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The museums of Lisbon celebrate the rich history and culture of this Portuguese capital city. The Maritime Museum is perfect for kids (and grown-ups!) who adore all things nautical, while the Casa-Museu Dr. Anastácio Gonçalves is a hidden gem of colorful artwork. To fully appreciate the city’s dramatic stone architecture you can take a guided walking tour, or customize your own tour, making sure to visit the Padrao dos Descobrimentos, the Mosteiro dos Jeronimos, and the UNESCO World Heritage site the Torre de Belem.
Breezy Madeira is an eponymous island in the Madeira Islands, a Portuguese archipelago. The capital city of Funchal was settled in the 15th century and is a colorful collection of gardens, religious sites, and quirky tourist attractions like the thatched-roof Madeira Story Centre. Hike to the summit of Pico Ruivo and you’ll feel like you’ve climbed through the clouds. Unwind over a glass of Madeira wine, an historic fortified beverage that’s musky and subtly sweet.
There are lots of beach types, and with 20 very different beaches to choose from, Albufeira delights them all. Hugging the coast in Portugal’s southern Algarve region, this prime vantage point showcases sparkling white houses with Moorish flair, breathtaking multi-hued cliffs, and old fortress remnants that ground modern amenities with a charming historical flair.
The town that gave the country (and port wine) its very name, Porto is Portugal’s second-largest metropolis after Lisbon. Sometimes called Oporto, it's an age-old city that has one foot firmly in the industrial present. The old town, centered at Ribeira, was built on the hills overlooking the Douro River, and today is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The 14th-century São Francisco church is a main attraction, as are the local port wine cellars, mostly located across the river at Vila Nova de Gaia.
Portimao is a sailor’s delight, thanks to its calm waters and beautiful conditions. Plenty of elite international competitions happen here, but you don’t have to be a professional to set sail. Cruising the coast on the double-masted Santa Bernarda pirate ship is a family favorite. On dry land, you can wander the lovely Alvor boardwalk, enjoy a succulent seafood meal or zip around the go-kart track at the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve.
There is rich and beautiful history within Lagos’ 14th century walls, from its fortress to picturesque churches like Medieval São João Hermitage and the 17th-century São Sebastião. But that’s all appetizer. People come here for a main-course coastal buffet featuring more than a half-dozen beautiful beaches. Quiet sandy coves are sandwiched between dramatic cliffs. The sandy 2.5-mile stretch of Meia Praia caters to every water sport imaginable. And when you’ve had your fill, you can digest your day with some of the best nightlife in the Algarve region.
A coastal town just 20 miles west of Lisbon, Cascais was once a small fishing village, but its idyllic scenery attracted the attention of artists, writers and expelled European nobility in the 20th century. Today, it still attracts high society, but all society comes in force to enjoy the gorgeous beaches and adventure options like sailing and surfing. The Conde de Castro Guimarães Museum, a former palace, is now open to the public and displays an impressive collection of art and artifacts.
Long the home of Portugal’s monarchs, Sintra is a magnificent town of marvelous historic mansions, all set against the backdrop of lush hills. Sintra’s many castles include the Palácio Nacional de Sintra (a main abode of Portuguese royalty until the early 20th century), the hilltop and storybook Palácio da Pena, Quinta de Regaleira (incorporating several architectural styles and with gorgeous surrounding gardens), the Castelo dos Mouros (Moorish Castle), and the Palácio de Monserrate.
Time seems to stand still in Evora, a well-preserved medieval town that features protective walls, a 13th-century cathedral, several palaces,and a 1st-century Roman temple. No surprise that the town center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Even though it’s kind of creepy, don’t miss the Chapel of Bones, where the remains of nuns and monks are arranged in a haunting mosaic.