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1.Paróquia de Santa Marinha de Cortegaça
Paróquia de Santa Marinha de Cortegaça perfectly represents Portuguese trend manifested in 19th and 20th century: façades covered with tiles or how Portuguese call them – azulejos. I have seen many buildings covered with titles, but this one was one of the most impressive for sure. And it makes picture perfect if you ask me.
The church is located in a town called Cortegaça and I must admit that there is nothing much to do around this place, but this is a perfect place where to start your journey in Norther Portugal if you are coming from Lisbon.
This building is more than 100 years old and yet I would call it a hidden gem of Portugal. You won’t see any crowds around this attraction or people queuing up for a photo – I guess the location of the church keeps it only for the true explorers. Are you?
2.Igreja Matriz de Santa Maria de Válega
Only 20 minutes drive away from the previous location, but once again.. Remote and hidden! Let me tell you this – you won’t find more colourful church than this one! And just when you think that it is beautiful, wait till you get in. Yes, it gets even more colourful. Be mindful that it is closed on Sundays and opens only after lunchtime during the rest of the week.
Construction work started in 18th century and it was built in 1746, but only in 1960 the facade was covered with titles. Basically it took more than a century to build this church.
While it is covered with azulejos, there is nothing similar in Portugal that will remind you this piece of art. This is probably the main reason why I wanted to visit this place for quite a while. However, keep in mind that the square in front of the church is very small, so bring your wide angle lens if you want to take photos.
One little tip! It is not covered with azulejos from the back or from the sides, therefore, it is very easy to miss this spot if arriving from the wrong side, but follow the Google Maps and it will take you to the right place. You will find a parking and some bars right behind the church if you want to stop for coffee.
3.Santuario de Santa Luzia
Santuario de Santa Luzia is one of those locations that are booming right now on Instagram. If you pay it a visit, you will understand why.
Located on the top of the mountain, it represents power and importance. From the top you see all the essentials of Norther Portugal – ocean, Lima river and its valley. Majestic if you ask me!
Unlike other places, this church is locate in Viana do Castelo, which is is a typical town of Norther Portugal. I highly advise to make a stop there and see the main attractions like A Sé de Viana do Castelo, Praça da República and Museu do Traje.
4.Capela do Senhor da Pedra
Have you ever seen a church located on the beach? Well, you might if you decide to visit this place. Very unusual, unique and worth a visit. When you think that sunset near the ocean does not get any better, it will near Capela do Senhor da Pedra.
It is perched upon a rock outcrop and it stands still even after endless storms and strong wind of coastline. Originally it was site pagan worship and thats the reason why it has been build in such an unusual location.
Since you are visiting this place, you can use the moment and spend some time at the beach. Maybe even get some tan! So plan accordingly, visiting the church might be quick, but add some extra time if you want to relax on the beach.
5. Braga, Portugal
Braga is well know for its churches, so let me start with must see spots. Considering that you are moving with a car, you should be able to see all this is one day, but these are just the main places, there is certainly more to see in Braga.
The Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte – located on the top of Mount Espinho, you get a wonderful view over Braga, but there is more. Its located on 116 meters tall Baroque stairway and its part of UNESCO heritage. Keep in mind, it is 577 steps that you will need to make to climb and and come down, but there are other options. First of all, you can arrive to the top or you can use funicular.
The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Sameiro – this one is typical worship place that you will see all around Portugal, plus, the spectacular view on Braga. It does not get as crowded as Bom Jesus so here you can enjoy some really tranquil atmosphere. This church is less that 10 minutes drive away from previous location, so make sure you plan it for the same day.
Igreja de Santa Maria Madalena and Capela de Santa Marta do Leão – hidden gem alert, I know you all love this! Another 10 minutes drive away from Sameira, you will find abandoned church and unique chapel. Particularly charming in autumn!
After you have seen all this bizarre beauty, head to the old town and get lost in tiny streets of Braga. Make sure you see Cathedral, Square of República, Garden of Santa Barbara, Raio Palace, Arco da Porta Nova and enjoy unforgettable meal in a restaurant called Velhos Tempos.
Let me tell you a secret. This tiny little village stole my heart. Yes, there is not much to see, but simply walking along Tâmega River will be such a magical experience. I challenge you to find some of the best views on São Gonçalo Bridge and Igreja de São Gonçalo. We had the most wonderful meal in Tasquinha Da Ponte (very affordable and authentic experience) and we stayed in beautiful Casa da Calçada that offers great view over Amarante.
7.Casa de Mateus
Any Matues wine lovers here? This is the actual building that you see printed on the bottle. The three primary buildings are the manor, the winery and the chapel.. add garden as a bonus!
You can visit the house and chapel, get a guided tour, book a wine tasting or just visit the garden, it is totally up to you, however, you can’t miss this unique place in Northern Portugal!
The main thing that caught my attention, was the sculpture of a woman sleeping in the water and it was crated by João Cutileiro. Looks even better with a reflection.
You will need couple of hours for this place and it is one hour drive away from Amarante. Your next destination is 30 minutes drive away from Casa de Mateus, so I suggest you to spend a night in Amarante and Lamego and plan your day between Casa de Mateus and your next stop – Douro Valley.
8.Douro Valley – St. Leonardo de Galafura
Douro Valley is probably the most impressive landscape in Northern Portugal with unforgettable views, spectacular hills and endless wine gardens surrounding Douro river. It is almost 900 km long, but I have found the best spot with the best view – St. Leonardo de Galafura.
650 meters high means that you can take the entire view – hills, river and wine yards. Feels like the top of the world. You have tables for picnic or very nice restaurant with this astonishing view.
Other things to consider: luxury experience in Six Senses Douro Valley, enjoy Douro cruise or go on a wine tasting tour and explore local tastes.
Here you will find another Portuguese gem – Santuário de Nossa Senhora dos Remédios. The monumental Baroque staircase (with 686 steps) that gives access to the sanctuary is divided over several levels, punctuated by sculptural elements, such as statues of the kings, the backrests of the eight fountains (among which the Remédios, by Nicolau Nasoni) and various allegorical representations.
Downtown you will find cute little streets, amazing local restaurants and some very pretty boutiques. Plan a little walk and try their famous bola de Lamego. It is a pie filled with meat, cheese or vegetables.
I think you should wake up early to climb up to the Santuário de Nossa Senhora dos Remédios, enjoy lunch in Lamego and then head to your next destination.
Unless you are local, you probably do not know this place, but it is famous for Dao wines and it is considered one of the best places to live in Portugal. You have to come here to understand why.
Yes, it is not a big and messy city, but that is the magic, right? Yes, I know that Viseu is considered central Portugal already, but this just fits perfectly in your itinerary, especially if you are headed to Lisbon after.
Make sure you see Viseu Cathedral, Adro da Sé, Praça da República, Porta do Soar, Igreja dos Terceiros de São Francisco, old town and try their famous castanhas de ovos.
+1 additional – Porto, Portugal
And this is additional place that you absolutely must visit, however, I believe it deserves a separate trip. Couple of hours in Porto is not enough. If you need any recommendations, I got you – click here.
I have planned this trip for many years, but I was always too busy to actually make it. Thanks to Covid, I got to explore more of Portugal and I am pretty sure that it includes all must see places and some hidden corners in Northern Portugal.