Ideal for quiet relaxing break
The pretty, unspoilt towns and villages of the Douro Valley retain an old world charm and warm, friendly hospitality. Narrow cobbled streets, traditional whitewashed houses and terracotta roofs rub shoulders with ornate Baroque churches and impressive palaces, not least in the beautiful city of Porto. If you’re visiting in late June, join the locals for their biggest annual festival, the Festa de São João, when the whole city turns out for dazzling fireworks, street performances, dancing and all-round merriment.
One of the most relaxing ways to enjoy the breathtaking scenery of the Douro Valley is from the deck of a cruise boat, whether on a short, hour-long tour passing under Porto’s beautiful bridges, or a longer trip up-stream. Don’t miss the chance to climb the magnificent tiers of granite steps leading up to the striking Baroque church of Nossa Senhora dos Remedios in Lamego, or take a leisurely wander around Porto’s historic, bustling streets.
For almost 2000 years the dramatic, undulating landscape of the Alto Douro region has produced not only great wine and port but also delicious olives and almonds, transported on the quirky rabelo sailing boats still seen on the River Douro today. Take a drive along the area’s winding roads, visiting ancient monasteries, traditional village churches, Baroque palaces and Renaissance cathedrals, or sit back and enjoy the spectacular riverside views from the carriages of the Douro railway’s vintage steam train.
Many of the Douro Valley’s estates and vineyards offer a warm welcome to visitors with an invitation to tour the cellars and presses and sample their excellent produce on-site. Olive oil, wine and port are the main specialties, whilst bacalhao (salted cod) and ‘Porto-style’ tripe are among the favourite regional dishes, along with smoked ham and sometimes wild boar. If these delicacies fail to tickle your taste buds, the sweet pastries of Amarante certainly won’t – from ‘papos de anjo’ (syrupy cakes) to ‘toucinho do céu’ (almond tart), these treats are hard to resist.