Interior of a church with walls lined with skulls
The most impressive bone chapel can be found in Évora.
Photo Credit: Getty Images

8 Destinations in Portugal That Will Leave You Spellbound

There’s a Reason Why People are Drawn to Portugal

Singled out as one of the go-to destinations of the past year, Portugal has been enjoying a steady increase in international visitors. Drawn to the country’s prolific food and wine scene, spectacular beaches and medieval towns, Portugal continues to enjoy status as a popular European summer vacation destination as well.

And good news for those who are looking to have a Euro trip on a budget — Portugal is an affordable family vacation destination with plenty of activities for all ages.

Whether the country has already been on your radar for a while or you’re just becoming aware of its draw, take a peek at some of the best places to visit in Portugal.

The Bone Chapels

Portugal’s Capelas dos Ossos, or “bone chapels,” constantly pop up on social media as tourists take selfies in front of human skulls and bones. But the photos don’t truly do the bone chapels justice — they need to be seen in person to experience the full impact of standing among the remains of thousands of people.

Created by Franciscan monks during medieval times, these chapels were meant to humble their visitors and remind them of the impermanence of life. One of the most impressive and popular examples can be found in Évora, but there are smaller, less crowded chapels in Faro, Alcantarilha, Lagos, Campo Maior and Monforte as well.

View of Douro river, wineyards and villages on a hills.Looking down over the Douro river.Photo Credit: Getty Images


Regarded as Portugal’s northern capital, Porto is a charming riverside city well-known for its production of port wine. With a UNESCO World Heritage honored city center and a medieval era waterfront district, rich history abounds everywhere you look. Porto also eschews the crowds and steep prices that are typical of major cities like Lisbon, making it the ideal destination for a cheap summer vacation.

Hundreds of gorgeous churches and cathedrals dating back to the 16th century line the narrow streets along with well-traveled cafes, bookstores and shops. Climb 250 steps up the Clérigos Tower for the best views of the city, admire the iconic Dom Luis I bridge, and take in the sights inside the Palácio da Bolsa, the former home of Porto’s stock exchange.

For a more unique perspective on this historic city, take a European river cruise down the Douro, which flows from Northern Spain to Portugal.

Silves castle above city with palm treesThe best preserved Moorish fortresses in Portugal.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Silves Castle

Located in the Algarve region, Silves Castle stands as one of the best preserved Moorish fortresses in Portugal. Towering over the ancient city, the castle and its nearby cathedral dominate the skyline. Walk among the brick ruins and imagine what life might have been like in the castle’s glory days.

In fact, you can actually experience a piece of its history every August. Each year, the castle and surrounding area hosts a living history medieval festival that lasts for 10 days. Indulge in hearty servings of authentic regional dishes while musicians, fire dancers, healers and acrobats perform as they would have during the time period.

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