Douro Litoral, Portugal

The Douro Litoral is an old province of Portugal, in the north of the country. Facing the Atlantic and having Porto as its capital, the Douro Litoral is one of the largest and most dynamic Portuguese economic centres, mainly known for its wine and the "Capital of the North". It is also one of the most cosmopolitan and developed in Portugal.

Douro Litoral is a former Portuguese province, which ceased to be with the Constitution of 1976. It formerly consisted of 23 councils, integrating the entire district of Porto, and four councils of the district of Aveiro (located in its extreme northwest) and two from Viseu (if it still existed, it would have 24 councils, since part of the municipality of Santo Tirso was used to create the municipality of Trofa. It had its headquarters in the city of Porto and has a strong identity cohesion in relation to the autochthonous structure of its constituent municipalities, which maintain, as they always have, a strong relationship with Porto.

The largest in the province is occupied by the Porto Metropolitan Area, centered on the city of Porto, an important economic and tourist center in the country, which also includes other important cities such as Matosinhos, Vila Nova de Gaia or Santa Maria da Feira. Further inland, the province is dotted with small towns and villages full of charm such as 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 hilly, including in large cities such as Porto, although it is (relatively) flat in some places, such as the cities of Espinho, Póvoa de Varzim and Vila do Conde.



Amarante - Crossed by the bucolic river Tâmega, Amarante is one of the most beautiful Portuguese lands, where great figures of the Portuguese cultural scene were born, such as Amadeu de Souza-Cardoso and Agustina Bessa Luís. It is also a popular pilgrimage destination, despite being less visited than Fátima or Santiago de Compostela.
Espinho - A lively town, famous for its casino. Other attractions include the oldest golf course on the Iberian Peninsula, founded by the British at the end of the 19th century, the Music Festival in June and the Animation Film Festival in November. But the biggest attraction continues to be the beaches, which earned it the title of "Queen of Costa Verde".
Marco de Canaveses - Marco de Canaveses is primarily known as the birthplace of "Brazilian" diva Carmen Miranda, born Maria do Carmo Miranda da Cunha in 1909 in Marco de Canaveses. However, Marco de Canaveses is much more than that: the mountainous landscape, crossed by rivers and reservoirs, as well as the archaeological remains attract many visitors.
Porto - Located on the banks of the Douro River, bathed by the Atlantic Ocean, the second largest city in the country has a bit of everything: narrow medieval streets, extravagant baroque churches, small and cozy squares, and wide avenues with classic buildings. It is one of the greatest Portuguese destinations, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Póvoa de Varzim - Póvoa de Varzim is one of the largest cities in the region, along with Porto. Together with the sister city of Vila do Conde, its beaches attract an extensive stretch of white sand, one of the most sought after in the north. The city is also known for its casino, which rivals that of Espinho.
Santa Maria da Feira - Famous for its Santa Maria da Feira Castle, prior to the foundation of the country, Santa Maria da Feira has, every year, a popular Medieval Fair. Europarque, one of the largest congress centers in the country, has another major attraction in the city: the Visionarium, a science museum.
Santa Maria de Lamas
Vila Boa do Bispo
Vila do Conde - Vila do Conde, along with its sister city of Póvoa de Varzim, are one of the region's main attractions: the glamor of Póvoa and its casino is joined by the heritage and beaches of Vila do Conde. The Convent of Santa Clara and the aqueduct are the best known attractions in the Douro Litoral.
Vila Nova de Gaia - Vila Nova de Gaia is on the other side of the Douro River, facing the city of Porto and is known for its riverside area, much visited by tourists from all over the world, who come to taste the wines and explore the cellars of Calem , by Sandeman, among others. Also popular are boat trips across the Douro, passing by the seven bridges between Porto and Gaia.


Other destinations

Biological Park of Gaia - Located in the Febros River valley, the Biological Park of Gaia is not only a protected reserve with an enormous biodiversity, but also features a variety of recreational and educational activities. Taking advantage of the agro-forestry area in which it is located, its focus on preserving the region's landscape makes it like a living museum of the environmental traits that the continuous urbanization of the county is losing.
Frecha da Mizarela - The Frecha da Mizarela waterfall is one of the main natural attractions in the province, located near the village of Albergaria da Serra, and is one of the highest in Europe, at 75 metres. This beautiful waterfall is located in a serene landscape surrounded by a rural and bucolic atmosphere where nature is in a pure state.
Torre de Vilar - A manor house of the Domus Fortis type, rare in Portugal, included in the Route of the Romanesque of Vale do Sousa. It stands on a granite hill, with a quadrangular plan.
Cete Monastery - From the Benedictine Monastery of Cete (National Monument), dating from the 10th and 11th centuries, all that remains is the beautiful Roman-Gothic church, the cloister and the chapter hall. It was founded in 844 by two Moorish converts, and later razed by the Moors. It is included in the Sousa Valley Romanesque Route.
Monastery of Pombeiro de Ribavizela - Located near Felgueiras, Pombeiro de Ribavizelas has one of the oldest monasteries in the country, dating back to 1059, being the most notable Benedictine convent in northern Portugal, receiving extensions and renovations during the Philippine Dynasty and in 177, having wings in other styles, although the Romanesque still predominates.



Arouca - Situated in a verdant valley, at 275 meters above sea level, Arouca is one of the oldest settlements on the Douro Litoral, which has always had a strong socio-economic connection to its capital: the city of Porto.
One of the village's ex-libris is the enormous Convent of Santa Maria de Arouca, which dates back to the 10th century. The Festa da Rainha Santa, on the 2nd of May, and the Pilgrimage dedicated to Senhora da Mó, on the 7th and 8th of September are the two main religious festivals in the municipality.

The Feira das Colheitas (the most important socio-economic event with the greatest impact in this municipality in the Porto Metropolitan Area, located in the Douro River Hydrographic Basin, where the Arda River flows from the Arouca valley) is the name given to the official festivals of the municipality, being, at the same time, a fair of economic activities, which takes place in the beginning of autumn.

Lousada - With a diverse heritage ranging from castros to Romanesque aqueducts and domus fortis from the 13th century, Lousada has an imposing monumental heritage. Recently, it has also gained a name for the motor racing events held here.
Resende - Resende is an isolated village in the mountainous heart of the country, with unforgettable landscapes. Resende is an extremely old town, with a variety of megalithic monuments, amazing churches, majestic manor houses, bridges and mountain villages. However, what makes this small village more famous is, without a doubt, the cherry, which is internationally famous.
Baião - A village on the slopes of the Serra da Aboboreira, linked to wine production. Around the village, important megalithic remains can be seen. The municipal museum houses several discoveries from these same places, the result of archaeological excavations that have been taking place since 1978.



Bagunte - Bagunte is one of the parishes with the most history in the Porto district, dating back to the 4th century BC, based on discoveries made by the Cividade de Bagunte. Another point of interest is the bridge of D. Sameiro, dating back to the reign of D. Sancho I. It also has a beautiful parish church and several chapels.
Paço de Sousa - A beautiful historic village, famous for its fantastic monuments, such as the Monastery of Paço de Sousa, which includes the Igreja da Matriz. In this village in the interior of the Douro Litoral, where time seems to have stopped, you can also see the Roman Bridge, Cruzeiro and Quinta da Companhia.
Rates - Also called São Pedro de Rates, it has a vast heritage, highlighting the imposing Mother Church in Romanesque style. Not long ago, the Ecomuseum of Rates was created, a pedestrian circuit through the streets of the village with eight stops, including the Romanesque church, the fountain, the square, etc.


To arrive

By airplane
Most visitors arrive by plane at Francisco Sá Carneiro International Airport (IATA: OPO), on the outskirts of Porto, more precisely in Pedras Rubras. It is currently the best airport in Portugal in terms of space at the terminal. In terms of air cargo movements, it is the second largest in Portugal (ahead of Faro and behind Lisbon). Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport was recently recognized as the best in the world in the category of airports with up to 5 million passengers. The airport receives frequent flights from the main European cities, as well as from Lisbon and Funchal. Several companies serve Porto airport:

Aigle Azur Paris - Orly Tel.: +351 229 432 530

Air Berlin Palma de Mallorca Tel.: +351 808 202 737

Brussels Airlines Brussels Tel.: +351 707 200 424

easyJet Basel/Mulhouse/Freiburg; Geneva; Lyon; London-Gatwick; Milan-Malpensa; Paris-Charles de Gaulle Tel.: +351 808 204 204

Iberia Madrid Phone: +351 707 200 000

Lufthansa Frankfurt Tel.: +351 229 437 900

Luxair City of Luxembourg Tel.: +352 245 642 42

Ryanair Baden Baden; Barcelona-Girona; Barcelona-El Prat; Birmingham (seasonal); Bologna; Bordeaux; Bremen; Bristol (seasonal); Brussels-Charleroi; Carcassonne; Dublin (seasonal); Dusseldorf Weeze; Eindhoven; Faro; Frankfurt-Hahn; Las Palmas; Lille; Liverpool (seasonal); London-Gatwick; London-Stansted; Maastricht; Madrid; Marrakech; Marseille; Milan-Bergamo; Munich - West; Paris - Beauvais; Pisa (seasonal); Rodez; Saint-Etienne; Tenerife; Tours; Valencia Phone: +353 1 249 7791/7700

Sata International Boston (seasonal); Thin tip; Third (seasonal); Toronto (seasonal) Tel: +351 229 470 330

TAP Portugal Amsterdam; Barcelona; Brussels; Funchal; Geneva; Lisbon; London - Gatwick; Luxembourg City; Madrid; Milan - Malpensa; New York; Paris - Orly; Porto Santo (seasonal); Rio de Janeiro; Pomegranate; São Paulo; Caracas; Zurich Tel.: +351 707 205 700 Funchal; Nantes; Paris - Orly Tel.: +351 707 780 009

leave the airport
The airport can be accessed with new motorways and with an interface, inside the airport, with line E of the Metro do Porto, connecting it directly to downtown Porto, to the commuting trains (Campanhã) and to Estádio do Dragão and, by transferring, to other urban centers in Greater Porto: Póvoa de Varzim and Vila do Conde (Line B, Verdes station); Maia (Line C, Fonte do Cuco station); Matosinhos (line A, Senhora da Hora station); and Vila Nova de Gaia (Line D, Trindade station).

Taxis and STCP buses complement the connection between the airport and the city of Porto. There is also a bus connection with Vigo (Galicia, Spain) twice a day on weekdays and once a day at weekends.

by train/train
Several train lines pass through the Douro Litoral, most of which go to Porto, the main city in the region. The Alfa-Pendular comes from Braga (Minho) and enters the Douro Litoral, continuing to Aveiro (Beira Litoral) (you can see the stops on the Douro Litoral in Circular: By train/train). The Intercidades service starts in Guimarães (Minho), passing through Vizela, entering the Douro Litoral and continuing to Ovar (Beira Litoral), and from there to Estarreja and Aveiro (Beira Litoral) (you can see the stops on the Douro Litoral in Circular: By train /train). The regional service, on the other hand, has many more stops, and therefore takes much longer. From Spain, it enters Minho, where it stops in Valença, Vila Nova de Cerveira, Caminha, Vila Praia de Âncora, Viana do Castelo, Barcelos and Braga. In Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro, the most important stops are Peso da Régua, Vila Real, Mirandela and Pocinho (where the Douro Line terminus is located) (you can see the stops in Douro Litoral in Circular : By train/train ). You can find more information on the CP website.

As for international trains, the offer is limited. There is a train that connects Porto and Vigo (Galicia, Spain), with several stops. You can see a complete list of stops on the CP website. You can get an InterRail, a pass for people under 26 that allows you to travel by train across Europe, in 2nd class. It is also valid for older people, but in 1st class. Gives you access to any location in Europe.

Of boat
The Port of Leixões, in Matosinhos (on the outskirts of Porto), receives some cruise ships, close to the movable bridge. Near the bridge, to the south, there is a metro station that takes you to Porto. There is also a small recreational marina on the Douro River. As a method of reaching the city, however, sea transport is not very practical. However, you can take a trip up the Douro River, one of the most beautiful scenic trips you will ever take. You can see some companies that make the trip here.

by bus/coach
Rede Expressos is one of the main short and long distance companies in Portugal. It serves the entire country, including several cities on the Douro Litoral. You can see schedules on the website. Another useful company is Rodonorte, with connections between several cities in the north and center of Portugal.

By car
Several routes go to the Douro Litoral:
Via A1 you can come from Lisbon (Estremadura) to Porto.
Via the A3 you can come from the Spanish border, in Valença (Minho), to Porto.
Via the A4, in a short time, you will be able to come from Bragança (Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro) and Vila Real (Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro) to Matosinhos (currently it only goes from Matosinhos to Amarante, also in the Douro Coast).
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.



By Metro from Porto
Metro do Porto is a surprisingly modern and efficient metro system. Created in 2001 (for Porto2001 - European Capital of Culture), it has five lines, which in addition to covering the center of Porto also go to some neighboring cities, including Vila Nova de Gaia, served by the yellow line, Matosinhos, served by the blue, Maia, served by the green line, and Vila do Conde/Póvoa de Varzim, served by the orange line.

by train/train
The Alfa-pendular, coming from Braga, enters the Douro Litoral and stops in the cities of Porto, Vila Nova de Gaia and Espinho. The 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.

By car
The Douro Litoral has several roads and highways, a little for the whole country and for a variety of cities in the Douro Litoral, most departing 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 highways have few cars, and it's easy to move around within the province.

by bus/coach
STCP (Sociedade de Transportes Colectivos do Porto) has, in addition to several lines in the city of Porto, also has lines to Matosinhos, Leça da Palmeira, Maia, Gondomar and Vila Nova de Gaia.

In addition, Rodonorte and Rede Expressos also have several connections between cities in the Douro Litoral.



Historical monuments
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 center of Porto is the most popular historical attraction in this region, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. Every year, thousands of visitors flock to its numerous attractions such as the Clérigos Tower and Church, ex-libris of the city, famous for its its extravagant baroque style, from the top of which you have 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 Porto's old town, the Palácio da Bolsa, the city's former stock exchange, with a spectacular mix of styles and famous for the extravagance of its Arab Hall, the São Francisco Church, the only completely Gothic church in the city, famous for the 600 kg of gold that decorate its interior, the 6 bridges over the Douro river, the most famous being the D. Luís I Bridge and the Ponte D. Maria Pia, both built by Théophile Seyrig, a partner of Gustave Eiffel, Livraria Lello, considered the 3rd most beautiful in the world by the British newspaper The Guardian, Avenida dos Aliados, in the center of Porto, with magnificent neoclassical buildings and dominated by the City Council Municipal do Porto, and São Bento Station, with its wonderful tiles, recently 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 in the region can be found in the city of Amarante, famous for the Monastery of São Gonçalo, a pilgrimage point, 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 Mannerist style. Another major attraction in the city is the São Gonçalo Bridge, over the bucolic Tâmega River, 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 predating Portuguese independence. It is considered one of the most complete examples of Portuguese medieval military architecture, as it represents 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 probably Póvoa de Varzim-Vila do Conde, which despite being separate cities function as one, and it is difficult to say where one begins and the other ends. Vila do Conde is of particular interest for its historic centre, with very beautiful monuments, such as the Manueline Mother Church, with Gothic and Renaissance elements and beautiful gilded carvings, and the Convent of Santa Clara, a true ex-libris 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 Sousa Valley Romanesque Route. The route includes 21 monuments, and on the website you can create your own route or make a 1, 2 or 4 day route (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 settled 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 belfry, the Torre de Vilar, in the municipality of Lousada, a manor house 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 the Savior of Paço de Sousa, where Egas Moniz is buried, whose tomb is engraved with the legendary trip to Toledo, in which he offered his life for failing to fulfill the word of King D. Afonso Henriques, the Church of São Pedro de Abragão, built by order of D. Mafalda, and the Church of the Savior of Cabeça Santa, where the relic of Santo Tirso. See more information on the website. You can see a map of the route here.



Castro de Laundos - An old castro located on top of a 200 meter hill, which is believed to be an outpost of the Cividade de Terroso. The discovery that most highlighted the castro was the discovery, inside a house, of a clay pot, which contained two gold earrings 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 at 153 meters high, at the top of Monte da Cividade. The town is more notable than the castro de Laundos, where the ruins of a group of houses and the walls of the castro can be seen. The city prospered due to the fact that it was heavily walled and because of its proximity to the sea, which allowed for trade with other peoples.
Castro de Monte Mozinho - Also known as Cidade Morta de Penafiel, it is a Property of Public Interest. It is an old fortified village of 20 hectares, and occupied until the Middle Ages. You can currently 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 great 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 metres. It is located in the middle of a mountainous landscape, with a rural and peaceful 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. In addition to these, in Porto, Vila Nova de Gaia, Póvoa de Varzim and Vila do Conde, as well as in other cities, there are a variety of public parks, which allow you to take a break from the urban hustle and bustle.

In almost all the coast of Douro Litoral there is some type of beaches. See the Beaches section for more information.


Contemporary monuments

The Douro Litoral also contains some modern monuments, concentrated in large urban centers such as Porto. Many are the work of internationally recognized artists, such as architect Rem Koolhas and sculpture Janet Echelman.

Porto is where there is the greatest concentration of these monuments. The most famous of these monuments is undoubtedly the Casa da Música, designed by the Dutch architect Rem Koolhas. Built for Porto European Capital of Culture 2001, it was only completed in 2005, becoming one of the city's main attractions and internationally acclaimed. It is located 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 Anémona, designed by the sculptor Janet Echelman. Designed to reflect the fishing and industrial heritage of the cities of Porto and Matosinhos, it consists of three steel posts, cables, a 20-tonne steel ring and a net of various densities and colours. It is located by the sea, in Praça Cidade Salvador.

Outside Porto you can find a few 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 from the landscape, standing tall, white and shiny, with its straight lines and smooth surfaces.



Throughout the province, there are a variety of museums, theaters, opera houses and other cultural facilities. Porto, being the largest city, is the one that contains the largest number of these. The best known in Porto, and probably in the north as well, is the Serralves Foundation, a contemporary art museum set in a vast park. It is an international reference, with contemporary works, generally from the 1960s to the present day, by artists such as Helena Almeida, Eduardo Batarda, René Bértholo, Christian Boltanski, Ana Hatherly, Álvaro Lapa, Cildo Meireles, Gerhard Richter, Richard Serra, Robert Smithson, Angelo de Sousa, and many more. Equally important is the Soares dos Reis National Museum, with a fine collection of sculpture, including O Desterrado by Soares dos Reis. It also has an excellent collection of paintings and decorative arts. Also of interest are the museums of the Electric Car, in the old thermo-electric power station, with a large collection, the Portuguese Photography Centre, near the Clérigos Tower in the old building of Cadeia da Relação, with a good photographic collection, the Museum of Transport and Communications, inserted in Alfândega Nova, including a fine collection that shows the evolution of the automobile, and the Museum of Port Wine, on the banks of the Douro River, which makes known its importance in the development of the city. In addition to the museums, you can also enjoy a show at Coliseu do Porto (with a bit of everything, including circus, dance, opera, theatre, concerts, etc.) 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 Museum of Santa Maria de Lamas, which contains an enormous collection, with pieces of art of all kinds, including entire chapels. However, the most famous is undoubtedly the Visionarium, located in Europarque. It is an interactive museum, part of the network of Ciência Viva Centres. Using the most varied technologies, its visitors can explore the Discoveries in the fields of Earth, Matter, the Universe, Life and Information.

In São João da Madeira you can visit the Chapelaria Museum, the only one in the Iberian Peninsula dedicated to hats. It is located in what remains of the most important Portuguese hat factory, with its collection of numerous 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, housed in the monastery of São Gonçalo. It has a vast collection of drawings, paintings and sculptures, including works by the most important Portuguese artists. It also includes some temporary exhibitions.

One of the main attractions in the region are the Port Wine Cellars, in Vila Nova de Gaia. In the Ribeira area of Vila Nova de Gaia there are numerous wine companies, such as Taylor's, Calem, Sandeman, etc. It's a good opportunity to learn more about one of the greatest riches in the north of the country, showing you the process the wine goes through, which 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 tours, but on some, like Calem's, you can just show up and buy a ticket.




The most popular event in the region is probably São João do Porto, which takes place on the 23rd-24th of June. It is one of the great popular festivities in the country, along with Santo António de Lisboa, and attracts thousands of people to the streets of the historic center of Porto. It is a very traditional festival, highlighting the famous plastic hammers, used to hit the heads of people passing by, and vases of basil with popular verses, as well as the traditional fireworks display at midnight, next to the Dom Luís bridge. I. In addition to this, there are several popular fairs, in more traditional neighborhoods like Miragaia, enlivening the night even more. 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, at the end of July/beginning of August. For a few days, the city goes back in time, and episodes from Portuguese history and the region are often recreated, such as the expulsion of the Templars and the capture of the castle of Santa Maria da Feira. If you want, you can even buy clothes in a "medieval" shop.

In Amarante, the main festival is the Pilgrimage of São Gonçalo, which takes place on the first weekend of June. The city's calling card, it is celebrated in honor of São Gonçalo, a matchmaker whose cult is associated with fertility and who lived in Amarante. It is customary for unmarried women to embrace the saint and ask him for a husband. Simultaneously, there is an annual fair, a festival.



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. Casino de Espinho is located just 17 kilometers from the city of Porto. Recently refurbished, it organizes a wide variety of events: fashion shows, banquets, exhibitions, etc. In addition to casino games, there are also several shows, with renowned artists such as Mariza and Rui Veloso. 30 km from Porto is the Casino da Póvoa, or "Casino do Norte", an old casino from the 1930s full of glamour, with lots of comfort and security. It has a great restaurant and a variety of games. Like Casino de Espinho, it presents several shows.



Almost all along the Douro Litoral coast there is some type of beach. Among the most popular is Praia da Granja, located in the parish of São Félix da Marinha, which enjoyed great prestige in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Today, however, it continues to be 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 welcoming white sand beach is popular with surfers, professionals and amateurs alike. Also famous are the beaches of Póvoa de Varzim and Vila do Conde, with an extensive beach that is very well organized with the 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 facilities for bathers.



As in the rest of Portugal, Portuguese is spoken, and this is the only language spoken in the province. The accent is a little different from the Lisboeta, however it is easily perceptible.



The main cities of the province (Porto, Santa Maria da Feira, Póvoa de Varzim, etc.), but mainly Porto, are full of shops and shopping centres. In Porto you can find just about anything you're looking for, from cheap knick-knacks to priceless antiques, and although the offer isn't as great in smaller towns, towns like Santa Maria da Feira and Póvoa de Varzim have a wide range of shops, although the only shopping centers in the province are located in Porto or its metropolitan area, with the exception of two in Vila do Conde.

You can buy a wide variety of things. In the larger cities there is a dizzying array of items for sale, including various souvenirs. If you want to buy something traditional from the region, buy traditional sweets typical of the region, such as the fogaças from Santa Maria da Feira, or splurge on a 30-year-old bottle of Port Wine.



The Douro Litoral is full of traditional dishes and products, which in some cities are an important tourist attraction. In coastal areas (Porto, Matosinhos, Póvoa de Varzim) food is centered on fish, while in more inland cities (Amarante, Resende) food is centered on meat, although some fish are eaten, such as octopus and cod.

In the interior of the region, honey from the highlands of Minho is manufactured, produced by the bee Apis mellifera with the nectar of the flora characteristic of the region, having a very dark color, and a unique smell and taste. Still inland, the meat arouquesa is renowned, a very succulent beef, suitable for roasting and grilling, and the kid from the highlands of Minho, very tasty and juicy, with a unique flavor, and especially appreciated when roasted. The most popular product of regional confectionery is undoubtedly the fogaça da Feira, a circular-shaped sweet bread molded to resemble the four towers of the castle of Santa Maria da Feira.

As for typical dishes, in the Douro Litoral rojões are popular, usually served with floured guts and sautéed blood, a variety of cod dishes, highlighting cod fritters, and, the most recent, and probably one of the most famous, the francesinha, and tripe à moda do Porto; in addition to these, you can also try lamprey, shad, grilled sardines, "malandrinho" rice, with beans or vegetables, with hake or octopus fillets, french toast and burnt crème brûlée.



What gives Port international fame is Port Wine, a fortified and sweet wine, considered by many to be the best in the world. It is produced only with grapes from the Douro Demarcated Region, and is then aged for several years in wooden barrels, which give it its unique flavor. The most curious thing about this wine is that its production has nothing to do with the city that gives it its name; this is produced in the Alto Douro Vinhateiro (Trás-os-Montes) and stored to age in Vila Nova de Gaia; however it became known by this name since it is from this city that it was shipped all over the world. Port wine: White, Ruby and Tawny, available in restaurants and cellars throughout the city, and you can also buy them directly at the Port Wine Cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia.

In small parts of the Douro Litoral, Vinho Verde is also produced, a characteristic product of Minho, and produced exclusively in the Demarcated Region of Vinhos Verdes. It is the second most exported wine in Portugal, after Port Wine. There are green, white and red, rosé and sparkling wines, as well as green wine vinegars, green wine brandies and green wine pomace. it is a wine that must be consumed while young, and is known for its freshness.



Throughout the province there are hotels, houses for rent, motels, inns, youth hostels, etc. Any traveler can find accommodation that suits their needs. If you're looking for a cheap hotel, try a Youth Hostel, spread across the country (however, there are only two in the province: Porto and Espinho). It has modern and clean rooms, and its hotels are grouped into four categories: historic, nature, urban and beach (in the province, there is only one urban, in Porto, and one on the beach, in Espinho). If you dare, you can also try a Residencial, very cheap and plentiful in cities, but with somewhat dubious hygiene and poor quality rooms. There are also some campsites that offer cheaper accommodation. It is forbidden to sleep outdoors in Portugal, unless you have permission from the owner of the land.

If you're looking for something more luxurious, try one of the Pousadas de Portugal [29], also grouped into three categories: historic, nature, charm and historic/design. There are two in the province: one in Porto (for charm, in the magnificent Palácio do Freixo) and another on the outskirts of Amarante (for nature, in the middle of the magnificent Serra do Marão). The network includes some of the most luxurious hotels in the country. In Portugal agro-tourism is very popular, with several Casas de Campo and Rural Tourism scattered throughout the province. These houses are often full of history and extremely picturesque, although they are not necessarily open all year round.



The only university in the province is located in Porto, which also has a Polytechnic Institute, which also includes centers in Vila do Conde and Póvoa de Varzim.



As for violent crime, Portugal is generally safe. This is not to say that you shouldn't be careful and let your guard down. However, there are no internal conflicts, no dangers related to terrorism, and crimes related to drunkenness are rare, although in bigger cities, like Porto, most bars and clubs are open 24 hours.

As in any big city, there are some areas of Porto that should be avoided, especially at night. Also, in the more touristy areas, beware of pickpockets who tend to rob tourists - even so, common sense should come in to ensure your safety. Use a money belt to store your documents and cash. Public transport stops are the places where most pickpockets appear.

Recently (mid-2008), in large cities, gang-related crimes have been on the rise, particularly robberies of ATMs, stores, banks and service areas. Lately, some gangs have been attacking people while they are at an ATM, after entering the PIN, selecting €500 (the maximum you can withdraw from an ATM) and running away with the money. If attacked, don't fight back, and give them what they want to stay alive and healthy. Don't use guns to defend yourself, the legal system is very strict about that. However, crimes of this nature only tend to happen at night in very large cities, such as Porto.



The main cities are well served in terms of hospitals. There are currently public hospitals in Porto (Hospital de São João, Hospital de Santo António), in Santa Maria da Feira (Hospital de São Sebastião), São João da Madeira (District Hospital of São João da Madeira), Vila Nova de Gaia (Hospital da Arrábida), Penafiel (Hospital Padre Américo), and Póvoa de Varzim-Vila do Conde (Hospital Center of Póvoa de Varzim-Vila do Conde). Public hospitals follow European standards. The emergency number is 112. Bottled water is recommended, but tap water is also perfectly safe. Members of the European Union receive free medical care as long as they have the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).



Usually, the Portuguese are affable, friendly, with good manners to receive like few people in the world have. However, you must be careful not to criticize some customs, religion, or make fun of some celebrities. It is still a somewhat conservative country in relation to some matters. A little attention: do not get into heated discussions about football, always maintaining the most impartial conduct possible.


Keep in touch

In Portugal, access to communications has developed at a very fast pace. Today, Internet penetration is much higher than it was ten years ago. Cell phones are also very common in the country, as there are 11 cell phones for 10 Portuguese people.

You can find numerous telephone booths throughout the country. You can pay with prepaid cards (purchased at CTT or Portugal Telecom stores), coins or credit cards.

There are also many cyber-cafés, especially in areas of large cities such as Lisbon and Porto. ADSL access provides high data transfer speeds. The three national operators (TMN, Vodafone and Optimus) have roaming pacts so you don't need to buy a new mobile phone while you're in the country.



Visit one of the neighboring provinces:
Minho - One of the oldest regions in the country, full of natural beauties, contrasts and traditions. Facing the Atlantic Ocean, it has green valleys and villages lost in time full of historical heritage, important urban centers and white sand beaches.
Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro - In the words of Miguel Torga, this "Wonderful Kingdom" is "a sea of stones", "a never ending thick, rocky, wild land". This region has always been in the imagination of the Portuguese, with its steep valleys and endless mountain ranges.
Beira Litoral - Located in the heart of the country, it is a land of contrasts, with plains on the coast and mountains in the interior (serras). It is also extremely rich in heritage, from the University of Coimbra, the oldest in the country, to the canals of Aveiro, the Portuguese Venice.
Beira Alta - A land in the interior of Portugal, with beautiful castles lost in the mountains, charming cities like Guarda and historic villages, like the beautiful village of Castelo Mendo.