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A Long Weekend In Porto And The Douro, Northern Portugal


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Roxine Hartford



Welcome to Porto and the Douro, two stunning destinations in northern Portugal. This picturesque region offers a perfect blend of history, culture, and natural beauty, making it an ideal destination for a long weekend getaway. From exploring the charming streets of Porto to indulging in wine tasting in the beautiful Douro Valley, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.


Porto, also known as Oporto, is the second-largest city in Portugal and is famous for its historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is renowned for its stunning architecture, including the iconic Dom Luis I Bridge that spans the Douro River. Porto is also the birthplace of port wine, with numerous cellars where visitors can sample and learn about this famous fortified wine.


The Douro Valley, located just a short drive from Porto, is a wine lover’s paradise. This breathtaking region is home to terraced vineyards that produce the world-renowned port wine. The valley is characterized by its winding river, picturesque villages, and scenic landscapes, making it a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts.


Whether you’re a history buff, wine connoisseur, or simply seeking a relaxing getaway, Porto and the Douro Valley have something to offer. This article will guide you through a curated itinerary for a long weekend, highlighting the best experiences and attractions to make the most of your trip.


Getting to Porto and the Douro

Porto is easily accessible from various international and domestic destinations. Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport, located just a short drive from the city center, serves as the main gateway for air travelers. Several airlines offer direct flights to Porto from major European cities, making it convenient to reach this vibrant destination.


If you are arriving from within Portugal, you can also opt to travel by train or bus. The Campanhã train station is well-connected to other cities in Portugal, including Lisbon and Coimbra. The journey from Lisbon to Porto takes approximately two and a half hours by train, and the scenic route allows you to enjoy the beautiful Portuguese countryside.


Once you’re in Porto, there are several transportation options to reach the Douro Valley. The most convenient way is to rent a car, which allows you the flexibility to explore the region at your own pace. The journey from Porto to the Douro Valley takes around 90 minutes, and the route offers stunning views of the countryside.


If you prefer not to drive, you can also take a train from São Bento Station in Porto to the town of Peso da Régua, located in the heart of the Douro Valley. The train journey takes approximately two hours and provides a scenic experience as it winds through the picturesque landscapes of the region.


Once you’ve arrived in the Douro Valley, it’s best to have a car to fully explore the area. The valley is vast, and having your own vehicle allows you to visit the various vineyards, charming towns, and viewpoints at your leisure.


Additionally, there are several tour operators that offer day trips from Porto to the Douro Valley, providing transportation and guided tours of the wineries and attractions. This can be a convenient option if you prefer to leave the logistics to someone else and focus on enjoying the experience.


Now that you know how to get to Porto and the Douro Valley, let’s dive into the itinerary for your long weekend getaway.


Day 1: Exploring Porto

Start your first day in Porto by exploring the city’s historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Begin your journey at Ribeira, the oldest district of Porto, located along the banks of the Douro River. Take a leisurely stroll along the colorful streets lined with traditional houses and soak in the lively atmosphere.


Make your way to the iconic Dom Luis I Bridge, an architectural marvel that offers panoramic views of the city. Consider crossing the bridge to Vila Nova de Gaia, where you can visit one of the many port wine cellars and indulge in a tasting session.


Afterwards, head back to Porto and visit the magnificent São Bento Station, known for its stunning tiled panels depicting Portuguese history. From there, take a short walk to the Livraria Lello, one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world. Admire the intricate woodwork and the enchanting atmosphere of this literary gem.


For lunch, explore the bustling Mercado do Bolhão, a traditional food market where you can sample a variety of local delicacies. Try the famous Francesinha, a delicious sandwich layered with different types of meat and smothered with cheese and a spicy sauce.


In the afternoon, make your way to the Clérigos Tower, an iconic symbol of Porto. Climb the stairs of this bell tower for panoramic views of the city and the river. From there, continue your exploration to the beautiful gardens of the Crystal Palace. Enjoy a peaceful stroll and take in the stunning views of the Douro River and the city below.


In the evening, head to the Rua das Flores, a charming street lined with trendy shops, cafes, and restaurants. Enjoy a delightful dinner at one of the many eateries offering traditional Portuguese cuisine or international flavors.


End your day by immersing yourself in Porto’s vibrant nightlife. Explore the bars and taverns in the Galerias de Paris district, known for its energetic atmosphere and lively music scene. Sip on a glass of port wine or try the local craft beer as you soak up the ambiance of this vibrant city.


With day one complete, you’ve had a taste of Porto’s rich history, delicious cuisine, and captivating sights. Get a good night’s rest as day two takes you to the stunning Douro Valley for a day of wine tasting.


Day 2: Wine tasting in the Douro Valley

On day two, embark on a memorable wine tasting experience in the picturesque Douro Valley. Known for its terraced vineyards and breathtaking landscapes, this region is a paradise for wine lovers.


Start your day by driving or taking a scenic train ride from Porto to the Douro Valley. As you arrive, you’ll be greeted by rolling hills covered in vineyards that span as far as the eye can see.


Begin your wine tasting journey by visiting one of the many renowned Quintas (wine estates) in the region. These estates offer guided tours of their vineyards and cellars, providing insights into the winemaking process and the history of port wine production. Learn about the different grape varieties and taste a variety of wines, from the rich and robust reds to the sweet and velvety ports. Don’t forget to take in the breathtaking views of the Douro River as you sip on your favorite wine.


After your first tasting, enjoy a leisurely lunch at a local restaurant or picnic amidst the vineyards. Indulge in traditional Portuguese dishes paired with a glass of local wine, savoring the flavors of the region.


In the afternoon, continue your wine adventure by exploring more Quintas or visiting the Douro Museum in the town of Peso da Régua. The museum showcases the history and cultural heritage of the Douro Valley, offering a deeper understanding of the region’s wine production and the people who shaped its identity.


For a unique experience, consider taking a scenic boat cruise along the Douro River. Admire the terraced vineyards, quaint villages, and historic bridges as you relax on the deck and enjoy the beauty of the surrounding landscape.


As the day comes to a close, head back to Porto or find accommodation in one of the charming towns in the Douro Valley, such as Pinhão or Lamego. Reflect on the flavors and beauty you experienced throughout the day, savoring the memories of your wine tasting adventure in this enchanting region.


Day two in the Douro Valley will leave you with a deep appreciation for the art of winemaking and the stunning natural beauty of this UNESCO World Heritage site. Get a good night’s rest as day three awaits, offering a chance to explore the historic sites of Porto.


Day 3: Historic Sites in Porto

On day three, immerse yourself in the rich history of Porto as you explore the city’s historic sites and landmarks. From ancient churches to medieval castles, there is no shortage of historical treasures to discover.


Begin your day by visiting the imposing Porto Cathedral, also known as Sé do Porto. This stunning medieval cathedral dates back to the 12th century and offers breathtaking views of the city from its terrace. Step inside to admire the beautiful interior and discover the impressive collection of religious artifacts.


Next, make your way to the Palácio da Bolsa, a grand neoclassical building that served as Porto’s stock exchange in the 19th century. Take a guided tour of this opulent palace to marvel at its ornate rooms, including the Arabian Hall, known for its intricate decorations and stunning chandeliers.


Afterwards, visit the Church of São Francisco, a Gothic masterpiece with an unassuming exterior that hides a breathtaking Baroque interior. Step inside to witness the intricate carved wooden altarpieces covered in gold, creating a stunning display of opulence and devotion.


For lunch, head to the iconic Café Majestic, a historic coffee house that exudes charm and elegance. Enjoy a delicious meal or simply indulge in a cup of coffee as you soak in the ambiance of this iconic establishment that has been frequented by writers and artists throughout history.


In the afternoon, take a leisurely walk along the Avenida dos Aliados, the main avenue of Porto lined with magnificent buildings and bustling cafes. Marvel at the City Hall, a beautiful example of French Beaux-Arts architecture, and soak up the vibrant atmosphere of this buzzing city center.


Continue your exploration by visiting the Livraria Lello, a historic bookstore renowned for its stunning architecture and connection to the world of literature. Delve into its collection of books and admire the beautiful Art Nouveau design that makes this bookstore a must-visit destination.


End your day by taking a relaxing stroll along the Douro River promenade. Enjoy the scenic views of the river, watching as the historic Rabelo boats pass by. Consider crossing the Dom Luis I Bridge once more to catch the sunset from Vila Nova de Gaia, offering a mesmerizing panorama of Porto’s skyline.


Day three in Porto will leave you with a deeper appreciation for the city’s rich history and architectural wonders. As the day comes to an end, reflect on the beauty you’ve witnessed and get ready for a relaxing day by the Douro River on day four.


Day 4: Relaxing by the Douro River

Day four is all about relaxation and taking in the natural beauty of the Douro River. After days of exploring the city and indulging in wine tastings, it’s time to slow down and enjoy the peacefulness of this picturesque region.


Start your day by finding a cozy café near the Douro River and enjoy a leisurely breakfast while admiring the tranquil waters and scenic surroundings. Watch as boats glide by and take in the serene atmosphere of this stunning landscape.


After breakfast, consider taking a leisurely cruise along the Douro River. Choose from a variety of options, including short scenic trips or full-day excursions that take you deeper into the heart of the valley. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the breathtaking views of the terraced vineyards, charming villages, and lush green hillsides.


If you prefer a more active approach, rent a kayak or paddleboard and explore the calm waters of the Douro River at your own pace. Glide along the river, taking in the beauty of the surrounding landscapes and perhaps even stopping for a picnic on a secluded riverbank.


For lunch, find a waterfront restaurant or pack a picnic and enjoy a meal by the river. Indulge in local delicacies and savor the flavors of the region while basking in the tranquility of your surroundings.


In the afternoon, take a leisurely walk or cycle along the Douro River promenade. Explore the charming villages dotted along the riverbank, such as Pinhão, where you can visit wine estates and further indulge in wine tasting experiences.


As the day winds down, find a peaceful spot along the riverbank to relax and enjoy the breathtaking sunset over the Douro Valley. Savor the colors of the sky reflecting on the calm waters, creating a picturesque scene that perfectly captures the serene beauty of the region.


Wrap up your day by indulging in a delicious dinner at one of the many restaurants offering exquisite local cuisine. Pair your meal with a glass of local wine, and toast to the unforgettable experience of relaxation and natural beauty along the Douro River.


With day four complete, you’ve embraced the tranquility and scenic charm of the Douro River, rejuvenating your senses and experiencing a different side of Porto and its surroundings. Get a good night’s rest as day five marks the end of your long weekend getaway.


Day 5: Farewell to Porto and the Douro Valley

As your long weekend in Porto and the Douro Valley comes to an end, take some time to savor your last moments in this enchanting region.


Start your day by enjoying a leisurely breakfast at a local café, savoring the flavors of Portuguese pastries and a cup of locally roasted coffee. Take a moment to reflect on the wonderful experiences you’ve had throughout your trip.


If time allows, consider a final stroll through the streets of Porto to soak in the atmosphere and perhaps pick up some last-minute souvenirs. Explore the local shops and markets, where you can find unique crafts, traditional tiles, and of course, bottles of port wine to take home as a memento of your trip.


Before departing, make one last stop at a quaint café or bakery to indulge in a Porto specialty. Treat yourself to a delicious pastel de nata, a creamy custard tart with a crispy crust that will leave your taste buds longing for more.


As you make your way to the airport or train station, take a moment to appreciate the beauty of the landscapes passing by. Bid farewell to the Douro Valley as you catch glimpses of terraced vineyards and picturesque villages along the way.


As you reflect on your long weekend adventure in Porto and the Douro Valley, you’ll cherish the memories of exploring historic sites, indulging in wine tastings, relaxing by the river, and immersing yourself in the rich culture of this captivating region.


Although your time in Porto and the Douro Valley may be over, the warmth and beauty you experienced will stay with you forever. As you journey back home, carry the spirit of Portugal in your heart, knowing that you’ve experienced a truly magical destination.


Farewell, Porto and the Douro Valley. Until we meet again!