Travel Planning Tips for Visiting Northern Portugal
Lured by Lison? Pulled toward Porto? If northern Portugal is calling your name – and why wouldn’t it, with its wine country and Medieval history. Here’s what to consider as you start to plan your getaway. For foodies and oenophiles, lovers of ancient history, culture seekers, and anyone who loves pristine natural beauty, northern Portugal is a pure delight. Elegant, authentic, and welcoming, this region of the country will surprise you at every turn.
When to Visit Northern Portugal
Let’s start with the basics – when should you visit northern Portugal? Honestly, any time that’s right for you. Of course, the most popular time is the summer (July and August, in particular). So think outside these months if you want to avoid crowds. Consider the slightly off seasons of March through June or September through November.
During the fall, you can still visit the beaches while it’s warm but not overly hot. There will be far fewer people competing for space on the sand. And, if you’re a wine enthusiast, fall is the time to visit for harvest in the north.
How to Get Around in Northern Region
When you’re in Lisbon and Porto, try to rely on a private car and driver or public transportation. Driving in these cities isn’t easy, so renting a car is best for getting from one or the other, but not necessary for sightseeing around each destination. Nonetheless, if you decide to explore a smaller town in the north, rent a car.
Where Should I Go in Northern Portugal?
Here are our favorite destinations in northern Portugal – spend as much time as you have in these spots or add these on to a southern Portugal trip for a full country experience.
Spend three or four days in Porto if you can to soak up its charming ambiance. The city itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While it’s the country’s second-largest city, you’d barely know, thanks to its relaxed atmosphere, colorful architecture, and sense of history. Be sure to stop into one of the riverside port houses for a sip of local port wine, stroll up and down the hills for hours, and admire the gorgeous blue-and-white azulejos tile work throughout the city.
From Porto, it’s easy to take day trips into the Douro Valley, to Braga and Guimarães, and to Peneda-Gerês National Park.
Build in a couple of days in this coastal town south of Porto on the way to Lisbon. With its vibrant boats and canals, it’s often referred to as the Venice of Portugal. Cruise the waterways, wander the colorful streets or take a bus ride to Costa Nova for its vividly striped homes along the beach and iconic red-and-white Praia de Barra lighthouse.
Capital of the Tras-os-Montes province in northeastern Portugal, Braganca, seemingly untouched by tourism, is a pure delight. For those seeking natural scenery, you’ll be on the edge of the Montesinho Natural Park, one of the wildest forested areas in Europe.
For those who love history, you’ll find secluded stone villages like Miranda do Douro and Torre de Moncorvo, where the pace of daily life hasn’t changed for centuries. In Mirandela, you can feast on the cured meats and sausages for which the region is known.
Bonus: If you’re traveling around the Lenten season, the colorful carnival celebrations throughout the province shouldn’t be missed, featuring vibrant costumes, lively parades, and traditional music.
Soak up the medieval feel of Coimbra, home to the country’s oldest university (five centuries old!). Admire the Gothic architectural styles found throughout the town and its historic core. Don’t miss the library at the university.
Ready to be wowed by northern Portugal? Let’s chat.