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Most Instagrammable Places in Portugal

Posted on 17 Apr 2023

O Tejo é mais belo que o rio que corre pela minha aldeia, 

Mas o tejo não mais belo que o rio que corre pela minha aldeia 

Porque o tejo não é o rio que corre pela minha aldeia... 

O rio da minha aldeia não faz pensar em nada. 

Quem está ao pé dele está só ao pé dele. 


The Tagus is more beautiful than the river that flows through my village, 

But the Tagus is no more beautiful than the river that runs through my village 

Because the Tagus is not the river that runs through my village... 

The river in my village doesn't make you think of anything. 

Anyone who is close to him is only close to him. 


Above is a beautifully simplistic poem by the famous Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa. It’s just a snippet of his ode to the river that flows through his village, and what is so beautiful about this poem is that it’s a perfect example of how people see the beauty in things. How they find a special connection and meaning with a place. A moment in time, a small river that runs through their town, or a gangly willow tree in the field behind their house.  

There are endless beautiful places across the globe, and Portugal is no exception. But perhaps you’ve never added this wonderful country to your travel list and that truly is a missed opportunity. From coastlines to rich wine, Portugal is one of the sunniest countries in the world, drawing adventurers and holiday-goers for many years.  

And some of you will be passionate photographers. Perhaps you have invested lots of time and money in the best camera out there, or perhaps you love experimenting with film, or simply using your mobile phone is enough for you. There’s something about getting that shot. The one that brings a smile to your face, not just because it reminds you of a wonderful or wacky or intense moment, but because of the skill in capturing it. Fridge magnets are all well-and-good but only if it’s sticking a photo from your trip to the fridge. Right?   

Personally, we say go with your gut when taking photos. Sometimes you’re wandering down an alley or along a cliff edge and your feet crash to a stop, your eyes locking on a moment. The way a tree branch curves over a field, the way the sun catches on the water, the angle of the buildings towering over you.  

Portugal is a country full of textures. The golden burn of the Douro Valley hills in the afternoon sun, viewed through your haze of a glass or two of port wine. The shine of azulejos tiles along a forgotten backstreet somewhere in Porto. The delicate intricacies carved into the façade of a building so old and once so important.  

Next you find yourself in Portugal, keep your eyes peeled for these famous locations. They may just catch your eye. 

1. Aveiro

There’s something fun about Aveiro. It’s like walking into a LEGO store, colours splashed across buildings and walkways, gondolas and benches. The lagoon glistens in the sunlight and glows in the moonlight. Yes, this is “the Venice of Portugal”, and well worth you and your camera’s time.

But unlike Venice, with its haunting labyrinth of streets and crumbling facades, Aveiro is like the fun-loving younger sibling. Easily day-trip-able from the city of Porto, Aveiro is one of those places with a dreamy appeal yet bursting with energy.  


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2. Tavira

Stripped of colour but not of passion, the coastal city of Tavira is a hub of whitewashed buildings and stretches of sand and sea.

For those of you who love snapping pictures of dramatic architecture, a little bit damaged and a lot historic, then Tavira is your spot. A whiff of sea lingers in the air, luring you to the local restaurants for a seafood lunch. But your camera won’t rest, since everything calls for attention here.  

3. Azulejos

Its name alone stands out. The strong z and j, the rolling u and s. Azulejos are the traditional white and blue ceramic tiles that Portugal is known for. Forget bricks and sandstone, these tiles are scattered about the country, decorating buildings, adorning the entrances of homes, and adding a little beauty back into the landscape.

You’ll be able to see these stunning decorations across the country, but some of the best places to see (and photograph) them in Porto are at the Capela das Almas, the São Bento Railway Station, and the Church of Saint Ildefonso. Just to name a few.  


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4. Livaria Lello

Why photograph one world when you can photograph hundreds? Because that’s what a book is. A whole world, whether ours or one of fiction, bound between the covers. And the city of Porto is home to one of the most stunning collections of worlds.

The Livraria Lello is often called the most beautiful bookstore in the world. We’ll let you decide if you agree or not. But what cannot be denied is that its interior is a twisting chamber of golden hues.  


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5. Palácio da Pena, Sintra

Are you ready to step into a dream? Sintra is a fairytale come to life. And sitting high up among the cotton ball clouds is the Palácio da Pena.

This multi-coloured palace was where the royal family would come to during summer to escape the city heat. It’s referred to as “the jewel in the crown of the artist king”, and the jewel of Sintra overlooks this magical little town as if standing guard.   

6. Quinta da Regaleria, Sintra

If you’ve ever read or watched The Secret Garden, well... the Quinta da Regaleria is where this book would have been set had it been in Portugal. The ‘secret garden’ is filled with exotic plants and vegetation, spiral staircases like grand twisted seashells, labyrinths and small temples, a looming cave beneath, and statues to stand guard. And the gothic castle looks like it stepped right out of Rapunzel. 

7. Torre de Belém, Lisbon

Once a fortress, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Torre de Belém could stand guard over us any day. This tower once served as both a fortress and a port from which brave Portuguese explorers set off on their journeys across the sea to trade with the likes of China and India. It has stood for over 500 years, a beacon of Portuguese history. 

8. Cascais

You know those dreamy moments? Walking down a sandstone path, the soft scraping of your sandals underfoot, the pulse of summer heat all around you, the muted screech of white birds with large appetites, the sunlight buffeted by the gently swaying palm trees. That’s Cascais.

Once upon a time, it was a summer retreat for Portuguese nobility, but today this traditional fishing town has lured in the greater world. So why not wander down one of its cobbled streets towards a beach-side bar, sip at that cocktail and watch the sun blend into the ocean?


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9. Praia da Ursa, Sintra

To call it a ‘maritime beach’ is so unromantic. Praia da Ursa is pounding waves and truculent rock faces. It’s inspiration and determination all in one.

Found at the bottom of a steep, winding path, which in turn is at the end of a lonely dirt road, this seldom-crowded beach is dominated by an iconic rock formation that will steal the spotlight. Whether from down on the sand, or up on high, your attention will be rewarded. 

10. Miradouro de Santa Luzia, Lisbon

What is it about terraces and balconies? Were they forever romanticized by Romeo and Juliet? Or perhaps engulfed by the passion of a chivalrous knight coming to rescue his damsel in distress? And then there’s the view. Whether a quiet garden at night, or a sweeping vista of a blue-eyed ocean, it’s those views we come for.

The Miradouro de Santa Luzia has a panoramic view of Lisbon that would make all other balconies feel shame. Whether you come for the view, a photo, or perhaps a romantic moment with a loved one, it’s well worth the trip. 

11. Évora

Évora went big. It didn’t limit itself to being just one thing. And no matter your taste in history, we know you’ll find something to love in Évora. Its architectural flare changes with nearly every step, from Gothic to Renaissance, Manueline to Neoclassical, Mannerist to Baroque. Because of this, it’s considered a city-museum and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1986. You might also like visiting one of the town’s most prominent landmarks, the Roman Temple of Évora. 

12. Mosteiro de Alcobaça

Better flex that vocabulary of yours, because repeatedly saying the word “wow” might end up sounding like nonsense after the first dozen times. This angelic monastery can be found tucked away in the city of Alcobaça in central Portugal. We have Portugal’s first king, Alfonso I, to thank for its medieval divinity. Stark and bold on the outside, the inside is far softer but no less dramatic.  

13. Capela do Senhor da Pedra, Porto

When was the last time you went to church? Whenever it was, we can bet it wasn’t anything like this absolute dream. Capela do Ssenhor da Pedra is on the ultimate unending beach holiday.

This oceanfront chapel is perched on a cluster of rocks with the best view of the sun, sky, and sand. Back before this chapel was claimed by Christians, the Chapel of the Lord of Stone was a site of ancient pagan worship.  


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14. Guimaraes 

Welcome to the birthplace of Portugal. Back in 1109, the first king of Portugal, Afonso Henriques, was born in this roam-worthy medieval town. The narrow winding streets of the historical centre are a car-free zone, so grab those cameras and a snack (because, why not?) and wander to your heart's content.  

15. Douro Valley

Time for your wine-happy-dance. Don’t have one? Time to perfect it. With the beauty that’s surrounding you in this region, you might as well start calling it the enchanted valley. While you sip on your third or fourth wine (because ‘wine’ not?), you’re surrounded by glistening water and sloping hills. The only question you need ask yourself is: which wine to start with? Tinta Roriz? Touriga Francesca? Tinta Cao?  

So much of Portugal is worthy of a photo. Grab yourself a glass of port wine, or a delicious Portuguese Tart, and watch the sun set over the Douro Valley. Explore the history-filled streets of Porto, Lisbon, Sintra... make sure you clear space on your camera’s SD card. And if you need to study up a bit more before you head to Portugal, check out our blogs on Porto and the cities and villages of Portugal.

Maybe we’ll even see you on a small-group tour there soon. There’s something to be said for sitting in a comfortable seat among strangers and new friends, listening to stories about history, landscapes, cities, fables, and facts from your driver-guide. We’re not about just dropping you in a place and leaving you to your own devices. No. We arm you with the best stories of the region, and guide you to the best places, some more popular and others a little off the beaten track.

After all, that’s what travel’s all about. 

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