One of the most beloved holiday destinations in Europe is without a doubt the charming country of Portugal. With its rich history, amazing food, and beautiful landscapes it is one of the top sun destinations where you can enjoy a warm climate until late fall.
A major reason why Portugal is such a fantastic country to discover is its rich cultural heritage, of which you’ll find traces everywhere you go. Whether it’s an old monastery, a wonderfully decorated palace, or a breath-taking natural landscape, Portugal has it all!
This guide will tell you all about the most famous landmarks in Portugal you should add to your itinerary when planning a visit to this marvelous country. Several travel bloggers will recommend their favorite landmark and give you all the necessary tips to visit these places as well!
Let’s dive into it!
Famous Portuguese landmarks
La Quinta Da Regaleira
Contributed by Claire from Tales of a Backpacker
La Quinta da Regaleira is a beautiful house with ornate gardens that is classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO within the “Cultural Landscape of Sintra”, which includes the other castles and palaces in Sintra such as the Moorish Castle and Pena Palace.
The house originally belonged to Viscondessa da Regaleira and was built between 1904 and 1910. It was later bought by António Augusto Carvalho Monteiro who commissioned architect Luigi Manini to design the gardens, which are full of unique features like ponds with intricate fountains, sculptures, grottoes, and the mysterious “Well of Initiation”.
It is this “well” which brought La Quinta Da Regaleira to the attention of the wider population, with photos of this inverted tower appearing on Instagram. The well is a spiral stone staircase that descends deep underground to tunnels below, which was apparently used for Masonic ceremonies.
Pick up or download a map of the gardens so you don’t miss anything, and take a stroll around to see what you can find! Don’t miss the views from the top of the Regaleira Tower where you can see across to Pena Palace.
La Quinta da Regaleira is a 10-15 minutes’ walk from the center of Sintra, and entrance costs €10 for adults. It’s free for children 5 years old and under, and €5 for young people and seniors.
Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte
Contributed by Cecilie Mortensen from Worldwide Walkers
The Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte is one of the most incredible landmarks in Portugal. The sanctuary is mostly famous for its unique baroque stairway that leads up to a beautiful church. The stairs make a prominent scene in the landscape, so the sanctuary can be spotted from far away. It’s quite a unique scene!
The sanctuary was built and refined over a period of 600 years, which means that it has significant architectural, cultural, and historical value to Portugal, and in 2019, the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte was finally inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Apart from visiting the Sanctuary’s stairs and church, you also get some incredible views over the nearby city. The Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte is located about 5 kilometers away from Braga, which is one of the most charming cities in Northern Portugal.
You can easily visit the landmark by bus from Braga city or you can join a tour group from Porto. The sanctuary is open all year round, and it’s best to visit on a sunny day where you can enjoy the magnificent views over Braga.
Contributed by Lara from The Best Travel Gifts
Guimarães is a must-visit for both tourists and Portuguese people. For the Portuguese, it’s an important city because it’s the city Afonso Henriques (the first king of Portugal) was born. This is also why Guimarães is known as the “Birthplace of Portugal”.
Besides the historical significance for Portugal as a country, Guimarães is also a UNESCO world heritage site since 2001. It received this distinction due to its exceptionally well-preserved medieval historical center.
One of the best things to do in the city is a walking tour that will take you along all the historic sites, such as Guimarães Castle, Duques de Bragança Palace, Rua de Santa Maria, Praça de São Tiago, and Largo da Oliveira.
Guimarães is located in the district of Braga in the north of Portugal and can easily be reached by train from most places in Portugal. Most people visit the city as a day trip from Porto as it’s only an hour by direct train. The best time to visit is during the European spring or fall. That way you can avoid the cold winter winds and temperatures as well as the large crowds that visit the historic city during the summer.
Contributed by Maya & Sari from Chasing Lenscapes
During our Central Portugal road trip, we’ve visited many incredible landmarks and historical monuments but one of the most impressive Portuguese landmarks we’ve seen must be Batalha Monastery. In simple words, this place is going to take your breath away. This gorgeous monastery is one of the most famous landmarks in Portugal and it is located only an hour and a half away from Lisbon.
Batalha Monastery was built to commemorate the victory of the Portuguese over the Castilians at the battle of Aljubarrota in the 14th century. Its construction lasted for more than a century and several architects participated in the process. It has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 for its historical importance and architecture since it is viewed as a masterpiece of the Portuguese national Gothic style
As you approach Batalha Monastery, you will probably be in awe of its sheer size and intricate gothic decorations. Both the main entrance and west side exterior of the monastery are absolutely stunning and so is the interior.
Make sure to visit the Founder’s Chapel for its stunning ceilings and stained-glass windows. Leave plenty of time to explore the Royal Cloister and make sure you visit the Unfinished Chapel which is located at a different part of the Monastery and is truly unique.
If you are looking to check off your bucket list one of Portugal’s most famous landmarks, you have to include Batalha Monastery in your list!
Contributed by Sarah Vanheel from CosmopoliClan
About halfway between Faro and Lagos along the southern Algarve coastline, you’ll find one of Portugal’s most captivating natural landmarks. The Benagil cave, also known as Algar de Benagil, is the most unique of its kind in the area. That’s because the erosion of its limestone cliff isn’t just the result of the pounding Atlantic waves but also of rainfall.
So, in addition to the opening at the base of the cliff, the Benagil cave bathes in light thanks to a natural skylight referred to as The Eye. The result is an intriguing setting that even includes a gorgeous hidden beach. And the fact that this grotto can only be accessed from the water, only adds to its attraction.
Most visitors marvel at the cave from one of the many small tourist boats that pass through the Benagil cave. But if you want to step foot on the stretch of sand, then you’ll need to get there by kayak or SUP. If you’re just looking to take a peek from above, then you can walk to the fenced site around The Eye from the fishing village’s nearby beach. This natural landmark is popular with summer crowds, so the shoulder season allows for a more relaxed visit.
Ponte 25 de Abril
Contributed by Mary from Be Right Back
Ponte 25 de Abril is a famous bridge that you should definitely add to your Lisbon itinerary. This is one of the famous landmarks in Portugal known for resembling the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. The reason for this is simple; both are red suspension bridges and Lisbon’s bridge was designed by the same consortium that designed San Francisco’s famous bridge.
Ponte 25 de Abril is located in the Alcantara Mar neighborhood in the South West of Lisbon. There are several ways you can get there from Lisbon City center. The first one is walking although you’ll need to walk for about an hour and a half along the bank of the Lisbon estuary. If you prefer to get there faster, renting an electric scooter or taking the tramway are two budget-friendly options (around €3). Things to do near the bridge include visiting the LX factory or grabbing lunch at the port.
Contributed by Nesrine from Kevmrc
Home of the famous Port wine, the Douro Valley is world-famous for its terraced vineyards, wild gorges, and secluded picturesque villages. It is an ideal destination for travelers who like to combine heritage discovery and wine tasting.
Located in northern Portugal, about 1 hour from the city of Porto the Douro Valley offers a unique landscape with its vineyards sculpted since Antiquity surrounding the Douro River over dozens of miles. The valley is divided into two main parts: the upper Douro dedicated to the production of Port wine, and the lower valley dedicated to the Vinho Verde.
As summer in the Douro is very dry and hot, the best time to visit the region is definitely during spring or fall. To reach it, take the N222 road, considered as one of the most beautiful in the world. The best itinerary is to leave from the city of Peso de Regua to the Douro Museum, then take the N22 following the river to Pinhao.
If I may give you a piece of advice: don’t be too ambitious when planning your itineraries in the Douro Valley. Although beautiful, the roads are very winding and therefore the miles go by slowly. Also, don’t miss the St. Leonardo De Galafura lookout which offers one of the best views of the whole valley.
Contributed by Linn Haglund of Amused by Algarve
Marinha beach in the Algarve has been nominated the most beautiful beach in Europe multiple times and not without a reason. While there is a multitude of mesmerizing beaches in Algarve, seeing Marinha beach from the top of the cliffs overlooking it will leave you in awe. With multiple tall rock formations towering from the water around the beach it is a fairy tale setting.
Down at the beach, you can wander to the end and see the cliffs up-close or go snorkeling. There is a restaurant with toilets as soon as you get down the stairs to the beach and a lifeguard in the summer season. But no sunbeds or parasols for rent.
You can easily visit Marinha beach all year round. With more than 300 sunny days a year, the Algarve has beach weather most of the time. With that said, the bathing season is most attractive between June and October.
There are direct buses from Lagoa, but if you are based in any other place, it is more comfortable to drive and park at the large public parking above the beach.
Contributed by Cath from Passports and Adventures
A famous landmark in Portugal that is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site is the monastery of Alcobaça. This Catholic monastic site in the town of the same name was established in the mid-12th century by the first Portuguese king and had a close relationship with the Portuguese monarchy for several centuries.
Alcobaça Monastery forms a trio of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Central Portugal along with Batalha Monastery and the Convent of Christ in Tomar, which can all be visited on a day trip.
Alcobaça is a famous landmark in Portugal thanks to its UNESCO status, its amazing façade, and incredible architecture. It was one of the first buildings to introduce Gothic architecture to Portugal.
Visitors can view the church and naves for free but need to pay to visit the cloisters and other buildings, which are worth the small sum of euros. The cloisters are a beautiful, yet peaceful part of the monastery, and the kitchen chimney is a sight to see.
As mentioned, Alcobaça Monastery is in Central Portugal, approximately 120km north of Lisbon, one and a half hours drive north. It can be visited throughout the year, but outside the peak summer months is the best time to visit. Just note that there is very limited parking in front of the monastery, you may need to park elsewhere in the town and walk to the monastery. But the walk is worth it.
Contributed by Or from My Path in the World
The district of Belem, while not so central, is a must-have on any Lisbon itinerary. It is home to quite a few emblematic Portuguese landmarks, including the 16th-century Belem Tower, which proudly sits on the Tagus river.
Originally commissioned by King John II and completed during King Manuel I’s regency, the tower is one of the biggest symbols of Portugal’s Age of Discoveries. Not only was it built to protect the city during that era, but it also marked the embarkation point from where navigators and explorers set off to find new lands.
Apart from its historical significance, it’s also known for its remarkable Manueline-style (Portuguese late Gothic) architecture. Along with the Jerónimos Monastery, the Belem Tower is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It really does look like a work of art, and its imposing location makes it even more unique.
You don’t have to tour the tower on the inside to enjoy its beauty, but if you do want to see it from every possible angle, be sure to book your ticket in advance. An afternoon visit will also reward you with a backdrop of a magical sunset.
Sao Bento Station in Porto
Contributed by Maartje & Sebastiaan from The Orange Backpack
If you’re looking for a beautiful and Instagram-worthy landmark in Portugal, look no further than São Bento Railway Station in Porto. This train station is famous for its murals. It is one of the best places to enjoy the blue and white azulejos tiles in Porto.
The São Bento Station was built about a hundred years ago. The blue and white azulejos were finished in 1916 and are the main reason to visit this Porto sight. The murals depict scenes from Portuguese history.
In the main hall of the São Bento Station, you’ll find large murals that tell the story of Portuguese battles and other historical events. It’s definitely worth taking some time to admire all of the little details in these murals.
The São Bento Station is located in the city center of Porto and is easily accessible by foot or metro. If you’re looking to take a train from Porto to another city in Portugal, this is the station you’ll need to go to.
São Jorge Castle
Contributed by Kenny from Knycx Journeying
One of the best places to immerse yourself in Lisbon’s fascinating past is Alfama. The district is an old town located on a slope from the Tagus riverfront. Walking through Alfama is like exploring a maze, filled with terracotta-roofed mansions, local stores, vintage shops, outdoor cafes, and markets.
It’s imperative to take the walk to the top of the hill and visit the São Jorge Castle, an important landmark that is not only a manifesto of Portugal’s history but also a breathtaking viewpoint of the capital’s cityscape.
The Visigoths selected this location to build the São Jorge Castle in the 5th century because of its open view from the highest point of the city. A number of renovations were done on this site when the Moorish took over, and it was the royal residence of the Portuguese from the 15th century. Numerous important events took place in this castle, including the coronations ceremonies.
The castle is an important fortification of defense for centuries. Today, it’s one of the most visited landmarks in Lisbon. Explore the castle and admire the ancient architecture which still retains the signature of Moorish design. The archaeological site showcases works and historic proofs of three cultures that once ruled the city, some of the ruins dated back to the 8th century BC.
Dom Luis I Bridge
Contributed by Cosette from KarsTravels
The Luís I Bridge is an icon of the city of Porto and was designed in the 19th century by Théophile Seyrig, a disciple of Gustave Eiffel. It’s a marvelous double-deck iron arch bridge with 44 meters between the two decks. The upper deck is for the metro and pedestrians, the lower deck is for cars and pedestrians.
The bridge spans the river Douro, connecting the city of Porto with Vila Nova de Gaia, and is a perfect stop on any France Spain Portugal Road Trip since you’ll have the most perfect views from the upper bridge on both Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia. From the opening in 1886 till 1944, there was a toll of 4 reís per person to cross the bridge.
To stroll on the upper deck you can access the bridge on the Porto side via Avenue Vimara Peres. The lower deck can be reached via Avenue Gustavo Eiffel. To go from the lower to the upper deck or vice versa you can take the Funicular dos Guindais or walk up or down. Taking pictures from the bridge itself can be done from the Cais da Ribeira or the Escada Dos Guindais.
University of Coimbra
Contributed by Soumya from Stories by Soumya
One of the most beautiful landmarks in Central Portugal is the remarkable University of Coimbra which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Coimbra University is one of the oldest educational institutions in the world. It has been functional since 1290 CE and is home to stunning architectural masterpieces from the 12th and the 13th centuries.
Be sure to check out the impressive Cathedral of Santa Cruz and the magnificent Royal Palace of Alcacova which houses the university. Torre da Universidade gives you panoramic views of the city and surroundings. And do not miss the famous Joanine Library which is believed to have inspired the majestic Hogwarts Library in Harry Potter.
Located in a riverside town by the same name, the University of Coimbra is easily reachable by train and can be done as a quick day trip from Porto. Note that the campus is open to tourists from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm every day. Check the official website for admission charges before visiting.
Ponta da Piedade
Contributed by Nadine from Le Long Weekend
Located in Portugal’s stunning Algarve region, the Ponta da Piedade is a rocky headland that gained fame for its dramatic sea pillars, caves, and natural bridges. It’s an area of immense beauty, that has been formed (and is continually evolving) by the force of the wind and the wild Atlantic ocean.
To appreciate it fully, discovering the area by boat is best. Tours are available from nearby Lagos, and are an affordable option, starting at just €20. Or, if you’re feeling more adventurous, maybe a kayak tour is more your style.
Alternatively, you can walk down the famous stairwell within the Ponta da Piedade to the tiny port where you’ll find colorful boats waiting to whisk you around the caves (Note – the guides here don’t all speak English. So if you want an English speaking guide, book a tour from Lagos).
In any case, taking a drive to the headland will allow you to appreciate the view from above as well. There are walks in either direction from the lighthouse, and numerous viewpoints offering exceptional views. Just watch your step, as the cliffs are unstable in places. Nearby, you’ll also find some of the most beautiful beaches in the Algarve, including the famous Praia do Camilo.
Cabo de Sao Vicente
Contributed by Alya from the Algarve Family
Cabo de São Vicente or Cape St.Vincent is a beautiful landmark in the Algarve, southern Portugal. The cape is known as the southwesternmost point of continental Europe and because of its geographical location, the cape has been an important point for many centuries.
In the Neolithic times, it was a place of worship, the ancient Greeks built here a temple dedicated to Hercules, and the Romans called the cape the Holy Promontory. The last religious construction at the cape was a convent built in the 16th century, and in 1846, the 24-meter Lighthouse of Cabo São Vicente was built over the ruins of the convent. The lighthouse can be visited on Wednesdays between 2 pm and 4 pm.
The scenery at the cape is spectacular; rugged vertical cliffs, sandy beaches, dramatic coastline, and unspoiled nature. Hiking along the cliffs following one of the walking trails is the best way to explore the area and to reach several lookout points that offer breathtaking sea views. Sunset is the best time to visit the cape since watching the sunset from the cliffs at Cabo de São Vicente is one of the most romantic experiences in the Algarve!
Practically, the cape is situated 6 km west of Sagres, the nearest town. It’s easy to reach the cape by car or by bus from the town as the drive takes 5 minutes.
Contributed by Cazzy from Dream Big, Travel Far
Perched on the Portuguese Riviera, the Pena Palace is considered one of the world’s most important monuments portraying 19th-century Romanticism. In addition to being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal.
This Romanticist castle holds not only historical and cultural importance, but it is also a very picturesque sight as its striking and colorful architecture stands out like a jewel on top of Sintra. It’s definitely a must-see attraction, especially for those exploring Portugal by car.
Its architecture is an extraordinary fusion of various styles, from Neo-Gothic to Neo Moorish, while the interiors are teeming with incredible stuccos and Trompe-loeil murals on the walls.
The history dates back to the middle ages when the chapel was built following an apparition of the Virgin Mary. Throughout the centuries, it was then rebuilt and redeveloped as a monastery, summer residence, and eventually a museum. Government officials even use it to host state events today!
There is a bus stop 500 meters from the Pena Palace, while the Sintra train station lies 3.1 km away. If you’re driving, the trip from Lisbon should take roughly 40 minutes, and there are two parking spaces here.
Praca do Comercio
Contributed by Victoria from Guide Your Travel
The Praca do Comercio is a large square located in the heart of Lisbon, right by the water. This is one of the most famous photo spots in the city and a great place to come on a sunny day.
If you only have a few days in Lisbon you need to put this square at the top of your list of things to do. It lies within walking distance from a lot of popular landmarks and the city center. There are some nice cafes lining the square where you can grab lunch or a coffee after a long day of exploring.
The statue of King Joseph I located in the center of the square is a great place to sit for a while and watch people go by. The Praca do Comercio used to be the location of a major Portuguese palace and some surrounding buildings still remain today.
Contributed by Raluca of Travel With A Spin
516 Arouca Bridge is the longest suspended pedestrian bridge in Europe. Located in the north of Portugal, it was built by a team of mountaineers and opened in 2021. Thus, it’s one of the newest attractions on the continent.
Arouca Bridge is part of the geopark with the same name, at the Areinho end of Paiva Walkways. The sensation of crossing the bridge 175 meters in the air, while seeing the canyon and Aguieiras Waterfall below is pure adrenaline. After or before crossing the bridge, you can also walk the Paiva Walkways, an 8.5 km wooden path zig-zagging along the river. In fact, it’s so common to do them together that the entrance fee to cross the bridge includes the price of accessing the trail.
Located just 80 km away, Arouca Bridge and Paiva Walkways make for a great day trip from Porto. The ticket costs 12 euros but is well worth it if you enjoy some adrenaline and unique views. Booking online is mandatory, as you can’t buy the ticket on-site. Summers are hot in Portugal and winters can be a little too windy. Thus, the best seasons for a visit are spring and autumn, if you can choose. Opening times also vary depending on the season.
I hope that this list of the most famous landmarks in Portugal gave you enough inspiration to plan your Portuguese trip! I’m sure that all of them are worth a visit and I hope that some of them inspired you to visit this wonderful country!
If you have any other suggestions or want to share your experience with one of the famous Portuguese landmarks, don’t hesitate to post a comment below!