Northern Portugal

Northern Portugal

While we were staying in Porto we decided to venture out of the city on a day trip to some of the sights to the north. There are plenty of bus tours that head out this way, but since we had the rental car we went on our own. Although we sometimes got a bit turned around it really let us explore and find some things off the beaten path.

Driving down the road we came across this house and steps. We had to stop and take a photo, as it almost looks like a miniature replica of where we were headed. I honestly could not even tell you where this was though. We stopped on a random mountain road and this house appeared through the fog.

Twenty minutes later we were at the real attraction, Bom Jesus. We were overwhelmed by how large the property is. There is a lack of information readily available online but the Bom Jesus property includes several hotels, several restaurants and quite a bit of property to explore. If cities are not your thing, it would be quite fun to stay out here for the night.

We parked at the top of the property and worked our way down (1 Euro parking fee). It was raining when we arrived and we tried to stay under the trees to shield ourselves from the rain. The property is full of lakes, caves and small shrines to explore.

Later in the summer there are boats to rent to enjoy the lakes. It looks like the perfect place to bring a picnic and enjoy the good weather.

The boys loved exploring the caves and those caves were a good little hiding place till the rain stopped.

The sanctuary is a pilgrimage site built in the Baroque style. It is said to have inspired many other pilgrimage sites in Portugal’s colonies.

The inside is quite stunning. The real attraction though is the stairway that climbs 116 feet.

We started at the top and worked our way down with the boys. It’s a fantastic walk, with plenty to see if you take some time and look at all the details. The rain was pushing away, so although things look wet we didn’t get soaked while we were exploring.

The boys were able to manage the stairs on their own and enjoyed all the statues and fountains built into the stairway.

The Big Little and I decided this looked like a bush that belonged in Alice in Wonderland. Even the bronze padlock seemed to just add to the effect.

The Middle Little got some help on the way down thanks to dad.

My favorite feature were these fountains built into the stairs. The water comes out of the top and winds its way down the post. It was soothing to watch.

We made it to the bottom in high spirits. The plan was to hop on the funicular on the way up. Unfortunately the funicular keeps going into town. We were able to catch a glimpse of the track as it passes over the road. So instead of walking down further to find the funicular we walked back up the stairs.

There seems to be quite a bit more property to explore, but with storm clouds gathering we headed back up the hill to our car.

The Big Little and I however could not resist the urge to cross a few more of the bridges. The rain finally chased us off to join the others in the car.

We had a lunch reservation at Cor de Tangerina in Guimaraes right at noon as the place opened. Everything about this place is fantastic. They doted on our kids bringing them kids cups for water and a puppet for our Middle Little.

The Big Little and Jeff played this game, although they sort of made up their own rules. (Anyone know the actual name or way to play this game??) This kept him (Big Little, not Jeff 🙂 occupied until the food came.

The food was seriously amazing. Reservations are strongly recommended and can be made online. When we arrived almost every table had a reserved sign on it. It was packed when we left.

Across the street is Castelo de Guimaraes. “An actual castle” as our Big Little called it. Walkways have been installed inside so you can walk around the upper walls of the castle and peer out. We climbed the tower, which has some displays inside, only to find that the viewing platform was closed.

This is one of the places that had a family discount, which meant that I got to enter for half price because I had the kids with me. The kids were free. I think this is genius. I only get to enjoy about half of what is offered, so the price seems fair. Ha! Meanwhile, Jeff was full price.

The view from the castle on a clear day is likely stunning. On a rainy day with fog it actually takes on a whole different feeling. I loved this view of the manor house, which you can also visit (but we did not).


We walked back to the car with the boys’ heads full of adventurous thoughts. They spoke of dragons and knights until they all passed out in the car on our way back to Porto. We were still able to fit a few activities into our day in Porto upon our return. There is plenty more to explore in this area though if you wanted to stay outside of Porto.

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