On the top 10 of the best places to see in Portugal, according to the tourist guides, you will most probably find Lisbon, followed closely by Porto. But …
The Best Places to See in Portugal Are Not Always in the Tourist Guide
Portugal means Lisbon for a lot of us. But Portugal is so much more than Lisbon! If you are looking for beautiful places to visit in Portugal, you will need to look a little further than Lisbon.
While Lisbon is such a vibrant, colorful, mesmerizing city, the smaller cities in Portugal deserve a visit. Or two. They will surprise you with their specific athmosphere.
Here are some travel tips for a road trip in between Porto and Lisbon.
Start your trip up north in Porto, and drive south to Lisbon.
Porto is the kind of place you either fall in love with or you totally dislike. Not at all like the hip Lisbon, Porto still has some “je ne sais quoi” that will captivate the visitor. While there are so many things to do, why not start your visit with a Port wine tasting?
Visit the old city and make sure that you go to a Fado concert. Fado (destiny or fate, in Portuguese) is a defining music genre for the Portuguese cultural heritage.
Some other activities to do while in Porto may include a trip up to the Douro river, or go for a walk along the coast line and see Farol Molhe do Douro lighthouse. Go there at sunset for a beautiful view.
Just over an hour drive south from Porto, visit Coimbra, the university city. And while there, go visit the University of Coimbra (it’s the oldest university in continuous operation in the world) and the famous Joanina Library. This is one of the historical places that you must see in Portugal. Coimbra, and its university, were the center of the portuguese-speaking world during the Middle Age.
Fatima, Ourem, and Tomar
If you have a day to spare, on your way to Lisbon, go visit Fatima, Ourem, and Tomar. You will have a deeper understanding of the culture and history of Portugal.
In Fatima you will be seeing Our Lady of Fatima basilica, one of the largest shrines in the world. Ourem deserves a visit for its Moorish castle and for the white houses full of flowers and the magnificent viewpoints in the medieval village. And don’t miss Tomar, one of the other history filled places to visit in Portugal. Its Knights Templar Castle is one of the biggest and best preserved Knights Templar castles around Europe.
Evora and Alentejo
From Coimbra, Lisbon is only two hour drive away, but you cannot not make a detour and visit Evora and the Alentejo region.
Evora is a beautiful town where you can see, all in one place, historic monuments built by the Romans, the Moors and the medieval Portuguese.
And, if the Romans and the Moors aren’t old enough, just outside Evora you will find several neolithic sites. There you can see cromlechs and menhir stones, and even a dolmen-chapel (it’s believed it was built between the IV and the III millennium BC).
The whole region of Alentejo (which means beyond Tejo, beyond the Tagus river) is famous for the marble, the cork and the olive oil. And also for the beauty of its countryside and coastal areas.
You are on your way to Lisbon, and this is very good. You are just an hour and a half away from this vibrant city.
When you arrive in Lisbon, go visit the Tour of Belem and the Monastery of the Jeronimos. And, because you are already there, you just can’t miss the world-famous Pasteis de Belem (they started in 1837 and they still keep the secret, original recipe).
After that go for a walk in the Bairro Alto. Go discover the many wonderful restaurants in Chiado.
Forget the tour guide and the map. Go discover. You will be pleasantly surprised.
Oh, and don’t forget to visit Sintra, Cabo da Roca (the most western point of Europe) and Cascais!
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