Portugal’s 8 historic cities to visit and travel back in time

vue sur Lisbonne avec son château

Are you a history buff? Then take a trip back in time through Portugal’s superb historic cities.

Portugal is brimming with historical treasures that bear witness to its rich past. From the Roman majesty of Braga to the medieval atmosphere of Coimbra and the age of discovery in Lisbon, each city offers a unique experience that lets you relive the country’s exciting history. That’s why we’ve put together an itinerary of Portugal’s historic cities. Immerse yourself in the evolution of the country’s architecture, cultural heritage and emblematic monuments.

Braga, one of Portugal’s oldest cities

arche dans les rues de Braga

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Start your journey back in time with Braga, one of Portugal’s oldest historic cities, located in the Minho region. Step back in time to Roman times, when Braga was known as Bracara Augusta. Capital of the Roman province of Gallaecia, the city was of major importance to the Roman Empire.

Explore Braga’s cathedral, known as the Sé de Braga, an emblematic monument to its glorious past. Then wander the cobbled streets of the historic center, soaking up its picturesque atmosphere and being charmed by its magnificent religious buildings, such as the monastery of São Martinho de Tibães and the church of Bom Jesus do Monte.

Finally, be sure to sample Braga’s delicious culinary specialties, such as the famous bacalhau (cod) and papos de anjo (a sweet dessert). A full day is recommended to explore this historic city.

Evora and its medieval city center

temple romain d'evora

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Our journey continues in Évora, a fascinating city nestled in the heart of the Alentejo. As you stroll through its medieval city center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you’ll be transported back in time. Explore Évora’s rich history, dating back to Roman times and marked by Moorish occupation before being conquered by the Portuguese in the 12th century.

Among Évora’s must-see gems, don’t miss the majestic cathedral, one of Portugal’s greatest medieval monuments. Then wander through the cobbled streets and discover the impressive ruins of the Roman temple.

Also marvel at the famous Cromlech des Almendres, a mysterious prehistoric site. And for an unusual experience, visit the Chapel of Bones, where the walls are adorned with human bones.

Lisbon and its historic monuments

tour Belém à Lisbonne au coucher de soleil

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Your journey back in time through Portugal’s historic cities continues in Lisbon. The Portuguese capital is a dynamic city brimming with emblematic treasures. Don’t miss the Padrão dos Descobrimentos, an impressive monument to the Discoveries, as well as the Belem Tower and the Hieronymites Monastery.

And to soak up the historic atmosphere, explore theAlfama and Old Town districts. Finally, for a panoramic view, take the Elevador Santa Justa and enjoy an unforgettable ride on streetcar number 28.

Guimarães and its medieval atmosphere

architecture médiévale à Guimarães

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Then off to Guimarães, cradle of the Portuguese nation and the country’s first city. Immerse yourself in the heart of the Portuguese Middle Ages with its historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And don’t miss a visit to the famous Guimarães Castle, an emblematic symbol of Portugal’s past.

Continue your exploration with a visit to the splendid Palace of the Dukes of Bragança, a true medieval gem. Or take a refreshing break at the Jardim do Largo República do Brasil, a must-see garden located opposite the church of Nossa Senhora da Consolação and Santos Passos. We recommend staying 1-2 days to fully appreciate this historic city.

Coimbra and its illustrious university

vue sur la vieille ville de Coimbra

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Your journey through historic cities will then take you to Coimbra, an authentic city in the heart of Portugal. Walk the lively streets of this city, home to a centuries-old university founded in 1290, and explore the university library, where precious ancient manuscripts are preserved. Also visit the majestic Sé Velha, Coimbra’s old cathedral and emblematic symbol of the city.

You’ll be immersed in Coimbra’s vibrant student life, and can even take part in the traditional Queima das Fitas celebration, held every year in May. And don’t miss out on the melodies of fado, Coimbra’s very own folk music.

Tomar, at the heart of Templar history

couvent du christ à Tomar

Shutterstock – Mario Lavrador

Head to Tomar, a captivating city founded in 1160, where you’ll discover a historic cross-shaped center, with emblematic convents and monuments around every corner. From the imposing Convent of Christ, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to the magnificent Almourol Castle perched on a craggy island, this trip will revive memories of the Knights Templar in Portugal. Get ready to spend a day exploring this city rich in history, located around 110 km from Coimbra.

Batalha and its impressive monastery

Monastère de Batalha

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Located in the center of the country, in the district of Leiria, the small town of Batalha is home to the famous Monastery of Santa Maria da Vitória, also known as the Batalha Monastery. Built to commemorate the decisive victory of Portuguese troops at the Battle of Aljubarrota in 1385, this monastery is considered one of the 7 wonders of Portugal. Over the course of two centuries of construction, it was enriched by the Portuguese royal families, becoming a must-see architectural gem despite its incompleteness.

What’s more, just 3 km from town, don’t miss the Battle of Aljubarrota site and museum, which will immerse you in this major historical event. Allow half a day to a full day to fully explore Batalha and enjoy its rich heritage.

Obidos, a small medieval town

ville fortifiée d'Obidos avec remparts et maisons blanches

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Finally, let’s discover Óbidos, a charming little town some 80 kilometers north of Lisbon. Perched on a hilltop and surrounded by magnificent medieval ramparts, it’s a beautiful place. Indeed, Óbidos’ history dates back to Roman times, but it was under Moorish rule that it experienced its most significant development.

Reconquered by the Christians in the 12th century, Óbidos is home to an emblematic medieval castle, which is one of the town’s main attractions. Discover also the church of Santa Maria, one of the oldest in the town, as well as the chapel of São Martinho and the ramparts, which offer breathtaking views of the surrounding area. To make the most of your visit to Óbidos, spend between half a day and a full day exploring the town.

So, are you ready to embark on this incredible journey through Portugal’s historic cities? From Braga to Lisbon, from Coimbra to Obidos, you’ll discover the fascinating history of this country through its monuments and cultural heritage. Don’t hesitate to share your suggestions and experiences in the comments below, so that other readers can benefit from your advice. What are you waiting for, then, to discover the treasures of Portugal’s historic cities?