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Things to do in Northern Portugal

Things to do in  Northern Portugal

Welcome to Northern Portugal

Venture north from Lisbon and you’ll find a wealth of cultural and culinary delights in Northern Portugal, famed for its crepuscular wine cellars, revered pilgrimage sites, and picturesque valleys. In Porto, buildings smothered in azulejos (hand-painted tiles) tumble toward the Douro River (Rio Douro) and a haphazard historic center confirms its UNESCO World Heritage status at every turn. Combine tasting port, Porto’s world-renowned fortified wine, with a sightseeing tour and river cruise for an authentic glimpse into the capital of Northern Portugal. In contrast to Oporto’s densely packed architecture are the sweeping valleys and bounteous vineyards of the Douro Valley, where wineries and miradouros (lookout points) revealing stunning natural landscapes blend harmoniously. Use Porto as a base for day trips to Guimarães, undoubtedly the best preserved of Portugal’s medieval enclaves; historic Braga; and Santiago de Compostela, a holy and autonomous region located across the Spanish border in Galicia. Northern Portugal also offers easy access by train and plane to other Portuguese treasures, including the capital city, Lisbon, and the gorgeous beaches of the Algarve. If you’re planning to combine your Portugal trip with visits to other European cities but don’t have enough time to make it to Venice, don’t worry—Aveiro, known affectionately as the Venice of Portugal, boasts canal networks lined with moliceiros (colorful boats) with a traditional fish market and an impressive art museum.

Top 10 attractions in Northern Portugal

#1
Douro

Douro

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The Douro region in Northeast Portugal is near the border with Spain. Even with the advent of modern civilization, this area is characterized by a sort of frontier spirit that tenaciously preserves a traditional way of life handed down through many, many years.Thinly populated and remote, the Douro is not unlike Galicia in Spain in that its people speak a dialect that is markedly different than the rest of the country; in the Douro, it is closer to Latin vulgate than Portuguese. Along with speaking a traditional language, pottery and weaving are still important cottage industries. Long-held folk practices include a dance with wooden staves called the Dance of the Pauliteiros, which takes place on the third Sunday of August, during the Feast of Saint Barbara. Curiously, this dance is less related to Saint Barbara than it is to Roman martial pomp – the Dance of the Pauliteiros is an outgrowth of the old Roman sword dances.Notable ruins in the town of Miranda do Douro include the watchtower of the Miranda do Douro castle and the Baroque courtyard left behind from the long-since-destroyed Archbishop’s palace. The city’s cathedral is also of interest; it features a magnificent marble high altar as well as a 19th century ex-voto centered around a piece called “Infant Jesus in a Top Hat.”More
#2
Douro River (Rio Douro)

Douro River (Rio Douro)

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A major river on the Iberian Peninsula, the Douro River (Rio Douro) flows from Duruelo de la Sierra in northern Spain all the way to Porto in Portugal, where it empties into the Atlantic Ocean. More than just the region’s lifeline, it’s also the centerpiece of the Douro Valley, Portugal’s most famous wine region and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.More
#3
Aveiro

Aveiro

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With its canal-lined streets and pastel-colored buildings, Aveiro—known as the Venice of Portugal—never fails to charm visitors. From gliding around town on abarco moliceiro and marveling at art nouveau villas, to hiking sand dunes and catching some waves, there’s plenty to see and do.More
#4
Dom Luis Bridge (Ponte de Dom Luis I)

Dom Luis Bridge (Ponte de Dom Luis I)

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The imperious, double-decker metal spans of Dom Luis Bridge (Ponte de Dom Luís I) stretch across the Douro River from Porto to Villa Nova de Gaia, and were designed by Téophile Seyrig, the student of Gustave Eiffel who also drew up the plans for the nearby Donna Maria Pia Bridge. WhenDom Luis Bridge (Ponte de Dom Luís I) was finished in 1886, it was the longest single-span bridge in the world at 564 feet, and it supported 3,045 tons of steel in weight.The bridge marked a significant step forward in Porto’s economic growth, as before it existed, the only passages across the river were boats lashed together. Today the lower deck of the bridge carries cars while the upper level is utilized by metro Line D and has a pedestrian walkway offering views across the river. Since the late 19th century, four other bridges have joined the bridge of Dom Luís I and Donna Maria Pia in reaching across the Douro; they are all best seen by river cruise in a traditional wooden rabelo.More
#5
Porto Cathedral (Sé Catedral do Porto)

Porto Cathedral (Sé Catedral do Porto)

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Watching over the city from its hilltop spot, the imposing fort-like Porto Cathedral (Sé Catedral do Porto)is a reminder of Porto’s diverse history. Featuring Romanesque, Gothic, and baroque architecture, this is Porto’s oldest and largest church, a must-visit for architecture and history aficionados.More
#6
Clérigos Church and Tower (Torre & Igreja dos Clérigos)

Clérigos Church and Tower (Torre & Igreja dos Clérigos)

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Standing atop a hill overlooking Porto, Portugal, are the Igreja dos Clérigos, an 18th-century church and one of the city’s architectural symbols, and the Toree dos Clérigos, its bell tower. Intricately carved baroque shells and garlands on the church reflect Porto’s seaside location, and the bell tower offers panoramic views of the city.More
#7
Rua Santa Catarina

Rua Santa Catarina

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The buzzing heart of Porto, running from Praça do Marquês de Pombal in the north to Praça da Batalha in the south, Rua Santa Catarina is Porto’s principal shopping street. The pedestrianized thoroughfare stretches for some 1.5km and is lined with beautiful Art Nouveau buildings, plus a huge selection of shops, restaurants, patisseries and cafés. This is the spot to find big name brands like Nike, Bellissima and Prof, while the Via Catarina shopping mall offers international stores like H&M and Zara, as well as a sizable food court.Rua Santa Catarina is also home to the magnificent Capela das Almas, a striking blue chapel decorated with ornate azulejo tilework; the famous Café Majestic, renowned for its opulent Belle-Epoque style décor; and the lively Mercado de Bolao, Porto’s largest open-air market, where stalls are laden with fresh produce, fragrant spices and exquisite handicrafts.More
#8
Palace of the Stock Exchange (Palácio da Bolsa)

Palace of the Stock Exchange (Palácio da Bolsa)

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Porto’s former stock exchange building, the Palace of the Stock Exchange (Palácio da Bolsa), is a magnificent 19th-century mansion at the heart of the city’s UNESCO-listed historic center. A marvel of neoclassical architecture and steeped in history, its grand ballrooms have played host to royals like Queen Elizabeth II over the years.Today, the Palacio da Bolsa is open to the public by guided tour only and visitors can explore a number of its opulent rooms. Highlights include the Nations’ Room, with its collection of international flags; the exquisite parquet floors and the monumental grand staircase with its glittering bronze chandeliers. The undisputed star attraction is the dazzling Arabian Room, where the arabesque décor and gilded pillars are inspired by the famous Alhambra Palace in Granada, and music concerts are held throughout the year.More
#9
Guimarães

Guimarães

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Guimarães is considered the birthplace of Portugal, because the country’s first king—Afonso Henriques—was born there. An authentic example of the evolution of a medieval town into a modern city, Guimarães’ historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that makes for a fascinating day trip from Porto.More
#10
Ribeira

Ribeira

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Set on the banks of the River Douro, Ribeira is Porto’s oldest quarter. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the district’s maze of alleyways and pastel-colored houses rises up on a hill above the bay. The Ribeira’s modern waterfront—lined with restaurants, bars, and cafés—is a popular leisure hub and nightlife destination.More

Trip ideas

Fado Shows in Porto

Fado Shows in Porto

How to Spend 1 Day in Porto

How to Spend 1 Day in Porto

How to Spend 2 Days in Porto

How to Spend 2 Days in Porto

Top activities in Northern Portugal

Douro Valley Tour: Wine Tasting, River Cruise and Lunch From Porto with Pickup

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Douro Valley Small-Group Tour with Wine Tasting, Lunch and Optional Cruise.
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Douro Valley Tour: Wine Tasting, Lunch & River Cruise
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Authentic Douro Wine Tour Including Lunch and River Cruise
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Porto Private Tour (All Inclusive)
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Douro Valley Private Tour (All Inclusive)
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Oporto Six Bridges Cruise

Oporto Six Bridges Cruise

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Braga & Guimarães Private Tour (All Inclusive)
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Recent reviews from experiences in Northern Portugal

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Buena organización y ruta
Guillermo_L, Dec 2021
Oporto Six Bridges Cruise
It is a great way to see the shoreline of river Douro, although it could be more interesting if more historic details where added
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Lovely tour!
Leah_P, Nov 2021
Douro Valley Small-Group Tour with Wine Tasting, Lunch and Optional Cruise.
The wine tastings, lunch, and boat ride were all lovely and delicious and it was so beautiful to see all of the autumn colors in November.
star-5
Great trip
Amado_E, Nov 2021
Douro Valley Small-Group Tour with Wine Tasting, Lunch and Optional Cruise.
Douro valley was spectacular with the fall foliage.
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Amazing Day in Douro
Arlene_B, Oct 2021
Authentic Douro Wine Tour Including Lunch and River Cruise
Stopped by the Pinhao train station to see the beautiful tiles.
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Relaxed enjoyment
Arthur_N, Sep 2021
Oporto Six Bridges Cruise
This was a smooth, relaxing experience, and an ideal way to see sights on both banks of the Douro River.
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Touring the Douro valley with friends
Leslie_R, Sep 2021
Douro Valley Tour: Wine Tasting, Lunch & River Cruise
Patricia our guide picked us up at our door and drove us to visit 3 wineries where we learned about and drank port as well as tasting olive oil and honey.
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Picturesque Douro Valley is a must see!
Loredana_Z, Sep 2021
Douro Valley Tour with Visit to two Vineyards, River Cruise and Lunch at Winery
Such a picturesque area of Portugal to visit, absolutely beautiful!
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A wonderful day with an excellent guide
Danielle_W, Jan 2022
Douro Valley - Expert wine guide all day, Boat, Lunch and Tastings.All included
The Douro Valley itself was incredible to see and experience.
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Great tour!
Vinya_S, Nov 2021
Douro Valley 3 Different Wineries with Fabulous Lunch and Optional Boat Cruise
They spoke English very well and explained to us very step of the way.
star-5
Perfect Weather, Delicious Wine, Excellent Company
Diane_B, Oct 2021
Douro Valley Tour: Wine Tasting, Lunch & River Cruise
She easily transitioned between French and English so all of the participants could understand where we were going and what we were seeing.
star-5
Douro, a must see when visiting Porto
Florence_W, Oct 2021
Authentic Douro Wine Tour Including Lunch and River Cruise
It must be really beautiful during the summer until September.
star-5
Great, convenient, tour of the Douro River Valley
Alex_Z, Sep 2021
Douro Valley - Expert wine guide all day, Boat, Lunch and Tastings.All included
If you want to visit the Douro Valley, I'd recommend this tour, especially over trying to do it yourself with the train - you can't see nearly as much of the valley without a car.
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Amazing Experience visiting Monasteries and historic Braga & Guimaraes!
Steffan, Sep 2021
Best of Braga and Guimaraes Day Trip from Porto
We had enough time to see everything including free time to explore the monasteries, Braga's historic district and the old cobblestone streets or Guimaraes.
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Best wine tour ever!!(Steve is the best❤)
Kelly_J, Sep 2021
Douro Valley Tour with Visit to two Vineyards, River Cruise and Lunch at Winery
Thanks Steve 😉) We hope to see you again soon.
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Book this tour!
Taylor_D, Sep 2021
Private Food/Wine Tour Porto
We booked a walking food and wine tour on a Sunday morning and it was the perfect way to see the city (definitely wear comfy shoes!
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Great Douro Valley Tour!
Justin_S, Jul 2020
Douro Valley Tour: Wine Tasting, River Cruise and Lunch From Porto with Pickup
It was great to see a few of the wineries in the Douro Valley and get a taste of history.
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Awesome Day at Douro Wine Tour!
Gino_G, Jun 2019
Porto: Douro Valley Wine Tour Including Lunch
This was our 1st time in Portugal and we had to visit the wine sector Douro Valley.
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Best if you aren't a big drinker
lppachat, May 2019
Douro Valley Historical Tour with Lunch, Winery Visit with Tastings and Panoramic Cruise
We saw a lot and it was great if like me, you want to see Douro without drinking.
star-5
We had an amazing day in the Douro...
joshua_h, Mar 2018
Porto: Douro Valley Wine Tour Including Lunch
He spoke perfect English, was extremely informative, and always did whatever he could to make sure our whole group was having a great time.
star-5
Very good arrangement to see...
TzuWen H, Oct 2017
Douro Valley Historical Tour with Lunch, Winery Visit with Tastings and Panoramic Cruise
Very good arrangement to see beautiful landscape of Douro valley and to learn the story of Port wine and how it made.
Frequently Asked Questions
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