You can return to Lisbon from Coimbra in a couple of hours but if you have time, head north. A second week will open up the delights of Porto and the Douro wine region.
Follow the itinerary suggested above.
Days 8 & 9: Porto ★★★
Porto is an hour’s drive from Coimbra. Both banks of the River Douro will keep you occupied on the first day.
10am: On the northern bank, the Ribeira district is Porto’s most traditional neighborhood. Behind a row of high-fronted, brightly painted merchants’ houses lining the quayside are a warren of alleys strung with washing, where you’ll stumble on architectural landmarks like the gold-lined São Francisco church and the Bolsa, or stock exchange, with its sumptuous Arabian Salon. Afterward, grab lunch at one of the cool restaurants in Largo de São Domingos.
2pm: Walk up the pretty Rua das Flores shopping street. At the top, peek at the tiled hall of São Bento railway station, and then continue up the hill to the Sé, Porto’s cathedral, where you’ll want to look in at the richly decorated cloisters and admire the view from the patio out front. Then walk across the upper level of the double-decked Dom Luís I bridge, whose mighty ironwork spans the Douro. Now you are in Vila Nova de Gaia, home of port wine.
4pm: Take the cable car to the waterfront and admire the barco rabelo boats that once hauled wine barrels, now moored in the Douro. Along the riverfront and rising up the bank are dozens of centuries-old warehouses where ports are blended, then left to age. Most port lodges offer tasting tours. Among the best are the 300-year-old Taylor’s cellars up the hill. DAY 9
9am: After that wine, it’s time for coffee. The city of Porto has some fabulous old cafes. The most opulent is Café Majestic, founded in 1921. After your caffeine shot, wander out onto Rua de Santa Catarina, the main shopping street in Porto’s uptown Baixa district.
11am: Visit the Bolhão market, a colorful collection of stores selling the city’s favored foodstuffs, which was due to reopen in May 2020 after 2 years of renovation, and the traditional stores in the street around it. Lunch on Porto’s famed francesinha sandwiches in a nearby cafe.
1pm: Continue your uptown tour, admiring Avenida dos Aliados, the city’s grandest boulevard, fronted with Belle Epoque buildings leading up to the tower of City Hall, the soaring Clérigos church tower, and the intriguing Lello bookstore.
2pm: Head to the leafy Boavista district where, among patrician villas, the Serralves cultural complex contains a cutting-edge modern art museum surrounded by parkland.
4pm: If the weather is fine, carry on to the coast to promenade along the oceanfront at Foz or swim on one of the suburb’s sandy beaches.
8pm: Return to Boavista in the evening to catch a concert at the Casa da Música.
Day 10: Braga ★★
10am: Make the 40-minute drive out to Portugal’s spiritual capital, Braga.
11am: Braga has been a center of Christianity since Roman times and is home to Portugal’s oldest cathedral, founded in 1070. After a visit, spend the rest of the morning exploring downtown around Praça da República and Rua do Souto. Be sure to get coffee at an iconic cafe like A Brasileira or Vianna.
2pm: After lunch, head up to the 18th-century church of Bom Jesus do Monte looming over the city at the summit of a 116m (380-ft.) baroque staircase. The sanctuary is surrounded by gardens filled with statues, lakes, and grottoes.
4pm: Back in town, visit the Museu dos Biscainhos museum for a taste of the 18th century. The building has been preserved as a noble home, complete with ornamented ceilings and walls with panels of tiles and paintings. Spend the night in one of Braga’s fine hotels.
Day 11: Ponte de Lima ★★ & Peneda-Gerês National Park ★★★
9am: Drive northeast through the green, vine-covered slopes of vinho verde wine country.
10am: Pull into the delightful wine town of Ponte de Lima, with its medieval bridge arching over the River Lima.
Noon: You reach Portugal’s most spectacular wilderness area, the PenedaGerês National Park. Spend the rest of the day exploring Portugal’s only national park, 700 sq. km (270 sq. miles) of rugged highland: boulder-strewn plateaus, mountains, forests of oak and pine, and valleys carved by fast-flowing rivers. Wolves, boar, and wild horses roam. The human geography is also fascinating. The area is studded with granite villages, where longhorn cattle, sheep, and goats are raised, and rural life seems little touched by the 21st century. Sinister stone structures, looking like tombs raised on pillars, are everywhere: They are actually grain stores, known as espigueiros. The clusters of them around the villages of Soajo and Lindoso are striking. Fortunately, you can find modern comforts in plenty of fine hotels and inns around the region.
Day 12: Guimarães ★★★
10am: Moving south, head to Guimarães, another of Portugal’s World Heritage cities. It’s the cradle of the nation, birthplace of the first king, Afonso Henriques, in 1109, and Portugal’s first capital. “Guimarães is Portugal, the rest is just what we conquered,” locals like to say.
11am: The founding father’s hilltop castle still looms over the city, along with a Renaissance-era royal palace.
1pm: Head downtown for lunch, then explore the tangle of cobbled lanes and plazas—like Largo da Oliveira and Largo do Tourel—lined with centuries-old granite homes, often painted in bright tones, sporting wrought-iron balconies or glass-fronted verandas.
3pm: The arts scene got a boost when the city was made European Cultural Capital in 2012, and it remains vibrant, so try to catch the latest contemporary art show at Centro Cultural Vila Flor.
4pm: Guimarães is a center for Portugal’s fashionable footwear industry, so leave some time to pick up a bargain in one of the city’s outlets.
Days 13 & 14: The Douro Wine Region ★★★
For the final 2 days in the north, you’ll be in the Douro wine region, another UNESCO World Heritage Site.
9am: Drive south from Guimarães, stopping in the lovely riverside town of Amarante to check out the Renaissance church of São Gonçalo.
Noon: Continue the precipitous decline to the big river. At Mesão Frio you’ll see the Douro winding its way through a distinctive landscape of terraced hills covered with grapevines. Follow the winding riverbank until Peso da Régua, where you can have lunch and discover the secrets of winemaking at the Museu do Douro museum.
3pm: Cross the bridge to the south bank and visit the town of Lamego, with its remarkable mountaintop church, before overnighting in one of the wine estates or wine-themed hotels, where you can sample the nectars without having to worry about driving.
9am: Hopefully your head is clear in the morning, because you will start with a twisting drive along the N-222 riverside road, which has been called the world’s most scenic route. There are also plenty of wineries to visit along the way.
Noon: Make a short detour to visit the charming wine village of Pinhão before rejoining the N-222 as it climbs through the heart of the wine region—stopping to enjoy tastings at the estates you pass.
3pm: Vila Nova de Foz Côa is the last UNESCO site on the tour, with its prehistoric rock carvings that date back more than 20,000 years. This is a chance to get up close and personal with some of humanity’s earliest art, both at the riverside sites and in the excellent museum that’s an architectural landmark in its own right.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.