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Things to see and do in Portugal



Head to the Alfama district for a maze-like district of steep staircases, hidden churches and traditional taverns with an old tram that still rattles through the streets.


Braga's baroque churches

Portugal's spiritual heart, Braga is a lively little city with an exquisite assortment of baroque churches, a sprawling cathedral and Roman ruins. It hosts traditional religious festivals throughout the year, including Portugal's most colourful Holy Week.

Cabo de São Vicente

The cliff top heights of Cabo de São Vicente outside of Sagres are Europe's southwestern-most point. Lying near some spectacularly rugged and windswept beaches, the views are dramatic.

Côa Valley Archaeological Park

The Côa Valley Archaeological Park ( is home to a magnificent collection of rock carvings from the Upper Palaeolithic period (22,000-10,000BC). The UNESCO World Heritage site only narrowly escaped destruction during a proposed dam-building project.


This charming town is home to Portugal's oldest and most venerated university, full of Portuguese culture. It is set amid a splendid old town of historic churches and medieval alleyways, with the buzz of student life all around.

Douro Valley

Enjoy the splendid vineyards and picturesque river of this UNESCO World Heritage site with a taste-busting wine tour or delightful river cruise. It is one of the most underrated tourist trips you will find in Europe and one to treasure forever.

Estoril racetrack

Petrolheads may want to check out the world-famous Estoril racetrack (, which is located a short distance from Lisbon on Portugal's Atlantic coast. Visitors can go along to watch car or motorcycle races.


Évora is a virtual museum of a town that reached its golden age in the 15th century. The walled old centre contains a Roman temple, a looming cathedral and picturesque plazas for taking in the architectural splendour.

Fado music

The melancholic Fado music, Portugal's best-known traditional musical form, can be heard at atmospheric bars and clubs in Lisbon or Coimbra.

Traditional festivals with dancing, drinking and feasting, occur throughout the year. Top picks include Lisbon's festival of St Anthony (12 and 13 June) and Braga's festival of St John (23 and 24 June).

Go golfing

Portugal has a great selection of popular championship golf courses in the Algarve and around Estoril, but Quinta da Lago is arguably the pick of the bunch.


The medieval capital of Guimarães ( was the birthplace of the Portuguese nation. Looming above its narrow, cobbled lanes lie castle ruins and the former palace of the Dukes of Bragança.

Horse riding

Portugal has scores of riding centres. Hit the beach with a Lusitano thoroughbred to canter along the sand in the Atlantic surf, or if you're an experienced rider, try taking dressage lessons in Estremadura.

Knights Templar castle

The Knights Templar castle in Tomar contains intriguing medieval relics. The Convent of the Order of Christ at the heart of the castle complex is one of Portugal's premier artistic and historical structures.

Mosteiro de Santa Maria

The Mosteiro de Santa Maria (Monastery of Batalha) is a gothic Manueline masterpiece built to commemorate the 1385 victory over Spain in the Battle of Aljubarrota. Its elaborately carved exterior is one of the icons of Portugal.

Parque das Nações

This museum ( in Lisbon houses a weird and wondrous collection of public art.


Portugal's only national park, Peneda-Gerês (, is 70,000 hectares (170,000 acres) of dramatic mountain scenery, old stone villages and unrivalled adventure for outdoor enthusiasts.


This UNESCO World Heritage site in Porto has history lurking round every corner, from its neo classical Stock Exchange Palace to its romanesque-gothic Cathedral, with spectacular views along the vibrant waterfront of Cais da Ribeira (


A UNESCO World Heritage site, Sintra is an idyllic town surrounded by wooded hillsides. Don't miss the former summer residence of the Portuguese royal family and the beautiful Monserrate gardens.


Tavira is one of the Algarve's oldest and most unspoiled towns. Constructed on the banks of the River Gilhão, the picturesque settlement a smattering of gothic and Renaissance churches, a seven-arched Roman bridge, old fortifications and a pristine island beach.

Torre de Belém

The striking Torre de Belém is near the fabled spot where Vasco da Gama set sail during the Age of Discoveries. Other Belém attractions include the glorious Jerónimos Monastery (

Vila Nova de Gaia

The picturesque port houses of Vila Nova de Gaia across the river from Porto offer a taste of the country's best port wines.


Have a go at scuba-diving, surfing, windsurfing or kitesurfing at one of the watersports centres dotted along the coast. Contact the Portuguese Federation for Underwater Activities ( for diving information.