Updated: May 2, 2024


Portugal, a captivating country on the Iberian Peninsula of Western Europe, attracts visitors with its diverse landscapes, rich history, and vibrant culture and gastronomy. From the sun-soaked beaches of the Algarve region to the dramatic peaks of the Peneda-Gerês National Park (Parque Nacional Peneda-Gerês), Portugal is a mosaic of unmatched natural beauty.

Beyond its undeniable charm, tourism plays a pivotal role in Portugal’s economy. It generates significant revenue, creates jobs, and fosters infrastructure development. This comprehensive guide to Portugal tourism shares everything you need to know about traveling to the country, from where to stay and safety tips to planning a trip to each of the best parts of the country, ultimately ensuring an unforgettable experience in Portugal.

The Portuguese Tourism Landscape

portugal tourismPortugal’s perfect weather, beautiful waters on the Atlantic coast, and high quality of life at a reasonably affordable cost compared to other countries in Europe attracts visitors from across the globe, including Europe, the UK, and the USA.

According to recent reports by Expresso and CNN Portugal, the tourism industry generated €25 billion in revenue in 2023, and the country is set to continue this impressive growth trajectory. This success is fueled by Portugal’s undeniable allure – stunning coastlines, particularly in the ever-popular Algarve region, which recorded 26.4 percent of overnight stays in 2023.

Looking ahead to 2024, all regions are poised for further growth. Lisbon, recently crowned Europe’s new tech capital, is experiencing a surge in popularity. Its booming tech scene, economic stability, and an influx of tourists and digital nomads seeking short and long-term stays have made it a top Western European destination. This trend is reflected in the Portuguese National Statistics Institute’s (INE) positive GDP growth figures (2.2 percent and 2.3 percent in Q4 of 2023, respectively).

The tourism industry itself continues to thrive. December 2023 saw a 10.9 percent increase in guests and an 8.2 percent increase in overnight stays compared to December 2022. Revenue is also up significantly, with a 13.9 percent increase in total revenue and a 15 percent increase from accommodation alone. These figures are even more impressive than pre-pandemic levels (December 2019), with a staggering 40.8 percent increase in total revenue.

With its diverse offerings, investor confidence, and thriving tech sector, the country is well-positioned to continue captivating tourists and generating significant economic benefits, brightening Portugal’s tourism outlook for 2024.

Exploring Portugal's Tourism Hotspots

From world heritage sites whispering tales of brave knights to breathtaking stretches of coastline dotted with magnificent mountains of volcanic islands, Portugal calls the adventurous at heart to cruise through the captivating wealth of unforgettable experiences the country offers.

Portugal invites you to explore the vibrant capital of Lisbon or take a day trip down south to bask in the sunshine and the sublime climate the Algarve coast offers. A journey north to Porto will reveal Portuguese culture’s rich history and vibrancy. At the same time, the rolling plains of the Alentejo region allow you to travel through the quieter areas of this beautiful country with a mild Mediterranean climate.

In the section below, we will go into detail about what each of these tourism hotspots offer, including Central Portugal, which awaits its hidden gems, and the stunning Azores and Madeira Islands with their dramatic volcanic landscapes and pristine island paradises.

Lisbon Region

Lisbon, Portugal’s captivating capital, boasts a unique blend of traditional charm and modern energy. The city center and larger Metropolitan area have much to offer and some of the best tourist attractions Portugal is known for. The Alfama district at the heart of Lisbon features narrow streets that wind past pastel-colored houses. At the same time, traditional Fado music spills from hidden bars and restaurants that serve world-class gastronomy. 

The trendy Bairro Alto district is Lisbon’s contemporary pulse, where you can shop for unique treasures in bustling streets and markets; plus, the area is a haven for Lisbon’s young crowd seeking a vibrant nightlife scene. Baixa is the elegant downtown of Lisbon, where neoclassical buildings line cobblestone streets and the iconic Santa Justa Lift whisks you up to breathtaking city views. 


Portugal’s crown jewel, the Algarve, is renowned for its endless stretches of golden sand and turquoise waters. It is also well known that the Algarve is a celebrity hotspot for luxury vacations and upmarket property purchases. The southern region of Portugal is a haven where beach lovers can unwind on pristine shores in Lagos, a charming town steeped in history, or explore hidden coves and dramatic cliffs.

Beyond the beach, you will discover a world of outdoor adventures, including hiking scenic trails, kayaking along secluded Atlantic coastlines, or teeing off on one of the region’s world-class golf courses. Faro is the Algarve’s gateway city to Portugal’s captivating history, where a charming historic center awaits. In Albufeira, you won’t just find a resort town catering to all desires, from family fun to delectable seafood feasts; it is also home to a vibrant nightlife scene. The Algarve offers an unforgettable blend of relaxation, adventure, and cultural exploration.

Porto and Northern Portugal 

In Porto and the northern regions of Portugal, you can immerse yourself in the country’s renowned wine region, cruise on the majestic Douro River, and discover charming towns, each offering authentic Portuguese charm. Porto offers a glimpse into Portugal’s soul, where the Ribeira district cobbled streets and historic São Francisco Church can be found as Porto’s vibrant heartbeat. Across the river from Porto, the city of Vila Nova de Gaia is a popular tourist destination offering green spaces, museums and art galleries, port wine houses, and a magnificent view from the south bank of the Douro River. Further north into the Douro Valley, a wonderland of terraced vineyards clinging to scenic hillsides can be found in towns and villages, including Vila Real, Amarante, and Baiao.


The Alentejo region features a unique blend of history and nature, making it Portugal’s rising sustainable tourism star, offering travelers a scenic escape from the crowds drawn to more popular tourist attractions in Lisbon and the Algarve region.

The region’s capital, Évora, is a UNESCO World Heritage treasure trove filled with Roman temples and medieval architecture, just a one and a half hour drive from Lisbon. The Alentejo Coast is a relaxing haven, with pristine beaches and hidden coves ideal for sunbathers and surfers.

In Reguengos de Monsaraz, you will discover rolling green hills that cradle renowned wineries. At the same time, Comporta offers a luxurious vacation vibe and is often referred to as the “Hamptons of Europe.” In Melides, you can enjoy the perfect mix of comfort and untouched beauty. A perfect escape from the city lights, Melides offers many spa and wellness centers and attractions adding to the eco-tourism industry including sustainable wine farms. Overall, the Alentejo offers a simpler view of life on the Portuguese coast.

Central Portugal

Central Portugal isn’t just about stunning landscapes and quaint towns (though it has those too – think of Nazaré’s world-famous waves or the charming village of Óbidos famed for its chocolate and potent ginjinha liqueur). This region is the heart of Portuguese culture. In Coimbra, you’ll be enveloped by the weight of history at the prestigious University, and later, the melancholic melodies of Fado will fill the air.

Nature lovers won’t be disappointed either. Serra da Estrela, Portugal’s loftiest mountain range, beckons with hiking trails, cascading waterfalls, and even winter skiing adventures. Whether you crave cultural immersion, outdoor thrills, or a taste of Portugal’s soul, Central Portugal promises an unforgettable experience.

The Azores and Madeira Islands

Portugal boasts two stunning archipelagos in the Atlantic Ocean, the Azores and Madeira Islands, perfect for adventure seekers and nature lovers. The Azores is a haven of volcanic landscapes offering dramatic scenery, everything from emerald lakes nestled in craters to sky-high viewpoints (miradouros) showcasing the islands’ contrasting blues and greens. You can hike Pico Island, home to Portugal’s highest mountain, and savor its unique character and renowned wine. You can explore São Miguel, the most developed island with its vibrant capital, Ponta Delgada, or find tranquility on Corvo, the smallest island with its charming local population.

Madeira beckons with its eternal spring climate, breathtaking ocean vistas, and rich culture showcased in museums, music festivals, and art exhibitions. You will also be able to enjoy a memorable vacation with  hiking, diving, or golf, or just relaxing, soaking up the sun on the coast and the cultural richness Madeira offers.

Thinking of moving to Portugal? Take a look at our expert guide to living in Portugal as an Expat

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Experiencing the Best Places to Stay and Things to Do in Portugal

Now that you know where to find the best tourist attractions in Portugal, let’s look at the best places to stay and the experiences that await in one of the world’s sunniest and most welcoming countries.

Charming Portuguese cities

From the captivating melodies of Fado music that grace the streets of Lisbon and Coimbra to the historic cellars of Porto, where you can learn the secrets of Port wine production, Portugal caters to every kind of traveler and adventure seeker. Be sure to explore these ten charming cities, each with its own story, on your trip to Portugal:

  1. Lisbon
  2. Porto
  3. Coimbra
  4. Sintra
  5. Aveiro
  6. Braga
  7. Lagos
  8. Faro
  9. Nazaré
  10. Tavira

Stunning Portuguese beaches

Considering Portugal’s natural beauty and sublime climate, it is no surprise that the world’s best beach, according to Tripadvisor’s prestigious Best of the Best Beaches list for 2024, is the stunning Praia da Falésia in Albufeira, Algarve. Look at a few of the best beaches to check out on your holiday in Portugal.

  • Praia da Falésia in Albufeira
  • Meia Praia in Lagos
  • Praia da Nazaré in Nazaré
  • Praia da Marinha in Faro
  • Praia Da Rocha in Portimão

Leisure and recreational activities

retired couple in portugalPortugal offers a captivating blend of history, vibrant culture, and stunning natural beauty. History buffs can explore Portugal’s rich past by exploring medieval castles, Roman ruins, and iconic landmarks like the Jerónimos Monastery and Belém Tower, remnants of the Age of Discovery.

Bustling cities like Lisbon and Porto offer delectable cuisine, the melancholic melodies of Fado music, and a warm atmosphere. Nature lovers will be enchanted by the diverse landscapes of Peneda-Gerês National Park or the volcanic Azores archipelago, a haven for adventure activities.

Leisure options abound, from challenging yourself on the world-class Algarve golf courses to catching legendary waves on Portugal’s West Coast. Beyond the usual attractions, Portugal offers unique experiences like staying at the Vermelho resort, a 13-room haven designed by Christian Louboutin, or exploring the enchanting Pena National Palace and the mysterious caves of Quinta da Regaleira. With cultural intrigue, vibrant energy, and stunning getaways like Sintra nestled amidst lush mountains, Portugal caters to every traveler’s desires.

A Visitor's Guide to Navigating Portugal

Now that you’re eager to explore Portugal’s rich tapestry of culture, history, and natural beauty, it’s time to plan your adventure. This section will guide you through navigating the key logistical aspects of your trip.

Finding the perfect time to visit

Portugal’s charm unfolds throughout the year thanks to its generally mild weather. However, the ideal time to visit hinges on your interests. Beach lovers flock to the shores during the high season (June-August), while shoulder seasons (April-June & September-November) offer comfortable weather for outdoor adventures and come with the perk of smaller crowds and potentially lower prices. Budget travelers may find the low season (November-March) most attractive, though some regions may experience more rain. So, consider your priorities – sunshine and swimming, exploring nature, or a budget-friendly adventure – to pick the perfect time for your Portuguese escape.

Plan your trips and routes

When visiting a new country, planning and ensuring you can get around quickly is essential, which is quite simple to do in the digital age. Portugal has a world-class and reliable public transportation system, from efficient train and bus networks to access to car rentals, Uber and Bolt. This is especially prevalent in the major cities of Lisbon, Porto, Coimbra, and Braga.

Decide on the perfect place to stay

In addition to an extensive transportation network, you will discover various accommodation options to suit every budget and travel style, from luxurious resorts and charming boutique hotels to traditional guesthouses and cozy hostels. Plan your stay according to the type of vacation you seek. Whether you want to have an urban adventure touring the significant cities soaking up all the art and culture Portugal offers or prefer to be on the coast and just minutes away from a scenic hiking trail or the perfect beach to catch a wave.

Important Information for Visitors

Lastly, but most importantly, there are the factors of visa requirements, traveling costs, and health and safety considerations to consider before booking your flight. We look at these considerations in the section below.

Portuguese visa requirements

Portugal Golden Visa: Your Ultimate Guide 2023To legally enter Portugal, you must apply for a Schengen Visitor Visa or a Schengen Tourist Visa. Although different, both visas allow you to enter and stay in the Schengen Area for a maximum of 90 days within 180 days.  European Union citizens and UK citizens can enter Portugal visa free for a three month stay. Application and entry requirements may change, so when you apply at your local Portuguese Embassy, request the latest information. However, the Tourist or Visitor Visa application requirements include the following:

  • A completed and signed visa application form
  • A valid passport
  • Two recent passport-size photographs
  • Proof of accommodation for the duration of your visit
  • Proof of sufficient financial means for the duration of your stay
  • Proof of travel medical insurance
  • Proof of ties to your home country, such as a letter from an employer or a school, if a student
  • Any additional documents required by the Portuguese Consulate or the nearest Portuguese Embassy from where you are applying

Arrange your money matters

Once you’ve booked your flight and received your visa, it’s essential to plan your budget for the stay and ensure you have sufficient funds to support yourself and enjoy your experience in Portugal. Explore basic information on currency exchange, and you can also plan your budget according to our guide, Cost of living in Portugal 2024: Everything You Need to Know.

Research safety and health

Portugal boasts a reputation as one of Europe’s safest destinations, with a low crime rate. By following basic safety measures, you’re unlikely to encounter any issues. This peace of mind extends to the stunning island paradises of Madeira and the Azores, which are both incredibly safe destinations. However, it’s important to remember that while Portugal’s public healthcare system is excellent, it doesn’t cover visitors. Obtaining travel insurance before your trip is crucial to ensure you’re covered for any unexpected medical emergencies.

Frequently Asked Questions about Tourism in Portugal

The ideal time to visit depends on your interests. Beach lovers visit during the high Portuguese tourism season, from June to August. The shoulder seasons, which include the months of April, June, September, and November, offer mild temperatures, smaller crowds, and lower prices, while budget travelers would find great deals during the low visitor season, which is between November and March.

If you seek a luxury vacation, then costs can run high. However, Portugal is one of the most affordable countries in Western Europe, and on average, consumer prices in Portugal are almost 40.6 percent lower than in the USA.

From popular cities in northern Portugal to beaches on the southern Portugal Atlantic ocean coastline, the country offers a diverse Portuguese tourism experience. Whether you crave bustling city life in Lisbon or Porto, sun-soaked relaxation on the Algarve beaches, or peaceful exploration of the Alentejo plains, there’s a region and experience to suit everyone.

Portugal welcomes visitors with its friendly, helpful, and polite people, and English is widely spoken, making it easy to communicate with locals.