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Last updated : Nov 2009
Porto & North Portogal
Porto & North Portogal - TravelPuppy.com
This region of Portugal incorporates the historic city of Porto (Oporto), famous for Port wine, the remarkably lush coast, the valleys of the Douro and the Minho and part of Portugal’s highest mountain range, the Serra da Estrêla.

Porto

The second-largest city in Portugal was nominated European City of Culture for 2001 and the historical centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Founded by the Romans at the mouth of the River Douro, modern Porto (Oporto) is an industrial city with a wonderful atmosphere and plenty to see.

The sights of the old town include the Cathedral (Sé), dating from the 12th to the 18th centuries, the Church of São Francisco, famous for its rococo interior, a splendid example of Portuguese gilt-work (talha dourada), the 19th century Stock Exchange and the Torre Dos Clérigos, which offers wonderful views. The old waterfront, known as the Cais da Ribeira (a World Heritage Site), caters for tourists with cafes, restaurants and an open-air market. Across the river, the 18th century Port wine lodges of Vila Nova de Gaia are open to the public for tours and tastings.

Elsewhere

The Cathedral of the ancient Roman town of Braga is an important centre of the Roman Catholic church. The best time to visit is during Holy Week when the traditional street processions are impressive.

Guimarães, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Portugal’s medieval capital, boasts a fine castle, the former palace of the Dukes of Bragança, as well as some attractive squares and churches. Póvoa de Varzim retains a small but attractive harbour, a reminder of its days as a fishing port. In recent years, fishing has taken a back seat to tourism, the 8km (5 mile) long beach being the main attraction. Rates and Rio Mau have splendid Romanesque churches. At Monte São Félix, the windmills have been converted into houses and there are panoramic views of the coast towards Póvoa de Varzim.

Vila do Conde is a traditional fishing port and burgeoning resort, famous for its crafts such as ‘bone lace’ and chocolate-making. Ofir presents a vast expanse of sandy beach fringed by pinewoods. Barcelos is famous for its handicrafts, particularly ceramics which are on show at the Thursday market. The busy resort of Viana do Castelo is noted for its Renaissance and Manueline architecture as well as local products. There is a first-class beach across the river at Praia do Cabedelo.

Valença is a 13th-century border town with a flourishing market and ancient fortifications. Monção, an attractive old town, is the home of the wine Alvarinho Vinho Verde. The Peneda-Gerês National Park comprises 170,000 acres (68,798 hectares) of mountainous countryside near the Spanish border and it is popular with hikers, climbers and naturalists. There are spas at Caldas de Vizela, Gerez, Monção and Pedras Salgadas.