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20 Hidden Gems in Portugal You Won't Want to Miss

Are you looking for off-the-beaten-track places to visit in Portugal? This post covers 20 hidden gems in Portugal to make your itinerary unique.

Each year, Portugal becomes more and more popular with tourists. As visitor numbers rise, many are looking for Portuguese hidden gems to add to their itineraries.

In this post, I share my favorite hidden gems in Portugal based on my personal travel experiences. 

Whether you are staying in Portugal for one week, 10 days, or longer, get off the beaten track and add a few of these out of the way places to your Portugal itinerary.

Mosteiro da Batalha

Hidden Gems in the Algarve

Let's start in the South of Portugal in the Algarve. These towns will definitely take you off the well trodden tourist trail.

1. Alvor

This town in the Algarve boasts an extensive boardwalk through sand dunes, making it an ideal destination for hiking and birdwatching. Alvor town is small enough for a 30-minute stroll to appreciate the quality of its doors (I'm a big fan of door photography as my regular readers know).

Boardwalk through the sand dunes in Alvor

2. Vila Real de Santo António (VRSA)

Located on the Algarve's far eastern edge near the Spanish border, this town features Portugal's largest nativity scene and a charming Christmas market in December. Visitors can also enjoy birdwatching on the nearby salt pans and modern art sculptures along the Esteiro da Carrasqueira.

Lighthouse in Vila Real de Santo Antonio

3. Monte Gordo

Situated near VRSA, this town provides a unique experience with rooftop bars offering sunset views over the Atlantic. In the evenings, fishing boats with brightly colored flags line the beaches.

Fishing boats on the beach in Monte Gordo

4. Carvoeiro

This town serves as a perfect base for exploring Algar Seco, a series of limestone grottoes and rock formations. Carvoeiro itself is a 10-minute walk from the Tivoli Carvoeiro Algarve resort, although the hilly terrain requires some stamina.

Limestone cliffs by the sea in Carvoeiro

✨ Explore things to do in the Algarve to add to your itinerary.

Hidden Gems in Central Portugal

Now let's move on to Central Portugal. This is my favorite place to do a Portugal road trip. You'll find an array of amazing towns, less visited cities, and small aldeias no more than 1-2 hours by car apart from one another.

5. Coimbra

This historic university city in Central Portugal provides a convenient stopover between Lisbon and Porto. Visitors can explore the historic university buildings, wander the pedestrianized Rua Visconde da Luz, and discover hidden architectural gems like Igreja de Santa Cruz.

View of Coimbra from a bridge over the river

✨ Spend a day in Coimbra

6. Aveiro

Often called the "Venice of Portugal," Aveiro offers colorful moliceiro boat rides along its canals and stunning Art Nouveau architecture. Visitors can also explore Costa Nova with its iconic striped houses and the potential for flamingo sightings.

3 Art Nouveau doors in Aveiro

✨ Explore how to spend a weekend in Aveiro

7. Castelo Branco

Castelo Branco is a lesser-known destination in Central Portugal that offers a unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty, making it a hidden gem for travelers seeking an authentic Portuguese experience.

Castelo Branco is an ideal anchor for exploring the surrounding region, which includes charming villages, historic towns, and scenic hiking trails. While Castelo Branco itself can be explored in a day, its proximity to the A23 motorway makes it a good home base to explore other destinations in Central Portugal.

Public square decorated with streamers in Castelo Branco

8. Alcongosta

Home to the annual Festa da Cereja (Cherry Festival), this small village comes alive with cherry-themed festivities in June. Visitors can enjoy traditional music, dance, food, and, of course, delicious cherries.

Calçadas portuguesas in the form of cherries in Alcongosta

9. Monsanto

Monsanto is a village that was once voted the most Portuguese village in Portugal in the 1930s. It is about an hour's drive from both Castelo Branco and Alcongosta. 

Many of the stone buildings in Monsanto incorporate boulders into their walls and roofs. Above the village are castle ruins which are reachable by a steep and treacherous path.

Hilltop town of Monsanto

✨ Get to know Castelo Branco and the surrounding area

10. Batalha

This village is dominated by the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mosteiro da Batalha, a breathtaking 14th-century monastery. Visitors can marvel at the intricate architecture, stained glass windows, and the monastery's historical significance.

Ornate tower at Mosteiro de Batalha

Visit Batalha

Hidden Gems in Northern Portugal

Let's move on to the North of Portugal. Here you'll find some amazing hidden gems just a stone's throw from Porto.

11. Vila Nova de Gaia

Situated across the Douro River from Porto, this town offers stunning views of Porto's Old Town and is home to WOW (Porto's World of Wine Experience). Vila Nova de Gaia is also conveniently located for visiting Porto's historic port houses and offers great dining options.

View of Porto from Vila Nova de Gaia

✨ Explore Vila Nova de Gaia

12. Matosinhos

Although technically a suburb of Porto, Matosinhos provides a unique collection of attractions that set it apart as a destination. In addition to its convenient access from the Porto Airport and city center, Matosinhos offers visitors seaside relaxation, coastal walks, and traditional Portuguese seafood. 

Matosinhos is an ideal place to enjoy classic Portuguese architecture, affordable cafes, and the natural beauty of the Atlantic Coast.

Roiling ocean and boardwalk near Matosinhos

✨ Find out why Matosinhos is worth visiting

13. Braga

As Portugal's oldest city, Braga boasts over 2,000 years of history and a relaxed atmosphere without the tourist crowds of other large Portuguese cities. Visitors can immerse themselves in Portuguese culture during the Festas de São João de Braga in June or explore the city's well-preserved historic center.

Jardim de Santa Barbara in Braga

14. Barcelos

Home to Portugal's famous rooster mascot, this town near Braga features the region's largest open-air market on Thursdays. Visitors can enjoy a traditional Portuguese atmosphere and explore local crafts.

Portugal's rooster mascot in Barcelos

15. Viana do Castelo 

This coastal town, favored by expats, offers a laid-back vibe and charming narrow streets perfect for a relaxing photo walk. Visitors can enjoy fresh seafood and soak in the authentic Portuguese vibes.

Doors in Viana do Castelo

16. Ponte de Lima

Known for its historic bridge (dating back to medieval and Roman times) and picturesque setting, Ponte de Lima provides a tranquil escape. Visitors can enjoy scenic walks along the Lima River and discover traditional Portuguese architecture.

Fountain and facades in Ponte de Lima

17. Guimarães 

This historic city, a short drive from Porto, boasts a medieval core and a well-preserved castle. Visitors can wander the cobbled streets, explore the historic center, and enjoy traditional Portuguese cuisine.

Buildings behind blue and green tables and chairs in Guimarães

✨ Explore Braga and the surrounding towns

Hidden Gems in Alentejo

Let's finish in Alentejo, the largest wine region in Portugal. I love to rent a car and drive around Alentejo, taking time to explore beautiful landscapes and lovely small towns along the way.

18. Mourão 

Situated on the shores of Alqueva Lake, Mourão provides stunning views, especially at sunrise and sunset. Visitors can enjoy a peaceful retreat, savor traditional Alentejo cuisine, and explore the tranquil lakeside.

Gnarled trees along Alqueva Lake in Alentejo

19. Beja

This small Alentejo city, with a rich history dating back to pre-Roman times, offers charming streets and Instagram-worthy doors. Visitors can explore the Castelo de Beja, a well-preserved Gothic fortress, and immerse themselves in the town's authentic atmosphere.

View of Beja from Castelo de Beja

20. Reguengos de Monsaraz 

This town near Alqueva Lake offers a striking church tower, local craft shops, and a relaxed vibe. Visitors can enjoy exploring the town's historic center, sample local Alentejo wines, and soak in the traditional Portuguese lifestyle. 

If you are feeling ambitious, drive up the hill to Monsaraz, a historic village with spectacular views of the Alentejo countryside.

Blue and white Art Nouveau facade in Reguengos de Monsaraz

✨ Explore these Alentejo hidden gems and more on a road trip to Alqueva Lake

***

There you have it: 20 hidden gems in Portugal to sprinkle into your vacation itinerary. And don't forget...if you enjoyed this post, sharing is caring...

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Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog: 20 Hidden Gems in Portugal You Won't Want to Miss
20 Hidden Gems in Portugal You Won't Want to Miss
Are you looking for off-the-beaten-track places to visit in Portugal? This post covers 20 hidden gems in Portugal to make your itinerary unique.
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Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog
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