Portugal: Top Destinations and Activities

When it comes to exploring the beauty of Europe, Portugal is a hidden gem. Located on the western edge of the Iberian Peninsula, this captivating country offers a rich blend of history, culture, and natural beauty.

The country has long been a favourite amongst families and solo female travellers, thanks to its safe and progressive reputation. However, it also offers great nightlife and plenty of adventure. From the vibrant city of Lisbon to the stunning beaches of the Algarve region and the Azores, Portugal has something to offer everyone.

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Belém Tower, Lisbon, Portugal
Belém Tower, Lisbon

As the capital city of Portugal, Lisbon is a must-visit destination. Start your exploration with a visit to the iconic Belém Tower, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that dates back to the 16th century. From there, make your way to the historic district of Alfama, where you can wander through narrow streets lined with colourful houses and soak in the charming atmosphere. Don’t forget to visit the magnificent São Jorge Castle, which offers breathtaking panoramic views of the city.

Lisbon is great for budget travellers, but also offers a huge range of activities if you’re willing to spend on experiences. There are walking and cycling tours, food tours, market tours, street art tours, cooking classes, dinner cruises, snorkelling and kayaking tours and more. You can use platforms like Viator and Get Your Guide to book and see the full range of activities on offer.


Porto, Portugal

Located in the north of Portugal, Porto is a city that exudes charm and character. One of the highlights of Porto is the Ribeira district, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It features picturesque narrow streets, colourful houses, and stunning views of the Douro River.

Make sure to visit the iconic Dom Luís I Bridge, an architectural masterpiece that connects Porto with Vila Nova de Gaia. And, of course, no visit to Porto would be complete without trying the famous Port wine, which is produced in the nearby Douro Valley. You can join a wine tasting, and there are also options for wine and cheese pairings.

The Algarve

Benagil Cave, Portugal
Benagil Cave

If you’re in search of breathtaking beaches and stunning landscapes, the Algarve region is the perfect destination for you. With its golden cliffs, crystal-clear waters, and picturesque fishing villages, the Algarve offers a true paradise for beach lovers. The region is a favourite amongst families in particular due to its wide selection of all inclusive family friendly resorts.

Highlights of the region include the capital, Faro, as well as multiple towns known for their food, beaches and nightlife. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit Praia da Marinha, one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, known for its dramatic rock formations and turquoise waters. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also explore the famous Benagil Cave, a natural wonder that can only be accessed by boat.


Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra, Portugal
Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra

Just a short drive away from Lisbon, Sintra is a fairy-tale-like destination that will transport you back in time. You can get there independently by renting a car (check out Discover Cars and Qeeq for options) or book a guided tour on the previously mentioned Viator or Get Your Guide. With its historic palaces, lush gardens, and mystical atmosphere, Sintra seems straight out of a storybook.

One of the must-visit attractions in Sintra is the Pena Palace, a colourful palace perched on top of a hill, offering panoramic views of the surrounding area. Another highlight is the Quinta da Regaleira, a mysterious estate with underground tunnels, hidden caves, and enchanting gardens.

Douro Valley

Douro Valley, Portugal
Douro Valley

For wine enthusiasts and nature lovers alike, the Douro Valley should not be missed. Located in the northern part of Portugal, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is famous for its terraced vineyards, charming villages, and breathtaking landscapes.

A great option is to take a leisurely boat cruise along the Douro River, where you can admire the vineyards. And of course, don’t forget to taste the delicious wines that the region is known for- you can attend tastings on board boat cruises, or in wineries themselves.

The Azores

Azores, Portugal

Located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, the Azores archipelago is a paradise for nature lovers and adventure seekers. With its rugged coastline, volcanic landscapes, and crystal-clear waters, the Azores offer a unique and untouched beauty.

Visit the stunning Sete Cidades, a crater lake surrounded by lush greenery and vibrant blue waters. Alternatively, head to the picturesque town of Furnas, known for its natural hot springs and geothermal activity. There are also plenty of coastal activities available, such as whale watching tours, kayaking excursions and even swimming with dolphins!


University of Coimbra, Portugal
University of Coimbra

Known as the university city of Portugal, Coimbra is a destination that combines history, culture, and academic atmosphere. Start your visit at the University of Coimbra, one of the oldest universities in the world, and explore its stunning library, which houses more than 300,000 books.

Given that Coimbra was formerly Portugal’s medieval capital, you should definitely take a stroll through the narrow streets of the historic centre. As well as admiring the beautiful architecture, you can visit the famous Sé Velha, a Romanesque cathedral that dates back to the 12th century. And don’t forget to listen to the traditional fado music, which is deeply rooted in Coimbra’s cultural heritage- catch a live show at the Fado ao Centro, or enjoy it playing in the background of a local bar.


Óbidos Castle, Portugal
Óbidos Castle

If you’re looking for a truly charming and picturesque destination, Óbidos is the place to go. Surrounded by medieval walls, this small town is like stepping back in time. It’s also close enough to Lisbon and other small towns that it can be seen on a multi-stop day trip. Tours that go to Óbidos also visit popular locations such as Nazaré, Fátima and Batalha.

Top things to do include walking along the cobblestone streets, lined with whitewashed houses adorned with colourful flowers, and visiting the Óbidos Castle, a well-preserved medieval fortress that offers panoramic views of the town. Additionally, don’t miss the opportunity to try the famous Ginjinha, a traditional Portuguese liqueur made from sour cherries.


Madeira Botanical Garden, Portugal
Madeira Botanical Garden

Located in the Atlantic Ocean, Madeira is a paradise for nature lovers, hikers, and adventure seekers. With its lush forests, towering mountains, and dramatic coastlines, Madeira offers a wide range of outdoor activities and breathtaking landscapes. Some of the most popular options include incredible sunset hikes and wildlife tours, as well as canyoning and offroad buggy adventures.

Explore the Levadas, a network of irrigation channels that crisscross the island and offer stunning walking trails through forests and mountains, and visit the charming town of Funchal, where you can explore botanical gardens, taste local delicacies, and relax on the beautiful beaches. Madeira is particularly popular amongst digital nomads, and has a vibrant expat community.

Budget-friendly travel tips for Portugal

Lisbon trams, Portugal
Lisbon trams

Travelling to Portugal doesn’t have to break the bank. Here are some budget-friendly tips to make the most of your trip:

  1. Take advantage of the public transport system, which is efficient and affordable.
  2. Opt for local, family-owned restaurants and cafés, where you can enjoy authentic Portuguese cuisine at a fraction of the price.
  3. Consider visiting Portugal during the shoulder seasons (spring and autumn), when prices are lower and crowds are smaller.
  4. Look for accommodation options outside of the main tourist areas, where prices tend to be more affordable. Booking.com and Hostelworld offer good options.
  5. Take advantage of free attractions and activities, such as visiting public parks, exploring local markets, and attending cultural events.

General Tips and Safety

Portugal is not only one of the safest countries in the Europe, but one of the safest in the world. It’s an excellent destination for families and solo female travellers, although regular caution should be exercised in busy tourist areas; keep an eye on your belongings at all times and be wary of pickpockets. Public transport in major cities is fairly efficient and reliable, and hostels are safe and clean.

If you require emergency assistance in Portugal, dial 112 to contact emergency services.

If you decide to continue travelling after your visit to Portugal, you can easily cross the border to Spain by sea, road or rail. Portugal is also well connected by air; depending on the season you can reach many European cities for less than €50, including capitals such as Paris, Rome, Amsterdam, Prague and Budapest.


In conclusion, Portugal is a destination that offers a fantastic blend of history, culture, and natural beauty. With historic cities, stunning beaches, rugged canyons and rolling valleys, it offers an array of experiences. Visit for a few weeks, or check a couple of locations off the list and then continue on a tour of the continent. However you decide to structure your trip, you won’t regret visiting Portugal!

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