Porto and more: discover the historical cities of North Portugal

City trip North Portugal


Allthough located in a peaceful and quiet mountain area,  Quinta Rural ~Eco Lodge Cabreira is also a good base location for some health doses of ‘city trip North Portugal . Cities like Porto, Guimaraes, Braga and Barcelos are well within an hours’ drive.  They are all well worth a day trip if you have the time.

I just love wandering through the old streets of cities. Especially here in Portugal, where even a big vibrant city such as Porto still has a ‘village feel’. Fully enjoying the best a city has to offer, knowing I’ll return to the peace & quiet at Quinta Rural ~ Eco Lodge Cabreira, makes it even better.


Take some time to wander through the streets of these historical cities. Get lost in Porto, Portugals second largest city, known old harbor & port wine. Climb the many steps to the famous Bom Jesus church in Braga and enjoy its old inner-city. Fall in love with Guimaraes, UNESCO world heritage. Or visit the largest market of the North, every Thursday in Barcelos. There’s more to discover yet, when checking out mid sized and smaller cities such as Vila Real, Amarante, Chaves etc.

Discover, explore, experience, feel and sense North Portugal



The Portuguese city of Porto is best known for two things: its river, the Douro, an evermore popular choice for river cruises, and its port. But the historic hillside city itself should not be overlooked. One of the oldest cities in Europe, its maze of steep and narrow cobbled streets is home to beautiful plazas, churches and houses with colourfully tiled façades. Outside the historic heart, the city has witnessed a renaissance, its seaside suburbs increasingly home to world-class contemporary architecture and cuisine.
Despite its World Heritage status, the old town, Ribeira, feels strangely abandoned. As Porto’s youth migrate … read more


To see / do in Porto:

  • Porthouses, not only in the Douro valley but also across the old Ribeira : at Cais de Gaia: The city’s postcard skyline and the birthplace of one of the world’s most famous wines (Vila Nova de Gaia).  The Ribeira and Gaia are connected by the Dom Luis Bridge;  ironwork showpiece from before the Eiffel.
  • Palácio da Bolsa, The exuberant interior of the former Stock Exchange Palace
  • Igreja dos Clérigos and the Torre dos Clérigos
  • Livrario Lello, volgens velen de mooiste boekwinkel ter wereld
  • Sao Bento station with the typical Portuguese ´azulejos´ (hand painted tiles)
  • Serralves museum Two buildings that are as much a work of art as the collections they exhibit inside, surrounded by a magnificent park.
  • Casa da Musica, an architectural masterwork by world-renowned Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas.
  • Sao Francisco church: One of Europe’s most extraordinarily lavish church interiors, completely covered in gold.
  • Pilgrimage village  Lamego
  • .metrosystem

Traveling time Eco Lodge Cabreira – Porto inner city : 1 hour and 15 minutes by car,  97 km.  
Bus from Cabeceiras de Basto (8,5 km from Eco Lodge Cabreira) 1,5 hour




It is one of the most important historical cities in the country. Also know as “cidade berço”, Guimarães stands as the birthplace of Portuguese identity and nationality. The city’s cultural heritage is indisputable and several places are recognized as world heritage sites by the UNESCO

Guimaraes is a beautiful city with its own traditional history, large number of unique monuments and architectural sights. The city consists of old streets and squares that are usually in a great state.



Sights in Guimarães:



  • Castelo de Guimarães, built in the tenth century in order to defend the monastery from the threat of Norman and Muslim attacks, and became a place of royal residence in the twelfth century. The castle is still very visually impressive to walk around and explore, and the random collections of stones and grass growing within its walls gives it an ancient feel.
    No entrance fee.
  • Paço dos Duques de Bragança, a stunning insight into history. Built in the fifteenth century for the Duke of Braganza, the palace is a wonderful monument to visit. The Duke was the illegitimate son of King John I and the palace was constructed around the time of his marriage. Entrance is several euros, and is free if you visit on Sunday mornings.
  • Sao Miguel Chapel, he chapel is located just outside the castle of Sao Miguel. The chapel was allegedly the site where King Afonso Henriques was baptised.  Built to last and made with stunning simplicity. There are no statues or art pieces to marvel at. The floor is the site for some graves of some of Afonso’s comrades, and these are honorifically marked with crosses and weaponry. As it is very plain, you would not think that the chapel was once used for worship by the royal family. However, it has a strong connection to the Portuguese monarchs and for this reason alone, it is definitely worth a quick visit. Don’t just walk past it when you visit the castle and palace!

More to see and do in Guimaraes
Guimaraes city guide

blog about Guimaraes

Sightseeing tourbus


Travel time Quinta Rural – Guimaraes: 45 minutes by car, 53 km. (or take the buss from Cabeceiras de Basto)  See google maps



Braga is one of the most beautiful cities in Portugal, with a number of impressive Baroque monuments, including one of the country’s best-known sights, the Bom Jesus Sanctuary. Today it is a modern city with a young population, bustling with commerce and industry surrounding a lively and attractive old center with a number of pedestrian streets.



Sights in Braga



  • Five kilometers (3 miles) east of the center is the spectacular Bom Jesus Sanctuary, one of the masterpieces of European baroque. A twin-towered neoclassical church built in 1784 sits on top of a marvelous Baroque staircase lined with chapels representing the Stations of the Cross, the Stairway of the Five Senses, and the Stairway of the Three Virtues, or the spiritual journey of believers, who must overcome their senses and attain the three virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity in order to gain salvation. Visitors can take an old-fashioned funicular to the top, but it’s best to climb the monumental stairway to appreciate the symbolism and the architecture.
  • The most distinctive of all the other religious monuments is perhaps the Capela dos Coimbras, with a flamboyant Manueline tower and an interior with tile panels depicting the story of Adam and Eve.
  • Sao Frutuoso de Montelis. 3,5 km Northwest of Braga. Remainings of pré roman architecture.
  • Museu dos Biscaínhos, the municipal museum housed in a 17th-century aristocrat’s palace and surrounded by a garden full of statuary and a fountain. Its attractive collection includes Roman relics, pottery, and furniture.
  • The broad main square, Praça da Republica, with fountains and arcaded buildings, connects the old and the new city. Most of the sights are within walking distance, including the city’s fine old churches (there are about three dozens of them) and the splendid  Sé cathedral (the country’s oldest).

During Easter, the entire city blazes with lights & life for a week and there is a torchlight procession of hooded participants.

Check out this sightseeing bus tour


Travel time starting from Quinta Rural: 56 minutes car ride, 75 km. See Directions 




Noisy, chaotic and rich with colour and life, the weekly Thursday market in Barcelos attracts people from the Minho region to buy and sell all manner of things. You’ll find cheap clothes and shoes, fresh fruit and vegetables, lots of ceramics, lampshades, kitchenware, traditional tools and farming equipment as well as souvenirs and handicrafts. The Barcelos market  started life as an annual event in 15th century and remains an important element of the local economy and culture.

Barcelos is a small town known for its pottery and the most widely-recognized symbol of Portugal — the Barcelos Cockerel.  A 13th-century legend says a pilgrim on his way to Santiago de Compostela stopped in Barcelos and was wrongly accused of theft and sentenced to death by hanging. He was spared when he stated that to prove his innocence, the roasted rooster that the judge was about to eat would get up and crow. It did, and since then, brightly painted ceramic cockerels are sold throughout Portugal as symbols of good luck.

Barcelos is also one of the cities on the Portuguese Caminho de São Tiago da Compostela. The tourist information centre should have some pocket leaflets with details of what you can see on the Barcelos stretch of the route. As you’d expect, the main highlights are chapels, churches and bridges, as well as pretty countryside.



Other sight seeing in Barcelos


the Museu Arqueológico open-air archaeological museum is not only free but puts the ruined Counts of Barcelos Palace to good use. It’s open to the skies and overlooks Barcelinhos across the river as well as a 15th century manor house. The exhibits in this museum are made of stone and tiles and continue to withstand the elements centuries after they were made. This is where you’ll find the stone Crucifix to the Lord of the Rooster (Cruzeiro do Senhor do Galo) which was erected by the poor fellow who only escaped death because of a rooster.

  • the pottery museum, Museu de Olaria. Barcelos has inspired many varieties of ceramics and pottery over the years, from earthenware pots to bushy-eyebrowed ladies.
  • the Nossa Senhora do Terço church
  • the Centro do Artesanato de Barcelos (handicrafts centre)
  • royal palace with gothic pelourinho
  • ruins of the Igreja Matriz, 13th century church
  • campo da Republica: the Igreja do Senhor da Cruz ( baroque), the Nossa Senhora do Terço (azulejos)
  • castelo de Barcelos

Barcelos can be combined with an ocean visit. The beach of Esposende is quite near and popular amongst tourists. If you´re looking for something less modern, you might want to go to Povia de Varzim. (about 30 kms from Barcelos).
You will come across Fafe, Guimaraes and Braga on your way to Barcelos.

Traveling time Quinta Rural – Barcelos: 1 hour and 5 minutes by car, 90 km. Google maps