Explore the smaller cities of Portugal


In association with: Visit Portugal

Portugal’s lesser-visited gems are perfect for a city break

Known for its year-round sun, natural beauty, picturesque island archipelagos and traditional villages, Portugal is a popular destination for all types of holidaymakers.  So it comes as no surprise that it also attracts visitors seeking a fun-filled city break, particularly to the lively hotspots of Porto in the north and Lisbon farther south.

But there is plenty more to explore in some of Portugal’s lesser-visited cities, all within easy reach of the country’s main airports, for clients looking for a short getaway.

Art and history

In the Centre of Portugal, located just an hour’s drive from Porto’s airport, Aveiro exudes romance in what is known as the country’s answer to Venice. There’s a serene river that runs through the city up to the Aveiro Lagoon, where visitors can relax on board a traditional moliceiro – a colourfully painted narrowboat – and enjoy a traditional ovos moles pastry.

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There are also plenty of opportunities to get to know Aveiro’s arty side – the Art Nouveau route showcases the charm of that particular art period.

An hour south from Aveiro, the former Portuguese capital of Coimbra is home to some striking historical monuments. Among the most well-known spots here is the ancient University of Coimbra, a Unesco World Heritage Site. Its 18th-century Joanina Library houses more than 60,000 books, and there are exotic plants from all over the world in its very own botanical garden.

Nature and culture

Surrounded by towering mountains and meandering rivers, Viseu, an hour from Coimbra, is where history and natural beauty can be found in equal measure. Viseu Cathedral offers a fascinating insight into the ancient city’s heritage, while the Santar Garden Village is a peaceful spot full of lush foliage and colourful blooms. Great wine is never far away either, with some top vineyards in the wider Viseu district.

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Even more in Évora

In the region of Alentejo, Évora is a must‑visit for history, food and wine lovers. Its historical centre is a Unesco World Heritage Site, and visitors can uncover Roman heritage at the temple and Roman baths, before wandering the 15th-century city walls. For an authentic taste of Évora, suggest a visit to a winery.

Nearby is Lake Alqueva, one of Europe’s largest artificial lakes, where visitors can enjoy boat and hot-air balloon rides, as well as stargazing.

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PICTURES: ARPT/Centro de Portugal

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