Far away from the golden sands of the Algarve, Northern Portugal has rugged hills and steeply terraced vineyards; remote mountains and wild coastline; historic towns and rural villages; ancient monuments and baroque churches. This enchanting destination remains relatively undiscovered, yet hidden amongst its dramatic beauty is a fascinating heritage of medieval towns, Romanesque architecture, winemaking traditions and fine food. Portugal’s north is also home to its second city: captivating Porto, which is vibrant, pretty and down to earth.
Baroque buildings and fine wines reveal Portugal’s soul
based on two sharing in a twin/double room, with a minimum of 35 passengers travelling in a specific month
April, May, June, September, October
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With its buildings colourfully perched on the hillside, Porto is a tumble of reds, blues and yellows descending to the banks of the River Douro. Gritty and glorious, this historic city has a strong commercial past, creating a fascinating combination of the pretty and the practical. Dilapidated buildings and imaginative graffiti contrast with intricate tilework and ornate churches, dramatic towers and bold bridges. Looked over by the Romanesque cathedral, Porto’s charms include the ornate Clérigos Tower, the incredible Lello Bookshop, wonderful museums, public gardens, and antique trams trundling along the riverbank. Across the Douro in Vila Nova de Gaia, Port lodges dominate and boats bob in the water, simply demanding that you kick back and sample the local tipple.
This pretty, riverside town sits at the heart of vineyard country and is dominated by its handsome church and monastery. Sleepy and pastoral, quaint Amarante has a medieval bridge, turreted buildings and drooping trees lining the riverbank.
Enjoy a relaxing cruise down the River Douro, taking in the best views of Porto, its iconic bridges, and the scenic vistas of the Douro Valley. The terraces that stripe the rolling hills with green and gold reveal the region’s purpose: the vines in this valley are used to create Porto’s famous port wine.
This family-run winery has been producing Portuguese vinho verde (‘young wine’) for generations. This incredible vineyard estate is home to enchanting floral gardens, a splendid house dating back to 1671, and of course high quality wines. Enjoy a wine and cheese tasting in these idyllic surroundings.
The beachside town of Esposende makes a fantastic base for exploring Northern Portugal. With its wide promenade, stunning beaches, lovely marinas and interesting Maritime Museum, it’s a relaxing town overlooked by a 17th century fort and the Esposende lighthouse.
A Roman city, beautiful Braga is home to Portugal’s oldest cathedral and a wealth of Baroque churches which ensure that the historic streets are filled with the peal of bells throughout the day. However, whilst there is much heritage to admire in this splendid city, it also has a vibrant energy thanks to its wealth of cafés and youthful university population. The icing on the cake is the marvellous Bom Jesus do Monte, a remarkable hillside church just outside of the city. This elaborate, neo-classical sanctuary is a pilgrimage site surrounded by tranquil gardens and flowing fountains.
Gorgeous Guimarães is known as ‘the birthplace of Portugal’, and its fascinating historic centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With charming plazas, the remains of an ancient castle, and medieval buildings, this charming and compact city is a delight to explore. It is also home to the impressive Ducal Palace, a medieval estate which holds many treasures, including four enormous tapestries depicting scenes from the North African conquests.
“The Lello Bookshop in Porto (said to have inspired J K Rowling’s writing) was my highlight. What an AMAZING place, I could have stayed there all day! It would have inspired me to write my own book!” (Jo)
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