Porto, a riverside city with a soul of granite and some most solemn silhouettes, is a lively place with many different attributes. Classified as a World Heritage site, it is an old and authentic city, offering some extraordinary panoramic views and a rare mixture of architectural styles that make you feel as though you’re travelling in time. When visiting the city’s Romanesque cathedral, stop for a while and breathe in the Middle Ages as you admire the great mass of houses making their way down to the banks of the River Douro.
A little further on, you can walk through Renaissance squares and discover baroque monuments, such as the Torre dos Clérigos, best seen in the early evening with its unforgettable silhouette. And then be sure to round off your visit in the 21st century by admiring the contemporary art works at the Serralves Museum or taking in a concert at the Casa da Música. The city has many other attractions and an interesting and varied cultural programme.
Famous for its truly irresistible cuisine, Porto is also the starting point for the unforgettable experience of a trip up the River Douro. Christened with the name of the “golden river”, it has been gradually moulded by human hands and is now crossed by several imposing bridges that link a noble past to a promising future.
On the terraced slopes of its banks are planted the vineyards that produce the famous Port wine, which sets off from here to conquer the world. The Douro Valley has been classified as a World Heritage site, a place of great charm for discovering the inspired and harmonious encounter between land and river. Close to Vila Real, a city with its own well-defined personality, be sure to visit the Palácio de Mateus, one of the most remarkable jewels of Portuguese baroque architecture.
For those who would like to delve into a history book and wander in person amongst its first pages, Guimarães is a city demanding to be discovered. Known as the cradle of the Portuguese nation, it was from here that Dom Afonso Henriques set out to conquer Portugal from the Moors. Its historic centre with its grandiose castle, museums and churches all invite you to linger a while longer over your visit. In Braga, another historic city, you will find some most unexpected memories of bygone periods nestling in the shade of its impressive cathedral.
Let yourself be surprised by a medieval tower rising up in the middle of the street and the baroque palaces of a city to which the University and contemporary architecture have brought light, colour and an unexpected modernity. If you’re looking for the splendour of the natural world, then the Peneda-Gerês National Park is definitely the place to visit. The diversity and abundance of its flora and fauna will provide you with some unforgettable moments in close contact with nature. But other places also clamour for their own right to remain forever in the visitor’s memory, such as Viana do Castelo, a city that is just as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside.
Situated between the mountains and the sea, its houses spread along the banks of the River Lima, on their way to meet the ocean. Here, the sumptuous baroque manor houses are emblazoned with the coats of arms of their respective families. In the north east of Portugal, the landscapes have been preserved in their purest state, offering a beautiful mixture of green, golden and lilac hues.
Rich in traditions, monuments and spirituality, its natural parks and communal villages reveal the great authenticity of this region. In the citadel of Bragança castle, the keep, which once stood proudly as a medieval guard surveying the region’s borders, now houses a military museum. Here visitors can learn about the centuries-old history of the castle, while the top floor offers an excellent view over the city and the surrounding countryside.
In the Douro International Natural Park, the steep banks of the deep valley dug out of the rock by the river form a series of breathtakingly monumental gorges. This is the refuge that various species of birds under threat of extinction have sought out to make their home.
Further south, you can spend some time discovering the prehistoric Rock Drawings of Vale do Côa, classified as a World Heritage site.