Wondering what are the best small towns to visit in Portugal? You came to the right place. Here we share a list of the best towns in Portugal.
Portugal is a wonderful country that is filled with a variety of different artistic traditions, foods, and celebrations.
Like many other European countries, Portugal also has an extensive amount of history that has been preserved well over time.
However, many people who visit the country do not see these historical gems due to tourism mainly crowding around the major cities of Lisbon or Porto and thereby ignoring the small towns in Portugal that make up the majority of the country.
While this is still a good way to see some of the Portuguese culture, it does not give you an accurate view of these smaller cities in Portugal that solidify the country’s identity. After all, only visiting Lisbon and Porto would be like going to the United States and only visiting New York City and San Francisco!
This is why we recommend that those curious about visiting Portugal should consider visiting some of these beautiful small towns in Portugal.
To give you a thorough list of all of the towns that are truly worth seeing, we did our research and have created this list of the 21 most charming small villages in Portugal that you must visit.
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In a hurry? These are the best towns in Portugal
- Best small towns near Lisbon: Sintra, Cascais, Obidos, Nazaré, Fatima, and Monsanto
- Best small towns near Porto: Lamego, Aveiro, Braga, Guimarães
- Best small towns in the Algarve: Tavira
- Best small beach towns in Portugal: Nazaré, Costa Nova, Cascais
- Best small towns in Portugal in the Douro valley: Pinhão
Small cities you must visit in Portugal
Its wide variety of cultural monuments alongside beautiful scenery and rural views. It is also a great place to buy your souvenirs.
Home to one of Portugal’s best beaches and famous for having some of the largest waves in Portugal.
Its historical landmarks such as the castle, beautiful gardens such as the Centennial bougainvillea and Praça da República.
The charming medieval city with its cobbled streets. Its’ also a good place to buy souvenirs.
The chance of seeing some amazing palaces such as the Palácio Nacional da Pena and the Palácio Nacional de Sintra.
Aveiro can be easily discovered on foot. If you don’t want to walk you could always take a tour on a traditional Portuguese Gondola also called a moliceiro.
The chance of seeing how this town blends in with the surrounding nature.
Wander around town and visit impressive monuments such as the Evora Cathedral and the Capela dos ossos, a small chapel covered and decorated with human skulls and bones.
|Angra do Heroismo||
Explore the historic streets that are listed as UNESCO world heritage site.
Wander around the cobbled streets and enjoy the amazing view of the Guadina Valley.
A short drive from Pinhão are two world-famous attractions – the birthplace of Fernão de Magalhães (Ferdinand Magellan) and the baroque-style Vila Mateus, home to the iconic rosé wine.
Admire the beautiful colored houses. Drive along the coast road to reach Aveiro Estuary where you can go for a variety of water sports like sailing, waterskiing, rowing, and windsurfing.
Go soaking in one of the thermal pools or try Cozido das Furnas ( a stew cooked by the heat of the hot springs)
Besides visiting the famous sanctuary of Fatima, check out the massive dinosaur footprints at Serra de Aire. It’s not every day that you spot such relics of these amazing beings. You can also go for a hike at Serra de Aire natural park.
Apart from the stores on the promenade, the food and the beaches, those visiting Cascais can try their luck at gambling. Casino Estoril is one of the oldest casinos in the world, it was built in 1916.
Join the Festa de São João on the night of 23 June to celebrate the birth of St. John the Baptist, a patron saint of Braga. Moreover, S.C. Braga, the city’s football team participates regularly in tournament matches that you can catch up on when you are in the city.
Situated in the northwestern Portugal countryside, the Citânia de Briteiros has settlements from the Iron Age dating back to the early 9th Century BC. Also, Plataforma das Artes e da Criatividade is the place to visit if you are interested in contemporary art.
This charming town is nestled in the dramatic landscape of the Peneda-Gerês National Park. It’s famous for its espigueiros, iconic granaries.
Visiting the Lindoso Castle ruins will be a great way to culminate your visit. The remains of the wars with the Spanish feel pretty dramatic. Also, during your visit to the castle, you’ll pass by the Alto-Lindoso dam (Portugal’s largest dam).
Learn about the Crypto-Judaic community of Portugal by visiting the Museu Judaico de Belmonte. Pay your respects at the Sinagoga de Belmonte (closed during the week).
Built-in the 1500s and finished in 1622, the Amoreira Aqueduct is a work of architectural brilliance that solved the water crisis. Also, Museu Militar de Elvas will give you a complete display of the Portuguese military might in the past.
Situated southwest of Beja, the Ruínas Romanas de Pisões are absolutely wonderful with the remains of mosaics, Doric columns, the entire heating system, and the peristyle. Try the locally made honey and the sausage variety (Portuguese chorizo, botifarra, linguiça, and batateira) that is unique to this region.
Best small towns in Portugal
Here we share a list of 21 beautiful towns in Portugal.
These Portugal towns you must absolutely visit while you are in Portugal.
Lamego is a town located in the northern region of the Douro that is largely known for its extensive history reaching all the way back to ancient Rome.
It’s one of the best small towns in northern Portugal.
In contemporary times, Lamego has become well-known for its wide variety of cultural monuments alongside beautiful scenery and rural views.
Those who want to learn about the history of the town can go to the Lamego City Museum, while those wanting to immerse themselves in local art can visit the Ribeiro Conceição Theatre.
Lamego is also a town that has beautiful local parks, with the Remédios Park being one of the most well-known parks of its kind in northern Portugal.
How to get there: Lamego lies 132km from Porto.
The easiest way to get there is by renting a car. The driving time is 1h30 minutes.
Over the years, Nazaré has built up a reputation for being one of the most beautiful places in Portugal.
Whether you want to go to the beach, partake in some fishing or simply admire the view, this unique coastal town is a great place to be.
Praia da Nazaré is often rated as one of Portugal’s top beaches, with many locals flocking there during the summer to get away from the tourist crowds of busier beach towns.
This beach is also unique in the sense that there is barely any wind there due to the incredibly high mountain that protects Nazaré from more tumultuous weather conditions.
However, Praia da Nazaré is most well-known for having some of the largest waves in Portugal due to the impressive underwater canyon that causes some waves to even reach 100 feet high.
After you’re done surfing, go into town for some nice and affordable local cuisine!
How to get there: Nazaré lies on the silver coast about 120 km north of Lisbon.
The cheapest way to get to Nazaré is by bus. The trip takes almost 2 hours.
Tavira is a town in the Algarve known for some of its incredible historical landmarks that have been well maintained through the present day. It’s one of the best places to visit in the Algarve.
For example, the Tavira Castle still exists as a monument to the town’s Moorish history, being a great example of historical architecture that is still in good condition.
Even those who are not a fan of castles will still appreciate the beautiful garden that shows off some of Portugal’s most wonderful plants (such as the Centennial bougainvillea).
What makes Tavira especially unique when compared to other towns in Portugal is that it has a camera obscura!
This device was built in 1931 and stands in a large water tower.
If you’re tired and want to take a break from walking around, the Praça da República is a great place to go to try some new food, sit down and do some people watching for a bit!
There are also some beautiful statues and fountains that truly give this area a unique ambiance.
How to get there: Tavira lies 39km from Faro.
The easiest way to get from Faro to Tavira is by renting a car.
If you’re somebody who wants to see a truly traditional Portuguese town, you can’t do much better than Obidos, one of the many medieval cities in Portugal.
Originally given as a gift to Queen Urraca in 1214, the town has retained a surprising amount of infrastructure since its Medieval days.
Even just entering the town forces you to be confronted with some beautiful art with the Porta da Vila welcoming you to the town with its intricate murals.
Those looking to see the bright colors that Portugal is known for will love the hidden cobbled back-streets that form the core of the city and lead visitors through alleyways filled with colorful buildings.
How to get there: Obidos lies 86km from Lisbon.
The easiest way to travel from Lisbon to Obidos is by car.
Those interested in religious relics will appreciate the town of Sintra.
This is one of the most religious places in Portugal with the centerpiece being the Quinta da Regaleira, a gorgeous mansion packed with religious symbolism.
You can also see how the ruling class used to live in the various palaces in the area (Palácio Nacional da Pena and the Palácio Nacional de Sintra).
Not only will it be one of the most gorgeous experiences you’ll come across during your time in Portugal, but you’ll also be able to surround yourself entirely with history!
If you can’t stay for an entire day, we recommend that you arrive in the afternoon and stay through the morning—this will give you time to avoid the midday crowds that make the town quite packed and tourist-filled.
How to get there: Sintra lies 28km from Lisbon.
The easiest way to reach Sintra is by public transport. You can take a train from the Rossio station or the Oriente station to Sintra. A train departs every 15 minutes. A bit more than half an hour later you are in Sintra.
As a place that is next to a lagoon and intersected by various canals, Aveiro is a truly classic maritime town with a lot to see. It is one of the best towns in Portugal to visit.
If you want to get up close and personal with the water, all you have to do is take a ride on a moliceiro (a Portuguese gondola) or take a quick dip in the lagoon!
Those wanting to look at the historical aspects of this town should check out the Mosteiro de Jesus, a gorgeous monastery in the middle of Aveiro that used to also be the home of one of Princess Joanna of Portugal.
The woodcarving and tile floors in the monastery are especially gorgeous and an important reminder of a time when religious art was the identity of the entire area.
Read also: Magical fairytale towns in Europe
If you want to see more traditional Portuguese art, you should definitely go to the Museu de Aveiro where you can find some truly wonderful Renaissance sculptures and paintings.
How to get there: Aveiro lies 75km south of Porto.
The cheapest way to get to Aveiro from Porto is with Porto’s urban train. The journey takes 1h15 minutes and costs around €3.
The easiest way is by renting a car.
Monsanto is one of the most beautiful places in Portugal simply due to the fact that it blends in effortlessly with the surrounding nature. The town is nestled against a mountain slope and counts numerous winding roads and houses nestled into the side of the mountain’s structure.
Those who visit this town will be impressed by how large boulders are seamlessly integrated in the cities architecture. The rocks are squeezed in between buildings and lay on top of roofs. As you wander through the charming small streets you will come across many other examples of unique architecture that have been built around the local natural elements.
Perched upon the mountaintop is also the stunning site of the Templar castle, a monument that still stands to this day.
Architecture geeks will appreciate the buildings that closely resemble the Portuguese Manueline style buildings alongside even earlier cottages.
The town itself is also very accessible, only being a short bus ride away from either of the major cities.
How to get there: Monsanto lies 90km from Lisbon.
The easiest way to get from Lisbon to Monsanto is by car.
Évora is a beautiful town that has many different types of authentic Portuguese details.
One striking example is the historic town center which is considered a UNESCO Heritage site. Visiting the old town can easily take up an entire day if you want to explore every nook and cranny. There are many entrancing, winding streets cheered up by floral terraces. Be sure to look around every corner as you may be rewarded with colorful patios full of colorful flowers and plants.
When it is time to take a break from your exploration you can recharge in a variety of wonderful restaurants or hunt for souvenirs in the many shops.
If you decide to go to the center, though, we recommend doing so either in the early morning or at night, as it can get quite crowded!
Visitors to this town won’t be able to avoid the staggering profile of the Évora Cathedral that overlooks the entire town.
The Gothic design of the 13th-century cathedral boasts an astounding amount of gold and silverwork as ornamentation. If you want to come close to an even older structure, we recommend that you visit the Évora Roman Temple.
Another unique aspect of this town is that it is a university town, with Évora University attracting college students from all over Europe.
This university is also the second-oldest university in the country, giving you another detailed idea of what historical Portuguese architecture looks like.
How to get there: Évora lies 135km from Lisbon.
The best way to get from Lisbon to Évora is by car.
Angra do Heroísmo
Angra do Heroísmo is a town filled to the brim with Portuguese heritage, even being listed as a World Heritage town.
Visitors to Angra do Heroísmo can come face-to-face with the town’s unique history through the Monte Brasil, a mountain that was formed due to a volcano, the Guilherme Moniz, erupting in ancient times.
In modern-day society, Monte Brasil is now a great scenic destination for both locals and tourists.
It offers scenic views of the city and if you’re lucky you might even spot some wildlife.
Whether you are interested in taking a camping trip up the mountain or just going on a day trip, we recommend that you walk up to fully appreciate the atmosphere.
Of course, renting a car is also possible if you aren’t able to walk up the mountain.
Another important historical site in the town is the Praça Velha, otherwise known as the oldest civic space in town.
Sure, the buildings are beautiful in this area of Angra do Heroísmo, but you will also want to pay attention to the tiling and floor patterns that you’re walking on.
Though it’s a community gathering space, it is quite beautiful and is a great example of the care consistently put into Portuguese design!
Read also: 13 wonderful things to do in the Azores.
If you’re interested in seeing some of the religious architecture, the Igreja da Misericórdia is a beautiful church that will catch your eye as soon as you pass by. Though it might appear to be closed from the outside, it’s usually open to visitors and churchgoers.
The interior design is incredibly compelling, so we definitely recommend that you step inside to take a look!
How to get there: Angra do Heroísmo lies on Terceira, one of the 9 Azores islands.
The best way to get there from Lisbon or Porto is by taking a flight to Terceira. In Terceira, you can rent a car to drive to this beautiful small town.
Monsaraz is one of those towns that truly feels isolated from everywhere else in Portugal, giving you a feeling of complete serenity.
Those who decide to stay in Monsaraz will be treated to a stunning view of the Guadiana Valley and get to have a truly authentic view of what rural Portugal looks like, with surrounding farms being within walking distance.
If you’re somebody who appreciates historical infrastructure, you’ll be glad to know that Monsaraz is entirely surrounded by large walls that were originally built in Medieval times to keep out intruders.
This doesn’t serve a purpose in modern times, but it is incredibly beautiful and shows you what traditional Portuguese brickwork looks like.
Monsaraz is also a great town to visit if you’re somebody who is interested in the art of winemaking.
As one of the most notable wine destinations in Europe, Monsaraz boasts an impressive amount of wine-centric businesses and cooperatives that you can visit.
If you want to experience this culture firsthand, you can schedule a wine tour and learn more!
How to get there: Monsaraz lies 185km of Lisbon.
The easiest way to get from Lisbon to Monsaraz is by car.
Pinhão (Douro Valley)
Located in the heart of the picturesque Douro Valley, Pinhão is graced with sprawling terraced hillsides known for their best port and stellar table wines.
Sitting atop a lovely bend of the Rio Douro around 22km upstream from Peso da Régua, this little wine town is lined up with rows and rows of wineries.
The famous Azulejos or tile painting of the town’s railway station depicts the grape harvest. It is a paradise for nature lovers and wine connoisseurs.
In addition to being a countryside hilly town, it is a great base for long country walks while enjoying its beautiful microclimate.
You can also cruise along the river on a train or aboard a boat.
Board a train from Pocinho, another small town about 40km eastwards, and from your window, you will be able to see world-renowned vineyards like Cockburn’s Tua and Croft’s Quinta da Roeda.
How to get there: Pinhão lies 127 km from Porto.
The easiest way to get from Porto to Pinhão is by car.
Costa Nova (Aveiro)
Situated near Aveiro—The Venice of Portugal, Costa Nova, this beautiful beach town is all you need to unwind.
The quietude in the sounds of the sea can’t be replaced by anything in the world. Everywhere you look, the colors just pop out all over the landscape.
The pretty houses in Costa Nova are painted in bright colors which adds to the charm of the wonderland’s surroundings.
Also, do enjoy an evening with your beloved by taking a boat ride in the canals of Aveiro before heading to the beaches in Costa Nova. Reminiscent of the Gondolas of Venice, the traditional Portuguese boats evoke romance when you are with that special someone.
A leisurely walk along the shoreline or sunbathing in the afternoon will surely rejuvenate you.
And if you like to live on the edge, surfing on the Atlantic waves is what you need to get the adrenaline flowing.
How to get there? Costa Nova lies 10 km from Aveiro.
Hop on a bus or get a taxi and you’ll reach Costa Nova in hardly 10-minutes.
Furnas ( Azores )
One of the most popular tourist attractions in all of Portugal, Furnas is situated on the São Miguel, the largest island of the Azores. It offers therapeutic scenic attractions that you won’t find anywhere in the world.
The steaming calderas and mineral-rich waters warmed by the geothermal energy of the earth will be a great way of relaxing while you are there.
The Terra Nostra Thermal Pool in Terra Nostra Park and the Poca da Dona Beija have hot springs and thermal bath facilities that you must opt for.
If you are there, do explore the variety of endemic plants and various other species at the Terra Nostra Park, the oldest botanical garden in Europe.
Two breathtaking viewpoints you can visit include the Miradouro do Pico do Ferro and the Miradouro Castelo Branco from where you’ll get to see the parish of Furnas and the majestic Furnas Lake.
A Microbial Observatory of the Azores gives visitors a chance to see the life that exists in the tough climate around the hot springs.
How to get there? Furnas lies 46 km from Ponta Delgada.
The easiest way to reach Furnas is by car.
Just 1 hour from the capital Lisbon, Fatima is tucked between the natural parks, secluded villages, and massive beaches.
This is a popular destination for all Christians, a place where some of the most popular legends of Portugal were born.
A visit to the magnificent chapel and Basilica at the “Sanctuary of Fatima” will be a soul-cleansing experience for those who have faith.
For a complete experience, you should visit the museum at the home of Francisco Marto and Jacinta in Aljustrel village.
This is the family home of the children who saw the Virgin Mary appear before them.
Another major attraction is the home of Lucia de Jesus dos Santos, the revered nun.
For nature lovers, Fatima’s underground Gruta de Moinhos Velhos is a magnificent sight.
The colorful lights inside the caves along with stalactites and stalagmites make for a breathtaking experience.
How to get there? Fatima lies 125 north of Lisbon.
The quickest way to reach Fatima is by car. The cheapest way to reach Fatima is by bus.
From the Museu Condes de Castro Guimarães, Casa das Histórias Paula Rego, and the Santa Marta Lighthouse and Museum, the architectural brilliance of Cascais will mesmerize any visitor.
Not just that, the beauty of the shorelines and beaches simply uplifts the serenity of this place.
The bay of Cascais has tranquil beaches like the Praia da Duquesa and Praia do Tamariz.
But if you wanna pump up the adrenaline, the windswept Praia da Cremina and Praia do Guincho beaches are perfect to indulge in adventurous water sports like kite-surfing.
There are enough surf camps and schools that offer week-long, single, and one-day courses so you can safely enjoy the sport. Another sporting option is golf which you’ll have plenty of opportunities to play as there are 5 golf courses within a 10 km radius.
Just like many other parts of Portugal, Cascais also has pristine beaches including the Praia do Guincho and Praia da Rainha.
A short walk into the Sintra Cascais Natural Park towards the sea will lead you to Boca do Inferno (Hell’s Mouth), a magnificent place to experience the sheer force of the sea and feel the breeze.
How to get there? Cascais lies 32,5 km from Lisbon.
You can easily reach Cascaïs by train from the Cais do Sodré train station.
Braga is one of the oldest cities in Portugal, the ancient center of religious power, and a history that dates back to as far as the 4th century.
Since all this history, you can expect old churches, monasteries, and chapels.
Situated on a hilltop, the lofty Bom Jesus do Monte is surely the most popular tourist attraction of the city. Take the Bom do Jesus Monte Funicular (the oldest in the world) to reach the sanctuary.
Another one of the major attractions is the Braga Cathedral and the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Sameiro with gothic, baroque, and renaissance elements in their architecture.
To know the people and get a general vibe of the city, there’s nothing better than taking a stroll at the Praça da República, locally called the “Arcada”.
Those with even an aorta of oenophilia should taste the local beverage Vinho Verde which means “green wine”.
More places you can visit include the Biscainhos Museum, Raio Palace, Chapel of São Frutuoso, and the Misericórdia Church.
How to get there? Braga lies 54 km from Porto.
The easiest way to reach Braga is by car.
Known as the cradle of Portugal, Guimarães is the home and birthplace of the first Portuguese King.
Culturally packed, Guimarães has palaces and castles that are on the World Heritage Sites list. You can start at the square in front of the Church of Nossa Senhora da Oliveira and go on to visit the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza and the Guimarães Castle.
Further, walk through the lanes and by-lanes including the Rua de Santa Maria to witness the history and daily lives of the people. At Monte da Penha, you’ll get a bird’s eye view of the entire city.
You can reach the spot via a cable car.
Check out the 2,000 piece collection and much more at the Alberto Sampaio Museum after which the Museu Arqueológico Martins Sarmento is the perfect place to go to see the Iron Age discoveries from the castros.
Other major attractions include the Igreja de São Francisco, Zona de Couros, Centro Cultural Vila Flor, and Church of São Miguel do Castelo.
How to get there? Guimarães lies 55 km from Porto.
The easiest way to get there is by car.
Whether you are passing through or have put this tiny village on your itinerary, your visit will be completely satisfying once you reach there.
The quietude in nature’s lap will be the most evident during your visit.
Nestled between a small group of villages and hamlets inside the Peneda-Gerês National Park, Soajo lies close to the border of Spain.
The unique granite houses and the stone streets give a hospitable anthropomorphic vibe to the village.
Go to the Espigueiros do Soajo to witness breathtaking views of the mountains or on a hiking trail for an adventurous experience.
The beautiful Ponte da Ladeira bridge has a freshwater river flowing under it where you can bathe and just relax.
Other natural attractions for you to explore include the Poço Bento and Poco Negro.
How to get there? Soajo lies 118 km north of Porto.
The easiest way to get to Soajo from Porto is by car.
Filled with legends and rich in tradition, the history of Belmonte has so much to offer to tourists that it may get overwhelming at times if you don’t have an itinerary.
Beginning at the Museu dos Descobrimentos will set the tone for your trip to Belmonte. The museum is dedicated to the voyages of Pedro Alvares Cabral who discovered Brazil. From there, you can visit the Castelo de Belmonte, the birthplace of Cabral.
Travel back to the Roman period by visiting the Tower of Centum Cellas (“Tower of St. Cornelius”).
You’ll get to understand the livelihood of the people of Belmonte at the Museu do Azeite while the Zezere Eco-Museum will let you know about the ecology around the city.
How to get there? Belmonte lies 226 km from Porto.
The easiest way to reach Belmonte from Porto is by car.
Having the largest bulwarked fortification in the world, Elvas has been a historical city of Portugal that the first line of defense during different wars with different nations.
Get a local guide so they take you through the history piece by piece.
Be it the Walls of Elvas or Forte de Nossa Senhora da Graça or Forte Santa Luzia, the sheer magnificence of these architectural marvels will leave you spellbound. Reinforce your faith at the Igreja dos Domínicos, Igreja das Domínicas, and the beautiful Elvas Cathedral.
How to get there? Elvas lies 208 km from Lisbon.
The easiest way to reach Elvas is by car.
Embedded in between the mineral-rich farmlands of Alentejo, Beja is a sleepy town that’s commanded by a castle tower made of marble.
Things not to be missed when visiting Beja include Museu Rainha Dona Leonor which was earlier the Convent of the Conception.
The religious history of Beja can be felt when you visit the Nossa Senhora dos Prazeres (Church of Our Lady of Pleasures).
Other popular attractions include the Pelourinho De Beja, Museu Jorge Vieira, Monumento ao Prisioneiro Político Desconhecido (a sculpture pleading for freedom of thought), and the Jardim Gago Coutinho e Sacadura Cabral.
How to get there? Beja lies 176 km from Lisbon and is easiest reached by car.
As much as we loved Porto and Lisbon we had the impression that we only experience the truly Portuguese vibe once we exited these towns and headed into Portugal’s extensive countryside.
Driving from one small town in Portugal to another on the narrow winding roads we really could unwind and we started to appreciate the laid-back lifestyle that makes the Portuguese such a hospitable and loveable people.
We really hope you will find the time to visit and stay in these charming little towns in Portugal.
It will be a highlight of your visit to this beautiful country.
Did you know that Portugal is one of the cheapest countries in Europe to travel to.
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