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10 must-see cities when in Portugal

So you’re an adventurer; you crave the outdoors and are always looking for new landscapes and sceneries. What better place to do that than in Portugal? Featuring a brief cold season and only spiking into uncomfortably hot temperatures for 2-3 months out of the year, Portugal is a great destination whether you’re a solo adventurer or have the whole family in tow.

Here are 10 cities you must see, to get you started:

1.      Peneda-Gerês is located in the northwest region of the country. Out of many natural parks, it is the only one in Portugal to be classified as a National Park. Peneda-Gerês features varying landscapes of mountains and reservoirs, each more beautiful than the last.

Things to do: hiking, camping, guided tours

2.      Perhaps best known for the city of Lisbon, Portugal has infinite beauties to see certainly not the least of which is its capital. Lisbon offers tours for everyone, whether you’re a historian or a food critic. There are options for walking, riding electric bikes, even sailing down the Tagus River at sunset.

Things to do: tours (walking/cycling/sailing), visit architectural sites.

3.      Perhaps you’ve heard of Port wine? Visit the city responsible for it. Just three hours north of Lisbon by car, Porto has a plethora of outdoor attractions to offer, many of which include partaking in the cities famed alcohol. Like Lisbon, Porto offers a variety of tours from walking to Segway to riverboat in just as many price ranges so you and your family can find the perfect adventure for your interests and wallet. Whether you want to climb the 250 steps to the top of Clérigos Tower or float through the city by boat there’s something for you.

Things to do: tour (walking/Segway/riverboat/drinking), visit architectural sites (bridges/churches/towers).

4.      Sintra is a cozy little town with more than its share of historic monuments and enticing attractions. It can be visited as a day trip from Lisbon but has enough allure to keep visitors much longer. Sintra’s Palácio da Pena is a must-see palace set at the top of Monte da Pena on an old monastery site. The sights of Sintra are situated across the hills that make up the area and, for ambitious individuals, have challenging hiking trails linking them together.

Things to do: hiking, historic site seeing.

5.      Coimbra is the former capital of Portugal. Located roughly halfway between Lisbon and Oporto it is most famous of the University of Coimbra, which is more than seven centuries old. The city of Coimbra is considered very romantic featuring medieval churches and streets. Students wandering around the city still sport black capes and their briefcases are marked with colored ribbons representative of their respective schools.

Things to do: historic site seeing.


6.      If you haven’t yet got your fill of historic sites go visit Evora. There you can view the mysterious megalithic structures of Almendres Cromlech believed to be either a religious monument or primitive astronomical observatory. There is also a Roman temple, a historical aqueduct and a multitude of outdoor street markets if you’re looking for a day of souvenir shopping.

Things to do: tours, wine tasting, historical site seeing.

7.      Visiting the Algarves is a must if you’re an avid cyclist or hiker. Located on the southernmost tip of the country, this region boasts almost year-round sunshine. There are four major connected routes open to both cyclists and hikers. They offer various degrees of difficulty and can accommodate people of all fitness levels. The Algarves are also home to the Benagil Caves and other natural beauties that are well worth a visit. If relaxing is on the agenda, you also have the option of taking a beach day.

Things to do: cycling, hiking, kayaking, snorkeling, caving.

8.      Southwest of Portugal sit the four islands of Madeira. There are so many things to do on this island from hiking to diving to paragliding. Perhaps one of the most exciting attractions of Madeira takes place in its capital city of Funchal where “toboggan rides” are common being the residents original form of transport from the top of the steep hillsides to the bottom. See Travel Magazine’s: Top 10 things to see and do in Madeira for access to pricing.

Things to do: hiking, camping, diving, paragliding, “toboggan riding”.

9.      Madeira isn’t the only island to see in Portugal. The Azores are a collection of nine islands divided into three groups. While travelling between island groups may require a small plane, once there, each cluster of islands is fully accessible by boat.

Things to do: hiking, camping, diving, horse-back riding.

10.      Guimarães holds special interest for the Portuguese as the location where the first King of Portugal fought the Battle of São Mamede in 1128 against his own mother. His victory ultimately led to the foundation of the kingdom of Portugal. Additionally, the Rua de Santa Maria running through the center of town and is considered the most beautiful in the city by art historians everywhere.

Things to do: tours, dining, historical site seeing.

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