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Aveiro, Portugal. Main canal in Aveiro with gondolas| © Marina J /Shutterstock
Aveiro, Portugal. Main canal in Aveiro with gondolas| © Marina J /Shutterstock
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The Best Day Trips From Porto, Portugal

Picture of Nina Santos
Updated: 31 January 2017
A trip to Portugal isn’t complete without visiting the north, and Porto puts up a good fight against Lisbon as a top city in the country. The cathedrals, national buildings, beautifully manicured gardens, and the Old Town can certainly keep the most ambitious wanderlusters busy for a couple of days. But then what? As with Lisbon, Porto is within a day trip from a myriad of treasures that are waiting to be explored.

Braga

Immersed in historical and spiritual surroundings and acclaimed as a youthful center, Braga is an old city with numerous modern attributes. Within the café-filled center, students from the nearby university meet to socialize and discuss ideas, while a short distance away tourists will enjoy seeing the famous Bom Jesus do Monte (Bom Jesus Sanctuary) and the oldest cathedral in the country.

Bom Jesus church in Braga, Portugal
Bom Jesus church in Braga, Portugal | © Lev Levin/Shutterstock

Aveiro

Travelers don’t need to visit Italy to experience romantic gondola rides, and Aveiro is actually nicknamed the ‘Venice of Portugal’. It’s much quieter than Venice, however, and arguably more colorful; the painted boats and vibrant buildings are Aveiro’s signature features. It’s very easy to get to from Porto, whether visitors choose to drive, take a train or hop on a bus.

Moliceiro boats sail along the central canal in Aveiro, Portugal
Moliceiro boats sail along the central canal in Aveiro, Portugal | ©Alberto Loyo/Shutterstock

Guimarães

History buffs shouldn’t leave northern Portugal without seeing where the country’s origins began. Home of Portugal’s first king, Guimarães castle is where the first royal family lived, but there are plenty more medieval structures where that came from. Between the streets, churches and natural landmarks, visitors will feel like they’re trekking through the sands of time – a feeling that sticks as you travel through most of Portugal.

Guimarães Castle
Guimarães Castle | © Pixabay

Esposende

It seems unnatural to fly to Portugal and not visit a beach. Located 31 miles north of Porto, Esposende is a quick, half-hour drive away. What will you see upon your arrival? How do quiet, white sand beaches and picturesque dunes sound? Forget sightseeing, this is more of a relaxing retreat, and a place to go if you’re in need of soaking up the sun and catching up on literature.

Parque Natural do Litoral on the north of Portugal in the vicinity of the Esposende town
Parque Natural do Litoral on the north of Portugal in the vicinity of the Esposende town | ©Rafal Gadomski/Shutterstock

Viana do Castelo

A little further north from Esposende is a larger beach town called Viana do Castelo. Listed as one of the more visually appealing cities in Portugal, it is home to both a medieval center and beautiful beaches. Visit the Templo-Monumento de Santa Luzia (Santa Luzia Temple), which is the city’s most popular landmark. As a fishing port, it’s also an excellent location for devouring seafood.

Santuário de Santa Luzia
Santuário de Santa Luzia | © Marc Venema /Shutterstock

Douro Valley

Whether you cruise along the river by ferry or drive in a car, a trip through the Douro Valley will not disappoint. The terraced vineyards and rolling green hills have been described as some of the most beautiful sights in the country. It’s also among the best places to stumble across wine tasting. Looking to travel a wine trail? There are two major routes that can be taken.

View of Douro river, wineyards and villages on a hills. Portugal
View of Douro river, wineyards and villages on a hills. Portugal | © Joyfull/Shutterstock

Peneda-Gerês National Park

Do you love nature, hiking, and stumbling across long-lost medieval remnants? If yes, a trek through Portugal’s only national park is a must. Located in the districts of Viana do Castelo and Braga, it’s an easy place to incorporate within an itinerary. It’s also a must-see destination for 2017.

Amarelo predominante, Serra Amarela, Peneda-Gerês National Park
Amarelo predominante, Serra Amarela, Peneda-Gerês National Park | © JotaCartas

Vigo

One of the cooler things that comes with a visit to northern Portugal is its proximity to Spain. Vigo is a seaside city rich in culture and with plenty to do but is often overlooked. Historically, it was a major departure point for early navigators, and today these maritime roots still hold strong. Vigo is considered one of the larger fishing ports in the world, and as such is a great place to indulge in fish and seafood.

The marina in Vigo, Spain
The marina in Vigo, Spain | © Rob Wilson/Shutterstock