Nine Beautiful Places to Visit in Portugal (if you’ve done Lisbon and Porto)

Nine Beautiful Places to Visit in Portugal (if you’ve done Lisbon and Porto)

Lisbon? Been there. Porto? Done that. As “second cities” step into the traveller’s spotlight, we’re stepping away from the beaten track and enjoying tiles and pasteis de natas in underrated fishing towns, scenic cities and sleepy medieval villages.

roofs, pastel-coloured streets and bakeries stacked
with pasteis de natas aren’t solely reserved for Lisbon. Nor are
those pretty ceramic-tiled walls found only in Porto. After
scoffing tins of sardines and downing bottles of port, venture
outside of these tourist-trodden hubs to some of Portugal’s
overlooked, but no less lovely, towns and cities.

Been to Lisbon? Discover Portugal’s most underrated



Made up of seven sleepy villages, this laid-back, low-key beach
destination is the antithesis to the Algarve. An hour and a half’s
drive south of Lisbon, Comporta has a 12km stretch of pristine sand
among what are arguably some of the best west-coast beaches. It’s
long been a favourite holiday destination among locals, with
landscapes of rice fields, pine forests and thatched cottages. The
area has a hippy-chic atmosphere and simple charm. Pay a visit to
restaurant for divine fresh fish, or splash out on dinner at
da Comporta

Stay: Sublime Comporta



Cascading down the banks of the Mondego River, Coimbra is a
scenic city filled with a mishmash of architectural influences:
Romanesque monasteries, baroque libraries and Moorish cathedrals
sit side-by-side. At its core is Portugal’s oldest and most
prestigious university, a huge sugar-cube structure perched on a
hill with an imposing 17th-century bell tower that crowns the city. More than just
a historical checkpoint famed for its relics, Coimbra has a lively
student population that ensures there’s always an electric energy
running through its veins – visitors will find it in the streets
serenaded by the sounds of fado singers and in bars that line the
riverbanks. Look out for the political graffiti scrawled across the

Stay: Sapienta Boutique Hotel



Technically a town but with enchanting landscapes that resemble
a page torn from a Hans Christian Andersen storybook, Sintra is
worthy of a deliberate detour. Crumbling castles, fairy-tale
turrets and champagne-bottle-shaped chimneys peak out from the
misty wooded hillside that unfolds into the Atlantic. It’s easy to
see how this was once a summer playground for Portuguese royals.
Stroll through the flamboyant estates, exotic gardens and whimsical
grottos decorated with mythical creatures that once inspired Byron.
Though Sintra is popular with day-trippers (it’s just a 40-minute
drive or bus ride from Lisbon), lingering a little longer in one of
its candy-coloured casas means that you can absorb Sintra’s
jaw-slacking beauty at your leisure.

Stay: Tivoli Palácio de Seteais



Monsaraz is a quiet medieval village, scattered on a hill in the
back-to-nature Alentejo region. The village looks over the vast
Alqueva Lake (one of Europe’s largest) all the way to the Spanish
border. Expect whitewashed buildings and cobbled streets,
traditional potteries and small textile producers. All roads lead
up the hill to Monsaraz Castle. The surrounding land is one of
Portugal’s most important agricultural regions, home to vineyards,
olive groves, miles of farmland. A low population means low levels
of light pollution, and a recent designation as a Dark Sky Reserve.
So get out the binoculars come nightfall. For the best beaches,
head to Costa Vicentina.

Stay: São Lourenço do Barrocal



Hopeless romantics will feel at home here; in 1282 King Dinis
gave Óbidos to a young Queen Isabel of Portugal as a wedding
present. It’s her you can thank for the town’s handsome
sun-bleached houses buried beneath creeping bougainvillea and the
gothic doorways decorated with intricate tiles. Although, Óbidos
doesn’t just rest on its good looks. Historic spaces have been
remodelled into contemporary bookstores – scout out first editions,
design books and coffee-table centrepieces – while cobbled streets
lead to artisan chocolate stores serving ginja, the local
cherry-flavoured liqueur. Coincide visits with the town’s many
festivities: come in July for the open-air theatre at the Medieval Fair, bibliophiles should book in October for
the literary festival and November sees the town covered in sugared
sculptures for the annual International Chocolate Festival.

Stay: Immerso



Once a meeting point for kings in the Middle Ages, Évora has
retained all its glory and grandeur. Arguably more photogenic than
Lisbon, its narrow lanes reveal whitewashed houses with yellow
trimmings the colour of pasteis de natas and expertly preserved
Roman ruins dating back to the first century. Take coffee in the
pretty Praça do Giraldo square before heading to Paço de São Miguel
for views across the rust-coloured rooftops. After seeing the
city’s main sights, hire a car to explore the rural region outside
its walls – the area is a hotbed for agriculture and production.
You’ll find rolling hills, rows of vineyards and marble quarries
glistening in the Alentejo sun.

Stay: CorkShack Marvão



A quaint little fishing town just west along the coast from
Lisbon, Cascais is hardly a well-kept secret. Still, the so-called
“charm of the Atlantic Coast” ticks all the boxes: there are sandy
beaches and a busy marina, a quaint little Old Town, a bustling
local market and nearby hilltop palaces on the way to Sintra.
What’s more, the coastal town is only 30 minutes’ drive from
Lisbon. Historically, Cascais was the summer retreat of the
Portuguese nobility, and many grand waterside villas still stand
today. At the beach, look out for Boca do Inferno – or “the mouth
of hell” – an impressive natural rock formation through which
powerful waves crash. If you have a little more time here, check
out museum Casa das Historias Paula Rego.

Stay: Hypnautics



The village built around boulders. Monsanto is one of the most
memorable settlements you’ll come across. It’s close to the Spanish
border and worth exploring if only for its fascinating history:
Monsanto has been inhabited since Paleolithic times. Romans bathed
here, King Afonso Henriques conquered it, and the fabled Knights
Templar built the village’s first castle. Climb up to the east side
of the castle at dawn and discover the ruins of the Chapel of São
João, with half-derelict arches framing the mountains in the

Stay: Casas da Villa

Viana do Castelo


This medieval port is one of the real jewels of the Costa Verde,
famous for its 16th-century architecture and as a pilgrim
destination for those walking along the Portuguese Way (an
alternative to the Camino de Santiago.) All the city’s money came
from the sea – first as a gateway for Portugal’s empire, and then
through cod fishing – and gaudy Baroque palaces and monasteries are
densely packed into the city walls. References to Nossa Senhora da
Agonia, the patron saint of fishermen, wash up pretty much
everywhere. Hire a bike and venture along coastal paths to get a
feel for the area.

Stay: FeelViana

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