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Overview Porto and the Douro Valley
The mythic Douro River crosses the land of old Castile (central Spain) before entering Portugal through its worldwide famous romantic valley and joins the Atlantic Ocean in the extraordinary city of Porto, one of the most charming destinations of Western Europe.
A remarkable part of the Douro Valley is the Portuguese stretch between Mesão Frio and Pinhão, where the vineyards precariously cling to the steep terraces on either side of the river. This hidden treasure spreads its wineries right between the end of the Douro river, the city of Porto, and the spanish border.
Will Along with being the second-largest Portuguese city after Lisbon, Porto is also one of the most prominent urban areas in Southern Europe. Its rich history which dates back to many centuries enriches its cultural wealth as the city is one of the oldest European centers. Varied historical monuments including the cathedral with its Romanesque choir, neoclassical Stock Exchange and the typical Portuguese Manueline style Church of Santa Clara depict its cultural richness.
VIANA DO CASTELO
Considered one of the most beautiful cities of Portugal, Viana do Castelo is located in Minho province, the north-western most region of Portugal that borders Spain’s Galicia region. The proximity to the Lima river, as well as it’s breathtaking views makes Viana do Castelo a must stop in any visit to the north of Portugal. Viana is famous for its architecture with its monuments in and around the city. It is also famous for its surrounding natural beauty which is a characteristic of the Minho province.
Between Mesao Frio and Pinhao lies the stretch where the valley sides are lined with terraced vineyards that produce the grapes for the famous Port wine. But this region is famous for other things besides the wine that is made nowhere else in the world. Signs of prehistoric men are seen in the ancient cave paintings in Vila Nova de Foz Coa. Elsewhere, medieval castles and convents or Romanesque little churches dot the landscape. History, too, is evoked by the manor houses, such as the Baroque mansion at Mateus, near Vila Real, or in the great 17th century sanctuaries, such as Nossa Senhora dos Remedios in Lamego, which plays such an important role in people’s devotions.
Old Coimbra sits on a hill on the right bank of the River Mondego, with the university crowding its summit. The main buildings of the Old University, dating from the sixteenth century, are set around a courtyard dominated by a Baroque clock tower and a statue of Joao III that looks remarkably like Henry VIII. The chapel is covered with azulejos – traditional glazed and painted tiles – and intricate decoration, but takes second spot to the Library, a Baroque fantasy presented to the faculty by João V in the early eighteenth century.
A history of Roman and Moorish occupation has left its stamp on the city of Evora. This can be seen in the tangle of narrow alleys which rise steeply among the whitewashed houses. Most of the monuments, however, date from the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries. At this time, with royal encouragement, the city was one of the leading centers of Portuguese art and architecture. Used as a slaughterhouse until 1870, the Temple of Diana in the central square is the best-preserved Roman temple in Portugal, its stark remains consisting of a small platform supporting more than a dozen granite columns with a marble entablature. Directly across the street is the former Convento dos Loios, now converted into a luxurious Pousada. Its conversion into a Pousada is in part attributed to Francisco de Arruda, architect of the Tower of Belem in Lisbon
It is chilly and windswept all year round and offers superb views. The city was founded in 1197 by Dom Sancho I to guard his borders against both Moors and Spaniards, and though the castle and walls have all but disappeared, its streets and little squares are uniquely picturesque.