I adore Portugal – it’s one of my all time favourite countries. So much so that I want to buy a house there! I know that most visitors head to the Algarve for sun and beaches, which isn’t a bad plan. But although the Algarve is indeed beautiful, much of it is very ‘British’ and ‘touristy’. In my opinion Portugal’s most beautiful cultural and architectural delights are found in the North. And today I’m delighted to share with you my Northern Portugal itinerary.
This Northern Portugal itinerary should take approximately 2 weeks. You can speed it up – if you move quickly you can cover these destinations in 10 days and some are even doable as day trips from Porto. However, I like to take it slow and allow time to try the local food, meet local people and generally just soak up the traditional Portuguese atmosphere of the smaller destinations such as Amarante and Lamego.
Porto – 3 days
This itinerary starts in Porto and most people fly into Porto airport for Northern itineraries. Ryanair fly to Porto from London, Birmingham and Liverpool airports. Porto airport is well connected by the Porto metro and so if you land before midnight you should be able to jump on a metro direct to the centre (Trinidade).
Spend at least 3 days in Porto seeing the main sites. Be prepared for a lot of hills and so comfortable footwear is essential!
Don’t miss Se Cathedral, Igreja Dr Ouro and bolsa palace. Also make sure that you cross the bridge to the other side of the river – Gaia where all the port houses are.
If you want a quick and easy way to see the main sites of Porto I recommend the Porto tuk tuk tour!
While you are in Porto make sure that you eat a Francesinha – it’s a massive meat sandwich cooked in beer sauce and topped with an egg. Very calorific and not suitable for vegetarians of course!
Braga – 1 or 2 days
Braga will be your first stop off and you instantly get a more local feel in these smaller places. Braga is home to the university of Minho – a must visit to see the beautiful gardens in front of the old university building.
You must take a full morning or afternoon to visit the famous church of Bom Jesus.
Also the Braga cathedral is phenomenal and houses an amazing baroque organ.
Guimaraes – 1 or 2 days
The Castle is one of the main sites of Guimaraes. It is a medieval castle built in the 10th Century to defend the Monastery from the Moors and the Norsemen.
Amarante – 1 or 2 days
The relaxing town of Amarante is positioned beautifully on the river Tamego. You will recognize Amarante from the famous pictures of Sao Goncalo and Sao Dominica overlooking the Sao Goncalo bridge. You can go into both of these churches for free and this central part of Amarante is where you should start your journey. Then walk up the hill into the centre towards Sao Pedro and Santa Maria.
Later you can explore the other side of the bridge where you will find numerous patiseriea and tavernas. There is also parque flore celestial for a relaxing walk.
Lamego – 1 Day
The cute Portuguese destination of Lamego can be seen in just one day – as long as you don’t mind getting up early to walk up hill to the castle. You will need to choose what to see first – most people do the castle and the archaeological museum and cistern in the morning and then the Sanctuary of nossa senhora dos remédios in the afternoon (or vice versa).
Viseu – 1 or 2 Days
Viseu is an absolute gem tucked right up in the mountains. It is most famous for its Azulejos tiled wall, but also has some fantastic Churches and Museums.
Aveiro – 1 or 2 days
Aveiro is one of my favourite places in Northern Portugal – the Portuguese beauty is apparent as soon as you get off the train here – the blue azulejos (Portuguese tiles) in the station. Aveiro is known as the Venice of Portugal because of its extensive canals. It’s famous for the ‘Moliceiro’ boats which are beautifully decorated boats often painted with pictures of ladies! Make sure that you also visit the Market
Look down as well as up in Aveiro – the cobble stones are often arranged in patterns that mean something.
Finally it’s time to jump on the train back to Porto, where I recommend that you take one more day to drink port abd eat pasteis da nata!