Amarante is an enchanting and inspiring holiday destination that attracts people from all over the world. It’s part of the famous Romanesque Route that winds its way through much of Northern Portugal. Every year, visitors travel across the Douro Valley to soak up the area’s tranquil vibes, unspoilt scenery and historical landmarks.
The region’s national parks, verdant mountains and charming villages make it a great getaway destination, and perfect for couples looking for a romantic yet interesting holiday destination. The city of Amarante is a great base for anyone who wants to explore the region; it features several fascinating places of historical importance, from the Baroque-influenced S. Pedro Church to the iconic St. Gonçalo Bridge.
Yet with so much to do and see, where should you start? Here’s a suggested three-day itinerary that will inspire a long weekend trip to the region.
Monastery of the Saviour of Travanca
A key part of the Romanesque Route, the iconic Monastery of the Saviour Travanca was built in the 13th century and was officially classified as a National Monument in 1916. To this day, it is considered one of the most significant Benedictine temples in Portugal, and is a must-see for anyone looking to immersive themselves in the region’s heritage.
Church of Saint Mary of Gondor
Built – like the monastery – in the 13th century, you’ll discover the smaller Church of St Mary of Gondor halfway up the slope in the Valley of the river Ovelha. The site’s Romanesque design details remain largely intact, despite it undergoing numerous transformations throughout the Modern Era.
However, of the church’s murals, only the one adorning the chancel’s back wall survives.
Amarante’s Historical Centre
Following a visit to the church, you’ll have plenty of time to explore the historical streets of Amarante’s town centre before heading to Casa da Calçada to check in. The historic São Gonçalo Bridge is a good starting point. After visiting the city’s churches, you can meader to the Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso Museum; it features an eclectic collection of modern and contemporary artwork, including a selection by eminent local artists.
Casa da Calçada
Check in at Casa da Calçada, a renowned Relais & Chateaux hotel in the heart of Amarante. The hotel is situated in the town’s beautiful 16th century palace that was once the home of Count Redondo. Casa da Calçada is one of the best luxury hotels in the region, featuring a selection of timeless rooms and its very own Michelin Star restaurant…
Largo do Paço
Dining at the famous Largo do Paço is a must for anyone wanting to savour the region’s delicious cuisine. Led by Head Chef Tiago Bonito, guests can expect tantalising Mediterranean dishes served within a comfortable, cozy atmosphere.
Alvão Natural Park
After enjoying breakfast at Casa da Calçada, travel to Alvão Natural Park which is situated between Vila Real and Mondim de Basto. Spanning 70 square kilometres, the park’s diverse habitat is home to endangered species and Fisgas do Ermelo, one of Europe’s largest waterfalls.
You can take a stroll along one of the park’s suggested walking trails and discover the traditional architecture in nearby Lamas de Olo. Don’t forget to look up – you’ll see some of the region’s Peregrine Falcons and you might just spot an elusive Golden Eagle!
Castle of Arnoia
Built during the Romanesque period, the Castle of Arnoia contains features that are characteristic of the military architecture of the period, such as the watchtower which is crowned with merlons. There is also a visitor centre where you can learn about the castle’s past and how the tower was built.
Largo do Paço
After a day of avid exploring, head back into Amarante and try a different dish at Largo do Paço.
Mountain of Aboboreira and Archaeological Park
Aboboreira is 1000 metres above sea level, so is a great thing to do if you’re an avid walker who wants to take in panoramic views of the region. The area’s archaeological park contains funerary monuments built during the Neolithic era. The project was founded in 1978 with the purpose of creating a working centre for archeological mapping.
Bridge of Panchorra
This historic bridge is located in Panchorra, in the heart of the Montemuro mountain range plateau. The village itself dates back to 1258 and is well worth a visit.
What better way to end the trip than by enjoying a dreamy boat ride along the Tamega river to watch the sun set over Amarante! A number of riverboat tours are available and can either be booked on the day or online in advance.
Seasonal offerings and festivals
You might want to check out the following, so confirm if they coincide with your trip:
Festa de São Gonçalo
Festas de São Gonçalo, otherwise known as Festas de Junho or Festas de Amarante, takes place in the town centre throughout the first weekend of June and is a truly unique experience. It is a religious celebration featuring pre-Christian practices such as fertility rituals. The festival takes place around two key places of worship: Church of Sao Goncalo and Chapel of Sao Goncalo.
In a tradition thought to bring good luck to one’s love life, unmarried people touch the tomb of the saint in the church and yet-to-be married couples exchange cakes! Over at the chapel you’ll see participants enter with wax replicas of body parts in the hope that their gesture will relieve whatever medical condition they have.
Amarante has a strong cultural and artistic legacy; a number of the region’s most prominent artists were born here – most notably Teixeira Pascoaes, Amadeo Souza-Cardoso and Agustina Bessa-Luís. The city’s municipal museum, Amadeo Souza-Cardoso Museum, is dedicated to the fine arts and is well worth a visit, even if you can’t make it on the first day.
The art and music scene continues to thrive, and it’s estimated that 1,200 people per year are involved in amateur music practices in the area. In 2017 Amarante was made a UNESCO City of Music, and as such supports and co-produces a number of music events.
June Fest is an annual tribute to St. Gonçalo and attracts upwards of 13,500 people every year. The festival is held in the city’s historical centre and features talented drumming groups from across the munipilicy who partake in contests and folklore performances.
Mimo festival actually began life in the churches of Olinda in Brazil. It features a number of critically acclaimed musicians and over 40 music-related events, including gigs, film screenings, poetry sessions, workshops and seminars.
Aimed at a younger crowd, this summer festival was founded in 2015 and includes a variety mediums and activities, from stand up comedy to extreme sports. The event is organised by Casa da Juventude, the city’s high schools and other associates.
We hope you have enjoyed our guide.
Start planning your trip and book your stay at Casa da Calçada today, and see you soon!