There’s a growing buzz about Portugal as a travel destination, and it’s been appearing on lists of top places to travel. Those reasons continue to attract visitors from all over the world and make it a top destination for travelers of all types. Whether you enjoy art, history, local food, nature, beaches, wine, or any of a vast array of other experiences, we think Portugal should be at the top of your travel destination list too. Here are just a few of our reasons Portugal is the perfect travel destination for every type of traveler.
We were guests of Visit Cascais, Discovering Madeira, and Martinhal Family Hotels and Resorts. All opinions expressed are our own based on our experiences.
1. Museums And Street Art For Art Lovers
Portugal is bound to please even the most demanding art lover. Whether you enjoy scouring galleries for local artists, seeing extraordinary masterworks in museums, or discovering exciting street art, Portugal has you covered. The Berardo Collection Museum and Calouste Gulbenkian Museum have stunning exhibits. Carcavelos is the birthplace of graffiti in Portugal. For art in the beautiful Azores islands, check out Galeria Fonseca Macedo on São Miguel featuring contemporary works by noted and up-and-coming artists alike.
Berardo Art Deco Museum
One of our favorite spots to visit is the Berardo Art Deco Museum (BMAD) located in Alcântara, Lisbon (also home to the fun LX Factory complex). Hundreds of furniture pieces, sculptures, paintings, and other decor illuminate the Art Nouveau, Arts and Crafts, and Art Deco movements in period settings. When you book the curated tour, your visit includes a wine tasting in the lovely secluded garden terrace afterward.
2. Ancient Sites For History Buffs
Looking into Portugal’s past includes the history of humanity. Ancient ruins, historical architecture, monuments, and libraries overflow with stories of exploration and experience. The fascinating Azulejos tiles embody Portugal’s Moorish past. The mysterious wells at Quinta Da Regaleira in Sintra as well as many buildings in Tomar tell stories of the Knights Templar. Roman ruins, aqueducts, castles, forts, and other ancient sites are found all over Portugal. Coimbra, home to the oldest university in Portugal, has a library with books from the 15th century and the ruins of Conimbriga are an impressive site of Roman ruins.
For a very up-close look at an ancient Roman site, the historic center of Évora, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has a spectacular example of a Roman temple that you can walk all the way around. It is so well-preserved that it almost doesn’t look real. While in Évora, be sure to enjoy the fantastic wine and exceptional local cuisine.
3. Local Cuisine For Foodies
If food is your jam, then Portugal is your cup of tea. Every corner of the country has something local and delicious to discover. From seafood along the coasts to the famous porco preto (black pork) inland and fresh produce everywhere, it’s really a food lover’s paradise. Let’s not forget about the bread and baked goods, especially because almost every town has its own specialties. There are restaurants with water views, spots for cityscapes, and tiny local village tascas (family restaurants) that offer homemade local cuisine. Lisbon, Porto, Cascais and other cities popular with tourists will provide many international flavors. After living in Portugal for over a year now, we find our favorite food is fresh local cuisine prepared with care.
Cheeses In Portugal
There is so much great food to discover in Portugal. And we really love the cheese. There are many different cheeses made in each part of Portugal, so you can actually taste the culture of each place embodied in the cheese. Fresh, aged, melted, cow, sheep, goat — there’s something for all cheese-lovers to discover.
4. Parks And Trails For Nature Lovers
Portugal’s landscape offers a lot of variety. While urbanites will love the cities, there are plenty of green places to visit too. In northern Portugal, the Peneda-Gerês National Park is a great place to explore. In addition to the exceptional diversity of the park, there are also staged walking trails you can tailor to your interests and abilities. Closer to Lisbon, the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park is a fun place to wander in nature along the coast.
Parque Marechal Carmona
A park we love to visit when we want to get outside is Parque Marechal Carmona in Cascais. Nicknamed “Chicken Park” by locals, it’s populated by a variety of birds including chickens, ducks, geese, wild parrots, and even peacocks. The grounds have grassy areas, tree-shaded picnic tables, a pond complete with sun-lazing turtles, and a little cafe.
5. The Atlantic Shores For Beach Lovers
Surfers, sunbathers, and those who just like taking a walk along the shore are in luck with Portugal’s 832 kilometers (517 miles) of Atlantic coastline. Surfers are attracted to the incredible waves at meccas like Peniche, Ericeira, and Nazaré. Beautiful beaches along Portugal’s west coast support a variety of activities from sailing to SUP. Sun worshippers love the warm summer and cool water of the Algarve down south.
For walking (or bicycling) by the sea but not in the sand, we love the Paredão. This pedestrian walkway with a bike lane runs along the coast, notably between Cascais and Estoril, and is dotted with some spots dedicated to exercise equipment. Technically, one could walk all the way to Lisbon on the 20-kilometer (12-mile) route, though we don’t know anyone who has.
6. Elegant Stays For Luxury Travelers
When you want a little pampering, Portugal has plenty of ways to enjoy the life of luxury. For fine dining, choose from 28 Michelin-starred restaurants. And there is no shortage of five-star hotels and resorts — in historic buildings, near major attractions, with golf courses, spa treatments, seaside views, and more. Private guided tours, elegant cruises, cooking lessons, curated shopping, and other VIP experiences can make for a sumptuous stay.
James Bond fans can follow the elegant footsteps of Bond’s creator, Ian Fleming, where he found the inspiration for the suave secret agent. The Palácio Estoril Hotel was where it all happened. Spies, royalty, celebrities, and diplomats mingled in the posh resort. Stay and enjoy a 007 martini in the spy bar and entertainment at Casino Estoril on the Portuguese Riviera as well.
7. Hidden Gems For Trailblazers
Even though Portugal receives more visitors every year, there are many places off the beaten path for discovering something different. The fascinating Convent of the Capuchos is a former monastery deep in the woods where Franciscan monks led an austere life and lined the buildings with cork for warmth.
Berlenga is an island haven for birds and a great place for those who like to watch them. Santana in northern Madeira has preserved unique thatched houses while Fajã dos Padres, also on Madeira, needs a cable car ride to be reached. Sitting on the fortress terrace in Setúbal sipping Moscato wine while looking at the view is worth the climb.
Parque Palácio dos Arcos
It’s great fun to find a special secret place that is hidden in plain sight. The wonderful town of Paço de Arcos is right along the train line from Lisbon to Cascais. The Hotel Vila de Gaia overlooks the sea there, and right behind it are the gorgeous gardens of the Parque Palácio dos Arcos, just waiting to be discovered. There are sculptures, flowers, a fountain, and a beautiful view of the sea. Wandering around the scene is about as tranquil as it gets.
8. Vineyards For Wine Lovers
Every region of Portugal is a wine-producing region. Some areas like the Douro Valley, Dao, Alentejo, and Vinho Verde are very well known for their outstanding wines, so visiting vineyards in these regions is on the top of many wine lovers’ lists. But there are also some surprising places that produce interesting wines like Colares, where the vines actually grow in the sand, or Carcavelos, where the sweet fortified wine tastes like salted caramel. Porto, Madeira, and Setúbal are famous for their Port, Madeira, and Moscatel wines, respectively, and make great places to visit the vineyards. Spend the night at a quinta, or wine farm, to get the full benefit of an education in Portuguese wine production.
Quinta De La Rosa
We had a wonderful time spending the night at Quinta de la Rosa, the inn of a family-run vineyard in the Douro. The accommodations were comfortable with gorgeous views of the Douro River and terraced vineyards right from our room. Take a tour of the vineyards and do a wine tasting. The quinta’s restaurant, Cozinha da Clara, named after the proprietor’s grandma, serves outstanding fresh regional cuisine paired with wines produced by the quinta.
9. Family Fun For Multigenerational Travelers
There’s so much to see and do in Portugal that is great for families and all generations to enjoy together. Aveiro, known as the Venice of Portugal, has fun moliceiro boats that take rides along the canal. A few minutes away is Costa Nova, a beach town where colorful striped fisherman’s houses line the beach. Schist villages made of slate offer an interesting view of the past.
Quinta do Pisão is a family-friendly natural area to hike, explore, learn many things, and visit with Portuguese indigenous burros. The medieval village of Óbidos offers fun festivals and activities for all ages. The Typical Village of José Franco in Mafra is fun to explore with family and the unique Aldea de Mata Pequena is a restored village with a small group of farm animals to visit. Harry Potter fans will not want to miss Livraria Lello in Porto, an inspiration for the famous Hogwarts school. Portugal has several zoos and aquariums too.
Martinhal Family Hotels And Resorts
Finding a place where multiple generations can all feel comfortable is no easy feat. That’s where Martinhal Family Hotels And Resorts come in handy. Catering to visiting families in Portugal, these properties are designed with comfort and convenience for families in mind. The Lisbon Chiado Martinhal offers apartment-style lodging, a kids club, a baby concierge, and a gin bar for parents all on the premises. With locations in the Algarve and Cascais as well, everyone in the family can have a good time.
Whatever your interests, we think Portugal is the perfect travel destination for every type of traveler.