Portugal is a fantastic bucket-list destination from the mind-blowing dramatic cliffs to the Douro region’s white sandy beaches and vineyards. Here are 7 awesome experiences in Portugal to discover for your next trip.
Many of these places are accessible by public transportation or renting a car. In fact, this country is fascinating and fun to explore, so let’s get started.
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1. Visit a Palace
Pena Palace is my favorite place to visit in Portugal. The castle sits high up on the hilltop in Sintra. This whimsical castle is probably the most popular in Portugal, seen from Lisbon.
In the first place, the red buildings (old monastery) you see were rebuilt after the earthquake in 1755. Around five years later, King Ferdinand added to the castle with yellow buildings. These were referred to as the “New Palace.”
If you plan to take a trip here, include the Moorish Castle. Views are spectacular from this 8th-century castle. There are a lot of steps up to both of these castles.
2. Bussaco & National Forest
Bussaco Palace is a gorgeous sight to see. Built in 1885 for the last king of Portugal, this historic palace certainly has charm. Now the palace is a luxury hotel. Lush gardens outback is part of what makes this place so popular for weddings.
The restaurant serves classic Portuguese cuisine with world-class Bussaco wine. There are 60 period-style rooms. Some famous people who have stayed here are monarchs, actors, royalty, and politicians.
Afterward, you’ll need to save time for a hike through the Bussaco Forest. In the forest, you’ll find different types of trees and flora. One of the trees dates back to 1644. This is a beautiful place to hike and spend part of your day.
Furthermore, the forest is free to visit if you are on foot or riding a bicycle. Cars will pay between 2-7 euros for entrance.
Entrance to the forest and hiking trails
3. Medieval Town of Evora
Evora is like stepping back in the time of the Romans. In this small town city center, you’ll discover the Temple of Evora dating back to the 1st century.
Evora is the second oldest and one your should experience in Portugal during your visit. The Museu de Evora shows the town’s history with ancient paintings, jewelry, and sculptures. Of course, Evora has a university.
The best time to visit Evora is from April to June or August to September during the peak season. From Lisbon, you should arrive in Evora in about 1 1/2 hours. Foodies should sample the cheese and wine produced here.
4. UNESCO Site of Belem
In Portugal, there are 15 excellent UNESCO sites to visit. We cover 5 of them during my first visit, including Sintra, Alcobaca, Batalha, Historic Porto, and the University of Coimbra. Not bad for one trip!
In Lisbon, you’ll want to see the Tower of Belem and eat those tasty tarts again. Built on a small island in the Tagus River, the tower has four stories.
Except for one natural site, most of the UNESCO sites are cultural. Likewise, you can discover more incredible experiences in Portugal at the Azores and the island of Madeira.
5. Portuguese Festivals
A fun way to experience the culture is attending a local Portuguese festival. February is Carnival in the Algarve and Lisbon. Small villages and towns like to celebrate religion, arts, music, and food.
Love chocolate! Obidos hosts an International Chocolate Festival each year in April. Check it out.
There is always a reason to celebrate. Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, has different music festivals, including Outdoor Jazz Festival from May to September. Next, a wine lover will enjoy the Medeira Wine Fest from August to September. See a list of events here.
6. Visit the Portuguese Islands
Photo credit: [Frank Nurnberger] Madeira Islands
Feeling adventurous? Madeira is made up of three Portuguese islands. It’s often compared to Hawaii. Porto Santo and Madeira offer the most comforts for visitors. The most remarkable things to see are the cliffs and flora.
Madeira is an incredible place to escape to warmer temperatures. The gardens are beautiful, with flowers in Funchal (capital of Madeira) in April and May. Jardim Tropical Monte Palace is one place to admire the flora.
Funchal makes perfect sense for a home base to discover the island. With boutique-style hotels in the old town, some with shuttle service, you can stay right in the centre of the city without a car. Here it’s easy to get to restaurants and shops.
7. Awesome Spa Experiences in Portugal
After days of exploring all the gems in Portugal, it’s time to pamper yourself at the spa. Besides hotels, you can find excellent day spas. In northern Portugal, two popular spas are Taipas Termal in Guimarães and Termas das Caldas da Saúde.
Another great experience in Lisbon is Float in Spa. They have 3 locations in Lisbon, Belem, Rato, and Picoas.
A perfect atmosphere is in the Algarve at the Swan Day Spa. With good value, friendly and professional service, it’s no wonder this place is a favorite choice among people.