Douro is a subregion in Northern Portugal. Historically comprised the Alto Douro (Lamego, Regua, Foz Coa areas) and Douro Litoral (Porto/Oporto metropolitan area).
The Douro Litoral is one of the largest and most dynamic Portuguese economic centres, mainly known for wine and the "capital of the North". It is also one of the most cosmopolitan and developed in Portugal.
- 1 Amarante — a beautiful city on a hill overlooking the bucolic river Tamega
- 2 Matosinhos
- 3 Penafiel — a centre for therapeutic treatments and spas, and has many megalithic monuments, stone settlements and hill forts
- 4 Porto — Portugal's second city, an industrial hub whose historical centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- 5 Póvoa de Varzim — one of the oldest fishing towns in Portugal, and a beach resort whose large quantities of iodine in the air and seawater are used for healing treatments
- 6 Santa Maria da Feira — an industrial city with an impressive medieval castle
- 7 Vila Nova de Gaia — opposite Porto over the Douro river, it is a residential city that is home of cellars of port wine, several shopping centres and some of the best beaches
- 1 Espinho — a seaside resort and fishing town
- Alto Douro wine region, which has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- 2 Vila do Conde — an off-the-beaten-track town long been connected with lace-making
The largest population centre in the province is the Porto Metropolitan Area, centred in the city of Porto, an important economic and tourist destination in the country. It includes other important cities such as Matosinhos, Vila Nova de Gaia or Santa Maria da Feira. More inland, the province is sown with small towns and charming villages like Amarante or Arouca and villages forgotten by time, such as Albergaria da Serra, famous for the Frecha da Mizarela Waterfall.
The terrain, as in most of northern Portugal, is generally rugged, including in large cities like Porto, although it is (relatively) flat in some places, such as in the cities of Espinho, Póvoa de Varzim and Vila do Condo.
Porto/Oporto is the main hub. Most visitors arrive by plane at Francisco Sá Carneiro International Airport (OPO IATA), on the outskirts of Porto in Pedras Rubras. The airport receives frequent flights from the main European cities, as well as from Lisbon and Funchal.
The Express Network is one of the leading companies of short and long distances in Portugal. It serves the entire country, including several cities in the Douro Litoral. You can see schedules on the website. Another useful company is Rodonorte, with connections between several cities in the north and central Portugal.
Several routes lead to the Douro Litoral:
- Via A1 you can come from Lisbon (Estremadura) to Porto.
- Via A3 you can come from the Spanish border, in Valença (Minho), to Porto.
- Via the A4, in a short time, you can come from Bragança (Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro) and Vila Real (Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro) to Matosinhos.
- Via the A7 you can come from Guimarães (Minho) to Vila do Conde.
- Via the A11 you can come from Barcelos (Minho), Braga (Minho) and Guimarães (Minho) to Lousada and Vizela.
- Via the A28 you can come from Viana do Castelo (Minho) to Porto.
- Via the A29 you can come from Estarreja (Beira Litoral) to Espinho and Vila Nova de Gaia.
The Metro do Porto is a modern and efficient subway system. It has five lines, which cover the centre of Porto and some neighboring cities, including Vila Nova de Gaia, served by the yellow line, Matosinhos, served by the line blue, Maia, served by the green line, and Vila do Conde/Póvoa de Varzim, served by the orange line.
The Alfa-pendular, coming from Braga, enters the Douro Litoral and stops in the cities of Porto, Vila Nova de Gaia and Espinho. Intercidades, coming from Vizela, stops in Santo Tirso, Trofa, Ermesinde, Porto, Vila Nova de Gaia and Espinho. The Regional has many stops in the Douro Litoral, the most important of which are: Santo Tirso, Penafiel, Paredes, Amarante, Marco de Canaveses, Porto, Vila Nova de Gaia, Espinho, Santa Maria da Feira and São João da Madeira.
Mmost of the region's roads depart from Porto. All or almost all roads are in good condition. There is only significant traffic in Porto and in some of the larger cities, such as Póvoa de Varzim and Vila do Conde. The rest of the roads and motorways have few cars, and it is easy to get around within the province.
The STCP (Sociedade de Transportes Colectivos do Porto) has several lines in the city of Oporto and lines for Matosinhos, Leca da Palmeira, Maia, Gondomar and Vila Nova de Gaia.
Throughout the country, with the possible exception of the Algarve , the main attraction is the historical heritage. The Douro Litoral is no exception to the rule, with beautiful historic villages and imposing monuments, most of which are concentrated in the historic center of Porto.
The historic centre of Porto is the most popular historical attraction in this region, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. Every year, thousands of visitors come to its numerous attractions such as the Torre and Igreja dos Clérigos, a symbol of the city, famous for its extravagant Baroque style, from the top of which there is an unrivaled view of the city. Other attractions are the Sé do Porto, an imposing Roman-Gothic cathedral with a baroque portal, rising in the heart of the old city of Porto, the Palácio da Bolsa, the city's old stock exchange, with a spectacular mix of styles and famous for its extravagance, and its Arab Hall. The São Francisco Church, the only completely Gothic church in the city, is famous for the 600 kg of gold that decorate its interior. Of the 6 bridges over the Douro River, the most famous are the Ponte D. Luís I and Ponte D. Maria Pia, both built by Théophile Seyrig, Gustave Eiffel's partner, Livraria Lello. It is considered the 3rd most beautiful in the world by the British newspaper The Guardian. Avenida dos Aliados, in downtown Porto, has magnificent neoclassical buildings and is dominated by the Porto City Council. São Bento Station, with its wonderful tiles, has been restored.
Also on the outskirts of Porto you can find some historical attractions, such as the Monastery of Leça do Balio, a beautiful building in Roman-Gothic style, an example of fortified religious architecture. It has one of the most beautiful Roman-Gothic churches in the country.
Other important monuments of the region can be found in the city of Amarante, famous for the Monastery of São Gonçalo, point of pilgrimage, where the tomb of São Gonçalo de Amarante can be found. It is one of the most imposing monuments in the north of the country, founded in 1540 in a mannerist style. Another major attraction of the city is the Ponte de São Gonçalo , over the bucolic River Tâmega, famous for the heroic Defense of the Bridge of Amarante, during the French Invasions.
Santa Maria da Feira is famous for its medieval castle, one of the most famous in Portugal and prior to Portuguese independence. It is considered as one of the most complete examples of Portuguese medieval military architecture, since it contains the wide range of defensive elements used in the period. Every year, on the edge of the castle, there is a busy medieval fair.
After Porto, the largest city in the region is Póvoa de Varzim - Vila do Conde, which despite being separate cities work as one, and it is difficult to say where one begins and another ends. Vila do Conde has a special interest in its historic centre, with very beautiful monuments, such as the Manueline Mother Church, with Gothic and Renaissance elements and beautiful gilded woodwork, and the Santa Clara Convent , a true landmark of the city, of which the imposing Gothic church and part of the convent building, rebuilt in the 18th century.
If you are a fan of the Romanesque, take the Romanesque Route of Vale de Sousa. The route includes 21 monuments, and on the website you can create a route of your own or take a route of 1, 2 or 4 days (complete route). Among the most notable monuments are the Monastery of Santa Maria de Pombeiro de Ribavizela, representative of the way in which the conventual orders were installed at that time, which contains magnificent Romanesque sculptures and a beautiful rose window, the Church of São Vicente de Sousa, consecrated in 1214, with a single nave and a Romanesque steeple, the Torre de Vilar, in the municipality of Lousada, a stately residence of the Domus Fortis type, rare in Portugal, the Monastery of São Pedro de Ferreira, an amazing work of architecture, with ornamental motifs from various regions, the Monastery of São Pedro de Cete, founded in the 10th century and built a little later, the Monastery of Salvador de Paço de Sousa, where Egas Moniz is buried, in whose tomb is recorded the legendary trip to Toledo, in which he offered his life for the lack of fulfillment of the word of King Afonso Henriques, the Church of São Pedro de Abragão, built by D. Mafalda, and the Church of the Saviour of Cabeça Santa, where the relic of Santo Tirso is preserved.
Castro de Laundos is an old fort at the top of a 200-m-hill, believed to be an outpost of Cividade de Terroso. The discovery that most distinguished the castro was the discovery, inside a house, of a clay cup, which contained two gold collections and a low-grade silver cake. The Castro contains a series of ruins of houses, and has a beautiful view of the region.
Cividade de Terroso, located 153 m high, at the top of Monte da Cividade, is more notable than the Laundos castro, and the ruins of a group of houses and the castro walls can be seen. The city prospered because it was strongly walled and because of the proximity to the sea, which allowed trade with other peoples.
Castro de Monte Mozinho, also known as the Dead City of Penafiel, is an old fortified village of 20 ha that was occupied until the Middle Ages. You can see the collection removed from the site at the Municipal Museum of Penafiel and at the National Museum of Archeology in Lisbon.
In addition to the historical heritage, another major Portuguese attraction is nature. However, the Douro Litoral, being a very urbanized area, has few natural parks or nature of any kind. An exception to the rule is Frecha da Mizarela, in the parish of Albergaria da Serra, one of the highest waterfalls in Portugal and Europe, at 75 m. It is in the middle of a mountainous landscape, with a peaceful and rural atmosphere. Another natural attraction is the Parque Biológico de Gaia, a protected reserve on the outskirts of Vila Nova de Gaia. It presents an enormous biodiversity, but also organizes a variety of ludic-pedagogical actions, making it popular with children and nature lovers.
The Douro Litoral also contains some modern monuments, concentrated in large urban centres such as Porto. Many are the work of internationally recognized artists, such as the architect Rem Koolhas and the sculpture Janet Echelman.
Porto is where the largest concentration of these monuments. The most famous of these monuments is, without a doubt, the Casa da Música, designed by the Dutch architect Rem Koolhas. Built for Porto European Capital of Culture 2001, it was completed in 2005, becoming one of the main attractions of the city and internationally acclaimed. It is in one of the busiest roundabouts in the city, Boavista. Still in the city of Porto, another famous monument is She Changes, better known as The Anemone, designed by sculptor Janet Echelman. Designed to reflect the fishing and industrial heritage of the cities of Porto and Matosinhos, it consists of three steel poles, cables, a 20-ton steel ring and a network of various densities and colours. It is located by the sea, in Praça Cidade Salvador.
Outside Porto you can find some more contemporary monuments of interest. One of them is the Mother Church of Marco de Canaveses, designed by the prominent Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza Vieira. Commissioned in 1990, it is one of the architect's best-known works. It stands out in the landscape, rising, bench and shiny, with its straight lines and smooth surfaces.
Throughout the province, there are museums, theatres, operas and other cultural facilities. The best known in Porto, and probably in the north too, is the Serralves Foundation, a museum of contemporary art included in a vast park. It is an international reference, with current works, generally since the 1960s, by artists such as Helena Almeida, Eduardo Batarda, René Bértholo, Christian Boltanski, Ana Hatherly, Álvaro Lapa, Cildo Meireles, Gerhard Richter, Richard Serra, Robert Smithson, and Ângelo de Sousa. Equally important is the Soares dos Reis National Museum, with a beautiful collection of sculpture, including "The Desterrado of Soares dos Reis". It also has a great collection of painting and decorative arts. Also of interest are the Carro Eléctrico museums, in the old thermo-electric power station, with a large collection, the Portuguese Photography Centre, near the Torre dos Clérigos in the old building of the Cadeia da Relação, with a good photographic collection, the Museu dos Transportes e Comunicações, in Alfândega Nova, including a beautiful collection that shows the evolution of the car, and the Museum of Port Wine, on the banks of the Douro River, which shows its importance in the development of the city. In addition to museums, you can also enjoy a show at the Coliseu do Porto (with a little bit of everything, including circus, dance, opera, theater, concerts) or at Casa da Música (with a variety of musical shows, from concerts to jazz sessions.
Also in Santa Maria da Feira there are some important museums. One of them is the Santa Maria de Lamas Museum, which contains a huge collection, with art pieces of all kinds, including entire chapels. However, the most famous is without a doubt the Visionarium, in the Europarque. It is an interactive museum, which is part of the Ciência Viva Centers network. With the use of the most varied technologies, its visitors can explore the Discoveries in the domains of Earth, Matter, Universe, Life and Information.
In São João da Madeira you can visit the Museum of Chapelaria , the only one in the Iberian Peninsula dedicated to the hat. It is located in what remains of the most important Portuguese hat factory, with its collection countless industrial machines and tools used in the manufacture of hats, as well as a collection of hats
The main contemporary art museum in the province, after the Serralves Foundation, can be found in the city of Amarante: the Amadeo de Souza-Cardozo Museum, installed in the São Gonçalo monastery. It has a vast collection of drawing, painting and sculpture, including works by the most important Portuguese artists. It also includes some temporary exhibitions.
One of the main attractions of the region are the Port Wine Cellars, in Vila Nova de Gaia. In the Vila Nova de Gaia riverside area there are many wine companies, such as Taylor's, Calem, and Sandeman. It is a good opportunity to learn more about one of the greatest riches in the north of the country, showing you the process that wine goes through, that spends years aging in barrels, what types of wines you can find, and much more. At the end of the visit, many companies offer a wine tasting. Several operators arrange visits, but in some, like those in Calem, you can just show up and buy a ticket.
- Feasts of St. John: The most popular event in the region is probably São João do Porto, which takes place on 23-24 June. It is one of the great popular festivals in the country, together with Santo António de Lisboa, and attracts thousands of people to the streets of the historic center of Porto. It is a very traditional party, highlighting the famous plastic hammers, used to hit the heads of people passing by and the pots of basil with popular verses, as well as the traditional firework at midnight, next to the Dom Luís bridge I. In addition, there are several popular festivals, in more traditional neighbourhoods such as Miragaia, making the night even more lively. The party lasts until four or five in the morning, when most people return home.
- One of the most realistic Medieval Fairs in the country takes place in Santa Maria da Feira, in late July and early August. During some days the city goes back in time, and episodes of Portuguese and regional history are often recreated, such as the expulsion of the Templars and the taking of the castle of Santa Maria da Feira. If you want, you can even buy clothes at a "medieval" store.
- In Amarante, the main festival is the Pilgrimage of São Gonçalo, which takes place on the first weekend of June. The city's visiting card, it is celebrated in honor of São Gonçalo, a matchmaker saint whose cult is associated with fertility and who lived in Amarante. It is customary for single women to embrace the saint and ask him for a husband. At the same time, there is an annual fair, a fest. An annual fair, a folklore festival, a competition for drums, bullfights, livestock competitions, a festival and fireworks are held simultaneously.
In this region are two of the most famous Portuguese casinos: Espinho and Póvoa de Varzim. The great advantage of these casinos is the beach, on the edge of which they are located, and the prestige they enjoy. The Espinho Casino is 17 km from the city of Porto. It organizes a wide variety of events: fashion shows, banquets, exhibitions, etc. In addition to the casino games, there are also several shows, with renowned artists such as Mariza and Rui Veloso. 30 km from Porto is Casino da Póvoa, or "Casino do Norte", an old casino from the 1930s full of glamour, with great comfort and security. It has a great restaurant and a variety of games. Like the Casino de Espinho, it presents several shows.
There is some kind of beach on almost the entire Douro Litoral coast. Among the most popular is Praia da Granja , located in the parish of São Félix da Marinha , which had great prestige in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Today, however, it remains one of the best beaches in northern Portugal. Espinho has some of the best beaches on the Portuguese coast, one of its main attractions, along with the casino. The cozy white sand beach is popular with surfers, professionals and amateurs. Also famous are the beaches of Póvoa de Varzim and Vila do Conde, with an extensive sandy area very well organized with typical awnings and several wooden bars. Along the entire beach there is a promenade, perfect for cycling or walking. On the beach there are multiple beach supports for swimmers.