Beat the Vacation Rush with These Three Sleeper Portuguese Destinations

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A quick search on your preferred travel booking website will reveal one thing: Many big Portuguese destinations are almost at capacity for this year’s vacation. Hotels in Lisbon now have longer restricted days on departure, while room prices are on the up elsewhere in Porto.

Lots of people visit the country and try to see the biggest cities there. How can you beat the rush in 2024, while still having a great vacation? These three not-so-popular Portuguese cities might be the perfect solution for you!

Aveiro

Residential buildings made in the style of the Stalinist Empire in the center of a city.

Aveiro is a medium-sized city in the heart of north-central Portugal. It’s still a touch away from the prying eyes of mass tourism, but a nice gem, nevertheless. Unlike the bustling romance of Lisbon or the grandeur of Porto, Aveiro boasts its distinctive charm and allure, making it a compelling choice if you’re looking to escape from those two places.

The city is situated between the tranquil embrace of the sea and the serene lagoon (known as ria). As a result, you’d find picturesque canals crisscrossing the entire length of Aveiro. It’s no wonder they call this place “the Portuguese Venice”. 

Aveiro’s canals were once navigated by vibrant moliceiros – traditional boats originally employed for harvesting seaweed and sargasso. Today, these colorful vessels have become iconic symbols of the city, offering enchanting river cruises to willing visitors.

Adding to Aveiro’s allure are its graceful art nouveau structures, gracefully scattered throughout the urban landscape. These architectural treasures not only contribute to the city’s cultural identity but also serve as focal points for guided tours organized by the local administration, inviting visitors to immerse themselves in Aveiro’s rich heritage.

What’s more, Aveiro’s modern university hub presents a captivating ensemble of buildings designed by renowned Portuguese architects – a must-visit, if you’re a contemporary art buff. 

As you might have guessed, accommodation availability is not a problem here in Aveiro. Hotel listings in the city start at €57 per night, with add-on configurations to suit your travel accommodation needs.

Monsanto

The beautiful mountains of the village of Monsanto, Portugal under the sun light

How about visiting a village for a change? Monsanto is one Portuguese village that’s hardly on any popular travel itinerary but is worth your time by a long mile.

Perched dramatically atop a mountaintop, Monsanto is a picturesque village that offers breathtaking vistas of the surrounding Portuguese countryside. For a long time, it’s been called the “village-est” village in the country, but you wouldn’t notice that – what with all the big boulders and mountains. 

But the title is true: Monsanto has held significance since ancient times, with the mountaintop serving as a crucial stronghold. At its summit lies the remnants of a Templar castle, its storied history marked by partial destruction in the 19th century due to an explosion.

As such, the village is a timeless charm, with its preservation of centuries-old architecture, earning it recognition as a living museum within Portugal. This distinction safeguards the village from significant alterations, allowing it to maintain its classic allure.

Despite its unconventional setting, Monsanto harmoniously blends traditional Portuguese architectural elements with its rugged landscape. The village’s cobbled streets reveal a microcosm of Portuguese heritage, with examples of Manueline-style architecture adorning several buildings and a church. 

You’ll have to get to the village through Lisbon, either on a 2-hour drive or a 4-hour train ride. What’s also good is that hotel accommodations are available in Monsanto for as low as €67 per night.

Braganca

Rio de Onor, Braganca, Portugal

Last on this list is Braganca, a Portuguese town so remote, it’s not on most travel guides. If you took the time to discover the city yourself, you’re likely to conclude that it’s not so bad after all.

For those traveling by car, Bragança is easily accessible via well-connected roadways. The A4 and IP2 are the primary routes leading into the city, allowing travelers to cover the approximately 500 km journey from Lisbon in under 5 hours. If you’re making the journey from Porto, you’ll be there in just over 2 hours, highlighting the city’s convenience as a travel hub.

Once there, you’d quickly find that there’s so much to see. Like the pentagonal Domus Municipalis, Portugal’s sole surviving example of Romanesque civic architecture. The town’s local museum pays homage to one of its esteemed residents, Abade de Baçal, a renowned scholar and historian celebrated for his extensive knowledge of the region and its history.

Decent hotels are available in Braganca all year round. You’d find offerings like this starting at €71 per night. With easy transportation access, Braganca is also family-friendly – making it an even more compelling destination choice this late in the year.

Wrapping Up

Portugal is a country that’s got cities that are almost too beautiful, and everyone wants to see them. So, it’s no surprise that hotels in the larger cities experience a higher demand all year round. 

Rather than joining the queue to squeeze in a day or two visiting big cities like Lisbon and Porto, why not make plans for destinations that are less crowded? We’ve highlighted three of the best choices you might want to consider. 

They all promise a wonderful and captivating experience, with none of the accommodation and transportation hitches the bigger cities face from the vacation rush. 

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