20 Feb Portugal – history, scenery, charm, culture, national parks and surfing …

Portugal has become more and more popular as a holiday destination in recent times and putting together itineraries for clients, I have discovered what a fascinating country this is and indeed the reason why.     Lisbon is popular as a weekend break and the Algarve great for those summer beach holidays but there is also so much more of this wonderful country to visit.

Tourism has exploded in the Porto in the past couple of years and I can see why.     Situated on Douro, it has a “happening” buzz about it and we uncovered a wonderful boutique hotel which I would highly recommend on.   The historical centre is a UNESCO site which so many beautiful buildings.     A couple of the highlights for me were the São Bento Railway Station and its wonderful glazed tiles and our guide took us to the underground food market.     All the stalls have been handed down through families all with a story to tell.    A plethora of sardines in every shape and form to try & buy!   Porto is also the home of all the Port Wine Lodges which brought so much fame and fortune and a tour of one of these is pretty much compulsory.

Above:  The Fish Market in Porto where all the stalls have been handed down through families all with a story to tell, where you will find a plethora of sardines in every shape and form to try & buy!

Going further, we headed inland along the Douro Valley to see where it is all grown.     The drive was quite stunning and we stopped at the charming town of Amarante on the River Tamega on the way.    The São Gonçalo Bridge played its part in defending the valley from a Napoleonic attack in the early 19th Century.

Above:  The drive up through Amarante with views of the Ponte de São Gonçalo

Our visit took us to Pinhao where the “rabelo” boats departed heading down river to Porto loaded with barrels of wine.    There are many vineyards to visit and we headed to the Quinta do Bomfim providing the Bows Vintages since 1896.    It is a family run business – now on the fifth generation of Symingtons.

Above:  A beautiful street in Guimaraes – the birthplace of the Portuguese Nation.

From Porto – the Minho region is easily accessible.    Scenery, national parks, churches, history, monasteries are in no short supply here.    We loved the birthplace of the Portuguese Nation – the city of Guimaraes.    The first capital of Portugal chosen by the first King Afonso Henriques leaves behind his castle on the top of the highest hills so wonderful views over the Place of the Dukes of Braganca and its fantastic ceramics & tapestries.     It is easy to potter around the historical centre and square of Oliveira.

I highly recommend Northern Portugal as a short break or family holiday.     With miles of Atlantic coast at hand it is a combination of history, scenery, charm, culture, national parks and surfing – if that floats your boat!