Porto is a beautiful, hilly city on the banks of the Douro River in the north of Portugal. Its historic old town is recognised as a World Heritage Site, and – as you can probably tell from the name – Porto is the city that gave the world port wine (and the country its name). Portugal’s second-largest city – after Lisbon – is perfectly positioned for a range of exciting day trips in the north of Portugal. So, what are the best day trips from Porto?
What are the best day trips to take from Porto?
How far from Porto? 75km – less than an hour
Best Way to travel? Rent a car and follow the E1 South
Nestled in a protected bay, looking out over the Atlantic Ocean, Aveiro offers a romantic setting for a special getaway. An Aveiro day trip from Porto is one of the easiest and most relaxing day trips from Portugal’s second city.
Local boats zip in and out the channels, and for those with weary legs after Porto’s hills, you’ll be delighted to hear that Aveiro is a wonderfully flat town. Easy on the legs, and especially fun to explore with a “BUGA” – free bikes, provided by the council.
Aveiro is noteworthy for its Art Nouveau buildings, a popular European style from the early 20th Century. There’s even a museum in town dedicated to the style.
For the foodie, a local sweet treat – “ovos moles” (which translates as soft eggs) – is made with eggs a sugar, and sold in charming wooden barrels, which are often painted with nautical scenes, reflecting the town’s maritime heritage.
How far from Porto? 330km – 1 to 6 hours depending on method of transport
Best Way to travel? Train (1 hour 45 minutes) is easiest and offers great views. By boat is the most memorable route (6 hours)
A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2001, this majestic natural landscape is home to the oldest specialist wine region in the world. A visit to the Douro Valley is something of a pilgrimage for any wine afficionado. And be prepared for a lot of wine and Porto drinking – hence the reason why the Douro valley is one of my favourite day trips from Porto!
It’s possible to visit the valley independently for an inspiring hike through the vineyards. Otherwise, take an organised tour which could include a wine tasting experience.
There are 10-12 trains a day leaving Porto for Régua and you’ll find you’re in good company if you’re leaning into the window to capture the best photos of the valley as you chug through it.
To mix things up, take the train out, and return to Porto by boat. If you can tie this in with sunset, it’ll be an unforgettable trip.
How far from Porto? 60km – 1 hour
Best Way to travel? Trains leave from São Bento or Campanhã stations throughout the day
Guimaraes offers a fantastic day trip from Porto; an incredible time-travelling experience. The city’s magnificent medieval architecture, such as the Guimaraes Castle, dates back to the 10th Century… that’s well over 1000 years. Did you know, Guimaraes was the birthplace of Afonso Henriques – the first King of Portugal.
Another reason for visiting Guimaraes is very different: they’ve got a football team! This can make for a great afternoon out, and a chance to immerse yourself in Portugal’s keen sporting culture. Whilst you’re not going to see Ronaldo playing at Vitória de Guimarães, let’s not forget that Portugal is the country that gave us this world-beating player and therefore expect to see an exciting game in the Portuguese Primeira Liga.
How far from Porto? 125km – 1.5 hours
Best Way to travel? The train takes 1 hour 5 minutes and is pretty much the same price as the bus, which tends to take a little longer.
Looking at Coimbra from the opposite bank of the River Modego, the city climbs out of the river in a distinctly Portuguese way. You would be forgiven for thinking that you had arrived in a neighbourhood of Lisbon, previously undiscovered.
In fact, Coimbra was Portugal’s capital city long before Lisbon took the title and remains the largest city in the Centro Region today.
The city’s University is the oldest in Portugal and has earned the city its reputation as the city of students. For this reason, amidst the historic landmarks – such as the Chapel of São Miguel (noted for its Baroque organ) and the Machado de Castro National Museum, which houses important Roman artifacts – there is also a lively modern flair to Coimbra.
There’s a buzzing café culture in the city centre, so leave time to soak up the atmosphere with an arrufadas (sweet bun) mid-afternoon.
How far from Porto? 60km – 1 hour
Best Way to travel? Train is the easiest route and you can jump on at either São Bento or Campanhã stations, heading South.
Another university city within easy reach of Porto is Braga. If Roman history interests you then you will love spending some time in this ancient city, which has its origins in the rein of the Roman Emperor Augustus.
The city’s cathedral is the oldest in Portugal, built by the parents of the country’s first king (remember where he was born? Hint: they’ve got a top tier football team).
Braga is noted for its religious importance. It was included in the Caminos de Santiago pilgrimage journey, and hosts major Holy Week Celebrations and the annual São João Festival.
After a day packed with history and culture, tuck into a delicious plate of local-speciality codfish, and perhaps finish with an intriguing dessert: Pudim Abade de Priscos (crème caramel… with bacon).
Valenca do Minho
How far from Porto? 100km – 1.5 – 2 hours
Best Way to travel? Coaches leave from Porto a couple of times a day.
Valenca do Minho is a fortified village, not far from Portugal’s border with Spain. The village, protected by medieval fortifications, including a moat, tells of Portugal’s historic animosity with neighbouring Spain.
Nowadays, Spaniards are daily seen crossing the border to buy high-quality (and cheaper) Portuguese goods and take them back home. In the evenings, Valenca do Minho returns to the locals, so it’s worth making this an overnight trip if you want to experience both sides of this village.
The new town isn’t much to see for a tourist, but the old town is filled with treasures, such as the 14th Century Church of Sat Estvevão in the North fortress. For nature lovers, take a hike up the Monte do Faro and enjoy the breath-taking views from 565 metres above sea level.
How far from Porto? 200km – 2 hours
Best Way to travel? A regular direct bus leaves Porto every 30 minutes, costing around €30.
Fatima is a city of just over 13,000 inhabitants, which has become a real hotspot for international religious tourists.
The city is known for the Marian apparitions – sightings of the Virgin Mary – by three local children at the Cova da Iria in 1917. A small, but important, chapel was built at the site a year later and is visited by 6 to 8 million pilgrims each year.
Pope Benedict XVI (in 2010) and Pope Francis (2017) have both made their own pilgrimages to this significant Portuguese city.
13th May and 13th October are especially busy dates in the pilgrim calendar, so prepare for huge crowds if visiting on these days.
For a multi-day trip, combine with Aveiro and Coimbra, staying a night at each stop.
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