Most Beautiful Cities in Portugal

Most Beautiful Cities in Portugal

For a long time, the average holiday in Portugal centred around the sun-soaked beaches and manicured golf courses of the Algarve. But today, Portugal can confidently challenge Spain and Italy as the host of some of Europe’s best city breaks. The warm Mediterranean climate, rich history and culture and delicious cuisine attract millions of visitors each year, with the country enjoying record-breaking tourism revenue in 2022. Ready to see what all the fuss is about? Explore our round-up of the most beautiful cities in Portugal to start planning your weekend away.


  1. Coimbra
  2. Lisbon
  3. Évora
  4. Guimarães
  5. Funchal
  6. Porto
  7. Aveiro



Perched picturesquely above the River Mondego, historic Coimbra was once the medieval capital of Portugal. It’s also home to one of the oldest universities in Europe. Founded in the 13th century in a former royal palace, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site with a lavishly-decorated Biblioteca Joanina (an 18th-century library) and beautiful Botanic Garden to boot. But most alluring is how Coimbra’s grand heritage goes hand in hand with the spirited soul of a student city. This blend of tradition and fresh-faced optimism culminates in Queima das Fitas (‘the burning of the ribbons’) in May, which marks the end of the academic year. This week-long festival of parades, music and merry-making (including the ritual burning of each faculty’s traditional ribbons) always draws the crowds, but Coimbra’s cobbled lanes (and bars) are full of youthful energy throughout the academic year. Visit during term time to experience the best of this buzz.



It wouldn’t be a list of the most beautiful cities in Portugal without lovely Lisbon. Over the past decade, the Portuguese capital has become a staple of the European city break scene. It is the on-trend trip to take if you’re searching for a sunny seaside city that isn’t Barcelona. But it’s so much more than blue skies and beaches. Captivating cobbled alleyways, pastel-painted buildings and sunshine-yellow vintage trams make Lisbon a vision of postcard perfection. The city is dotted with vantage points for soaking up the iconic scenery too. Known as miradouros (viewpoints), these lookouts are scattered across the seven hills of Lisbon and are the perfect place to contemplate the beauty before you.


Image by Olivier Romano



The ancient city walls of Évora (one of its many wonders) embrace the largest medieval cathedral in Portugal, the ruins of a Roman temple and a public square with unhappy connections to the Spanish Inquisition. So, it’s easy to see why Évora has earned the nickname of ‘Museum City’ (and why it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site), as wandering the winding streets between whitewashed houses is like walking through a stunning series of open-air galleries. An hour-and-a-half drive from Lisbon, Évora is a pretty city for a day trip and small enough to discover on foot; start at the Praça do Giraldo (the square at the heart of town) to pick up an ice cream and stroll away.



You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to historic cities in Portugal, but Guimarães is one of the finest. The first Portuguese king, Alfonso Henriques, was born here and many consider the city to be the birthplace of Portugal itself. And it’s a hometown to be proud of. The monuments, museums and medieval architecture might be the main draw for tourists, but Guimarães is also a former European Capital of Culture (2012) and a bustling student city, which adds a vibrant edge to its heritage appeal. To gaze over Guimarães from above, take the cable car to the summit of Serra da Penha; a wooded mountaintop overlooking the city, where the Sanctuary of Penha also stands in all its Art Deco glory.



We’re leaving the mainland behind and heading to Madeira now, the Portuguese island off the north-west coast of Africa that has been christened ‘the pearl of the Atlantic’. Green, rugged and tropical, it’s a haven for hikers and nature-seekers, but the capital Funchal has plenty to tempt city breakers too. Set in a scenic bay lapped by the Atlantic, this cosmopolitan city has lively markets, tranquil gardens and a busy cultural calendar, all within easy reach of the island’s pristine nature. And because the weather is pleasantly warm all year round (locals boast their climate is the best in the world), there’s no bad time to bask in the delights of one of the most beautiful cities in Portugal.




Much like Lisbon, the city of Porto has grown in popularity over recent years and found itself a bit of a weekend-away-wonder. Its ascent of the travel charts is reflected in the streets (where new venues regularly join its impressive roster of restaurants and shops) and in the skies (where cranes stand tall below a busy flight path). Despite plenty of development, Porto has retained its charm. Whether rambling along the riverbank of the Douro; taking in the panoramic vistas from the top of the Clérigos Tower; or savouring sunset at the Morro Garden, beauty abounds in Porto. Come ready to walk, because this stunner is best seen on foot and the steps and steep alleys call for comfortable shoes.



Known as ‘the Venice of Portugal’, the coastal city of Aveiro has picturesque canals criss-crossed by bridges and traversed by colourful moliceiro boats (traditional seaweed-harvesting vessels now used for canal cruises). Beyond the waterways, pastel-hued Art Nouveau architecture lines the patterned, cobbled streets; a little further afield, the sand dunes and famous striped houses of Costa Nova are a 15-minute drive away. Aveiro is one of the smaller cities on our list, so a day trip from Porto (50 minutes by car or train) is perfect for sampling the sights of this charming spot.


Header image by Olivier Romano