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?
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.
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.
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
Exceptionally ornate Belle Epoque tea room
Arty crowd, Mediterranean cuisine, near the sea
Part of a wine hotel and spa, two Michelin-starred
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.
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.
Monastery of St Martin of Tibães
Known for its extravagant Rococo decoration
Sé de Braga
The oldest cathedral in Portugal
Cool new cultural center hosting music, screenings, and workshops
Cosy retro vibes, full of vintage typewriters and photographs
Iconic establishment located in the arcade
Popular gourmet dining with terrace overlooking park
Free, partially covered parking, 2.90m height restriction
Short walk from Braga center
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.
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.
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
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
Restaurant and shop on site
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.
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.
Museu de Artes Decorativas
Stunning collection of traditional azulejos
Restored naval hospital ship with sinister surgery equipment
Fábrica do Chocolate
Chocolate museum where you can make your own
Characterful fisherman’s style cafe and restaurant
Confeitaria Manuel Natário
Popular bakery selling bolas de Berlim
Traditional Minho dishes unique to the region
Parque de Estacionamento Campo d'Agonia
Short walk from center
Parque de Campismo de Belinho
10 minutes from beach
Viana do Castelo