Tourism in Portugal

Tourism in Portugal serves millions of international and domestic tourists. Tourists visit to see cities, historic landmarks, enjoy beaches, or religious sites. As of 2019, Portugal had 27 million visitors.[1][2] The most popular destinations were Lisbon, Porto, Algarve, the Portuguese Riviera, Madeira, Sintra, Óbidos and Fátima. The most popular with internationals were Lisbon, the Algarve and Northern Portugal. National tourists prefer Northern Portugal, followed by Central Portugal and the Algarve.[1]

Lisbon, Portugal's capital.
Porto and Northern Portugal.
Marinha Beach in the municipality of Lagoa. The Algarve region leads in overnight stays.
A view of Óbidos.
Panoramic view of Nazaré and its beach.
Shrine of Our Lady of Fátima.
University of Coimbra, one of the oldest universities in the world.
Mondego River and Coimbra.
Pena National Palace in Sintra, an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Monserrate Palace in Sintra, Greater Lisbon.
Pico, Azores, besides being the highest mountain in Portugal, it is a wine region whose landscape is protected as world heritage.
Aveiro is known as the "Portuguese Venice".
The Douro river in Northern Portugal.


In 2006, the country was visited by 7 million tourists, three million of which came from Spain.[3] By 2018, the country was visited by 12.8 million international tourists.[4]

In 2016, and compared to 2015, most tourists staying in hotels were attracted to Lisbon (6.3 million, up from 5.8), Porto and Northern Portugal (4.4 million, up from 3.9), the Algarve (4.2 million, up from 3.8), Central Portugal (3.2 million, up from 2.9 million), Madeira (1.5 million, up from 1.3), Alentejo (1.2 million, up from 1.1), and the Azores (0.5 million, up from 0.4). The Algarve and Lisbon lead in overnight stays.[5] In 2016, overnight stays grew significantly in other regions: the Azores (+21.1%), Northern Portugal (+14.4%), Alentejo (+12%), Central Portugal (+11.8%), and Madeira (+10.9%).[6][7]

The following table presents the nationality of the largest demographic of tourists from 2017 to 2019:[1]

Rank Country 2017 2018 2019
1 United Kingdom2,099,0082,042,8672,145,902
2 Spain1,970,8502,069,6452,285,829
3 France1,600,1991,641,9121,623,207
4 Germany1,565,9041,602,0661,541,398
5 Brazil971,4531,103,7181,281,675
6 United States790,141981,8221,202,247
7 Italy650,325665,930722,115
8 Netherlands617,124610,161598,375
9 Ireland345,724357,542413,733
10 China-324,258385,307
11 Canada-346,428380,896
12 Belgium312,029327,264325,799
13  Switzerland-303,013304,867
14 Poland-285,362277,616
15 Sweden-190,183183,717
16 Denmark-142,573144,490
17Other foreign3,666,6742,313,4132,592,941
Total international visitors23,953,76525,249,90427,142,416

In 2016, accounting international tourists, the most popular regions were Lisbon (4.4 million), Algarve (3 million), Northern Portugal (2.1 million), Central Portugal (1.2), Madeira (1.2), Alentejo 370,000 and the Azores. For national tourists the most popular regions were Northern Portugal (2.3), Central Portugal (2.0), Lisbon (1.9), the Algarve (1.2), Alentejo (0.8), Madeira (0.29), and the Azores (0.27).[7]

The following table presents the nationality of the largest demographic of tourists by region in 2019:[1]

RegionInternational Tourist guests
TOP 5 nationalitiesNational tourists
Lisbon5,986,6381st , 2nd , 3rd , 4th , 5th 2,230,043
Algarve3,592,4411st , 2nd , 3rd , 4th , 5th 1,471,626
Northern Portugal3,191,1971st , 2nd , 3rd , 4th , 5th 2,771,829
Central Portugal1,636,7761st , 2nd , 3rd , 4th , 5th 2,481,880
Madeira1,159,7391st , 2nd , 3rd , 4th , 5th 322,501
Alentejo550,5711st , 2nd , 3rd , 4th , 5th 1,065,487
The Azores382,7521st , 2nd , 3rd , 4th , 5th 388,936

Lisbon is, with Barcelona, one of the European cities leading in overnight stays.[8] The urban areas of Porto and Northern Portugal, north of Douro River surpassed Madeira, in 2010, and the Algarve, in 2015, and became the second most visited destination in Portugal. In 2015, most tourists were Europeans, but also from the Americas and Asia. Sleeping in the country's hotels, the most numerous are the British, Spanish, French, Germans, Brazilians, the Dutch, Americans, Italians, and the Japanese, which not only want the sun and the beach, but mostly cultural ones, city breaks, gastronomy, nautical tourism, or business traveling.

Portugal won 14 "Oscars" of the tourism. The national tourism had 77 nominations and won a total of 14 awards in more than 10 European categories, surpassing Spain or Italy, at the gala of the World Travel Awards 2015, whose ceremony took place in Sardinia, Italy. CNN compared Lisbon and Porto head-to-head in order to find who has the best food, culture, old cafés and boutiques, nightlife, and the best beaches.[9]

Travel guide giants Lonely Planet have designated Portugal as one of the top 3 countries to visit in 2018.[10]

Tourism regions

Tourist hotspots in Portugal are Lisbon, Porto, the Algarve, Madeira, Sintra, Óbidos, Fátima, Coimbra and Azores, but the Portuguese government is currently developing new destinations: the Douro Valley, Porto Santo Island, and Alentejo.

Portugal has several other tourism regions such as Douro Sul, Templários, Dão-Lafões, Costa do Sol, Costa Azul, Planície Dourada, etc. Most of them are unknown to tourists and locals alike. As of 2007, these are being reorganized.

All these regions are grouped in tourism reference areas, which are widely known because these are the traditional regions:[citation needed]

Tourist regions

The main tourist regions can be broken-down into:[citation needed]

Other tourist regions include Douro Sul, Templários, Dão-Lafões, Costa do Sol, Costa Azul, Planície Dourada, that are unknown to many tourists or visitors.

Most of these regions are grouped in tourism reference areas, which continue to be in a state of reorganization and evolution, some based on the traditional regions of Portugal: the Costa Verde (Green Coast); Costa da Prata (Silver Coast); Costa de Lisboa (Lisbon Coast); Montanhas (Mountains); Planícies (Plains); Algarve; and the islands of the archipelagos of Madeira and the Azores.

The Rooster of Barcelos is bought by many tourists as a souvenir. The legend of the Rooster of Barcelos tells the story of a dead rooster's miraculous intervention in proving the innocence of a man who had been falsely accused and sentenced to death. The story is associated with the 17th-century calvary that is part of the collection of the Archeological Museum located in Paço dos Condes, a gothic-style palace in Barcelos, a city in the Braga District of northwest Portugal.

The following table presents the number of visitors in each of the protected areas of Portugal, according to ICNF:[11]

Protected Area201820192020
Arriba Fóssil da Costa da Caparica1,4982,267645
Douro International28,74360,5700
Dunas de São Jacinto6,3485,4003,219
Estuário do Sado85,54382,24254,643
Estuário do Tejo1,7131,853312
Lagoas de Santo André e de Sancha12,8578,9422,245
Litoral Norte4,5826,7235,752
Paul do Boquilobo2,3191,9561,305
Paul de Arzila1,236860841
Ria Formosa46,66260,06117,202
Serra da Estrela3,07918,4294,202
Sapal de Castro Marim e Vila Real de Santo António7,6427,9991,375
Serra da Malcata4,0973,951649
Serra de São Mamede4,5569,9342,620
Serra do Açor6,1245,2843,429
Serras de Aire e Candeeiros43,43544,32615,691
Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina15,95018,0273,593
Tejo Internacional*38*
Vale do Guadiana3321,30632

UNESCO World Heritage sites

See also