Whilst Porto, Portugal’s second city has plenty to see and do, a stay at the Catalonia Porto hotel in the city centre is not complete without a visit to some of the nearby towns and cities so you get to see even more of Portugal’s beautiful cities. Here is our guide to the best Porto day trips.
Serralves Museum & Villa
A short bus journey within the city itself, along the famous Avenida da Boavista will take you to the Serralves Museum & Villa. The Serralves Foundation brings the best of modern and contemporary art to Portugal’s northern city, with regularly changing exhibitions. A walk in the park and to the villa is a very enjoyable way to spend the day after you’ve seen the latest exhibition. From the museum head to Matosinhos or Foz beach, minutes away by bus, for some sea air and freshly-caught fish for dinner.
A short train ride from Porto São Bento or Campanhã stations you will find Guimarães with buildings dating back to the middle ages. Known as the birthplace of Portugal, a visit here must include a visit to the castle for its breath-taking views of the city. Take the cable car to Monte da Penha for more stunning views on high or simply stroll around the town with its pretty squares such as Largo da Oliveira and Praça de Santiago, where you will really feel like you have stepped back in time to medieval Portugal with the backdrop of buildings that surround you.
Braga is also easy to reach by train. Once you are there, visit the town’s cathedral, which is actually older than Portugal as a country itself. The Sé as it is called in Portuguese, was the first one to be built in the whole of Portugal, with construction starting in the 11th century. The parents of the first Portuguese King are buried here. Slightly outside of the city (reachable by car or local bus) is the wonderful Bom Jesus do Monte church. It sits atop a climb of 630 steps (if you’re feeling energetic) or at the end of a short ride up the hill in a water powered funicular lift – the oldest in Europe. It’s a fun way to reach the top and the views are definitely worth it.
Steeped in tradition, the Douro Valley is a spectacle to behold, and is one of the best day trips from Porto. Within its steep, step-like vineyards grow Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca grapes, the main grapes used in the Porto’s famous Port wine. There is a wide choice of vineyard tours available at the many quintas in the valley. In Pinhão, Quinta da Rosa is popular as is Quinta do Seixo in Vila Real. You can reach this area by car or by train – both methods of transport offer stunning views en route.
Amarante. Small but beautiful
The pretty town of Amarante which sits alongside the River Tâmega is a lovely place to see in one day. Head here for the market on Wednesdays and Fridays, riverside views and quaint shopping streets. The Igreja de São Gonçalo allows visits to see its historic interior before heading across the river over one of the town’s bridges.
The Peneda-Gerês National Park is a well-kept Portuguese secret, enjoyed by the Portuguese all year round. A top spot for hiking, walking or just getting some truly fresh air, there is plenty to see and do here. See the castles at Castro Laboreiro and Lindoso or take a stroll in the woods at Ramiscal, Albergaria and Cabril.