5 Portuguese cities that you can visit in a weekend

Praça da Oliveira in Guimarães / Wikipedia
Praça da Oliveira in Guimarães / Wikipedia
9 November 2020, Redaction

Autumn, with its shorter days and cooler temperatures, is well and truly here, but with Portugal's pleasant climate at this time of the year, there is no better time and place for a weekend getaway or city break

A weekend break before Christmas, with the uncertainty of 2020, may be the perfect chance to relax, enjoy the Portugal's autumn sunshine and get to know the beauty of Portugal a little better. If this sounds like the perfect plan for you this autumn, take note of these 5 Portuguese cities that you can discover in just a couple of days, perfect for a weekend getaway, or alternatively, a virtual tour from the comfort of your own home.

Guimarães

Guimarães Castle / Wikipedia
Guimarães Castle / Wikipedia

Guimarães is the city that saw the birth of Portugal and is a truly beautiful city that everyone should visit at least once. Discover the history and symbolism on display on display in this charming city, and find out why it is an unmissable visit when you’re in Portugal.

The main point of interest in Guimarães is the impressive castle, the first in Portugal and the place where D. Afonso Henriques' resistance against the forces of Castile and Leon began. However, this is not all, as Guimarães offers much more, notably a tranquil environment that is perfect for those who want to escape the stress of daily life and get to know a piece of Portuguese history by discovering the city where it all began.

What to visit in Guimarães:

  • Guimarães Castle: the first castle in Portugal to be fully restored and declared a National Monument in the 20th century.
  • Paço dos Duques de Bragança: this palace in the city is now a museum that houses a collection of art from the 17th and 18th centuries and, on the second floor, is the official residence of the President of the Republic of Portugal whenever he travels to the north of the country.
  • Praça de Santiago: this is a square full of shops and esplanades, ideal for mixing with the locals and getting a glimpse of how the local people of Guimarães live on a daily basis.
  • Citânia de Briteiros: visit this set of impressive ruins from the Iron Age. It is one of the most important protohistoric settlements on the Iberian Peninsula due to its size, urban layout and architecture.

What to eat in Guimarães:

  • Roast kid or veal: if you're a meat lover, then you certainly can't miss out on the most typical Portuguese dishes
  • Cod with baked potatoes: this is the obligatory bacalhau cod dish that you can find everywhere in the country.
  • Toucinho do céu: this is a delightful dessert made by monks in a convent and is like a cake made with sugar, ground almonds, sometimes jam and, finally, a large quantity of egg yolks.
  • Tortas de Guimarães: these shell-shaped sweets, also made by monks or nuns, are also one of the most typical sweet treats in Guimarães. They are made using puff pastry and are filled with jam, eggs and almonds. 

Aveiro

Traditional moliceiros in Aveiro, Portugal / Wikimedia commons
Traditional moliceiros in Aveiro, Portugal / Wikimedia commons

Often referred to as the "Venice of Portugal", Aveiro is well worth visiting and has a unique charm that makes it one of the most interesting cities in Portugal. The Ria is one of the highlights and holds much of the charm of this city. Our suggestion on the best way to explore Aveiro is on one of the typical boats called moliceiros, which are characterised by their colourful decoration and humorous messages often written on the side.

We also recommend a visit to the beautiful Costa Nova beach, an extensive beach that is considered one of the best Portuguese beaches for water sports. Another thing that makes this beach so special are the palheiros, pretty little houses or huts that are painted with joyful, colourful stripes; a must visit spot for keen Instagrammers.

What to visit in Aveiro:

  • Sail the canals of the city in a moliceiro: this is an essential part of your visit to Aveiro. These boats, formerly used to transport the moliço (seaweed from the river), are the city's trademark. Discover the city and learn about it with a guided tour by the boat handler.
  • Praça das Arcadas: this square surrounded by arches is one of the most beautiful in the city, and is located in the historical part of Aveiro.
  • Take a walk along the São Roque Canal and visit the salt warehouse, which is still an active working factory to this day.
  • Ponte dos Namorados: the Bridge of Lovers is the most romantic bridge in the city, decorated with colourful ribbons and bows left by couples who have visited from all over the world.

What to eat in Aveiro:

  • Ovos moles: these typical sweets from Aveiro are made with molded wafers in the form of clams, fish and shells and are often covered with a sugary syrup.
  • Pão de ló de Ovar: this is a moist sponge cake made with eggs, sugar and wheat flour but without yeast or syrup.
  • Caldeirada de eguias: this local dish perhaps isn't for everyone, but we recommend you give it a go. It's a kind of eel stew, which is a real delicacy that tastes better than it sounds.

Óbidos

Óbidos castle / Wikipedia
Óbidos castle / Wikipedia

In the Portuguese district of Leiria is the excellent city of Óbidos, which has a wonderful historical centre surrounded by walls with classic battlements. The village is charming visit and is made up of a maze of cobbled streets and quaint whitewashed houses, decorated with flowers and touches of yellow and blue paint that make this area truly unforgettable.

This charming village is a huge tourist attraction for all fans of history who come to visit the impressive castle, attend the wide range cultural events and activities on offer, or just spend a few days in one of the most magical places in Portugal. Lose yourself in its winding streets, walk on top of the ancient city walls and let yourself be swept up in the history of this open-air museum.

What to do in Óbidos:

  • Castelo de Óbidos: the impressive castle in the city was built by the Arabs and later offered as the dowry of several queens, such as Queen Santa Isabel and Queen Leonor.
  • The Igreja Matriz de Santa Maria, the Igreja da Misericórdia and the Igreja de São Pedro: each of these churches has its own charm, but together, they are the true sanctuaries of Óbidos and each one a work of art in its own right.
  • Porta da Vila: the main entrance to the town of Óbidos consists of a double gate and has a stunning interior which is covered with gorgeous 18th century tiles.
  • Museu Municipal de Óbidos: the museum of Óbidos was inaugurated in 1970 and has several works of important religious character.

What to eat in Óbidos:

  • Ginjinha no vidro: dark red in colour, the ginja is a liqueur with two distinct varieties: the straight-up liqueur and the liqueur with fruit inside, like sour cherry, and sometimes flavoured with vanilla or a cinnamon stick. In Óbidos, people usually drink it from a small glass made of chocolate that can be eaten at the end!
  • Chocolate: every year, the town of Óbidos hosts the International Chocolate Festival. As well as seeing the marvellous chocolate sculptures they make, you can also taste some of the best chocolate sweets in the world. 
  • Bread: in the village, you can find some of the best naturally baked breads in the whole country, baked in the traditional Portuguese way in wood-burning ovens.

Évora

Évora has a strong Roman legacy and artefacts / Wikipedia
Évora has a strong Roman legacy and artefacts / Wikipedia

Évora is one of the three most important cities in the Alentejo, and the whole city is like a museum because its historical roots that date back to Roman times. The impressive architecture, white houses, the typical Portuguese tiles and the charming balconies are just some of the main things that make this city so special. In addtion, UNESCO highlights the city wall, the aqueduct and the cathedral as the places of greatest cultural interest in Évora.

If you go to Évora, then you cannot lave without devouring some of the delicious Alentejo food on offer. We especially recommend a good lunch in one of the traditional Portuguese restaurants of the city, with some Alentejo cheese and a good wine from the region.

Things to do in Évora:

  • The Capela dos Ossos (The Bone Chapel): located in the Church of San Francisco and built by Franciscan monks, this whole chapel has been decorated with real bones. Here you will find the creepy inscription “Nós ossos que aqui estamos pelos vossos esperamos”, which means "Us bones that are here wait for you".
  • The Roman Temple of Évora: wrongly called the Temple of Diana, this impressive monument is an integral part of the city's old town, which has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Roman temple is also recognised as a National Monument by the DGPC.
  • The Cromlech de Almendres: this megalithic monument consists of 95 stone monoliths, the most important of its kind on the Iberian Peninsula and one of the most important in Europe. It is impressive not only for its imposing size, but also for its incredible state of conservation.
  • The Cathedral of Évora or Basilica Sé de Nossa Senhora da Assunção: this monument is particularly marked by the transition from the Romanesque to the Gothic style and has three majestic naves that you can explore.

What to eat in Évora:

  • Açorda à Alentejana: this is a different kind of soup, of which various versions exist in different places in the country. Prepared with garlic, salt, olive oil, water and sliced bread, it can also contain coriander, mint and fish depending on where you try it.
  • Queijo de Évora: this is a hard or semi-hard matured cheese with a slightly yellowish colour that is small and circular.
  • Torrão Real de Évora or Torrão de Ovos: an irresistible sweet treat prepared with egg yolks, sugar and almonds.
  • Queijadas de Évora: another typical convent sweet treat, these queijadas have a crunchy dough and a filling of eggs and fresh cheese.

Silves

Silves is a small Portuguese city you can visit in one weekend / Wikipedia
Silves is a small Portuguese city you can visit in one weekend / Wikipedia

Unlike other coastal areas of the Algarve, Silves' charm is found in its tranquillity, while at the same time offering several activities of tourist interest. Considered the best city in the northern region of the Algarve, the former capital of the Algarve offers a fantastic opportunity to discover authentic Portugal this autumn 2020.

Although the main areas of interest in Silves can be visited in less than a day, we recommend spending a night or two in the city to really soak in the calm and unique atmosphere of the city.

The main points of interest in Silves are the Cathedral, the Municipal Museum of Archaeology of Silves, the Roman bridge and, of course, its biggest attraction, Silves Castle, made of red brick that dominates the local landscape.

What to do in Silves:

  • Cathedral of Silves: built in the fifteenth century, the ancient Catedral de Silves has a Gothic style combined with elements from other eras, the result of its changes over the centuries.
  • Museu Municipal de Arqueologia de Silves: inaugurated in 1990, the Archaeology Museum allows you to take a trip back in time with artefacts dating back as far as the 13th century.
  • The Roman bridge: an impressive bridge over the river Arade located in the city of Silves which is said to have been originally built in Roman times and rebuilt in the 15th century.
  • Castelo de Silves: at the mouth of the river Arade is the largest castle in the Algarve region, being considered the most beautiful example of Islamic military architecture in Portugal.

What to eat in Silves:

  • Papas del milho: a traditional dish made of corn that gave strength to those who had to work in the fields.
  • Galinha de cabidela: not for the faint-hearted, this is a chicken stew with the animal's vinegary blood added during cooking. In southern Portugal, it is usually served with sautéed cabbage and is surprisingly tasty.
  • Tarta de alfarroba: a delicious, moist and irresistible pie prepared with carob flour.
  • Morgado de Figo: a cake made using figs and almonds, the most popular ingredients in traditional baked recipes from the Algarve. It also has chocolate, cinnamon, fennel and lemon and is covered with a sugar syrup.
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