Portugal

Top attractions in Portugal

Lisbon, Portugal’s capital city is a fantastic place to consider for a city break at any time of the year. It generally has sunny weather with temperatures that stay mild year round and rarely drop below 10C. This means that it’s possible to visit a number of fantastic attractions in the area including the spectacular Basilica da Estrela and Lisbon Castle all year round. Belem Tower is one place that definitely deserves a visit – a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the 35m tall tower dates to around 1514 as a decorative defensive structure. It was later used as a political prison, and it’s worth a visit to the horrifying dungeons below it.

Venturing away from the capital city, Evora, a university town, can be done as a day trip. History addicts will need to see the Templo Romano that dates to the 1st century and has fourteen Corinthian columns still standing. For something a little more unusual, head to the Capela dos Ossos, the Chapel of Bones. The bones of over 5000 people are arranged in complex patterns around the walls to remind visitors of the brevity of life.

Bullfighting is a famous attraction for Spain, but Portugal also offers its own version, the ‘tourada’. Instead of the bull being killed, it will simply be wrestled to the ground. There are bullrings in Lisbon, Cascais, Lagos and Albufeira, and the season runs from April to October. It’s ideal for those that love the competitive spirit without the animal getting hurt.

For the more outdoorsy types, water sports are the big thing in Portugal. Check out the ‘green coast’ in the north for surfing or head inland to the ‘serra’ rivers for kayaking.

Portugal with the kids

Portugal used to be known as the destination of choice for people looking for a relaxing beach holiday or a round or two of golf. But recently it has grown into a country where you can take whatever type of holiday you’d like. If you’ve booked a trip there with the kids, there are a number of options to keep them entertained.

The Algarve is Portugal’s tourist hot-spot, meaning that it’s the perfect place to go with the family. Located all around the Algarve are a number of waterparks, all fairly similar in their attractions, so it’s probably best just to choose whichever is nearest to your accommodation: Aquashow near Quarteira, Atlantic Park, Slide and Splash at Estombar and ZooMarine near Albufeira. The latter is slightly different in that it also offers animal shows alongside the usual slides. But renowned as Portugal’s ‘Big One’ is Aqualand. Over 6 hectares big and open from April to September, it’s worth a visit. It claims to have slides unique to Portugal, such as the Kamikaze for speed-freaks (92 metres downhill in 4 seconds!), the Anaconda which offers a choice of 5 lanes from fast to leisurely, and the Banzai Boggan, an almost vertical slide that’s 23 metres long. For the mums and dads who aren’t fans of thrill rides, there is also a museum of Portuguese history on site as well as bird of prey shows.

If you’d prefer to keep away from the crowds and expose your kids to something different, you could try taking the family on a Dolphin Seafari. There are plenty of options for this, but one of the best departs from the Marina at Praia da Rocha. The seas around here are generally calm, and the boats sit low in the water so that you are often close enough that you feel you could reach out and touch the dolphins.

Portimao, right next door to Praia da Rocha, also offers an exciting day out on the Pirate Ship Adventure Cruise. If you’ve been sitting on the beach here, you’ll have become accustomed to the sight of ships with their sails flying high sailing past. A trip out on one will include a day exploring grottoes around Lagos, Alfanzina and Benagil as well as a beach barbecue.

Almost every beach in Portugal will offer some form of water sports, from jet skiing and surfing to snorkelling, so there’s something for every member of the family to try out.

A few of Portugal’s best beaches

A holiday to Portugal would be nothing without its beautiful beaches. With hundreds of miles of coast line stretching from the northern ‘green coast’ of Portugal right down to the Algarve on its southern tip, it would be impossible to list every one of Portugal’s golden sands.

Praia da Rocha, Algarve

The Algarve is the best known and most popular region of Portugal for tourists, but unfortunately this means that the beaches are frequently full to the brim with sun-baked tourists. Fortunately Praia da Rocha comes to the rescue with its quieter sands and turquoise waters perfect for a relaxing dip. Make sure to explore some of the rocky tunnels between the cliffs that jut out onto the beach while you’re there.

Vila Praia da Ancora, Costa Verde

On Portugal’s renowned ‘green coast’, the beaches aren’t your stereotypical stretches of sand and clear waters, but offer pretty scenery. This particular beach sits alongside a picturesque fishing town and is popular with surfers and swimmers alike.

Cascais, Costa de Lisboa

If you’re staying around Lisbon and looking for a beach that’s not spoilt by tourist resorts, this is the perfect one. Popular with the people of Lisbon, its azure waters and soft sands are only a 20 minute walk from the town of Estoril.

Porto Santo, near Madeira

Madeira is a Portuguese island known for its sheer cliff faces and choppy waters, but its nearby neighbour Porto Santo, only 75km to the north-east, has far more beautiful beaches that are unspoilt by tourism. A typical desert island, you can only reach it by cargo boat or plane, so maybe one for the more adventurous tourists, but one you’ll be rewarded for.

Where is the best nightlife in Portugal?

Portugal is not usually the number one place that people think of when they’re planning a European party holiday, but it’s definitely not somewhere that should be ruled out altogether.

For a proper night out, head to Lisbon. As both the capital and biggest city in Portugal, there’s plenty of choice and you’re bound to be able to find something you’ll enjoy. If you’re looking for banging DJs, check out the Docas on the banks of the River Tagus. Or for something a little more alternative, head to the streets of Bairro Alto where you can indulge in some of the more fashionable bars and clubs.

The Algarve of Portugal, particularly Lagos, is a favourite destination of backpackers which means that it has a more laid back vibe. Lagos is not a typical place for the 18-30 crowd, so you’re more likely to meet seasoned travellers from across the globe and party with locals than spend your evening among a crowd of Brits on stag nights. The bars in Lagos tend to close around 2am, although there are bigger clubs that will stay open much later if you want to continue partying into the early hours.

One of the most popular bars in the Algarve is Casa do Cerro. This Moroccan themed bar is a ‘warm-up’ before heading off to the clubs. Located in Albufeira atop a hill on one of the main roads, it’s a hip, trendy place visited by the younger crowd. For something a little more old-school in this area, head to Kiss. A proper old-school nightclub with foam parties, DJs and whatnot, it’s an unpretentious night out for heaps of fun.

If you’ve got a bit of cash left over at the end of the holiday, make sure you head over to the Casino Praia da Rocha. This establishment, located in the popular Algarve resort of Praia da Rocha mixes gambling with partying for a fantastic night out.