A month will not be enough to know every corner in the region of Porto and the north of Portugal, with all its charms, from architecture to nature, from gastronomy to wines. But seven days are enough to be swept away and convinced to return.
Moving around the territory is easy and in itself a treat for the sore eyes of any tourist. The cities of Braga and Guimarães are less than an hour away from Porto. Another 20 minutes and you can reach Viana do Castelo. In an hour and a half, it is possible to get to Caminha and, from there, set off for Monção and Melgaço. From the region of the Alvarinho wine to Trás-os-Montes is a short distance and, from there, you can enter the Douro region through Vila Real or Bragança.
Capital of the north
Plan your stay in Porto and, in three days, get to know what is essential in the city.
It is imperative to visit the historical centre of the city, listed as Cultural World Heritage since 1996, the museum and the park of Serralves, Casa da Música and the Port wine cellars, next to Cais de Gaia, on the south bank of the River Douro.
Explore downtown Porto, by day and by night. During the day, climb to the top of Torre dos Clérigos and enjoy one of the best views over the city, visit the famous Lello bookshop, shop in fashion designer shops and urban craft and have a snack in historical cafés, such as the Majestic or Café D’Âncora, better known as “Piolho”. At night, have dinner in restaurants with a sophisticated and creative cuisine, have a drink in one of the several wine bars in the area and dance in clubs with eclectic tastes.
Visit the best known market in the city, Bolhão, close to one of the busiest commercial arteries, Rua de Santa Catarina.
Have lunch on the beach area and/or have a picnic in Parque da Cidade, a “lung” with 83 hectares of green areas, pedestrian routes and several sporting equipment.
Plan your trip so you can spend the weekend in Porto. On Saturdays, there are little markets and urban markets that you mustn’t miss and at night the city really comes to life.
Braga e Guimarães
On the fourth day of your stay, rent a car and drive to the heart of Minho, whose historical and architectural heritage mirrors a fervent religious belief.
In Braga, go up to the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte, visit the Cathedral and have lunch at the historical centre. Taste the famous bacalhau à Braga, the roasted lamb and the Abade de Priscos pudding.
From the “Portuguese Rome” to Guimarães is 25km. In the city that was the birthplace of Portugal and the European Capital of Culture, start by the historical centre UNESCO listed as Cultural World Heritage in 2001.
Afterwards, visit the Castle, the Paço dos Duques de Bragança and the Sanctuary of Nossa Senhora da Penha – from the top of Serra de Santa Catarina, the view of Guimarães is priceless. You can go up and down the cable car connecting the centre of the city to Penha or you can drive there.
Excite your appetite with a stroll on Largo do Toural, one of the most central and most important squares in Guimarães, breathe in the unique atmosphere offered by the city and have dinner at one of the restaurants in Largo de Nossa Senhora da Oliveira, where the church by the same name is located and the Padrão do Salado.
Taste the traditional rojões à minhota and finish your meal with a slice of toucinho-do-céu. Complement the meal with a good Vinho Verde wine from the region.
You can return to Porto to stay the night, enjoying yet another night in the city, or proceed on the road, towards the northern coast.
Begin the next day in Viana do Castelo. From Avenida dos Combatentes da Grande Guerra, the most central artery in the city, explore the narrow streets of the historical zone and have breakfast in one of the local bakeries.
Visit the Sanctuary of Monte de Santa Luzia. The Basilica of Santa Luzia is an impressive monument, standing over the city; its construction began in 1903 and was finished by 1943. It offers an unforgettable scenic view.
Have fish for lunch in the village of Caminha. In its most central square, Praça Conselheiro Silva Torres, you will find some restaurants and cafés with pleasant esplanades, displayed around a 16th century fountain, as well as on Rua Direita and other surrounding arteries. If you have time, have a cup of coffee in the river beach of Foz do Minho, an idyllic place by the entrance of Mata Nacional do Camarido, from where you can see the Serra de Santa Tecla, in Spain.
Follow the river towards its spring and, further north, taste Alvarinho wine, the most appreciated Portuguese vinho verde wine, in Monção and Melgaço. In Monção, enjoy the landscape of one of the pleasant terraces and viewpoints this fortified city has to offer and stroll along the 17th century walls guarding the historical centre. In the old part of the village, visit the churches Matriz, da Misericórdia and de Santo António dos Capuchos. In the surrounding area, visit Palácio da Brejoeira, where Alvarinho is produced.
End your day in Melgaço. Taste one of the numerous dishes made with lamprey, caught in the River Minho and a speciality in the district. Gather your strength for a good night’s sleep. In Melgaço, you can stay at Monte Prado Hotel & Spa. The quiet environment of this contemporary hotel and the idyllic surroundings invite you to relax.
On the next day, head towards northeast Trás-os-Montes. If you leave early, you will be able to reach Chaves – about two hours away – by the middle of the morning.
Have lunch in the city, which at the time of the Roman occupation was known as "Aquae Flaviae". Chaves, home to very popular thermal baths, is known for its gastronomic richness, from which enchidos and smoked ham stand out.
In Chaves, you may spend the night at Vidago Palace, one of the most famous luxury historical hotels in Portugal, which has been recently renovated and won a modern thermal spa and an inviting golf course. Located right in the middle of Parque de Vidago, in a place with the same name, the impressive palace offers a cosy and unique environment.
After lunch, head to Bragança – another two hours –, a city that maintains a medieval urban core worth visiting: inside the citadel, it may be interesting to visit the Torre de Menagem do Castelo, the Pelourinho, settled on a curious berrão lusitano, the Igreja de Santa Maria and the Domus Municipalis, a unique example of civil architecture.
Save your last day to visit the Douro region. Considered as world heritage by UNESCO, the first demarcated region in the world is the birthplace of the acclaimed Port wine.
Alto Douro Vinhateiro
Start your day in Vila Real, discover the medieval core of the city, stroll around Jardim da Carreira and climb to the top of Calvário, where you can enjoy a beautiful perspective of the city that hosted many noble families between the 17th and 19th centuries, and the Serras do Marão and do Alvão.
From Vila Real, all you need to do is follow the national and municipal roads connecting these northern cities into the heart of Alto Douro Vinhateiro.
Visit one of the wineries that organize visits and thematic wine tastings and take a boat trip on the River Douro. Some of these wineries also have accommodation. Such as, Quinta Nova Nossa de Senhora do Carmo, in the heart of the Vale do Douro – in Sabrosa, in the district of Vila Real – with a rural hotel which originated from the reconstruction of the old 19th century house. This project of wine tourism, internationally acclaimed, includes a restaurant, a wine shop, a bar, orchards and pedestrian circuits, a wine cellar and a magnificent swimming pool amidst the vineyards.
Witness how local gastronomy matches the wines from Douro and Porto. Taste the best dishes of regional cuisine – we suggest the cabritinho com batatas e arroz de forno or peixinhos do rio – and the traditional desserts.
Don’t go back to Porto without a souvenir from the region, whose craft is famous by its wicker baskets, embroideries, pottery and woolen blankets and rugs.
Return to the city of wine cellars by train or by car.
How to get there
For Porto, there are low cost flights, for example, from London (Stansted and Gatwick), Paris (Beauvais, Orly, Vatry and Charles de Gaulle), Marseille, Lille, Tours, St. Etienne, Bologna, Bordeaux, Lyon, Toulouse, Madrid, Barcelona El Prat, Tenerife, Valencia and Palma de Majorca
Summer only, there are low cost airlines flying from Liverpool, Las Palmas, Carcassonne, Rodez and Nantes.
With regular tariffs, there are flights from London – Gatwick, Madrid, Barcelona and Paris – Orly.
From The Francisco Sá Carneiro International Airport, the best way to get to the centre of the city of Porto is by Metro. The trip will take approximately 30 minutes.
From Porto to Guimarães it takes approximately 30 minutes on the A7 and A3 motorways.