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. In 2017, Portugal had 23 million visitors.[1] The most popular destinations were Lisbon, Porto, Fatima, the Portuguese Riviera and the Algarve. The most popular with internationals were Lisbon, the Algarve and Northern Portugal. National tourists prefer Northern Portugal, followed by Central Portugal and the Algarve.

In 2018, Portugal was visited by 12.8 million foreign visitors. Visitors from the United Kingdom and Spain were Portugal's two biggest sources of tourism with 1.83 million and 1.75 million visitors respectively. France and Germany followed with 1.3 million visitors each.[2]


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]

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]

RegionInternational Tourist guests
TOP nationalities
(over 100,000 tourists)
National tourists
Lisbon4.41France, Spain, Germany, Brazil,
UK, US, Italy, Netherlands,
China, Belgium, Switzerland
Algarve3.01UK (over 1 Million), Germany, Spain,
Netherlands, Ireland, France
Northern Portugal2.08Spain, France, Germany, Brazil, UK2.28
Central Portugal1.23Spain, France, Brazil1.99
Madeira1.19UK, Germany, France0.29
The Azores0.26-0.27

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 regions

Tourist hotspots in Portugal are Lisbon, Porto, the Algarve, Fatima, Coimbra, Azores, and Madeira, 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:

  • Costa Verde — The Portuguese green coast comprises all the northern coast of Portugal from the estuary of the Minho River to the city of Porto.
  • Costa de Prata — The Portuguese silver coast comprises from Porto to Lisbon. Fatima, Nazaré and Óbidos are 3 very important places.
  • Costa de Lisboa — Lisbon coast. The coast of Portuguese Riviera (Sintra, Cascais and Estoril) and Caparica.
  • Montanhas — Mountainous and interior regions of northern and central Portugal, namely Serra da Estrela and Trás-os-Montes.
  • Planícies — The Portuguese plane region of Alentejo in the south.
  • Algarve — The southern coast of Portugal including the Golden Triangle.
  • Madeira — The Madeira islands.
  • Açores — The Azores islands.

Tourist regions

The main tourist regions can be broken-down into:

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.

Arrivals by country

In 2015 11,362,240 foreign tourists visited Portugal, a 9.3% increase over the previous years figure of 10,393,920. The majority (81.2%) of visitors were from Europe.

UNESCO World Heritage sites

See also


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