In the third edition of ‘Notes from the field’, we highlight the region of Northern Portugal. This stunning destination has been popular with the Sunvil team for over three decades but recently it has emerged from the shadows of Lisbon and the Algarve to become one of Portugal’s must-visit areas. There is so much to see and explore. From the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Porto, Guimaraes, the Coa Valley and the Alto Douro River Valley to the sandy shores of the Atlantic, coastal ports such as Viana do Castelo and the National Park of Peneda Geres the region classically combines cultural, historical and natural attractions at every turn. There truly is something for everyone and for every interest.
Our travel experts, Michelle and Dave, travelled to Portugal in May 2016. Here, they share the highlights of their trip. If you have any questions about Northern Portugal, or would like to plan a holiday here, you can contact Michelle and Dave on 020 8758 4722 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Details of your favourite property and why?
Michelle: My favourite property was the Casa de Casal de Loivos, a lovely Manor House on the hillside about the riverside village of Pinhao. From its elevated position, the hotel offers stunning views over the meandering River Douro and the vineyards. It would be easy to while-away the day on the large terrace enjoying the view. The concept of the Casa de Casal de Loivos is to offer guests a home away from home. The Manor has a relaxed atmosphere and in the evening guests are invited to join their host for dinner. The meal is served on a large communal table.
I also loved the Vintage House Douro Hotel. This recently renovated 5 star hotel is situated on the banks of the River Douro in Pinhao and all rooms plus the swimming pool and gardens have a river view. The grounds here are immaculate.
Dave: My favourite was also the Vintage House Douro Hotel. The property has a great mix of traditional and modern decor and can be reached by car or train and so appeals to all.
I also liked the Pestana Vintage Porto Hotel in the heart of Porto. The property is located close to all of the city’s attractions and is on the historic waterfront of Porto, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The hotel’s new restaurant ‘RIB Beef & Wine’ has opens directly onto the waterfront and during the weekend has a bar with a live DJ set (the noise does not disturb guests).
Favourite viewpoint and why?
Michelle: The view from The Yeatman is the best! All rooms, the bar and terrace have views of the Douro river and the city.
The view from Casa de Casal de Loivos is stunning and it’s so quiet and peaceful that you could sit there for hours with a good book in one hand and drink in the other!
Dave: I agree with Michelle, the panoramic river view from Casa de Casal de Loivos is spectacular. The shared terrace and swimming pool are ideal spots from which to take in the scene.
Favourite activity and why?
Michelle: Does wine tasting class as an activity?! If it does then it was my favourite. There are many wine cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia, on the south bank of the River Douro from Porto, which offer tours and wine tasting. We visited the Croft wine cellar which is a few minutes walk downhill from The Yeatman. Tours cost just €7 per person.
Dave: We joined the hop on – hop off city tour bus in Porto (€13 for 1 day, €15 for 2 days and €24 for 1 day including a six bridges cruise). This was the best way to explore the city with stops at all of the main attractions and sites.
Where you ate your best meal. What did you have? Why was it your favourite?
Michelle: The food at the Douro Palace Hotel Resort and Spa was excellent. The chef offered us a taster of blood sausage balls and crisp bread made from rice topped with sour cream, herbs and smoked salmon. I had goats cheese wrapped sesame seeds for starter and for main course I chose pork lion with drunk pear, spinach puree and potato. Dessert was chocolate fondant with vanilla ice cream and I washed it all down with some nice red wine from Quinta da Pacheca.
Dave: ‘Clerigos’ restaurant in Porto. The restaurant was split into two separate areas, one side serving tapas and the other side with table service and an a la carte menu. I had Beef Wellington, obviously not very Portuguese but it was delicious!
For a more ‘homely’ and traditional Portuguese meal, I would highly recommend the Quinta da Veiga. Here, I enjoyed veal and potatoes.
General feel of the area…
Michelle: Loved it! Porto is great city with lots on offer. The combination of sightseeing tours, historic sites, great view points, wine tasting (and the wine of course) and excellent shopping opportunities means that there is something for everyone. I would be happy to chose Porto as a city break with my friends but, it is also the perfect start/end to a longer touring holiday.
The Douro Valley is beautiful – I had expected this but I was blown away by the scenery. I think it’s best to have a car but if you do not want to drive then it is possible to take the train from Porto to Pinhao, Porto to Aregos and Porto to Regua.
Dave: Northern Portugal is a lovely area to visit and it is impossible to travel far before wanting to stop and take a picture.
Tempted to visit Porto for yourself? Experience the best the city has to offer on our three night mini break.