Five great Portuguese cities to visit after Lisbon
Now that Portugal has reopened its borders to American tourists, there’s no better time than now to start planning your next Iberian vacation. However, for those unfamiliar with the nation, your knowledge of Portugal may end and start with its capital.
There’s no denying that Lisbon is a pretty spectacular destination on its own, but for a truly memorable vacation it’s best to explore more than one municipality. Fortunately, Portugal is full of a wide variety of fascinating cities that stretch from the outskirts of Lisbon to the north of the country. As you plan your next trip to the far west of Europe, don’t miss these charming and often underrated towns.
The second largest city in Portugal, Porto has been acclaimed over the years for its spectacular food and drink scene, stunning architecture and historic city center. From the majestic Bolsa Palace to the must-see Torre dos Clérigos at the vibrant Chapel of Souls, Porto is a treasure trove of magnificent structures unlike any other on earth. Thorough exploration is sure to create a serious appetite, so tourists should be sure to try a francesinha at some point in their trip. Made with bread and ham brushed with a thick layer of cheese and a rich sauce, this Porto staple is one of the tastiest creations of the Iberian Peninsula.
For those who prefer the finer things in life, few destinations in Portugal compare to Cascais. Once frequented by the Portuguese royal family, this opulent city is now recognized as one of the wealthiest communities on the Iberian Peninsula. After a short 30-minute drive from Lisbon, visitors are invited to explore the idyllic beaches of the coast and then head to the city center to sample some ginja, an indigenous liqueur flavored with sour cherries. For a truly spectacular view of Portugal’s coastal cliffs, head just southwest to the Boca do Inferno, a massive sea arch carved into the earth by centuries of beating waves.
Equipped with ruins from Roman times and the oldest university in Portugal, Coimbra is a true paradise for lovers of complex architecture and preserved historical monuments. Starting at the banks of the Mondego River, head north to find the Barbican Gate, a historic arch that once served as an access point to Coimbra’s walled interior. There is no shortage of elaborate towers and churches to visit both inside and outside its walls, ranging from the old Cathedral of Coimbra dating from the 1100s to the Monastery of Santa Cruz, an iconic structure that houses the remains. of the first king of Portugal.
For Portuguese history buffs planning a trip to the Iberian Peninsula, no visit is complete without spending a day in Guimarães. Known as the “birthplace of Portugal”, this historic city is said to have been the birthplace of Alfonso I, the first king in Portuguese history. While the city center is home to the 1300s era Padrão do Salado monument as well as the verdant gardens of Brazil, no trip to the city is complete without visiting Guimarães Castle. Built around the 900s, this massive fortress was built to defend against Moorish armies seeking to conquer the city.
After centuries of bloody battles at the hands of the Visigoths, Moors and the Portuguese monarchy, the historic town of Santarém has become one of the country’s top destinations for a peaceful and leisurely day trip. Upon arrival, visitors can stroll through the city center and marvel at the splendid Santarém Cathedral before heading to the Church of Grace, a small place of worship adorned with an intricate rose window carved from a single Pierre. After exploring the downtown district, the cliff Portas do Sol offer truly spectacular views of the Tagus River and the surrounding Portuguese countryside.