Portugal is more than its famous cities. It’s a place with hidden spots full of history, beautiful nature, and friendly people. Picture yourself watching beautiful sunsets on wild beaches, listening to local music, and enjoying a glass of wine. This article talks about these less-known places in Portugal.
Portugal’s past is filled with stories of exploration. You can see this in old cities, important buildings, and museums.
Places like Lisbon’s old neighborhoods, the university city of Coimbra, and the historical town of Tomar take you back in time. Portugal also has lots of outdoor things to do like hiking, surfing, and visiting nature parks.
The food in Portugal is great, especially seafood, olive oil, and pastries. Sometimes, the best food is found in small, hidden places. Portugal is also famous for its wine. Places like the Douro Valley and the Alentejo region are known for their excellent wines. Visiting these wine regions is fun and interesting.
Portugal is good value for money. You can have nice stays, good food, and great experiences without spending too much. Going to less-known places like small fishing villages lets you see the real Portugal, away from busy tourist spots.
These places are calm and full of local culture and hidden treasures. While big cities like Lisbon and Porto are great, visiting these underrated places shows you the true beauty of Portugal. It’s a place for everyone, whether you like history, nature, food, or just a friendly place to be.
Below are 10 places worth adding to your Portugal Bucket List:
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Aveiro is a picturesque coastal town in Portugal, often called the “Venice of Portugal” due to its pretty canals, colourful Moliceiros – traditional boats – and unique architectural style.
It is at the top of the list of the most underrated places in Portugal to live and travel because it is a wonderful off the beaten path spot to explore and a great hidden gem with much to offer.
Things to do in Aveiro
- Canal Tours: One of the best ways to explore Aveiro is by taking a traditional moliceiro boat tour along the scenic canals. This lets you admire the colourful buildings lining the waterways.
- Costa Nova: Just a short drive from Aveiro, Costa Nova is known for its striking striped beach houses and beautiful sandy beaches. It’s an excellent spot for relaxation and watersports.
- Aveiro’s Historic Center: Explore the historic centre of Aveiro, where you’ll find attractive Art Nouveau buildings, quaint streets, and a lively atmosphere. Be sure to visit the central Rossio Square and the São Domingos Church.
- Aveiro’s Fresh Seafood: As a coastal town, Aveiro is renowned for its fresh seafood. Savour local dishes like “caldeirada de enguias” (eel stew) or enjoy grilled fish at one of the town’s many seafood restaurants.
- Museums and Culture: Aveiro offers various museums, such as the Museu de Aveiro, housed in the former Convent of Jesus, and the Maritime Museum, showcasing the town’s maritime history.
- Salt Pans: The nearby salt pans in the Ria de Aveiro estuary offer a unique and tranquil landscape where you can observe the traditional salt-harvesting methods.
Why is it overrated?
Aveiro is often considered an underrated destination because it tends to overshadow more popular Portuguese cities like Lisbon and Porto. However, it offers much to visitors seeking an authentic, less touristy experience.
Travellers looking for less-crowded destinations will appreciate Aveiro’s peaceful ambience and less touristy vibe than larger cities. The town’s picturesque canals and colourful boats rival those of Venice, but Aveiro remains more serene and less commercialized.
It boasts a rich cultural heritage with its Art Nouveau architecture and historic sites, which provide a unique sense of place and history.
Seafood enthusiasts can savour delicious meals in local restaurants without the steep prices often found in major tourist destinations. Aveiro is conveniently located near Costa Nova, known for its stunning beachscape and distinctive striped houses.
This makes an excellent choice for a destination to check out in Portugal since visitors can easily explore both areas on a day trip!
Located in Central Portugal, Coimbra is a historic city known for its rich culture, academic heritage, and stunning architecture. With a mild and slightly cooler climate than Lisbon, Coimbra is the perfect place to stroll its streets and take a moment to breathe during your travels.
Did you know it was the first capital of Portugal? It also houses the stunning Joanina Library at the University of Coimbra, known for its Baroque architecture and a collection of rare books.
It’s considered one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. Coimbra provides a unique and enriching experience for travellers exploring Portugal’s heritage.
Things to do in Coimbra
- University of Coimbra: The university, one of the oldest in Europe, is a must-visit. Explore the Joanina Library, Royal Palace, and the famous university tower. The Baroque-style library is a highlight.
- Historic Old Town Wander through Coimbra’s old town with its narrow streets, squares, and traditional Portuguese architecture. The Santa Cruz Monastery is a beautiful example of Gothic architecture.
- Fado Music: Coimbra is renowned for its unique style of Fado music, characterized by its melancholy tones. Enjoy a Fado performance in one of the city’s traditional restaurants.
- Botanical Garden: The Botanical Garden of the University of Coimbra is a peaceful oasis featuring various plants and a serene atmosphere for a relaxing stroll.
- Santa Clara-a-Velha: Visit the ruins of the Santa Clara-a-Velha Monastery, a historic site that provides insight into medieval monastic life.
- Riverfront Walk: Stroll along the Mondego River and enjoy picturesque views of the city’s skyline and bridges.
Why is it overrated?
Coimbra is often considered underrated because it is overshadowed by Portugal’s more famous cities like Lisbon and Porto. However, it’s an appealing destination for various reasons, including:
Coimbra’s strong academic tradition and the historic university add a unique, scholarly atmosphere to the city, making it a great place to explore Portugal’s intellectual heritage.
The city’s long history is reflected in its well-preserved medieval and Baroque architecture, offering visitors a sense of Portugal’s historical depth.
Coimbra has a more relaxed pace than larger cities, making it an ideal place for leisurely exploration and experiencing Portuguese culture at a slower pace.
Coimbra is one of the best places to experience the melancholic beauty of Portuguese Fado music, which is deeply intertwined with the city’s culture. Coimbra is strategically located in central Portugal, making it a convenient stop on a journey between Lisbon and Porto.
Évora is a lovely historic city located in the Alentejo region of Portugal. It’s known for its well-preserved medieval and Renaissance architecture, making it a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Picture whitewashed houses surrounding a beautiful cathedral, drinking the fruity magnificence of the region’s wine.
Out of all of Portugal’s hidden gems, Évora stands apart from the rest due to its fantastic location. It makes a great starting point for your Alentejos adventures, and it is highly recommended to stay for a few days while you soak up the tranquil experience that Évora provides.
Things to do in Évora
- Roman Temple: Visit the well-preserved Roman Temple of Évora (Templo de Diana), one of the city’s iconic landmarks.
- Évora Cathedral: Explore the Évora Cathedral, a striking Gothic monument with stunning panoramic city views from its roof.
- Chapel of Bones: The Chapel of Bones (Capela dos Ossos) is a unique and somewhat eerie attraction. It is known for its interior decorated with human bones and skulls.
- Praça do Giraldo: This central square is surrounded by cafes, restaurants, and shops, making it a great place to enjoy the local atmosphere.
- University of Évora: The university, founded in 1559, is one of the oldest in Portugal and offers a glimpse into the city’s historical and academic significance.
- Local Cuisine: Évora is known for its hearty Alentejo cuisine, which includes dishes like açorda (bread soup) and migas (bread and pork dish). Savour the local flavours at traditional restaurants.
- Wine Tasting: Explore the surrounding Alentejo wine region and indulge in wine tastings at local vineyards and wineries.
Why is it overrated?
Évora is steeped in history and showcases a wide range of architectural styles, from Roman ruins to medieval structures, offering visitors a chance to delve into Portugal’s past.
The city retains a distinctly Portuguese character, and its historic centre is relatively untouched by mass tourism, providing an authentic and relaxed cultural experience.
Évora boasts many unique attractions, including the Chapel of Bones and the Roman Temple, which allow travellers to explore fascinating historical sites. The surrounding Alentejo region is known for its rolling plains, vineyards, and cork oak forests, providing an opportunity to explore the picturesque countryside.
Évora has a laid-back and welcoming ambience, making it an ideal destination for travellers seeking a quieter, less bustling city experience.
Serra da Estrela
Serra da Estrela is the highest mountain range in mainland Portugal, known for its stunning natural beauty and outdoor activities.
Off the beaten track and unlike many other regions around the country, this destination is particularly great for nature and outdoor enthusiasts looking for an escape away from the busy crowds and streets of Portugal.
You can enjoy the Serra da Estrela National Park and its many hiking trails as you make your way around the ‘Mountain of Stars. ‘ You can enjoy beech, pine and chestnut forests and fully embrace mother nature’s clean, sweet air.
Things to do in Serra da Estrela
- Hiking: Serra da Estrela offers a variety of hiking trails, from easy walks to challenging routes that take you through lush forests and high peaks.
- Skiing: In the winter, the park becomes a popular ski destination with downhill and cross-country skiing opportunities.
- Torre: Visit the highest point in mainland Portugal, Torre, which offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape.
- Loriga River Beach: Enjoy the picturesque river beach in Loriga, an excellent spot for swimming and picnicking during summer.
- Villages: Explore mountain villages like Manteigas and Sabugueiro, where you can experience traditional Portuguese culture and hospitality.
- Star Gazing: Serra da Estrela is also known for its excellent conditions for stargazing due to low light pollution in the area.
Why is it overrated?
Serra da Estrela is often considered underrated because it’s less widely recognized than some of Portugal’s other coastal destinations. This is surprising as you can expect beautiful mountain ranges with stunning landscapes, including rocky peaks, dense forests, and pristine rivers, making it a paradise for nature enthusiasts.
It is less heavily visited than coastal areas, which means you can enjoy the tranquility of the mountains and escape the crowds. Serra da Estrela is an ideal location for outdoor activities year-round, from hiking and skiing to stargazing, offering something for all nature and adventure lovers.
The landscape, with its high mountains and alpine-like characteristics, contrasts Portugal’s stereotypical image, offering a distinctive experience. The mountain villages provide an authentic cultural experience with their traditional architecture, cuisine, and warm hospitality.
Dripping in history and one of the best-hidden places in Portugal that many don’t consider, which is such a shame of its historical significance and cultural importance, mainly due to the presence of the Convent of Christ.
The convent was a Templar fortress and later transformed into a Renaissance-style monastery. In addition to the Convent of Christ, Tomar boasts a medieval castle with well-preserved walls and towers, offering picturesque views of the town and the surrounding landscape.
Things to do in Tomar
- Convent of Christ: Visit the Convent of Christ, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and explore its impressive architecture, courtyards, and the iconic Manueline Window.
- Templar Castle: Explore the Templar Castle, a symbol of Tomar’s historical significance, which provides excellent panoramic views of the town.
- Mata Nacional dos Sete Montes: Enjoy the beautiful forested park that offers pleasant walks, picnicking spots, and a tranquil escape from the town.
- Historic Center: Wander through Tomar’s historic centre, with its narrow streets, traditional shops, and inviting cafes.
- Nabão River: Stroll along the Nabão River, which runs through the town, and admire the picturesque riverside scenery.
- Local Festivals: Check the local calendar for festivals and events, which often showcase traditional music, dance, and cultural celebrations.
Why is it overrated?
Tomar’s history is deeply connected to the Knights Templar and the Renaissance, offering a unique and fascinating historical experience. The Convent of Christ is an architectural masterpiece. Tomar’s town centre features well-preserved buildings, making it a captivating place for history and architecture enthusiasts.
You will find a few feet on the streets, providing a quieter and more relaxed atmosphere than larger Portuguese cities. The town retains a traditional Portuguese ambience, and visitors can immerse themselves in local culture and interact with friendly locals.
The town is situated amid lush countryside and is surrounded by beautiful landscapes, making it an ideal base for exploring the natural beauty of central Portugal.
If you’re looking for a unique experience, off the beaten path in Portugal, Monsaraz is a beautifully preserved medieval village with narrow streets made of cobblestone, traditional whitewashed houses, and a picturesque atmosphere that transports visitors back in time. This historic and fascinating area is located in the Alentejo region near the Spanish border.
The village is crowned by a well-preserved medieval castle, offering panoramic views of the surrounding plains and the Alqueva Dam, one of Europe’s largest artificial lakes.
The village is rich in history and culture, with ancient churches, traditional architecture, and a solid connection to Portuguese heritage. Monsaraz is known for its excellent stargazing conditions due to the area’s low light pollution, and it’s a fantastic place for astronomy enthusiasts.
Things to do in Monsaraz
- Medieval villages: Explore the well-preserved medieval village with its narrow cobblestone streets, whitewashed houses, and historic architecture.
- Castle: Visit the 13th-century Monsaraz Castle, which offers panoramic views of the surrounding countryside, including Alqueva Lake.
- Igreja Matriz: The main church of Monsaraz, Igreja Matriz, is an impressive example of Gothic and Manueline architecture and houses a collection of religious art.
- Star Gazing: Monsaraz is known for its excellent conditions for stargazing due to low light pollution, making it a great place for astronomy enthusiasts.
- Alqueva Lake: The nearby Alqueva Lake is one of the largest artificial lakes in Europe, offering opportunities for water activities, picnicking, and enjoying the serene landscape.
- Local Cuisine: Savor Alentejo cuisine in Monsaraz’s traditional restaurants, where you can enjoy dishes like migas (bread and pork) and regional wines.
Why is it overrated?
Monsaraz is often considered underrated because it’s a relatively small and less-visited destination.
The village is set against the stunning backdrop of Alentejo’s rolling hills, offering breathtaking vistas and a peaceful environment. Monsaraz’s medieval history and castle provide an opportunity to delve into Portugal’s history and architectural heritage.
Monsaraz has a tranquil ambience, making it an ideal place for leisurely exploration and relaxation. Visitors can experience the traditional Alentejo way of life and engage with locals, offering a glimpse into Portuguese rural culture.
The clear night skies make it an excellent place for astro tourism and a unique way to connect with the natural world.
Sintra is a fairytale-like town located in the hills of the Lisbon District in Portugal. Its romantic architecture, lush gardens, and mystical ambience have attracted poets, writers, and artists for centuries.
Sintra has a strong association with romanticism and has been a source of inspiration for writers and artists throughout history. The town is steeped in folklore, with tales of enchanted forests and mystical creatures contributing to its magical allure.
Sintra’s unique blend of architectural beauty, historical significance, and natural landscapes creates an enchanting experience for travellers. Its dreamlike quality and rich cultural heritage make it a superb destination.
This unique area is conveniently located just a short train ride from Lisbon, making it an easily accessible day trip or overnight destination. It makes a great location to adventure if you are looking for more off the beaten track spots in Portugal.
Things to do in Sintra
- Palaces and Castles: Explore the town’s enchanting palaces and castles, such as the colourful Pena Palace, the Moorish Castle, and the National Palace of Sintra.
- Quinta da Regaleira: Visit the magical Quinta da Regaleira, known for its mystical gardens, caves, and the initiation well.
- Sintra-Cascais Natural Park: Enjoy the pristine landscapes of the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, which includes forests, cliffs, and a beautiful coastline.
- Cultural Heritage: Discover the rich cultural heritage of Sintra by visiting museums and cultural centers like the Sintra Museum of Modern Art or the Sintra Cultural Center.
- Historic Center: Stroll through the historic centre of Sintra, where you can find traditional shops, cafes, and restaurants.
- Sintra Tram: Take a ride on the historic Sintra Tram, which connects the town with the coastal village of Praia das Maçãs.
Why is it overrated?
Sintra is steeped in history and has been a royal retreat for centuries, offering travellers a chance to explore Portugal’s royal and cultural heritage.
The town boasts some of Europe’s most beautiful and eclectic palaces and castles, providing an extraordinary experience for architecture and history enthusiasts. It is located in a region of stunning natural landscapes, making it ideal for nature lovers exploring the mountains and coastline.
While Sintra can be pretty crowded during the day, it becomes much quieter and more peaceful in the late afternoon and evening, making it a fantastic time to explore. It is also conveniently located just a short train ride from Lisbon, making it an easily accessible day trip or overnight destination.
Viana do Castelo
Viana do Castelo is a coastal town in Portugal known for its historical and cultural significance. It is a well-preserved historic centre with colourful buildings, traditional Portuguese architecture, and picturesque squares.
Its history is a highlight for visitors. One of the town’s most iconic landmarks is the Basilica of Santa Luzia. This impressive hilltop church offers stunning panoramic views of the town, the Lima River, and the coastline.
The town is surrounded by beautiful sandy beaches, including Praia da Arda, Praia do Cabedelo, and Praia de Carreço. These lovely beaches are popular swimming spots, with great waves attracting local and travelling surfers.
Viana do Castelo is well-known for its fresh seafood and regional cuisine, with dishes like bacalhau à Viana (codfish) and traditional Portuguese pastries that everyone loves.
Things to do in Viana do Castelo
- Historic Center: Wander through the historic centre of Viana do Castelo, with its colourful buildings, traditional shops, and picturesque squares.
- Basilica of Santa Luzia: Visit the impressive Basilica of Santa Luzia, a hilltop church with stunning views over the town and the Lima River.
- Beaches: Enjoy the beautiful sandy beaches near Viana do Castelo, such as Praia da Arda, Praia do Cabedelo, and Praia de Carreço, famous for water sports.
- Museums: Explore the town’s museums, including the Costume Museum, dedicated to traditional Portuguese attire, and the Gil Eannes Hospital Ship Museum, offering insight into maritime history.
- Feiras Novas: If you’re visiting in early September, enjoy the Feiras Novas festival, a celebration of music, dance, and traditional culture.
- Sailing and Water Sports: Thanks to its ideal wind conditions, Viana do Castelo is an excellent place for sailing, windsurfing, and kiteboarding.
Why is it overrated?
Viana do Castelo is often considered underrated because it’s less well-known than Portugal’s major cities and tourist hotspots. Still, people should be aware that this town has a strong sense of regional culture and traditions.
It offers travellers an authentic Portuguese experience. Viana do Castelo’s coastal location provides beautiful beaches and scenic landscapes, making it an ideal destination for those who enjoy seaside towns.
The town boasts a rich historical heritage, with well-preserved buildings, allowing visitors to explore Portugal’s past and providing a more relaxed and laid-back atmosphere compared to more prominent tourist destinations, allowing travellers to enjoy a quieter and more authentic experience.
For those who appreciate culture and local interactions, the town hosts various festivals, such as Feiras Novas and Carnival, providing a unique opportunity to engage with local culture.
Faro is known for its history and proximity to the natural beauty of the Algarve. While the town is not a major beach destination, it serves as a hub for travellers looking to explore the region’s stunning coastline, cultural heritage, and natural reserves.
It’s a gateway to the Algarve’s many attractions, making it a convenient and accessible starting point for a memorable trip to southern Portugal.
Things to do in Faro
- Old Town: Explore the old town with its historic architecture, cobbled streets, and traditional Portuguese buildings.
- Faro Cathedral: Visit the Faro Cathedral, which offers panoramic city views from its bell tower.
- Arco da Vila: Walk through the Arco da Vila, a historical gateway that leads to the old town, and admire its architectural beauty.
- Ria Formosa Natural Park: Enjoy the natural beauty of Ria Formosa, a coastal lagoon system known for its unique flora and fauna.
- Beaches: While Faro itself doesn’t have extensive beaches, you can take a short boat ride to nearby islands with pristine sandy shores.
- Museums: Explore museums like the Faro Municipal Museum, which displays archaeological and historical artifacts, and the Maritime Museum.
Why is it overrated?
Faro is sometimes considered underrated because it’s often used as a transit point for travellers heading to other Algarve destinations and may need to be fully explored. However, there are many reasons why it’s an appealing hidden gem.
The old town of Faro offers a historical ambience, complete with traditional Portuguese architecture and a tranquil atmosphere, leaving you feeling relaxed and content. While it’s a gateway to other Algarve destinations, Faro itself is a great place to begin an exploration of the beautiful southern coast of Portugal.
The Ria Formosa Natural Park provides a serene escape into nature with its wetlands and bird-watching opportunities.
You will also find a cultural heritage that includes museums and historic sites, making it an excellent place to learn about the region’s history. Enjoy fresh seafood and Algarvian cuisine at local restaurants without the tourist crowds found in more popular coastal towns.
Bragança is a town located in the northeastern region of Portugal. It’s known for its rich history and medieval character.
The city is dominated by the Bragança Castle, which is seen as one of the most well-preserved and majestic castles in Portugal!
This town is also seen as a centre for agricultural trade. It holds some unique treasures, making it a great, underrated spot to travel to in Portugal.
Things to do in Bragança
- Bragança Castle: Explore the impressive Bragança Castle, a medieval fortress that offers excellent views of the town and surrounding countryside.
- Iberian Wolf Recovery Center: Visit the Iberian Wolf Recovery Center to observe and learn about the endangered Iberian wolf.
- Historic Center: Wander through the historic centre of Bragança, with its narrow streets, traditional houses, and squares.
- Nossa Senhora de Oliveira Church: Admire the Nossa Senhora de Oliveira Church, a beautiful example of Renaissance and Baroque architecture.
- Montesinho Natural Park: Enjoy the natural beauty of the nearby Montesinho Natural Park, with its forests, rivers, and scenic landscapes.
- Local Cuisine: Savour traditional Portuguese and regional dishes at local restaurants, including hearty meat stews and sausages.
Why is it overrated?
Bragança is often considered underrated because it’s situated in a less touristy region of Portugal and may not be on the radar of many international travellers.
Bragança has a rich history, and its medieval castle and old town provide a unique opportunity to delve into Portugal’s past. The city is surrounded by beautiful natural landscapes and is an excellent base for exploring the Montesinho Natural Park.
Bragança offers a glimpse into the traditional Portuguese way of life, complete with local festivals, customs, and friendly locals. It is not as heavily visited as major tourist destinations, which provides a more peaceful and relaxed atmosphere for travellers.
It is totally understandable to focus on the famous places in each country since there is a big reason why they are so favoured! High tourist areas promise their visitors various options, from entertainment and hospitality, culture and history, to shopping and dining choices.
You can even look at factors like infrastructure, medical aid, transport and security, which are all top priorities for some. While most places in Portugal are well set up, others may need more.
There are many unique places to visit in Portugal, and you may be pleasantly surprised at what you may find. The beautiful characters of the Portuguese offer a welcoming atmosphere – especially in areas not frequently travelled by visitors.