Portugal’s winning combination of sandy beaches, stunning scenery and varied array of activities has rightly kept it firmly on the holiday map for a good many years. Located on the Iberian Peninsula, between the Atlantic Ocean and Spain, Portugal is one of the top 20 most visited countries in the world.
It’s easy to see why. Boasting a predominantly Mediterranean climate with long hot dry summers and mild winters, perhaps the best time to visit is during the spring or autumn when the weather is said to be at its pleasant best. With so much to offer by way of architecture, culture and art, together with a beautiful 800 km of shimmering coastline, here are some of Portugal’s best holiday destinations.
The capital city of Portugal, Lisbon holds the distinction of being the oldest city in all of western Europe and one of its greatest tourist destinations. Set on a steep hillside, here you’ll find a whole range of pleasing components; from cobbled streets, palaces and churches, to boutiques, wine bars and al fresco restaurants; it’s a place of pure beauty.
With an excessive amount of stunning museums, monasteries and gothic cathedrals you can spend days here just exploring the history. Belém is well worth the visit too, not only for the tram ride but to see the Belém Tower and visit the world-famous Pasteis de Belém. It was built in 1515 to guard the harbour entrance – now known as a World Heritage site. Among all of this, make sure you take a trip to Museu do Azulejo, one of the most important of the national museums because of its collection and colourful display of tiles spanning 500 years of creativity.
This subtropical island has become one of Portugal’s trendiest locations for winter sun, hiking trails and, of course, spending long warm days on the beachfront dining on delicious local food. The capital, Funchal, has one of the best New Year’s Eve parties in the world, so if you’re considering a Christmas break in Madeira, it’s a glorious time of the year to visit.
While here, make sure you visit Porto Santo, where you’ll find beautiful stretches of sand and famous landmarks such as the Christopher Columbus House Museum, the Cristiano Ronaldo Museum – yes, the footballing superstar grew up on this island – and the Madeira Wine Museum.
Lagos is one of Portugal’s most popular holiday destinations. It’s an historic and lively city situated on the Western Algarve coastline, offering traditional character and charm. With an abundance of varied activities and sights, it’s a fantastic destination for those who want more from a holiday than just beaches and glorious weather.
There’s loads to do. Visit the Lagos Zoo, go dolphin watching, spend the day mountain biking around the hills, or take a boat trip to Ponta da Piedade Caves. Alongside all of this, you have a huge selection of different restaurants, catering for all budgets – from those who want to eat good food cheaply and cheerfully, right up to those looking for high-class cuisine. Don’t forget to sample some of the fine local wine on offer here, too.
Known by many as the ‘gateway to the Algarve’, Albufeira is well suited to those looking for a lively holiday. With the cobblestone streets of Old Town providing echoes of the sense of the fishing village it once was, this is the ideal spot for relaxation. If you’re looking to switch the pace up a notch, the lively Sao Joao has more of a party vibe. The distinction here allows families and party goers to enjoy themselves; it’s a destination to suit all tastes.
When’s the best time to visit Portugal? You can’t really go wrong – with beautifully hot summers, warm springs and pleasantly mild autumns, Portugal really is a year-round destination, whichever part of the country you choose to experience.