Road Trip: Northern Portugal

As much as I loved visiting Lisbon, it was great being able to get away from the capital to spend a little time in northern Portugal.

Driving from Porto to Guimaraes

There is plenty to see on a road trip from Porto to Guimaraes including stops in Portugal’s oldest city Braga and the scenic Peneda-Geres National Park.

Porto

Porto is one of the prettiest cities in Portugal and a great way to start a visit is with a cruise on the Douro River.

River Cruise in Porto

Along the waterfront is the old town which is mostly made up of narrow winding streets which are easy to get lost in (in a good way).

Porto's Old Town

The colourful buildings are a characteristic of the city.

Porto Architecture

As are the pretty, old style storefronts.

Porto Storefront

The main hall of the Sao Bento train station is also worth visiting to see the tile panels depicting landscapes and historical events in Portugal.

Sao Bento Train Station Porto Portugal

Eating Out in Porto

If you’re a meat eater there are two local specialities which everyone raves about; Portuguese flamed chorizo and the famous Francesinha. I couldn’t bring myself to try either but Taberninha do Manel is a great place to indulge.

Portuguese Flamed Chorizo in PortoFrancesinha at Taberninha do Manel in Porto

Braga

Braga is the oldest town in Portugal and has one of the prettiest medieval main squares in the region with its arcades dating from the 16th century and busy cafe culture.

Republic Square in Braga Portugal

The city also has a number of beautiful parks and mass flower displays which change with the season.

Mass Flower Display in Braga

Diverlanhoso Adventure Park

I surprised even myself by going zip lining in Portugal but in the end I discovered it’s not difficult and anyone can do it, even if you have a fear of heights. I wasn’t so successful when it came to jumping off a plank to do the pendulum swing but no one’s perfect. 😉 Confronting your fears at Diverlanhoso adventure park is a great way to spend an afternoon or longer if you really want to push yourself.

Diverlanhoso Adventure Park near Braga

Photo: BackpackerSteve in action.

Peneda-Geres National Park

If you prefer a little less adrenalin running through your veins you might want to head to Peneda-Geres National Park. It’s one of the most well known nature reserves in Portugal and there are loads of hiking trails to explore. I didn’t get to spend much time hiking but I did come across some really pretty spots.

Hiking in Peneda-Geres National Park Portugal

Peneda-Geres National Park Portugal

Guimaraes

From Geres it’s an easy drive back down to Guimaraes where you could spend a few days exploring the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Guimaraes is recognised by UNESCO for its unique architecture and monuments from the Middle Ages.

Guimaraes Architecture

Driving from Porto to Guimaraes

Guimaraes is known as a cultural centre in Portugal and there are many museums, art galleries and festivals to visit as well as Guimaraes Castle which dates from the 12th century.

Guimaraes Castle

Eating Out in Braga and Guimaraes

The food in Portugal is amazing but I must admit it’s a little difficult for semi-vegetarians like me. I was fortunate to find some very accommodating restaurants who were happy to prepare veggie meals for me, even if they weren’t on the menu. In Guimaraes we ate at Historico by Papaboa. They have a modern take on traditional Portuguese cuisine and it was my favourite restaurant on our trip to northern Portugal.

Historico by Papaboa in GuimaraesRestaurant in Guimaraes Portugal

Brac Restaurant in Braga also puts a modern spin on the traditional and the dessert menu in particular was well received.

Brac Restaurant in Braga

For a more traditional meal, family run Florencio Restaurant is a great choice with recipes which haven’t changed for generations including the regions famous bacalhau (salted cod).

Bacalhau at Florencio Restuarant GuimaraesTraditional Portugues Cuisine in Guimaraes

Where to Stay

If you don’t mind staying out of the old town in Porto and are looking for a luxury hotel then you can’t go wrong with the Sheraton Porto. It is a little out of the way but taxis are cheap in Porto and the metro is a 10 minute walk away so it shouldn’t be too much problem getting around. If you prefer to be walking distance to all the sights, nightlife and foodie options then there are plenty of affordable hotels in Porto’s old town.

When staying further north I can recommend the Melia Hotel in Braga or one of the hotels in Geres if visiting the national park.

Driving in Portugal

Portugal has a very reliable public transport system but getting to more remote places like the national parks is a little difficult without a car. Taking a road trip is the easiest way to get around and you of course it gives you more freedom too. There are no vignettes required when driving from Porto to Guimaraes as Portugal uses toll booths instead but it’s easy enough to get around using the secondary roads if you don’t want to pay.

About Andrea

Andrea Anastasakis is the founder and author of road trip blog Rear View Mirror. She is currently driving her Fiat 500 around Europe. Follow her travel adventures on Instagram.


Comments

  1. I love the look of Porto, beautiful buildings with lots of colour , just my sort of place 🙂

  2. Sure brought back some good memories 🙂 I think I loved Braga the most – wish we had a bit more time there. Also, VERY glad to hear I wasn’t the only one who was petrified of trying zip lining, but look, we survived!

  3. Although Portugal is such a small country, it is so diversified! I adore Porto, but still have to see Braga and Guimarães sometime… your pictures are very promising!

  4. Great trip!! Portugal is beautiful and the food seems delicious!!

  5. Andrea – wow! Such great photos. I love this post … it makes me yearn to return to Portugal right about now. 🙂

  6. Really nice article and awesome photos, i like it so much :).
    North Portugal is a very cool destination.