Porto and the North
Porto - Viana do Castelo - Amares - Guimaraes (Santa Marinha)
This route starts in the historical and vibrant city of Porto with several nights in the grand Palacio de Freixo. Enjoy the history of one of Portugal’s oldest cities and don’t miss a visit to Gaia, home of the famous Port wine houses.
Porto is the principal city of the region – it’s Portugal’s second city and gave the country its name. Only an hour and a half or so from the UK by air, Porto is rapidly becoming one of the most popular ‘city break’ destinations for visitors from this country, and for good reason. Most of the historic quarter can comfortably be explored on foot, and a spectacular view of the city and of Vila Nova de Gaia (Gaia for short) on the other side of the Douro can be seen from the splendid Romanesque-Gothic cathedral in the old quarter. Another, more leisurely, way of seeing both Porto and Gaia is by taking a trip on one of the river boats that run between the eastern edge of the city and the point at which the Douro enters the Atlantic.
STAY: POUSADA DE PORTO
Built around 1742, the Palácio do Freixo (Freixo Palace) is one of the most remarkable examples of Portuguese baroque architecture in Porto. The property consists of two interconnecting buildings: the palace, which houses the restaurant, bar, lounges and meeting rooms; and the former 'Harmonia' Flour Factory, where the rooms are to be found, some of them boasting magnificent river views, and where youwill find a state of the art spa. This beautiful Pousada is situated just upstream from Porto's old quarter on the north bank of the Douro river. The palace is perfectly located for exploring Porto and its remarkable heritage and serves as a great base from which to visit the port-wine producing region of the Douro Valley. We recommend you enjoy 2 nights here, there is so much history and culture to explore in this wonderful, colourful city.
North of Porto is the ‘Costa Verde’, running up to the River Minho and the Spanish border. The principal town on this coast is the elegant resort of Viana do Castelo, famous throughout Portugal for its ‘Fiesta of Fiestas’ on the third weekend of August. A short drive up the coast and brings you to Viana do Castelo, the next stop and a very popular location for the Portuguese, with wonderful beaches nearby.
STAY: POUSADA DE VIANA DO CASTELO
This splendid Pousada has the extravagant, leisurely aura of an earlier era of hotels – it is in fact the result of a modern restoration of a palatial hotel dating from the early years of the 20th century. Located high on a hill above a beautiful church and next to the site of an ancient Celtic village whose remains can still be seen, the hotel has spectacular views across beautiful scenery, the port and city of Viana do Castelo (with its many
16th-century buildings) and the dramatic coastline. The Pousada’s peace and tranquillity is enhanced by the gardens and woodland surrounding it, complete with swimming pool and tennis court.
The following day, drive north to the little town of Vila Nova de Cerveira, on the banks of the river Minho which forms the natural border between Portugal and Spain. Our route then continues south; through the rural Minho region, to the next stop at the beautifully converted 12th century monastery at Amares.
STAY: POUSADA DE AMARES
Originally a 12th-century Cistercian monastery, Santa Maria do Bouro has been charmingly modernized by the awardwinning Portuguese architect Souto Moura. It has retained its character of monastic serenity but now offers a high degree of comfort and tasteful modern décor, including a particularly inviting swimming pool in the adjoining garden. Surrounded by lush fields and vineyards where the famous Vinho Verde wine is produced, this quite exceptional Pousada is situated in the beautiful Minho region of northern Portugal between the historic city of Braga – the religious capital of Portugal – and the stunning Peneda Gerês National Park.
From Amares you can enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Peneda/Gerês national park and the historic town of Braga before driving south to the next stop at the birthplace of Portugal Guimaraes, with its beautifully preserved historic centre and a stay at the enchanting Santa Marinha Pousada.
STAY: POUSADA DE GUIMARAES SANTA MARINHA
Set on a hill overlooking the city of Guimarães, the majestic Pousada set in a former 12th-century Augustinian monastery, received the National Architectural Prize in 1985 for its meticulous restoration. Retaining many original features including its decorative façade, it has been transformed into a most impressive 51-room hotel. There is a formal garden, a lake, a terrace with granite fountains, a cloister, a grotto and a swimming pool. The grounds are tranquil and the history hidden around every corner in this Pousada makes for an unforgettable stay.
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