Do you live in the Porto area or are you passing through and want ideas to plan your weekend for two or with family or friends? All About Portugal presents you with 10 possible destinations to explore, in different types of activities, capable of pleasing different tastes and moods. They are all located on the outskirts of Porto, less than a two-hour journey from the center. In an area so rich in heritage, history, culture and landscape, it is not difficult to find things to visit near Porto, whose Historic Center was classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1996.
Take the Ecopista Caminho do Rio
Vila Nova de Cerveira is known as the “Vila das Artes” (Arts' Village), for promoting the oldest Art Biennale in the Iberian Peninsula. But there is much more about this region, located close to the border with Spain. The Ecopista Caminho do Rio, which has around 13 kilometers of constant contact with the Minho River and Nature, is another reason that justifies considering weekend plans for this region. It can be covered on foot or by bicycle and joins the river beaches of Mota and Montorros, on the border with Valença. The route runs along most of the waterfront and crosses several points of interest. One of the main ones is the Parque de Lazer do Castelinho, which combines a pedagogical aspect related to nature with recreational activities such as a children's playground, a geriatric park or playing fields for practicing different modalities. This is also where the Aquamuseum is located, which aims to promote the natural heritage of the river and where you can observe several fauna species. In its vicinity, the Aquatic Park is another very popular facility in the summer.
Hike in Gerês
If you are a “nature lover”, you cannot miss one of the many signposted walking trails in the Peneda-Gerês National Park, located right in the north of Portugal, a region rich in green areas and nature. This is the only National Park in Portugal and stands out for its fauna, botanical and historical-cultural variety, comprising the municipalities of Arcos de Valdevez, Melgaço, Montalegre, Ponte da Barca and Terras de Bouro. There are pedestrian routes that are more or less demanding, depending on the level of difficulty and the physical preparation of those who want to walk them. One of the shortest and easiest is the Interpretative Trail of Mezio, 2.2 kilometers long. On the other hand, the Castrejo Trail, with almost 17 kilometers, is one of the most demanding. In the middle of the walks, there are also stunning waterfalls to enjoy or even cool off. Also, not to be missed are the viewpoints from which it is possible to contemplate beautiful landscapes such as Pedra Bela, which guarantees a portentous view over the bridges of the Caldo River, where there are several river beaches.
Discover the castles of the North
When considering what to visit near Porto, getting to know the most emblematic castles in the North of Portugal is a possibility you should consider. We propose that this “mini tour” starts at the Castle of Guimarães, where the first king of Portugal, D. Afonso Henriques, was born. Like the fortresses that we suggest below, it is a National Monument, and it was built in the 10th century, and it functioned first as a monastery and, later, it was expanded and adapted to a fortress and a Castle. Also in the Braga district, Póvoa de Lanhoso Castle impresses with its admirable architecture and location on a high hill. Still in Minho, Lindoso Castle is one of the most visited spots in the municipality of Ponte da Barca, and is a highly photogenic setting with the surroundings of the mountains and a set of 64 granite granaries. Close to Porto, but towards the south, in the district of Aveiro, Santa Maria da Feira has a beautiful and well-preserved castle, which is considered one of the most iconic Portuguese military monuments.
Route through the Minho sanctuaries
Whether for belief or curiosity, religious tourism attracts many enthusiasts, and we suggest you plan a weekend to visit some of the main sanctuaries in Minho. Two of the best known and sought after are located in Braga, and are almost “neighbours”. The Bom Jesus do Monte Sanctuary has been classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site since 2019 and is the “ex libris” of the city. The grandiose Basilica, the main altar, the iconic stairways with the Via Sacra stations and the water-powered elevator stand out. Close by, the Sanctuary of Nossa Senhora do Sameiro welcomes thousands of pilgrims every year. It offers beautiful views, and the vaulted roof of its Basilica and the carillon of bells stands out. In the neighboring municipality of Amares, the Sanctuary of Nossa Senhora da Abadia dates from the 18th century and is located in an area where quietness and green spaces predominate. On the way to Gerês, the Sanctuary of São Bento da Porta Aberta, in Terras de Bouro, has hundreds of years of tradition and also annually receives thousands of believers.
Extreme weekend in Ribeira de Pena
For those who like to test their adrenaline or simply spend a different weekend full of challenging activities, we suggest a trip to Pena Aventura, a park for recreational and extreme activities, located in Ribeira de Pena, in the district of Vila Real, which is about 1h15 from Porto. The fantasticable, which is one of the largest in the world, is the park's main attraction and provides the sensation of “flying” at 150 meters high over a kilometer and a half at a maximum speed of 130 kilometers per hour. The Alpine Coaster, where you go up and down in toboggan-style cars on a 700-meter course full of curves, is another very popular activity. There is also the big air jump, with jumps of up to seven meters to a giant inflatable mattress, crazy cart, adventure routes, rafting, slide, climbing or paintball. In the same municipality, and free to use, walk across the wire bridge of Santo Aleixo de Além-Tâmega, an ingenious structure.
Take a cruise to Régua
This is a suggestion that also allows you to rest from the steering wheel if you already use it in your daily life. Much sought after by Portuguese and foreign tourists, cruises on the Douro offer visitors an enchanting region with stunning landscapes. We propose one of the cruises that goes to or departs from Peso da Régua, a city in the district of Vila Real, which is one of the main destinations for cruises in the Douro region. For those who are in Porto and want to take this cruise, there are companies that take customers by train or bus to Régua, with the return trip being made by boat. It is also possible to go and return to Porto by boat, on a two-day trip. The Régua area has great natural beauty and these cruises are a great way to appreciate the Alto Douro Vinhateiro region, which UNESCO has classified as a World Heritage Site. Its “trademark” are the splendid landscapes in which the Douro river combines perfectly with the terraced vineyards.
Walk along the Paiva Walkways
Another interesting proposal for those who want to walk in nature around Porto. Inaugurated in 2015, they quickly became one of the main tourist attractions in the municipality of Arouca, in the north of the district of Aveiro. Located on one of the banks of the Paiva River, the wooden walkways are nine kilometers long and allow you to see breathtaking views of a region where nature has been so generous. Integrated in the Arouca Geopark area, classified as a Geological Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO, Passadiços do Paiva has already received several distinctions in the World Travel Awards in the categories of “Best Adventure Tourism Attraction in the World” and in Europe, and even “Best Europe Tourism Development Project”. The Aguieiras waterfall is a beautiful example of what you can enjoy. If you still have energy, take the opportunity to visit 516 Arouca, the longest suspended pedestrian bridge in the world. Formed by railings and steel cables, it is 516 meters long, 1.20 meters wide and 175 meters high above the Paiva River.
Visit the Portuguese Venice by moliceiro boat
Located 75 kilometers from Porto, the beautiful city of Aveiro is a very pleasant destination to consider when thinking about weekend plans and what to visit near Porto. Nicknamed the Portuguese Venice, due to the various canals in its historic center, one of its main tourist attractions is the typical and colorful moliceiro boat rides. These boats were used to collect "moliço", an algae widely used to fertilize agricultural land, and today they are one of the main tourist attractions in the city, which is also well known for its tasty soft and sweet eggs (ovos moles). The tours usually last 45 minutes and run along the five canals of the city: the Central, the Côjo, the Pirâmides, the São Roque and the Santos Mártires, or Paraíso, as it is also known. These walks on the urban channels of the Ria de Aveiro are an original way of discovering various points of interest and monuments in the city. If the weather is good, you can also take a dip in the region's beaches and enjoy the typical houses.
Enjoying Nature at Lagoa da Pateira de Fermentelos
One more idea to be explored by those who love nature. It extends through the municipalities of Águeda, Aveiro and Oliveira do Bairro, being the largest natural lagoon in the Iberian Peninsula. It is part of the Natura 2000 Network, given the richness of its habitats and biodiversity, and is a “mandatory” natural paradise for birdwatchers and photographers, due to the number and diversity of birds that nest there. Altogether there will be more than 150 species that can be found in Pateira de Fermentelos, which offers an idyllic space with a large mirror of water, where the sunset is also worthy of being properly appreciated. The red heron, the gray heron, various types of ducks, the sandpiper, the black kite, the sapphire eagle, the kingfisher or the black ibis are some of the birds that can be identified in this region. In the surrounding area you can also see otters, foxes or wild boar. Since you're in the region, go to Mealhada to taste the area's favorite dish, roast suckling pig à la Moda da Bairrada.
Relaxing weekend at Termas de São Pedro do Sul
If your weekend plans involve recharging your “batteries” and relaxing body and mind, we suggest a trip to Termas de São Pedro do Sul, a village in the district of Viseu that is well known for its spa, one of the main spa resorts in Portugal. The Spas are open all year round and are recommended for the treatment of various pathologies such as problems related to the respiratory tract, musculoskeletal diseases or rheumatism. The spas are spread over two buildings, Balneário D. Afonso Henriques, aimed at therapeutic thermalism and physiotherapy, and Balneário Rainha D. Amélia, dedicated to thermal well-being. This service gives priority to relaxation, taking advantage of the distinct characteristics of the thermal water. You can choose between the thermal circuit, deep and relaxing massage, relaxation programs for two, relaxation massage, hot stone massage, shower with massage or exfoliation and body hydration. For the face, there is also an anti-wrinkle treatment or facial massage.