The Totally Excellent Guide to Portugal: History, Culture and Things to See and Do

I like Portugal for many reasons. Many, many reasons.

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It’s a really interesting country with a long history that has had a huge impact on the world. Like seriously. From Roman Don’t let its small geographic size fool you. Portugal in its day arguably ruled one of the largest overseas empires the world has ever known.


Below are some articles about the history of Portugal.

Stamp commemorating the Siege of Lisbon and the Moorish surrender.

Early History Portugal until Afonso I
Afonso I, Portugal’s First King
Sancho I: Moors, Money and Problems with the Pope

The Story of Santarém and St. Irene

A Short History of Portugal by Tim Lambert
When Portugal Ruled the Seas (Smithsonian)

Places to Visit/Things to See and Do

There’s a lot to see and do in this little land. Below though are a list of noteworthy places that one should check out.


When visiting Portugal, it obviously makes sense to visit the country’s capital, Lisbon. One of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations, Lisbon is the epicenter of Portugal’s cultural scene. Of note is the city’s Alfama neighborhood, the oldest and most historic part of the city. Here you’ll find the Lisbon’s famous cathedral, get access to the hilltop fortress/castle of St. George and be able to explore some of the capital’s windy but picturesque streets and eateries. Lisbon is also home to several really interesting monuments, oversized monasteries, cathedrals and really great museums. For more details and things to see, please visit my special page on Lisbon.


The waterfront in Porto, Portugal

Porto is today Portugal’s second largest city and one of the country’s major commercial centers. It’s also world famous for its historical riverfront, old churches and its special “port wine.” Check out the guide to Porto for more info.


Pena Palace in Sintra, Portugal
Barely an hour’s train ride from Lisbon is the town of Sintra. This place is most famous for the ruins of its Moorish fortress, eclectic royal palaces and pleasant weather. It’s a good place to spend a day if you’re staying in Lisbon and want a bit of a relief from city life. For more info, check out my short page on Sintra.

The Douro Valley

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This is the region where Portugal’s sweet port wines come from. The area is filled with vineyards perched alongside perched cliffs overlooking the Douro river below. While has been made in here and in this way for at least 350 years. For more about the Douro Valley and its wineries, check out this page.



In the heart of Portugal’s Alentejo region is the historic and university town of Evora. Once a Roman capital for the area, Évora later become one of the most important frontier settlements of the expanding Kingdom of Portugal between the 12th – 14th centuries. The good thing is that not too much has changed. You can still see the remains of the town’s Roman, Visigoth, Moorish and medieval past since most ruins and monuments are open to the public. For more info, check out my brief page on Évora.


Waterfront of Coimbra, Portugal

Like Evora, Coimbra is also an extremely historic town and that helps to tell the early story of Portugal and its people. This is the birthplace of six Portuguese monarchs as well as the home of the University of Coimbra, one of Europe’s and Portugal’s oldest University. The city is also replete with old medieval buildings, Roman ruins and plenty of old, narrow streets and neighborhoods to explore. Check out the Coimbra city guide for more.


Interested in the Knights Templar and medieval fortresses? Then Tomar has got you covered. With its castle and humongous Convento de Cristo, Tomar is a pretty exciting city for fans of medieval history. For more info, check out the guide to Tomar.

Market of Barcelos

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Outdoor fairs and markets have been a common part of life rural Portugal since the Middle Ages. The most famous of these was (and probably still is) Feira de Barcelos, or the outdoor market of Barcelos. Held every Thursday, the market contains anything you could possible want in terms of craftwork and local foods. It’s kind of like going back in time to the days before gigantic shopping malls and online retailers like Amazon existed.

The Algarve


Faro is a lot of fun. Along with Lagos, Faro is probably the most popular town for tourists in the Algarve region of Portugal. A beautiful little city with lots of history, Faro is actually more popular for its clean beaches, seafood restaurants and as a base for the nearby destinations of Lagos and Tavira. Check out the guide to Faro for more history and travel info.


Sagres is most famous as being the spot where the ever curious Prince Henry the Navigator chose to set up his School of Navigation in 1420. Without this, it’s quite likely that European exploration (and colonization) would have stalled. For more info, check out the guide to Sagres.


Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Lagos is a historical and pretty little town known for its beautiful beaches, seaside grottoes and thriving nightlife. The town is also famous for its seafood markets and restaurants.


Milreu is one of Portugal’s most interesting historical sites. One can see old Roman ruins, especially beautiful mosaics, and the remains of one of the first Christian churches known to have existed.

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