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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.