Things to do in Northern Portugal

Things to do in  Northern Portugal

Where the Douro wanders

Venture north from Lisbon and you’ll find a wealth of cultural and culinary delights in Northern Portugal, famed for its crepuscular wine cellars, revered pilgrimage sites, and picturesque valleys. In Porto, buildings smothered in azulejos (hand-painted tiles) tumble toward the Douro River (Rio Douro) and a haphazard historic center confirms its UNESCO World Heritage status at every turn. Combine tasting port, Porto’s world-renowned fortified wine, with a sightseeing tour and river cruise for an authentic glimpse into the capital of Northern Portugal. In contrast to Oporto’s densely packed architecture are the sweeping valleys and bounteous vineyards of the Douro Valley, where wineries and miradouros (lookout points) revealing stunning natural landscapes blend harmoniously. Use Porto as a base for day trips to Guimarães, undoubtedly the best preserved of Portugal’s medieval enclaves; historic Braga; and Santiago de Compostela, a holy and autonomous region located across the Spanish border in Galicia. Northern Portugal also offers easy access by train and plane to other Portuguese treasures, including the capital city, Lisbon, and the gorgeous beaches of the Algarve. If you’re planning to combine your Portugal trip with visits to other European cities but don’t have enough time to make it to Venice, don’t worry—Aveiro, known affectionately as the Venice of Portugal, boasts canal networks lined with moliceiros (colorful boats) with a traditional fish market and an impressive art museum.

Top 15 attractions in Northern Portugal

Porto Cathedral (Sé Catedral do Porto)

Watching over the city from its hilltop spot, the imposing fort-like Porto Cathedral (Sé Catedral do Porto)is a reminder of Porto’s diverse history. Featuring Romanesque, Gothic, and baroque architecture, this is Porto’s oldest and largest church, a must-visit for architecture and history aficionados.More

Clérigos Church and Tower (Torre & Igreja dos Clérigos)

Standing atop a hill overlooking Porto, Portugal, are the Igreja dos Clérigos, an 18th-century church and one of the city’s architectural symbols, and the Toree dos Clérigos, its bell tower. Intricately carved baroque shells and garlands on the church reflect Porto’s seaside location, and the bell tower offers panoramic views of the city.More

Palace of the Stock Exchange (Palácio da Bolsa)

Forming an integral part of Porto’s historic center, the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Palace of the Stock Exchange (Palácio da Bolsa is a marvel of neoclassical architecture. The 19th-century palace has played host to royals such as Her Majesty the Queen, and today can be explored only as part of a guided tour.More

Dom Luis Bridge (Ponte de Dom Luis I)

Designed by a student of Gustave Eiffel—the architect responsible for the Eiffel Tower—Ponte de Dom Luis I marked a significant step forward in Porto’s economic growth at the time of its construction; before it existed, the only passages across the river were boats lashed together. Today, visitors can admire the Douro River and the Ribeira District from the pedestrian walkway of Porto’s most symbolic sight.More

Rua Santa Catarina

Stretching from Praça do Marquês de Pombal in the north to Praça da Batalha in the south, Rua Santa Catarina is Porto’s principal shopping street and social hub. The 1-mile (1.5-kilometer thoroughfare is lined with Art Nouveau buildings and serves as a perfect place to start your Porto sightseeing.More


Set on the banks of the River Douro, Ribeira is Porto’s oldest quarter. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the district’s maze of alleyways and pastel-colored houses rises up on a hill above the bay. The Ribeira’s modern waterfront—lined with restaurants, bars, and cafés—is a popular leisure hub and nightlife destination.More

Church of São Francisco (Igreja de São Francisco)

Behind its comparatively stark Gothic facade, the Church of São Francisco(Igreja de São Francisco) harbors a trove of baroque finery: The interior has marble columns, intricate wooden carvings, and gold-covered walls. Highlights include the magnificent Tree of Jesse altarpiece, a 13th-century statue of Saint Francis, and eerily beautiful catacombs.More

Braga Cathedral (Sé de Braga)

Located in city of Braga in northern Portugal, the Braga Cathedral (Sé de Braga) is the oldest surviving church in Portugal and one of the most important monuments in the country. Built in a Burgundian Romanesque style between the 11th and 13th centuries, the cathedral provided architectural inspiration for many other churches and monasteries built in Portugal around the same time. Due to numerous modifications over the centuries, the cathedral today features a mix of styles, including Romanesque, Gothic, Manueline and Baroque.The cathedral consists of several chapels built at different times. The parents of the first Portuguese were buried in the Chapel of the Kings in 1374 and the Chapel of the Glory was built in the mid-14th century as the final resting place of Archbishop Goncalo Pereira. Looks for the tomb guarded by siz life size stone lions and the painted Moorish geometrical designs. Also of note for visitors is the choir with sculptured gilt wood stalls built in the late 1730s and two gilt wood organs carved around the same time.Don’t miss the Cathedral Museum, which includes elaborately carved 18th century choir stalls, the 10th century chalice of Saint Gerald, a 14th century statue of the Virgin Mary and an 11th century Arab ivory box.More

Liberdade Square (Praça da Liberdade)

Lying at the southern end of Porto’s majestic Avenida dos Aliados is Liberdade Square (Praça da Liberdade), which started its life in the late 18th century when the city began to expand beyond its medieval walls. If you stand in the centre of the square, you’ll get spectacular views of some of Porto’s architectural symbols, which include the Baroque City Hall (Câmara Municipal).More

Casa da Música

Casa da Música is one of the top attractions in Porto for music and architecture fans alike. Modern and eye-catching from the outside, inside it houses a vast 1,300-seat concert hall used by the Porto National Orchestra. The rooftop restaurant offers drinks and dinner options that are as delightful as the views.More

Porto Calem Wine Cellars

Founded in 1859 by António Alves Cálem, Porto CalemWine Cellars are one of the most celebrated wineries in the Porto region. Located at the heart of the Douro Valley, the family-run winery produces some of Portugal’s finest port wines, using centuries-old production methods and offering a completely unique tasting experience for wine lovers.More

Carmo Convent (Carmo Archaeological Museum)

Built sometime in the late 14th century, the Carmo Convent (Carmo Archaeological Museum) withstood many battles yet came crashing down during the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755. It was the city’s largest church at the time and now serves as a reminder of the quake. Today, the main altar hosts an archaeological museum beside the old convent ruins.More

Serralves Museum (Fundação de Serralves)

Situated in a magnificent garden just west of downtown Porto, the Serralves Museum(Fundação de Serralves) has become a top city highlight and one of the most influential modern art museums in Portugal. Its permanent collection spans from the 1960s to the present day, with large sculptural pieces scattered throughout the grounds.More


Stretching from the city of Porto on Portugal’s Atlantic coast to the Spanish town of Duruelo de la Sierra, the Douro river is the third-longest river on the Iberian Peninsula, and flows through one of Europe’s most picturesque wine-growing regions. Visitors come to enjoy the scenery, and taste the local wine and port.More


One of Porto’s top attractions for families of all ages, the SEA LIFE® Porto aquarium is home to dazzling displays of marine life. Visitors can enjoy up-close encounters with some of the sea’s most colorful inhabitants, including octopus, rays, sea turtles, and sharks.More

Trip ideas

Fado Shows in Porto

Fado Shows in Porto

Top activities in Northern Portugal

Complete Douro Valley Wine Tour with Lunch, Wine Tastings and River Cruise
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Authentic Douro Wine Tour Including Lunch and River Cruise
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Douro Valley Tour with Visit to two Vineyards, River Cruise and Lunch at Winery
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Douro Valley Tour: Wine Tasting, River Cruise and Lunch From Porto
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Douro Valley - Expert wine guide all day, Boat, Lunch and Tastings.All included
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Douro Valley Historical Tour with Lunch, Winery Visit with Tastings and Panoramic Cruise
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Porto to Lisbon up to 3 stops (Aveiro, Nazaré or Fatima, Obidos)
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Douro Valley Wine Tour: Visit to Three Vineyards with Wine Tastings and Lunch
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Porto Boat Tour

Porto Boat Tour

Best of Braga and Guimaraes Day Trip from Porto
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Douro Valley 3 Wine Experiences with Traditional Lunch and Optional Boat Cruise
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The Award-Winning Private Food Tour of Porto: 6 or 10 Tastings
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Oporto Six Bridges Cruise

Oporto Six Bridges Cruise

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All about Northern Portugal

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People Also Ask

What is Northern Portugal known for?

Wine lovers travel from around the world to northern Portugal’s UNESCO-listed Douro wine region, where hillside vineyards follow a beautiful river valley. As the river approaches the sea, it flows past Porto, a city with well-preserved historic architecture. Outdoors lovers, meanwhile, head to northern Portugal’s beaches, hiking trails, and forests.

What is considered Northern Portugal?

Northern Portugal is the country’s most populous region and includes the cities of Porto, Vila Nova de Gaia, Braga, Matosinhos, and Guimarães. Its landscape climbs from sandy beaches to the mountainous terrain of Peneda-Gerês National Park and Alvão Natural Park, while a series of rivers flow toward the Atlantic Ocean.

Which is the main city in Northern Portugal?

Porto is the largest city in northern Portugal and the capital of the Porto district. Well-preserved architecture and cobblestone streets within its UNESCO-listed historic center draw visitors from around the world. Throughout the city are tasting rooms featuring locally made port and wines from the nearby Alto Douro wine region.

What is the most beautiful area of Portugal?

Portugal’s varied landscape offers plenty of natural beauty. In the south, the Algarve has dramatic coastal cliffs and hidden beaches, while national parks draw outdoors lovers to the forested northern mountains. Well-preserved historic architecture is another visitor highlight: The country’s most beautiful cities include Lisbon, Porto, Sintra, Cascais, and Braga.

What is north Portugal known for?

Northern Portugal is known for fine wines, scenic beauty, and historic architecture. The UNESCO-listed Alto Douro wine region is home to some of the country’s top vineyards, while outdoorsy destinations range from windswept beaches to inland mountain forests. Fascinating history is on display in cities including Porto, Braga, and Guimarães.

What should I not miss in Portugal?

Lisbon is Portugal’s capital city, a can’t-miss destination for visitors. Highlights include riding trams through hilly neighborhoods, strolling historic Belém, catching a soulful fado performance, and sampling local seafood in Alfama. The city also houses Portugal’s top art museums, from Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga to Calouste Gulbenkian Museum.

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