Porto and the North: Places to Explore

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  • Amarante

    Small, agreeable Amarante has been overshadowed by its more historic neighbor Guimaraes, but the town still deserves an overnight stop. Straddling the Rio Tâmega, its halves are joined by a narrow 18th-century... Read more

  • Barcelos

    Barcelos, a bustling market town on the banks of the Rio Cávado with a population of some 18,000, is the center of a flourishing handicrafts industry, particularly ceramics (above all in the form of the... Read more

  • Braga

    Braga is one of northern Portugal's outstanding surprises. Founded by the Romans as Bracara Augusta, it prospered in earnest in the 6th century—under the Visigoths—when it became an important bishopric... Read more

  • Bragança

    This ancient town in the very northeastern corner of Portugal has been inhabited since Celtic times (from about 600 BC). The town lent its name to the noble family of Bragança (or Braganza), whose most... Read more

  • Chaves

    Chaves was known to the Romans as Aquae Flaviae (Flavian's Waters). They established a military base here and popularized the town's thermal springs. The impressive 16-arch Roman bridge across the Rio... Read more

  • Espinho

    Frequent trains and the N109 run past a string of quiet family beaches to Espinho, which has become an increasingly fashionable resort over the years. It has plenty of leisure facilities, including a casino... Read more

  • Guimarães

    Guimarães is a town proud of its past, and this is evident in a series of delightful medieval buildings and streets. The Old Town's narrow, cobbled thoroughfares pass small bars that open onto sidewalks... Read more

  • Lamego

    A prosperous town set amid a fertile landscape carpeted with vineyards and orchards, Lamego is also rich in baroque churches and mansions. It straddles the River Balsemão, a small tributary of the Douro... Read more

  • Monção

    The riverside town of Monção is a fortified border settlement with a long history of skirmishes with the Spanish. In town there are the remains of a 14th-century castle that withstood a desperate siege... Read more

  • Ofir and Esposende

    Ofir, on the south bank of the Rio Cávado, has a lovely beach with sweeping white sands, dunes, pinewoods, and water sports—a combination that has made it a popular resort. On the opposite bank of the... Read more

  • Peneda-Gerês

    The northeastern corner of the Minho is quite unlike most of this densely populated, heavily cultivated region. Here several forested serras (mountain ranges) rise up, cut through with deep valleys. A... Read more

  • Peso da Régua

    This small river port is a working town, and though not as scenic as its smaller neighbor Pinhao, it's the true heart of port-wine country, and all the wine from the vineyards of the Upper Douro Valley... Read more

  • Ponte de Lima

    Ponte de Lima's long, low, graceful bridge is of Roman origin. It's also open only to foot traffic; drivers cross a concrete bridge at the edge of town. The main square by the old bridge has a central... Read more

  • Porto

    Portugal's second-largest city, with a population of roughly 280,000, considers itself the north's capital and, more contentiously, the country's economic center. Locals support this claim with the maxim:... Read more

  • Póvoa de Varzim

    Póvoa de Varzim has a long beach, but the town has little of Vila do Conde's charm—except, perhaps, for the many shops and roadside stalls that sell similarly beautiful and reasonably priced hand-knit... Read more

  • Valença do Minho

    Valença do Minho is the major border crossing in this area, with roads as well as rail service into Spain. Valença's Old Town is enclosed by perfectly preserved walls, which face the similarly defended... Read more

  • Viana do Castelo

    At the mouth of the Rio Lima, Viana do Castelo has been a prosperous trading center since it received its town charter in 1258. Many of its finest buildings date from the 16th and 17th centuries, the period... Read more

  • Vila do Conde

    Vila do Conde has a long sweep of fine sand, a fishing port, a lace-making school, and a struggling shipbuilding industry that has been making wooden boats since the 15th century. The yards are probably... Read more

  • Vila Nova de Cerveira

    Granite hills border one side of Vila Nova de Cerveira, and the Rio Minho and Spain border the other. The town dates from the 13th century, when it was fortified to ward off any marauding Spaniards. Nowadays... Read more

  • Vila Nova de Foz Côa

    The higher reaches of the Douro are known for their harsh terrain, with baking hot summers and cold winters. Yet this apparently inhospitable region was home to a prehistoric people whose rock engravings... Read more

  • Vila Real

    The capital of Trás-os-Montes is superbly situated between two mountain ranges, and much of the city retains a small-town air. Although there's no great wealth of sights, it's worth stopping here to stroll... Read more

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