One Hour From » Porto

Follow the river of gold to see ships, find religion and pass the port.
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The Independent Travel

Vila do Conde

Vila do Conde

A small but bustling seaside resort which was once a noted ship-building community. Day-trippers aside, it retains a distinctive charm and the beaches are some of the best you'll find in the area. Praia de Forno and Praia de Nosso Senhora have calm shallow waters and are particularly good for children. Look out also for the traditional lace.

By car: take the IC 1 highway and follow the signs; journey time approx 30 mins. By bus: frequent service from Sao Bento station; journey time approx 50 mins.

Vila Nova de Gaia

Cross the River Douro to discover Port central and take advantage of the wine tastings and tours. Most of the historic port houses, or lodges, are open to the public, including top names such as Taylor's. Pick of the Portuguese is the Ferreira, which runs a pretty good tour. If time allows, visit the 16th century Mosteiro da Serra do Pilar, which has a terrific view over the city.

By car: cross the Ponte de Dom Luis 1 and follow signs; journey time approx 10 mins. By bus: take buses 57 or 91 from Sao Bento station; journey time approx 15 mins.


The religious centre of Portugal, home to Se, the country's oldest cathedral, above, dating from 1070. Soak up the Baroque surroundings and have a coffee in Praca da Republica, before seeking out such other sights as the former archbishop's palace and the Museo dos Biscainhos, with fine Roman relics.

By car: take the A3 and follow the signs; journey time approx one hour. By bus: hourly REDE Expressos service; journey time approx one hour.


Thanks to Afonso Henriques, who launched the Reconquista against the Moors from here in 1130, Guimaraes is often called "the cradle of the nation". If you are tempted to sleep over, Guimaraes has two magnificent pousadas: in town, the 16th-century Pousada de Nossa Senhora da Oliveira; in the country, the Pousada de Santa Marinha, a former monastery.

By car: take the A3, followed by the A7; journey time approx 45 mins. By bus: frequent REDE Expressos service; journey time approx 50 mins.


Beautiful balconied houses tumble down the steep banks of the Rio Tamega, which runs through this town founded by the 13th-century hermit Goncalo. Time your visit to the first Saturday of June and take part in the Festas de Junho, which includes an all-night drumming competition, bullfights and fireworks.

By car: take the A4 and follow signs; journey time approx one hour. By train: take the narrow gauge Linha da Tamega from the main line at Livracao; journey time one hour-plus.

Douro river cruises

Hop on one of the brightly coloured Barcos Rabelos, the flat-bottomed boats, which once took the port down from the vineyards, on the "river of gold". Cruise further upstream to see the stunning steep terraces of vineyards drop dramatically down to the river.

By boat: cruise boats depart hourly from Cais de Ribeira and Cais de Estiva; journey time 55 mins.

Magic of Portugal (0870 546 2442; offers three nights at the Hotel Internacional from £295 per person, including flights and private transfers; car hire from £66 for three days.