By Ingrid Coifman
Discovering the north of Portugal can be a very rewarding experience. It’s a region of medieval hilltop villages and castles, as well as mountains for hiking and wineries to tour and imbibe in. Each city is unique and full of charm. Those willing to get lost in alleys and architecture can breathe in all the history and scenery, all the while learning new cultures and life styles.
The province of Minho occupies land between the Douro River in the south and the Minho River in the north. Known as the birthplace of the nation, Minho has two of Portugal’s most historic cities: its first capital, Guimarães, and Braga, the country’s main religious centre. Between Braga and the coast lies Barcelos, the ceramics centre of the region. Traveling north, the pretty town of Viana do Castelo is a useful base from which to explore the coast.
The most famous symbol of Portugal, the colourful ceramic cockerel, has its origins in Barcelos. By LML
The town’s famous symbol is a rooster, called o galo de Barcelos. The city hosts a weekly open air market in Campo Da Republica, one of the largest of its kind, presenting a range of locally produced ceramics and handcrafts.
The old Jewish quarter is worth a visit, along with Baroque-inspired Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Terco and the Torre do Cimo da Vila, which has an elevator that takes visitors all the way to the top.
The historic centre has an important Gothic medieval bridge dating back to the 14th century. The Palace of the Condes of Barcelos, which houses the Archaeological Museum, the Pottery Museum, and the Gil Vicente Theatre is also located in the city centre.
(Photo) The traditional Portuguese stew (Cozido à Portuguesa) is considered part of the Portuguese heritage.
– Book a horseback riding experience at Centro Hípico Ir Pedro Coelho, which hosts an international tournament, with more than 150 competitors in May and September;
– Museu Arqueológico is free and overlooks Barcelinhos across the river;
– There’s lots to explore in surrounding areas such as villages, rivers and forests. Ask for Percursos de Pequena Rota (PR) for short treks.