Portugal is often thought of as a small, sunny country with lots of great beaches. That is without doubt, but dig a little deeper and you will find a country steeped in history and bursting with its own distinctive and proud culture.
Once one of the most powerful and richest nations in Europe, much of Portugal's fortune was sunk into indulgent monuments, grand architecture and fantastical palaces in and around Lisbon. Whilst this ultimately almost financially ruined the country it has left visitors spoiled for choice with so many things to do in Portugal.
If cities aren't your thing then there is stunning countryside a plenty on offer. Perhaps best known are the national park in Geres or the Douro Valley near Porto. For something in the middle try the magical town of Sintra with its hilltop, fairytale palace and ancient castle. And beach-lovers need not worry - the Algarve is lined with beautiful golden sand beaches and set up for family-fun.
We have created this list of the best things to do in Portugal based on our opinions. There are however an official 7 Wonders of Portugal chosen by the Portuguese public and a panel of eminent scholars. In honesty, a mere seven iconic sights doesn't do Portugal justice, so our list is a little longer.
This extravagant mix of Late Gothic and Manueline architecture is rightly placed on UNESCO's World Heritage list. Built in the 14th century by King João I to celebrate victory in the battle of Aljubarrota the monastery houses both his and his son, Henry the Navigator's, tombsBatalhaChurches
Évora's imposing cathedral (Sé Catedral de Évora) is situated in the very heart of the old city and the UNESCO World Heritage site. The oldest parts of the building date back to the 12th century, which was when the Moors were finally driven out by the Christians. As a consequence it is no coincidence that this mighty cathedral has certain aspects which resemble a fortress. Probably most people's first view of the cathedral is the façade which looks out over the Évora's main square. The rose granite façade consists of the main entrance portal over which is an impressive Gothic window with...EvoraChurches Museums and Galleries
Reputed to be the oldest building in Lisbon, the cathedral (Sé de Lisboa) certainly has the appearance of being built to last. Compared to the frivolous Manueline architecture of the Jeronimos Monastery the Romanesque lines of the cathedral appear quite austere. Along with castellated walls and arrow slits in the towers Lisbon Cathedral, like other Portuguese cathedrals of the period, had the appearance of a fortress as much as a church.
Work began on the cathedral in 1147, the same...Alfama LisbonChurches
The double-decker Dom Luis I bridge is an icon of the city of Porto. It spans the River Douro linking the Port wine houses of Vila Nova de Gaia with the bustling downtown Ribeira district of Porto. Construction took place between 1881 and 1886 with the bridge being built adjacent to an existing bridge which it replaced. The granite pillars of the original bridge are still in place, standing on the Ribeira like a pair of gate posts.
It is probably no coincidence that the bridge passes more than a fleeting resemblance of its neighbouring bridge, the...PortoBridges
Without doubt the most macabre of Faro's many attractions is the Capela dos Ossos (Chapel of the Bones), a minuscule ossuary chapel lovingly decorated with the bones and skulls of over 1000 human skeletons. The chapel forms part of the beautiful 18th century Igreja da Nossa Senhora do Carmo (Our Lady of Mount Carmel) Church, with its whitewashed Baroque exterior and richly gilded interior. Towards the back of the church, on the right hand side, a small door leads to a walled garden and this is where the Capela dos Ossos...FaroChurches Unusual
The Elevador de Santa Justa (Santa Justa lift) is a 47 metres (145ft) Lisbon's only remaining vertical elevator and connects Rua do Ouro in the Baixa to Largo do Carmo near Bairro Alto. It was built, along with several other cable powered urban lifts and funiculars, in a time before cars and the Metro. Whilst this may sound quite utilitarian and uninteresting nothing could be further from the truth.
Inaugurated in 1902, the elevator is a cast iron tower decorated with Neo-Gothic style filigrana details. Some say it is reminiscent of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and this is not...Baixa Chiado LisbonUnusual
Stunning romantic style palace and chapel set in parkland featuring lakes, grottoes, wells and fountains. Built by Carvalho Monteiro at the turn of the century as a private residence the estate was in private hands until it was purchased by the local council in 1997SintraPalaces and Historic Houses
16. Marvão Castle
Stretching across the estuary at the Tagus River in Lisbon is the Ponte 25 de April (25th April Bridge); the largest suspension bridge in Europe and the 20th longest in the world. Often considered as a twin sister of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco because of its similar design the bridge in Lisbon is actually 300 feet (100m) longer.
Officially opened in 1966 the Ponte 25 de April was considered the primary connection between north and south Portugal until the Vasco da Gama Bridge was built in 1998. Around this time works were carried out to suspend two railroad tracks under...LisbonBridges
18. Porto Cathedral
19. Tower of Belem
21. Palácio da Bolsa
Whilst Évora may be able to boast some quite impressive historic credentials there is a site, less than half an hour's drive away that predates anything in the city by thousands of years. Built in the early Stone Age the Almendres Cromlech (Cromleque dos Almendres) dates back over 6,000 years. But it isn't just the age which is impressive - this is the largest megalithic site to be found anywhere on the Iberian Peninsula. Although not quite of the scale of Carnac in Britanny, Almendres is far more atmospheric.
The location of the stones is on the slopes of Monte dos Almendres...EvoraMonuments Unusual
24. Elvas Castle
The Castle of Elvas (Castelo de Elvas) in Eastern Portugal has an interesting history. It was never a royal residence, but was a frontier garrison which witnessed battles and sieges over its long history. There was once a Roman garrison here and later the Muslim forces who occupied the region until the 12th century built a fortress on the site of the present day fortifications. They left in 1230 and from then onwards, this strategically important fortress, close to the Spanish border, was fought over heavily during the 12th and 13th centuries and subject to significant...ElvasCastles
The Roman Temple of Évora is said by some to be the best-preserved Roman structure on the Iberian Peninsula. It was once thought to be the Temple of Diana, the goddess of hunting, and many still call it by this name, but this attribution appears to date back to the views of a 17th century priest, without any historical or archaeological foundation. Most now agree that the temple was built around the first century A.D. and was dedicated to the Emperor Augustus, who was venerated as a god both during his lifetime and after his death.
This structure is well...EvoraMonuments