20 AMAZING TOWNS TO VISIT IN PORTUGAL , Portugal is a long, narrow nation on the Iberian Peninsula with its western and southern borders facing the Atlantic Ocean. Its length, 560 kilometers (350 miles) from north to south, and narrowest point, 215 kilometers (135 miles), make it logistically simple to visit many Portuguese cities. It has a population of about 10.4 million, half of whom reside in Lisbon. Around this city, which is located just below the halfway on the western coast, there are remnants of Portugal’s past during the Age of Discovery, when European explorers traveled the globe.


Tourism has become extremely important to the national economy with its latitude such that there are many months of sunshine and relatively warm winters. That is in sharp contrast to many of the densely populated countries of Western Europe. There are distinct regions in Portugal with the southern coast, the Algarve, the most popular tourist area. Lisbon and its immediate coastal hinterland and the northern city of Porto have much to recommend them while the central inland region heading towards the border with Spain has its own characteristics. Here are 20 cities in Portugal which you are likely to enjoy.



the center of Viana do Castelo aerial view of city and water
Viana do Castelo may not be one of the largest cities in Portugal but it’s the capital of the eponymous state.

Several of Portugal’s cities have a relatively small population, and the capital of the region of the state with the same name is an example.

The population of 26,000 represents just under a third of the regional population.

Its origins in the 13th century was a small village that was a trading port with a tower, Torre da Roqueta, designed to defend against pirates from both Galicia and Africa.

Wine and salt were its main exports, while more recently, it became one of the main cod fishing ports and subsequently service industries and those associated with the sea.

Its beautiful architecture is just one reason to pay a visit.



Porto City aerial view aerial view of bridge and city
Porto is one of the cities in Portugal with a larger population.

Porto is the country’s second city, south of Viana, on the mouth of the Douro River.

While the city itself has 230,000 inhabitants, the greater metropolitan area has 1.7 million.

The Old Town has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996, with several landmarks for visitors to enjoy.

Its origins date back to the Romans and it was one of the Empire’s most important outposts.

While tourism is important, nothing compares to the port wine production in the region, which is Portugal’s most important export.

There are numerous cellars locally and plenty of the city’s activities are related to this fortified wine.

Recently, Porto has been twice named Best European Destination.



Panorama of Braga at sunrise
Braga is one of the best cities in Portugal to visit for Roman history.

Braga’s population is approaching 200,000, with the urban area third behind Lisbon and Porto, yet the city is older than both.

The oldest Catholic diocese in Portugal is found in Braga, which first developed in Roman times.

There is plenty to see in Braga, a former European Youth Capital.

They include Castro of São Mamede, the Museum D. Diogo de Sousa with its exhibits from Roman times 41 to 238 AD (Emperor Claudius to Maximinus II), and the thermae built in those days but only discovered in the 20th Century.

Bom Jesus do Monte is the best of its monuments, with its staircase depicting the ascent to heaven.



the small city of Aveiro in Portugal water, buildings and palm trees
Some say that Aveiro is one of the best cities to live in Portugal.

This city of 80,000 receives plenty of tourists annually, many coming to see its architecture, both Art Nouveau and Romanesque.

Brochures often call it “The Venice of Portugal” because of the “gondolas” that used to transport seaweed down its canals.

The Aveiro Museum (Museu de Aveiro, which used to be the Mosteiro de Jesus Convent), the Art Nouveau Museum, Aveiro Sé or São Domingos Cathedral from the 15th Century and the Church of Jesus (Igreja de Jesus) should all be on your itinerary if you visit the city.

If you are looking for a beach, there are two nearby.



City Walls of Bragança
Bragança is one of the top cities in Portugal near the Spanish border.

Bragança is a city of 35,000, where service industries associated with state-run institutions such as the Polytechnical Institute of Bragança are major employers.

Its rural population has been falling, so Braganca’s service industries are important.

Its proximity to the Spanish border means it attracts significant tourism from its neighbour.

The highlight for visitors is the old walled citadel on a hill east of the city, from where there are some lovely panoramas.

A well-preserved mediaeval neighbourhood is just under the arched entrance. Cathedral Square and the Igreja da Santa Maria Church are landmarks worth your time.


Vila Real sits on a plateau that stands 450 metres (1,500 feet) above the level of the Atlantic.

There is a population of around 30,000, with a further 20,000 living in the immediate hinterland.

The setting is beautiful, a promontory created by the gorges of the Corgo and Cabril Rivers.

Mountains lie to the west, the highest peak being 1,400 metres (4,600 feet).

The city is 700 years old, established largely by nobility, especially the Marquis of Vila Real whose family was an important noble house behind that of the Dukes of Braganza and the Dukes of Aveiro.

If you wander around the old town, you will still see several family crests.


the roofs of Coimbra in Portugal
Coimbra is one of the best cities in Portugal for history lovers.

Regio de Coimbra has a population of 460,000, with a third of them living in the city itself, making this the fourth largest urban area in Portugal.

It is another city that is attributable to the Romans, with a well-preserved aqueduct and cryptoporticus evidence of their presence.

Coimbra was Portugal’s capital between 1131 and 1255, with some buildings from that period remaining.

Early in the 14th Century, Portugal’s first university relocated here and remains the oldest academic institution in the Portuguese-speaking world.

Its historical buildings are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.




Panoramic view of Lisbon city
Lisbon is one of the most beautiful cities in Portugal.

Lisbon, and the immediate surrounding area, is one of the largest urban areas in the European Union and the third-largest on the Iberian Peninsula after Madrid and Barcelona.

The metropolitan region has around 3 million, and the city has half a million.

It lies on the mouth of the Tagus River, and its coastal location made it hugely important during the Age of Discovery and hugely wealthy.

It has Portugal’s busiest airport, with tourists and commercial travellers heading there all year round.

Athens is the only European city that was founded before Lisbon. There are many important landmarks that will keep visitors intrigued for several days while the infrastructure provides everything a visitor might want; accommodation, entertainment and fine cuisine.



National Palace in the town of Sintra aerial view with green forest around it
Sintra is one of the major cities in Portugal to tick off your bucket list.

Sintra deserves attention of its own despite it being in the greater metropolitan area of Lisbon. That is partly because the municipality has around 400,000 inhabitants.

It is extremely scenic and has a delightful fairytale setting with palaces and castles, parks, gardens and beaches to enjoy.

Sintra-Cascais Nature Park runs through the Sintra Mountains.

The historic heart of Sintra is known for its 19th Century Romanticist architecture, historic villas, gardens, palaces and castles.

Not surprisingly, all these things earned this Portuguese city UNESCO World Heritage Site status.



Aerial view of Setubal, Portugal
Setubal is one of the beach cities in Portugal you’ll love spending time in.

Setúbal is a city of 90,000, once again within the Lisbon metropolitan area, 48 kilometres (30 miles) south of Lisbon on the Sado River’s north bank.

It earned city status in 1860 from King Pedro V of Portugal officially recognised Setúbal as a city.

It was formerly the most important place in the Portuguese fishing industry, but now you will see marinas and other maritime activities.

Take your pick of beaches with plenty of accommodation for all budgets and the river’s dolphin colony is a major attraction.



Portuguese town Sines from the bay
Sines is one of the best cities in Portugal to escape the crowds.

Heading further south down the Atlantic Coast, Sines is the smallest of the cities facing out into the Atlantic.

It appeals to visitors because of the lovely beaches, yet it is also home to an important oil refinery and associated petrochemical industries.

Another aspect of Sines is its main fishing harbour on this stretch of the coast.

The Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park are just to the south, where historical landmarks have survived despite industrialisation.

Porto Covo is where you will find them and where industrialisation has yet to be a factor.



Main cathedral or Se in Viseu
Viseu is one of the larger cities in Portugal and where you should go to taste wine.

A regional hub for the wine industry, Viseu has absorbed several influences over the centuries, starting with the Romans and later the Moors, with others in between.

The Visigoths ruled here in the Middle Ages, and the first king of Portugal, Afonso Henriques, was thought to have been born here.

The population of 100,000 embrace and enjoy the local culture with highlights in the city, including the famous Grão Vasco Museum.

Viseu is a Catholic diocese and the Catholic University of Portugal is just one of the seats of learning.

Dão Wine comes from Viseu and the Dão Wine institute is here.

Local handicrafts include black pottery, bobbin lace, embroidery and metalworks like copper and wrought iron.


Castelo da Guarda against a blue sky
Guarda popular cities in Portugal

Guarda, the capital of the Beiras e Serra da Estrela, is a city of around 40,000.

Guarda sits at an altitude of 1050 metres (3,465 feet) in the highest mountains in Portugal.

Sancho I founded Guarda in 1199; today, it is known as the “city of 5 F’s”.

  • Farta means abundant, relating to its fertility
  • Forte means strong, the castle tower and walls
  • Fiel stands for loyal, a reference to its refusal to surrender in the 14th century to the King of Castile
  • Fria stands for cold because of the altitude and
  • Formosa is beautiful, an apt description of the immediate region.

Highlights of the city are the castle and cathedral.


Colorful houses of Evora, Portugal aerial view
Evora best cities to visit in Portugal

Évora is a historic city in Alentejo, and it is home to the ancient Roman Temple of Évora (also called the Temple of Diana and a UNESCO World Heritage Site).

Whitewashed houses surround the Cathedral of Évora, a huge Gothic building that started in the 12th century.

The Igreja de São Francisco is a mix of Gothic and Baroque and features the skeleton-adorned Chapel of Bones.

The centre of Evora, home to 50,000 inhabitants, is well-preserved with impressive walls and several monuments.

Away from maritime influences, summers are very hot in the city.

Évora will be a European Capital of Culture in 2027.


15- BEJA

Another Alentejo city, slightly smaller than Evora, is Beja, which looks down over the plains from a height of 277 metres (900 feet).

A settlement was first built here in Celtic times and Julius Caesar later named it Pax Julia before it became Pax Augusta when Caesar Augustus became emperor.

The 13th-century castle has four square towers and a keep with 197 steps on a spiral staircase to its summit.

It is worth the climb to get the panoramic views.

The Latin-Visigothic church of Santo Amaro next to the castle is one of just four pre-Romanesque churches left in Portugal.

Some parts are actually from the 6th century.

This is a rich, fertile region and a great place to enjoy fresh produce.


Serra de Sao Mamede, Portugal
Portalegre is one of the most charming cities in Portugal to visit.

This small city in Portugal is close to the Serra de São Mamede and was first mentioned in a 16th-century work by Friar Amador Arrais.

This still resembles Alentejo but is more accurately described as a transitional region where the climate is wetter.

At an altitude that ranges between 400 and 600 m (1,300 and 2,000 ft), Portalegre has a variety of geologic features and, consequently, diverse flora and fauna.

The Serra de São Mamede Natural Park includes Portalegre and is just one of its attractions.


Statistics show that around 5 million people visit the Algarve each year, and some even enjoy mid-winter holidays here to escape cold winters further north. Lots of places that were just very small fishing villages have blossomed into popular resorts. The four below are good examples of places that have developed infrastructures to cater for visitors.

17- FARO

city of Faro on the Algarve coast of Portugal aerial view
Faro is another of those cities in Portugal to visit during your travels.

Faro has an international airport that provides easy access to enjoy the delights of the Algarve.

Many of the city’s population of 60,000 depend upon tourism for their livelihood, but that was not always so.

The Moors ruled this region for 500 years until Afonso III expelled them in the middle of the 13th century.

As Silves to the far west declined, Faro became the administrative hub of the Algarve.

While many visitors head off from Faro to their chosen destinations, there is still reason to explore Faro itself.

It has an interesting architecture with highlights including its famous lighthouse, the cathedral and the old town (Cidade Velha) dating from the 16th and 17th centuries.



marina in Portimao in the Algarve Portugal
Portimao is one of the lovely coastal cities in Portugal to explore in the Algarve.

Portimão nearby is of a similar size and gained city status around a century below.

Its past revolved around fishing and shipbuilding, but the growth of charter flights has changed that.

In the last quarter of the 20th century, huge numbers of visitors started to arrive due to the lovely beaches and excellent climate.

The Algarve is famous for its cuisine, with sardines being a popular dish. The region is also fertile, so its culinary delights are a real treat.

The old town, museums that explain the region’s history and the natural setting make this city a great base for a holiday.



city Lagos in the Algarve Portugal aerial view of cliffs and city in the background
Lagos is another of those cities in the Algarve, Portugal, that will take your breath away.

The permanent city population may be just over 20,000, but the numbers in Lagos swell hugely through the long days of summer.

While agriculture and forestry remain important inland, the coastal strip of Lagos is where things become very busy.

The infrastructure here is well-developed, with the beaches and rock formations as natural attractions.

Henry the Navigator lived here, so Lagos played an important role in the Age of Discovery with a historic shipyard associated with Lagos and, sadly, the slave trade.

In the 15th century, Portuguese ships headed down the African Coast from here, so perhaps it gets its name from the largest city in West Africa.



Albufeira in the Algarve Portugal aerial view of white city and cliffs
Albufeira is one of those cities to visit in Portugal that will sweep you off your feet.

Albufeira’s origins are unclear, but for the last half-century, its role is certainly as a popular tourist resort.

Certainly, the Romans were here all those years ago and some reminders of their presence are still evident.

The city has a permanent population of just about 30,000, and it sits between Lagos to the west and Faro to the east, within an hour from the international airport.

In the summer, that permanent population expands ten times over at times.

People come to enjoy the warm sea, lovely beaches, fine cuisine and the choice of golf courses which stay in good condition for most of the year.

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