Marco de Canaveses is bounded by the Tâmega and Douro rivers, in the granite highlands of northern Portugal. At a glance at the mountains, evergreen forests, river valleys and vineyards, you might be ready to tie your boots.
You might also want to taste the local flavours, as Marco de Canaveses is a fruitful wine region producing fresh “vinho verde” in over 20 estates. History buffs can look for medieval Romanesque churches on the Rota do Românico (Romanesque Route), or contemplate the moody ruins of an unfinished 18th-century palace.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Marco de Canaveses:
1. Obras do Fidalgo
The facade of this abandoned palace has been watching over a vineyard.
It’s not an everyday palace because this would be the best in Portugal, probably the biggest.
The long façade was completed in the mid-18th century and combines Baroque and Rococo styles.
The entrance is decorated with scrolls and botanical motifs, while each window has a palatial pediment.
There are many explanations for the abrupt abandonment; one is that the Spanish architect died, another that the owner died.
Records show that landowner António de Vasconcelos Carvalho e Menezes lived another 40 years after stopping work, so the location remains a mystery.
2. Tongo Briga
Below the picturesque Serra de Montedeiras is a village with a large number of Roman archaeological sites from the end of the 1st century.
The ancient road network converges at Tongo Briga, so it is fair to assume that this will be a prestigious city.
The ruins are Portuguese National Monuments with forums, cemeteries, large residential areas and bathrooms.
In the baths there is a pedra formosa, a megalith found in many pre-Roman sites in Galicia and northern Portugal and a symbol of the Celtic influence of Tongo Briga.
3. Igreja de Santa Maria de Marco de Canaveses
Álvaro Siza Vieira, one of the most famous Portuguese architects of the past few decades, designed this minimalist church in the mid-1990s.
Regardless of your religion, it’s a sight to behold: the building is all white, with angular lines and a ten-meter-tall main wooden door.
The church is carefully located on the hillside, with a low long window to the right of the nave, bathing the hall in natural light.
The design is all about simplicity and purity, so there is little to no embellishment other than the understated marble christening font.
4. Municipal Carmen Miranda Museum
Did you know that screen star Carmen Miranda was born in Marco de Canaveses? The town’s municipal museum took on the names of its most prominent natives when it received some of her property as a donation in 1985.
In addition to photos and other memorabilia, there are several pieces of clothing and shoes that belonged to the star, delivered by her museum in Brazil and Elos Clube in Rio de Janeiro.
Other galleries in the turn-of-the-century mansion are dedicated to ceramics, ceremonial art, coins, ethnographic displays of farm implements and rotating exhibitions of regional artists.
5. Pedra Museum
As long as humans have lived here, they have been mining granite in the Marco de Canaveses.
This material has been present in new and prehistoric structures, from palaces to megaliths.
Therefore, the town is a good location for a museum that studies the stone and its relationship to people.
You’ll get scientific facts about its mineral composition, and you’ll learn how granite continues to employ people in the town.
The exhibition of carved artifacts brings back a chronology of human development in the region.
6. Rota do Românico
In the Middle Ages, northwestern Portugal was the first region to be reconquered from the Moors.
Before long, a large number of churches sprang up, so north of the Douro there is a large Romanesque heritage from the 11th to the 13th centuries.
Now it is the subject of a special tourist route, Rota do Românico.
Marco de Canaveses has 8 churches, chapels and abbeys to explore along the way.
Their interests lie in masonry, corbels and capitals, often carved with animal or leaf-like motifs.
Many are also located in idyllic countryside, such as the charming Senhora da Livração de Fandinhães church on the side of a green valley.
7. Igreja de Santo André de Vila Boa de Quires
This 12th-century Romanesque church may be a selection of Marco de Canaveses’ medieval heritage.
Like most buildings on this route, it has undergone several updates over the centuries.
These are on the altar, where there is a Rococo altar with frescoes on the ceiling and an arch that separates it from the nave.
But the front windows and the capital of the main portal have original 12th century masonry.
Here, the archives are trimmed into geometric patterns and sit on symmetrical capital letters inscribed with images of plants and beasts.
8. Ponta Duaco
This bridge over the Ovelha River is also over Rota do Românico.
Though when it was built is a bit of a mystery.
The prevailing theory is that it may have been a little newer, and dates back to the late Middle Ages or early modern times.
It is a romantic old structure with a healed back and a pointed arch.
Moss-covered granite boulders strewn across the riverbed, and the banks are lined with trees, making for an enchanting sight.
On the banks of the river, you may see a small shrine: these are common on old bridges, as they are not always stable, and travelers often offer a brief prayer before crossing the bridge.
9. Parque Fluvial do Tâmega
In 2008, the banks of the Tâmega River were regenerated, allowing people to go down to the water for activities, or just sit and watch it flow by.
If water fun is your thing, there is now a small marina with 40 berths connected to the Nautical Club, which also has a riverside restaurant.
The park also has a fishing pier for those with fishing rods and licenses.
If you’re just here for the view, Igreja de São Nicolau on the Left Bank has a picnic area.
Concerts are sometimes held here in summer, and there is also a bar with a terrace where you can have a cool beer or a glass of vinho verde.
10. Praia Fluvial de Bitetos
The coast is up to an hour away, so your next best bet for sun and sand is a river beach.
The city of Marco de Canaveses has a few, but the best of them has to be Praia Fluvial de Bitetos on the right bank of the Douro.
There is a delightful sand belt that has recently been made fully accessible to the disabled.
The water quality is rated as “excellent” and the river has an advantage over the beach due to the absence of dangerous currents.
In addition to this, the beach faces a stunning landscape of granite outcrops and high rocky embankments covered in woodland.
11. Rota dos Vinhos do Marco de Canaveses
The local wine is vinho verde, which can be red, white or rosé.
This is a young wine, harvested and consumed early.
This gives white wines made from grapes such as Alvarinho and Arinto a satisfying crunch and acidity.
One way to travel through the mountains and valleys of the Marco de Canaveses is on the wine routes drawn by the tourist office.
This trail has more suggested stops than you’d hope for a trip; 21 in total, all producing regional vinho verde.
Many like Quinta de Tuías are in historic estates with gorgeous 17th and 18th century estates, and Quinta da Samoça is an award-winning boutique producer.
12. Parque Aquatico Amarante
There is a water park upstream from Tâmega, next to the steep left bank of the river.
In a long, narrow plot with stunning views, there is a multi-lane slide and several sinks.
One of them, Quick Mountain, just opened and is not for the faint of heart.
There are two swimming pools on the slope of the slide, one for everyone and the other for the youngest member of the clan.
The entire park is surrounded by greenery and offers hundreds of sun loungers and umbrellas for parents, who will enjoy the breathtaking view of Tâmega.
13. Going out day
The town of Amarante, located 15 km on the Tâmega hill, is worth every minute’s drive.
Don’t miss the photogenic riverfront on the Left Bank, and the elegant Ponte de São Gonçalo in front of its namesake Manuel church.
In a former monastery connected to the church, there is an acclaimed modern art museum.
This is dedicated to Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso, a modernist whose life was cut short when he was recognized.
Marco de Canaveses is home to two World Heritage cities: the mouth of the Douro is Porto, with its vibrant Ribeira district, sacred Baroque monuments and a rich Port wine heritage.
Guimaraes is the medieval cradle of Portugal, the birthplace of the first King Alfonso Henrique and the seat of the Duke of Braganza.
14. Endoenças de Entre-os-Rios
In the city’s southwest corner, Thursday’s footbath festival is a very atmospheric event.
On both banks of the Tâmega, just before it enters the Douro, a candlelight procession illuminates the valley with a thin stream of light.
Even boats moored on the river are illuminated by dozens of small lanterns, a ritual that dates back more than 300 years.
Endoenças de Entre-os-Rios, organized in cooperation with the neighbouring Penafiel, is included in the Portuguese National Register of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
15. Outdoor recreation
The countryside of Marco de Canaveses demands a walking experience, and 7 official “PR” trails make it possible.
It is a convivial environment of vineyards, mountains almost 1000 meters above sea level and rugged river valleys.
You can hike to a medieval church on the Romanesque route, or the ancient ruins of Tongóbriga on PR6. From June to September, you can rent a canoe or paddle board and have fun on the Carrapatelo and Torrão reservoirs.
There are recreational parks along the Douro and Tamega rivers where you can enjoy the scenery and rent water sports equipment.
Where to Stay: The best hotels in Marco de Canaveses, Portugal
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