It is no secret that Portugal makes a great holiday destination. Its spectacular beaches, rich culinary scene, unique culture and nightlife draw crowds of tourists each year. However, while many tend to stay in the capital city, we encourage you to venture off the beaten path. Here are five fascinating places worth visiting:
Now a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, Sintra has been a popular summer resort for many years. Centuries ago, it was the preferred holiday destination among Portugal’s nobility. To this day, many summer palaces and castles remain. Among them are the majestic Moorish Castle from the 8th century and the world-famous Palacio Nacional da Pena, commissioned by Ferdinand of Saxe Coburg-Gotha in 1840. Recommended hotels in Sintra include the Penha Longa Hotel & Golf Resort and the Tivoli Sintra.
The beautifully preserved town of Coimbra dates back to the 12th century. Among its most famous attractions is the local university. Founded by King Dinis in 1290, it remains the oldest school in all of Portugal. The Baroque-style Biblioteca Joanina, the Museu Machado de Castro (the country’s most famous sculpture museum) and the ancient Roman ruins of Conimbriga are also enchanting. Spend your days touring old cathedrals and botanical gardens, and your nights dancing to traditional Fado music. Looking to stay the night? There are plenty of great hotels in Coimbra!
One of Portugal’s most popular resorts, Lagos is best known for its beautiful beaches. They include the impressive Meia Praia and the more peaceful Praia do Pinhão. Inland, you will find unique tourist attractions like the municipal museum and fantastic restaurants. To best experience Lagos, rent a bicycle or moped to take around the narrow streets. You can also sightsee by horseback or enjoy a leisurely boat trip from the main harbor. It is close to hotels in Lagos like the Marina Club Suite Hotel and the Giramar.
The volcanic island of Madeira just may be one of the best-kept secrets in Europe. Its semi-tropical foliage and dramatic seaside cliffs set a romantic scene ideal for a holiday. Discover the unique culture that fuses Portuguese and British traditions, and the landscape commonly referred to as a “floating island.” Amid lush gardens of orchids and bougainvillea along the Gulf Stream, you will find an amazing array of hotels on Madeira. Most hotels, including the Hotel Porto Santa Maria and The Cliff Bay, are located in the island’s capital of Funchal.
Perhaps best known for the fortified wine it produces, Porto has so much more to offer. The ancient city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and its hilly scenery offers beautiful views of the River Douro. Take a walk on the black-and-white mosaic pavement of the Avenida dos Aliados and do not miss the restored Roman temple of the Cedofeita Church or the Clerigos Church. The latter is the tallest building in Portugal! From centuries-old landmarks to renowned vineyards, Porto has something for everyone. And, of course, there is no shortage of Porto hotels.