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Northern Portugal Road Trip

This Northern Portugal road trip itinerary has been carefully designed so you can truly discover this stunning region. This region is home to rolling hills, incredible baroque architecture and of course delicious port wine. North Portugal is in fact the region where the country was founded. Furthermore, northern Portugal has its own unique culture and cuisine which is amazing to experience.

This road trip is from north to south. The journey is fairly short so if you wish to start and end in the same place, the drive back to the starting destination shouldn’t take too long. Of course, you can change the order or starting point to best suit your travel plans.

This road trip of Northern Portugal is 220 km (less than 3 hours of driving) and best enjoyed over the period of 5 – 7 days, if not longer.

Braga

1st stop on the Northern Portugal Road Trip

How long should I stay here: 1 day

The first stop on this road trip around northern Portugal is Braga. Braga is a very sweet city and is also home to one of the most significant religious structures in the country. Braga is not as popular as many of the other Portuguese cities, and we really don’t understand why. It is the perfect city to get lost in, with so much to see, do, and of course, eat! Braga has the charm of a small town, but with all the culture and heritage of a large city– this is what makes Braga an essential stop on this road trip of northern Portugal.

Braga - Northern Portugal

Things to do

Bom Jesus Do Monte

This landmark is a series of fantastic baroque stairways which zig-zag their way up Monte Espinho towards the church. This attraction is so unique, it has become one of the most photographed churches in the world. Even if you are not religious (like us) this is still a magnificent place to visit.

Braga Cathedral

Braga is home to the oldest cathedral in Portugal, you simply must visit it when you’re in the picturesque city. A crazy fact about the cathedral is that it is literally older than Portugal. This sounds impossible but it was erected decades before Portugal was ‘founded’. We definitely recommend going inside the cathedral, it only costs €2 per person.

Where to Stay

Campervan/ Motorhome

We stayed in quite a few different locations all over Braga and its outskirts. None of these spots were perfect, in fact, they’re quite simplistic. No frills. No facilities. And no scenic views. They merely serve the purpose of being conveniently located to the city of Braga, and the amazing Bom Jesus. If you want to stay in one of the free spots we stayed at, you can find out more information below.

Where to park overnight in Braga. 

Hotel

Hostel – Dans L’Atelier Hostel

  • from €15 per person per night for a 10-bed dormitory
  • Central location
  • free towels
  • balcony overlooking the historic centre

Budget – Souto Guest House

  • 3 stars
  • from €56 per night
  • Central location
  • 190m from the cathedral
  • clean, modern rooms
  • free toiletries

Luxury – Melia Braga Hotel & Spa

  • 5 stars
  • from £127 per night
  • spa with indoor and outdoor pools
  • modern rooms with contemporary design
  • great city views

Amarante

2nd stop on the Northern Portugal Road Trip

How long should I stay here: 1 day

70 km from Seville (50-minute drive)

The next stop on our Northern Portugal road trip is the charming medieval town of Amarante. This town has a long and interesting history. But undeniably the best thing about Amarante is that it is absolutely picture-perfect. As soon as you cross the iconic São Gonçalo Bridge into the historic centre you are surrounded by magnificent old buildings. Founded in 360 BC, this small town is one of the oldest settlements in the country. You will find interesting buildings and also interesting (unusual) sweet treats here.

Amarante

Things to do

Discover the historic centre of Amarante

The tall stone arched bridge which leads you to the centre of Amarante is both an essential crossing point and the image which is quintessentially Amarante. This 18th-century bridge is the top attraction in Amarante and was built to replace a 13th-century bridge.

Once you cross the bridge make sure you tick off all of the main sights in the historical centre of Amarante. This includes the churches – São Gonçalo and São Domingos.

Try the local delicacy

For some reason, Amarante has long been associated with love and fertility. This sentiment has lead to the creation of some rather phallic pastries. This is quite surprising considering this is a deeply religious and conservative town.

There are a few different variations of the sweet treat. Generally speaking, they all are shaped to look like a penis and are either filled with cream or covered in white icing. All very suggestive. These ‘bolos’ are for sale all over the town. You will find them in most cafes and even small stalls that sell bags of these quirky pastries.

Where to Stay

Campervan/ Motorhome

The medieval town of Amarante is pretty small with narrow winding roads. Finding an overnight camping spot in the centre of the town is simply not possible. There is a good car park around a 15-minute walk from the town which is perfectly adequate.

The parking area is very level and is located close to the river so the sound of the rushing water is very present. The car park seems quite unofficial, and is not too close to the road so it felt very safe. This parking spot caters to vehicles small and large.

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Hotel

There is not a huge range of hotel options in Amarante because it is such a small town. There is however a couple of decent options. No hostels though.

Budget – Hotel Navarras

  • 3 stars
  • from €50 per night
  • Located in the historic centre
  • Balcony with panoramic views of the town

Luxury – Casa da Calçada

  • 5 stars
  • from €150 per night
  • Located in the historic centre
  • Stunning interior inside 16th-century manor
  • swimming pool

Porto

3rd stop on the Northern Portugal Road trip

62 km from Amarante (46-minute drive)

How long should I stay here: 2 days, at least

When thinking about northern Portugal, Porto is probably the first city that comes to mind. Porto is the second largest city in the country and is incredibly popular with tourists. This beautiful city has so much to offer, from its fantastic culture and history to its classic port wine. This city is incredibly picture perfect with its cute riverside cafes and gorgeous azulejos tiles which cover much of the structures in the city. Porto is such a unique and interesting city which is full of little surprising quirks for you to discover.

Porto collage

Things to do

Stroll along Cais da Ribeira

Cais da Ribeira is a fantastic little riverside promenade. You will find great places to eat here with a fantastic view of the Dom Luís I Bridge – the double-decker arched metal bridge. This makes for an excellent photo backdrop. This area is usually bustling with both tourists and locals.

If you plan on taking a river tour (6 bridges river cruise) this is the place to catch the boat. There are a few different operators here offering very similar packages. To get the best deal, be sure to book online in advance.

Check Out Livraria Lello

Livraria Lello is one of the most stunning bookshops on the planet. From the outside, it looks fairly unassuming however, the inside has some serious wow factor. The interior has a very unique style which is a mix of art nouveau and Gothic. With its incredibly grand central staircase and stained glass ceiling, this place is seriously beautiful. This bookshop is said to have inspired J K Rowlings Harry Potter scenery.

Be prepared, this bookshop can get incredibly busy with tourists. Your pictures will not look like the ones you find online of one person standing alone in the shop. It costs €5 to enter the bookshop, however, if you buy a book, this €5 will be taken off of the cost of your book.

Eat A Famous Francesinha

Porto is of course known for its port wine, but northern Portugal is also known for the francesinha. This traditional Portuguese dish is essentially a big meaty sandwich covered in cheese sitting in a tomato and beer sauce. It sounds pretty revolting but it is actually delicious. This sandwich is on the menu all over Portugal however many of the Portuguese people we met suggested that we tried the dish in northern Portugal. They say that the meal is not so good once you travel further south.

Where to Stay

Campervan/ Motorhome

Like most of the major cities in Europe, Porto is not the most campervan friendly. Although it is possible to park in many areas close to the city, these spots are notorious for theft. To avoid our campervan getting broken into or damaged, we opted to stay a little bit further from the centre of the city.

We felt very safe in this spot. We also stayed in a free aire around 30 miles from the city which had fantastic facilities including free electricity and a very clean toilet block. Find out more about the places we parked in and around Porto below.

Where To Park Overnight In Porto

Hotel

Hostel – Porto Wine Hostel

  • from €19 per person per night for a 6-bed dormitory
  • Central location
  • Classical Portuguese architecture
  • modern facilities
  • Welcome glass of Port wine

Budget – HaoBo Porto Center

  • 3 stars
  • from €69 per night
  • garden and terrace
  • excellent location
  • 900m from Livraria Lello bookshop
  • clean and modern rooms

Luxury – Bonjardim 560

  • 5 stars
  • from €164 per night
  • excellent location
  • outdoor swimming pool and garden
  • sun terrace
  • modern, fresh rooms

Aveiro

4th stop on the Northern Portugal Road trip

76 km from Porto (49-minute drive)

How long should I stay here: 1 day

Aveiro is a sweet little fishing village on the west coast of Portugal. This town is very recognisable for its network of canals which run right through its historic centre, many people compare this town to Venice for this very reason. Aveiro has its own very unique style with its colourful houses, boats and bridges. Truly there is so much to see in this little town.

10 Things To See And Do In Aveiro

Aveiro - Northern portugal

Things to do

Ride A Moliceiro

Moliceiro is the name for the unique, gondola-style boats you will see all over the canals in Aveiro. These boats, which fit around 25 passengers, are carefully painted with bright, intricate designs. Traditionally, these boats were used for harvesting seaweed in Aveiro lagoon, now they are used to take tourists on adventures around the canals.

There are a lot of different companies offering boat tours, generally, they all seem to be the same price. You can take a 45-minute tour around the canals and lagoon for €13. Different tour operators take different routes and some don’t head out to the lagoon, so be sure you know what you’re getting before you pay for your ride.

Explore The Sights On A Free Bike

One of the fantastic things about the city of Aveiro is that they supply free bikes for you to use at your leisure. These bikes are called ‘buga bikes’ and you can hire them from the stall across the canal from the forum shopping centre. All you need to use these bikes is a piece of ID to leave at the stall as insurance that you will bring the bike back.

Cycle along the canals and soak in all of the beautiful bright colours. Check out the most beautiful Art Nouveau buildings in different pastel shades near Jardim do Rossio. Another amazing thing to discover in Aveiro is the different bridges. We loved the ones covered with thousands of pieces of ribbon in the heart of the town.

Where to Stay

Campervan/ Motorhome

Aveiro has a decent free camping area roughly a 20-minute walk from the centre of town. This area has free freshwater as well as a dumping area for grey and black water. This parking area is a perfect stopover for visiting the sweet town. The parking spot can get pretty busy but there is an overflow area across the road which is also pretty flat. Both of these areas feel very safe.

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Hotel

Hostel – HI Aveiro – Pousada de Juventude

  • from €19.50 per person per night for a 6-bed dormitory
  • city centre location
  • very basic and clean
  • Free breakfast

Budget – Aveiro Rossio Bed & Breakfast

  • 3 stars
  • from €59 per night
  • great location in the heart of the historical centre
  • Free continental breakfast

Luxury –Hotel Aveiro Palace

  • 4 stars
  • from €110 per night
  • city centre location
  • View of central canals with Moliceiro boats
  • recently renovated historic building

Costa Nova

5th stop on the Northern Portugal Road trip

13 km from Aveiro (16-minute drive)

How long should I stay here: 1 day

Heading west from Aveiro you will find the fabulously colourful seaside town of Costa Nova. This fishing village is famous for its wonderfully cute stripy cottages which line the promenade. Not only is this little village gorgeous, but it also has a fantastic sandy beach which has dunes, wooden walkways and the tallest lighthouse in Portugal. This is an idyllic little resort town which is a must-see destination.

Costa Nova - Northern Portugal

Things to do

Admire Praia da Costa Nova

This is where you will find all of the picture-perfect stripey cottages. Walk along the promenade admiring the houses. Be sure to go a few streets back too to find some more funky, colourful properties. These cottages truly are the best backdrop for your holiday photos

Spend Time On The Beach

The beach in Costa Nova is incredibly desirable. An expansive stretch of soft golden sand with the peaceful sound of crashing waves. This is a pretty decent spot for surfing if the conditions work in your favour. Ultimately, this is a great place to relax. The beach is so big but it feels almost undiscovered as it never gets busy.

This beach can get pretty windy and the water can be quite rough. Take care if you go swimming, especially in unsupervised areas.

Tour

If you have limited time to spend in Northern Portugal, we would recommend that you cut your time in Costa nova short. It is a small town which you can explore fairly quickly. Although we loved spending time here. A day trip from Aveiro would have also satisfied us.

Where to Stay

Campervan/ Motorhome

There is a great parking area for motorhomes here right between the colourful cottages and the beach. This is an unofficial camping area but we really liked it. A wooden walkway leads you straight to the beach from the camp area. There is a bar onsite which sells cheap snacky food which is a nice little treat. There are also outdoor showers here which are very convenient after spending your day on the sandy beach.

Conclusion

Our personal Northern Portugal favourites:

City in Northern Portugal – Porto

Activity in Northern Portugal – visiting Bom Jesus Do Monte in Braga

If this post has inspired you to visit Northern Portugal, make sure you check out our Portugal Page which has all of our posts letting you know everything you need to know about what to see and where to stay.

Don’t hesitate to leave a comment down below if you have any questions and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

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Plan your dream road trip through Northern Portugal with this epic road trip itinerary. We'll show you how to spend a perfect week in this beautiful region. Travelling north to south from Braga to Costa Nova, including amazing destinations Aveiro, Porto and Amarante. #Europe | Portugal road trip | Portugal travel | Where to go in Portugal | Things to do in Portugal | Driving around Portugal

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