Daytrip from Porto - drive by travel?

Aug 19th, 2009, 06:12 PM
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Daytrip from Porto - drive by travel?

We'd like to go to Barcelos from Porto for the market then I thought we could do a loop from Barcelos to Viana do Castelo to Ponte de Lima to Braga to Guimaraes as a day trip which I realize now is nuts. I'm leaning towards going to Braga after Barcelos to see this lovely town and possibly Bom Jesus. Any suggestions? Thanks so much for your help.
Lily is offline  
Aug 20th, 2009, 06:17 AM
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Hi, Lily,

Yes, "nuts" is a good way to describe a one-day loop that would take in all of those places. But at least they are all close to each other! Since you asked for suggestions --

Of the towns you mention, I like Ponte de Lima and Guimaraes the best. They are both small and easy to navigate. You can find your way to parking close to the historic cores without any difficulty. In Ponte de Lima, there's a huge dirt lot right on the river and next to the old bridge. Though that sort of detracts from the ambience and the charm, it's extremely convenient (not sure when market days are, but the lot is turned into a market on those days, so I imagine parking would be really tight). Ponte de Lima is a beautiful little place, no huge attractions but it's a very nice stop.

Guimaraes has many more attractions, a castle, a walled historic center, churches, a palace (Dukes of Braganca), several museums. I was there in June and used this website to plan our visit: We spent the night in the convent pousada outside of town (which is one of my absolute favorites in Portugal) and easily filled two days. We also made a trip to the nearby Citania dos Breiteros (spelling may be off there), ruins of a pre-roman settlement -- fascinating, lots of room to roam and wonder and be awed.

Viana do Castelo is another town with a nice historic core, main square with churches, a nice costume museum and a pretty river walk. For those interested in the fishing industry, there's a boat turned museum -- it used to be a hospital boat sent out to the North Atlantic when the Portuguese were fishing cod off the coast of Newfoundland. It's very nice, but not as interesting or as pretty as either Guimaraes or Ponte de Lima, IMO.

I like Braga, it too has all the requisite historical sites and squares, but I have never been able to get in and out of town easily. Parking was a lot more problematic, and finding the way to the highway after the visit was always a nightmare for me. Luckily the people in Braga must know how crazy their road system is, because I always got great assistance. On two occasions when I asked for directions, the people just waved and said, it's just must easier for you to follow me, and they led me in their cars.

Bom Jesus is nice, the view up from the bottom is very pretty. The walk up is a nice workout after sitting in the car for a while, but the church itself isn't something I would drive miles and miles to see. There is a fascinating cable car kind of thing that goes up and down using water as ballast, but I always use the walking option when I can.

I have been to Barcelos twice, never on market day, those huge markets are just not my kind of thing. But lots of people do go, and the crowds are huge, I've heard. (I assume the parking is under control, there's a large park off the edge of town which seemed to be an obvious place to hold it). I don't think the quality of the tourist stuff (ceramics and fabrics, etc.) is any better than what you'd find in stores, but of course the selection is huge. I buy a lot of ceramics in Portugal and I think you have to be careful about quality. Especially in these open air places -- there is a lot of junk. I always go to stores recommended by friends where I can be sure the pottery is high quality, because I'm not smart enough to judge it by looking at it.

So those are my rather long winded impressions, you can't go wrong with any of these places, but I agree that it would be sensible to pare the list down a lot.

Sounds like you are having a lot of fun planning this trip, you've got a lot of great destinations on your itinerary. Laurie
lreynold1 is offline  
Aug 20th, 2009, 01:15 PM
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Thanks again Laurie for your insights and impressions of these towns. It's very helpful to me in determining where to go. And yes, I'm having a lot of fun planning this trip and am looking forward to going two weeks from today! Thanks again for all your help.
Lily is offline  
Aug 20th, 2009, 01:39 PM
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I loved the market at Barcelos---a true cultural experience.
I vote for Viana do Castelo and Ponte de Lima--hard to go wrong.
bobthenavigator is offline  
Aug 21st, 2009, 07:47 AM
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Thanks Bob. That makes two votes for Ponte de Lima so looks like we'll have to there. There is a festival going on while we are there that looks like fun too. And I know how much you like Viana do Castelo Bob so will have to get there too.
Lily is offline  

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