Whenever I have some free time from my chaotic life as a blogger & owner of a private tour company, I enjoy taking day trips. I honestly believe that I live in the most beautiful country in the world, and the more I travel, the more I am convinced of this.
And so it is with great pleasure that I share this list of the best cities in Portugal with you. If you are looking for a more quaint experience, check out the most beautiful villages near Porto!
And the best cities in Portugal easily accessible from Porto are:
Guimarães (1h do Porto)
Guimarães, once the European Capital of Culture, is one of the cutest cities in Portugal (yes, even cutter than Porto, but I’ll always denied saying this!).This cute little city will win you over with its perfectly renovated medieval buildings and its narrow streets where the most tempting souvenir stores await for you.
In Guimarães I recommend you to visit all the monuments in the Sacred Hill – the castle, the Palace of the Dukes of Braganza and a tiny church dedicated to St. Michael. If you are into religious architecture include the church of Nossa Senhora da Consolação e Santos Passos, as well as the Church of Nossa Senhora da Oliveira as they are particularly beautiful.
If you are more found of wondering around the city with no particular monument in mind then I recommend you these streets: Rua de Santa Maria, Praça de Tourais, Largo da Oliveira and Zona de Couros. For me, wondering in Downtown Guimarães is one of the best things to do in Portugal.
Once there, you can also take the cable car all the way to Monte da Penha, a stunning plateau with dense vegetation and natural caves. There are also picnic tables, which makes this place ideal for couples and for families with young kids.
Once in Guimarães: try the decadent tortas de Guimarães (a traditional sweet filled with pumpkin jam, eggs and almonds) at Casa Costinhas.
Where to Stay in Guimarães: in this city I am particularly found of Casa do Juncal and Vale de S. Torcato Houses and Wine Bar. For apartments I suggest Posh Residences. A good B&B is Guimarães Historic Sweet Home and for hostels I suggest the Bergui Hostel.
Braga (1h from Porto)
I must confess that I never really appreciated Braga as much as Guimarães, but lately I have been going there with my friends and I am slowly but steadily embracing this city. Braga is not only one of the most beautiful cities in Portugal but also one of the best day trips you can take from Porto, as it is just 1h driving distance.
Given its intense Baroque and Neoclassical architecture, I recommend you to first and above all wonder the city centre. In there, you will find magnificent buildings such as the famous cathedral of Braga – I highly recommend you to visit and include a guided tour to the Upper choir and to the three external chapels.
Another great thing is to walk Rua do Souto, where you will be able to see a beautiful fountain, a famous medieval tour as well as the Neoclassical Porta Nova, a stunning entrance to the walls of the city that has completely different architectural styles (one seen from the inside of the city and another one facing the outside).
Close enough to Braga are several famous sanctuaries: Bom Jesus the Braga and Sameiro. I am personally not a big fan of none of them, as my heart is devoted to a discrete monastery called Mosteiro de São Martinho de Tibães. All of these are easily accessible if you have a car.
Once in Braga: do not forget to try the AMAZING conventual biscuits and roman cake at Frigideiras do Cantinho, a pastry shop founded in 1796.
Where to Stay in Braga: in this city I am particularly found of Casa do Edro. For apartments I suggest the Cathedral Apartments. A good B&B is Domus 26 Guesthouse – B&B and for hostels I suggest the Amelia’s House and the Collector’s Hostel.
Fátima (2h from Porto)
I am not a religious person but I have already been in Fátima, the famous Portuguese Catholic shrine, a couple of times, mostly with my aunts and with my grandma. It is impossible not to feel impressed with the shrine and the profound faith and reverence that one fells there.
I found out about a great full day tour that not only takes you to visit Fátima but also Coimbra, the famous university city in Central Portugal. I think this is a lovely way of getting to know two completely different cities in Portugal: a Catholic one and one that is the birthplace of knowledge in my country.
You can get the online ticket to the full day tour in Fátima and Guimarães, that departures from Porto.
Aveiro (1h from Porto)
In my previous life (I always refer to my life as an Industrial Engineer as my previous life) I used to live in Aveiro. This city, considered by many as the Venice of Portugal, is definitely one of the best day trips from Porto.
The best way to explore it is to join a half day tour in Aveiro, which includes pick up / drop off from your hotel in Porto, an experienced guide and a boat ride on the moliceiros, the typical boats from this region in Northern Portugal.
You can also simply wonder around Rossio, the city centre, and have lunch at the former fish market, that has been renovated not a long ago.
Another great thing to do in Aveiro is to discover its stunning Art Nouveau architecture using this detailed guide that I have written a while ago.Close enough to Aveiro are two important museums:
- The Museum of Ílhavo, dedicated to the important Codfish Industry, which was particularly relevant during the Portuguese dictatorship.
- The Vista Alegre Museum, dedicated to the famous brand of Portuguese porcelain and crystal.
There is a direct train connection from Porto, and the train station is just 15min walking distance from the city centre. You can also get there by car – check the best car rental prices with RentalCars or AutoEurope.
Once in Aveiro: Everyone will tell you to eat Ovos Moles, a traditional Portuguese pastry from Aveiro, but to be honest I never met a single foreigner that appreciated it. Therefore, I suggest you to visit KI, the macrobiotic restaurant of my friends Clara & Sara. Yes, it is not typical Portuguese food, but it is such a relaxed atmosphere and they have such amazing deserts – it is definitely worth to go there!
Where to Stay in Aveiro: As I have plenty of friends in Aveiro I always stay at their houses. Nonetheless, they have recommended me several places to write this article. B&B: Aveiro Rossio Bed & Breakfast, SolDouro Guesthouse and Casa do Cais. Apartments: Aveiro Panoramic. Hostels: Les Canaux, Aveiro Rossio Hostel and Suites & Hostel Cidade de Aveiro.
Amarante (1h from Porto)
I am completely in love with Amarante. This city in Northern Portugal combines a very well preserved city centre, a striving wine industry (let us not forget its location, in the Green Wine region) and some of the best traditional Portuguese pastries. What else could you ask for?!
Once in Amarante, I recommend you to first visit the museum dedicated to Amadeo de Souza – Cardoso, the amazing Portuguese artist that died prematurely at the end of WWI. Right next to the museum is the gracious church of São Gonçalo. From there, walk the bridge with the same name as it is stunning.
If you are visiting Amarante I recommend you to stay at Monverde – Wine Experience Hotel, as it is one of the best boutique hotels in Portugal. Even if you decide not to stay there (big mistake!), go there anyway to enjoy a green wine tasting overlooking the vineyards. Life does not get much better than that.
Once in Amarante: pay a visit to Confeitaria da Ponte, a stunning Portuguese pastry shop.
Where to Stay in Amarante: in this city I am particularly found of Hotel Casa da Calçada and Monverde Wine Experience Hotel. For apartments I suggest the AmaranteLoft. In terms of hostels I suggest the Des Arts Hostel and Suites.
Gerês National Park (1h30 from Porto)
I know, I know, Gerês National Park is not exactly one of the best cities in Portugal but if you are a nature lover like myself it would be SUCH A PITY not to visit this green heaven!In Gerês National Park you can find a bit of everything: gorgeous villages, tiny mountain lakes where you can have a (freezing) bath, breathtaking waterfalls and easy to moderate mountain trails. My parents used to rent a house there during summer days and I have the greatest memories from those times 🙂
I most honestly think that Gerês National Park deserves a couple of days at least. But if you only have one day in the region, why don’t you join a 4×4 Tour with Lunch included? This tour includes not only a visit to the viewpoint on the picture above but also swimming at the famous Blue Well and the “Tahiti” Waterfalls as well as a traditional Portuguese lunch. This is a very popular tour so don’t forget to get your online ticket to the Gerês National Park Day tour.
Ponte de Lima (1h from Porto)
Another great day trip from Porto is Ponte de Lima, an ancient village at the heart of the Green Wine Region. In fact, Ponte de Lima is so very proud of being the oldest village in Portugal that it refused to be turned into a city. True story. (So technically it shouldn’t even be on this list of the best cities in Portugal!).
What I particularly enjoy about Ponte de Lima is its deep connection to nature. In fact, besides visiting its cute little historical centre (I reckon you can do this in a couple of hours), you can dedicate a lot more time walking by the riverside or by the lagoons of Bertiandos and S. Pedro de Arcos. Another great place to walk is the protected landscape of Corno de Bico, just half an hour driving from Ponte de Lima.
If you are not so much into walking, consider appreciating the view from Santo Ovidio Viewpoint, it is stunning.
Once in Ponte de Lima: you must dare to try Arroz de Sarrabulho (chicken rice cooked with blood, vinegar and cummins) at Restaurante Alameda. It is. so. good!
Where to Stay in Ponte de Lima: in this city I am completely in love with Quinta do Ameal – Wine & Tourism Terroir and Carmo’s Boutique Hotel, even though they are both terribly expensive, staying there is one of the best things you can do in Portugal! A good B&B is Casa das Neves. For apartments I suggest Casa do Carvalho. In terms of hostels I suggest the old Village Hostel.
Douro Valley (1h30/2h from Porto)
Douro Valley is one of the loves of my life. The more I go there – and given my private tours I go there 3 / 4 times a week! – the more I find more things to get in love with. It is not only its superb wines – it is the impressive landscape, the warm and hospitable people and the food. Oh. My. God. The. Food. And the Wines.
For example, you can join a rabelo boat ride departing from Pinhão buy your ticket for a 1 hour ride in Douro for only 10€ (which is an absolute bargain!).You can also try out a longer ride and enjoy a complimentary glass of Port wine on your journey for only 20€ – buy your ticket for a 2 hour boat ride here.
I can add to the list a visit to Lamego, a beautiful city just South of Régua, considered by many of one of the best cities in Portugal. Moreover, you have the historical villages of Ucanha (it has a splendid medieval tower) and Tabuaço (it has the most amazing watch you will ever see in your life, trust me!) which are both stunning.
Either by joining me on a private tour in Douro Valley or by simply getting there on your own, I hope you can fully appreciate what is considered one of the best wine regions in the entire world and certainly one of the best things to do in Portugal.
You can get to Régua and to Pinhão by train as there are plenty connections from Porto. But if you want to explore the amazing vineyards in the region you definitely need a car. You can check the best car rental prices with RentalCars or AutoEurope.
Once in Douro Valley: do not forget to visit the wine shop of my friend Sérgio, in Tabuaço. It is called RUMO and the wine selection is superb, as he is one of the top agricultural engineers in Real Companhia Velha, one of the oldest wine producers in the region.
Where to Stay in Douro Valley: Please read my article on Where to Stay in Douro Valley.
Fafe (1h from Porto)
I have already mentioned Fafe as one of the best day trips from Porto. This small city is worth a visit not only because it is completely off the tourist radar but also because is has been shaped by the return of Brasileiros Torna Viagem (basically, the Portuguese emigrants that went to Brasil, made a fortune and decided to come back to Portugal). In fact, these returned Portuguese migrants were so fundamental in the social, economical and cultural development of Fafe that there is a small but rather impressive museum solely dedicated to them called Museu das Emigrações.
Once in Fafe, do not forget to visit the the Cine theatre as it is a superb concert house.For nature lovers, I suggest you to visit Aldeia do Pontido and take a 2h walk from there, all around the secluded lake close by.
Quintandona (30min from Porto)
Quintandona is a hidden gem just half an hour driving distance from Porto. This is one of the wonderful Portuguese villages where the amazing beauty of its typical shale houses captivates us from the first glance.
In Quintandona there is not much to do besides walk its little streets and wonder how it would be to live in the past. You will be able to see the public pillory, a centenary chapel, some typical stone structures called canastros, where farmers used to store their corn, and even a public place where women used to wash their clothes. And, in my humble opinion, to be able to check how people used to live in ancient times is one of the best things to do in Portugal.
Once in Quintadonna: There is a tapas place called WineBar Casa da Viúva. I wasn’t particularly found of the tapas itself (then again I love proper food, so it is probably a matter of preference!) but its wine list is simply superb.
Where to Stay in Quintandona: in this city I am completely in love with Casa Valxisto, it is such a lovely place! 🙂
Arouca (1h30 from Porto)
Visiting Arouca, a discrete village just 1h driving distance from Porto, is definitely one of the best things to do in Portugal for nature lovers.Arouca has one of the most beautiful city centres I have ever seen, that revolves around its stunning convent. You can check it in a couple of hours and then head to:
- Passadiços do Paiva, an trekking trail along the Paiva river. I have already done it a couple of times and the views never cease to amaze.
- Watch the spectacular waterfall of Frecha da Mizarela.
- Try to do some kayak in Rio Paiva. It is really fun! 🙂
- Visit the wonderful tiny (and abandoned) village of Drave.
Once in Arouca: you MUST try Morcelas Doces, a traditional Portuguese conventual sweet made with almonds. I can’t recall where I used to eat them, but they are easy to recognise as they have the shape of sausages! 🙂
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