The northern region of Portugal is defined by dense forested valleys and mountains as well as fine-sand beaches and fishing villages along the coast. With a history that dates back to pre-Celtic tribes, Northern Portugal also showcases unique remnants of the past like medieval castles and is credited as the birthplace of the nation.
There is plenty to see in Northern Portugal - as the most historic region of the country as well as one of the most scenic. Major cities like Porto and Viana do Castelo especially showcase architectural attractions. The Santuario de Santa Luzia, for example, is an iconic mountaintop church of Viana do Castello, which has a small museum and dome offering panoramic views of the city. In Porto, the Porto Cathedral likewise sits on a hill at the city center, offering a Romanesque example of one of the city's oldest and most important monuments. Other landmarks in Porto include the 19th-Century São Bento railway station with elaborate tilework, the Palacio da Bolsa also from that era, and the Church of São Francisco from the 14th century which exhibits Gothic and Baroque elements and is designated as an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Beyond the cities, Northern Portugal also features a diverse landscape from vineyard hills, mountainous inlands, and river-lined valleys to fishing villages and beaches along the coast. Peneda-Geres National Park - the only national park in the country - is located in this region and features a mountainous nature reserve with wildlife such as wolves, prehistoric remains, campsites, and walking trails. The Douro Valley is also especially scenic with its many vineyards along the meandering Douro River. In the southern part of Northern Portugal there is even an archaeological park with tours of major Paleolithic carved rock art sites and a museum. It is called the Prehistoric Rock-Art Site of the Coa Valley.
One of the most popular sub-regions of Northern Portugal is Douro, known for its varied landscape of the Douro River winding past hills and mountains and through stunning valleys dotted with vineyards. The city of Porto also resides in this sub-region, famous for its main export - Port wine. Another important sub-region is Minho, home to the city of Braga (the religion capital which sprawls along the Cavado valley) and Guimaraes (the historic founding place of the nation and home to the medieval Castle of Guimaraes). Minho also features the country's only National Park - Parque Nacional da Peneda-Geres. Another major city of Northern Portugal is Viana do Castelo, famous for the monuments in and around the city as well as the surrounding natural beauty. It is thought to be one of the most beautiful Portuguese cities. Other sub-regions include Entre Douro e Vouga, Grande Porto, Tras-os-Montes, and Tamega.
In Northern Portugal, visitors can engage in a full range of activities from sight-seeing historical monuments in some of the region's oldest cities to sampling local vintages of wine from the many vineyard-covered hills and valleys. The wine region of Northern Portugal, which resides in the sub-region of Douro, offers opportunity for a number of scenic walks and boat rides throughout the landscape of valleys, hills, mountains, and vineyards. Visitors often travel from village to village, tasting local wines while experiencing the beauty of the valley that supplies the ingredients. The cities offer another range of history and culture, from architectural monuments that speak to a medieval past to the bustling everyday life of city-dwellers amidst markets and cafes.
Food and Dining
Cuisine of Northern Portugal for the most part makes use of local ingredients. One dish, known to this region and the rest of the country is a kind of cabbage soup called caldo verde. Being located on the Atlantic Ocean with an abundance of rapid rivers, Northern Portugal also features a variety of fresh fish and seafood in its cooking, some of which include trout, lamprey, and shad. There is also a range of regionally raised beef and pork, which are cooked into sausages or dishes like rojões (braised pork chunks) and sarrabulho (pork rice cooked in pig blood). Porto-style tripe is another specialty popular in the northern capital. Beyond meats, the region is perhaps best known for its wine from which the capital city of Porto takes its name. Northern Portugal is crossed by the river Douro, whose landscape of vineyards is World Heritage Site along with the city which exports Port wine all over the world.
The main point of entry for Northern Portugal is via the city of Porto. The Francisco Sa Carneiro Airport (also known as Aeroporto do Porto or Aeroporto de Pedras Rubras) is located here, about 6 miles from the city center. Some of the main airlines that operate to and from Porto include Iberia, Lufthansa, Luxair, and Ryanair. The airport is well-connected to the surrounding areas by public transportation, making travel throughout the region easy for tourists.
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