39 things not to miss in Portugal

It’s not possible to see everything that Portugal has to offer in one trip – and we don’t suggest you try. What follows is a selective taste of the country’s highlights: outstanding buildings and historic sights, natural wonders and vibrant events. They’re arranged in five colour-coded categories, which you can browse through to find the very best things to see and experience. All highlights have a page reference to take you straight into the guide, where you can find out more.

Évora A UNESCO-protected university town complete with Roman temple, Moorish alleys and medieval walls.

Museu Gulbenkian, Lisbon  One of Europe’s greatest treasure chests of art and applied art, ancient to Lalique.

Parque Nacional da Peneda-Gerês  Hikers and bikers won’t want to miss the trails that wind through the country’s only national park.

Estádio da Luz, Lisbon Portugal’s most famous stadium hosts top-class football matches throughout the season.

Monsanto  The ancient hilltop settlement of Monsanto seems to grow out of the very rocks it’s built upon.

Bairro Alto, Lisbon  The capital’s big night out – touring the bars, clubs and restaurants of the funky Bairro Alto neighbourhood.

Pegadas dos Dinossáurios  On the dinosaur trail in Estremadura – see Portugal’s 175-millionyear-old sauropod tracks.

Corgo train line One of Portugal’s great rides, the Corgo train line winds through spectacular gorges from Peso da Régua to Vila Real.

Olhão The Algarve’s biggest fishing port is the departure point for boat trips to the sandbank islands.

Ericeira  Lisbon’s favourite beach retreat – and a noted surfers’ hangout.

Tram #28 The capital’s best tram route winds through all the historic districts.

Valença  Explore this superb fortified town, located on Portugal’s northern border with Spain.

Velha Universidade, Coimbra Portugal’s third-largest city boasts its oldest and most prestigious university

Grutas de Mira de Aire Daily tours explore the tunnels and caverns of the country’s largest cave system.

Sintra  The hilltop retreat near Lisbon is one of the most scenic in the country, surrounded by opulent palaces and country estates

Vila Nova de Milfontes  The Alentejo coast is a lot less developed than the Algarve, but every bit as attractive.

Coastline, Lagos  Explore the extraordinary shaped rocks and grottoes by boat from the historic Algarve port of Lagos.

Tibães This barely visited monastery in the north is one of the oldest and most atmospheric buildings in the country.

Alcobaça  The sculpted tombs of Dom Pedro and Inês de Castro dominate this glorious twelfth-century Cistercian monastery.

Fado Mariza, pictured, is one of the most critically acclaimed performers of Portugal’s most famous musical genre.

Mosteiro Palácio Nacional de Mafra With 5200 doors and 2500 windows, this lavish palace-convent nearly bankrupted the country when it was built in the eighteenth century.

Ilha de Berlenga Tour the dramatic coastline by boat, or even stay the night – the Atlantic birdsanctuary island is a real get-away-from-it-all destination.

Alfama, Lisbon A village in the heart of the capital, with streets so narrow and precipitous that few cars can enter.

Citânia de Briteiros Step back to pre-Roman times at the magnificent Celtic hill fort near Braga

Festa de São João You can expect to be pounded with plastic hammers during one of the country’s most important saint’s days, especially in Porto.

Bom Jesus do Monte, Braga  Possibly Portugal’s most photographed church, reached up a grand ornamental stairway.

Monsaraz Many of the medieval houses in the fortified hilltop village of Monsaraz have been converted into atmospheric guest houses.

Óbidos Picturebook walled town that was once the traditional bridal gift of Portuguese kings.

Feira de Barcelos The country’s liveliest and most colourful market shows that rural traditions are alive and well.

Convento de Cristo, Tomar Tomar’s extraordinary “Convent of Christ” is the former headquarters of the Knights Templars.

Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves, Porto Contemporary art in a wonderful building remodelled by Portugal’s leading architect, Álvaro Siza Vieira

Pastéis de Belém  These delicious flaky custard tartlets have been made and served for over a century at the Antiga Confeitaria de Belém.

Porto’s riverfront The historic riverside bairro of Ribeira is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Rio Douro valley Take a boat trip from Peso da Régua up one of the loveliest river valleys in Portugal.

Monte de Santa Luzia, Viana do Castelo There are superb views from the hilltop basilica over the northern resort of Viana do Castelo.

Guimarães The first capital of Portugal is a beguiling place of cobbled streets and historic buildings.

Parque Natural de Montesinho Bucolic unspoilt countryside dotted with traditional villages.

Conímbriga Vivid mosaics at the most important Roman site in Portugal.

Serra da Estrela  The highest mountains in Portugal conceal windswept uplands, remote villages and challenging hiking trails.