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Things to do in Northern Portugal

Things to do in  Northern Portugal

Welcome to Northern Portugal

Venture north from Lisbon and you’ll find a wealth of cultural and culinary delights in Northern Portugal, famed for its crepuscular wine cellars, revered pilgrimage sites, and picturesque valleys. In Porto, buildings smothered in azulejos (hand-painted tiles) tumble toward the Douro River (Rio Douro) and a haphazard historic center confirms its UNESCO World Heritage status at every turn. Combine tasting port, Porto’s world-renowned fortified wine, with a sightseeing tour and river cruise for an authentic glimpse into the capital of Northern Portugal. In contrast to Oporto’s densely packed architecture are the sweeping valleys and bounteous vineyards of the Douro Valley, where wineries and miradouros (lookout points) revealing stunning natural landscapes blend harmoniously. Use Porto as a base for day trips to Guimarães, undoubtedly the best preserved of Portugal’s medieval enclaves; historic Braga; and Santiago de Compostela, a holy and autonomous region located across the Spanish border in Galicia. Northern Portugal also offers easy access by train and plane to other Portuguese treasures, including the capital city, Lisbon, and the gorgeous beaches of the Algarve. If you’re planning to combine your Portugal trip with visits to other European cities but don’t have enough time to make it to Venice, don’t worry—Aveiro, known affectionately as the Venice of Portugal, boasts canal networks lined with moliceiros (colorful boats) with a traditional fish market and an impressive art museum.

Top 10 attractions in Northern Portugal

#1

Porto Cathedral (Sé Catedral do Porto)

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Originally a Romanesque church from the 12th century, the Porto Se Cathedral was rebuilt with a Gothic style about 600 years later. Like other major churches in northern Portugal, this twin-towered cathedral boasts remodeling design by the famed Italian architect and painter Nicolau Nasoni. Perhaps this is why the western façade and interior are undeniably Romanesque. Visitors should take note of its gilded main altar and its silver Altar of the Sacrament. On the left hand aisle is the statue of Oporto’s patron saint, Nossa Senhora de Vendoma. The interior is decorated by azulejos (blue ceramic tiles), installed in the 18th century. Apart from the church’s architectural treasures, it is also famed for its view – the terraces on the north and the west sides of the church provide stunning photo opportunities for capturing Oporto’s labyrinthine streets and dwellings.More
#2

Braga Cathedral (Sé de Braga)

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Located in city of Braga in northern Portugal, the Braga Cathedral is the oldest surviving church in Portugal and one of the most important monuments in the country. Built in a Burgundian Romanesque style between the 11th and 13th centuries, the cathedral provided architectural inspiration for many other churches and monasteries built in Portugal around the same time. Due to numerous modifications over the centuries, the cathedral today features a mix of styles, including Romanesque, Gothic, Manueline and Baroque. The cathedral consists of several chapels built at different times. The parents of the first Portuguese were buried in the Chapel of the Kings in 1374 and the Chapel of the Glory was built in the mid-14th century as the final resting place of Archbishop Goncalo Pereira. Looks for the tomb guarded by siz life size stone lions and the painted Moorish geometrical designs.More
#3

Dom Luis Bridge (Ponte de Dom Luis I)

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The imperious, double-decker metal spans of Ponte de Dom Luís I stretch across the Douro River from Porto to Villa Nova de Gaia, and were designed by Téophile Seyrig, the student of Gustave Eiffel who also drew up the plans for the nearby Donna Maria Pia Bridge. When the Dom Luís I was finished in 1886, it was the longest single-span bridge in the world at 564 feet, and it supported 3,045 tons of steel in weight. The bridge marked a significant step forward in Porto’s economic growth, as before it existed, the only passages across the river were boats lashed together. Today the lower deck of the bridge carries cars while the upper level is utilized by metro Line D and has a pedestrian walkway offering views across the river. Since the late 19th century, four other bridges have joined the bridge of Dom Luís I and Donna Maria Pia in reaching across the Douro; they are all best seen by river cruise in a traditional wooden rabelo.More
#4

Clérigos Church and Tower (Torre & Igreja dos Clérigos)

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One of the symbols of Porto is the Torre dos Clerigos, the bell tower adjoining the Clerigos Church, a baroque church built between 1732 and 1750. The church was one of the first Baroque churches in Portugal. Its Baroque adornments reflect the city’s seaside way of life, as its façade is carved with shells and garlands. More iconic than the church however, is its bell tower. Standing at 75 m (245 ft) high, the tower offers an amazing, panoramic view of the city, the Duoro River and the Atlantic coast. Completed in 1763, this granite tower is based upon a Roman Baroque design scheme coupled with an unmistakably Tuscan bell tower design; visitors familiar with Italian architecture will be delighted to see a decidedly Roman Baroque masterpiece towering over a Portuguese port. Once you’ve ascended the 225 steps and reached the top of the sixth floor, the Torre dos Clerigos, you’ll be able to see the whole city.More
#5

Douro River (Rio Douro)

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The Douro is one of the Iberian Peninsula’s major rivers, flowing from Duruelo de la Sierra in northern Spain and emptying itself into the Atlantic at Porto. It has been shaping the harsh landscape of the Douro region since time immemorial, sculpting and irrigating its riverbanks to sustain the tradition of viniculture that has produced fine port wines for centuries. On its 557-mile run through northern Spain and Portugal, the Douro meanders through steep-sided valleys laden with regimentally straight stripes of vines; the wine-growing region has been appointed a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its natural beauty. The hillsides, arid and barren further inland from the river, are scattered with low-lying quintas (wineries) where wines can be sampled and bought.More
#6

Ribeira

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Many of Europe’s great cities have an "old quarter," the original part of town from which centuries of cosmopolitan evolution spread outward. In Porto, the old town is known as The Ribeira, as it looks out onto the River Douro. In days past, it was once the major entrepot for international shipments, but its modern waterfront is now lined with restaurants, bars and cafes, making it a popular leisure hub and nightlife destination. The main drag, Cais da Ribeira, leads to Praca da Ribeira, a square dominated by two large fountains (one is bronze cubist monument and popular with pigeons) and populated with revelers going between its myriad bars and restaurants. If you are able to, visit Porto and the Ribeira on June 23 for the annual Festa de Sao Joao (Festival of St. John). While this festival is in memory of St. John, its celebration includes a peculiar tradition - hitting people in the head with plastic hammers.More
#7

Church of São Francisco (Igreja de São Francisco)

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Behind its comparatively stark Gothic façade, the Church of São Francisco harbors a trove of Baroque finery and its unabashed opulence makes it one of Porto’s most unmissable architectural wonders. The church itself was built between 1383 and 1410, but most of its lavish decorations date back to the 17th and 18th century Baroque period and no expense (or space) has been spared. Pass beneath the striking rose window and you’ll be confronted with glistening marble columns, intricately carved arches and gilded interiors, coated with some 400kg worth of gold. It’s a feast for the eyes, with every inch of the church walls and ceilings adorned with ornamental frescoes, rich floral motifs and Mudéjar wood paneling. Highlights include the magnificent Tree of Jesse altarpiece, the 13th century statue of Saint Francis, and the eerily beautiful catacombs, adorned with sculptures by Nicolau Nasoni and António Teixeira Lopes.More
#8

Amarante

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Allegedly established by a Roman centurion named Amarantus, Amarante is situated between the steep sides of Serra do Marão and the curves of the river Tâmega, the longest tributary of the river Douro. Modern Amarante is actually rooted in the 13th century, when the Benedictine monk St. Gonçalo settled in the area after completing a pilgrimage to Italy and Jerusalem. He is said to have commissioned the original bridge over the river Tâmega, located in the same spot as modern times. In addition to its centurion, saint and bridge, Amarante is known for its sweets and cakes, and these are easy to find in many of the region's cake-shops and cafés. However, during the Feast of Sao Gonçalo, Amarante’s baked goods become famous for a different reason: they’re baked in the shape of phalluses, Sao Gonçalo is the patron saint of marriage and lovers. As suggestively shaped confections are not the norm for a Catholic Saint’s day, the tradition is likely rooted in a pagan fertility ritual.More
#9

Palace of the Stock Exchange (Palácio da Bolsa)

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Porto’s former stock exchange building, the Palace of the Stock Exchange (Palácio da Bolsa), is a magnificent 19th-century mansion at the heart of the city’s UNESCO-listed historic center. A marvel of neoclassical architecture and steeped in history, its grand ballrooms have played host to royals like Queen Elizabeth II over the years. Today, the Palacio da Bolsa is open to the public by guided tour only and visitors can explore a number of its opulent rooms. Highlights include the Nations’ Room, with its collection of international flags; the exquisite parquet floors and the monumental grand staircase with its glittering bronze chandeliers. The undisputed star attraction is the dazzling Arabian Room, where the arabesque décor and gilded pillars are inspired by the famous Alhambra Palace in Granada, and music concerts are held throughout the year.More
#10

Liberdade Square (Praça da Liberdade)

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Lying at the southern end of Porto’s majestic Avenida dos Aliados, Liberdade Square (Praça da Liberdade) started its life in the late 18th century when the city began to expand beyond its medieval walls, which are now long gone. The geographical and social importance of the square grew in the early 19th century with the building of both the main railway station and the Ponte Dom Luís I across the Douro River. The equestrian statue of King Pedro IV by French sculptor Anatole Calmels was placed in the center of Liberdade Square in 1866 and stands in direct eye-line of City Hall’s bell tower as the Avenida dos Aliados sweeps upwards. The wide promenade in the center of the avenue is a popular gathering place for evening strolls and was designed by Alvaro Siza Vieira, who also built the innovative Serralves Museum. The south side of Liberdade Square is punctuated by the gigantic façade of the Palácio das Cardosa, formerly a nunnery but now a luxury hotel.More

Trip ideas

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Fado Shows in Porto

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How to Spend 2 Days in Porto

Top activities in Northern Portugal

Douro Valley Wine Tour: Visit to Three Vineyards with Wine Tastings and Lunch

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Douro Valley Tour with Visit to two Vineyards, River Cruise and Lunch at Winery

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Braga and Guimarães with Lunch Included - Small Group - Full Day

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Braga and Guimarães with Lunch Included - Small Group - Full Day

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US$99.87
US$105.13  US$5.26 savings
Porto: Guimarães and Braga Day Trip

Porto: Guimarães and Braga Day Trip

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US$111.31

Recent reviews from experiences in Northern Portugal

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AMAZING
MandyStrating, Sep 2020
Douro Valley Tour with Visit to two Vineyards, River Cruise and Lunch at Winery
We had a wonderfull tourguide, his knowlegde and English was more than great!
star-5
Great Douro Valley Tour!
Justin_S, Jul 2020
Douro Valley Tour: Wine Tasting, River Cruise and Lunch From Porto with Pickup
It was great to see a few of the wineries in the Douro Valley and get a taste of history.
star-5
A Must-do Tour
Kitaya_T, Mar 2020
Premium Service-Douro Valley with Lunch,Boat and Tastings
It was a whole day trip but all activities were very enjoyable.
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Best part of Porto visit
maghentrinker, Jan 2020
Douro Valley Small-Group Tour with Wine Tasting, and Optional Lunch and Cruise
We normally do not want to join guided tours but to see the Douro Valley and visit the vineyards this was by far the best option.
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Probably one of our favorite days in our trip!
391martha, Sep 2019
Premium Service-Douro Valley with Lunch,Boat and Tastings
His English was excellent and he was very knowledgable regarding Douro Valley.
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Most beautiful views
taboo1914, Aug 2019
Douro Valley Small-Group Tour with Wine Tasting, and Optional Lunch and Cruise
I love love this tour if you have time to visit the Douro Valley please do so it is absolutely beautiful great and delicious lunch and ofcourse our tour guy was amazing I will go back if a have the opportunity to do it again
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Awesome Day at Douro Wine Tour!
Flyer776958, Jun 2019
Porto: Douro Valley Wine Tour Including Lunch
This was our 1st time in Portugal and we had to visit the wine sector Douro Valley.
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Best if you aren't a big drinker
lppachat, May 2019
Douro Valley Historical Tour with Lunch, Winery Visit with Tastings and Panoramic Cruise
We saw a lot and it was great if like me, you want to see Douro without drinking.
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Introduction to northern Portugal
lizbrett6, Oct 2018
Douro Valley Tour: Wine Tasting, Lunch & River Cruise
We decided on this trip as we've always wanted to see the douro area.
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Highly recommended
camelia_d, Aug 2018
Douro Valley Tour: Wine Tasting, Lunch & River Cruise
Our guide Tiago was knowledgeable and easy to talk to, and spoke very good English.
star-5
We had an amazing day in the Douro...
Josh Hornthal, Mar 2018
Porto: Douro Valley Wine Tour Including Lunch
He spoke perfect English, was extremely informative, and always did whatever he could to make sure our whole group was having a great time.
star-5
Very good arrangement to see...
TzuWen H, Oct 2017
Douro Valley Historical Tour with Lunch, Winery Visit with Tastings and Panoramic Cruise
Very good arrangement to see beautiful landscape of Douro valley and to learn the story of Port wine and how it made.
star-4
Great way to see the lower Douro in...
Anthony M, May 2017
Day Trip from Porto to Régua by Bus and Return by Boat
Great way to see the lower Douro in one day.
star-5
Great tour
Mike_TMR, Aug 2019
Douro Valley Small-Group Tour with Wine Tasting, and Optional Lunch and Cruise
You should include the boat tour in your valley trip to see the beauty of the winnery.
star-4
The sights along the Douro River are...
scottsdalegma, Jun 2016
Day Cruise from Porto to Pinhão with Breakfast and Lunch
We did wonder, however, why we were seated with German people that did not speak English in spite of the fact that there were MANY English speaking people onboard, The afternoon was VERY hot and the train ride back was late and LONG!
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We really liked the small group and...
Michael W, Sep 2015
Douro Valley Wine Tour: Visit to Three Vineyards with Wine Tastings and Lunch
This is a very good way to see the Douro Valley without renting a car and has the benefit of knowledgeable guides.
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Although we ended up in the wrong...
silvija p, Apr 2016
Douro Valley Premium Tour from Porto with lunch, wine tasting & river cruise
If you are in the north you have to visit Douro valley.
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Excellent tour, our tour guide...
Jeffrey N, Aug 2015
Porto: Day Trip to Douro
Great way to see the Douro valley.
star-5
Very nice tour of Douro. The guide...
Laura, Sep 2017
Douro Valley Tour: Wine Tasting, Lunch & River Cruise
The tour guide spoke very good English so that was a plus.
star-5
Day was wonderful, guide (Paula...
Barbara O, Sep 2013
Porto: Guimarães and Braga Day Trip
Day was wonderful, guide (Paula) superb and we are so glad we took the time out to see a little more of Northern Portugal

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