Portugal – the land of seafarers that marked international trade between Europe and other continents here on earth. The Age of Discoveries made Portugal very prosperous. In fact, the riches that it endowed to the Portuguese in the past helped to fund the lavish buildings, churches, and squares that tourists enjoy in Portugal today.
Portugal is a place like no other – verdant greeneries next to the sea, picturesque Manueline monasteries, sculptures that commemorate the age of discoveries, and abundant seafood dishes options. With that being said, Paris and Italy aren’t the only iconic cities in Europe. Portugal goes head to head with them too. In Portugal, these are the top tourist attractions that are worth crossing boundaries.
• Jeronimos Monastery
• Livraria Lello
• Rossio Square
• Park and National Palace of Pena
• Praca Da Comercio
• Belem’s Tower
• Cape St.Vincent
• Capella Dos Ossos
• Roman Temple of Evora
• MNAA National Museum of Ancient Art
• Geres Town
• Parque Natural Da Arrabida
• National Coach Museum
• Sintra Cascais National Park
• Furnas Lake
Jeronimos Monastery is one of the long-standing monasteries in Portugal. King Manuel, I ordered its building in 1496 after Vasco Da Gama’s successful voyage. Its most notable features are the nautical-themed sculptures that were the popular architectural themes during the Age of Discovery in Portugal.
The Jeronimos monastery landscape is divided into gardens, pavilions, walkways with picturesque columns, a central fountain, and a nearby mini-park. On the mini-park are several local restaurants and cafes where you can take a rest before proceeding with the Jeronimos Monastery tour.
It’s rare for bookstores to be one of the attractions of iconic cities. However, the Livraria Lello in Portugal managed to do what seems to be impossible. With its grandiose interior featuring Gothic, Manueline, and Art Noveau architectural elements and the carpeted stairwells and classy bookshelves, the Livaria Lello looks like a royal library. And this is the primary reason why it’s the most iconic bookstore in Portugal and perhaps, even in the entire European continent.
The entrance fee to Livaria Lello is 5 euros. However, this does not cover the price of the books that you’ll be reading. Book rentals and book purchases are a bit pricey. Also, be a bit patient since a lot of tourists crowd the stairwells to take selfies and groupies.
The patterned flooring of Rossio Square in Lisbon will surely mesmerize your eyes. Rossio Square, otherwise locals call King Pedro IV square, is a lively place where you can shop and get immediate access to nearby tourist attractions of Portugal’s Lisbon. Aside from the patterned flooring, Rossio Square boasts two baroque fountains and a 27-feet monument.
Going to Rossio Square will allow you to see a lot of attractions on a single trip. Nearby attractions to this square are the Rua Augusta, Sao Domingos Church, Figueira Square, Commercio Square, etc. As for activities, don’t miss the Portuguese artists because they’re great sources of souvenirs.
Park and National Palace of Pena
To see the best of Sintra in Portugal’s Portuguese Riviera, go to the Park and National Palace of Pena. Palace of Pena exemplifies 19th-century Romanticist style architecture with its patterned gateway, yellow and red embued facade, royal-looking interior, decorative battlements, and sculptures of mythological creatures.
The Park and National Palace of Pena stand atop a 480-meter hill. That’s why it provides a wonderful view of the surrounding woods and the Sintra region’s neighborhood. There are two options for reaching it – hiking or riding a bus. Between the two, go for hiking, even though tiresome, since it will let you appreciate the vegetation that surrounds the place.
Park and National Palace of Pena’s management don’t allow tourists to take photos of its exterior and interior. However, this doesn’t mean that you can do so sneakily. Guarda isn’t around all the time. With that being said, you can take photos in some locations, like the Queen’s Terrace, for example.
Praca Do Comercio
Christmas in Portugal can never be livelier than in Praca Do Comercio. You’ll find this famous Portuguese market square in Lisbon. It had existed since the 18th century. Praca Do Comercio symbolizes the wealth and ambition of Portuguese people during the Age of Discovery.
The lighting of the Christmas tree is the most iconic event in Praca Do Commercio during December. This is also the time when the merchants that frequent the market square reach their peak. Popular activities are wine tasting, jamming with local street performers, public operas, etc.
Ask anyone who has visited Portugal, and they will repeatedly tell you to try the Belem’s Tower tours. The Belem Tower is Portugal’s most iconic landmark. Its salient features are its robust Manueline architectural elements of curvatures, arches, and ovals.
Belem’s tower has a more important role in the past. King Manuel ordered the building of this tower to protect Lisbon against foreign attacks.
Inside Belem’s tower are several weapons for warfare. Go to the lower bastion, and you’ll see antique cannons that point to the sea. There might also be a few collections of swords and guns. The upper levels consist of the Governor’s Hall, King’s Hall, and Audience Hall.
Cape St. Vincent
You can view the best sunset in Cape St. Vincent – Portugal’s most southwesterly point. This is also the earliest location in Portugal that people know about. Ancient Greeks considered it as sacred ground. As for the ancient Romans, they believe that it houses the edge of the world.
The sun at dusk looks very glamorous at Cape St. Vincent. As it sets, the distant ocean seems to swallow its hole. Moreover, the setting happens very fast and without warning. This might look a bit ominous if you view it for the first time. Nonetheless, it’s something that you won’t experience anywhere in Portugal.
Nighttime is very picturesque with the beams from St. Vincents lighthouse. This puts the seawater of the Atlantic ocean alight. Though not open to the public, St. Vincent’s lighthouse is popular because lots o ravens, vultures, and griffons roost on it.
Capella Dos Ossos
“Our bones that are here wait for yours,” This is a famous tagline that those who visited the Capella Dos Ossos in Portugal’s Evora couldn’t forget. Five thousand human skeletons adorn the interior of this chapel. These came from the old monasteries in the other areas of Portugal.
Aside from the bones, the Capella Dos Ossos also displays the bones of monks. However, the management stores these in beautiful coffins instead of on the walls. Another popular display is the mummified corpse of two mysterious individuals that hang on the walls.
All in all, Capella Dos Ossos displays grotesque images of skeletons and corpses to teach people that death isn’t fearful. Instead, it is a part of life itself that makes a living more meaningful and precious. Another famous quote you can read inside is, “The day I die is better than the day it was born.”
Roman Temple of Evora
After visiting Capella Dos Ossos, go head to the Roman Temple of Evora. This is a roman temple that’s at least 2000 years old. There’s nothing much to see since time left the temple in ruins. Nevertheless, some of its structures like the columns, base, and stylobate remain intact. With that being said, this attraction still serves well for souvenir photos.
Around this temple are restaurants and bars where you can take a rest. Two that you might like are the Momentos Evora and Le Boudoir. Momentos has a warm, laid-back feel, and it specializes in fine dining featuring recipes that the owner source from local produce. On the other hand, it has a royal minimalistic interior and specializes in dishes that will make you think of Paris.
MNAA National Museum of Ancient Art
The MNAA National Museum of Ancient Art houses the most important middle age pieces to baroque art pieces of notable artists in Portugal. You’ll find this museum at the Carmelite Convent in Lisbon. It’s easy to miss it because it has a rather simple exterior design compared to the highly detailed exteriors of most museums in Europe.
Examples of prominent pieces that you’ll see in MNAA National Museum of Ancient art are St.Vincent Panels, Hell, Cross of Dom Sancho I, Belem Monstrance, Reliquary, and Table Centerpiece. If you’re tired of looking at the artworks, MNAA National Museum of Ancient Art is a mini-garden that provides a breathtaking view of the River Tagus.
Geres town doesn’t disappoint if you’re looking for a touch of recreation. It is part of the Peneda-Geres National Park which contains an endless stretch of Pyrenean and European oaks that hide streams, small lagoons, and picturesque flatlands from plain view.
There are numerous spas in Geres for you to enjoy. Moreover, a river runs through it where you can fish with locals. Summertime and autumn are the best time to visit because birds and rodents visit the oaks, pines, and birch surrounding Geres.
By the way, Geres Town also serves as a great location for picture taking because it has several classic style granaries, threshing floors, mills, and granite houses. Not far from it is an old Roman road that’s still in pristine condition. Nonetheless, the best picture is the bridge that connects Geres Town to Peneda-Geres National Park’s main pathways.
Parque Natural Da Arrabida
Seeing flower meadows is a rare sight. However, this isn’t the case for those living in Portugal. In Portugal, is the Parque Natural Da Arrabida. This is a location where the dazzling strip of white sand beach is sandwiched between the verdant vegetation of flowers and trees and the cerulean sea.
Aside from the indigenous visitation, Parque Natural Da Arrabida also boasts very attractive landscaping. Its surface consists of rock cliffs and rocky hills. There are even peaks where you can sit for a while and enjoy the view of the Atlantic’s foaming waves.
A hitch with Parque Natural Da Arrabida is that it’s very strict. You can’t explore it without availing yourself of guided tours. Nevertheless, this isn’t a problem because numerous Portugal hotels include Parque Natural Da Arrabida in their touring package.
National Coach Museum
Portugal is one of the European countries that took the elegance of transportation seriously long before automobiles existed. And for this reason, it has a wide collection of horse-drawn carriages that vary in design and function. To see the best carriages in the history of Portugal, go to the National Coach Museum.
This museum isn’t that expansive. However, it has a complete collection of classic carriages, dating back to the seventeenth up to the nineteenth century, that once roamed Portugal’s city streets. The most notable carriage of its collection is the those of Philip II, Pope Clement XI, and John V.
The entrance fee for the National Coach Museum is 8 euros. Children not older than 2 years old are free. You can take photos. Even so, know that you can’t do so while riding the carriages. The Belem Tower is the nearest tourist attraction that you can visit next after spending time here.
Sintra-Cascais National Park
Just like Parque Natural Da Arrabida, the Sintra Cascais National Park also faces the sea. You’ll find it amazing due to its verdant meadows atop limestone cliffs that are very windy during the midday and afternoon. Moreover, it houses a lot of Portugal attractions such as the Praia Do Magoito, The Castle of Moors, The Pena Palace, Praia Da Adraga, and Cabo Da Roca.
None will beat the Furnas Lake if you decide to visit Portugal during the cold months. Furnas Lake is popular for its mineral-rich hot springs that are the source of thermal baths that you can enjoy. Another thing that makes it popular is the Corzida – a traditional Portuguese stew that you can only eat in Furnas Lake. Furnas Lake is open all year round. However, you will enjoy it from October- December.