10 Best Destinations in Northern Portugal

A detailed guide to the top breathtaking places in the North of Portugal.

Flights      Hotels      Car Hire    Tours        

| 01

Amarante

Deep within Minho's lush green landscape lies the picturesque little town of Amarante that straddles both banks of the river Tâmega. The mighty Serra de Marvão provides a suitable natural backdrop to the town's 17th-century traditional houses with wooden balconies and narrow cobbled streets. The town dates back to the 4th century BC and has borne witness to many invaders and visitors alike.

The town's impressive bridge is a national monument and was built in 1790. The Ponte de São Gonçalo offers the visitor a visual feast as well as the impressive São Gonçalo Convent, named after the local patron saint, crowned with its red cupola. It's said that São Gonçalo built the first bridge in the 13th century to give access to his monastery, but it was tragically destroyed by floods in 1763. Great views can also be found from the restaurants strategically placed along the banks of the Tâmega, serving some of the best cuisine of the area. See More [ ► ]

Amarante

| 02

Barcelos

The right bank of the river Cálvado is overlooked by the charming old town of Barcelos. Its roots date back to Roman times. During the 15th century, it became the residence for the first Duke of Bragança, the palace of whom lies in ruins after an earthquake in 1755 and today is an open-air museum. The ancient streets are lined with houses in the baroque style. Shops sell hand-made and painted ceramics which the town is famed for. Barcelos' handicrafts can also be bought at the large weekly market held every Thursday in the town square.

You will also encounter the Barcelos rooster in various sizes and guises. The legend of the Barcelos Rooster, Portugal's national symbol has brought the town its fame.
See More [ ► ]

Barcelos

| 03

Braga

Braga's strategic location, on fertile land between the Cávado and Este rivers, made it an important settlement since ancient times. The traditional industry of Braga is religious in nature, making carvings, church organs, bell casting, candles and candlesticks and embroidering vestments. Braga is still a major religious centre. You can hardly walk a few yards without encountering a church, seminary or a religious souvenir shop, which gives the town its nickname; "Portugal's Rome".

There is plenty of the Old Town remaining to delight the visitor, with medieval buildings, mansions, a castle keep, fountains, palaces, cafés and restaurants and of cause… the aforementioned religious buildings.
See More [ ► ]

Braga
Cais da Ribeira

PORTO

Porto, or Oporto as it's also known, is in the process of being discovered by visitors as an ideal base to explore northern Portugal or as an exciting short break. Porto also draws those interested in Port and Douro wines. From across the river, one perceives the mishmash of colourful medieval houses, churches and monuments clinging on the side of the hill. The Ribeira district, Porto's quayside, has gained UNESCO World Heritage status, preserving this particular piece of history for prosperity. It's host to monuments by renowned architects such as Gustave Eiffel's Dona Maria Bridge and Nicolau Nasoni's Clerigos Tower. It's also the birthplace of Prince Henry the Navigator.

The centre of the city sports more 18th and 19th-century architecture with some 20th century thrown in for good measure. Narrow pedestrianised streets are home to some interesting shops and cafés. Apartment stores, big labels shops, exclusive hotels and restaurants can be found on the Avenida da Boavista. a major artery that bisects the city and terminates at the coast where's you'll encounter the oddly named Castelo do Queijo (cheese castle). Porto's magnificent Casa da Musica can also be found in the area. The Foz do Douro is the district that lines the western Atlantic coast and sports beaches, promenades, restaurants and a great location for sunset strolls. More About [ ► ]

| 04

Bragança

Perched on a hill overlooking the Rio Sabor river sits the beautiful old town of Bragança. This somewhat isolated settlement is the cultural and economic heart and capital of Portugal's rural region of the Trás os Montes. The British, who know the town as Braganza, associate it with the Queen of Charles II, Catherine of Braganza. In later times it gave its name to the last ruling royal family of Portugal.

The old town still stands behind medieval ramparts with a 33-metre tall keep as the centrepiece. Outside the walled district, the warren of narrow cobbled streets is bursting with charm and history. Bragança makes a great base for exploring the amazing beauty of the Trás os Montes region.
See More [ ► ]

Bragança

| 05

Chaves

There has been a settlement here spanning the Tãmega river since Roman times. Its agricultural history is probably much older. Since the establishment of the country of Portugal, Chaves found itself a frontier town. As such Bragança remained behind its medieval defensive walls, growing upwards rather than outwards. The result is the oddly shaped ancient buildings and narrow streets that ooze a seductive charm.

Today Bragança's chequered history is a distant memory and is now credited for its cuisine, particularly its sausages, cured Presunto hams, delicious meat cakes (bolas de carne), and strong red wine.
See More [ ► ]

Chaves

| 06

Guimarães

The tourist office of Guimarães sports the slogan "Aqui Nasceu Portugal" (here was born Portugal) on its walls. It was at Guimarães where Portugal gained independence from the kingdom of Leon. Guimarães is fondly referred to as the "cradle of the nation". Nestled between sloping hills, most notably the Penha Hill, the old town with its well preserved medieval streets and monuments gained Guimarães UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 2001, confirming it a fascinating town to visit.

A short walk from the centre takes you to the ruins of an old castle that defended Guimarães against Moor and Norman attacks. When the weather permits, take the cable car to Penha Park for incredible panoramic views over the town.
See More [ ► ]

Guimarães
Peneda Gerês National Park

PENEDA GERÊS NATIONAL PARK

Bordering the Galician border of Spain in the far North East of Portugal the Peneda-Gerês National Park spans a vast area of 72,000 hectares of landscapes of immense natural beauty. Portugal has many protected areas, yet Peneda-Gerês is the country's only designated National Park, first established on the 8th of May 1971. At its highest point, it rises 1545 metres above sea level at Nevosa with notable other peaks of the Peneda, Soajo, Amarela and Gerês mountain ranges along with the Mourela and plateaus.

There a few campsites and excellent hiking routes, some laid down by the Romans, for exploring an old monastery or two, a Castro (iron age settlement), waterfalls and charming old villages.
See More [ ► ]

| 07

LAMEGO

The attractive Durinese episcopal town of Lamego nestles between two hills. On one stand the ruins of a 12th-century castle and on the other an impressive baroque church, the Sanctuary of Nossa Senhora dos Remédios. Lamego has been an important market town since medieval times and the hub of agricultural activities within the area. It was here in 1143 Portuguese nobbles met and proclaimed Afonso Henriques the first king of Portugal.
See More [ ► ]

Lamego

| 08

PONTE DE LIMA

Situated in the middle of the tranquil Lima valley, the town of Ponte de Lima is just about 15 miles East of Viana do Castelo and approximately 56 miles north of Porto. If the essence of the Minho could be summed up in one town, it would be here. Ponte de Lima boasts beautiful Baroque and neo-classical manor houses, churches, ancient chapels and fantastic public gardens. Positioned on the original Roman road that connected Tui with Braga, Ponte de Lima became a centre of commerce and trade. Only remnants remain of the medieval battlements – at one time, it was the most fortified town in Northern Portugal with 600 metres of walls, ten towers, two torrents and six entrances. In 1995 Ponte da Lima won the European Grand Prize of Tourism and Environment.
See More [ ► ]

Ponte de Lima

| 09

VALENÇA (DO MINHO)

The ancient city of Valenca (also known as Valenca do Minho) lies on the southern bank of the river Minho facing its Spanish contemporary, Tui on the opposite bank. Originally the fortress town was built to repel Spanish incursions and invaders who wanted to cross this natural barrier. Now Valença is a peaceful place, the hoards of Spanish invaders now take the form of tourists keen to buy embroideries, towelling and lace, admire the views and sample the excellent cuisine; are eagerly welcomed.
See More [ ► ]

Valença

| 10

VIANA DO CASTELO

The county town of the region with the same name, Viana do Castelo sits close to the mouth of the Rio Lima forty miles north of Porto. Its strategic location and connection to the sea brought the town fortune. It was founded in the 13th century by Dom Afonso III. Viana do Castelo is now in the process of being discovered by tourists. Visitors are lured here by the fine beaches marketed as the Costa Verde, the Santa Luzia church that overlooks the town, the town's narrow medieval streets, the folklore, traditional festivals and the cuisine. Albeit some prestigious contemporary architecture such as the Praça da Liberdade riverside complex, the town retains much of its medieval charm and boasts many attractive Manueline and Renaissance buildings.
See More [ ► ]

Viana do Castelo