Plan your perfect day trip from Porto!
The north of Portugal is a stunning region with so much to offer. Diverse in both history and natural beauty. And to this day I still cannot understand why so many travellers steer clear of this area. If you are visiting, why not plan a day trip from Porto, or better yet, a few!
With so much to see and do, there are plenty of awesome day trips which will allow you to fully discover the cities, villages and region which are only a short hop out of Porto.
In this post I’m going to highlight a few of my favourites, hopefully inspiring you travel the length and breadth of northern Portugal. I promise you, you will thank me later!
Before you go, be sure to plan & book your Portugal Travel Essentials:
- Search & Book flights here on Skyscanner
- Book your car rental through AutoEurope
- Search hotels here on Booking.com, or on VRBO for apartment-style stays
- Click here to browse & book bus and train tickets
- Lastly, don’t forget about travel insurance for your trip!
Pssst…Don’t forget to read our Portugal packing list post to ensure you’ve got all your travel essentials packed and ready for your holiday to Portugal!
1. Guimarães Day Trip from Porto – the birthplace of Portugal
When we arrived in Porto, we were told by our Portuguese hosts that we have to visit Guimarães, which is regarded as the ‘Birthplace’ of Portugal and also where the first King of Portugal, Afonso Henriques lived. And we were so glad we did. This is one of my favourite places to visit in Portugal. Picturesque, historic and welcoming, it has a lot going for it and definitely top of my list! Today the town is classed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site given it’s historic significance to Portugal. And situated just over an hour by train it’s a great day out of the city.
What to see & do in Guimarães:
For starters you would want to wander through and admire all there is to see in the historic town centre. With it’s quaint buildings, beautiful squares and churches, there’s lots to see here. The great thing about Guimarães is that it is a very compact city, which means you can quite easily get by on foot. You certainly have to pay a visit the elegant Ducal Palace of Braganza (Paço dos Duques de Bragança) and after that the Guimarães Castle, well, what’s left of the castle.
Just down from the castle you can also go see the church of São Miguel, which is rumoured to be where King Afonso Henriques was baptised. These 3 (the Ducal Palace, the Castle and the church) are all located quite close to each other and definitely the top attractions to visit.
Top tip: When we visited, we bought a combo ticket when we entered the Ducal Palace. This gave us entry to the Palace and the Castle. It also meant we were able to skip the very long queue of people waiting to buy tickets at the castle entrance.
Another tip: Locate the tourism office which is not far from the historic town centre. The staff were super helpful and gave us a map and explained where we could find all the major attractions in and around Guimarães!
How to get to Guimarães:
At just over an hour by train from Porto’s São Bento or Porto Campanha train stations, the trip from Porto to Guimaraes is a great day trip option. Tickets cost around € 3.25 one-way and can be purchased online or through the Comboios de Portugal’s website (which is the Portuguese rail company).
2. Visiting Aveiro from Porto
Aveiro is a popular choice as far as day trips from Porto goes. It is often referred to as the ‘Venice of Portugal’ due it’s lake and colourful gondolas that certainly draw in the crowds.
But, to be completely honest, personally I think comparing Aveiro to Venice is a tad bit of stretch! It certainly is not comparable, but regardless, it’s pretty amazing in it’s own right.
What Aveiro has going for it, is a gorgeous town with the most amazing tiles we have seen to date in Portugal. Not to mention the delicious food, sweets (try Ovos Moles de Aveiro) and awesome hospitality.
And it’s for these reasons that I would highly recommend an Aveiro day trip.
Aveiro – what to do:
Stepping straight out of the train station you are immediately greeted by the stunning old train station with it’s traditional white and blue tiles. You will no doubt be snapping a few pics here!
Then head straight ahead down Av. Dr. Lourenço Peixinho and marvel at the art deco buildings that line either side of this long avenue.
You will then reach the lake (the Venice part!). And at this point I would honestly just hit a right and start wandering through, and get lost in all the side-streets and alleyways and take tons and tons of Instagram worthy pictures along the way!
Stop off at the square for lunch and savour some of the delicious offerings, sip on a glass of Vinho Verde, all whilst basking in the Portuguese sun.
Alternatively, head to one of best hidden places in Europe, Costa Nova. This seaside stretch, located only 15-minutes by car from Aveiro centre, is a much loved beach and holiday destination for many local Portuguese. Known for it’s colourful striped houses and gorgeous beach, Costa Nova is definitely worth a visit!
How to get to Aveiro:
Thankfully, getting from Porto to Aveiro is fairly easy to do.
From Porto’s São Bento or Porto Campanha train stations it’s an easy 1 hour 15 min train journey. As before, you are able to book these tickets online through the Comboios de Portugal’s website or on their mobile phone app.
A one-way ticket will cost you 3.55€.
3. Plan a Braga day trip
As one of the oldest and biggest cities in Portugal, teeming with history and tradition, Braga is well worth a visit as a day trip from Porto. With its array of religious sites, including churches, cathedrals and monasteries, it is considered to be one of the most important religious destinations in Portugal. And with so much to see and do, it is easy to spend an entire day exploring this wonderful city.
What to see & do in Braga:
There certainly is no shortage of fascinating and historical sites to explore here. So whether you are visiting the old cathedral in Portugal, the Sé de Braga, the well known Bom Jesus do Monte Sanctuary or any of the other fantastic sites, you will not be left disappointed.
Other key attractions include: Nossa Senhora do Sameiro Sanctuary, Santa Maria Madalena de Falperra Church, São Martinho de Tibães Monastery and the Capela de São Frutuoso, the Raio Palace to name but a few. Or you may want to meander around the historic centre of the city and enjoy a drink or lunch at the open air plaza located in the centre, the Praça da República.
How to get to Braga:
When travelling from Porto to Braga, you will take the train from Porto’s São Bento or Porto Campanha train stations. Book your tickets through the Comboios de Portugal’s website or on their mobile app. The trains journey is just over an hour with a one-way ticket costing only 3.25€.
Top Tip: Go have a look at my article on how you can save money whilst travelling in Portugal. I include some tips on how to get discounts on rail travel and save!
4. Visit Amarante from Porto as a day trip
Another hidden gem that I don’t read of often enough is the romantic and very pretty riverside town of Amarante.
Nestled in what is arguably one of the most beautiful regions in Portugal, set between the Douro and Vinho Verde regions, this town has to make my top list of trips from Porto.
What to see & do in Amarante:
One of the most iconic images of Amarante is that of the São Gonçalo bridge and church of the same name, set on the Tâmega River.
Apart from strolling through, and admiring this quaint and romantic town with it’s buildings perched on the edge of the river, you may also want to visit the Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso Municipal Museum. It is a surprising modern and contemporary art museum, housed in an old renovated convent right next to the São Gonçalo church.
Also of interest may be the Parque Florestal park, the church of São Domingos and the Solar dos Magalhães.
How to get to Amarante:
Although Amarante has a train station, it is unfortunately no longer connected to the rail network. As such, you can travel either by car or by bus from Porto.
By bus, on the Rodo Norte bus service, it takes around 50 mins. The service departs from Porto almost every hour and a one-way ticket will cost 7.80€ per person.
The tickets are bookable directly on the Rodo Norte site.
Top tip: To find the bus station in Porto, simply search for “Rodonorte – Porto Terminal Rodoviário, Rua do Ateneu Comercial do Porto, Porto” in Google Maps.
5. Visit delightful Douro
If you love wine, then you’ve probably no doubt heard of the world-renowned Douro Valley situated in the north of Portugal. It is one of Portugal’s most famous wine regions (although not the only one!) and is well worth a visit, not only for the wines but also for the beautiful towns and sweeping views and valleys that this region has to offer.
What to see in Douro Valley:
Well, the Douro region is all about wine, wine, more wine, gorgeous traditional towns, views, oh and more wine of course!! And this is exactly what you should do when visiting. Why not visit a few Quintas (wine estates) and sample the best wines from Douro? Or visit some of the quaint towns and villages scattered all along this area, whilst also admiring some pretty spectacular views along the way.
Surprisingly, as much as this entire wine region has garnered worldwide acclaim for its wine production, there are still a lot of villages situated here that are virtually undiscovered by the general international traveller. So why not be adventurous and explore some of these! Towns you may want to look into visiting include: Lamego, Peso da Régua, Pinhão and Favaios to name but a few.
Although the Douro Valley region is definitely a do-able day trip from Porto, I would highly suggest that you rather plan a few days to fully get to grips with this region. This way you can really get to know the area and explore all it has to offer to your heart’s content without having to worry about time constraints.
How to get to Douro Valley:
From Porto, you can certainly take the train to stations such as Régua or Pinhão but it is advisable to rather rent a car to journey through the Douro Valley. From Porto to Pinhão by car will take you just under 2 hours. If you absolutely have to go by train, then aim for Pinhão. It is a 2 and a half hour journey and it’s best to plan your trip by consulting the train schedules from either Porto’s São Bento or Porto Campanha train stations through Comboios de Portugal.
The north is truly a Portuguese gem and should be visited by all who come to Portugal on holiday. Don’t be afraid to get stuck in and head off the beaten track as there is still so many sites and places left undiscovered by the mainstream traveller.
Better yet, if you have a few extra days at your disposal then it’s definitely worthwhile planning for a couple of day trips. If you have the time, why not, right?!
If you have been on one of the above mentioned experience or have any other suggestions you think may benefit other readers, then please feel free to comment on this post and share your thoughts, tips and tricks.
If you happen to be visiting soon, then I hope you have a wonderful time in the north. Let me know how it goes and how you enjoy Portugal!