“Straight out of a fairy tale”: the best towns and villages in Portugal, by readers | Portugal vacations
Winning Tip: Tavira, Algarve
Even the coldest atheists cannot fail to be impressed by the 37 churches of Tavira, the small town which, thanks to a slightly inland location, has avoided the overdevelopment of some resorts in the Algarve. And what could be more appropriate than staying in a converted convent – Pousada Convento Tavira – in the city center, where do the ferries leave for the island of Tavira for beach lovers? But it’s hard to get away from the riverside restaurants and bars overlooking the famous Ponte Romana bridge.
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In October, you can feel wood smoke twisting and turning in the crisp morning air above the whitewashed cottages of Aljezur. The old town is a cascade of narrow zigzag streets. They cut through a jumble of buildings – half-chic Airbnbs, half-twisted cottages stacked with gourds and firewood. A Moorish castle – a ubiquitous feature in towns in southern Portugal – rises above. Go there at sunset to watch the light fade over the Aljezur estuary. During the day, cross the wildflower meadows to Arrifana Beach for surfing and sunbathing.
Beautiful historic town, Évora is a living museum with monuments from the Roman era. The landscape is beautiful and surrounded by beautiful villages with, I think, the best wine in the world and typical Alentejo cuisine. It has excellent restaurants and bars as well as several museums and galleries. In summer, temperatures reach 40 ° C but luckily Évora has beautiful swimming pools and several river beaches. There is also a university, founded in 1559; it is truly a cultural city.
Elvas is right next to the Spanish border and has historical significance for Portugal, as many battles between Portugal and Spain have taken place in the region. Sights like the city fortress, the castle, the aqueduct and the army museum struck me as very interesting. The local food is amazing and it’s easy to get a great meal at a reasonable price. Accommodation is affordable even in summer (£ 50-70 a night with breakfast and outdoor pool), the location is ideal for hiking and other outdoor activities and offers the possibility of a day trip. a day in Spain, a few kilometers away.
Piodão, Serra do Açor
There is a small village nestled in the Serra do Açor mountains that looks like a fairy tale. This village is called Piodão and is one of 12 classified as Aldeias Históricas de Portugal – Historic Villages of Portugal. Piódão has been featured in historical accounts since the 14th century and was probably used by medieval fugitives hiding in the Portuguese wild mountains. Indeed, on a rainy day you have to look on the other side of the mountain to see the village emerging from the fog. We went to Piodão on a rainy day and it couldn’t have been more perfect. We loved exploring all the peculiar shale lanes and tasting the local specialties cajadas – milk pies.
Laura Di Stefano
Monsanto, Castelo Branco
Monsanto is a mountain village with houses built in rock formations and a fabulous pousada – hostel – with a superb restaurant. It is an authentic and ancient village where local traditions are still played out in the streets, especially during religious holidays – and it is also a good country for walking. The plains of eastern Portugal stretch to the west and from the castle above the village it looks like you have a view of the whole country. The cost of food and drink is low, even for Portugal, and the bars serve simple local dishes that are as impressive as anything found in more upscale places. A truly magical little town.
James david rattigan
Tomar is truly a hidden gem, home to one of the most important Templar fortresses, which has become the Convento de Cristo, now a Unesco World Heritage Site, because the extraordinary design of the chapel is unique in the world. It is a pleasure to stroll through the cobbled streets and quiet alleys of the old town or to sit in one of the bars in the main square with a view of the fortifications on the hill above. While you’re at it, dive into The Little French for brunch or coffee and delicious pastries sitting in a quiet side street.
Santa Comba Dão, Viseu, central Portugal
Santa Comba Dão is a beautiful little inland town that overlooks the Cris River where it joins the Dão, before the Dão joins the Mondego. The local granite buildings are accompanied by a beautifully formed wooden walkway through the old town. The center of the local municipality, it offered a summer retreat for the wealthy. Now the local equipment of the cycle path, the Ecopista de Dão, and the beautiful beach of Ribeira da Senhora on the Mondego river are accessible to all.
After having traversed almost all of Portugal at the end of the summer, it is the picturesque Aveiro that has the most surprises in store. It was in this historic canal town, sometimes considered the “Portuguese Venice”, that we discovered Art Nouveau buildings, vast unspoiled beaches lined with striped houses in distinctive colors (originally huts built by fishermen. local) and a range of dining options (try the traditional egg candy ovos moles) including vegetarian / vegan, sometimes a rarity elsewhere in the country. Much like Venice, there is much to discover beyond just gliding down the canals – in this case in a moliceiro, not a gondola.
Considering its claim to be the “cradle of Portugal”, it is strange that Guimarães is not part of the regular tourist route. 55 minutes by train from Porto and 10 minutes on foot you will reach the old town, with its elegant and sober buildings, its quiet streets where people bring their kitchen chairs to the sidewalk to chat, the royal monasteries, the palaces and the general relaxed atmosphere of a small Portuguese town that does not display its treasures. A gondola provides an easy route up Penha Hill, a huge area of forest and gigantic boulders, with a remarkable mid-20th century church drawing crowds on feast days and Catholic festivals. From there, the views over the plains to the north are spectacular.