueline architecture with intricate carvings and maritime motifs is a sight to behold. Tourists can climb to the top and enjoy panoramic views of the river and the surrounding area.

Jeronimos Monastery

The nearby Jeronimos Monastery, another UNESCO site, is an architectural masterpiece and a significant cultural landmark. Exploring the monastery is one of the best things to do in Portugal to understand the country’s culture and history.

Its stunning Gothic and Renaissance design, adorned with delicate stonework and elaborate ornamentation, leaves visitors in awe. Inside, the grandeur continues, with the tomb of Vasco da Gama and the exquisite cloisters that display Portugal’s rich history.

The Alfama District

The Alfama district in Lisbon is another landmark that offers an authentic and charming glimpse into the city’s past. One of the oldest neighbourhoods, its narrow, winding streets are a labyrinth of history and culture.

Things to Do in Portugal
Belem Tower is a symbol of Portugal’s maritime history.

Visitors can explore the Alfama’s picturesque alleys, adorned with colourful buildings while listening to the soulful sounds of Fado music emanating from local restaurants and bars. Perched on a hilltop, the iconic São Jorge Castle provides a spectacular view of the district and the city beyond.

The Alfama district’s timeless ambience and friendly locals make it one of the best things to do in Portugal for tourists seeking to immerse themselves in Portugal’s historical and cultural essence.

The National Museum of Ancient Art

The National Museum of Ancient Art in Lisbon houses an extensive collection of Portuguese art from the Middle Ages to the 19th century. Visitors can marvel at a diverse array of paintings, sculptures, ceramics, and decorative arts, showcasing the country’s rich artistic heritage.

Notable masterpieces include “The Temptation of St. Anthony” by Hieronymus Bosch and the renowned “Saint Vincent Panels” attributed to Nuno Gonçalves. The museum’s setting in a beautiful 17th-century palace adds to the overall experience, making it one of the best things to do in Portugal for art enthusiasts and history buffs alike.

Museu Nacional do Azulejo

Visiting the Museu Nacional do Azulejo in Lisbon is one of the most interesting things to do in Portugal for admirers of the traditional Portuguese art form. This museum is entirely dedicated to azulejos, the intricate ceramic tiles that adorn countless buildings across Portugal.

Things to Do in Portugal
Intricate ceramic tiles can be found across Portugal.

With exhibits ranging from the 15th century to contemporary designs, visitors can trace the evolution of this unique art form and its influence on Portuguese culture and architecture. The museum’s stunning collection includes impressive tile panels depicting historical events, religious scenes, and idyllic landscapes, transporting visitors to different eras of Portuguese history.

Porto’s Enchanting History

Historic District of Ribeira

Nestled on the banks of the Douro River, the historic district of Ribeira in Porto is a captivating maze of narrow cobbled streets and colourful houses that exude a timeless charm. This UNESCO World Heritage site is a testament to the city’s rich history, and visitors are transported back in time as they explore its picturesque alleys.

Along the riverside promenade, tourists can admire the iconic Dom Luís I Bridge. The bridge is an architectural masterpiece that connects Porto to Vila Nova de Gaia.

Ribeira is a haven for culture and tradition, offering an array of local eateries, bars, and live music venues where tourists can savour traditional Portuguese cuisine and indulge in the soulful sounds of Fado music.

A leisurely stroll through Ribeira provides an authentic and unforgettable experience of Porto’s vibrant spirit and architectural splendour. It is one of the most scenic things to do in Portugal.

Port Wine Cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia

Located just across the river from Porto, Vila Nova de Gaia is synonymous with Portugal’s renowned port wine. Here, in the centuries-old cellars, visitors have the opportunity to delve into the rich history and production process of this iconic drink.

Things to Do in Portugal
Portugal is known for its port wines.

Tourists can embark on guided tours of the famous wine lodges, each showcasing a distinctive range of aged port wines. During these tours, visitors are educated about the intricacies of port-making, from grape harvesting to ageing in oak barrels.

At the end of the tours, wine enthusiasts can taste various port wine types, including vintage, tawny, and ruby varieties. The stunning panoramic views of Porto from Vila Nova de Gaia’s terraced slopes make it one of the best things to do in Portugal for tourists interested in the country’s esteemed wine culture.

Livraria Lello

Tucked away in the heart of Porto, Livraria Lello is a literary gem that mesmerises book lovers and architecture enthusiasts alike. This 19th-century bookstore has earned the reputation of being one of the world’s most beautiful due to its neo-Gothic façade, elaborate wooden staircase, and stained-glass skylights that fill the interior with ethereal light.

The shop’s interior is a bibliophile’s dream, adorned with ornate bookshelves housing an impressive collection of books, from classics to contemporary literature. It is believed that Livraria Lello inspired J.K. Rowling’s portrayal of Hogwarts’ Grand Staircase in the Harry Potter series.

The bookstore’s magical ambience and historic significance attract tourists from around the globe, making it one of the best things to do in Portugal for those seeking to immerse themselves in the world of literature and architectural splendour. 

Things to Do in Portugal
The Dom Luís I Bridge is a fascinating structure.

Coimbra: The City of Students and Traditions

Historic University of Coimbra

The University of Coimbra, established in 1290, is one of Europe’s oldest and most prestigious universities. Perched atop a hill overlooking the city, its historic campus exudes an air of academic grandeur and intellectual tradition.

Visitors can explore the university’s iconic landmarks, including the magnificent Paço das Escolas, the university’s main building, and the stunning Baroque University Tower. The university’s botanical garden, Jardim Botânico, provides a serene escape and offers a captivating blend of nature and history.

Tourists can also witness the academic rituals of Coimbra’s students, who proudly wear their traditional black capes and sing traditional songs throughout the city. A tour of the historic University of Coimbra is one of the best things to do in Portugal to experience the educational heritage and cultural significance of Portugal’s oldest university.

Joanina Library

Situated within the University of Coimbra, the Joanina Library is a masterpiece of baroque architecture and a treasure trove of knowledge. Built in the 18th century, the library’s opulent design and impressive collection of over 300,000 rare books make it one of the most extraordinary libraries in the world.

As visitors enter the library, they are greeted by elaborately carved bookshelves and stunning frescoes that adorn the walls and ceilings. The ambience and the library’s ornate surroundings evoke a sense of scholarly wonder.

Things to Do in Portugal
University of Coimbra is one of the oldest universities in Europe.

Tourists can explore the various chambers, including the grand reading room, which houses ancient manuscripts, historical maps, and delicate works of literature. The Joanina Library is a testament to Coimbra’s intellectual legacy and one of the most fascinating things to do in Portugal for architecture aficionados and book enthusiasts.

Traditional Fado Performances

Attending traditional Fado performances in Portugal is one of the most authentic things to do in Portugal. Fado, meaning “fate” or “destiny,” is a soulful genre of music that originated in the neighbourhoods of Lisbon and Coimbra.

Often accompanied by the plaintive tones of a Portuguese guitar, Fado songs express themes of love, longing, and nostalgia, leaving listeners moved by the raw emotion conveyed by the singers.

Attending a traditional Fado performance is a memorable and transformative experience and one of the best things to do in Portugal to experience the country’s musical heritage.

The Allure of the Algarve

Beautiful Beaches

The Algarve in Portugal is renowned for its breathtaking coastline. Two of its most enchanting beaches, Praia da Marinha and Praia da Falésia, showcase the region’s natural beauty at its finest.

Things to Do in Portugal
The Algarve is knwon for its coastline.

Praia da Marinha boasts stunning limestone cliffs, turquoise waters, and golden sands, making it a postcard-perfect destination for beach lovers. Visitors can take leisurely strolls along the wooden walkways and explore hidden coves nestled between the cliffs.

The beach’s clear and calm waters also make it an excellent spot for snorkelling and one of the most adventurous things to do in Portugal for tourists.

Praia da Falésia, located near Albufeira, stretches for miles, flanked by red sandstone cliffs that dramatically contrast the blue skies and sea. The long, wide beach offers ample space for relaxation and sunbathing while the cool Atlantic waves entice surfers and bodyboarders.

Whether seeking tranquillity or adventure, Praia da Marinha and Praia da Falésia are both idyllic havens that showcase the Algarve’s unrivalled coastal charm. Visiting the beaches is one of the most relaxing things to do in Portugal.

Stunning Sea Caves

The Algarve’s coastline is a treasure trove of fascinating geological formations, and exploring the region’s sea caves is an unforgettable adventure. Tourists can embark on boat tours from coastal towns such as Lagos, Albufeira, or Portimão to discover the hidden wonders along the cliffs.

Things to Do in Portugal
The sea caves in Portugal are mesmerising.

The tour guides skillfully navigate through narrow cave openings, revealing magnificent grottoes adorned with stalactites and stalagmites sculpted by centuries of waves and erosion. The Benagil Cave, with its iconic skylight opening, is a highlight of these tours, offering a surreal experience of being surrounded by shimmering sea and natural rock formations.

Visitors are treated to an otherworldly spectacle of light and shadow as the boat gently glides through the caves’ dark recesses. It is one of the best things to do in Portugal for photographers and nature enthusiasts alike.

Water Sports

The Algarve’s favourable climate and azure waters make visiting one of the best things to do in Portugal for water sports enthusiasts. With a vast selection of activities, visitors can indulge in thrilling experiences catering to all skill levels.

Surfing is particularly popular along the Algarve’s west coast, where powerful Atlantic waves create ideal conditions for surfers seeking a challenge. Lagos and Sagres are renowned surfing hotspots, offering surf schools and rental shops for beginners and experienced surfers alike.

For those looking to explore the depths of the sea, diving in the Algarve provides access to an underwater wonderland teeming with marine life, shipwrecks, and vibrant coral reefs. Snorkelling is a more accessible option for tourists of all ages, offering the chance to discover colourful fish and explore submerged caves and rock formations.

Things to Do in Portugal
Surfing is one of the most exciting things to do in Portugal.

The Scenic Azores

Breathtaking Landscapes

Exploring Pico Island, located in the Azores archipelago, is one of the best things to do in Portugal for nature enthusiasts seeking unspoiled beauty and unique landscapes. The island is dominated by its imposing volcano, Mount Pico, which rises majestically from the Atlantic Ocean.

Hiking to the summit offers a rewarding challenge and panoramic views of the surrounding islands. Pico Island is also renowned for its vineyards, where vines grow in volcanic rock formations known as “currais.”

Tourists can explore these ancient vineyards, taste the island’s distinct wines, and learn about the traditional winemaking practices that have been passed down through generations.

The harmony of volcanic landscapes, verdant vineyards, and dramatic coastal vistas makes Pico Island one of the most awe-inspiring things to do in Portugal for nature lovers and adventure seekers.

Sete Cidades Crater Lake on São Miguel Island

Exploring Sete Cidades, located on São Miguel Island in the Azores, is one of the most captivating things to do in Portugal. The Sete Cidades Caldera is a massive volcanic crater with two beautiful lakes within it: Lagoa Azul (Blue Lake) and Lagoa Verde (Green Lake).

Things to Do in Portugal
Portugal has many beautiful beaches.

The names reflect the lakes’ contrasting colours resulting from the varying depths and sunlight reflections. Tourists can embark on scenic hikes or bike rides around the crater rim, offering panoramic views of the twin lakes and the lush green landscapes beyond.

Sete Cidades is also steeped in local legends, with tales of star-crossed lovers and the origin of the lakes adding an extra layer of intrigue to this picturesque destination. The Sete Cidades Crater Lake is one of the most mystical things to do in Portugal for tourists.

Douro River Valley: A Scenic Paradise

Boat Tours

A leisurely boat tour along the Douro River is one of the best things to do in Portugal. Starting from the picturesque city of Porto, these river cruises wind through the Douro Valley, known for its breathtaking terraced vineyards and charming riverside towns.

As the boat glides along the meandering river, tourists are treated to views of the lush green landscape dotted with vineyards and olive groves. The terraced hillsides, meticulously cultivated for centuries, create a stunning mosaic of colours, especially during the grape harvest season.

Tourists can also pass through the locks of the river, adding a touch of adventure to the tranquil journey. As the sun sets, the river cruise becomes even more magical, with the golden rays painting the landscape with a warm glow.

Things to Do in Portugal
Boat tours are popular things to do in Portugal for tourists.

A boat tour along the Douro River is one of the most unique and relaxing things to do in Portugal to admire its picturesque landscapes.

Picturesque Vineyards

Portugal’s Douro Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is renowned for its picturesque vineyards and terraced landscapes. The region’s unique terroir and centuries-old winemaking traditions have produced some of the world’s finest wines, particularly Port wine.

Tourists can tour the valley’s iconic Quintas (wine estates), learn about the winemaking process, and indulge in tastings of the region’s award-winning wines. The Douro River, snaking through the valley, adds to the charm.

Trips along the river are one of the most beautiful things to do in Portugal to see the dramatic beauty of the terraced slopes from a different perspective. The warm and welcoming locals offer genuine hospitality, making the experience even more memorable.

Whether exploring the vineyards on foot, cruising along the Douro River, or savouring the renowned wines, the Douro Valley’s picturesque vineyards and terraced landscapes provide a truly unforgettable journey into the heart of Portuguese winemaking heritage.

Things to Do in Portugal
There are many scenic vineyards in Portugal.

The Mystique of Sintra

Pena Palace and Park

Perched atop the Sintra Mountains, the Pena Palace is a fairytale-like wonder that enchants visitors with its vibrant colours and eclectic architectural styles. The palace’s striking blend of Romantic, Moorish, and Manueline influences creates a truly unique and captivating sight.

Tourists can wander through the ornate rooms adorned with rich tapestries, intricate tiles, and historical artefacts, gaining insights into the lives of Portuguese royalty.

The surrounding Pena Park is an equally magical landscape, featuring exotic gardens, serene lakes, and meandering paths that lead to hidden viewpoints offering sweeping vistas of the palace and the lush Sintra region.

The Pena Palace and Park transport visitors into a world of fantasy and imagination, making it one of the best things to do in Portugal for those exploring Portugal’s rich cultural and architectural heritage.

Quinta da Regaleira Estate

Nestled in the charming town of Sintra, the Quinta da Regaleira estate is an enchanting place that evokes a sense of mystery and romance. This UNESCO World Heritage site boasts an exquisite palace adorned with Gothic, Renaissance, and Manueline elements, surrounded by lush gardens and wooded areas.

Things to Do in Portugal
Quinta da Regaleira is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Tourists can explore the estate’s iconic features, such as the Initiation Well, a deep and winding underground staircase that captivates with its symbolism and unique design. The grottoes, fountains, and ornate statues scattered throughout the gardens add to the estate’s romantic ambience.

The Quinta da Regaleira estate is a place of hidden symbolism and spiritual significance, offering visitors a delightful blend of history, architecture, and enchanting landscapes. It is one of the most intriguing things to do in Portugal.

Évora’s Historic Charm

Temple of Diana and the Chapel of Bones

Évora, a city steeped in history, houses two remarkable attractions that offer a glimpse into Portugal’s past. The Temple of Diana, located at the heart of the city’s historic centre, is a well-preserved Roman temple dating back to the 1st century AD.

In contrast, the Chapel of Bones, part of the Church of St. Francis, is an eerie yet fascinating place that is sure to leave a lasting impression. The chapel’s interior is entirely covered in human skulls and bones, a chilling reminder of the impermanence of life and a reflection on mortality.

The Temple of Diana and the Chapel of Bones offer unique and thought-provoking experiences that delve into the rich historical and spiritual facets of Évora. Visiting them is one of the most fascinating things to do in Portugal for tourists.

Things to Do in Portugal
The Temple of Diana dates back to the 1st century AD.

Alentejo Wines and Olive Oils

Visiting the Alentejo region, known for its vast plains and rolling landscapes, is one of the best things to do in Portugal for wine and olive oil enthusiasts. Tourists can visit local vineyards and wineries, where they are warmly welcomed to sample the region’s exquisite wines.

The Alentejo is particularly famous for its bold and full-bodied red wines, characterised by the region’s unique terroir and grape varieties. Additionally, visitors can indulge in olive oil tastings, as the Alentejo produces some of Portugal’s finest olive oils.

The experience of tasting Alentejo wines and olive oils allows tourists to savour the flavours of the region and gain a deeper appreciation for the time-honoured art of winemaking and olive oil production.

Coastal Adventures in Sagres

Cape St. Vincent

Cape St. Vincent, located in the southwesternmost corner of Europe, offers a dramatic and awe-inspiring sight as the towering cliffs drop precipitously into the vast Atlantic Ocean. This historic and mythical location, often referred to as the “End of the World,” is steeped in maritime history and legends.

Things to Do in Portugal
Cape St. Vincent is a very scenic area.

The cape’s lighthouse, perched atop the cliffs, adds to the picturesque scene and offers panoramic views of the surrounding seascape. Tourists can explore the rugged coastal trails, watch the sunset over the horizon, and listen to the crashing waves that have shaped this majestic landscape over millennia.

Visiting Cape St. Vincent is an encounter with the raw power of nature and a journey to the edge of Europe, where history, myth, and stunning natural beauty converge. It is one of the most historic things to do in Portugal.

Surfing on the West Coast

Visiting Sagres, a charming coastal town in the Algarve, is one of the most fun things to do in Portugal for surfers and windsurfers seeking to ride the waves of the Atlantic Ocean. With its exposed beaches and consistent swells, the west coast of Sagres attracts surfers of all levels, from beginners to advanced riders.

Numerous surf schools and rental shops provide opportunities for tourists to try their hand at catching waves and experiencing the thrill of gliding across the water. For windsurfing enthusiasts, the strong winds and open waters offer ideal conditions for exhilarating rides.

The stunning backdrop of cliffs and golden beaches adds to the allure, making Sagres a paradise for water sports lovers and those seeking an adrenaline-fueled experience along the Algarve’s rugged and wild coastline.

Things to Do in Portugal
The National Palace Of Pena is a stunning structure.

There are Many Great Things to do in Portugal

Portugal is a captivating and diverse destination that offers many experiences for tourists to savour and cherish. Portugal caters to every tourist’s taste and preference with its rich historical and cultural landmarks and breathtaking natural wonders.

Whether you’re seeking a relaxing holiday destination or a trip full of adventure, there are things to do in Portugal for everyone.

If you’re planning a holiday, check out these Top 5 Travel Hidden Gems in Europe.

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