Portugal is an absolute treasure trove for travelers. Known for its stunning beaches, rich culinary traditions, and historic landmarks, this country offers something for everyone. While most visitors might flock to Lisbon or the Algarve, there are plenty of other experiences that go beyond the usual tourist hotspots. Here are ten unforgettable activities you can indulge in when visiting this mesmerizing land.
1. Step into a Fairytale at Sintra’s Palaces
In the UNESCO-listed region of Sintra, you’ll find magical palaces that transport you straight into a fairytale. Visit Quinta da Regaleira, a bewitching structure that marries Gothic, Renaissance, and Manueline styles. The palace is rich in symbology, with ties to mystical traditions like the Knights Templar and Rosicrucians. Don’t forget to head over to Pena Palace, another World Heritage site, celebrated as a marvel of Romantic architecture.
2. Dine at the World’s Most Glamorous McDonald’s
Who said fast food can’t be luxurious? When in Porto, make it a point to visit a McDonald’s situated in a revamped Art Deco café on Praça da Liberdade. The opulent interior features a grand staircase, stained-glass windows, and a soaring eagle sculpture, all of which make eating a Big Mac an inexplicably grand affair.
3. Be Amazed by a Colossal Matchbox Museum
In the town of Tomar lies the intriguing Musea dos Fósforos, which houses an astonishing 43,000 matchboxes. The museum showcases designs from across 127 countries, covering an array of subjects and styles. You’ll likely find yourself wanting to return for another look.
4. Discover Tavira: The Algarve’s Hidden Gem
Venture an hour away from Faro by bus, and you’ll find yourself in the charming town of Tavira. A blend of Roman, Christian, and Arabic influences shapes this town’s unique architecture. The winding streets, peaceful waterways, and tranquil atmosphere offer a serene getaway.
5. Visit the Livraria Lello in Porto
This breathtaking bookstore in Porto is a must-see. With its Art Nouveau façade and awe-inspiring Neo-Gothic interior, the Livraria Lello has even been cited as an inspiration for the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling herself.
6. Experience Livraria Bertrand: The World’s Oldest Bookstore
If you’re a bibliophile, Lisbon’s Livraria Bertrand is another must-visit. Established in 1732, it holds the Guinness World Record for the world’s oldest operating bookstore.
7. Ponder Life and Death at the Bone Chapels
For a truly unique experience, visit Faro’s Capela dos Ossos, a chapel adorned with human bones. Another similar structure can be found at the Church of St. Francis in Évora, complete with haunting inscriptions and mummified bodies.
8. Ride a Tuk-Tuk in Lisbon or Porto
You don’t have to travel to Asia to experience the fun of a tuk-tuk ride. These motorized rickshaws offer an exciting way to explore Lisbon and Porto, adding a dash of novelty to your sightseeing adventures.
9. Stand on the Westernmost Point of Mainland Europe
Take a trip to Cabo da Roca, part of the Sintra municipality, for a surreal experience at the edge of Europe. Offering spectacular vistas of the Atlantic Ocean, dramatic cliffs, and a quaint lighthouse, it’s a spot you won’t easily forget.
10. Dealers Choice!
We’ve listed nine unforgettable experiences, but the tenth is entirely up to you. Whether it’s tasting the delectable local cuisine, diving into the rich history, or surfing on some of Europe’s best waves, Portugal offers countless ways to make your trip uniquely your own.
Portugal is far more than its popular destinations. It’s a land filled with hidden gems, historic landmarks, and unexpected experiences. From its romantic palaces to its unique museums, every corner of Portugal offers a new surprise waiting to be discovered. So why not make it your next travel destination?