Gondomar is a municipality east of Porto. It is a sizable piece of land that stretches from the eastern part of the city to the countryside, along the right bank of the Douro River for several kilometers. There are ornate Baroque churches in the area to visit, as well as a gorgeous 18th-century riverside manor whose gardens bloom with camellias in spring.
In summer, Gondoma has beaches by the river, and despite its location in the Porto metropolitan area, there are secluded woodlands for walks in the mountains full of scientific and historical significance. If you need more life, Porto, with its World Heritage monuments, bars, dining and culture, is never out of reach.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Gondoma:
1. Igreja Matriz de Gondomar
Gondomar’s shining historical monument is probably the main church, which was inaugurated in the early 17th century.
You can look outside for a moment to see the sculptures on the granite and stucco facades, and in the niche above the main entrance there are two statues: they are the patron saints Cosme and Damião.
As was the fashion for churches of this period, the monument gleams with gilded woodwork.
This is most abundant on the main altar, which has statues of Christ and the Virgin.
2. Quinta de Villar d’Allen
In the 18th and 19th centuries, Porto’s aristocrats and wealthy merchants built themselves playhouses with lavish gardens on the outskirts of the city.
There aren’t many left, so it’s nice to see one intact and restored to its former glory.
Villar d’Allen was commissioned by English businessman John Allen and the site combines French flower beds and romantic English gardens, with streams, ponds, waterfalls and plantations of species from the New World.
Baroque architect Nicolau Nasoni was brought in to create sculptures and fountains.
The land is now a nursery for exotic plants, and camellias are one of the wonders of spring.
Seven generations later, the Allen family is still in the port business, and you can pick up a bottle at the estate.
3. Museu da Imprensa
Anyone interested in the history of printing in Portugal and the rest of the world should keep this museum in mind.
It’s right next to Quinta de Villar d’Allen and it’s packed with machines, many of which are still working.
The showroom is divided into prepress, printing and finishing sections, with automated equipment from the United States, France, Germany and the United Kingdom, as well as hand molds.
You can browse wood types, lead types, line types, single types, and intermediate types, and one of the coolest things is a faithful replica of a Korean printing press that predates the 15th-century Gutenberg press.
There is also a space for Rodrigo Álvares, the man who introduced printing to Porto in 1498.
4. Museu Mineiro de São Pedro da Cova
In the 20th century, San Pedro da Coba in Gondomar was an important industrial center in Portugal.
You don’t know now, but workers used to be shipped from all over the country.
The coal mining activities of the Cavalete do Poço de São Vicente have left a very evocative remains, where the huge concrete headframe still stands.
There is also a mining museum in São Pedro da Cova, in the old miners’ dormitory, showing mine carts, reconstructed pits and various paraphernalia such as lamps, helmets and tools.
5. Igreja Matriz de Rio Tinto
To the northeast of Porto is the Rio diocese of Gondomar, which has its own fine church to visit if you’re nearby.
It was also built in the 1700s on an old medieval church attached to a Benedictine monastery.
The current building stands out for its blue and white tiled panels depicting the church’s patron saint on the façade.
Even more impressive is the tabernacle inside, which is unique on the Iberian Peninsula.
This golden ornament has four doors, three with images of the crucifixion and one showing the resurrection of Jesus.
There’s a lot going on at Porto and it’s hard to know where to start.
It’s a UNESCO World Heritage City, with churches, chaotic old neighborhoods and one-of-a-kind monuments to put it down.
Serralves is a stunning Art Deco house that shares a sacred garden with the Museum of Contemporary Art.
Palácio da Bolsa is the old stock exchange decorated with 19th century historicist taste.
Beneath a soaring glass canopy is a breathtaking Neo-Renaissance courtyard and a Neo-Moorish hall with discerning stucco.
Be sure to take a stroll through the Douro River’s Ribeira district, then head west to the seaside promenade of Foz de Douro and Matosinhos.
7. Gaia New City
The main attraction on the left bank of the Douro is the port trade. The famous cottage or cellar has been here since the 1700s, and you can visit the jetty where the barrels were unloaded.
Wine is transported from the Upper Douro Valley to the East on traditional rabelo boats and blended with wine spirits to help it preserve longer.
Port lovers take a few days to pass through the many cellars such as Cockburn’s, Graham’s, Sandeman, Cálem, Croft, Taylor’s.
The list goes on.
The view from the left bank offers a view of most of Porto’s old town, especially from the upper level of the Dom Luís I bridge or the elevated platform of the Serra do Pilar monastery.
8. San Inacio Zoo
The largest zoo in northern Portugal is located on the left bank of the Douro River, just opposite Godomar.
It is located in Quinta de Santo Inácio, an estate established by wine traders in the 18th century.
There are more than 800 inhabitants from 262 species spread across 15 hectares of green and woodland (including a savanna-style area for grazing species in Africa). Kids should love it, but what appeals to parents is the zoo’s involvement in breeding programs for many endangered species, such as cheetahs, Asian camels, and pygmy hippos.
9. Museu Municipal de Valongo
The neighbouring town of Wallongo has a great local museum that can introduce you to the old ways around Porto.
The grounds are part of the charm, in a neoclassical mansion built at the turn of the 19th century and used as a town hall before the museum opened in 2001. Certain rooms retain the original architecture, while others update the modern museum galleries and displays.
You’ll peruse many precious religious artworks, as well as strange ritual puppets used in the famous annual festival, trilobite fossils from local hills and Roman-era finds from the ancient mines of Wallongo.
There are also artifacts from local baking, flax processing and slate mining, which were the cornerstone of the economy at the end of the 20th century.
10. Estádio do Dragão
The westernmost neighbourhood of Gondomar is just 5 minutes away from the home of FC Porto.
It is the second largest stadium in the country and is suitable for Portugal’s second-placed decorated team after Lisbon Benfica.
Porto have won two European Cups/Champions League and two Europa League/UEFA Cups, as well as 27 domestic league titles.
You can visit the 52,000-seat arena and visit the club museum, both established in 2003, just in time for Euro 2004. If you’re a football fan, you’ll be thrilled with these memorabilia, archive photos and profiles of some great coaches and players such as Mourinho, Deco, Falcao, Joao Domingos Pinto and James Rodriguez.
11. Playas River
East of Porto, you’re never too far from the sea, and it takes about 20 minutes to cross town, traffic permitting.
But the city of Gondomar has its own beaches next to the Douro River, which are surprisingly spacious and picturesque as the city thins out.
They actually have several advantages over the ocean, namely that you are protected from the wind, you don’t have to crowd with surfers, and the water is transparent, shallow, and safe.
Praia Fluvial de Zebreiros is the best option, and the pine-clad hills of the Left Bank are calming, but Melres, Areinho and Lomba are good options.
12. Douro River Tour
After watching the Douro River flow by in Gondomar, you may be ready for a short excursion on the river.
This can be done from Vila Nova de Gaia, either in a modern cruise ship, or in a replica of the rabelo if you want to make it a little more authentic.
These tours are up to two hours long and often feature multilingual commentary to learn about the fascinating history of the Douro.
You’ll get a different view of the two 19th-century bridges designed by the Eiffel firm, Porto’s Ribeira district, the cottages of Vila Nova de Gaia and the wooded hills as nature moves east from the city.
13. Gaia Bio Park
Another day out for the children on the other side of the Douro, a 34-hectare nature reserve that educates in a private way.
The River Fabros, a tributary of the Douro River, runs through the park, powering the factory and supplying water to ponds and pools where local aquatic life resides.
Woodland with oaks and pines, typical country farms with granaries, those waterwheels and livestock for the children to befriend.
The park also has a pavilion with life-size dinosaur models and a bird rescue center where local bird species such as griffins, eagles and oyster catchers are recovered before being reintroduced healthy.
14. Local festivals
Gondomar’s most lively annual celebration is the Festa de Nossa Senhora do Rosário, which has been going on for over 300 years.
It’s the first Sunday in October, a kind of harvest festival where people take carts full of walnuts in a parade, drink vinhodoce fortified, and eat reguiefa, a special pilgrimage pastry flavored with cinnamon.
June 24 is St. John’s Day, which has a special significance in the Porto region.
On the night of the 23rd there is a wild Sao Joao festival in Porto, the next day you should be in Wallongo for the Bugiada, a very unique celebration where locals dress up as Christians or Moors and dance in the streets to Simulate combat.
15. Serras de Santa Justa e Pias
While you’re so close to Porto, it’s comforting to know that there’s some natural beauty here for a peaceful walk.
North of Gondoma are two small mountains covered in fragrant pine forests that hide some interesting things to track.
Morada has an interpretive center that shines light on trilobite fossils found in the area, now protected as the “Walongo Paleozoic Park”. Another exciting feature of the area is evidence of Roman-era gold mining, with several secure tunnels to investigate.
Where to stay: The best hotels in Gondomar, Portugal
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