In contrast to the modern boulevards, gardens and cafés found at the coast, the old town half a mile inland still retains much of its original charm with old churches, traffic-free squares and narrow streets.
Within the heart of the old town, you'll find many of the monuments of Vila do Conde. In the middle of the Praça Vasco da Gama (old name Praça Nova) you'll find a small circular fountain, flanked by two large trees.
The Edificio dos Paços do Concelho, or Municipal Hall in English was completed in 1543 AD and stands in front of the famous symbol of regal power, the Pelourinho (Pillory in English). Built in 1538, the Pillory stands on an octagonal base. It was originally placed in the Praca da Ribeira. The stem is fashioned into a twisted rope typical of the Manueline style of the time. Its capital bears the royal coat of arms that authorises the justice metered out at the Pillory. On the top of a hand protrudes bearing a sword.
On one side of the Praça Vasco da Gama square is the highly impressive Igreja Matriz church. Construction started in 1496 to replace the original church which once occupied this spot. Designed by architects John Biscayan Rainho, Sancho Garcia and Rui Garcia Penagos. In 1502 king Manuel I visited Vila do Conde whilst on pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela and agreed to fund the project. The finished construction contains influences of Gothic, Manueline, Baroque and Neo-Gothic. It was finally inaugurated in 1518. Its rather imposing squared based bell tower was added in 1573 and designed by João Lopes the elder. Of particular note is the Manueline styled portal which is attributed to João de Castilho. The church was made a national monument in 1910.
Located in the church's sacristy is the Museum Museu da Confraria do Santíssimo. It houses sacred artefacts, art and items of worship. Of particular note is the Processional Cross from the Formariz Chapel, dating from the late 16th century/early 17th century.
October - May: Daily: 10h00 - 14h00 - 16h00, Jun. - September: Daily: 10h00 - 10h00 - 12h00/14h00 - 16h00
Rua da Misericórdia 60, 4480 Vila do Conde, Portugal.
41º 21' 14.25" N | 08º 44' 33.52" W | +351 252 631 424
South of Praça Vasco da Gama heading towards the river is the Praça Jose Regio square. Named after the famous 20th-century poet, modernist, author, painter, illustrator and political idealist José Maria dos Reis Pereira, better known by the pen name José Regio. This wide urban space was opened up in 1984. The standing centrepiece is a bronze statue of the enigmatic character by sculptor António Duarte. To add colour to the square many flower beds and plants have been planted. Here around its perimeter, you'll find various bars and restaurants, a choice visit for nighttime entertainment.
Once the venue for a cattle market, the Praça da República (Republic Square) is located on the bank of the river Ave and is the busiest square in town. The area was totally re-landscaped in the 1950s, adding the arrangement of flowerbeds and granite fountain. Here too you'll find the bust of Domingos de Azevedo Antunes. On the square's eastern flank is the road bridge that leads to Azurara and beyond the road access to the Church and Convent of Santa Clara and the impressive aqueduct beyond. On the north face of the square is the Solar de Vasconcelos, an 18th-century palace that was once a barn. Despite this prime location, there's surprisingly few cafés or restaurants to be found around the square.
The dominant feature along this stretch of the river is by far the Santa Clara monastery, situated on the top of a hill. What you see today is mostly an 18th-century refurbishment. There's been a monastery here since the 14th century. The original monastery's construction began in 1318 by Afonso Sanches, the illegitimate son of King Denis, and his wife, Teresa de Menezes. It is thought that the Castle of the Counts of Cantanhede existed there. As well as the monastery, the site includes the Gothic Santa Clara Church (1318) and various Manueline late Gothic constructions.
The abolition of monastic orders in 1834 left the Mosteiro de Santa Clara abandoned until the mid 20th century where it became a House of Detention and Juvenile Correction. In 1974 once again, it fell into misfortune and has been unoccupied ever since. Development plans are at least being discussed.
The aqueduct da Santa Clara brought water from the spring of Terroso in Póvoa de Varzim to the Mosteiro de Santa Clara. Its 999 arches span four kilometres (2.5 miles ), the second-longest aqueduct in the country. It was built between 1626 and 1714. Despite being a national monument since 1910, it is suffering from neglect. In December 2009, a few of the arches collapsed.
Located on the quayside of the river Ave, perched on a rocky outcrop is this unusual looking chapel from the late 16th century. The structure is unusual for Portugal. It is a square base topped by an arabesque dome, a testament possibly of the designers exploits in India, China and Japan. It is Gaspar Manuel's last resting place along with his wife Barbara Ferreira de Almeida. Inside further references to the middle east can be found on the magnificent 18th-century azulejos. They depict the adoration of the Magi wearing turbans at Christ's birth. Access can be gained through the Rua do Socorro.
Rua do Socorro, 4480-789 Vila do Conde, Portugal. | 41° 20′ 57.4″ N | 08° 44′ 38.5″ W
The unmissable feature oblong the quayside is the glorious replica of a 16th-century carrack or nau. In such vessels, Portuguese explorers navigated the globe, notably on the annual voyages to India. The ship displays three masts with typical large aftcastle, forecastle and bowsprit at the stem. Vila do Conde has a long history of shipbuilding. Portugal's golden age brought a large amount of wealth to the town. In 1990 as part of the 500th-anniversary celebrations of Bartolomeu Dias's epic voyage around the Cape of Good Hope, a replica of his caravel was constructed here.
You can discover more about the towns rich shipbuilding heritage the excellent Museu da Construção Naval. It is situated in the impressive 15th century former royal customs building opposite the ship. The museum contains objects relating to shipbuilding, cartography, navigation, and life at sea.
Tuesday - Sunday: 10h00 - 18h00, Monday: CLOSED
Rua Cais da Alfandega, Vila do Conde 4480-702, Portugal.
41° 20' 59.1"N | 08° 44' 37.8" W | +351 252 240 740 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Built at the turn 16th and 17th centuries on the mouth of the Ave river is a five-pointed polygon, in the typical Vauban style of other forts found on Portugal's northern coastline.
The fort, also known as Castelo de Vila do Conde and Fortaleza de Nossa Senhora da Assunção (fort of Our Lady of Assumption), was built to protect the port from pirate attacks. It replaces earlier defences that had become ineffective. By the end of the Peninsular Wars, the fort had lost its military use. It then served as a customs office for the trade coming in and out of Vila do Conde. Today it's a hotel and restaurant which has been fully restored. Non-residents can enter the pentagonal compound and climb the walls to see the bartizans and enjoy the views over the Ave estuary.
Avenida Brasil, 4480-659, Vila do Conde, Portugal. | 41° 20' 31.0"N | 08° 45' 06.5" W
+351 253 22 670 | email@example.com
Situated on a hill close to Vila do Conde are the ancient remains of an oppidum, a semi-urban fortified town from the Iron age, attributed to the Castro celts who dwelled in Northern Portugal and Galicia since the 9th century BC. The Cividade de Bagunte contains about eight hundred dwellings, home for between two and four thousand people. This fortified settlement occupies a considerable area, about 325 meters long by 150 meters wide. It had at least five lines of defensive walls, within which ruined structures predominantly circular and rectangular are grouped into apparent blocks.
Cividade is strategically placed overlooking the valleys of the rivers Ave and Este. The site was abandoned after the Roman occupation of the area, most probably in the 2nd century CE. Cividade was discovered in the late nineteenth century, attracting interest from a group of researchers who, by the early twentieth century, were following up on the work done by Martins Sarmento and José Leite de Vasconcelos. It was classified as a National Monument in 1910. It remains one of the most important archaeological sights in the Vila do Conde region. Although the site remains private property, you can visit the most interesting areas of the site, including the upper section, follow the signs in place. Some graphic information is spread by the various points of interest and car parking is available.
Weekdays: 10h00 - 12h00 | Rua da Igreja 98, 4480-214, Bagunte, Vila do Conde, Portugal.
41° 20' 31.0"N | 08° 45' 06.5" W | +351 252 652 107 | firstname.lastname@example.org | Website
The three kilometres (2 miles) long beach stretches from the marina at Póvoa de Varzim at the Northern end to the mouth of the Rio Ave in the South, where the Forte de São João Baptista castle stands guard. The central areas being the most favourable by families and bathers. Surfers prefer to use the extremities where the swell is higher. South of Vila do Conde and the river Ave there's a continuous stretch of sand running through Azurara, Ávore (and its campsite), past the Literal de Vila do Conde coastal nature reserve to the beaches around Vila Chã. These beautiful white sands are wonderfully undeveloped and never crowded. Access is gained over the protected dunes via wooden pathways.
With the Forte de São João Baptista at the southern end of Vila do Conde's beaches, the Praia do Forno feels disconnected from the hubbub of town, separated by a line of dunes. During high season the beach is lined with kiosks, changing facilities and beach bars. The beach is in the form of a bay defined by rocky formations at either end and serves as windbreaks and helps to tame the waves and Atlantic currents.
Further North running parallel to the main town, is the well attended Blue Flag Praia Azul beach. This long stretch of golden sands has plenty of amenities and is large enough for it feels uncrowded.
Located next to Ave River in Vila do Conde, this spa hotel features an indoor pool, a hot tub and a sauna. The rooftop terrace features panoramic city and beach views. All guest rooms at the 4-star Santana Hotel & Spa are air-conditioned and equipped with a TV, a minibar and a private bathroom. Some rooms offer a balcony and a terrace overlooking the river. Restaurant Santa Clara serves traditional Portuguese food with a view over the Ave river and the Santa Clara monastery. Guests can also enjoy a range of relaxing massages at the spa or work out with cardiovascular equipment at the gym. Free private parking is available.
Monte Santana, 4480-188 Vila do Conde, Portugal.
41º 21' 02.7" N | 08º 44' 09.3" W | +351 252 640 460
Located in a traditional townhouse in the centre of Vila do Conde, Hotel Brazão offers thoughtfully modernised rooms. Only half a mile from the beaches and with easy access to Porto along the metro line. The rooms come fully fitted with air conditioning, cable TV, Wi-Fi, hairdryer, minibar and a writing desk. The hotel's restaurant serves a buffet breakfast and typical Portuguese dishes whilst the bar serves a refreshing drink.
Avenida Dr. João Canavarro, 4480-668 Vila do Conde, Portugal.
41° 21' 08.9" N | 08° 44' 44.6" W | +351 252 642 016
Overlooking the river Ave this homely guest house features a quaint tea house that specialises in herbal teas and homemade pastries. The accommodation offered is shared dormitories or double rooms with private bathrooms. Breakfast is inclusive.
Rua do Cais das Lavandeiras, 39/40, 4480-754 Vila do Conde, Portugal.
41° 21' 08.9" N | 08° 44' 44.6" W | +351 224 078 765
A bright, clean and modern decor awaits you inside in conjunction with a warm and friendly welcome. Here along with the notorious large wine list, you'll encounter fine dining at reasonable prices. Wholesome flavours and fresh ingredients pleasantly presented on your plate. Dinning here is a most memorable experience.
Daily: 12h30 – 15h00/19h00/00h00, Monday: CLOSED
Rua da Fonte 221, 4480-088, Areia - Árvore, Vila do Conde, Portugal.
41° 20'' 01.2" N | 08° 43' 21.6" W
+351 252 641 075
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Portuguese food with the gourmet treatment, quality food that is well presented with impeccable service. The riverside views help to highlight your dining experience here.
Monday - Saturday: 12h00 - 15h00/19h30 - 23h00, Sunday: 12h00 - 15h00
Av. Marquês Sá da Bandeira, 4480-916, Vila do Conde, Portugal.
41° 20'' 32.9" N | 08° 44' 48.6" W | +351 914 135 850
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Francisco de Sá Carneiro Airport Porto is 21.1km (13.1 miles) South of Vila do Conde Website
GET A GREAT DEAL ON YOUR FLIGHT HERE:
From Porto International Airport: Take the A28 and then northbound on the N13.
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The metro Line B runs from Porto (Estádio do Dragão) every 20 minutes and takes around an hour. You will need a Z6 Andante card to travel this far. There are two stations in Vila do Conde: get off at Santa Clara, 300m east of the convent, though quicker express services (50min) call at Vila do Conde station, only five minutes walk from the centre:
The closest railway station is in Trofa 19.4 kilometres (12 miles) east. The major railway stations of Compamha and São Bento in Porto are easily accessible using Metro line B. From Porto, there are connections to other major routes urban, intercity and regional. Train Timetable | Comboios de Portugal Website