Picturesque Places in Portugal
by Katie McCabe | @awelltraveledpair | January 22, 2022
Portugal is one of the most picturesque places in the world. From the beaches of Lagos to the city sights of Lisbon, this pint-size country offers a plethora of stunning attractions. After spending over two months there, I was in awe of Portugal in every single way. John and I spent most of our time in the southern area, known as the Algarve, and as much as we loved it there, we also loved exploring the busy streets of Lisbon and Porto, and hiking along volcanic craters in the Azores. Portugal is truly one of a kind, and if you happen to travel to this amazing place, then don't miss these sights below.
We didn't expect to fall in love with Porto as much as we did, but it completely blew us away. For starters, we loved the fact that we could walk almost everywhere. All of the sights are fairly close to one another, and they're absolutely breathtaking. As much as we enjoyed the architecture in Lisbon, we loved it even more in Porto. It's really hard to put into words how lovely this place is, so you're just going to have to visit and see for yourself. And when you do, stops at Luis I Bridge, Livaria Lello, Porto Cathedral, and Igreja do Carmo are musts.
Lisbon is one of the most unique and pretty cities in the world. Serving as the capital of Portugal, it is steeped in rich history and culture. It also houses some exquisite architecture. John and I had such a fun time exploring this fabulous city. We walked around the Old Town, rode Tram 28 through the historic center, gazed in awe at Belem Tower, and ate as many pastéis de nata as possible. No trip to Portugal is complete without a visit to Lisbon.
Sintra is a calming respite from the busy streets of Lisbon. Located about thirty minutes outside of the capital city, this area is filled with forests, palaces, and classy country estates. People come here to enjoy the perfect mix of nature, history, and architectural sight-seeing. Some popular attractions are the Quinta da Regaleira, Pena Palace, and Castle of the Moors. There are even numerous hiking trails around these sights for those looking to delve more into nature. Sintra stretches out to the sea, so if you're looking for a beautiful beach area, I suggest visiting Azenhas do Mar.
The Algarve is Portugal's southernmost region, and it's known for stunning beaches, golf resorts, fishing villages, and quaint towns. There are a handful of great places to stay in, but my personal favorites are definitely Lagos, Albufeira, and Faro. These three cities have a plethora of nice hotel options, restaurants, and sights to choose from. Lagos is the most popular city to stay in due to its close proximity to epic sights, such as Ponta da Piedade (pictured below). But no matter where you stay in the Algarve, I'm sure you'll enjoy all the beauty that it has to offer.
Braga is more of an unknown city in Portugal, even though it's the oldest. It's quaint and quiet, and that's just how the locals like it. After leaving busy Porto, we found Braga to be just what we needed. The ancient cathedrals and museums were wondrous to explore, and nearby hiking trails offered the jaunt into nature that we were hoping for. If you happen to make it to Braga, and I hope you do, be sure not to miss Bom Jesus do Monte or the historic Old Town.
I had wanted to visit the Azores for years, so when the opportunity finally presented itself in early 2022, I was thrilled. Located about 800 miles off the coast of Portugal's mainland, this gorgeous archipelago offers epic hiking, whale watching, an abundance of natural hot springs, and much much more. Nine islands make up the Azores, with Sao Miguel being the most popular and easiest to fly into. If you only have time to visit one island, Sao Miguel should be it. And if you have more time to explore, quick flights can take you from Sao Miguel to any of the other islands - Corvo, Flores, Terceira, Graciosa, Sao Jorge, Pico, Faial, and Santa Maria.
When To Visit:
Lisbon/Porto/Braga: April through June, September through October
The Algarve: June to mid-September
The Azores: May to October
The best times to visit Porto, Lisbon, and Braga are April through June and September to November. The weather is warm and comfortable, and the crowds aren't too heavy. If you want to visit the Algarve, July and August seem to be the best months to enjoy all the beach activities. We actually visited in the wintertime, and even though it was too cool for swimming and sunbathing, we enjoyed sightseeing with barely any other tourists around. For the Azores, I suggest visiting between May and October, due to frequent rain showers between November and April.
Pasteis de nata are a local specialty and you should try to consume as many as possible during your stay. They are Portuguese custard pastries, and they're delectable. There are tons of shops offering them all around Portugal, but we found Pasteis de Belem in Lisbon to have the best.
The euro is the main currency in Portugal.
Portuguese is the main language of Portugal, but English is widely-spoken.
Public transportation is fantastic in Porto and Lisbon and no rental car is needed (or recommended), however, the Algarve,
Braga, and Azores are best explored by car.
In the USA, people call 911 for emergencies. In Portugal, you can dial 112 from any phone for free during an emergency.