Portugal’s culture is deeply rooted in history and can be seen across its landscape from medieval castles to Art Nouveau architecture, not forgetting time-honored traditions such as Fado music and Portuguese folklorico dance.
Guimaraes’ old center is an important UNESCO World Heritage Site, featuring beautiful palatial buildings and courtyards that serve as an antidote for Lisbon’s more modern structures.
Torre de Belem
Belem Tower, Portugal’s iconic structure, stands as a testament to Portugal’s Age of Discovery. This ornate Manueline style structure stands at the mouth of Tagus River and offers breathtaking views of both its waterfront promenade as well as surrounding area. To avoid crowds and maximize views, it is recommended that visitors arrive in either early morning or late afternoon for best experience.
Francisco de Arruda designed and constructed this tower during the 16th century as intended; intended as a defensive fortress but eventually becoming an iconic symbol of Portugal’s exploration and global success. Built on an island connected by a gangplank from mainland Portugal, its location provided ceremonies as well as voyage departure points.
Over time, Lisbon Tower underwent many changes as its strategic role diminished. Once used as a lighthouse and prison for nobles, later becoming a customs post. Nowadays it stands as one of Lisbon’s top tourist attractions with a narrow spiral staircase leading up to its first level and offering breathtaking views of Lisbon and its waters.
Once you have explored the tower, take a stroll along the waterfront promenade to witness the 25 de Abril Bridge and admire its scenic surroundings. Additionally, this area boasts numerous museums and other interesting attractions to check out, such as Combatant Museum or Tropical Botanical Garden.
Jeronimos Monastery, located nearby, is home to Vasco da Gama’s burial. Additionally, this monastery is where Pasteis de Belem originated – don’t miss a delicious treat while there! Additionally, visit the National Archaeological Museum to view some ancient artifacts; and stop by National Coach Museum where there’s an impressive collection of historic carriages used by Portuguese royalty and nobility between 16th to 19th century as a testament of intricate craftsmanship and intricate ornamentation of their time period!
Braga, one of Portugal’s oldest cities, boasts an array of cultural attractions. Of particular note is its 12th-century Se Cathedral which serves as its religious landmark as well as housing an extensive collection of ecclesiastical art ranging from statues and carvings to rare azulejo tiles.
Raio Palace was constructed during the 17th century by Joao Duarte de Faria, an esteemed member of the Military Order of Christ – commonly referred to as Knights Templar. Now preserved as a museum, this magnificent structure features stunning painted ceilings and panelled walls featuring Neoclassical designs.
Braga boasts not only numerous historic landmarks but also an active arts scene. Throughout the year, it hosts various festivals like the Braga Street Art Festival and Braga Music Festival that attract visitors from across Portugal – these festivals showcase everything from musical performances to theater productions.
Nogueira da Silva Museum offers an excellent collection of contemporary works by both Portuguese and international artists, and regularly holds lectures and workshops to educate visitors further on this field.
Braga’s famed gardens – including the Jardim da Cordoaria – make for an essential stop on any visit to Braga. Here, visitors can relax and take a stroll while also visiting many cultural attractions in its vicinity, from statues and other pieces of artwork, restaurants and cafes in its area, plus lots of nooks for restful naps!
Braga offers many cultural attractions for visitors. One such structure is the Evangelist Church or Sao Pedro do Arco, built in 15th-century and offering stunning examples of Baroque design throughout. Furthermore, it serves as an excellent venue for concerts and has even hosted world-famous musicians!
The Praca da Republica is one of the city’s premier public squares, thriving from midday until nightfall as locals frequent its cafes and restaurants that line it. Additionally, it houses the Biblioteca Nacional de Braga with an extensive collection of books.
Sintra’s hilly and forested terrain is scattered with fairytale-like palaces that dot its landscape, making this town an invaluable cultural gem and UNESCO World Heritage site – not to mention a popular day trip destination from Lisbon. Sintra’s castles reflect Portugal’s long and colorful history as architectural icons that reveal royalty, artistic brilliance and cultural exchange for visitors to enjoy.
One of the most prominent castles is the Palacio Nacional da Pena, an example of Romantic architecture commissioned in 1842 by King Ferdinand II as part of his commitment to arts and culture. Its strikingly painted facade conjures operatic drama while featuring carvings of mythical monsters and decorative battlements. Castles like this embody both their architects’ dreams and aspirations and also show evidence of Portuguese culture’s varied influences at work in history.
Sintra’s cultural gems include the Moorish Castle, National Palace, Palace of Monserrate and Estate of Regaleira – some are surrounded by exotic gardens while some combine Moorish and Arabic elements with unique chimneys to form exquisite structures like Monserrate’s.
Quinta da Regaleira boasts beautiful gardens that will inspire visitors in creating their own gardens. As these popular attractions tend to get very busy between 10am and 3pm, arriving early or later in the day would be best advised.
Sintra offers many exceptional attractions, and one such museum is Joao Arbues Moreira’s Toy Museum is no exception. Housed within a former casino in Estefania neighborhood and opened to visitors in 1997, this remarkable exhibition of clockwork trains, lead soldiers and Dinky toys spans over six decades of collection – clockwork trains from across Europe; lead soldiers made of plastic; Dinky toys from over 60 years; also on display are postwar works from Warhol, Lichtenstein and Pollock among many other artists!
Lisbon, Portugal’s vibrant capital, exudes cultural vibrancy. From gothic enclaves and ancient ruins to world-class museums and iconic structures, Lisbon is one of Europe’s most captivating cities – we have provided here an essential blueprint to explore all that it has to offer.
Visit the Santa Justa Elevator (Elevador da Santa Justa), an immense wrought-iron elevator designed by one of Gustave Eiffel’s disciples to make Lisbon’s steep hills easier for both locals and visitors alike to climb. Spanning 164 meters between Baixa and Alfama, it provides stunning views from both levels! Don’t miss it when visiting Lisbon!
Belem Monument to the Discoveries (Padrao dos Descobrimentos) stands as one of Lisbon’s most recognizable landmarks, boasting towering statues and fountains to honor Portuguese explorers who led during the Age of Discovery. Once used as a fortress, today it serves as a memorial dedicated to their achievements.
Praca do Comercio stands as one of Lisbon’s iconic squares, located on the banks of the River Tagus and home to one of its largest public plazas – making for a picturesque stroll and photography opportunity while taking in all that the atmosphere has to offer. Visitors come here regularly, whether to relax and stroll or snap some photographs for Instagram!
One of Lisbon’s more unusual and interesting attractions can be found in an expansive room on a picturesque square south of its castle: Hospital de Bonecas or Dolls’ Hospital has been providing children’s toy repairs for close to 200 years, filling its drawers and cabinets with repaired eyes, heads and limbs from dolls that have been repaired over time.
Museu Calouste Gulbenkian stands apart with its lavish collections and sumptuous rooms that rival any museum around the world. Its Founder’s Collection showcases European art from Middle Ages through Renaissance period as well as being home to one of the largest horse-drawn carriage collections ever assembled in one location.