Tue. Jul 16th, 2024

Portugal can sometimes be a bit of a nightmare when it comes to tourist traps. Crowds of people fill the country’s cities and beaches as tourists search for the most famous and most beautiful places in Portugal. However, Portugal is a diverse and beautiful country that offers a wide range of activities beyond the typical tourist attractions. If you’re looking to experience something off the beaten path and find some quiet places to visit in Portugal, we’re here to help with some non-touristy things to do.

We have headed off the beaten path in Portugal in search of destinations and plans that are great alternatives to the main tourist hotspots, so you can enjoy your sunny days with a bit more peace and quiet and get off the tourist trail. It’s time to discover off the beaten track Portugal, with our recommendations of 9 unique places to visit in Portugal in 2024.

What is the least touristy area in Portugal?

Portugal has many beautiful regions that are less touristy compared to popular destinations like Lisbon, Porto, or the Algarve. The country is full of alternative areas full of history, culture, and charm without the crowds often found in more touristy areas. These are our suggestions:

Leave Sintra and head to Viana do Castelo

Panoramic views of Viana do Castelo / Wikimedia Commons

Panoramic views of Viana do Castelo Wikimedia commons

Sintra is renowned around the world for its colourful castles and unique palaces. Being one of the country’s jewels, named as a World Heritage site by UNESCO and located just 27 kilometres (17 miles) from Lisbon, the summer months are the busiest season in Sintra.

But what you might not know is that in the north of Portugal you can find another city that is arguably just as beautiful: Viana do Castelo. This city is one of the less touristy places in Portugal and is filled with stunning architectural treasures. The most impressive building in Viana do Castelo is the 20th-century Byzantine Santuário de Santa Luzia, looming over the city from its hilltop perch, with panoramic views of both the city centre and coast. Visitors can climb the steps to the church or take a cable car for a scenic round trip where the best of the views can be enjoyed. If you are looking for the perfect souvenir, make sure to check out the unique gold jewellery which is created in the area.

Go to the Azores instead of the Algarve

The beautiful green lands of the Azores

The beautiful green lands of the Azores Pixabay

If you’ve been to the Algarve, then you’ll know that its beaches, while stunning, are usually filled with sunbathing tourists and locals in the summer months. In 2024, trade this famous summer destination for a marvellous, calm and far less populated stay in the Azores. Made up of a total of 9 islands, even the largest island São Miguel is full of tranquil towns and peaceful paradises that are the true definition of alternative Portugal.

The Azores archipelago, located in the Atlantic Ocean, offers stunning natural beauty and a peaceful atmosphere. From hiking to volcanic crater lakes and exploring lava tubes to swimming in natural hot springs, the Azores are full of adventurous things to do in Portugal and provide a wealth of outdoor activities, as well as a chance to immerse yourself in unspoiled nature.

Another advantage of the Azores is the price of food and accommodation which is generally much cheaper than on the mainland. By planning your trip ahead of time, you can discover fantastic deals and enjoy reasonably priced lodging and dining options, without the high expenses typically found in the most touristy areas of Algarve.

Alternative Algarve: Discover Praia da Luz or Sagres

Sunbathing and swimming at Praia da Luz are a great summer plan / Flickr

Sunbathing and swimming at Praia da Luz are a great summer plan / FlickrFlickr

If you just can’t help it and still really want to head to the Algarve, then there are some alternatives to the busiest beaches. A good idea could be moving away from the major tourist and expat areas like Albufeira and Lagos and trying somewhere new.

Sagres, for example, and its neighbouring villages, such as Praia da Luz, in the Vila do Bispo area offer some popular local surfing schools, lots of rugged coastline, rolling waves and natural forest scenery, perfect for outdoors activities. Give alternative Algarve a chance and discover a new, less touristy side to Portugal this summer 2024.

Visit Lisbon and Porto, but don’t leave Coimbra behind

View of Coimbra and the Mondego river

View of Coimbra and the Mondego riverFlickr

Lisbon and Porto are absolute mandatory stops on your tour to get to know Portugal, but if you want to experience a truly authentic Portuguese town, then you must also head to the city of Coimbra.

One city often considered underrated in Portugal is Coimbra. Did you know that it was once the capital of Portugal? With its charming cobbled medieval streets and historic treasures like the burial site of the country’s first two kings, King Alfonso I and King Sancho I in the Monastery of Santa Cruz, Coimbra is also home to the oldest university in Portugal (and one of the oldest in the world), a landmark famous for its history, unique traditions, and beautiful Baroque library (the Biblioteca Joanina).

Fado is just one of the many other surprises awaiting you in Coimbra. Fado is a traditional Portuguese music genre known for its melancholic melodies and heartfelt lyrics. While Lisbon is the most famous place to experience Fado, the city of Coimbra has its own unique style. You can find intimate Fado performances in small bars and restaurants throughout the city.

Buy books at Livraria Academica instead of Livraria Lello

No, it isn't Hogwarts. It's just the good, old Livraria Lello in Oporto

No, it isn’t Hogwarts. It’s just the good, old Livraria Lello in Oporto Wikimedia commons

The Livraria Lello bookshop is one of Porto’s most famous tourist hotspots because of its unique art deco, art nouveau, and Gothic interior, as well as having the bragging rights for being an inspiration for author JK Rowling when writing the Harry Potter books.

With an entrance fee and queues that often stretch down the whole street, this tourist trap, as fascinating as it is, might not be the best place to buy a book in Porto if you are a classic book lover. We recommend heading over to the Livraria Academica in Porto instead, where you will fall in love with classic and rare books without loud crowds.

Discover Portugal’s countryside

Vineyards in the Douro's International Natural Park

Vineyards in the Douro’s International Natural Park Wikimedia commons

When Portugal comes to mind, most immediately envision its cities and beaches, yet little attention is often given to the country’s countryside. To truly veer off the beaten path and immerse oneself in a different experience, consider wandering into the rural landscapes, trekking across mountains, and savouring authentic local cuisine in traditional restaurants.

If you love wine, then you must visit one of Portugal’s many vineyard areas. Head to the Douro Valley to taste locally-produced sweet port (the country’s famous dessert wine), head to Minho for a sip of crisp vinho verde wine, or pay a visit to the Alentejo region, full of rustic vineyards surrounded by cork trees (where a variety of red and white wines are produced).

Portugal also has many other hidden gems to offer in its vast countryside and inland areas. UNESCO has recognised many villages for their role in protecting the country from invasions, and the fortifications are standing memorials that double as unforgettable landmarks. Monsanto, Almeida, and Castelo Novo are just a few of the historic villages in Portugal that we recommend visiting.

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Visit the Convent of Christ instead of the Jerónimos Monastery

The stunning Convent of Christ, in Tomar

The stunning Convent of Christ, in Tomar Flickr

Connected to the Age of Discoveries, and known as the birthplace of pastéis de nata, the Jerónimos Monastery in Lisbon is very popular. It has previously been named one of the most visited monuments in Portugal. However, before standing in long queues and paying a hefty entrance fee, see if you can fit the Convent of Christ in Tomar into your itinerary.

The Jerónimos Monastery is undoubtedly an amazing landmark and a spectacular architectural masterpiece that took 100 years to build, but the Convent of Christ in Tomar (Santarém) is equally impressive and was once the headquarters of the Knights Templar in Portugal. Walk through the castle, church, and gardens where this mysterious group once lived, organised, and changed their identity to the ‘Order of Christ’. Tickets are almost half the price of the Jerónimos Monastery and you’re also much less likely to find large crowds of tourists.

Already been to Nazaré? Head to Figueira da Foz

The beautiful seaside walkway in Figueira da Foz

The beautiful seaside walkway in Figueira da Foz Wikimedia commons

If you have been to the beautiful fishing village of Nazaré in central Portugal, then you will know just how crowded it can get, especially in the summer. Here, the beaches are filled with surfers from all around the world who come to take on the massive waves you can find in one of Portugal’s best surf destinations.

For those seeking tranquillity in Portugal, Figueira da Foz beckons with its vast beaches and gentle waves, fostering a serene ambience. Besides the soothing coastline, surf enthusiasts will find opportunities for tours and championships. Moreover, the city features an extensive promenade perfect for jogging and biking, along with charming seaside eateries offering delightful local seafood. Figueira da Foz presents an enticing option for a rejuvenating summer escape in Portugal in 2024.

Shop at the Mercado do Livramento instead of the Mercado da Ribeira

A traditional vegetable stand at the Mercado do Livramento in Setúbal

A traditional vegetable stand at the Mercado do Livramento in SetúbalWikimedia commons

The Mercado da Ribeira is Lisbon’s most famous food market (and has been since 1892), converted by Time Out Magazine into a food court, as well as having a remote-working space on the upper level.

The Time Out Market in Lisbon offers a unique experience with authentic Portuguese flavours served in many stalls and some of them even belong to Michelin star chefs. The only downside is that the market is pretty much always filled with tourists and can also be a little pricey. However, we have an alternative plan which is sure to make you just as happy: the Mercado do Livramento in Setúbal is about 50 km (31 miles) away and is well worth the drive.

Considered one of the best markets in the country, the long rows of fresh fish and produce are two main magnets that attract residents from different parts of the region, while the spectacular selection of cheese, sausages, olive oil, and other local delicacies will make your mouth water. The market is also found in a beautiful building – the bright orange and red facade is hard to miss, and the traditional azulejo (tile) mosaics inside are the icing on top of the cake in this traditional Portuguese gem.

Source: https://www.idealista.pt/

By Lala