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Portugal is a country rich in diverse landscapes, boasting an abundance of beautiful small town gems with ornate architecture and well-preserved ancient landmarks. These towns are also brimming with natural beauty, where dramatic mountain scenery meets Mediterranean beaches. Embrace the laid-back lifestyle and cultural heritage of these 11 beautiful small towns in Portugal.
Nestled against the Portuguese-Spanish border, Monsaraz is a charming hilltop village that retains a quaint medieval atmosphere. You’ll find whitewashed houses that were built between the 16th and 17th century, while miles of beautiful countryside with rolling hillsides, olive groves and the river Guadiana awaits further exploration. Like an open-air museum, its ancient archways and stunning views over the Alentejo plains and Alqueva reservoir offers a tranquil escape from the big city bustle. Explore the walled village and discover the castle, shops and art galleries that dot the area, then visit a local restaurant to sample Alentejan cuisine and wines.
A fairytale city with a rich history, Sintra is a popular day trip from Lisbon. You’ll find a picturesque landscape nestled on the foothills of the Sintra mountains, where steep cliffs drop down to the Atlantic Ocean. You’ll find an array of castles and palaces to explore, including the grand Pena National Palace and its colorful architecture and unique blend of Neo-Gothic, Neo-Renaissance and Neo-Islamic styles. Since the Moorish occupation, Portuguese royalty have recognized Sintra’s charm, and it’s a great place to explore major palaces tucked amongst the lush vegetation.
Nicknamed the “Venice of Portugal,” Aveiro boasts a beautiful maze of canals that wind throughout the city. Its charming streets are lined with excellent examples of Portuguese architecture, from the white-washed Mediterranean houses to the traditional “azulejo” facades. You’ll find colorful gondolas floating along the canals, while historic sites, gorgeous beaches, and an excellent food scene offers plenty of captivating scenery. Make sure to visit the São Gonçalinho Chapel and the Convento de Jesus to admire architecture and artwork, while the Aveiro Cathedral features beautiful Baroque architecture.
Guimaraes is the birthplace of Portugal’s first king, Afonso Henríques, and its display of medieval architecture is one of the most authentic in the country. History enthusiasts won’t want to miss this small town, where you’ll find architectural developments that date back to the Middle Ages. The city was awarded a UNESCO World Heritage status for its well-preserved architecture and history, and the important role it played in Portuguese history. Walk under the medieval archways and past timbered houses to admire small Gothic chapels and a monumental castle.
You’ll find one of Europe’s oldest universities in Coimbra, as the city has served as one of Portugal’s key centers for arts and culture for over 500 years. With roots in the Middle Ages, its rich historic core is situated by the Mondego River, where you’ll discover a treasure trove of historic sites, tranquil garden areas and Portugal’s second style of fado music. Meander throughout the town to see its fascinating collection of historic attractions, including the Old Cathedral and Gothic Monastery of Santa Clara-a-Velha. Literary lovers will want to make a stop at the University of Coimbra to see the university’s beautiful Joanina Library.
Travel to central Portugal to enjoy the charms of Monsanto, a small fortified village that is crowned by the ruins of a castle that offers views of the surrounding plains. You’ll find a hill covered with 200-ton boulders and houses built between them, where donkeys are still used for transportation. Holding the title of “Most Portuguese Village in Portugal”, you can climb the castle ruins for stunning views of the region, purchase handmade crafts such as handwoven baskets in town or explore the countryside on a guided horseback riding tour.
Take a step back in time in Evora, as it is one of Portugal’s most perfectly preserved architectural gems. It is a small town nestled in the Alentejo plains region of southern Portugal, where its history dates back over 2,000 years. While it once flourished under Roman rule, its best known today for its well-preserved Old Town with 4,000 historic structures. Make sure to see the 13th-century Cathedral of Evora, which is considered one of the country’s most important Gothic structures. Explore the town’s winding lanes and bustling streets to discover white-washed houses and expansive groves of trees.
One of the principal settlements of the Azores, Angra do Heroismo is a beautiful town that sits almost 900 miles west of mainland Portugal. Its landscapes are verdant, with rolling green hills and pastures and dramatic cliff tops, which are capped off with stunning azure blue ocean views as far as the eye can see. Angra do Heroismo is the oldest continuously settled town in the group of volcanic islands, where the 18th-century Praça Velha sits as its captivating town square that leads to winding alleys dotted with palaces, churches and forts.
One of Portugal’s most romantic villages, Obidos charms visitors with its colorful houses filled with bougainvillea, Gothic passageways and cobblestone streets. White-washed houses surround its imposing 12th-century castle, where you can walk along its old fortified wall then meander down to the historic center of the city to discover a maze of streets that lure you in with its busy squares, inviting cafes and quaint shops.
Home to some of the best beaches in Portugal, Nazare impresses with its long, sandy beaches and big waves. This seaside escape is one of the country’s most famous fishing villages, where you can take a seat on the cliffside and watch as Portugal’s largest net fishing boats bring in their daily catch. Purchase artisanal goods from locals on the street, delight in seafood delicacies at local restaurants, or be mesmerized by the 78-foot waves that attract surfers from around the world.
Nestled along Portugal’s beautiful Algarve coast, Tavira boasts unspoiled architecture and a rich history. Located two miles from the ocean in Portugal’s southern region, this town has been standing since the Bronze Age and is considered a walker’s paradise with its cobblestone streets that wind through leafy parks, a beautiful castle, over a romantic Roman bridge and past Gothic and Renaissance churches. Make sure to have some fun in the sun at the white sand beaches and take a dip in the clear waters of the Atlantic Ocean.