Minho is a region in Northern Portugal that has it all: history, culture, natural beauty and, of course, wine. Vineyards blanket the slopes of mountains and unfurl from the riverbanks, while a dramatic coastline stretches up to meet the Spanish border. Vibrant cities rub shoulders with historic towns and traditional mountain villages, from Porto’s trailblazing chefs to Braga’s creative energy and the Guimarães’ rich heritage. Here are the best places to visit in the Minho region and Northern Portugal. 

Best for wine-lovers: Douro Valley

Douro valley

Once you’ve looped around the vinho verde trail across the Minho region, follow the wine route east to the iconic Douro Valley. The vertiginous mountain slopes are combed with rows of vines responsible for the region’s prized bottles. Port is Douro Valley’s most famed tipple, with tours and tastings at traditional quintas (estates) throughout the region.  

Things to see/places to visit:

Visit the Museu do Douro and take an all-day wine tasting at renowned Quinta do Vallado in Régua, a sleepy pocket of the westernmost Douro region Baixo Corgo – known for producing young ports. The best place for an estate tour is the Sandeman winery at Quinta do Seixo in Pinhão, a pretty cobbled town at the heart of Cima Corgo – the most-visited corner of Douro. Be sure to take a boat tour along the river; Pipadouro offers local food and wine pairings on board a beautifully restored 1950s wooden boat from the Pinhão pier. To head off the beaten track, travel to Douro Superior, near the Spanish border, to discover authentic quintas, quaint tabernas and homely casas.

Best for foodies: Porto

Porto is a great place to explore before heading north to the Minho region. Clinging to the steep banks of the Douro, the city is brimming with cultural riches. There are plenty of things to see in Porto: Museu de Arte Contemporânea for innovative artworks, Casa da Música for concerts, and public art galore, from the azulejo-splashed São Bento station to street art daubed on medieval walls. In recent years, it’s also emerged as a top gastronomic destination thanks to a wave of boundary-pushing chefs – Pedro Lemos, Ricardo Costa, Rui Paula and José Avillez among them.

Things to see/places to visit:

For the best of the city’s gourmet offering, try Vasco Coelho Santos’s tasting menus at Euskalduna Studio; dine on Michelin-starred cuisine at Antiqvvm; or gorge on Portuguese dishes at The Blini. Otherwise, just wander through the cobbled streets to stumble across tiny petiscarias (tapas bars), riverside seafood restaurants (try Portuguese speciality bacalhau, dried and salted cod), port cellars, craft-beer haunts and local food markets.

Best for beach lovers: Estoril

If you’re considering a road trip along the coast from Lisbon to Porto and beyond, Estoril is Portugal’s favoured seaside sojourn. It all started with European aristocracy sinking their toes into its golden sand in the 19th century; the rich and famous soon followed, cementing its reputation as a summer playground. Today, a cluster of bars and restaurants gather around manicured parks, and a palm-fringed promenade weaves along the coastline.

Things to see/places to visit:

It’s all about beach frolics here: swim and sunbathe at Praia do Tamariz or stroll along the coastal walkway to neighbouring Cascais. If you fancy a flutter, descend upon the Casino Estoril, famously frequented by Europe’s exiled royalty and spies during World War Two – the inspiration behind Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale.

Best for culture-vultures: Braga

Braga, Portugal’s religious centre, has almost four-dozen places of worship, but there’s more to this Baroque city than its ecclesiastical credentials. Scratch beneath the surface to discover a vibrant university city with a youthful, creative energy. The historic core brims with cool cultural offerings and laid-back bars catering to the students of Universidade do Minho.

Things to see/places to visit:

For a selection of contemporary photography visit the Museu da Imagem, housed in a pair of historic buildings. Design-lovers should check out the Chapel Tree of Life (Fridays from 5pm), a striking example of modern architecture. If you’re after a day-to-night scene, Livraria Centésima Página is a bookshop moonlighting as an art gallery and exhibition space, while Quatorze is a gallery-cum-music venue.

Best for history buffs: Guimarães

To the southeast of Braga is the loveliest Portuguese city you’ll have never heard of: Guimarães. For the Portuguese, however, it’s a whole different story: this proud city is the birthplace of the country’s first king, Afonso Henriques. He later made it the capital of the Portuguese kingdom, driving the Moors from its lands to the south.

Things to see/places to visit:

Guimarães’ rich heritage is etched across its beautifully preserved medieval centre, best explored by simply wandering the web of cobbled lanes to discover pretty plazas and 14th-century landmarks. Nearby is the 1000-year old hilltop castle, alongside the grand 15th-century palace built by the first duke of Bragança. The city isn’t just an open-air museum though: it was dubbed a European Capital of Culture for 2012. Check out the José de Guimarães International Centre of Arts, housed in a striking stack of shimmering brass cubes, and the Centre of Art and Architecture.


Minho Travel Guide

Best beaches in Minho

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