Cultural holidays in Portugal

Shun the beach in favour of Portugal’s cultural gems

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Ronnie McCluskey

Ronnie McCluskey
HomeAway travel expert

Lisbon cityThe word culture, now more so than ever, can be used to represent such a wide spectrum of pursuits. In the modern age, the term can be conjoined with anything from retail outlets to video games and mass media. In its classical and most prominent domain, however, we tend to associate culture with the more traditional fields of art, architecture and history. Think Paris, London and Vienna and you’re on the right track. And although it usually invokes more audible connotations of beach-orientated breaks in the sun, Portugal has a few unheralded gems to rival the best.

Even away from the stunning capital city of Lisbon, you’ll find a host of UNESCO World Heritage sites scattered throughout the country. Every region presents their own unique cultural qualities, all set amidst the temperate Mediterranean climate that attracts visitors in their droves.


Top five destinations for Portugal cultural holidays


Cultural holidays in Portugal: Lisbon Cultural holidays in Portugal: Lisbon

Lisbon is naturally the first place that springs to mind when considering a visit to Portugal – and in terms of cultural significance, the capital is a veritable goldmine. The Berardo Collection Museum should be your first port of call, with works by Picasso and Warhol among the 4,000 on display. Elsewhere in the city, be sure to check out the Church of Sao Roque, inconspicuous from the outside but secreting an interior that will surely take your breath away. Belem Tower and Jeronimos Monastery are also worthy of a visit.

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Cultural holidays in Portugal: Porto Cultural holidays in Portugal: Porto

It speaks volumes for Porto that the main cultural attraction here is, for all intents and purposes, the city itself. Its historic centre is one of the oldest in Europe, and blessed with some of the continent’s most mesmerising buildings into the bargain. Whether there is an event taking place there or not, the eye-catching Casa da Musica is an inspired architectural masterpiece, likewise the Serralves Museum and the magnificent park that encircles it. The Soares dos Reis Museum, meanwhile, is home to the symbolic O Desterrado, the most revered work of the eponymous sculptor. 

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Cultural holidays in Portugal: Guimaraes Cultural holidays in Portugal: Guimaraes

It’s a widely held belief in Portugal that Guimaraes is effectively the birthplace of the country – and when you take a stroll through the town, it’s easy to see why this is the case. The 10th-century castle still dominates the centre to this day, testament to the medieval roots that shaped a nation. To really absorb the aura of the place, head for a coffee or cold drink in Olive Square, flanked by the charmingly constructed Olive Church and Padrao do Salado. 

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Cultural holidays in Portugal: Douro Region Cultural holidays in Portugal: Douro Region

Culture comes in many formats, and one of the largest elements of Portuguese culture is its rich wine-growing heritage. The northern region of Douro is arguably responsible for some of the country’s finest produce, with the terraced vineyards as beautiful as they are bountiful. Vila Real is the main municipality of the region, and a splendidly picturesque city in which to base yourself for a tour of the vines. Whilst there, why not treat yourself to a tour of the Solar de Mateus, the stately home depicted on the label of the famous De Mateus wine?

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Cultural holidays in Portugal: Braga Cultural holidays in Portugal: Braga

You won’t see much in the way of fanfare for Braga in most travel guides. But what the northern city boasts is an understated class and charisma. The most striking feature is the Bom Jesus do Monte, an aesthetically remarkable church perched atop a mountain just outside of the city. Whilst ascending the stairs, you’ll stumble across a series of chapels before you reach the 18th-century building itself. Whether you love or loathe football, you should make the trip to see the Braga Municipal Stadium, an incredible feat of engineering with a cliff face incorporated within its stands!

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Portugal Holiday Homes

Baixa Esbelta - Inside: cosy and comfy

This is how we would describe our apartment in a few words: Inside: cosy and comfy Outside: the fun of the old town Our apartment Baixa Esbelta is located in the central and beautiful Baixa/Chiado area. It’s a great place to discover Lisbon and a...

Cais do Sodré - Inside: spacious and tasteful

This is how we would describe our apartment in a few words: Inside: spacious and tasteful Outside: leafy and classy Our apartment Cais do Sodré is located in the central and beautiful Baixa/Chiado area. It’s a great place to discover Lisbon and a...

Apartment/ flat T3+1 - Figueira da Foz

T3 +1 flat to rent for vacations, fully equipped. The apartment is located in Figueira da Foz, near the stadium of Naval, the Foz Plaza (Jumbo) and E.Leclerc. It also has easy parking, with excellent accessibility and is 1km away from the beac...

Apartment with garden Centre of Cascais

Lovely apartment with a spacious private garden, has been completely refurbished by its owner. Outstanding decoration with art deco furniture carefully re upholstered. In the blink of an eye you will be taken off to the 20s, an old time record-pla...

Apartment/ flat - Peniche

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Porto Lovely City Center Townhouse - Aircon - Modern Amenties - Beautiful Decor

Renovated to the highest standard providing a fusion of traditional and modern for your comfort and delight. The city center townhouse has 5 bedrooms with a sleeping capacity of 10 plus options to accommodate an extra 5 guests. The quality is amo...

Cancellation - Late Availability - Sleeps 4-5 Sea Views - Walking Distance Beach

This is a cute unpretentious 'cottage' with sea views in a nice quiet area - walking distance to the beach - mini supermarket - one of the most well known restaurants in the North of Portugal - cafes and bars. The cottage has a comfortable lounge...

Sleeps 10 - City Center Apartment - £15 per person per night

Walking distance to all the key elements of the exciting and charming city of Porto. Situated in a relaxed residential area of Porto city - away from the crowds and hustle and bustle but close enough to walk and enjoy the atmosphere when you wish....

Wonderful Traditional Northern Portuguese Family Holiday Home

This is a 4 bedroom villa - with 2 en-suite bathrooms and a family bathroom - located on the edge of Braga City. This has been a family holiday home for many years and has many happy memories including birthdays, christenings, weddings etc. T...

Sleeps 8 Central Townhouse - With 1 Acre Gardens And Secure Pool

This historic and protected family home is in the very center of Caminha. Caminha is a beautiful town in Northern Portugal and can be reached easily from either Porto or in fact from across the border in Spain - Vigo. Its beaches were voted as on...

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