Porto – Portugal’s second city – makes an excellent destination for a city break and has plenty to offer the visitor. It occupies a superb scenic location at the mouth of the River Douro on Portugal’s Atlantic coast, 274 kilometres north of the capital, Lisbon.
Porto is a great place for wandering around and in particular exploring the pretty old town area of Ribeira with its characterful winding streets, beautiful plazas and houses with colourful tiled facades. The city lies less than 120 kilometres from the Spanish border so it provides an excellent base for an excursion by coach into Spain, to the famous pilgrimage site of Santiago de Compostela.
This full day excursion from Porto takes tourists across the border into Spain to retrace part of the Camino de Santiago or “St James Way” – a sacred route followed by centuries of pilgrims since the Middle Ages. The St James Way leads to the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela., where the remains of the apostle St James are reputed to lie interred. This Romanesque building with it’s later Gothic and Baroque additions is the final stop on the journey for pilgrims from all over the world. The cathedral’s breathtaking interior includes the lofty barrel-vaulted nave, the golden altar and the crypt housing St James’ remains. Santiago’s old town is listed as a UNESCO World-Heritage site.
After the visit to Santiago de Compostela, the excursion continues by coach to the town of Viana do Castelo in northern Portugal. The jewel of the Costa Verde, Viana do Castelo is blessed with a very attractive medieval centre showcasing leafy, 19th-century boulevards and narrow lanes crowded with Manueline manors and rococo palaces. The town’s pre-Roman citadel atop Mt Santa Luzia dates back to the Mesolithic era. It is worth paying a visit to the Basilica of St Luzia, whose design was inspired by the Sacre Coeur in Paris. The excursion concludes with a short drive (approximately 1 hour) back to Porto.