Most beautiful places in Portugal
Viana do Castelo, Costa Verde
The seaside town of Viana do Castelo, with its opulent Manueline and baroque buildings, tends to attract Portuguese rather than foreign tourists. But it's not just the architecture and clientele that are different from more visited parts of Portugal; the weather is somewhat less reliable too (it's not called the Green Coast for nothing). But if you're happy to take a chance on the climate, you'll be rewarded with beautiful empty beaches and some of Portugal's finest cuisine. Like its Spanish neighbour Galicia, the Costa Verde is known for seafood – eels, and Minho trout and salmon, are often on the menu. A great place to try seafood is Tasquinha da Linda a tiny restaurant that serves oysters and mussels as well as more adventurous options such as barnacles and octopus.
Dom Luis I Bridge, Porto
Walking across the Luis I bridge over the Douro has to rate highly on the list of unmissable Portuguese experiences. Linking the old town of Porto with Vila Nova de Gaia, the graceful iron structure, built by one of Gustav Eiffel's students, was the longest arch bridge in the world when it opened in 1886. If you have a head for heights you can take the funicular up to the upper level, 50m above the water, for extraordinary views of Porto's historic Cais da Ribeira neighbourhood and up the river.
Casa da Música, PortoPorto Photograph: Alamy
Appealing to architecture fans and music lovers alike, Porto's Casa da Música has become one of the city's best-loved icons since opening in 2005. Designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, its sharp angles and uncompromisingly modern design make a bold statement in a city known for its conservatism – a boldness which is matched by the adventurous programme of concerts and recitals encompassing everything from classical and jazz to fado and electronic music. There's a great programme of educational workshops for musicians, a monthly club night and a cool cafe.
• Avenida da Boavista 604-610, casadamusica.com
Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon
One of Europe's great unsung galleries, Lisbon's Gulbenkian is home to the private collection of Armenian oil magnate Calouste Gulbenkian, who donated his magnificent haul of European and Asian art to his adopted country on his death in 1955. Treasures include a gold Egyptian mask, rare Chinese porcelain, Persian tapestries and works by Rembrandt, Rubens, Van Dyck and Renoir. The beautifully landscaped gardens of the museum are worth a visit in their own right, and in the summer the amphitheatre hosts open-air film and music events.
Parque das Nacoes, Lisbon
Lisbon's newest neighbourhood was created from scratch for the Expo 98 world fair. With its breezy oceanfront setting and futuristic architecture, it's a refreshing contrast to the narrow streets and ornate buildings of the centre. Locals come for weekend strolls along the waterfront promenade, great seafood restaurants and glorious views of the Vasco da Gama bridge which spans the Tejo (Tagus) and is the longest in Europe. The Oceanarium is one of the world's great aquariums, built around a tank the size of four Olympic swimming pools, with levels allowing the sealife to be viewed from above and below.
Sintra, near Lisbon
The poet Byron described the hilltop town of Sintra as a "glorious Eden". Today it's one of the most popular day-trip destinations from Lisbon but, despite the coach parties, it holds on to its eccentric charm and otherworldliness. It was once a summer retreat for Portuguese aristocracy, and the exuberant palaces they built, such as the Palácio Nacional de Pena with its fairytale turrets and candy-coloured walls, and the Palácio Nacional de Sintra, still stand. Allow time to wander the streets of the atmospheric old town with its colourful mansions and exuberant foliage. Sintra is about 40 minutes by train from Rossio station in Lisbon.