The best independent guide to Portugal
The two main cities, Lisbon and Porto are both vibrant and charismatic destinations, which lend themselves to intense city breaks.
The beautiful southern coastline of the Algarve is a firm favourite with families and package tourists, who adore the wonderful beaches and holiday-buzz of the resort towns. The western Portuguese coastline is much calmer, with its dramatic coastal scenery, traditional fishing towns and charming beach resorts.
The interior of Portugal is significantly less touristy, but no less fascinating, with ancient walled towns and rich cultural heritage. To the far north are hills covered in vineyards, jagged mountains, and traditional villages undiscovered by tourism.
Portugal will provide you with your dream holiday, and it is there for you to discover……
Related articles: Lisbon guide - Porto guide – 1 week in Portugal – Portugal’s best beach - Top 10 Portugal
Below is an interactive map displaying of the best towns and cities of Portugal.
The yellow pins mark the 10 best beach resorts in Portugal and the green pins are the 10 best cities and towns. The blue markers show the 10-best lesser-known and personal favourite destinations of Portugal.
The 10 best beach resorts: 1) Cascais 2) Tavira 3) Albufeira 4) Nazaré 5) Sesimbra 6) Costa Nova 7) Tróia 8) Povoa de Varzim 9) Praia da Rocha 10) Ericeira
The 10 best towns and cities: 1) Lisbon 2) Porto 3) Coimbra 4) Sintra 5) Lagos 6) Evora 7) Faro 8) Setubal 9) Braga 10) Bragança
The 10 best lesser known towns: 1) Viana do Castelo 2) Vila Nova de Milfontes 3) Guimarães 4) Elvas 5) Lamego 6) Tomar 7) Óbidos 8) Vila Real de Santo António 9) Ponte de Lima 10) Silves
The following section details each of the main tourist regions of Portugal, what to visit and highlights.
Much of the central Algarve region has succumbed to sprawling holiday villa complexes and golf courses, but authentic and historic Portugal can be discovered in the towns of Silves, Loule, Olhão and Vila Real de Santo António. Our favourite holiday destination of the Algarve is Tavira, which offers pristine beaches, Portuguese charm, and is set in the less-touristy eastern Algarve.
Related articles: Where to stay in the Algarve – Albufeira guide – Tavira guide – Lagos guide
Our opinion: Portugal’s beaches and resort towns are not just limited to the Algarve. The western Alentejo region around Vila Nova de Milfontes has some of the most beautiful beaches of Portugal, while there are many pretty resort towns close to Lisbon, such as Cascais, Estoril or Sesimbra. In the busy summer months, when the Algarve is completely sold out, the Costa Verde (around Porto) is a great alternative.
Beyond the city are numerous fascinating day trips, which could easily extend a stay to a week. There is the picturesque town of Sintra, the charming beach resort of Cascais, the bustling port of Setubal or the relaxing beaches of Sesimbra. Lisbon is an outstanding holiday destination, and you should visit it at the earliest opportunity!
The only issue with Lisbon, is that mass tourism has fully discovered the city, and it is beginning to suffer from over-tourism. For a city break in the peak months, consider visiting Porto (which still can be busy), or completely undiscovered Viana do Castelo.
Related articles: Our Lisbon guide - Top 10 Lisbon – Sintra – Cascais
Along the Spanish border are the heavily fortified towns of Marvão, Elvas and Monsaraz, constructed from centuries of fighting with Spain. The historic city of Evora, with its Roman temple, Gothic cathedral and charming cobbled plazas is the standout destination of the central Alentejo.
The Alentejo coastline offers some of Portugal’s most dramatic natural scenery but is rarely visited by foreign tourists. This is a windswept coastline of massive beaches, powerful seas and jagged cliffs. If you are wanting an alternative beach holiday destination, then Vila Nova de Milfontes and Porto Covo, could be just what you are seeking.
Advice: A rental car is needed to get the most from the Alentejo region.
Related articles: Evora guide - Vila Nova de Milfontes guide
Close to Porto are the historic cities of Braga and Guimarães, while in the summer months the beautiful beaches of the Costa Verde coastline can be visited.
To the east of Porto, the Douro River snakes upstream into the hilly, vineyard region of the Douro Valley. This region offers, wonderful scenery, leisurely boat cruises and picturesque towns such as Lamego, Pinhão and Peso da Régua.
Our advice: Lisbon may be more famous, but Porto will provide you just as varied and enjoyable city break.
Related articles: Porto Guide – Top 10 Porto
Central Portugal is a diverse and fascinating region, which is ideal for a touring holiday.
The historic university city of Coimbra is the largest city of the region, and offers magnificent educational institutions along with the buzz of a university city.
The coastline of central Portugal is dominated by the powerful Atlantic Ocean, and is the setting for the famed surfing towns of Peniche and Nazaré – with Nazaré boasting the world’s largest surfed wave (at 30m high). Further along the coast is pretty Figueira da Foz and the colourful beach houses of Costa Nova.
Central Portugal is a wonderful region which could take weeks to fully explore, but often tourists skip the region entirely by catching the express train from Lisbon to Porto.
Related articles: Tomar guide – Obidos guide – Nazare guide – Coimbra guide - Aveiro guide
(Please click on the underlined links to be taken to the destination guide - each link opens a new window.)
For a City Break:
Lisbon and Porto
For history and culture:
Evora, Coimbra, Sintra or Guimarães
For a Family Summer Holiday:
The Central Algarve or the Cascais-Estoril coastline
Picturesque and Traditional towns:
Tavira, Sesimbra, Obidos and Elvaz
For Stunning Scenery:
The Douro Valley, the Western Algarve, or the Serra da Arribida
Albufeira, Praia da Rocha, Lisbon
To Escape the Summer Crowds:
Sesimbra, Vila Nova da Milfontes, the Alentejo coastline or Porto
Back-packer hang out:
Lisbon or Lagos
For a surfing experience:
Sagres, Nazaria or Penechie
The Algarve’s main resort towns:
Albufeira, Lagos, Vilamoura and Praia da Rocha