Venturing up the coast from Lisbon to explore Portugal’s northern terroir, embark on a 48-hour odyssey, beginning in Porto. Here, in Portugal’s second largest city, days are best spent strolling along winding streets, happening upon umpteen Azulejo-tiled buildings as you roam, and pausing to sample the many culinary delights of this sister city’s serious food scene.
After some time in the city, journey further north to the country’s celebrated wine region, the Douro Valley. One of the world’s oldest wine regions, the Douro Valley was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2001. Today, oenophiles in their droves happily RSVP ‘yes’ to the open invitation to swirl, sniff, and sip a wide array of the region’s pours at the many surrounding quintas (estates).
When planning your next trip to Porto and North of Portugal, bookmark our pocket guide, spotlighting the best places to dine and bed down, plus must-visit spots to note whilst there.
In partnership with Porto and North of Portugal.
The Packing Edit
Engulfed by flowering gardens and verdant lawns, this small boutique hotel sits a little out from the city centre. Offering guests a soft place to land post-flight, unwind at the hotel’s Sisley Paris spa before retiring to your sumptuous bedroom, complete with claw-foot baths, XL beds (adorned with copious throw pillows), and an abundance of Jo Malone products. Complementing the hotel’s zenful side, artistic leans present themselves in the playful interiors across public spaces, as well as guest quarters. Breakfast, in the terroir room, is a simple affair, whilst Chef Henrique Sá Pessoa’s Vinha Restaurant is the ideal place to don your glad rags.
Six Senses Douro Valley
Taking up residence at a 19th-century manor set high on a hill overlooking the Douro Valley, Six Senses Douro Valley cuts an imposing shape. Plotted on 20 acres, the hotel’s modern interiors perfectly juxtapose its austere facade, and accommodation options – which range from rooms and suites, to villas – are paired back, with simplicity and relaxation prioritised across all levels of board. As with all Six Senses, the spa is a key focus here. Located sub terra, the sanguine spa offers locally inspired treatments as well as sensory therapies, in addition to an indoor pool, sauna, and The Alchemy Bar, where you can learn to mix up all kinds of lotions and potions. Feeling peckish post-spa? Help yourself to a wedge of complimentary cake, available adjacent to the bar. For a taste of something a little different, have the experiences team assist you with booking requests, from tree climbing to cooking lessons, or a wine tasting.
EAT + DRINK
Vila Foz by Vila Foz
Fine-dining restaurant, Vila Foz by Vila Foz, is right at home in the well-heeled seaside suburb of Foz. Helmed by Chef Arnaldo Azevedo, the Michelin-starred, lime-green and gilded dining room – formerly, the ballroom – ensures the scene is suitably set for your six-course gastronomic experience. Charged at €105pp, the seafood-rich menu spans shrimp to sea bream, and also offers other, meatier plates, including a sumptuous duck dish served with bordelaise sauce and lemon verbena. For a truly one-off and intimate experience book the ‘Chef’s Table’ which sits a neat two.
Dine on ‘regional fusion cuisine’ at Rabelo Restaurant, accompanied, of course, by the best Douro wines (Rabelo’s cellar is not to be overlooked). On cooler days, opt to dine in the interior, sunshine-hued dining space, whilst the generously sized terrace (with rather wowing views of the Douro River) is perfect for al-fresco feasting on balmier days. From the menu, try the mushroom and truffle risotto and the octopus, prepared with green beans, new potatoes, and paprika foam. Finish with a traditional Portuguese milk pudding, or a chocolate mousse paired with a glass of Forseca Terra Prima Port NV. Saúde.
The Vale de Abraão Restaurant
With a traditional walk-in fireplace, walls flanked in 18th-century Azulejo tiles, cork ceilings, and granite floors, The Vale de Abraão Restaurant is as much a feast for the eyes as it is the stomach. Spread across two rooms and a large terrace, despite its scale, the sizeable dining space manages to keep a feeling of intimacy and homeliness, aided further by its localised menu. Using the best quality fresh ingredients of the region, choose from seasonal market-inspired tasting menus and an Open Kitchen Experience. The a la carte menu is dominated by wood-fired and grilled dishes – simple and tasty, some of our favourites included the eggplant with sesame honey and capers; the grilled cabbage; and the cod. To aid you through the menu’s more complicated dishes, refer to to the ‘menupedia’.
Swot up at Livraria Lello
Opening in 1906, Livraria Lello is worth tackling the snaking queue outside to get a peep at its theatrical interiors. Well-stocked shelves of classic tomes and modern reads decorate this charming bookshop, which also boasts ogle-worthy neo-Gothic stained-glass windows and ornate plasterwork. Venture up the crimson-stained staircase to the store’s upper level for 360 views of one of the world’s most beautiful bookshops.
Visit the Stock Exchange Palace
Belonging to, and the headquarters of, the chamber of commerce, The Palacio da Bolsa has welcomed monarchs, presidents, and ministers into its gilded and exotic-wood flanked folds across centuries. The Hall of Nations (where the exchange previously operated) wows on entry, but all pales in comparison to the Arabian room – taking 18 years to complete, it exceptional attention to detail is evidenced in the painted plaster and inscriptions in Arabic which repeat across the room. Take a thirty-minute guided tour (for €10pp) to gain a deeper understanding of the building’s significance to the city.
Try a Claus Porto workshop
Claus Porto is something of a Portuguese institution. Pay a visit to their flagship Porto store on Rua das Flores to explore the charming product range and gain a deeper understanding of the brand’s history. There’s also the opportunity to sign up to an on-site workshop (located on the store’s upper level) and learn the techniques behind the creation of Claus Porto’s soaps, perfumes, and iconic printed wrappings. Side note: before departing, do take time to peruse CP’s olfactory offering on the ground floor – the sextet of Claus Porto X Lynn Harris scents are particularly seducing.
South of the Douro River, cultural village WOW awaits. The XL complex houses 12 restaurants and seven museums – suffice to say, choosing where to begin can prove challenging. We’d recommend a visit to The Porto Fashion and Fabric Museum to kick off your time here. Housed in an historic, 18th-century residential building, this dynamic space plays host to rotating exhibits which sartorialists will greatly enjoy. Stop for lunch at Pip if you’ve a hankering for pizza, or try Golden Catch if a fish-focused menu appeals. After lunch, if you’re in the mood for a light-hearted museum experience, head to The Pink Palace and get you up to speed on all-things rosé.
Take a yacht tour on the Douro River with Feel Douro
Take to the river, chartering a yacht from Feel Douro. Your hire team can arrange journeys ranging in length from a couple of hours to two weeks plus. For those short on time, boating is a great way to gain a sense of the Douro Valley’s structure and scale. After docking, make a port of call at one of the local wineries you scouted whilst on the water.
Visit Quinta do Bomfim
Deemed one of the finest Douro estates, the family owned Quinta do Bomfim spans some 74.6 hectares of vineyards. Plotted in the village of Pinhão, all the property’s grapes are harvested at their on-site winery, making an estate tour a highly engaging activity. Learn about the processes involved in producing noteworthy red and white wines, as well as ports – watching on as grapes are trodden in modern lagares (troughs) –, and close out your tour with a tasting on the terrace, sampling some excellent ports and Douro DOC wines.
*DISCLAIMER: Travel restrictions are changing daily, so please check the latest government advice before you book anything. Visit Gov.uk for more information.