There are plenty of places in Portugal that are absolutely unmissable and simply unforgettable. When talking about this fantastic seaside country with its great climate, several different images come to mind – some of them represent the best that Portugal has to offer and all of them have one thing in common: an unapparelled beauty. In this article, we will introduce you to some of the most amazing places, that form outstanding famous postcards from Portugal.
Azenhas do Mar
If Sintra is the ideal place for those who want to get in touch with nature and marvel at the green scenery, wrapped in a mystical and enigmatic aura, but also for those who want to visit interesting and majestic monuments of great importance, Azenhas do Mar is the seaside fishing village that completes the postcard. This coastal treasure, belonging to the municipality of Sintra and nestled in the cliffs sloping down to the greenish sea, is characterized by its cascading picturesque whitewashed houses decorated with tiles, as well as its famous picture-perfect beach with a natural sea swimming pool, which is the flagship of the area. In this village, you can stroll through the narrow streets, admire the small houses and even visit the old water mill, which, after all, gives the village its name. This village is also the perfect place to watch the sunset, enjoy the sea breeze, go to the beach and dive into the natural pool, but also to taste delicious dishes of fresh fish and seafood. The stunning views worthy of a postcard are guaranteed! It's easy to see why Azenhas do Mar is one of the most photographed villages in Portugal.
D. Luís I Bridge and Ribeira
The D. Luís I Bridge is undoubtedly the most important symbol of Porto and part of the city's postcard. This majestic metal structure, built in the 19th century to replace the old suspension bridge that existed on the same site, was once considered one of the most beautiful bridges in Europe by European Best Destinations. Although the bridge is named in honor of King Dom Luís I, there is a legend that says that, as the king failed to be present at the inauguration of the structure, the people of Porto, taking this as an insult, removed the “Dom” from the official name. The bridge connects the cities of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia (where several fantastic wineries producing traditional Port wine are located), separated by the Douro River. This project, by Belgian engineer Théophile Seyrig, was a response to the growth of trade in Porto and the increasing traffic between the two cities. Next to the bridge, on the city side of Porto, is the fabulous and popular Ribeira neighborhood, one of the most important and oldest places in Porto. With its ancient houses, colorful facades and narrow streets, the Ribeira neighborhood by the river is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is the perfect place to take an evening stroll, dine in one of the many restaurants with cozy terraces by the river and enjoy the fantastic view of the bridge and the surrounding area. Along the shore, traditional Rabelo boats (wooden sailboats) are anchored. It's definitely a unique setting worthy of some stunning photos!
There are plenty of jaw-dropping sites in Lisbon, but the Torre de Belém deserves special attention, as it is a beautiful monument, loaded with interesting architectural and decorative details, that have greatly influenced the history of the city. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Belém Tower was built between 1515 and 1521 by the military architect Francisco de Arruda and was intended to protect the city from attacks from the Tagus River, although it also served as a gateway to the capital. Thanks to the Discoveries, Lisbon was once the most important trade center in the world. From here, great Portuguese navigators, such as Vasco da Gama and Pedro Álvares Cabral, set out in search of new maritime routes. The Portuguese King D. João II was involved in the creation of this structure, which has been declared a National Monument. It is considered one of the main works of the Manueline style, since it has several typical elements, such as the armillary sphere or the cross of the Order of Christ. However, other elements you see today came from the restoration of the tower carried out in the 19th century. This tower, decorated with the coats of arms of Portugal, also served as a lighthouse, a prison and a customs station. Be sure to admire the modern bastion, which was a strategic point that also protected the magnificent Jerónimos Monastery. This historic tower is about 35 meters high and has four floors and a terrace from which you can enjoy a fantastic view of the Tagus River and the surrounding area. The floors are connected by a spiral staircase. There is nothing better than visiting this and other monuments in the historic district of Belém and ending the day with the delicious and popular Pastéis de Belém!
Sete Cidades Lagoon
This breathtaking lagoon, which seems to be made up of two lagoons (one blue and one green), is undoubtedly the most iconic and well-known place in the Azores archipelago. Located on the island of São Miguel, Lagoa das Sete Cidades, shrouded in myths and legends, has already been declared one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal. The fact that the lagoon has two different colors suggests that it consists of two different lagoons. Legend has it that the different colors of the lagoon are due to the tears of a princess and a shepherd who fell in love, but had to part because the king did not approve of the relationship. When they parted, the two cried so much that they created the lagoons in different colors. In truth, however, one lagoon reflects the surrounding vegetation, while the other reflects the blue of the sky. Lagoa das Sete Cidades is a freshwater lagoon, the largest in the Azores, surrounded by greenery, lush vegetation and colorful flowers that create a fairytale ambiance. It is a natural attraction, framed by steep hills formed in the crater of a volcano. It is definitely one of the most beautiful postcards from Portugal! From the Vista do Rei viewpoint, you will have a magnificent panoramic view of the lagoon. For hikers and nature lovers, there are several trails from this viewpoint.
Even though the Azores archipelago has its fair share of stunning corners, you should know that Madeira has its own marvellous secrets! In Madeira, more precisely in Santana, you will find the typical houses that are undoubtedly an ex-libris of the archipelago and have led to a beautiful and famous postcard. These small, triangular-shaped, thatched and colorful houses are popularly known as “Casinhas de Santana”. They are considered part of Madeira's heritage and were once used to store agricultural products. They consisted only of an attic and a first floor divided into two parts (kitchen and bedroom). The houses were built of straw, which came from the grain plantations, and wood, an abundant and cheap material. In the Núcleo de Casas Típicas de Santana, located next to the Santana City Hall, you can admire these peculiar structures and also buy some regional products. The houses are very well preserved and you can observe the furniture and utensils to understand how the locals lived at that time. It is the ideal place to take some souvenir photos, as there are also beautiful gardens with flowers surrounding the small picturesque houses.
Get ready to discover a majestic palace that seems straight out of a Disney fairy tale! The Pena Palace is a World Heritage Site that crowns the enigmatic Serra de Sintra. It has been declared a National Monument and is, in fact, the most important site of the Cultural Landscape of Sintra. It has also been listed as one of Portugal's Seven Wonders. With its vibrant colorful tones and stunning gardens, this Romanticist fantasy palace was completed in 1854 on the site where a medieval chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Pena once stood. The palace was built to serve as a summer residence of King Ferdinand II. This king fell in love with Sintra and acquired the monastery and its surroundings to build the palace we see today. The imposing building combines several different styles and features various interesting architectural details. Inside, you can admire the rich decorations, artworks and furnishings that have been preserved and show how royalty lived at that time. It is worth walking through the lovely Pena Park, a vast forested area spread out over 200 hectares. Discover the secret paths, mystical ornaments, beautiful lakes, ponds and exotic trees! Highlights of the Pena Palace include the colorful Queen Terrace, called Relógio de Sol, with breathtaking views over Sintra, the gate and entrance guarded by a mysterious gargoyle, the old chapel and the luxurious rooms inside, like the dining room. We can safely say that it is one of the most enchanting palaces in the world!
Giant waves in Nazaré
Often one sees the typical image of the giant wave of Nazaré near the famous lighthouse (Forte de São Miguel de Arcanjo), which once served to defend the cove, rising in a dominant position over the Nazaré beach. Here you can admire the image of the archangel São Miguel and enjoy the stunning view of the sea and over the village of Nazaré. The truth is that the beautiful and interesting city of Nazaré is very popular among water sports enthusiasts, especially surfers, thanks to its big waves. The best surfers in the world have crossed these waters and are constantly trying to break the record for the biggest wave surfed. But do you know why Nazaré is the main stage of this phenomenon? This seaside city receives the huge waves generated in the storms of the Atlantic Ocean that take place hundreds of kilometers away. The Nazaré Canyon, a submerged canyon where the water is deeper, is the reason why Nazaré receives these great and high waves. The waves that you can admire (and surf) here were one of the reasons why the city became famous worldwide. The best place to admire this phenomenon is at Sítio da Nazaré. You should take the time to stop by the popular Nazaré beach, considered by many to be one of the most beautiful on the west coast of Portugal. You will find several restaurants where you can enjoy fresh fish and seafood, and you will see some fishermen still dedicated to the art of fishing with their traditional colorful skirts. Once in Nazaré, be sure to also visit the sanctuary, next to the Sítio da Nazaré.
Ponta da Piedade
This natural monument in Lagos is proof that wind and sea can also be artists! Ponta da Piedade is undoubtedly one of the most enchanting landscapes in the Algarve region and consists of a combination of cliffs and rock formations that create an incredible backdrop. It is the perfect place to watch the sunset, as the red and orange colors of the sky blend beautifully with the golden tones of the rocks and the turquoise and green colors of the sea. If you are a photography lover, this should be your personal paradise! You can explore this lovely site by foot or by boat – on a boat tour, you will be able to visit the wonderful grottoes. There is also a scenic boardwalk from where you can enjoy a magnificent view, and a staircase that leads to the incredible cove. Be enchanted by the beauty and grandeur of this unmissable natural work of art with its sea columns, rock arches formed by wind and sea over thousands of years, and overwhelming grottoes and tunnels.
Walls of Óbidos
Óbidos is a great destination for those who are unable to resist medieval villages. This well-preserved walled town, dominated by a castle, exudes an ancient atmosphere, typical of a village that has a lot of history and stories to tell. The imposing and ancient walls that surround the charming and cozy village of Óbidos were built by the Moors between the 8th and 11th centuries. The walls are about 1.5 kilometers long, and the highest points are about 13 meters high. You can walk along these medieval and quaint walls and also admire a few towers and highlights along the way. Torre do Facho, located in the south of the city walls, is one of the attractions. The main entrance to Óbidos, the Porta da Vila, is also part of this complex. There are several places where you can climb the walls. From here, you will be surprised by a lovely view over the village – it is a great way to get to know the place. Once in Óbidos, you should definitely visit the many churches, stroll through the narrow streets, shop in the small handicraft stores and try the popular liquorish drink “ginjinha”.
If you are looking for some peace and quiet, the Alentejo region is always a good choice. Monsaraz, located on top of a hill, is an airy, calm, medieval, walled village that still retains its ancient magical ambience. To wander through the schist paved streets, while admiring the whitewashed houses with flowered windows, can be a truly peaceful and interesting experience that will take you back in time. As it is located in a hill, it is a great spot to contemplate the Alentejo landscape and the still waters of the Alqueva dam, the largest artificial lake in Europe. Being located on the border, just about 50 kilometers from Évora, it has always been a land with strong military influences, maintaining a defensive role. Monsaraz was conquered from the Moors in 1167, was given to the Order of the Templars and later to the Order of Christ. This historic village seems to have stood still in time - it is one of the oldest villages in Portugal. In Monsaraz, you can admire the imposing walls that surround the cozy village, visit the old castle, stroll through the irregular slate streets, visit the lovely churches, stop at the river beach or explore the small stores. Be sure to admire the many twinkling stars in the night sky - this is one of the highlights of the area. It's easy to see why Monsaraz was named one of Portugal's Seven Wonders, in the “Monument Villages” category!