Northern Portugal

We’ve compiled the best of the best in Northern Portugal - browse our top choices for the top things to see or do during your stay.

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  • 1. Basílica de Santa Luzia

    Sitting high atop a wooded hill, this white granite-domed basilica is one of the most beautiful in Portugal. A funicular railway (€2, return ticket €3) can carry you up, or you can take the 2-km (1-mile) footpath that winds its way through the trees. The views from the basilica steps are magnificent, and a staircase to the side allows access to the very top of the dome for some extraordinary coastal vistas.

    Estrada de Santa Luzia, Viana do Castelo, Viana do Castelo, 4900-408, Portugal
    258 823 173

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Closed Mon. from Nov. through Feb.
  • 2. Bom Jesus do Monte

    Many people come to Braga specifically to see the Bom Jesus do Monte, a pilgrimage shrine atop a 1,312-foot-high, densely wooded hill 5 km (3 miles) east of the city. The stone staircase, a marvel of baroque art that was started in 1723, leads to an 18th-century church whose terrace commands wonderful views. Fountains placed at various resting places represent the five senses and the virtues, and small chapels display tableaux with life-size figures illustrating the Stations of the Cross. If you don't want to climb up the staircase, there's a funicular (€1.50 or €2.50 return) and buses from the center of town. The shrine offers several guided tours—including one that takes you to the church only and one that adds on the lake, gardens, and woods—but you have to book in advance by phone or email to  [email protected].

    Parque do Bom Jesus, Braga, Braga, 4715-056, Portugal
    253 676 636

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free
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  • 3. Casa de Mateus

    An exceptional baroque mansion believed to have been designed by Nicolau Nasoni (architect of Porto's dashing Clérigos Tower), the Casa de Mateus sits 4 km (2½ miles) east of Vila Real. Its U-shape facade—with high, decorated finials at each corner—is pictured on the Mateus Rosé wine label (though that is the full extent of the association, as the winemaker is not based here). After your guided tour of the house, you are free to explore the formal gardens, which are enhanced by a "tunnel" of cypress trees that shade the path. A longer version of the tour also takes in the chapel, with its even more extravagant facade, and a temporary exhibition.

    N322, Mateus, Vila Real, 5000-291, Portugal
    259 323 121

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €13.50 guided tour; €20 tour with chapel and exhibition; €10 garden only, To visit, phone or email [email protected].
  • 4. Cidadela de Bragança

    Within the walls of the Cidadela, you'll find the Castelo and the Domus Municipalis (City Hall), a rare Romanesque civic building dating to the 12th century; it is always open. The nearby Igreja de Santa Maria, a church with Romanesque origins, has a superb 18th-century painted ceiling. A prehistoric granite boar, with a tall medieval stone pillory sprouting from its back, stands below the castle keep, or Torre de Menagem, which now houses the Museu Militar (€3). It displays armaments from the 12th century through World War I, but the structure itself is the main attraction, with its 108-foot-high Gothic tower, dungeons, drawbridge, turrets, battlements, and vertiginous outside staircase.

    Rua da Cidadela, Bragança, Bragança, 5301-901, Portugal
    273 322 378
  • 5. Citânia de Briteiros

    About 10 km (6 miles) northwest of Guimarães you'll find these fascinating remains of a Celtic citânia (hill settlement). It dates to around 300 BC and was probably not abandoned until AD 300, making it one of the last Celtic strongholds against the Romans in Portugal, although its residents are now thought to have become gradually romanized. The walls and foundations of 150 huts and a meeting house have been excavated (two of the huts have been reconstructed to show their original size). The site was excavated in the late 19th century by Dr. Martins Sarmento, namesake of a must-see museum in Guimarães where most of the finds from Briteiros were transferred. You can also visit the smaller Museu da Cultura Castreja, housed in Sarmento's 19th-century family home, in the village of São Salvador de Briteiros, down below the Citânia. Local bus company Guimabus serves Briteiros several times daily from downtown Guimaraes, then it's less than 10 minutes on foot to the museum or a 2.5 km (1.5 miles) hike up to the Citânia.

    Estrada Nacional 153, Km 55, Guimarães, Braga, 4805-448, Portugal
    253 478 952-for guided visits

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €3, includes admission to Museu da Cultura Castreja, Closed Mon. Nov.–Mar.
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  • 6. Museu Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso

    The former monastery cloisters now house this municipal museum and its excellent collection of modern Portuguese art, including important works by locally born modernist painter Souza-Cardoso. He pursued variations of fauvism, cubism, futurism, and other avant-garde tendencies, in 1906 sharing an apartment with fellow painter Amedeo Modigliani in Paris. He returned to Portugal in 1914 and died four years later at the age of 31. The museum also has some interesting archaeological pieces---the star attractions are the diabos (devils), a pair of 19th-century carved wooden figures connected with ancient fertility rites. They were venerated on St. Bartholomew's Day (August 24), when the devil was thought to run loose. In 1870, the Archbishop of Braga ordered them burned because of their pagan function. The São Gonçalo friars didn't go that far, but they did emasculate the male diabo.

    Alameda Teixeira de Pascoaes, Amarante, Porto, 4600-011, Portugal
    255 420 282

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €4, Closed Mon.
  • 7. Museu do Douro

    This striking museum was inaugurated a few years after UNESCO named the Alto Douro Wine Region a World Heritage Site in 2001, underscoring its importance in terms of cultural history and tourism. Housed in the imposing former headquarters of Portugal's oldest wine company, the Real Companhia Velha, it also has a contemporary wing that hosts major exhibitions about the region, its history, and its leading figures. The ticket price includes a complimentary glass of port wine, but those with an appetite can stay for lunch or dinner in the restaurant and wine bar, which overlook the river. For a guided tour of the museum in English (€20), book a couple of days in advance.

    Rua Marquês de Pombal, Peso da Régua, Vila Real, 5050–282, Portugal
    254 310 190

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €6
  • 8. Museu Termas Romanas de Chaves

    Plans for an underground car park in front of the city's courthouse were canceled in 2006 when remains of the long-lost Roman baths, dating back to the 1st century AD, came to light—steam still rising from the hot spring. The therapeutic complex is one of the largest unearthed in Europe, with two large pools and seven smaller ones, and a hydraulic system that still works today. The museum opened in 2021.

    Largo do Arrabalde, Chaves, Vila Real, 5400-093, Portugal

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free, Closed Mon.
  • 9. Parque Nacional da Peneda–Gerês

    The 172,900-acre park, sitting on the border with Spain, was created in 1970 to preserve the region's diverse flora and fauna. It remains Portugal's only national park, and even a short trip shows you wild stretches framed by mountains, woods, and lakes. The park's headquarters is in Braga, but you can get a map of the more than 30 marked trails at any local tourism office.

    Av. António Macedo, Braga, Braga, 4704-538, Portugal
    253 203 480
  • 10. Quinta de la Rosa

    Winery/Brewery/Distillery

    One-hour tours of this quinta, which has a 100-year-old inn and two guest villas, start at 11 am and are limited to 24 people—during high season, reservations are essential. But if the 11 am tour is full, they'll arrange another at 11:30, depending on staff availability. After the tour, tastings are available. Custom tours and tastings can also be arranged, including tastings of a bevy of wine and port and a spread of charcuterie, cheese, almonds, and chocolate. A three-course lunch or dinner, including wines and ports, a tour, and tastings is excellent value. And, if you're lucky enough to visit during harvest season (September and October), you can try your hand (or feet) at treading your own vintage.

    Just off M590, Pinhão, Vila Real, 5085-215, Portugal
    254-732254

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €10, tour and tastings; €20, custom tour and tastings; €25, tour, tastings, and lunch or dinner. Grape treading €5
  • 11. Quinta do Vallado

    One of the oldest wine estates in the region, Quinta do Vallado is on the right bank of Rio Corgo, a tributary of the Douro, and has stunning views of terraced hillsides along both valleys. It has been in the Ferreira family since 1818 and encompasses 158 acres, some with vines more than 70 years old. There are usually at least two guided winery visits (from €25) in English a day—ending in a tasting with one white wine, three reds, and one port—but you must make a reservation. Like several other Douro quintas, Vallado has rooms for guests, both in the traditional 18th-century manor and in the sleek, modern 21st-century wing. Doubles cost about €250 per night in summer.

    Vilarinho dos Freires, Peso da Régua, Vila Real, 5050-364, Portugal
    254 323 147
  • 12. Santuário de Nossa Senhora dos Remédios

    The town's most famous monument is the 18th-century Santuário de Nossa Senhora dos Remédios, which has a marvelous granite staircase of 686 steps decorated with azulejo tiles. Landings along the way have statues and chapels. At the top, you can rest under chestnut trees and enjoy the views. During the Festas de Nossa Senhora dos Remédios, the annual pilgrimage to the shrine, many penitents climb the steps on their knees. The main procession is September 8, but the festivities start at the end of August and include concerts, dancing, parades, a fair, and torchlight processions. Pilgrims use the stairs, but you can always reach the top by car.

    Monte de Santo Estevão, Lamego, Viseu, 5100–025, Portugal

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free
  • 13. Alfândega Régia – Museu de Construção Naval

    In the heart of the old shipyard district, the former Royal Customs House houses displays on Portuguese maritime voyages, especially those that started in Vila do Conde, and on local shipbuilding over the centuries, covering various types of vessels and construction processes. The Nau Quinhentista tied up at the quay across the road—a locally built replica of a 16th-century carrack—forms a part of the museum.

    Rua Cais da Alfândega, Vila do Conde, Porto, 4480-702, Portugal
    252 248 468

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €2, Closed Mon.
  • 14. Antigo Paço Arquiepiscopal Bracarense

    The well-proportioned former archbishops' palace overlooks a castellated fountain on the square named after it, Largo do Paço. Parts of the Gothic building date from the 14th century. Today it houses the office of the dean of the region's main university and the city's public library—one of the country's most impressive, with more than 300,000 volumes.

    Rua da Misericórdia, Braga, Braga, 4700-435, Portugal
  • 15. Capela de São Frutuoso de Montélios

    About 4 km (2½ miles) north of town, this chapel is one of Portugal's oldest buildings. The original structure is believed to have been constructed in the 7th century in the form of a Greek cross. It was partially destroyed by the Moors and rebuilt in the 11th century. It is open to the public between 2 and 4:30 pm from Tuesday to Saturday, and for mass on Sunday mornings.

    Av. São Frutuoso, Braga, Braga, 4700-291, Portugal

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free, Closed Mon.
  • 16. Casino Espinho

    Right beside the beach, the casino has 500 slot machines, video blackjack, Portuguese dice, and French and American roulette. If these diversions don't do it for you, come for the dining, dancing, cabaret shows, and concerts; foreign visitors must present their passports (and be 18 or older), and although there's no formal dress code, smart casual is most appropriate.

    Rua 19 85, Espinho, Aveiro, 4501-858, Portugal
    227 335 500
  • 17. Castelo de Guimarães and Paço dos Duques

    This castle was built (or at least reconstructed from earlier remains) in the 11th century by Henry of Burgundy; his son, Afonso Henriques, was born within its great battlements and flanking towers. Standing high on a solid rock base above the town, the castle has been superbly preserved. A path leads down from its walls to the tiny Romanesque Capela de São Miguel, the chapel traditionally said to be where Afonso Henriques was baptized—in fact it was built well after his death, although the baptismal font may be older. The ticket office is in the neighboring Paço dos Duques, former palace of the Dukes of Bragança, which may also be visited. It was built in the 15th century but has been irretrievably altered; in 1959 it became the official residence in the North of Portugal's president, but is normally open to the public, with impressive displays of tapestries, furniture, ceramics, paintings and weapons.

    Rua Conde Dom Henrique 3, Guimarães, Braga, 4810–412, Portugal
    253 412 273

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €2; €6 joint ticket with Paço dos Duques
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  • 18. Castelo de Santiago da Barra

    The great ramparts of this 16th-century fortification added the words do castelo to the town's name and protected it against attack from pirates eager to share in its wealth. It was completed during the reign of King Manuel I, which is why architectural details such as the Roqueta Tower are Manueline in style. These days the massive structure serves as a hotel, among other uses. A large market is held outside the castle walls every Friday.

    Castelo Santiago da Barra, Viana do Castelo, Viana do Castelo, 4900-360, Portugal
  • 19. Central Nacional de Turismo no Espaço Rural

    The Minho region is well known for its turismo no espaço rural (rural tourism). There are some 100 properties in the area, with a particular cluster along the Rio Lima's north bank, each no more than several miles from a town. Facilities are usually minimal, but houses may have a communal lounge, tennis, a pool or access to local swimming facilities, fishing, and gardens. Rates include a bed and breakfast, and some places will arrange other meals on request. The Central Nacional de Turismo no Espaço Rural is the central booking agency associated with the rural tourism program; its website includes links to the sites of Solares de Portugal (generally grander old houses), Aldeias de Portugal (village lodgings), and Casas no Campo (more remote rural digs), plus suggestions for themed tour routes.

    Praça da República, Ponte de Lima, Viana do Castelo, 4990–062, Portugal
    258 931 750
  • 20. Centro Internacional das Artes José de Guimarães

    Locally born artist José de Guimarães is known for his often large, colorful creations and love of art from other continents. This huge arts center, inaugurated in 2021, showcases not only a representative selection of his own works but also his large collection of African, pre-Columbian, and ancient Chinese art. A focus on the relationships between contemporary art and these traditions often features in the always stimulating temporary exhibitions.

    Av. Conde de Margaride 175, Guimarães, Braga, 4810-525, Portugal
    253 424 715

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €4, Closed Mon.

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