In the Upper Douro Valley, surrounded by vineyards and corn farms, Lamego is a town famous for its art, baroque architecture and wine. Every church or chapel takes a little time as it may hide treasures like gilded wood carvings or the tombs of historical figures.
If you’re really committed, you wouldn’t expect to climb nearly 700 steps to the sanctuary of Nossa Senhora dos Remédios. It’s no surprise that wine is on Lamego’s agenda in the trendy Douro Valley, but you’re probably not ready for sparkling wine, which the locals take pride in, stocked in town in the cave.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Lamego:
1. Lamego Museum
Hosted by the glorious Bishop’s Palace, the Lamego Museum houses precious paintings, sculptures, goldwork, tiles, archaeology, furniture and ceremonial artifacts from many eras.
Many of these works were collected by Bishop Lamego, but the collection has expanded over the 80 years that the museum has been open.
Knocked-out works are from the Renaissance, such as the four Flemish tapestries of the 16th century evoking the tragedy of Oedipus, or the five paintings by the Renaissance master Grão Vasco, which originally constituted a polyp in the cathedral in Lamego , and then removed in the 1700s.
2. Santuário de Nossa Senhora dos Remédios
A dramatic staircase climbs up the Monte de Santo Estêvão (Saint Stephen’s Hill) to this 18th-century Baroque and Rococo sanctuary.
Religious people have been climbing bravely since at least the 1300s.
The journey is half the fun, with 686 steps through 9 landings and is filled with tile panels, chapels, fountains, obelisks and statues.
You can take a breather on nine terraces, one of which “Pátio dos Reis” has images of Israel’s 18 kings.
When you finally reach the top, you can meet Nossa Senhora dos Remédios (Our Lady of Remedy) in front of her glorious altar.
There is also a chestnut tree on this upper terrace, over 700 years old, overgrown with ivy.
3. Lamego Cathedral
This national monument dates back to 1129, but has been improved over the centuries.
Today, the only early feature is the square bell tower with narrow Romanesque windows with semicircular arches.
The façade is Gothic with pinnacles and detailed masonry in the ogival archive above the three portals.
But entering the cathedral is like stepping into a different era, as the rest of the church is from the 18th century.
That said, aside from the cloister, which dates back to 1524, Renaissance arches surround an elaborate formal garden with a fountain.
4. Lamego Castle
Lamego’s Castle, on a rugged granite spur, is another national monument.
Most of the original fortress doesn’t make it into the 21st century, but it’s still enough to transport you to the age of war between Moors and Christians.
It was occupied by the legendary Moorish commander Almanzor at the end of the 10th century, only to be recaptured by the Christians 60 years later, at the expense of many.
The quadrangular castle houses a small museum with interactive exhibits and panoramic views of the Kura, Barsemão and Varosa rivers from the parapet.
Also, keep an eye out for the castle’s Moorish cistern, which is located outside the walls and has a ribbed vault supported by four arches on columns.
5. Church of San Pedro de Balseman
This chapel is older than any other monument in Lamego.
While the exterior is baroque, the interior is as old as the 600s, when it was a Visigothic sanctuary.
A cool thing about this chapel is that stone from a nearby Roman villa was used as the material for the altar of the current building.
You will be drawn to the 14th century statue of Marian, carved from limestone from the famous quarry of Ançã.
The core, formed by two sets of columns and semicircular arches, is the granite tomb of the 14th century Bishop of Porto.
6. Capela do Desterro
From the outside it looks like an ordinary church, and inside it hides a treasure of Lamego.
The buildings here today were built in the 1640s, when the bailiffs of Leça replaced the chapel on the site with a full-scale Baroque chapel.
Some of the paintings commissioned for the church ended up in the Lamego Museum, but the interior remains gilded wood shaped in the 1700s by local sculptors Manuel de Gouveia, Manuel Machado and Manuel Martins.
The coffered ceiling is also breathtaking, with fragments of the life of Christ painted on the panels.
7. Wine tourism
The advent of port was a boon for Lamego’s economy, and elegant estates sprung up in a sea of vines.
Port is just one of several wines produced near Lamego; in fact, the town is known for its sparkling varieties.
These can be red or white, and you can buy them in caves (try Caves da Raposeira), which go underground for a secondary fermentation that sizzles the wine.
Lamego’s sparkling wines are often fruity and great as an aperitif.
You can also visit the port winery to gain insight into the centuries-old viticultural heritage of the Douro Valley: Quinta da Pacheca and Quinta de Santa Eufemia, overlooking the Douro River, are two places to note.
8. Baroque Architecture
Lamego is often described as the capital of the Portuguese Baroque, and when the style was at its peak, it has many ornate buildings from the 1700s.
In addition to the Bishop’s Palace, where the Nossa Senhora dos Remédios Sanctuary and the museum are located, there is the Cine-Teatro o Ribeiro da Conceição, located in the town’s old hospital, dating from 1727 and remodeled in 2008. Outside, with a curved gable and spire, is the old library of the Bishop’s Palace.
The exquisite “solar” mansions Casa das Brolhas, Casa dos Serpas and Casa dos Mores can also be seen from the outside.
Don’t forget the Chafariz dos Remédios fountain, designed by Italian Baroque master Nicolau Nasoni.
9. Jardim da República lamego
Facing the town hall and surrounded by elegant granite and stucco buildings, this garden is a great place to rest for a few minutes.
It has formal lawns with ample shade under palms and fresh deciduous trees.
On the eastern edge next to the town hall, there is the noble trunk of an ancient chestnut tree, just a few steps away from the bust of the Lamego-born poet Fausto Guedes Teixeira.
At the center of the park is a beautiful Art Nouveau bandstand, while the western, northern and southern boundaries of the park are framed by magnificent granite balustrades.
10. Miradouro de São Domingos
The banks of the Douro River are less than 10 km from Lamego, and there are several vantage points that allow you to fully appreciate the magnificent views of the river.
One of them is Miradouro de São Domingos in Peso da Régua.
From the natural balcony on the right bank, you can marvel at the backdrop of the verdant river and its steep banks, where vine terraces are interrupted only by lone cypresses or pines.
It’s a photo-worthy sight in any weather, the only thing that could be improved is if an old rabelo sailing past.
11. Douro Museum
Also by the river in Peso da Régua, the Museu do Douro celebrates the history and culture of this wine region, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Douro Valley is the oldest designated wine region in the world, dating back to the 18th century.
The building of the museum has a special significance as Casa da Companhia Velha, which since 1756 oversees wine production on the Upper Douro.
You’ll be transported back to the earliest days of wine growing in the valley to learn more about the soil, landscaping techniques to make more room for the vines, the origins of the traditional rabelo boat, and the customs of the grapes when they were harvested.
Finish off with a glass of wine at the museum bar leading to the Douro River.
12. Convent of São João de Taruca
Portugal’s first Cistercian monastery was founded in the 1100s just south of Lamego.
In the decades following the coronation of King Alfonso Henrique, the monastery received generous donations.
These allowed it to grow into the mother institution of several monasteries in northern Portugal.
The church is where you mostly visit, with Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture and decoration.
Historians and art lovers will be engrossed in studying the enamels, paintings, the glorious gilded wood on the three altars and the 14th-century mausoleum of Pedro Afonso, Count of Barcelos.
This has a recumbent sculpture and carved reliefs on either side of the sarcophagus.
13. Festa de Nossa Senhora dos Remédios
For two weeks at the turn of September, the hilltop sanctuary hosts a festival dedicated to the shrine of Nossa Senhora dos Remédios.
For the first three days after the festivities began, pilgrims walked up those nine flights of stairs to the church each day.
But that’s just a small part of larger events such as fado music performances, dance recitals and an annual folk festival.
Towards the end of the two weeks, there will be Batalha das Flores, a parade that includes marching bands, folk-themed floats, samba dancers and traditional giant ceremonial puppets.
Then on September 8 is Procissão do Triunfo, the culmination of two weeks, when cows paint floats with sacred images on the streets.
14. Parque Biológico da Serra da Meada
A way into the peaceful countryside just outside of Lamego, this park has wooded trails that guide you through the habitat of the nature reserve.
Some animals are kept here for a period of time before being released into the wild, while others are permanent residents because they cannot survive in the wild.
Usually, the park has domestic animals such as horses and goats, as well as deer, wild boar, foxes and various birds native to the hills and woods of the Douro Valley.
The total area is 50 hectares, and the ancient pine forest trail is 3 kilometers.
In the Upper Douro Valley, the food is rustic and meaty, with lots of grilled meats such as baby goat with potatoes and wood-fired rabbit.
Presunto (cured ham) is also popular in Lamego and can be eaten as a snack with a glass of wine, a sandwich or melon.
A bola de Lamego is a typical sandwich with ham, vinha d’alhos (cured pork), sardines or cheese.
As you travel through the Douro Valley, you may notice that the corn crop is almost as plentiful as the vines.
Corn is used in many preparations, including various salads, vinha d’alhos and broa de milho, Portuguese cornbread.
Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Lamego, Portugal
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