If you want to discover more about Portugal in your next holidays, around Porto there is so much to see and experience still connected to the deepest Portuguese culture and roots. Portugal is much more than Lisbon, Oporto and Algarve. We love our country and we are blessed to have travelled around so much. We have selected our favorite places close to Porto that we love and we believe are worth your visit.
Visiting Braga from Oporto
Considered by many the oldest city in Portugal, Bracara Augusta was founded more than 2000 years ago and was considered the Portuguese Rome, because of the so many churches and squares like in the Italian Rome. But, being old doesn’t mean it isn’t filled with life. In fact, Braga is the Portuguese city with more youth, seen in the lively bars and jovial aura that embraces the streets.
Since most of the attractions are concentrated in the historical center, it’s perfect for a urban walking visit.
The scattered gardens across the city are landscaped designed around the so many secular churches, such as Santa Cruz Church and Sé (Cathedral). The perfect spot to appreciate this landscape geometry is on the top of the hill where Sanctuary of Bom Jesus emerges as an important point of pilgrimage.
How to get to Braga from Porto
To reach Braga from it is best if you catch one of so many trains departing from Campanhã Station in Oporto. Another option is taking the bus that connects the main Portuguese cities in the north of the country like: Rodonorte e Rede Express
Visiting Guimarães from Oporto
If Braga claims to be the oldest city, Guimarães claims to be the birthplace of Portugal. The rivalry between these two cities from Minho Region is old and goes beyond football and regional quarrel. Both have interesting culture and beauty that is worth your visit.
You can feel the weight of history in Guimarães in the city center monuments, the Bragança Dukes Palace and the Guimarães Castle.
You can start from here: take a taxi up to the Castle region, which is in the highest part of the city, and then go down from there. Its walls are still well preserved and it is interesting to climb its tower.
If you enjoy hiking you can choose one of the hiking trails up to Penha Mountain and enjoy the magnificent views from the hill top Sanctuary. But if you’re feeling lazy just take the Cable Car up there, and still brag you walked all the way up when you get home. It will be our little secret…
After this mourning walk you deserve an excellent northern meal. Adega do Ermitão (Hermitage Cellar) is a restaurant/cellar inserted in a cave. It is known for the sardines bread loaf and codfish cakes that has flavors that your taste buds never experienced before.
How to get to Guimarães from Porto
The best way to go from Oporto to Guimarães is by train. In São Bento or Campanhã Train Station , which is located in the center of Porto, you can catch a direct train.
Don’t forget Porto Beaches and the northern coast
With all your attention drawn to the Douro and Ribeira you might neglect Porto’s beaches.
Portuguese northern coast is a bit more rugged yet very romantic. You can walk for miles without seeing a soul in those long stretched sandy beaches, even in Summer. Try to visit Vila Chã, just 20 km away from Porto, where you can still find the same traditional habits and life in this small fisherman village, kind of lost between the middle of the sand and ocean. We recommend having lunch there, where you’ll find the best cheapest meal of your life.
Crossing the river to the south bank, the Atlantic shore has a long stretch of a, what seems endless, sandy beach. The ocean road has bicycle and walking lanes, along small terrace cafés and restaurants. If you’re happy to travel a little don’t rule out the town of Miramar, which has a pretty 17th-century chapel on the rocks between its huge golden sandy beaches.
Include some of the outlying beaches, a few minutes from the city. You have at least 10 to choose from, many of which fly the Blue Flag every year. The most convenient is Matosinhos, just past the Parque de Cidade and with a massive bay that seems boundless when the tide is out. There are plenty of surf schools here in case you want to give this sport a try. Closer to the city, Porto’s Foz do Douro, with its morning mist, adds an extra enchanting element. On a hot day you can dip your toes in the brisk Atlantic and clear your senses in the breeze.
Douro is beautiful. There are so many kinds of cruises: from sailing to wine cruises you name it. Roteiro do Douro’s is an informative riverboat cruises website where you can find the best deals. You can choose a quick hop-on, hop-off tour spanning Porto’s six bridges from 15 euros to going up stream to Barca d’Alva for a couple of days and feel the overwhelming Douro slopes embracing you.
Visit a wine cellar
Since your going to where the vines are, visit a wine cellar. Douro is famous for its wine but not only Port. Douro wine is one of the most appreciated wines in the world, winning several awards. The river slopes provide different sun exposure and completely different terroirs. The famous wine expert Jancis Robinson even considers:
“This remote valley well upriver from Oporto is one of the wonders of the wine world.”
Some cruises have partnerships with wine cellars, where you can taste different bottles from different years and learn more about wine.
Porto bridge climb
This last one is a bit different from the other tips and also more radical. However, we feel that the views you get from Douro’s last bridge before the Atlantic are breath-taking. When Ponte da Arrábida (Arrábida Bridge) was finished (1963) had the longest span of a concrete arch bridge on the world.
But what has really put the Arrábida Bridge on the map is the new bridge-climbing activity.
Kitted out with safety gear, you’ll have Douro’s river mouth and the older part of Porto at your feet. At the top, 65 meters above the River Douro, the panoramic views of the outlying city and the length of the river ending up at the Atlantic Ocean create one of the most original urban attractions. It is one of the more unusual things to do in Porto and certainly a radical departure from the traditional sightseeing options.
Hope this blog post has helped you. If it didn’t just drop us a line and we’ll be glad to help.