15th April, 2018
Porto, Portugal. The ideal place for a weekend trip, we suggest a maximum of 3 nights in the city is enough to see the major attractions, and to get a great dose of culture, architecture and top-notch food and wine all in one.The unique sweetness of world-famous Port wine has been putting Porto on the spotlight of wine lovers for many years.
That said, if you have the benefit of time then we recommend that you explore some nearby destinations. This is why we have put together a list of amazing one-day trips from Porto that will allow you to know a bit more about Portugal and its traditions. And its food & wines of course!
All of these destinations are at a drive able distance, we strongly recommend you do a road trip if you have the time as the drive is absolutely scenic and worth the wait !
Also, one or two hours by train is enough to get to some of the most beautiful cities in the north (and centre, actually) of the country.
See below our recommended 3 best day trips from Porto!
1. DOURO VALLEY
Let me start by saying that if you have more than one day to visit the Douro Valley, we strongly recommend that you use it. If not, one day will give you a little taste of what this famous wine region had to offer.
Douro Valley – A World Heritage site by UNESCO, with stunning landscapes of green and golden slopes covered with vineyards, wine estates spreading along the riverbanks and the birthplace of the well-known Port wine. We would say this is a mandatory visit to anyone who visits Porto.
GETTING THERE FROM PORTO
You can access Douro Valley by train, car or even by taking a cruise up the Douro river. Either option is great and I am unable to just recommend one. In fact, some tour providers offer you the chance to cruise up the Douro River and ride the train back to the city. Soon after leaving Porto, you will know you are in the Douro Valley when you start seeing the many quintas (wineries) in the middle of the slopes,
MIRINDA suggests! : If you have time for it, book a wine tour, visit the vineyards, and taste some of the excellent Douro Valley wines.
TOP THINGS TO SEE AND DO IN DOURO VALLEY
1.Look out Points – Admiring the beauty of the Valley itself will take up most of your time here, every corner you see will be different. The famous look out points for clicking the best photos and experiencing the beauty of this region is Galafura.
MIRINDA suggests ! : If you have the opportunity to watch the sunset from there, I promise you it will be unforgettable.
2. Pinhao Railway Station – This beautiful train station is part of the Douro Line. Despite being a small train station, it is still worth a visit. It played an important role for many years considering there weren’t many ways to get to the region. The first train was welcomed on June 1st, 1880. It was the main transportation to carry people and goods to and from the Douro region, and it was also very important to the Port wine industry. You can see parts of its history on the twenty-five tile panels that depict scenes, landscapes, and customs of the Douro Region. They offer beautiful and detailed representations of Douro culture, traditions, and history.
3. Quintas (Wineries) – As you dive into the valley, you’ll soon enough start seeing white painted buildings spread along the slopes of the valley. Most of them offer wine tours with visits to the vineyards and production facilities, and, most importantly, wine tastings.
A one day trip to Douro can be short to visit as many as one would like, but we suggest you try at least one of the following wineries:
- Quinta do Pôpa
- Quinta das Carvalhas
4. River Cruise – If you go by car or by train, you will possibly have time to enjoy a cruise on the upper Douro River. These are shorter cruises, but allow you to travel even deeper through the valley to discover the Douro in its truly natural and wild beauty.
MIRINDA suggests ! – We recommend Magnífico Douro, a company that provides river cruises on the traditional and scenic rabelos boats, a unique experience.
WHERE TO EAT IN DOURO VALLEY
1. Toca da Raposa – This restaurant has revived old family recipes, along with other regional and traditional recipes that have been a part of the Douro gastronomical history. Roasted lamb with Port wine, wild boar stew, alheira (a traditional Portuguese “sausage”), are just some of the delicacies you can have there.
2. Calca Curta – Located right in front of the Foz-Tua train station, Calça Curta is a restaurant the offers the best Portuguese and Douro traditional dishes. Add great desserts and a wonderful wine selection to the amazing view of the valley and river, and you get one of the best gastronomical experiences one can find in the whole region.
As you can see, there is a lot to do, to visit, to eat, to experience and to see, and with our one day trip to Douro guide, you’ll have a full and unforgettable day for sure. It will also probably make you want to return or extend your visit.
Once the Capital of Portugal, Coimbra is one of the country’s oldest cities, known for housing one of the world’s first universities and for its distinctive partition between an upper and lower town. It is famous for its University (there’s a reason why they call it the “city of students”) and its Fado (even more mournful and painful than the Fado you’ll hear in Lisbon and, traditionally, sung only by male students).
MIRINDA fun facts ! – University of Coimbra, the first public university in Portugal and one of the oldest in the world.
GETTING THERE FROM PORTO
Coimbra is roughly half way between Lisbon and Porto. There are two types of trains that go from Porto to Coimbra. The journey takes just under an hour if you take the fast train (Alfa Pendular) and costs about 12€. You can also drive down from Porto, which is around an hour drive.
MIRINDA suggests ! – Pay attention to the trip time when booking. Book from Rail Europe (book direct). You’ll arrive in the Coimbra-B station but you can easily connect to the center of town (Coimbra-A station) via a five-minute train ride that is included in your ticket.
TOP THINGS TO SEE AND DO IN COIMBRA
Unless you fall madly in love at first sight with Coimbra and want to stay longer, one day in Coimbra is enough to visit the top landmarks, roam around the old streets and alleys of the city, and gaze at the river Mondego.
These are the absolute must-see landmarks in Coimbra that you don’t want to miss.
1. Universidade de Coimbra – The University is a big part of the city life and history. It is also where you will likely spend most of your time, not only for the History but for the breathtaking views of the city.
MIRINDA fun facts ! – To visit the historical buildings around campus costs between €12 and €15 (if you want the audio-guided tour) or between US $14 and US $17 per person and I highly recommend it. At every location, they had a laminated sheet of paper that summed up what we were visiting. It included visiting the Biblioteca Joanina (a Baroque monument, beautifully decorated in gilded chinoiserie), the Academic Prison (a prison for the convicted students and scholars), the St. Michael’s Chapel (with a beautiful 1733 Baroque organ), and the University Tower.
You won’t be allowed to take pictures inside these sites, but the views of the city and the river from the campus will really make up for it. I asked the employees to access the small terrace just at the end of the long corridor opposite Sala das Armas (Weapons Room) for a better and clearer view of Coimbra, Mondego, and the surrounding mountains. Slightly windy (me and my fear of heights…) but very worth it.
2. Church of Santa Cruz – The Santa Cruz monastery is one of the most fascinating religious buildings of Coimbra. It’s where the first king of Portugal, Afonso Henriques, and his son the second king of Portugal, Sancho the first, are buried.
MIRINDA fun facts ! – All of the altars of the Santa Cruz appear to be surrounded by columns constructed of marble but this is a cleverly painted deception. The columns and surrounds on all of the alters are in fact wood painted to look like marble.
3. Se Velha – The Sé Velha (Old Cathedral) is one of the country’s most beautiful and oldest Romanesque monuments, dating from the time of Portugal’s foundation as a nation.
MIRINDA fun facts ! – Don’t miss watching the Concerts which often happen on the medieval church’s steps where the former students of the University of Coimbra, dressed in their black suits and black long cloaks (which is their typical College uniform), gather to sing Fado and serenade the city – they call it the former students’ serenade (Serenata dos Antigos Estudantes).
WHERE TO EAT IN COIMBRA
1. Salao Brazil – This spacious restaurant, which doubles as a music hall, is located in the heart of downtown Coimbra. It also has an economical lunch menu at about €5 for a light meal (small entrees, sandwiches and soups).
2. àCapella – One the most captivating venues in Coimbra is àCapella, a cultural center that doubles up as a bar and restaurant. What gives this venue its extra special edge is the location within a former church, benefiting from a stunning interior and conspicuous presence in the middle of the small square. The restaurant opens in the early evenings and stays open till late at night, serving petiscos and traditional Portuguese food to the sound of lively fado trios.
3. Galeria Santa Clara – The major selling points of this place are its the homemade cakes and biscuits.
4. La Botiga Bistro – Grab a beer and relax in Coimbra’s premier tapas establishment. Enjoy the local Portuguese sausage with a punchy glass of full-bodied red wine or try the lighter flavors of the chickpea salad and creamy goat’s cheese bruschetta. Particularly celebrated is the bistro’s famously moist chocolate cake, covered with rich cream and perfect alongside a steaming cup of Portuguese espresso.
Head to the baixinha, or downtown area, after dinner for the nightlife and the local drinks like the Bairrada wine and the sweet liquor called licor beirao.
Once upon a time, Aveiro was a little fishermen’s town by the sea and occupied by Ria, a shallow coastal lagoon, that embraces the city center. Because of its many canals and the typical boats, Moliceiros, Aveiro is known as the “Portuguese Venice”.
GETTING THERE FROM PORTO
The train ride from Porto takes about an hour on the urban train. Go to one of the big train stations in Porto, Campanhã or São Bento, and take a train from there. There is also a faster Intercity train that will take you there in about half the time and is more expensive. You can also drive down from Porto, which is around an hour drive.
TOP THINGS TO SEE AND DO IN AVEIRO
1. Aveiro’s Canals – The beautiful canals, bridges and little painted boats are all symbols of Aveiro. The decorated gondola-like boats called “Moliceiros” run up and down the canals.
MIRINDA suggests ! – Take a boat tour; you will find quite a few leaving from the centre. A boat tour usually takes about 45 minutes and costs €10.
2. Museums – There are several museums in Aveiro and you can get a single ticket for €5 that grants you entrance to all of them. This museum pass includes Aviero Museum Santa Joana, the City Museum, the Art Nouveau Museum and the Marinha da Troncalhada Ecomuseum.
MIRINDA suggests ! – For me, four museums in one day seemed a bit too much, so I opted for the €2 pass. That’s a combined ticket for the City Museum and the Art Nouveau Museum. Both of these are on the same street and within a couple of minutes from each other.
3. Go Shopping at the Forum – This architecturally stunning contemporary shopping centre has won awards with its distinctive green spaces and stone facades, which are harmonious with the historic centre. The Forum has also been engineered to be sustainable and ecologically friendly and is a vibrant, fun epicentre where students, locals and visitors can shop, eat and be entertained.
4. Take a guided tour around the city – There are various guided tours recommended like :
- By bike (recommended for active visitors): Cycling has been highly promoted in Portugal and it is possible to hire free bikes to explore the city.
- By Tuka-Tuka train (recommended for families): The Tuka-Tuka is a train-car service that allows large groups of visitors to travel all around the city of Aveiro.
- By Tuk-Tuk tricycle (recommended for couples): Tuk-Tuk’s’ are a recent addition to the tourist services in Aveiro and these small tricycle cars provide a fun way to navigate the town for those looking for a fast pace tour.
WHERE TO EAT IN AVEIRO
1. Tasca Palhuca – As ‘tasca-like’ and genuine as they come, this place is largely shielded from travelers due to its side-street location. This is the place to try caldeirada de enguias (eel stew) for two (€20).
2. Ki – Vegetarians, your prayers have been answered. This small, vegan-focused spot, tucked away in a street in a quiet part of town, offers a different set plate daily, plus soup and tea. Desserts cost an extra €3.
3. A Peixaria – A block back from the waterfront in São Jacinto, this no-frills family restaurant has the best fish in town and, many say, the region.
If you don’t fancy making your own way there, you can do a half day tour from Porto that includes a boat trip on a moliceiro as well as visit to the colourful fishermen’s houses by the Costa Nova beach. If you have a day to spare and want to combine Aveiro with a trip to Coimbra, you could do a full day tour.
There are various other places like : Braga & Guimaraes which are also famous amongst the tourists for day trips. We strongly recommend doing the top 3 first and then if time permits check out the other two places.
Coming up next…. All you need to know about Lisbon !!!
Keep following up on www.mirindatravels.com to know all about it…..