What to see and do in Portugal?
This a generous and varied list of things to do in Portugal, that will for sure put a smile on your face and add a fond memory once you go – of this friendly country blessed with 2 oceans, beautiful nature and the kindest people. On top of that an amazing history of Portugal as world explorers. Portugal more or less discovered India. Need we say, Vasco da Gama? There is so much to see and do in this southwestern European country from the raw Atlantic to the north bordering on Spain to the lazy waves rolling in on the Algarve coast. We will later focus on the Algarve Coast and Lisboa/Lissabon, food in Portugal, wine in Portugal and much more about golf. Portugal is 3 times the best golf country in Europe. And that title is a tuff one to win. Let´s dig in.
Porto, winetasting anyone?
Take a wine tasting tour in Porto Portugal
Porto wine is no longer drunk only at Christmas because in Portugal it is enjoyed all year. In addition, it is a famous dessert wine that is usually ordered at the end of a meal. Discover your favorite wine style by taking a tour of the port, since the more you try, the more you will discover. A holiday in Portugal is incomplete without taking a tour of the wine. So do this tour on your visit to Portugal.
PONTE DA MISARELA (MISALERA BRIDGE)
A medieval stone bridge arches over the Rabagão river in northern Portugal. Supposedly, the devil himself evoked the structure. He was, after all, a rather ingenious builder (at least according to medieval legends).
According to local tradition, a criminal urgently needed a way to cross the river while fleeing from the nearby village. He called the devil, who kindly said he would help the man, for the small price of his soul, of course. The man agreed, and the devil created a temporary bridge that disappeared before those who persecuted the convict could also cross.
Allegedly, the bandit felt so sorry that he later sought a priest to repent. A virtuous priest took pity on the man and used his Rosary and some holy water to expel the demon and turn the bridge into a permanent structure.
Modern visitors to the Misarela Bridge will not have to worry about disappearing under their feet. Sturdy stones allow anyone to walk (or flee, if necessary) through the river. In fact, in the early nineteenth century, French troops used the bridge to flee British forces during the Peninsular War.
CEMETERY OF ANCHORS
No one knows who placed the first of the hundreds of rusty anchors along the sand dunes of Praia do Barril Beach. But the locals continued to add the knotty weights to honor the small community of tuna fishermen who once flourished in the area.
The anchors were used to weigh the nets for catching tuna. They are aligned in rows and exist without any real pomp or official status. Fishing in the area was a dangerous and difficult profession, but the unpredictable waters where the Atlantic meets the Mediterranean were full of bluefin tuna. The technique to catch them was unique in the area, and was probably invented by the ancient Romans who colonized the area.
Algarve thrived on tuna fishing for centuries, but local fishermen had to give up their occupation in the 1960s when the amount of fish declined. His anchors were rusted on the beach, until someone came up with the artistic idea.
SEE THE CHAPEL OF BONES IN ÉVORA
Évora is an impressive Roman city that has now been protected with the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Be sure to visit the Roman Temple, Praça do Giraldo and the rather macabre but essential place to see, the Chapel of Bones that line each wall. It is part of the largest church complex in Igreja de Sao Francisco that is too beautiful to miss.
SUNBATHING ON THE BEACH OF MATOSINHOS
Matosinhos beach is located north of Porto and is formed by a long strip of golden sand that is flanked by a promenade.
The locals come here, especially in the summer months, and you will find lifeguards on duty, which means that it is a good option for families with young children who can bathe here in peace.
Beach activities include soccer and volleyball and you will also find many opportunities to practice water sports.
When the waves are good, you can even surf here.
CONIMBRIGA RUINS AND MUSEUM
With an estimated population of around 10,600, Conimbriga was not the largest Roman city in Portugal, but it was close, and it is the best preserved, remaining mostly unearthed until the 2000s. The city was inhabited between the ninth century d. C. and the seventh or eighth centuries d. C. The most impressive things here are the wonderful mosaic floors that are virtually intact within the remains of their buildings. The site has the feeling of living in the city since a bygone era. It is easy to get from modern Coimbra by car.
BOM JESUS DO MONTE
The religious site in the roots of Bom Jesus do Monte dates back to the fourteenth century, when the tradition of pilgrimage (especially anywhere above) flourished as a way for devotees to demonstrate their faith, often in extremely physical ways.
Built in a complex set of architectural styles, it follows that it was almost a century before the majority of Bom Jesus was completed. Each feature of the site contains its own symbology, independent of the others, which makes the entire site full of strange and visually striking details. The stairs are baroque, with granite steps and a white facade. Take, for example, the perpetually flowing fountains found in the stairwells. It would be easy to overlook that each one is dedicated to one of the five senses (touch, smell, taste, sight, sound), the effect of which can be incredibly disconcerting at the individual level when removed from the collective set.
Or, to cite another example, each zigzag stair pivot becomes an octagonal oratory, within which there is a life-sized diorama from the day before the crucifixion of Christ. For Catholics, this is known simply as the “Stations of the Cross,” but for the uninitiated, the frightening realism in which these scenes are depicted gives Bom Jesus’ aesthetic beauty a totally disconcerting and surprising quality.
After climbing the 577 steps, on foot or knee, the last of which is still preferred by the traditionalists, the Stations of the Cross culminate within the church of the sanctuary perched on top of the mountain. Designed by local architect André Soares and built by Carlos Amarante, the church was an impressive replacement for a series of modest chapels that, according to records, occupied the mountain from the fourteenth century onwards. Inside, Jesus arrived at his destination on the cross, flanked by Mary and the soldiers of Pontius Pilate. Looking towards the beams offers a less bleak view, which includes an elegantly painted central dome surrounded by leaded glass. Meanwhile, the surrounding grounds of the Sanctuary give visitors the opportunity to explore well-kept gardens while absorbing breathtaking views of the nearby city of Braga.
Everything about climbing Bom Jesus feels like an adventure mixed with a search for Gothic runes, but the option of descending by funicular can be the most charming element of the visit. The car itself was built in 1882 and to this day it works completely with water, so it is completely energy neutral.
Sitting behind a pair of innocuous glass doors in Lisbon, Portugal is a miraculous doll repair shop that has managed to stay in the same place, bringing loved ones back to life for almost two centuries.
According to the story on their website, it all started with a woman named Miss Carlota, who sat on her counter and created cloth dolls for local children. Eventually, the children would bring them their own dolls for repair, and Carlota would act as a doll doctor and fix them. Finally, their services became so popular that they were able to open a doll hospital in 7 Praça Figueira. That was in 1830, and the store has strengthened for more than 180 years since then.
This is not only one of the oldest doll hospitals in the world, but you quickly realize that it is home to hundreds of dolls and the family that created it. Over the decades, any doll that was not claimed was added to its now extensive “museum.” Actually, it is a wild and woolly collection of separate doll parts from more than a century of doll styles. There are head and arm racks, eye boxes and half-finished “patient” racks.
WATCH THE DRAMATIC SAGRES
Leaving the tip of the southwest of Portugal, Sagres is one of the most spectacular coastal areas in the region. Be sure to visit the fort, explore the hiking trails next to the cliff and the Cape of San Vicente, which is next to Sagres Point.
GO TO THE BEACH
The Algarve region, in southern Portugal, has incredible coastline with stunning beaches, beautiful waters and amazing cliffs with hidden coves. You can find any type of beach you are looking for, whether for swimming or sunbathing, isolated or full of sun worshipers. The beaches at the southernmost point, such as Sagres, offer excellent conditions for surfing. Can’t you get to the Algarve? Not far from Lisbon is one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe, Praia da Adraga.
ISLET OF VILA FRANCA DO CAMPO
If the pools and ponds have become too conventional to swim quickly, it may be time to take a dip in the crater of an ancient submerged volcano, like this natural lagoon on the islet of Vila Franca do Campo in Portugal.
This small island is a crater rock formation on the coast of Sao Miguel. Its main attraction is the circular lagoon on the islet, which is divided by a small channel that connects it with the ocean. The result is a clear and calm pool that is perfect for swimming and diving.
The islet and this natural pool are accessible only during the summer and its impressive geography has made them a popular destination. Erosion through continuous exposure to wind and water has created different rock formations around the islet, including a fascinating column-shaped structure.
Over the years, the islet has helped whalers detect their targets and has also served as a strong military. In 1983, the unique location was declared a nature reserve to protect the endemic vegetation around the crater, as well as the crustaceans and birds that have made the islet their home.
CABO DE SAO VICENTE: JOURNEY TO THE END OF THE WORLD
The long-range views of the dark ocean from these high cliffs complement each other enough to impress you! Visiting Case of Sao Vicente is another in the league of things to do in Portugal in September. This place also houses the brightest lighthouse in Europe, which can be seen about 60 kilometers away. Surprisingly, this point is famous for being the extreme southwest of Europe and locally called the “End of the World”.
This charming town in the mountains of Portugal is almost entirely shale. The shale houses are covered with slate roofs, their colors make them blend with the stone paths that wind between the buildings. The few buildings that are not shale, as well as several window shutters and architectural accents, add splashes of color to the settlement of earth tones.
Bring your walking shoes and your backpack, because cars are not allowed through the narrow streets. There are also many walking trails in the area.
LAZARIM CARNIVAL CELEBRATIONS
Carnival celebrations in the small town of Lazarim, near Lamego, in northern Portugal, are a world apart from the striking issues that are popular in Brazil. Instead of dancers, feathers, bright colors and party music with little clothes, get ready to find “masks” (people dressed as demons) with carved wooden masks and unusual costumes made of materials such as wool, yarn, cane and sackcloth .
Lazarim boasts that his pre-Lenten celebrations (Entrudo in Portuguese) are the “most genuine in Portugal”. Although other villages could discuss that, you cannot escape the fact that their traditions and costumes are ancient and unique.
Careto is one of the oldest traditions still practiced in Portugal. It is a pre-Roman Celtic ritual in which only some peoples participate.
Hand-carved masks are works of art. There is even a small museum in the village so that you can appreciate the crafts throughout the year.
Those in disguise take advantage of their new anonymity to play a joke on the rest of the townspeople and enjoy mischievous behavior, free from fear of public censorship and reprisals.
On Carnival Tuesday, all the masks gather and parade through the town, accompanied by a band of drums underway. They are closely followed by the comadre (godmother) and the compadre (godfather), two young single men accused of publicly humiliating their peers by reading a list of humorous and daring acts they did the previous year, which are usually found on Facebook.
Once all the shameful “facts” have been shared, the community gathers to participate in a stew of beans and meat that has been boiling in cauldrons around a bonfire in a neighboring plaza.
Walk downhill (to save your legs) through the steep, narrow and cobbled streets of Alfama and take a look at the more traditional side of Lisbon before it also gentrifies. Stay in a street cafe on the road and experience some local bonhomie without the tourist glow.
Already in the fifth century, Alfama was inhabited by the Visigoths, and remains of a Visigoth wall remain. But it was the Moors who gave the district its shape and atmosphere. In the Arab era, this was a high class residential area. After the earthquakes demolished many of his mansions (and post-Arab churches) he returned to a working-class fishermen’s neighborhood. It was one of the few districts that resisted the earthquake of 1755.
With narrow streets of residential houses and grocery stores, it has a distinct village atmosphere; You can quickly feel like an intruder if you take a wrong turn in someone’s backyard. Early in the morning is the best time to see a more traditional scene, when women sell fresh fish from their doors.
Where to stay in Portugal
THE HERITAGE AV LIBERDADE, located in one of the most famous streets in Lisbon, is an award-winning hotel: son of the architect Câncio Martins, famous for the Buddha Bar in Paris and Strictly Hush in London.
QUINTA DO BARRANCO DA ESTRADA is an idyllic 12-room rural retreat overlooking the peaceful lake of Santa Clara. The price includes canoeing and sailing, you can also walk, watch birds, eat good food and, in general, relax.
VIVENDA MIRANDA began life as the home of a noble family of the 17th century. It now offers twenty-five rooms, an impressive pool and terrace with stunning views and direct access to the beach of Porto de Mós, on the outskirts of Lagos.
The 15 rooms of the Hotel da Vila are spacious and bright, but basic. It makes the rating here because its rooms with balcony are excellent value for money, especially the views, the food is good and reasonably priced and has access to the most striking sister hotel on the hill, the Estalagem da Ponta do Sol.
REID’S PALACE is the perfect place for an easy family vacation. There is much to do on the grounds, which includes an indoor playground and an outdoor playground, multiple swimming pools and supervised activities, including tennis lessons. And they will help you organize activities for the whole family to do together.
THE CASA DA ERMIDA IN SANTA CATARINA is one of the best options of Hotel Guru. It is right on a beautiful lake in the spectacular Natural Park of Serra de Sao, so it is quite far from the beaten track, but with a lot to keep you busy, including wine tasting, nature and the fabulous walk.
THE OITAVOS, located on a 400-acre estate on the undulating dunes facing the Atlantic, offers contemporary 5 * accommodations. With two excellent restaurants, a golf course and extensive spa facilities, there is everything you need for a romantic getaway.
THE FREIXO PALACE is a baroque masterpiece built in the 18th century. There are many public areas restored, so you can pretend that you are living in a palace with all the mod. cons. including an infinity pool overlooking the Duoro. Definitely one of the best places for a breathtaking view
CASA DO CONTO is a beautifully renovated 19th century bourgeois house in the center of Porto. The elegant concrete interiors are combined with vintage furniture with striking design features and rigid textured contrasts.
- Toppage for Portugal
- The Portugal fairytale
- Golf in Portugal, Voted Europe´s best golf destination time after time
- Golfing at in Algarve
- Lisbon, one of Europe´s most sunny capitals