Why travel to Northern Portugal?
Are you are a traveller fascinated by discovering the best food and wine when visiting a new destination? Then this Northern Portugal travel guide is one you should definitely consider! Experience the North of Portugal, not only tasting the gastronomy but explore the rich history visiting UNESCO Heritage sites like in Porto, Guimarães, and the Douro Valley. Get in touch with the natural richness that Northern Portugal has to offer, by walking some of the best nature trails like in the Peneda-Gerês National Park.
Slow down to savour the secrets of Northern Portuguese cuisine, by nature, a slow food culture that can be seen in the rural villages and countryside of the north producing amazing wines and preparing traditional dishes with recipes handed down through the generations. Portuguese gastronomy is very rich with a wide range of flavors, taste fresh locally-made products like the Queijo Serra da Estrela, a delicious cheese with a unique flavor handmade for generations by the local shepherds. In the region, you will also find artisan bread, cured meat, slow-grown vegetables, etc.
Here are some popular dishes that you must try in Northern Portugal:
- Tripas à Moda do Porto: Traditional tripe stew of O Porto cooked with veal tripe, white beans, smoked ham, pork sausage, carrots, onions, spices such as paprika, and cumin, and different cuts of pork and chicken.
- Cozido à Portuguesa: Originally a dish from the north of Lisbon (Beira) that consists of vegetables like rice, potatoes, beans, and cabbage with different slow-boiled meats such as sausages: chouriço, morcelo (blood sausages), pig ears, beef, chicken. A tasty unadorned dish, that will fill up your belly for the whole day!
- Bacalhau à Braga: The star ingredient of Portuguese cuisine, is codfish. This dish consists of sliced fried cod with fried potatoes and onions accompanied by bay leaves and cloves.
- Caldo Verde: Traditional soup from the Minho province, highly popular around the world, made with basic ingredients: potatoes, onion puree, and collard greens. Usually served as a starter at the beginning of a larger meal.
Endless riverside wine trails
Without any doubt, the northern region of Portugal produces excellent wines that pair perfectly with the varied cuisine. You can enjoy different wines in Northern Portugal, for example in the Douro wine region, you can find the famous fortified Port Wine, known for its characteristic sweet-aged taste. Other unique recommended wines of the region that you can taste are Douro Muscat or Douro Sparkling wines.
Popular wine regions of Northern Portugal:
- Douro DOC: The Douro Valley, called the enchanted valley for its beautiful landscape and for producing the famous sweet fortified wine, Port wine. But that is not the only type of wine found in the Douro Valley, as well you can taste young reds of the Douro DOC wine region, even white wines made from the Alvarinho grape variety. Lots of great wines to choose from for wine lovers looking at a new wine destination to explore. Pairing with the wines savour the delicious traditional local food in small villages deep in the Douro valley. Apart from nature and gastronomy in this area, you can visit historic churches and landmarks in the quaint town along the banks of the Douro River.
- Vinho Verde DOC: Vinho Verde (green wine) is produced, between the Douro and Minho region (north-western Portugal). It is the biggest DOC of Portugal where vines grow up in the green, cool, rainy mountainous area of north-western Portugal. The Vinhos Verdes are light and fresh, and you can find the best green wines in the sub-region of Melgaço and Monçao. The wines can be made as a blend of 6 different local grape varieties: Alvarinho, Arinto, Azal, Avesso, Loureiro, and Trajadura. The Alvarinho is the most popular grape and is also made as a mono-varietal wine of the same name.
Unspoiled natural wilderness and historic cities
Nature is dominant in Northern Portugal, dotted with historic villages that stand the test of time made of solid granite the main building material of this region. You could spend days wandering the streets of the small towns, slowing down to really understand the local culture.
Here are some must-see nature parks, towns & cities of Northern Portugal:
- Peneda-Gerês National Park: This beautiful national park is the only one in Portugal, and it is located in the districts of Viana do Castelo, Braga and Vila Real. The national park covers over 270 square miles up to the northwestern Spanish border. Here the soil, water, flora and fauna of this privileged landscape have all been preserved. A must for nature lovers to spend at least a day walking the spectacular green nature trails.
- Viana do Castelo: One of the most beautiful cities of the country popular for its connection to the sea especially the city’s expertise, cod. Dramatic coastlines, breathtaking natural scenery makes this city a must-visit if you are thinking to travel to Portugal.
- Braga: The third largest city of Portugal, full of history and culture considered the religious center of the country, here you can find numerous important landmarks.
- Melgaço: Municipality in Viana do Castelo, known for its unique beauty and delicious food and wine. It is one of the subregions where Vinho Verde is made and you should not leave this place without visiting a winery making the famous Alvarinho, where you can taste the varieties of this unique and delicious wine popular worldwide.
- Guimarães: Considered the heart of Portugal where king Alfonso Henriquez was born, the first king of Portugal. One of the country’s most important historical cities, its center is declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, making it one of the largest tourist attractions of the region.
- Valença do Minho: Located above the Minho/Miño river on the northern border. The river separates Portugal from the city of Tui in Galicia. A village surrounded by a fortress where you can enjoy astonishing views of Galicia and the famous Miño river.
- Porto: Is the second largest city of Portugal after Lisbon and the capital of Northern Portugal, here you can taste some of the finest wines in the country. The city was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1996.
In this Northern Portugal travel guide, our food, wine and walking experts have chosen the best tours and experiences based around walking, food and wine vacations in Northern Portugal. You can check our list of the best food tours to Northern Portugal and recommended historic hotels in the sections of this Northern Portugal travel destination guide. Please contact us if you have any questions!
Capital of Northern Portugal: Porto
Population: 3.573 million (2019)