by Janis on 13th July 2021 / 0 comments

8 delightful Portuguese locations you’ll want to explore - Part II

Portugal appears to be on everyone’s lips at the moment and not just for its delicious bifanas, bacalhau, Port Wine and Vinho Verde. Although they are excellent reasons to head to Portugal for a holiday.

Gary and I fell in love with Portugal a few years ago when we visited Lisbon for a mini-break. Then completely smitten with Portugal and the welcoming culture, charming locals and rich history, we ventured off on a 2-week road trip touring north, south, east, and west.

The pleasure of an independent road trip is that when you pass through tranquil rural villages, picturesque towns, and beautiful countryside, you can stop wherever and whenever you wish.

Portugal is your oyster!

We can’t wait to return and explore more of Portugal. We’ve been given so many fantastic recommendations of places to visit that we could easily fill another road trip.

So, after sharing with you our first inspiring post on 8 Portuguese towns and cities, I’ve chosen a further 8 to add to your travel list. Hopefully, these will encourage you to grab your passport and start planning a Portuguese adventure.

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Our 8 Destinations

We'll be discovering the following;
You can click on the link to jump to the section, and to return, just click on the title.

Amarante is located in the Minho Region of northern Portugal and only 38 miles (60km) to the east of Porto.

Nestled along the Tâmega River, Amarante is a delightful city to visit. The historic pedestrian stone bridge that straddles the river offers picturesque views up and down the Tâmega waterway. Although, one of the most impressive views in Amarante is the sight of Convent of São Gonçalo de Amarante.

The view of the church 'Igreja de São Gonçalo' in Amarante, Portugal
Igreja de São Gonçalo, Amarante
The Convent and Church of São Gonçalo de Amarante were founded in 1543; however, not completed until the mid-16th-century. Take a step inside the incredible monastery and church to see the ornate nave, the delightful azulejo-tile panels and the tranquil cloister.
A blue and white tiled image of the Ponte de São Gonçalo in front of the church in Amarante, Portugal
Portuguese tiles in Amarante

Strolling up through the town, you get a warming feeling like you’ve stepped back a few decades in time. Charming little stores were selling a weird and wonderful mix of household items amongst rustic cobbled lanes.

The welcoming historic streets are a pleasure to amble around. The teetering wrought-iron balconies were protruding high above, and ancient architecture around many corners.

Where to stay in Amarante

Casa do Fontanário Stay – This beautiful modern apartment has incredible views from its terrace and just a short stroll into Amarante town. Free public parking is available nearby.

Local information

For a little bit more information on Amarante, head to Visit Portugal
Amarante is a perfect location to add to your Beyond the Douro Valley adventure.

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Staying within the northern region of Portugal we head to Guimarães the birthplace of this ancient country and the first capital of Portugal in the 12th century.

Guimarães is a reasonably small UNESCO city full of such incredible charm and beautiful architecture amongst its ancient lanes.

Not only is there plenty to see in Guimarães, but it is also a perfect location to base yourself while discovering the UNESCO Douro Valley wine region.

A Portuguese flag flying from a tower of Guimarães Castle behind its defensive walls set on a grassy bank
Guimarães Castle
Visit the Palace of the Dukes, a medieval estate that was first occupied by the Dukes of Braganza from 1422. The Largo Republica do Brasil with the striking Nossa Senhora da Consolação e dos Santos Passos Church. And the Castle of Guimarães, built during the 10th century.
The cobbled streets of central Guimarães, flanked on either side by beautiful historic buildings
The lanes of Guimarães, Portugal
There are many welcoming praças dotted amongst the cobbled streets of Guimarães, the medieval square that we especially loved was the Largo da Oliveira. Surrounded by charming architecture and porticos and a Gothic monument to commemorate the Battle of Salado.
A lit square after dark in Guimarães, Portugal where diners sit at restaurants lining the square and others walkthrough the historical old town.
Praça de Santiago at night, Guimarães

Where to stay Guimarães

Casa Dos Pombais - was a great find, hidden in its own little oasis behind trees and gates. Casa Dos Pombais is about a 10-minute stroll into the historical UNESCO town and a lovely place to be based for a couple of nights to explore the region. Ample free parking available onsite.

Local information

For more local information on Guimarães, head to Visit Portugal
Guimarães has everything you need for an overnight stay on your Portuguese road trip.

Start planning

We embarked on our Portuguese road trip from the UK, catching a Brittany Ferry to Santander.
However, there are regular flights to Porto and Lisbon; take a look at ebookers.com. Then pop in your location details, and Rental Cars will search well-known car hire brands and discover the deals that suit you the best.
The following picturesque location I’ve chosen is the hilltop town of Monsaraz. Monsaraz is so close to the Spanish border that I’m sure I could hear the melodic tones of the flamenco guitar.
An elderly couple walking along a narrow cobbled lane, with the tower of the town's castle flying the Portuguese flag, in the historic hilltop town of Monsaraz in Portugal
The lanes of Monsaraz, Portugal

Our timing when we visited Monsaraz was perfect, it was late afternoon, and the narrow lanes lined with whitewashed homes were so tranquil and empty. It was idyllic ambling through the cobblestone streets with spring blossom tumbling from the window boxes.

The medieval walled town of Monsaraz has witnessed some tumultuous times over the centuries. Due to its prime hilltop location near the Spanish border, it has been fought over on many occasions. The Moors have left their mark along with the Spanish, and even the Knights Templar played a role.

A view across the Alentejo countryside from the hillside town of Monsaraz, Portugal
Across the Alentejo countryside

Perched at the far end of this attractive town is the 13th-century Monsaraz Castle. The ancient Keep can be seen for miles across the far-reaching Alentejo countryside.

Stepping through the gates of Monsasraz Castle and into the inner courtyard, you’ll immediately notice that this fortress was once an amphitheatre. The timeworn tiered seating that would have encircled the arena for the spectators to enjoy the exhibition taking place below can still be seen.

Where to stay nearby Monsaraz

Évora Olive Hotel – When we visited Monsaraz, we based ourselves in Évora, around 30 miles (50km) from Monsaraz. The hotel is very centrally located and offers onsite parking.

Local information

For more local information on Monsaraz, head to Visit Portugal

I couldn’t complete a post on Portugal and not include Lisbon, the city where we fell in love with this beautiful country.

Lisbon is an incredible city and has such rich history; it is one of the oldest cities in the world. Lisbon is located on the banks of the River Tagus, where it meets the Atlantic Ocean. In 1755, a huge part of Lisbon was destroyed by a devastating earthquake and tsunami, which was felt far and wide.

A view of the Statue of King José I in the centre of the Praça do Comércio with the Lisbon Arco Triunfal da Rua Augusta in the background.
Praça do Comércio in Lisbon

It’s difficult to know where to start with Lisbon as there is so much to see within the cities ancient Seven Hills. However, a day trip to Sintra is highly recommended if you have the time, and the short trip to Belém is a must.

At Belém, you’ll find the Monument to the Discoveries and the UNESCO sites of the Monastery of the Hieronymites and Tower of Belém. And don’t forget, while you’re in Belém, head to Pastel de Belém to indulge in the delicious custard tarts Pastel de Nata.

Image
The Torre de Belém

The heart of Lisbon is divided up into neighbourhoods, each with its own tale to tell. The Alfama district, which is the oldest region in Lisbon, is delightful to stroll around; remember to jump out the way of the historic trams. In Alfama, you can explore the Castle of São Jorge, Lisbon Cathedral and the National Pantheon. If your timing is right, you can also have a rummage around the local flea market.

Many charming squares are dotted around Lisbon; also, search out the Miradouros that offer wonderful panoramic views across Lisbon’s rooftops.

I especially enjoyed our visit to Carmo Convent and Largo do Carmo, high above the city and just by the Elevador de Santa Justa.

The view from Miradouro da graça over the rooftops of Lisbon, Portugal. In the near distance you can see the castle on the hillside, and in the distance the April 4th Bridge over the River Tagus
The view from Miradouro da graça, Lisbon
One last thing I want to mention is spending an evening in a traditional Fado bar. Some places can be quite touristy. We found one ‘Tasca do Chico’ in Bairro Alto. It was incredible and so memorable.

Where to stay

Lisbon Rentals Chiado– This apartment was fantastic, located in the heart of Lisbon on the edge of Chiado & Bairro Alto and quite large for 2 people. Extremely clean and very well equipped.

Local information

For a little bit more information on Lisbon, head to Visit Lisboa

I love nothing more than planning a trip and so often I use the DK Eyewitness books. This Top 10 Pocket Travel Guide was invaluable to us.

We used a previous version of this book to plan our Lisbon mini-break, now you can grab the revised copy.

DK Lisbon Cover

For Viana de Castelo, we are back discovering the delights of Portugal’s northwest region.

The 13th-century city of Viana de Castelo is nestled at the mouth of the Lima River. Due to its prominent position in the Atlantic Ocean during the 16th-century, Viana do Castelo played a significant maritime role in the Portuguese Discoveries.

A stone fountain in the centre of Praca da Republica, Viana do Castelo, Portugal
The fountain in Praca da Republica, Viana do Castelo

Viana do Castelo is relatively easy to explore on foot and has an interesting mix of architectural styles, including Baroque, Renaissance and Manueline. Take a stroll through the historic streets and discover Viana do Castelo Cathedral and the charming Republic Square.

All around Republic Square and its renaissance fountain are eye-catching buildings and homes with beautiful azulejo tiling and wrought-iron balconies.

The impressive white stone Santuário de Santa Luzia on the hillside above Viana do Castelo, Portugal
The Santuário de Santa Luzia, Viana do Castelo
Sitting high on the hill above Viana do Castelo is the Basilica of Santa Luzia. You can either catch the funicular railway to the top of the mount, hop in the car or climb the steps if you are feeling adventurous.

Where to stay in Viana do Castelo

Hotel Margarida Da Praça – Located on the banks of the River Lima and very close to Viana do Castelo town. The rooms a spacious and tastefully decorated. Public parking is available nearby.

Local information

For a little bit more information on Viana do Castelo, head to Visit Portugal

Our Portuguese road trip itinerary

If you like to follow our wheel tracks and explore Portugal on a road trip, take a peek at our detailed 2-week Portugal road trip itinerary part one and part two. You’ll see where we stayed, places we visited along the route and some of our favourite restaurants and cafés.
The city of Évora is a magnificent place to stay, located in the south-central Alentejo region of Portugal. You’ll feel like you’ve discovered a true gem; it’s not overrun with tourists; however, if you love history, you’ll love the UNESCO historic centre of Évora.
The Roman Temple of Évora at dusk, under a blue sky.
Roman Temple of Évora

In Évora, there is so much to explore. Ancient Roman ruins, the rooftop of Évora Cathedral and the rustic cobble streets amongst the whitewashed homes are just the beginning.

It’s such a delight strolling through the lanes not knowing what you’ll find around the next corner.

There’s a tranquil park with peacocks elegantly strutting amongst stone ruins. A short hop from the park is the intriguing Chapel of Bones, on display in St Francis Church.

An ornate bandstand and the moorish Royal Palace of Évora or Palácio de Dom Manuel in Évora, Portugal
Enchanting Évora

There are around 5,000 skulls lining the walls, along with hundreds of limbs from the skeletons. Row after row, each bone is stacked painstakingly alongside another. The chapel was built in the 17th-century by three monks who wanted to express that life was so brief.

When you first arrive in Évora, you won’t fail to miss the vast aqueduct piercing through the skyline and disappearing amongst the Portuguese streets. King João III requested it to be constructed in 1532.

St. Anton's church at one end of the Praça do Giraldo at dusk under a blue sky in Évora, Portugal
St. Anton's church at dusk
At the end of a long day, take the weight off your feet and enjoy a glass of your favourite tipple in the welcoming Praça do Giraldo.

Where to stay

Évora Olive Hotel – We really enjoyed our stay at Évora Olive Hotel. It was centrally located within a very short stroll of the historic UNESCO city. The underground parking was excellent, even for a larger car.

Local information

For a little bit more information on Évora, head to Visit Portugal

Our recent new found love is Portugal, it is such a beautiful country. While planning our trip, I used the DK Eyewitness books. I find them extremely informative, easy to follow and the pictures and maps tempt you into discovering more.

We used a previous version of this book to plan our north to south Portuguese road trip, now you can grab the revised copy.

DK Portugal cover
Lagos certainly has some mixed history, some of which dates back centuries. The medieval castle and encompassing walls were built to fortify the coastal town, as Lagos was creating strong maritime trade links. Some of the historic walls still can be seen today.
The 17th-century Forte da Ponta da Bandeira at the entrance to the harbour in Lagos, Portugal
The fort at Ponta da Bandeira, Lagos

Crossing the promenade from the castle is the late 17th-century Ponta da Bandeira Fort. This is one of the many forts constructed along the Algarve coastline. Enabling the locals to protect themselves from pirates and buccaneers.

Lagos does attract a lot of visitors due to its location along the Algarve shorelines. However, just by strolling a couple of lanes back further into town and you’ll discover a more peaceful side to Lagos.

As I mentioned, Lagos has had a chequered past. In the main square of Praca Infante Dom Henrique is the site of the first slave market in colonial Europe, dating from 1444.

Today the same market building is now a museum to this appalling era in history.

Next to the water the wide, tiled, palm-lined promenade in Lagos, Portugal
Strolling along the promenade in Lagos
Just a short stroll from the modern-day marina in Lagos is the palm-tree-lined promenade. With the warm evening breeze floating across the Atlantic Ocean, it’s a perfect place to sit and watch the world pass by. If sun, sea, and sand are what you yearn for, then Lagos is ideal for you.

Where to stay

The Captain's Nest by Seewest – Captain's Nest is a wonderfully spacious apartment; it was lovely and bright and had a large balcony overlooking the marina. It's about a 10–15-minute walk into the old town. The apartment had allocated underground parking.

Local information

For more information on Lagos and beyond, head to Visit Portugal

Discover more

If you’re touring Portugal on a road trip, look at our post on the UNESCO sites in Portugal. All of them are incredible. I really don’t think I could choose a favourite.
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9 UNESCO Sites to visit in Portugal

by Janis on  31 May 19
During the 14th-century, Cascais was once a bustling port along the Atlantic coast shores and received a different type of clientele than it does today.
The Praca 5 de Outubro tiled in black and white with historic buildings lining this square in Cascais, Portugal
The Praca 5 de Outubro, Cascais, Portugal

When bathing became popular through the late 19th-century, the King of Portugal, Dom Luís I, chose Cascais as his summer residence. The town was transformed into a fashionable resort attracting the wealthy folk of Portugal.

The beaches and secluded bays along this stretch of the Portuguese Riviera and the glorious sunshine are still welcoming many visitors today.

The view from the small beach of Praia da Rainha overlooking Cascais at night
Cascais at night
Enjoy a pleasant stroll around Cascais marina and promenade towards the attractive town under the dappled shade of the swaying palm trees. Through the streets of Cascais, you’ll find plenty of restaurants, outdoor cafés, and friendly boutiques for a little slice of sophisticated retail therapy.

Where to stay

Hotel Baia - Hotel Baia is in a fantastic location in Cascais and overlooks the sea. The parking is underground in a public car park. However, they have allocated spaces for the hotel at a discounted charge.

Local information

For a little bit more information regarding Cascais, head to Visit Portugal

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