A one-week North Portugal road trip highlight at its best

Difficulty

220 km

Distance

7

Recom. Days

General

Trip type

Cora Harrison

Freelance writer for Indie Campers, currently trying to find herself in Indonesia but without much luck. Enjoys exploring weird and wonderful world cuisine — the less identifiable, the better.

North Portugal Road Trip Itinerary

What makes this North Portugal road trip truly brilliant? I think it goes something like this. Start off with a city full of energy, character, and unique urban charm. Then throw in some history, some majestic religious architecture, and some contemporary culture too.

Next up, nature in all its wild glory. And finally, time to relax with a return to beaten paths and an easygoing beachside town.

Begin with Porto before heading off to the religious capital of Braga. Then explore the Peneda-Gerês National Park, leaving just enough time for a stop in Viana do Castelo before heading back home. Sounds pretty good, right? 

Pick-up in
Porto Depot
1

Porto, the perfect beginning

Porto does more than impress. It entices, charms, and captures your heart forever. In a unique cocktail of history, tradition, and alternative flair, contemporary cool meets the prestige of the past at every turn.

With its colourful, hilly streets, filled with washing and graffiti, you’ll wonder why you ever settled for drab, monotone cityscapes before. Yet, despite being the dream destination on a North Portugal road trip, Porto never feels like one of Portugal's tourist hotspots. It feels like the real deal.

Ribeira do Douro and Douro river on a North Portugal road trip itinerary

Art aficionados should head straight to minimalist Museu Serralves. Book worms are better off at the neo-Gothic Livraria Lello, the kind of bookshop Harry Potter might get his reading material.

Then visit either the Miradouro da Vitória or climb to the top of the Cathedral for some of the best views. Catch a performance at the Casa da Música. Then stroll between petiscarias or head to a port cellar in Vila Nova de Gaia to sample the region’s most famous export. 

Visiting

Porto

3

Recom. Days

Main route

17 km

Porto depot

24 min

drive

Visit

Jardins do Palácio de Cristal

Escape the city to this cliff-top, palm-lined garden

Foz do Douro

Take the antique tram out to this charming beach and lighthouse

Igreja de São Francisco

Church adorned with dazzling religious bling

Eat at

Café Majestic

€€€€

Exceptionally ornate Belle Epoque tea room

Restaurante Cafeina

€€€€

Arty crowd, Mediterranean cuisine, near the sea

The Yeatman

€€€

Part of a wine hotel and spa, two Michelin-starred

Parking

Alameda Auto Parque

€€€

Uncovered parking 30 minutes from centre

Stay at

Area di sosta camper Porto

€€€

Campervan parking 20 minutes from Porto

2

Next up, religious brilliance in Braga

On your way to your next North Portugal road trip destination, make a quick detour into Portuguese legend and lore with a stop at the imposing Castelo de Guimarães, perched on a hill in Guimarães. This is where Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal, was born and it’s definitely a big deal.

But then so is Braga, Portugal’s third largest city and major pilgrimage site. Time your visit to coincide with Semana Santa with its torch-lit processions of hooded figures and you’ll see what we mean.

Bom Jesus do Monte, Braga destination on a North Portugal road trip itinerary

First up, visit the famous Baroque church of Bom Jesus do Monte. It’s utterly majestic with its 577 steps that pilgrims ascend, some on knee. Then, once back in Braga, head to Praça da República for a drink and some people-watching.

Because Braga isn’t just for the devout and well-behaved. There’s plenty of fun to be had among its narrow streets that come alive at night with the city’s young student population.

Visiting

Braga

1

Recom. Days

Main route

55 km

Porto

47 min

drive

Visit

Monastery of St Martin of Tibães

Known for its extravagant Rococo decoration

Sé de Braga

The oldest cathedral in Portugal

GNRation

Cool new cultural centre hosting music, screenings, and workshops

Eat at

Félix Taberna

€€

Cosy retro vibes, full of vintage typewriters and photographs

Café Vianna

€€

Iconic establishment located in the arcade

Brac

€€

Popular gourmet dining with terrace overlooking park

Parking

Minho Center

Free

Free, partially covered parking, 2.90m height restriction

Stay at

Camping Braga

€€

Short walk from Braga centre

3

Pristine wilderness in Peneda-Gerês National Park

The next destination on your North Portugal road trip awaits in the northern tip of Portugal. A true wilderness where scraggy peaks, scattered with ancient boulders, meet deep valleys. Where wild ponies feed and forests are roamed by Iberian wolves.

Where granite-stone villages sit, untouched by modern life. Portugal’s only national park gives you the chance to breathe fresh mountain air, hike through a spectacular landscape, and swim in shimmering lakes and waterfalls.

Peneda Geres National Park landscape, a North Portugal road trip destination

One of the most impressive mountain villages is Santuário de Nossa Senhora da Peneda, where an majestic church sits against the backdrop of an even more majestic mountain — visit with your camera at the ready.

Then there’s the village of Soajo with its granite espigueiros, resembling enormous, eerie, stone tombs. They’re actually just corn granaries, but still. And finally, when the sun sets over the mountains, reward yourself with a cold carafe of the local vinho verde.

Visiting

Peneda-Gerês National Park

3

Recom. Days

Main route

37 km

Braga

43 min

drive

Visit

Misarela Bridge

Medieval bridge purportedly built by the Devil himself

Mosteiro de Santa Maria das Júnias

Atmospheric monastery in a secluded valley

Cascata do Arado

Beautiful waterfall and natural pools north of Ermida

Eat at

O Abocanhado, Brufe

€€

Traditional dishes, terrace with panoramic views

Tasca do Açougue, Montalegre

€€€

Iberian tapas in stone cottage

Espigueiro do Soajo

€€€

Modern setting serving local Minho meat

Stay at

Parque Cerdeira

€€€

Restaurant and shop on site

4

Traditions of times-gone-by in Viana do Castelo

Return to civilisation with your itinerary’s final destination: Viana do Castelo. But this city in Portugal’s Norte region is a place where the past is most definitely alive and kicking. Because why just travel abroad when you can travel back in time too?

With its medieval centre, beautiful riverfront, and sandy shores just beyond, Viana do Castelo is a charming place to spend the last day of your North Portugal road trip. Make sure to pick up a traditional embroidered costume. There’s no better souvenir.

Santa Luzia church in Viana do Castelo, a destination on your North Portugal road trip itinerary

Head to the neo-Byzantine Santa Luzia church on the hilltop overlooking town, climbing to the top for the best views. At the Museu do Traje, learn more about the traditional dresses worn during the famous Romaria de Nossa Senhora d'Agonía.

Browse the Friday market for ceramics, lace, and ornate jewellery. Relax in a cafe in Praça da República, making sure to sample the torta de Viana. More time to kill? Head to sandy expanses of Praia do Cabedelo. 

Visiting

Viana do Castelo

1

Recom. Days

Main route

54 km

Peneda-Gerês National Park

42 min

drive

Visit

Museu de Artes Decorativas

Stunning collection of traditional azulejos

Gil Eannes

Restored naval hospital ship with sinister surgery equipment

Fábrica do Chocolate

Chocolate museum where you can make your own

Eat at

Casa Primavera

Characterful fisherman’s style cafe and restaurant

Confeitaria Manuel Natário

€€

Popular bakery selling bolas de Berlim

Camelo

€€€

Traditional Minho dishes unique to the region

Parking

Parque de Estacionamento Campo d'Agonia

€€

Short walk from centre

Stay at

Parque de Campismo de Belinho

€€

10 minutes from beach

Drop-off in
Porto Depot

45 Miles

Viana do Castelo

54 min

drive