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6 Best Cities to Visit in the Douro Valley

The Douro valley

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The douro valley is a trully special place, not only in Portugal, but in the world. You can’t help but marvel at the natural beauty of the Douro River, which meanders through an infinity of hills scratched by centuries-old vineyards, like a live painting.

Visiting the Douro valley is essentially an immersion in wine culture. Especially Port Wine. Because it is here, in the demarcated Douro wine region, that grows the grapes that will be used to produce this particular drink appreciated all over the world. Thanks to a combination of soil, humidity and temperature, the Douro valley region is ideal for growing these grapes.

But it’s not just port wine that the Douro lives on. There are many interesting things to see and do in the towns along its riverbed. Without further ado, we present the 6 best cities to visit in the Douro valley:

Peso da Régua

Starting point

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Also known as the international capital of wine and vineyards, the city of Peso da Régua was born from the merger, in the 18th century, of the villages of Peso and Régua and is located in the heart of the Alto Douro Vinhateiro (parcel of the demarcated Douro wine region declared by UNESCO as a Heritage of Humanity, in the category of cultural landscape).

It as in here, in 1756 that was created the General Company of Agriculture of the Upper Douro Vineyards by the Marquis of Pombal, with the aim of delineating the areas where the best wines were produced. It was from there that the world’s first demarcated and regulated wine region, the famous Douro Demarcated Region, emerged.

As it is a more developed city, it has many options for active, cultural, contemplative tourism, accommodation and places for tasting Douro and Porto wines.

Highlights are:

The Douro Museum, installed in the former Companhia Velha House.

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Quinta da Pacheca, where it is possible to stay inside huge wine barrels.

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The São Leonardo da Galafura Viewpoint, with an excellent view of the Douro valley at 640 m of altitude.

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Pinhão

Plenty of Port wine and the most beautiful trail in the Douro

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Pinhão is considered the geographic center of the Douro Demarcated Region and it is here and in the adjacent regions that many of the Port wine farms are located, some even offer accomodation.

Pinhão was once the most important town in the Douro Valley (now it loses to Peso da Régua). Wine from all over the region was brought here for storage and eventually shipped to the rabelo boats that would go down the river to Vila Nova de Gaia. It was also the main trading point in the region. This preference was due to an old river beach that existed called Pinhão beach, which facilitated the transport of goods.

Noteworthy is the Pinhão train station, built at the end of the 19th century, its interior is covered with tile panels that tell the history of the region.

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Be sure to visit one of the wine farms in the area for a guided tour and, of course, a port wine tasting. Walking distance from the train station you find:

  • Quinta do Bonfim – Guided tours with tastings available from €17 (ideally book in advance). There is also a tasting room where you can buy a glass of Port wine and drink it while sitting on the terrace overlooking the Douro River.
  • Quinta das Carvalhas – Located on the other side of the Douro River It offers daily tours and tastings.

A little further away, but worth mentioning, is Quinta do Noval, where there are still vineyards that survived the Phylloxera plague that decimated almost 100% of the vineyards in the entire Douro region in the mid-19th century. The Noval Vintage Nacional is produced from the grapes of this vineyard, which is one of the rarest and most expensive Port wines in the Douro (about €2000 a bottle).

If you like hiking, don’t miss the most beautiful one in the Douro valley! The São Cristóvão do Douro Trail. It starts in Pinhão and goes up to the village of Provesende, passing through the vineyards and with spectacular views of the Douro. It’s 6km in total, 12km round trip. One option is to take a taxi to Provesende and just hike down to Pinhão.

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Sabrosa

Hometown of a famous navigator

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Sabrosa is a charming village located in the upper part of the Upper Douro Wine Region and it made the list for one simple reason: according to local authorities, even though there is no concrete evidence, this is where the navigator Ferdinand Magellan was born, to whom the plans and execution of the first voyage of circumnavigation of the Earth are attributed. You can even visit the house where he was supposedly born.

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There is also a permanent exhibition about the navigator and his expedition in the center of the village.

Lamego

History, gastronomy and an unexpected wine.

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Lamego is an ancient city 12km away from the Douro River with a lot of history. It is here that the legendary Lamego Courts would have taken place, where the acclamation of D. Afonso Henriques as King of Portugal would have happened. It is also here that the Castle of Lamego is located, where it is possible to see the archaeological remains of its previous owners (Romans and Moors).

Also noteworthy is the beautiful Sanctuary of Nossa Senhora dos Remédios and the Cathedral of Lamego, dating from the 12th century, with its imposing triple portico.

Lamego is also known for its gastronomy, in which its hams and “roasted goat with oven rice” stand out, and for the production, obviously, of Port wines and, not so obviously, excellent quality sparkling wines.

Be sure to visit the Raposeira cellars and do an unexpected sparkling wine tasting in the middle of the Douro demarcated region.

São João da Pesqueira

Breathtaking Views and Wine Museum

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The village located on the left bank of the Douro has one of the most spectacular and famous viewpoints in the Douro Valley: the São Salvador do Mundo viewpoint. From the top, it is possible to contemplate all the beauty and grandeur of the Douro and its slopes.

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In addition, if you like museums, in São João da Pesqueira you will find the Wine Museum, where you can learn more about the wine produced in the region and even have tastings.

Miranda do Douro

The last city before Spain

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Mirando do Douro is located on the border with Spain in the northeast of the country and is the first Portuguese city bathed by the Douro. Due to its location, it had great historical importance in the past for border defense reasons. In this region, the Douro River is surrounded by breathtakingly high cliffs. Here, in addition to Portuguese, is spoken Mirandese, the second official language of Portugal, which also has Romanesque origins,. It is worth mentioning the gastronomy of the region, in particular, the posta Mirandesa, which is nothing more than a gigantic steak of beef from the region, usually served with baked potatos. The city is within the limits of the Douro International Natural Park. With many trails and spectacular viewpoints, in particular the Miradouro do Castrilhoço and the Miradouro de São João das Arribas.

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These are the 6 best cities to visit in the Douro Valley in our opinion, but it is worth remembering that the Douro has much more to offer, and my extra tip for an even more unique visit is to explore the small villages and meet the friendly and welcoming people. And taste not only the wines, but also the olive oil, honey, cheese and everything else you can find from local producers.

It is worth remembering that the most interesting time to visit would be in September/October, when the harvest takes place.

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Uni - The Unicorn of Productivity

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