Porto is a coastal city in northwest Portugal known for its stately bridges and fortified port wine production. With its medieval heart, contemporary buzz, magnificent gold-leaf-laced churches – oh, and a rather nice signature tipple – Portugal’s second city merits a visit at any time. Carved in two by the Douro river, downtown Porto has a faded sophistication, while the seaside suburbs have witnessed something of a renaissance in recent years, home as they are to a burgeoning collection of bars, restaurants and cafes, which offer an authentic slice of local life.
You could spend two days to fully explore the city of Porto but there are many enjoyable day trips to discover some great nearby destinations which can easily extend your stay to a week:
The hidden gem of Aveiro, known as the Venice of Portugal and famed for its canals, Art Nouveau architecture and colourfully painted Moliceiros boats. If you wish to explore further and get a taste of the Atlantic coast, the iconic beach town of Costa Nova, with its traditional rainbow-striped fishermen cottages is a must.
If you are more interested in history and architecture, then your option would be a day trip to Guimaraes to visit the castle and the palace and Braga to visit the impressive baroque churches.
A bit further south of Porto and heading towards central Portugal, another must visit is the historic city of Coimbra, home to the oldest university in Europe. It still carries the pride of being the medieval capital of Portugal back in the 12th century.
Coimbra, located in between Lisbon and Porto, makes a great base to explore Central Portugal and this includes Fatima, Nazaré and Tomar. Fátima is the location that the Virgin Mary appeared to three shepherds and since become an important pilgrimage destination. Nazaré is charming resort town that is famed for its incredible surfing waves, having produced the largest wave ever surfed on. Tomar was the ancient religious centre for the Knight Templar.
At this point of your trip, you haven’t made all the way to Porto if you are not interested in wine, right? So, for nature and wine lovers, another full day escape from the city of Porto will be to explore one of Portugal’s most beautiful regions: The Douro Valley is a mandatory visit for those who travel to Porto. It’s one of oldest wine regions in the world, recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 2001. We can arrange different unique experiences to explore this region, either as a day trip from Porto, by extending your holiday taking a river cruise or simply relaxing at some of the amazing wine resorts.