Porto & North
Portugal’s second largest city is located on the Northern coast, at the mouth of the Douro River. With a long history that precedes the nationality, Porto became an important trade centre, and its international recognition reached its peak during the 18th Century due to the exports of the Port Wine, produced on the banks of the Douro. Sometimes it is also known as Oporto, which was the name given by the English community that established itself in the city around the same period.
The most iconic district is the old town, by the river banks, also known as Ribeira. Seen from the river, or from the opposite bank in Vila Nova de Gaia, there is a magnificent view of the city and river, as if the old town houses had been carved from gigantic granite rocks. Several impressive bridges connect both sides of the river, and it is worth it to cross one of the oldest, the D. Luis bridge, to visit the numerous Port Wine Cellars.
The city centre is also a vibrant district, with shops that can vary from luxury brands, to creative small businesses and of course wine and gourmet small stores. The architecture of the city centre is dominated by the baroque façades, many of them designed by Italian architect Nicolau Nasoni. The most iconic building, that stands out in Porto’s skyline is the Clerigos Tower. While in the area, take some time to visit the Livraria Lello, one of the most beautiful book shops in the World. Also not to miss are the impressive azulejo (clay tiles) covered walls at S. Bento train station, Capela das Almas, and Misericórdia Church. Among the several museums, we would highlight the Soares dos Reis, the Port Wine Museum, and Casa de Serralves (contemporary art). If you are passionate about green parks, you will be thrilled with the Parque da Cidade, connecting the long Boavista Avenue to the sea, as well as the gardens of Palacio de Cristal. The cultural activity of Porto also includes de state-of-the art modern building of Casa da Musica, where several music concerts are held every week. A very special tradition is celebrated during mid-summer, on the evening of 23rd of June. It’s the St John’s night (São João), when the population celebrates on the streets with music, partying and eating grilled sardines.
Beyond Porto, there is a Northern region that is well worth exploring. The Douro Valley, arguably one of the most spectacular landscapes in Europe, will take you through an unforgettable journey across man-shaped canyons which create the most extravagant soil and solar exposure conditions, resulting in the uniqueness of the wine produced in this region. That is one the reasons why Douro wine and Port wine are so special. It is possible to explore the Douro Valley either by car, train or boat. It is guaranteed that the memories will stay with you forever!
To the Northwest, there is the Minho region. It has an undulating and vibrant green landscape, home to picturesque towns and villages, as well as old traditions. The elegant, fresh and fruity Vinho Verde wine is produced in this region, and the gastronomy isn’t left behind. Local gastronomy such as Rojões à Minhota, Arroz de Sarrabulho, and Pudim Abade de Priscos are some of the most notorious dishes which are the reflection of an abundant region. Towns such as Braga, Guimarães (the first capital of Portugal), Viana do Castelo, Ponte de Lima, and Valença are well worth a visit! The Natural Park of Gerês is the largest forest in Portugal, and home to several protected species.
The Northeast called Douro and Trás-os-Montes, is a well hidden secret, bounded by the Spanish border to the North and to the East, and by the Douro River to the South. The altitude and the schist soil are fundamental for the quality of the wines produced in this region. Impressive landscapes and charming historic towns will leave a strong enchant to any visitor. Not to miss: Bragança, Vila Real, Chaves, Lamego and Vidago.
The North of Portugal also features outstanding golf courses, able to please players of any handicap. Such is the case of Oporto golf Club (the oldest golf course in the Iberian Peninsula, founded in 1890), links course Estela, Amarante and Vidago.
Whatever your preferences are, Xpress Portugal can help you to enhance your Porto & North experience!