Planning a holiday in northern Portugal? Discover what to visit and do in 3 or 7 days.
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Do you wish to explore Oporto and North, but are not sure where to start? Plan your trip to northern Portugal by car to see everything that this region has to offer. Culture, tradition, nature, gastronomy, history, wineries and so much more await.
Read this article to learn why Oporto and the North are excellent holiday destinations, which places to visit, and how to get to know the region in 3 or 7 days.
Why should you visit Oporto and Northern Portugal on holiday?
Since 1996, classified by UNESCO as World Heritage, the city of Oporto, located north of the Douro River, has unique riches. It blends medieval and baroque history with contemporary art, and its people are genuine and welcoming. It's an excellent starting point to get to know the north of the country!
Rent a car in Oporto and set off to discover the beautiful mountainous landscapes accompanied by the Douro River! In the north, you'll find fragments of our oldest history, the beauty of wild nature, and, for wine lovers, the best places for wine tourism.
What's the food like?
Holidaying in northern Portugal is synonymous with eating well! The good pastures of this region provide a high-quality gastronomic offer, based on meats and sausages. In these lands, the artisanal manufacture of cheeses and sweets is still maintained, as well as the cultivation of vegetables and fruit, which give the food rich and unique flavors.
But, there's also fish! The offering comes from the sea and the river. The specialties are trout, lamprey, and shad. And, to accompany? Choose a white wine from the lands of the Douro.
What to do in northern Portugal?
Theatre, dance, music, or exhibitions, there's always something happening in northern Portugal, but don't miss:
- Boat rides on the Douro River;
- Wine tasting at the country's best wineries;
- Religious fairs and pilgrimages;
Douro Harvest Festival;
- Oporto Wine Fest, to celebrate Port Wine;
- Festa de São João, the patron of the city of Oporto;
- Meo Marés Vivas is one of the largest music festivals.
When is the best time to visit northern Portugal?
It all depends on your preferences! You can rent a car and travel on holiday in northern Portugal at any time of the year.
In the spring and autumn, mild temperatures invite walks through the towns and villages of the northern interior.
The dry and hot summer is ideal for discovering trails, and river beaches, and enjoying a chilled glass of Vinho Verde in the late afternoon.
In winter, despite the cold, warm your soul with a Port Wine and visit the traditional smoked meat fairs!
What are the main places to visit in Northern Portugal?
From the historical city of Oporto to wine tourism through the Douro vineyard, there are so many places you need to visit! We recommend adding the following mandatory locations to your list:
1 - Oporto City
Contemporary art museums, national and religious monuments, gastronomic tourism, and nightlife, are all framed by the Douro River.
2 - Peneda Gerês National Park
In this magnificent place, you'll find nature at its purest. Waterfalls, woods that seem enchanted, pedestrian trails, millennial villages, shrines, and medieval bridges.
3 - Guimarães, the cradle-city
The city where Portugal was born, is an essential part of a holiday itinerary in the north of the country. Starting with the castle, through the old streets, churches, chapels, and convents, which narrate how it all began.
4 - Douro Internacional National Park
The natural border between Portugal and Spain is traced by the Douro River. A place of landscapes and wildlife with a vast historical, cultural, and gastronomic heritage. Here, Mirandês is spoken, the second official language in Portugal.
5 - Alto Douro Wine Region
The Alto Douro Wine Region is the oldest regulated wine region in the world. Thousands of hectares of rural tourism in northern Portugal are ideal to tour by car, with vineyards, estates, breathtaking views, and excellent gastronomy.
Which are the most interesting vineyards in the Douro Valley?
The offer is vast and of high quality, but we leave you with some suggestions:
- Quinta do Vallado (Peso da Régua);
- Quinta da Pacheca (Lamego);
- Quinta do Portal (Sabrosa);
- Quinta do Monte Travesso (Tabuaço);
- Quinta do Bomfim (Pinhão – Alijó);
- Quinta da Gricha (São João da Pesqueira);
- Quinta do Vale Meão (Vila Nova de Foz Côa).
How to plan your holiday in northern Portugal?
There are so many tourist options and places to visit, that you should plan every detail of your holiday in northern Portugal, so nothing slips away:
- Set a budget;
- Determine the number of days;
- Make a list of places to visit;
- Calculate the most economical and fastest route;
- Decide whether to take your car or rent one.
What are the transport options for exploring Northern Portugal?
Although the city of Oporto has transport reaching the most popular tourist spots, accessibility in the northern interior is more complicated. Therefore, we suggest renting a car for your holiday in northern Portugal, you can pick it up at the airport or in the city center of Oporto.
What's the best itinerary for a holiday in the north of the country?
1 - 7-day Northern Portugal Itinerary
See the unforgettable holiday we've prepared for you!
1st day - Oporto, the historical center
Start with breakfast at Majestic Café, one of the most elegant cafés in the world. Enter a real film set from the "Belle Époque", the crazy 20s! Romantic, refined, and exquisite decor!
After the glamour and a full stomach, start your visit to the historical centre, take lots of photos, and share them on your social media.
What to do in the city of Oporto?
Visit the most emblematic places! We consider the following unmissable:
- Carmo Church;
- Lello Bookstore;
- Church and Clérigos Tower;
- São Bento Station;
- Oporto Cathedral;
- Stock Exchange Palace;
- D. Luís I Bridge;
- Port Wine Cellars;
- Pilar Monastery, to photograph the sunset;
- Ribeira, to end the day.
2nd day - Serralves Park
Here you will enter the world of the arts! The park offers a variety of experiences, be it in the museum, in the gardens, or even in the restaurant!
When finished, continue your journey to Foz do Douro and enjoy the sunset at the Foz Pergola. You can stay for dinner or return to the city centre.
3rd day - Guimarães
For this 3rd day, we propose a visit to the city that saw this country become an independent kingdom after the famous Battle of S. Mamede.
Upon arriving in Guimarães park in the free car park near the castle or in Parque das Hortas and immerse yourself in the oldest history of Portugal.
What to visit in Guimarães?
The emblematic Guimarães Castle, the Church, and Oratories of Our Lady of Consolation and Holy Steps, the Palace of the Dukes of Bragança, and the museum.
We suggest a leisurely stroll along Santa Maria Street! Feel the energy contained in the walls of this medieval city. From religious persecutions to the passage of the Templars to the great battles that gave birth to Portugal, everything happened here!
Return to Oporto at the end of the day. Dine in the riverside area and review the photos of this incredible day.
4th day - Peneda-Gerês National Park
Today is picnic day! Prepare the rental car and fill the boot with everything you need, food basket, water, and other snacks!
When you arrive, leave the car near one of the pedestrian trails and settle in!
Discover all the charms of this place and enjoy a relaxed day outdoors!
Which are the best trails for a walk in the Peneda-Gerês National Park?
It depends on the type of adventure you want for your holiday in the north of the country. Here are some examples:
- Preguiça Trail - easy;
- Miradouros Trail - medium;
- Sobreiral da Ermida Trail - difficult.
Now that you have filled your lungs with fresh air, you can return to the city of Oporto, rest and prepare for the next day!
5th day - Miranda do Douro and Torre de Moncorvo
Pack your bags and head from Oporto to Miranda do Douro, a municipality that belongs to the Douro International Natural Park.
In addition to the landscapes and historical heritage, get to know the gastronomy of this land and delight in the traditional flavours of Trás-os-Montes food. The alheira, the Mirandesa steak, and so many other delicacies that make your mouth water!
After lunch, drive to Torre de Moncorvo. We advise you to stay overnight to get to know this town that has:
- Breathtaking viewpoints;
- River beaches, waterfalls, and lagoons;
- Pedestrian trails;
- Traditional flavour restaurants
6th day - Douro Wine Region - Alijó
From Torre de Moncorvo, head towards Alijó, the land of Favaios Muscatel. Come and learn about the history of this village embraced by the Douro and Tua rivers, and delight in the traditional food.
We invite you to visit Quinta do Bonfim in Pinhão, of a Portuguese-British family, one of the largest producers of Premium Port wine. Embark on an experience that combines rural tourism in northern Portugal with wine tourism.
After a good wine tasting, it's best to rest in Pinhão.
See what we've reserved for the last day!
7th day - Douro Wine Region - Peso da Régua
From Pinhão, you reach Peso da Régua in 50 minutes. Learn more about the history of Port wine with a visit to the Douro Museum, a must-stop.
To whet your appetite, stop at Quinta do Vallado for another wine tasting!
Resume the journey and stop in Lamego, a city of religious traditions, which overflows with history and legends, where the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Remedies is located.
Finally, end your holiday at Caves Raposeira to toast to life with the sparkling wine of Lamego.
For the return to Oporto, count on a car journey of an hour and a half. And, lots of memories to share!
Map of the 7-day itinerary through northern Portugal
1 - 3-day Northern Portugal Itinerary
For those who only have 3 days to get away to the north of the country, rent a car and follow one of our route suggestions:
1st option: 1st day: Oporto, historical centre, 2nd day: Peneda Gerês National Park and 3rd day: Peso da Régua.
2nd option: 1st day: Oporto, historical centre, 2nd day: Miranda do Douro/Torre de Moncorvo and 3rd day: Alijó
Now prepare for your holiday and travel safely!
To make the most of your holiday in northern Portugal, it is best to travel by car. Rent a vehicle and you will have more comfort and freedom to choose your itinerary.
What are the car rental options in Northern Portugal?
At Drivalia, we have the right solution for your trips. Find our mobility stores in the north of the country in:
- Oporto - city;
- Oporto - airport;
- Vila Real;
With over 30 years of experience and a vast fleet of cars, we provide excellent service with the best solutions in the automotive mobility market. Talk to us and choose the ideal car for your holiday in northern Portugal. With Drivalia you travel with safety and tranquillity!