Sun. May 19th, 2024

Portugal is fastly becoming one of the most popular tourist spots in all of Europe. Often overlooked for places like Spain or Italy, Portugal has finally been given the attention it rightly deserves as a world-class destination for foreign travelers.

The rich history and lively culture are, of course, the most alluring part of a trip to Portugal. However, the hospitality and warmth of the Portuguese are what keep tourists coming back year after year. The type of people who give you clothes off their backs, Portugal, especially in the small towns, is easily one of the most welcoming places on Earth.


View of the city of Tavira, Portugal.
View of the city of Tavira, Portugal.

Tavira is a charming fishing town located on the southern coast of Portugal. This cozy town is a great place to bring family to experience the relaxed and easygoing lifestyle of the locals.

Tavira is nestled along the tranquil Gilao River. Here, you will be able to witness a more traditional Portuguese culture and a strong infusion of Moorish influence. Once a part of Muslim-controlled Iberia, there are many relics and buildings that still reveal Portugal’s Medieval history.

The surrounding countryside is the perfect place to hike and go on leisurely bike rides with friends. There are also quality gold courses nearby for those who are interested. Make sure to take a walk along the pristine Praia de Barril beach to really soak in the beauty of this quaint town.


Panorama of Monsanto town in Portugal.
Panorama of Monsanto town in Portugal.

Sitting atop a hill in eastern Portugal is the town of Monsanto. Despite some of the negative conditions Monsanto might manifest in the American mind, Monsanto in Portugal is one of the most unique places in the entire nation.

Due to its location close to the Spanish border, the town of Monsanto was once used as a defensive stronghold in years prior. Hardly changed from the Middle Ages, taking a trip to Monsanto is like stepping into a time machine heading for the 13th century.


The main attraction here, Castle de Monsanto, still looms over the village. Even though the castle has seen better days, its authenticity is hard to match. Monsanto is a must for any history buff looking to take a deep dive into Portugal’s fascinating past.


A town with white houses in Monsaraz, Alentejo region in Portugal.
A town with white houses in Monsaraz, Alentejo region in Portugal.

The sleepy town of Monsaraz can be found along the banks of the Alqueva Lake in eastern Portugal. Another town that has largely remained intact from the Middle Ages, Monsaraz is much older than the old cobblestone buildings imply.

Strong evidence has been found that suggests Monsaraz has been a permanent settlement since pre-historic times. The main street of Monsaraz is something out of a postcard. Chalk-white buildings line the streets with various shops and restaurants just waiting to be explored.

The locals are famous for their hospitality and warmth to tourists who explore their village. Monsaraz Castle, the main landmark of the town, was constructed by King Dinis in the 14th century. Considered a national monument by the Portuguese government, it is one of the most well-preserved relics from this era.


Obidos, Portugal stonewalled city with medieval fortress, historic walled town of Obidos, near Lisbon, Portugal. Beautiful view of Obidos Medieval Town, Portugal.
Obidos, Portugal, a stonewalled city with a medieval fortress, a historic walled town of Obidos, near Lisbon, Portugal. Beautiful view of Obidos Medieval Town, Portugal.

A little over an hour north of Lisbon, Portugal’s capital, is the town of Óbidos. Sitting along the Atlantic coast, Óbidos provides guests with a breathtaking view of the sea. Its location close to the capital makes it an ideal place for a quick and easy day trip.

Most visitors flock to the cobblestone streets of Rua Direita, the main street in town. Here, you will be greeted by smiling locals selling local produce, handmade crafts, and wine created from nearby vineyards.

The local church, the Porta de Villa, is adorned with stunning artwork and hundreds of years-old mosaics. The Azulejo tiles depicting the Passion of the Christ are especially moving.

Azenhas Do Mar

Azenhas do Mar, Portugal seaside town.
Azenhas do Mar, Portugal seaside town.

Just an hour west of the Lisbon metro area is the coastal town of Azenhas do Mar. Easy to access due to its close proximity to Lisbon, getting here via public transportation is relatively seamless.

The bulk of the old town is positioned on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, creating an image that has now become synonymous with the small-town aesthetic of Portugal. The Portuguese often travel to Azenhas do Mar to spend a relaxing day on the beach and tour the stone boardwalk that lines the town’s limits.

The beach here does disappear depending on the tide. But don’t worry. If there is no beach left, when you arrive, you can take a dip in one of the seawater pools that can be found along the waterfront. They are easy to find, especially with the helpful and energetic locals who are more than happy to help.



Belmonte city castle drone aerial view in Portugal.
Belmonte City Castle drone aerial view in Portugal.

Located in Central Portugal, the small town of Belmonte is home to some of the friendly people around. Belmonte was first established during the reign of the famed King Alfonso. Part of a defensive line meant to ward off Spanish and Muslim invasion.

As a result, there are still many old fortifications that have survived from this era. Castles and old brick walls are not hard to come by. Belmonte Castle is easy to find and is a great way to spend an afternoon exploring.

Belmonte also used to be home to a large and thriving Jewish community, with synagogues still intact today. Belmonte was often a refuge for Jews fleeing the persecution of various Catholic monarchs during the Medieval Era and early modern period.


Fortress in village Marvao, Portugal.
Fortress in village Marvao, Portugal.

Marvão was another hilltop fortress that once served a key role in the defense of Portugal from foreign armies. Today, it remains one of the most picturesque parts of the country. Located northeast of Lisbon, Marvão is only a stone’s throw from the Spanish border.

The town itself is certainly stunning, but the sweeping views of the nearby valleys and farmland really solidify this place as a must-visit destination in Portugal. Getting here can be tough, but the locals are more than accommodating to those who make the drive over.

The main attraction in Marvão is the Mosque Cathedral of Idanha-a-Velha. Now a church, it is likely that the building once served as a Moorish mosque. The Islamic influence in the architecture is unmistakable and stands as a unique landmark in the region.

Cacela Velha

Blue and white buildings in Cacela Velha.
Cacela Velha. In Wikipedia. By I, MJJR, CC BY 2.5, Wikipedia

Cacela Velha is a quaint seaside town along the southern coast of Portugal. Just a short drive from the Spanish border, this is the perfect place to stop and spend the night or get something to eat.

Another fortress overlooks the town and gives the perfect place to go and catch a glimpse of the surrounding environment. From the top of the fortress, you will be able to easily overlook the Ria Formosa Natural Park and its islands to the south.

The people who live here are also thrilled to chat and assist newcomers whenever they can. It is rare to not be greeted by a warm smile whenever conversing with a local of Cacela Velha.


People are having dinner on a street in Evora, Portugal.
People are having dinner on a street in Evora, Portugal. Editorial credit: trabantos /

Located in Central Portugal, Evora is considerably larger than some of the other towns on this list. It is by no means on par with the hustle and bustle of Lisbon, but it does have most of the bells and whistles that you would expect in any city.

Evora has tons of things to do. No matter if you are with family or out with a significant other, Evora offers activities at all ends of the spectrum. The center of the town, Praça do Giraldo, is the town square filled with restaurants and live street performances.

The history of Evora is incredibly deep and stretches as far back as the days of the Roman Empire. There are still Roman baths in the town, and they are often visited by newcomers. Friendly tour guides are not hard to find either if you want to have a more comprehensive experience.

Portugal is rightfully becoming one of the most sought-after destinations in all of Europe. Its rich culture, friendly faces, and stunning landscapes are hard to resist. Not to mention how inexpensive many of the attractions are compared to other destinations on the continent. If you are ever thinking of traveling to Portugal, go for it.



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