Northern Portugal: visit it… live it

Get to know the most striking sights in Northern Portugal and the traditional flavours. How much would a house cost? Learn all about this region which is so often overlooked.

Portugal may be small, but it has a lot to show for itself. The variety of landscapes and flavours is apparent in every region. Northern Portugal is no exception, boasting unique characteristics which make it very inviting.

The sights

Northern Portugal has some stunning scenery. One of the top attractions is the Douro Wine Region, classified by UNESCO as World Heritage in 2001. The Douro river valley rests between hillsides carved into terraces where the vines used to produce the famous Port wine are grown. Definitely one of the region’s most impressive sights.

Besides that, there are also the beautiful landscapes of the Peneda-Gerês National Park and the Alvão Nature Reserve, where you can see the Fisgas de Ermelo waterfall, and the Montesinho Nature Reserve, one of the wildest forests in Europe.

And these are just a few examples from Northern Portugal, there are many other nature reserves in the country.

The flavours

But Northern Portugal also has plenty to offer in terms of cuisine. Along the coast, as with the rest of the country, you can always enjoy grilled fresh fish.

Naturally, the Portuguese are known for their love of codfish, or bacalhau, which is cooked in a variety of ways, with some of the recipes originating in the north. Bacalhau à Gomes de Sá or Bacalhau à Zé do Pipo, for instance, are extremely popular and were both created in Porto.

The former dates back to the 19th century, and owes its existence to Chef José Luís Gomes de Sá Júnior. It is made with shredded cod, potatoes, garlic, onion, black olives, boiled eggs and parsley.

Bacalhau à Zé do Pipo, on the other hand, dates back to 1960 and was invented by the owner of a traditional restaurant. Besides cod, it uses mashed potatoes and mayonnaise and is cooked in the oven. Further north, Braga is the original home of the now famous Bacalhau à Minhota, fried in olive oil with sliced potatoes and an onion stew.

There is more to the cuisine of Northern Portugal than fish, however. In Porto you can find the famous Francesinhas and traditional Porto style tripe. And in the interior Trás-os-Montes region you’d do well to try Roast Kid, Alheira and the Posta Mirandesa. The latter is the traditional dish in Miranda do Douro and consists of a mirandesa beef steak, cooked over coals.

As far as soup goes, the most popular is the Caldo Verde. Originally from the Minho region, it is popular all over the country, and is made with potatoes, diced curly kale and served with one or more slices of chorizo. In 2011 it was voted one of Portugal’s 7 Culinary Wonders. And since you can hardly speak of Northern Portugal without mentioning the wine, make sure to accompany these dishes with some Douro wine or, of course, Port.

What to visit

The most famous city in Northern Portugal is Porto, considered best destination in Europe in 2017. Here, obviously, there is much to see. The Casa da Música, the Torre dos Clérigos or the Casa de Serralves, for instance, as well as the historical centre and the Livraria Lello bookshop, which inspired Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, not to mention the Port Wine Cellars, across the river, in Gaia.

But there is much more to Northern Portugal than Porto. There is plenty to see in the Minho and Trás-os-Montes regions also. One such example is the city of Guimarães, with its castle and historical centre, classified by UNESCO as world heritage in 2001. The cathedral and the Bom Jesus do Monte shrines in Braga are also a must-see. Still in the Minho, stop in Viana do Castelo and climb to the top of the Santa Luzia hill, see the shrine and enjoy a unique view.

In Trás-os-Montes you can visit the cities of Chaves, Vila Real or Bragança, where you can appreciate the well preserved castle walls and the imposing keep. If you get a chance to go to the Montesinho Nature Reserve, make sure to stop by Montesinho or Rio de Onor villages, which are split between Portugal and Spain.

Living in Northern Portugal

With so much to offer, Northern Portugal is certainly a good place to settle. And in case you already had that in mind, you’ll be pleased to know that housing prices are significantly lower than in Lisbon or the Algarve.

Family accommodation prices, per meter squared:

  • North: €827 
  • Lisbon area: €1,318
  • Lisbon (city): €2,877 
  • Algarve: €1,500

(Median prices. Source: National Statistics Bureau, 3rd trimester 2018)

Naturally, there is also variation amongst different municipalities in the North. The most expensive is Porto, but just across the Douro River, in Vila Nova de Gaia, the price per square meter is almost €630  lower.

Porto Area:

  • Porto: € 1,525 
  • Vila Nova de Gaia: €893 
  • Matosinhos: €1,202
  • Maia: €968


  • Braga: €750 
  • Guimarães: €748
  • Viana do Castelo: €855


  • Bragança: €613 
  • Vila Real: €779

(Median prices. Source: National Statistics Bureau, 3rd trimester 2018)


The Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport, in Porto, serves the whole of Northern Portugal, and has direct flights to a number of European cities.


  • Paris
  • Marseille
  • Lyon
  • Toulouse
  • Nice
  • Nantes

United Kingdom

  • London
  • Manchester
  • Liverpool
  • Edinburgh
  • Bristol
  • Birmingham


  • Rome
  • Bologna
  • Milan
  • Naples


  • Berlin
  • Hamburg
  • Munich
  • Cologne
  • Frankfurt

In 2017 the Porto Airport was voted the second best in Europe by the Airports Council International, in the class of units with a circulation of over two million passengers a year. In 2016, the same organisation had chosen it as Europe’s best airport in the category of five to 15 million passengers.

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