15 Best things to do in Valbom (Portugal)

On the right bank of the Douro River, Valbom is a small town upstream from Porto. In the blink of an eye, you can be in the city center, sightseeing, admiring art and architecture, tasting port wine, and exploring the historic district. Valbom has its own unique charm as goldsmith artisans have been crafting delicate filigree jewellery here for centuries.

The Douro waterfront has also been revamped, with a meandering path past the beach, allowing you to look out onto the high wooded banks on the south side. There are beautiful old buildings by the water, some you can see from a distance, some you can visit.

Let’s explore the best things to do in Valboom:

1. Porto

Porto

This World Heritage city is right there in your Valbom, so there’s no reason not to enjoy it.

There are markets, museums, gilded wood gleaming churches, postcard monuments and a vibrant old town.

The metal Dom Luís I bridge is an enduring landmark, built in the 1880s and towering near Ribeira.

It’s home to a vibrant marina area and plaza that is at the center of June’s world-famous São João festivities.

You must also stroll along the Atlantic Ocean in Foz, marvel at the Art Deco houses of the Serralves, climb the Baroque Clérigos Tower and marvel at the lavish Palácio da Bolsa.

This is just for beginners!

2. Quinta de Villar d’Allen

Quinta de Villar Darren

The amusement park has belonged to the same family since 1839 when British businessman John Allen bought it at an auction.

The house has been redesigned in the eclectic style popular during the Portuguese Romantic period.

You can visit the descendants of Allen, visit the family museum and richly decorated interiors.

But fragrant parterre gardens are best, especially in summer when the camellias are in bloom.

It’s a mini camellia plantation, and you can buy one from the estate, as well as a bottle of Allen Family Port from their cellar.

3. Luga Desenio

Lugar Desenho

The 20th century painter Júlio Resende was born in Valbom, and over the course of his career he collected around 2,000 works of graphic art.

These are displayed in the thematic exhibition of Lugar do Desenho run by his foundation.

On the first and third Saturdays of every month, you can also peek inside Redende’s studio, designed for him in 1962 by architect José Carlos Loureiro.

Resende worked here for 50 years until his death in 2011.

4. Gramido House

Gramido House

In the 2000s, the dilapidated Casa Branca de Gramido (White House) in Valbom was renovated with the installation of a tourist office, café, reception room, offices and exhibition spaces.

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The building was chosen to be preserved because of the 1847 signing of the Patuleia agreement to end the brief civil war between the Septists (liberals) and the Kadistas (conservatives), in this building.

It’s also in a magnificent setting above the Douro River, something to keep in mind if you’re interested in Portuguese history.

5. Rota da Filigrana

Rota da Filigrana

Valbom has an indelible link to fine gold jewellery.

This tradition dates back to the time when there were Roman gold mines in the Serra das Banjas Mountains in the east.

But starting in the late 1700s, the surrounding city of Gondomar became a dominant force in the craft, which is embodied in the gleaming traditional clothing women wear during festivals.

Five of Portugal’s eight largest goldsmiths are located in the region, where around 60% of the country’s gold jewellery production is produced.

A lot of it takes place in small family-run studios using ancestral techniques, and you can see some of the work on display at Casa da Gramado.

6. Prado do Repso

Prado do Repso

Located on the east side of Porto, next to the Douro River and less than 10 minutes from Valbom, Prado do Repouso is the largest cemetery in the city.

While this may sound like a dreary day out, there are many dazzling 19th-century statues and mausoleums.

These were shaped by two outstanding sculptors of the time, Soares dos Reis and António Teixeira Lopes.

In particular, try to find the church and burial grounds of the Benedictine nuns of the Abbey of Avé-Maria.

7. Zona Ribeirinha de Gondomar

Zona Ribeirinha De Gondomar

Starting in Casablanca in Gramido and continuing to Ribeira de Abad on the eastern edge of Porto, is a 5km riverside nature trail.

From east to west, you’ll start in what feels like the countryside, with just a few houses in the forest on the left bank.

Porto slowly comes into view as you approach Ponte de São João, built in 1991. At the bend of that bridge is the 19th century Ponte Maria Pia, made of wrought iron and designed by the Eiffel company.

Valbom’s Quinta do Passal is on the way, with free bike rentals.

8. Museu Nacional da Imprensa

National Museum

A minute or two from the Allen Hotel is Porto’s National Newseum.

This is filled with exquisite installations from different eras and is divided into three exhibits: Typography, Printing and Finishing.

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One of the cool things about the museum is that many of the displays are not just static, but static. You are cordially invited to participate and operate the machine.

You contrast the labor-intensive days of manual typesetting with the automatic devices that took over in the 20th century.

There is also a small room reminiscent of the story of Rodrigo Álvares of Porto, who became Portugal’s first printer in 1497.

9. Praias Fluviais

big beach

One of the great things about going upstream from Porto is that the Douro is quiet and clean, with only occasional cruises passing by.

A moment in Valbom is the best beach on the river.

If you like a day doing nothing, it’s easier than going through Matosinhos, the closest beach and the river better for swimming.

Zebreiros, Lomba and Melres are nearby beaches, open from June to September.

Lomba is the most prominent, meandering through the river, with large sandy areas, patrolled by lifeguards, and dense pine forests behind and on the opposite bank.

10. Estádio do Dragão

Estádio Do Dragão

Not far east of Porto is the impressive home ground of the city’s top football teams.

Porto are the second best team in Portuguese history and have also won the European Cup/Champions League twice.

Estádio do Dragão has a capacity of 52,000 people and was built in time for Euro 2004 in Portugal. Unless Benfica or Sporting Lisbon are in town, home games are hardly sold out, so you can come and watch top football between August and May.

The rest of the time you can visit the stadium and the museum, which showcases the club’s silverware and tells the story of the club’s European Championship wins in 1987, 2003, 2004 and 2011.

11. Gaia New City

new city of gaia

Vila Nova de Gaia, high on the left bank of the Douro River, opposite Porto, is an independent city and home to the famous port wine cellars.

We’ll get to these later, but in the meantime, you’ll have to cross the Dom Luís I bridge to get the best views of Porto.

This is on the terrace of the Serra do Pilar monastery, with the Ribeira, the bridge and the skyline of the upper town unfolding before you.

Gaia’s riverside pier is one of the places to go by boat, while Gaia Nova is also known for its Atlantic beaches, which run all the way to Espinho, with several Blue Flag winners.

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12. San Inacio Zoo

San Inacio Zoo

On the other side of the Douro River in Valbom, it was a fun day for the young members of the tribe.

Opened in 2000, it was designed with animal welfare in mind, so the habitat is extensive, and the entire park is set among the pine forests of an old wine estate.

A new attraction worth checking out is the glass tunnel in the lion enclosure, which gives you an unobstructed view of these beasts as they love to sleep in it! Around the zoo, you’ll get close to more than 260 species, including meerkats, capybaras, pygmy hippos, Humboldt penguins, a variety of reptiles and insects, and African herbivores such as zebras and giraffes.

13. Douro Cruises

Douro Cruises

There is a small pier by the river in front of the Printing Museum, where several cruise ships traveling along the Douro will dock.

This is Marina do Freixo, named after the magnificent palace in the water.

Designed by renowned Italian architect Nicolau Nasoni, this 18th-century palace is now the stately Pousada (Historic Luxury Hotel). A typical cruise will last around 45 minutes and guide you under six bridges over the Douro River.

Or you can spend the night taking a dinner cruise while the city lights up.

14. Port Wine

Port wine

This fortified wine is made by adding grape essence to wine and disrupting its fermentation.

In Vila Nova de Gaia, climbing the slopes are cellars that have been storing the port for 200 years or more.

Before it became easier to transport wine overland, barrels would be brought down by Rabello boats from the Upper Douro Valley and ashore at the docks.

If you are a connoisseur, there is a large group of well-known inns and cellars, more than 20 of which are welcome to visit.

Novices can get an inside look at the drink and find out the difference between tawny, retro, colheita and garafeira.

15. Local Food

lamprey

Lampreia are abundant in these places, and their season runs from January to April.

There is even a food event in March to celebrate the fish.

It can be simmered with risotto or red wine.

Gondomar’s Festas do Concelho September and October are the time for caldo de nabos, a vegetable soup made from radishes, beans, potatoes and carrots.

Vinho verde, also produced near Valbom, is a young wine with fresh, sharp whites and light and elegant reds.

Where to stay: The best hotels in Valbom, Portugal
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