What to see in the Douro Valley: cities and attractions not to be missed

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Martí Micolau

wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

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La Douro Valley, in the north of Portugal, offers idyllic landscapes and, especially, sweet and intense wines. First of all, the excellent Port wine, famous all over the world for its quality and typical flavor.
Since 1756 holds the title of wine region and it is the oldest in the world, a place so enchanting that it has been classified as a Unesco World Heritage Site.

The reference city of the region is Porto or, as the Portuguese say Oporto. And from here you can leave for an itinerant journey to discover this wonderful valley to explore what has been defined as a cultural landscape. By car, train or boat, by any means, this is an excursion that hardly leaves you indifferent ...

The centuries-old winemaking tradition has shaped a landscape of incredible beauty, characterized by rows of vineyards that wind gently along the valleys, interspersed here and there by picturesque villages and towns. In addition to naturalistic beauty, they are everywhere cellars (where the Port ages) which offer guided tours with a final tasting.
Here are the cities and attractions not to be missed in the Valle de Duoro!


  1. Porto
  2. Amarante
  3. Pinion
  4. Foz Coa Archaeological Park
  5. Vila do Conte
  6. Peso da Régua
  7. Lamego
  8. Guided tour of a wine cellar + tasting
  9. Rota das Amendoeiras, the almond blossom itinerary
  10. Cruise on the Douro
  11. User questions and comments

1 - Porto

Heartbreaking, melancholy, rude, decadent. For this, a city that simply charms.

Lying along the banks of the Douro River, Porto is a tangle of streets and alleys that wind on various levels and which, in the end, all converge at the Dom Luis I Bridge, the symbol of the city. Iron construction designed by a collaborator of Gustave Eiffel (and in fact the style that recalls the famous tower of Paris is evident!). The bridge, with two-level streets (one for cars and one for trams and pedestrians), connects the Ribeira, the old area with Vila Nova de Gaia, on the other side of the river, where the port producing wineries are concentrated.

In addition to wandering aimlessly through the picturesque alleys admiring the tall and narrow facades of decadent houses, in Porto there are must-see attractions: the cathedral São Bento station Lello bookcase (clearly inspired by Harry Potter), the Torre dos Clerigos church of Sant'Ildefonso with the facade covered with azulejios ei barcos rabelos, the typical boats with which the wine barrels were transported.

2 - Amarante

The town is surrounded by lush vineyards, in a pleasant position on the Tâmega river (the longest tributary of the Douro), it is perfect for romantic walks along the river or through the narrow streets of the historic center.

It was founded by the Benedictine monk San Gonzalo, the patron saint which, they say, brings luck to lonely hearts in search of a soul mate. The inhabitants of the city celebrate it twice a year: on January 2 and the first Saturday in June; holidays during which it is customary to eat typical treats become so famous that they can now be found in the city's pastry shops practically all year round. Here are the names with which you can recognize them: papos de anjo, brisas do Tâmega, toucinho do céu, bolos de S. Gonçalo, galhofas.
But in addition to sweets, Amarante is also famous for other culinary specialties such as smoked dried hams, cold cuts and the vinho verde.

The most important attractions: the church and monastery of San Gonzalo, the Amadeo de Souza Cardoso Museum and the historic bridge, also dedicated to San Gonzalo, which Napoleon tried in vain to cross.

3 - Pinhão

It is considered the geographical center of the Douro wine region, the point where the seals are most concentratedproduce the best quality Porto.

Entirely surrounded by vineyards, it is therefore a destination for connoisseurs. Its scenic location on a bend in the Douro river makes this one a dream location even for teetotalers!

Noteworthy is the building of the railway station, from the late nineteenth century, whose interior is entirely covered with wonderful azulejos with depictions of grape cultivation.

The beauty of this area is to admire the terraces that, sinuous, wind on both sides of the river, skirting it by car or taking part in a river cruise.

The city is also perfect for staying there. Here there are in fact many quinta, a sort of farms, agritourisms, B & Bs where to stay, taste local products, admire the panorama of the vineyards and, of course, taste the famous fortified wine.

4 - Foz Coa Archaeological Park

Vila Nova de Foz Coa, in the hottest part of the upper Douro, is famous for a magnificent outdoor archaeological site: the Vale do Coa Archaeological Park, with engravings dating back to the Paleolithic.

These decorative "panels", dating back to the early Upper Paleolithic, are the testimony of a vitality and a mastery of conception and traits that have brought them down to us, through 25.000 years. The long art gallery illustrates the Neolithic period and the Iron Age, transposing two thousand years of history in one fell swoop.
Millennium after millennium, the rock formations that delimit the bed have transformed into panels covered with thousands of engravings linked together by the creative impulse of our ancestors.

The last 17 km of the course of the Côa would therefore have been the scenario of first Portuguese archaeological park, included in 1998 in the list of monuments that theUNESCO considers World Heritage Site.

NB: Guided tours for small groups. It is recommended to book well in advance.

5 - Vila do Conte

It's a popular holiday resort north of Porto, whose main attractions are the city ​​beaches, considered the most beautiful in the north of Portugal, and imposing Santa Clara monastery, overlooking the city center.

The picturesque old town, the mouth of the river, the splendid beaches and a past linked to the salt trade, are the elements that have transformed this town into the Favorite weekend retreat for many Porto locals.

In Roman times, it was a important center for the export of salt as well as an eminent headquarters of shipyards in the age of discoveries.

This small town is famous for its beach, Praia de Vila do Conde, a long beach that extends for about 6 km to the mouth of the Ave river and which takes on, in various sections, different names: Caxinas beach used by fishermen, Praia do Turismo, very popular with tourists, and Praia Azul , the most loved by surfers.

Souvenirs of Vila do Conde are the beautiful ones bobbin lace created by women of the region.

6 - Peso da Régua

Point of arrival (and departure) of cruises on the Douro, Peso da Régua it is the main administrative and commercial center of the Douro Valley. It is certainly not one of the most fascinating places, but it is agreat base for exploring the region.

The city originated from a Roman house located here, the "Villa Reguela", although its period of greatest development took place after 1756, with the creation of the Real Companhia Geral da Agricultura das Vinhas do Alto Douro, which established the first wine region in the world.

Situated next to the Douro river, the locality played a predominant role in production and, above all, in marketing of the Port; in fact it was from here that the wine barrels were transported, aboard the traditional rabelos, to Vila Nova de Gaia, where the wine aged in the cellars.
Interesting, to learn about many aspects of wine cultivation and the region, the Douro Museum. In addition, from the viewpoint of São Leonardo em Galafura and Santo António do Loureiro, you can admire the terraced vineyards along the banks of the river.

And, for a relaxing day, there is the nearby Caldas de Moledo spa town.

7 - Lamego

It is a prosperous town 10 km south of the Rio Douro, located in the Viseu district. It is a city of art, a bishopric and a important center located among the wine-growing hills of Beira Alta, on the southern slope of the Douro valley.

Basically, you visit this city for 2 main reasons: the spectacular zigzag staircase leading to the Igreja de Nossa Senhora dos Remedios: has more than 600 steps and is decorated with the typical Portuguese tiles, azulejos, white and blue; the second is the possibility of tasting the Raposeira, a very pleasant fragrant sparkling wine, an alternative to the ubiquitous Porto.

The historic center winds through winding streets and tree-lined avenues, and houses other interesting medieval sites.

The surroundings of Lamego also offer numerous attractions such as castles, medieval chapels, abandoned convents, semi-ruined monasteries, fortified bridges and panoramic points.

8 - Guided tour of a wine cellar + tasting

In Porto, and in all the towns of the Douro valley, there are many, practically all of them wineries offering guided tours (more or less well organized and more or less expensive), generally complemented by tastings with cheeses, chocolate and other local products.

The most complete experiences are those that they bring the visitor to know the whole world behind Port Wine, from the vineyard to the glass, in a unique format that begins with an introduction through the tour of an interactive museum or the projection of an explanatory video.

The tour in the Douro Valley then takes on a more practical connotation in the cellars ,active and open to visitors; and here, in fact, you have the opportunity to learn something more about the unique characteristics of each type of Port, even near the barrels where they grow, protected from light and heat.
Finally, to conclude with a refined and enjoyable tasting of house wines, led by a sommelier who suggests the best combinations between individual wines and various types of cheese, chocolate, crackers and compotes.

9 - Rota das Amendoeiras, the almond blossom itinerary

It is a journey aboard an ancient train along the fields of almonds in bloom.

Shortly before the arrival of spring, between February and March, the valleys of the Douro change color, are tinged with white and pink and take on a very romantic, almost pure character, which heralds the upcoming new season.

To admire this absolutely unique scenery, the best method or, considered one of the most beautiful spectacles of nature, is to cross the Douro valley, along the Almond Blossom Road aboard a steam and diesel train, as in the early twentieth century. Tourists travel in historic locomotives and carriages at a constant speed of 30 km per hour. There Douro Line, which connects Porto to Pocinho, is a great engineering feat that overcomes natural obstacles by crossing 26 tunnels and 30 bridges. The result? A unforgettable journey to the discovery of impressive sceneries and immense tranquility.

Legend has it that it was a young king who brought the almond trees to Portugal; it is said that he planted them to satisfy his princess, of Nordic origin. The scenery created by the almond trees in bloom is reminiscent of a white blanket of snow.

10 - Cruise on the Douro

The most fascinating experience is a boat trip with a glass of Porto.

There are many types of cruises offered.
The most traditional is the 6 Bridges Cruise on the Douro River which allows you to retrace the footsteps of the ancient wine merchants who transported wine from the valley to the wineries.

The tour generally begins at the Ribeira di Porto quay.
While sailing, you can admire the splendid landscapes and buildings of the Ribeira and Vila Nova de Gaia from a new perspective, the water. From the river you can enjoy a truly exceptional point of view. The beautiful rocky banks of the Douro valley, where the vineyards are spread, begin near Barqueiros and wind up to Barca d'Alva, offering one of the most impressive man-made rural landscapes.

The cruise also allows you to discover something more about the rabelos barcos, the ancient boats that transported the barrels and some curiosities about the historic bridges that connect the two banks of the river.

There are day trips or multi-day cruises aboard hotel-boats.

Travel informed: useful information and necessary documents

  • Inhabitants: 1.700.000
  • Languages: Portuguese
  • Local currency: EUR
  • Weather: Mediterranean, with hot, dry summers and mild winters
  • Travel / health insurance: recommended.

    Where it is

    The Douro is one Northern subregion of Portugal, which includes parts of the district of Braganca, the district of Vila Real, the district of Viseu, and the district of Guarda. For a total of 19 municipalities. It borders to the north with the Alto Tràs-os-Montes, to the east with Spain, to the south with the North Inner Beira and the Dão-Lafões and to the west with the Tamega.
    It is located on the northern bank of the Duero River, not far from the Atlantic Ocean. Vila Nova de Gaia is part of its metropolitan area, the second most populous town in Portugal after Lisbon.

    Tours and excursions in the Duoro Valley

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