Which are the most beautiful villages in Portugal? The big cities may be popular and well-known but it is often those charming small towns and enchanting villages that truly fill your soul and take your breath away.
We have spent several months traveling around Portugal and exploring everything this captivating country has to offer. From ancient stone villages in the mountains to picturesque fishermen’s towns, these are the most beautiful villages in Portugal.
In this blog post, you will find the most charming villages and small towns in Portugal with descriptions, photos, and locations on the map, so you can choose your favorites and add them to your Portugal travel itinerary! Happy exploring!
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1. Costa Nova – fishermen’s village with the famous candy-striped houses
Costa Nova is one of the most beautiful villages in Portugal famous for its iconic candy-striped houses. The traditional houses can be seen lining the waterside promenade in Costa Nova village near Aveiro city in Northern Portugal.
These striped houses are actually called ‘palheiros’ and originally were built by the local fishermen as warehouses to store their fishing equipment. Later they were redesigned and today some of them host restaurants, but others are actual residential properties.
Costa Nova village is located 10 kilometers from Aveiro – one of the most beautiful cities in Portugal often regarded as the Venice of Portugal. Aveiro has water canals winding through the city where you can ride in special boats, similar to those in Venice, Italy.
Visiting these houses is one of the best things to do in Aveiro. If you visit Aveiro, don’t forget to go on a gondola boat ride in Barcos Moliceiros, taste the traditional Ovos moles de Aveiro, admire the Art Nouveau facades, and tie a ribbon at the Friendship Bridge!
2. Monsanto – the most Portuguese village in Portugal
Stone caves and houses built above or under large boulders – this is the mysterious stone village of Monsanto! Voted as the most Portuguese village in Portugal this ancient village attracts plenty of visitors who crave a feeling of stepping back in time.
Some of the best things to do in Monsanto village include climbing up to the 12th-century Castle of Monsanto, visiting boulder caves and boulder houses, as well as tasting the famous cherry pastel de nata – pastel de cereja.
The village got extra fame after the well-known TV series House of the Dragon filmed a couple of scenes right in this village. Namely, they filmed Daemon and Rhaenyra’s wedding here on a foggy day as well as Rhaenyra’s coronation.
Probably my favorite thing to do in Monsanto was hunting the best viewpoints. The village sits on a hilltop 763 meters (2,503 ft) above sea level offering panoramic views over the surrounding area. We saw the most beautiful sunset here!
Monsanto is located deep into the inland of Portugal about a 2h 45min drive from Lisbon. It is the perfect destination to include in your Portugal road trip itinerary! Monsanto is one of Portugal’s best-kept secrets and very much worth a visit!
Monsanto is small and gets very busy during the day so I would recommend arriving here in the evening, staying the night there (this is where we stayed) and then exploring the village the next morning before the tourist buses arrive!
3. Sintra – one of the most magical places on Earth
Sintra is a small town near Lisbon featuring some of the most popular tourist attractions in Portugal. With its fairytale castles, colorful buildings, beautiful gardens, and spectacular views Sintra tops the list of the best Lisbon day trips!
The most famous places to visit in Sintra include the fairytale Pena Palace, the medieval Moorish Castle, the romanticist Palace of Monserrate, and the majestic Quinta da Regaleira with the famous Initiation Well – an inverted tower with a spiral staircase.
Sintra Old Town also features an important landmark palace – Sintra National Palace which is regarded as the oldest palace in Portugal and the best-preserved medieval residence of Portuguese royalty. It is one of the most beautiful palaces near Lisbon.
Because Sintra is located just a short drive away from Lisbon (30 minutes by car and 40 minutes by train), the Sintra day trip is written in basically every Lisbon bucket list and it gets very crowded, especially during peak season (late spring-summer-early fall).
If you want to experience Sintra through a guided tour from Lisbon, I recommend the Sintra highlights tour that will take you to three of my favorite palaces – Pena Palace, Quinta da Regaleira, and the Palace of Monserrate.
However, Sintra is easy to explore on your own. If possible, I recommend spending two days in Sintra! It is a popular destination for a reason – Sintra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site packed full of some of the most beautiful places to visit in Portugal.
I recommend staying somewhere in the Sintra Historic Center (we stayed in Villas de Cintra) and exploring as many places as you can. You can read about the best things to do in Sintra here. You can easily get to all the places by bus, by taxi or by tuk-tuk.
You can also hike, but some distances are quite significant – Pena Palace will be a 60-minute uphill hike from the Sintra train station. We mostly went by bus or by taxi and then sometimes walked back (downhill walking was much faster and easier, haha).
Of all the picturesque villages and towns in Portugal, Sintra has to be the most beautiful. Portuguese royalty has favored this place since the Middle Ages and even today as the current claimant to the now defunct Portuguese throne still lives in Sintra. It’s a magical place!
Location: Sintra Old Town
4. Azenhas do Mar – the most beautiful seaside village in Portugal
This iconic view of Azenhas do Mar, one of the most beautiful small towns in Portugal, is an unforgettable place you have to see with your own eyes! The town is situated a 40-minute drive away from Lisbon – excellent for an easy day trip from Lisbon.
Azenhas do Mar name translates from Portuguese as ‘Watermills of the Sea’. The magical small town is the best place for watching the sunset in the Atlantic Ocean which is exactly what we did when we visited this place.
The town that originated as a fishing village has now grown into a seaside resort featuring Mediterranean-style whitewashed houses with terracotta roofs. It is now famous for its picturesque landscape with houses sitting on the majestic seaside cliff.
Viewpoints situated on the seaside cliff offer some of the most beautiful views you can see in Portugal. I recommend stopping by Miradouro das Azenhas do Mar viewpoint to enjoy the fantastic views of the town as well as the beach below with its iconic rock pool.
5. Ferragudo – the most colorful village in Algarve
Ferragudo is a small fishermen’s village near Portimão in Algarve, South of Portugal. White houses, narrow streets, stairs, blooming trees, and charming pots full of flowers and plants make it one of the best villages to visit in Algarve.
The old part of Ferragudo village has many picturesque corners. You might just want to simply stroll around! We particularly enjoyed Dr. Luiz António dos Santos Street in Ferragudo – a narrow street with colorful houses and flowers hanging over the narrow path.
Ferragudo village also has a lovely golden-sand beach. It is nice for swimming or sunbathing, however, my favorite part of the beach was those multiple sea caves that you can access quite easily with dry feet.
We also stopped to have a meal at one of the best brunch and breakfast places in Algarve located here in Ferragudo – Brunch in Rio. You can get nice pancakes, poke bowls, bruschettas as well as smoothie bowls and bagels. I loved it!
6. Óbidos – Town of the Queens
The medieval Óbidos is one of the most beautiful towns in Portugal. Referred to as the ‘Town of the Queens’ this place introduces you to medieval architecture through its narrow cobblestone streets, squares, walls, and the medieval castle.
We visited this small medieval town in the middle of summer exploring the main attractions of Óbidos including Óbidos Castle, Rua Direita shopping street, walked around the city walls, and tried the famous Óbidos chocolate!
Óbidos Castle is one of the most famous medieval castles in Portugal and is among the Seven Wonders of Portugal. However, my favorite place there was the Porta da Vila gate with the beautiful Portuguese tiles – azulejos (see photo above)!
The whole of Óbidos is encircled by massive defensive castle walls. The best part about it is that you can walk around the town walls like a town guard a couple of centuries ago! The perimeter of the walls reaches more than 1500 meters (nearly a mile).
Fun fact! Óbidos Castle is part of a hotel network in Portugal called ‘Pousadas de Portugal’ where historic state-owned buildings (like castles and palaces) are turned into hotels. So you cannot actually visit the castle as a tourist unless you book a stay there.
Some of the must-try things in Óbidos include the local Ginja de Óbidos – a Portuguese liqueur made of sour cherries, sugar, and usually cinnamon. In Óbidos they serve it inside small cups made of chocolate, so you can eat and drink it all at once!
Another thing not to miss in Óbidos is local chocolate. Óbidos even hosts an International Chocolate Festival that has taken place in Spring every year since 2002. It is when the whole town turns into a big festival and celebration of chocolate!
Location: Castelo de Óbidos
7. Burgau – the Portuguese Santorini
White-washed houses with blue doors and flower-covered roofs, tiny streets, cute cafés, and ocean air. Burgau village in Algarve – also named the Portuguese Santorini – is one of the most picturesque Portuguese villages you will find.
Burgau was voted the quaintest beachside village in Europe by the readers of the Lonely Planet. The tiny village with cobbled streets is the ideal place to go to escape crowds and enjoy those small-town vibes by the beach.
Definitely check out Love Burgau café (they have amazing breakfasts, pizzas, smoothies, cocktails, and so on) and other local restaurants for a tasty meal in one of the most enchanting fishing villages in Portugal.
Because of its small size (the village has about 250 residents), Burgau has this family atmosphere around it where everyone knows each other. It is the right place to go to get away from the buzz of the major cities.
8. Peniche – water sports enthusiasts’ paradise
Peniche is a coastal town known for its long sandy beaches, Peniche fortress, and one of the hidden gems in Portugal – the Berlengas Islands just off the coast of Peniche. It is the Westernmost town in mainland Portugal and Europe.
A boat trip to the Berlengas Islands is a must when visiting Peniche. They are known for crystal clear waters – people enjoy the beaches as well as cliff jumping here. The most famous tourist attraction on the Berlengas Islands is Fort of São João Baptista.
This fort is a military defensive structure. The octagon-shaped fort was built from the remains of an old monastery that was abandoned due to regular pirate attacks. It was constructed during the 17th century.
How to get to the Berlengas Islands?
To get there, you need to buy a round-trip ticket to Berlengas online (this is the one we went with) for the exact time you wish to go. You will have about 3 hours to spend on the island before the ferry departs back to Peniche.
Before the trip, you have to register on berlengaspass.icnf.pt and obtain a Berlengas Pass by paying a tourist tax for visiting the archipelago. It costs 3 EUR per person, but you must do it before your trip.
On the day of your trip, you have to drive to the port of Peniche. They have a paid parking lot right next to the ferry that goes to the Berlengas Islands. You have to arrive about 30 minutes before departure.
Bring some snacks, drinks, comfortable shoes, and sunscreen. There is little shade on the island. Some of the paths are not paved. The fort is located 1 kilometer from the port so it will be a bit of a hike with some vertical meters as well. Totally worth it!
9. Piódão – one of the Historical Villages of Portugal
Piódão is a small village hidden in the Serra do Açor mountains in Portugal. Piodão with its 120 inhabitants is labeled as one of the historic villages in Portugal – ancient urban areas that were founded before the Portuguese nation itself.
Piódão is also known as one of the schist villages in Portugal. Schist is a form of metamorphic rock typical in the Serra do Açor mountains. Every house, every wall, and every narrow street in this mountain village is made of small pieces of schist! So unique!
There are a couple of schist villages in Portugal in this area, but Piódão is probably the most famous one of all. Schist was used as it was a cheap option – the abundance of this material that was available for free was enough of a reason to use it everywhere!
Piódão is very small and you only need an hour to see everything this place has to offer. It is perfect for nature lovers as the scenic access roads lead through the mountains. If you seek lost places and unique experiences, this is the place for you.
Location: Historical Village of Piódão
10. Carvoeiro – Algarve’s picturesque fishing village
Carvoeiro is a dreamy and picturesque tiny town in Algarve, Southern Portugal. It is the perfect place for a relaxed holiday with white houses, golden sand beaches, and steep cliffs surrounding it from the ocean winds and waves.
The best way to enjoy Carvoeiro is by visiting its sandy beaches – Carvoeiro Beach and Paradise Beach, trying local cuisine, walking the famous Carvoeiro Broadwalk, and visiting the iconic Algar Seco and Boneca’s Cave.
Carvoeiro Broadwalk is a 600-meter-long wooden walkway along the coastal cliffs – perfect for an easy hike! It has information boards along the route with facts and additional explanations about the formation of coastal rocks and the unique area.
Along the walk, you can explore Algar Seco – a rocky area at the coastline in Carvoeiro full of different and unique rock formations including rock pools, caves, arches, tunnels, and more. One of the main attractions in this area is Boneca’s Cave.
Boneca’s cave translates as the Doll’s cave as the cave has two oval holes looking out to the ocean. Apparently, the holes look like a doll’s eyes (if you look at them from the ocean). There is a narrow tunnel leading to the ‘doll’s eyes’.
11. Nazaré – a seaside town with the giant waves
Nazaré is a picturesque seaside town in Portugal and home to the biggest wave ever surfed as noted by the Guinness World Records. It is located 1h 20 min drive North from Lisbon. We spent two days in Nazaré however one day is also quite enough.
Some of the best things to do in Nazaré small town include enjoying golden-sand Praia da Nazaré beach, stopping by São Miguel Arcanjo fort – THE place for watching the huge waves, the unique dried fish open-air exhibit, and the panoramic seaside viewpoints.
When is the world record big wave season? Typically wintertime – from late October to early March. You can check webcams from Nazaré and big wave updates here. If you visit during the summer months, you are likely to see a more or less flat ocean.
Nazaré is the perfect destination for a day trip from Lisbon especially if you are looking for a relaxing place to enjoy those slow beach days and golden sand. The golden sand beach stretches far and wide and there’s plenty of room for everyone to enjoy!
12. Marvão – one of ‘1000 places to see before you die’
Marvão is one of Portugal’s most beautiful medieval villages sitting 860 meters above sea level on a large quartzite rock in the Serra de São Mamede mountains in Eastern Portugal. It is located near the Spanish border a 2h 30min drive Northeast of Lisbon.
The village earned significant attention after it was listed in the #1 New York Times bestselling book ‘1000 places to see before you die‘. With more than a thousand years of history, this village is a mystical place to discover and is definitely worth visiting.
Marvão is a fortress with big stone walls completely surrounding the ancient village. Once you step inside the fortification, you are thrown back to the medieval times with stone houses and those cobblestone narrow streets.
The most famous attraction in Marvão is the Castle of Marvão – a well-preserved medieval castle dating back to the 8th century. You can access the castle’s walls, defensive towers, and courtyards for an entrance fee of 1.5 EUR.
Location: Castle of Marvão
13. Castelo de Vide – Sintra of Alentejo region
Just a stone’s throw away from Marvão is another iconic village hidden in the Serra de São Mamede mountain range – Castelo de Vide. It is one of the most beautiful hilltop villages sitting 550 meters above sea level.
Thanks to its natural riches, proximity to the mountains, and the beautiful surrounding landscape this village is often referred to as Sintra do Alentejo or Sintra of the Alentejo region.
The main attraction here is the medieval Castle of Castelo de Vide. It is situated in the heart of the tiny town and is the perfect spot to see Castelo de Vide from above. Entrance to the castle is free, but it has opening hours.
The best part is that you can actually climb up to the roof of the castle’s defensive tower and get a great overview of the natural beauty of this place. I wasn’t sure, but I think we even saw the Castle of Marvão in the distance from the rooftop!
Location: Castelo de Vide
14. Monsaraz – one of the oldest settlements in southern Portugal
Monsaraz is a village in Évora district near the border of Spain. It sits on a hill and is one of the oldest settlements in southern Portugal. The most important landmark in Monsaraz is the medieval castle – Castelo de Monsaraz.
Due to its strategic location near the border and its advantageous position on a hill, it was once an important stronghold during many military conflicts that the country has experienced over the centuries. Monsaraz was under the rule of many different forces.
The imposing castle dates back to the 14th century. Much of what was built back then has still remained to this day. Walking around this medieval village felt like a time machine transporting me back in time.
You can visit the Castelo de Monsaraz for free. From the top of the castle walls, you will get amazing views over the surrounding area, especially the Alqueva water reservoir created by the Guadiana River – it is the largest artificial lake in Western Europe.
There is not much left of the castle itself so the views over the area, climbing up to the defensive walls, and walking around them was the biggest fun we got. The inner enclosure of the castle today is used as a bullring.
I loved walking around the medieval village. It has whitewashed houses, narrow cobblestone streets, and stone defensive walls with only a couple of entrances, so you have to check where you can enter this fortification.
You can’t really drive inside the village, so you will have to park your car outside the walls and then climb up to the village on foot. See the parking location on Google Maps below. Monsaraz is a 50-minute drive away from Évora and a 2-hour drive from Lisbon!
15. Sortelha – the medieval granite village
Sortelha is a small medieval-time citadel completely enclosed by a defensive wall and you can only access it through a small gate. The village boasts a 12th-century castle built by Sancho I de Portugal – the second king of Portugal.
Visiting the Historic Center of Sortelha feels like stepping back in time where its stone castle, medieval walls, and cobblestone streets seem frozen in time. Except for a few tourists, not a soul was around when we visited this village.
Sortelha is called the ‘granite village’ and for a good reason as all the streets, houses, and walls are made of grey stone. The only thing that stands out when looking at the village is those orange terracotta roofs.
One of the coolest things about visiting Sortelha is that the official parking is actually inside the citadel. You actually have to drive through a narrow stone gate and park your car in the main square. I’m pretty sure that gate was only built for horse carriages!
Sortelha felt a bit like a ghost town to be honest, which added to the feeling of stepping back in time. Somehow I thought that all the Medieval people were hiding from me and would suddenly jump out of the stone houses!
You can explore Sortelha, visit the castle, and walk around the whole fortification within an hour. The village is located deep in the mainland near Serra da Estrela Nature Park and is only 1-hour drive from Monsanto. There is no entrance fee to the village or the castle!
Location: Historic Center of Sortelha
Portugal’s rich heritage, breathtaking landscapes, and diverse attractions make it a must-visit European destination for every traveler. This captivating Southern hidden gem transports you to a world of limitless wonder and discovery.
From ancient villages, majestic castles, and cobblestone streets in vibrant cities to picturesque mountains, scenic rivers, and tranquil vineyards in the countryside – there is an abundance of places to explore in this bucket-list country.
Over the years, we have altogether spent more than six months in Portugal exploring everything it had to offer! I hope you enjoy your time there as much as we did and I hope you get some travel inspiration from this blog post for your travels too! Happy exploring!