North of Porto is remote and breathtaking. The Minho shoreline, home to vast sandy beaches, and quiet fishing villages have rich green landscapes.
On the third day of our 4-Day trip to Porto, we made a journey to the north of Porto. First, we went to Ponte de Lima. Then, we have a memorable lunch in TUI, a Spanish border town. Afterward, we visited the inland village Valenca, where local markets and fairs have hardly changed for hundreds of years. Finally, we ended our day trip at the Amorosa Beach near Anha to have some fun in dunes and breath in the breeze of Atlantic air.
- Ponte de Lima, a charming town of northern Portugal
- TUI, a Spanish border town
- The inland village of Valenca
- Amorosa Beach (near Anha)
If you have read my itinerary, you would know that our hotel is in the north of Porto. So it was easy for us to go to the north of Porto without the need to drive around Porto. Having followed the highway A28 we drove straight to the north and then changed to A27, within 50 minutes we arrived at Ponte de Lima, one of the oldest and finest small towns in Portugal.
Ponte de Lima, a charming town of northern Portugal
Ponte de Lima has many imposing houses, pretty squares, and religious buildings with magnificent gothic, baroque and neoclassic façades. A series of pretty flower gardens make the town being the most floral town of Portugal. Adding to the mixture of these architectures is the astonishing natural landscape.
One of the public interests is the Tower of Cadeia Velha, once a prison during the 16th century. Currently, it houses the Loja do Turismo (Tourism shop) and many temporary art exhibitions.
Nevertheless, the main site among many tourist attractions in this charming town is the old bridge, which spans the Lima River. The bridge consists of two sections, the Ponte Romana and the Ponte Medieval.
The Ponte Romana section is the older part that is constructed by the Romans in the first century. Today, the seven arches of the bridge across a field next to the Igreja de Santo António.
Much later in 1370, to improve the defense of the town, the Ponte Medieval section, including the town walls and towers, was constructed. The bridge consisted of seventeen arches, but most of the stone merlons were later removed to be used as building materials.
It would take around three hours to explore the historic centre. Add two hours if you want to include such as the gardens and museums. Having driven quite a long on that day, we did a short riverside walk for a relax.
TUI, a Spanish border town
From Ponte de Lima, we took A3 to Valenca and then cross the old bridge to TUI. The two towns, TUI and Valenca that sits on a hill just across the river, face each other over a valley.
Separated from Portugal by the river Mino, TUI is connected with Valença by two bridges, Tui International Bridge completed in 1878, and a modern one from the 1990s.
Its turbulent history has left a compact historical quarter with some important monuments, such as the cathedral perched on top of the hills. TUI has all the characteristics of an old town, such as narrow and winding streets, old walls, and churches.
We would have spent more time wandering among the streets. As it was lunchtime already, we quickly went to a local restaurant for lunch.
There were only local people in the restaurant. The restaurant had the only menu in Galician, a language more closed to Portuguese than to Spanish. Since we were unable to read anything from the menu, the owner moved out of an encyclopedia about fish and pointed out the fishes that he had on that day. We chose one fish as our order, and a few minutes later, he showed us the live fish in his hands from the kitchen window. That was a delicious lunch!
Valenca (north of Porto)
As the first line of defense against Spanish aggression, the inland village of Valenca, surrounded by craggy mountains, sits strategically high above the picturesque Minho River.
Being a fortified village, Valenca has two fortified squares, featured with bastions for defense, watchtowers, and gigantic doors, together with a bridge that covers the wide moat which shaped the old part of town.
Being a strategic location in history, Valenca Fortress has one of the most impressive fortifications in northern Portugal. The 2000 years of the history of the Valenca Fortress with watchtowers is like a huge labyrinth.
Nowadays, it welcomes Spanish to shop for cheap clothes and other textiles. In the summertime, there are many festivals to attract locals. It is said that weekly markets or weekend markets take place frequently. Having seen many medieval buildings, on that day, we wandered around those streets lined up with clothes shops and had some bargain deals at the end.
Amorosa Beach (near Anha)
The last stop of the day we stopped off at the excellent resort Amorosa Beach near Anha. There was no single tourist on the beach during that time of the year. Fine dunes are everywhere and a nicely made long boardwalk lead us to the seaside. The long wooden walkway is made to protect the dunes in the surroundings.
The water was ice cold but the air was fresh. The beach was neatly maintained but looked very natural. It was quite windy. This place is perfect for windsurfers and playing kites.
In the warm weather, the beach attracts families from across the north of Portugal, some of whom even have holiday homes in the area.
Summary of our trip to the North of Porto
It also took us more than three hours for the entire day trip. The public connection to Ponte de Lima from Porto is not convenient. So, to travel there requires a rental car.
Alternatively, you can explore the north of Portugal on a full-day tour to Viana do Castelo and Ponte de Lima from Porto. The tour provides the chance to enjoy impressive views of the city and the sea and an unforgettable lunch in the oldest village in Portugal.