If you don’t have a lot of time to explore a country in-depth, day trips from cities is the best way to discover smaller towns or the countryside, and Portugal is no exception.
Continuing from my last blog post on Porto, there are plenty of day trips available from this northern city so much so that I had a tough time deciding which one to choose. I had contemplated a historical and cultural day trip to Braga, a city of grand baroque buildings and Gothic churches, or a cruise through the Douro Valley to explore its famous wine region. I chose the latter but sadly, the commentaries and service provided by the tour company were such a let down that I didn’t enjoy the trip at all. As a result, I’m not able to share about my experiences here.
That said, I still feel that day trips to places outside of Porto are worth your time and money. To find out where to go, here are recommendations from five travel bloggers sharing their amazing day trips from Porto:
Braga – Verislav of Global Castaway
Being found 2000 years ago by the Romans, Braga is one of the oldest cities in Portugal. Just a forty-minute train ride from Porto, it’s one of the most popular day trips to do. Since Braga was the first official city in Portugal, it became a seat for the Portuguese archbishops so don’t be surprised to find churches on every corner. The top highlights of Braga are the Sanctuary Bom Jesus do Monte and the Braga Cathedral (Sé de Braga).
Situated on the hill next to the city (don’t worry, there is a bus connecting the sanctuary to the train station), Bom Jesus do Monte and its stunning baroque double granite terraced stairway is one of the biggest attractions in Portugal and a must-see for every visitor of the country. There is also a very impressive and unique water-based funicular you can use to skip the steps and get to the top of the hill.
Sé de Braga is the oldest cathedral in Portugal, and it’s located right in the center of the historical city. Its facade is a splendid mix of a few different architectural styles, making it the perfect representation of this fantastic city.
Douro Valley – Priyanko of Constant Traveller
For oenophiles, there can hardly be a more exciting place than the Douro Valley to indulge in their love of wines. If you’re lucky enough to be visiting Porto, I highly recommend this day tour through the Douro Valley and river to make their way around various independent wine estates.
First things first, get to Pinhão railway station and go crazy trying to click the azulejo-tiled walls. It’s so pretty you won’t be able to stop. Once you’re done, take a leisurely boat ride along the Douro river and feel time slow down. Most tour operators don’t really stop at the Museo do Douro but I’ve heard it’s a great place to understand the region’s winery and history. Of course, I recommend you buy the bottles directly from them if you happen to like any particular wine. Some of these quintas (estates) also sell amazing olive oil and organic honey so be sure to check those out as well.
Since we’re in wine territory, the wines can’t be far behind. On a day trip, you will be taken to at least a couple of quintas. Most of these are family-run professional wineries that export anywhere between 2000 to 200,000 bottles every year. All in all, a trip to Douro valley is sure to make you think twice before you pick up that bottle of port wine once you’re back in Porto later that day.
Obidos – Liza of Tripsget
Obidos is a great destination for a day trip from Porto. Obidos is a small town in the middle of Portugal (two hours’ drive rom Porto, which isn’t too bad at all), but it’s definitely worth the trip. Obidos is famous for its white houses surrounded by a proper fortress – the town is very small (only 3000 inhabitants), but it’s charming and very instagrammable as well! You can even stay there overnight if you want – in a proper medieval castle. However, if you only come for a day, you can still do a lot of shopping of souvenirs, local arts and even wine and of course, you won’t leave the town without 1000 photos!
Peneda-Gerês National Park – Maria & Rui of Two Find a Way
Portugal has very rich natural diversity and in just a short ride you can get from the beautiful blue ocean beaches in Porto to the magical green that characterizes the Pedena-Gerês National Park – the only National Park in the country.
The Park spans across three different Portuguese districts in the North and there’s plenty to do according to your own preferences. There are many hikes and stunning natural paths with waterfalls (most famous are Arado and Tahiti), as well as charming and quaint historical villages. If you prefer, you can also use your car to explore – it is an easy way to cover a larger part of the Park and to get to the beautiful viewpoints without losing your breath!
There’s actually so much to do in the Park that just a day trip may not feel like enough, but if your time is limited, it is a great place to add to your list of things to do while in the city. There are some buses that take you near the Park, but as schedules are few and sparse, the best way is to rent a car, which will also be very useful while exploring the Peneda-Gerês National Park itself. The ride is easy and lasts around an hour and thirty minutes.
Viana do Costelo – Bruno of A Mass Cook
Viana do Castelo is a beautiful city located 100 km from Porto, and easily accessible by train or car. Its natural landscape, incredible food and vivid local traditions make Viana one of Portugal’s most interesting cities. During a one-day visit to Viana do Castelo you really can’t miss its historical center that features beautifully preserved Renaissance, Manueline, and Baroque buildings. Other great sights include the Eiffel bridge the breathtaking views of the sanctuary of Santa Luzia, and the Gil Eannes hospital ship.
Also, hop into the Museu do Traje and be amazed with the richness of Portuguese traditional garments. For lunch, dig into local specialties such as rojões à moda do Minho (fried pork belly) or cabrito à Serra D’Arga (roast goatling), drink the refreshing vinho verde wine, and don’t forget to taste the amazing bolas de Berlim (Portuguese version of the Berliner) at Pastelaria Natário.