15 things to do in Penafir (Portugal)

In the hills, valleys and rivers of the northern region of Portugal, Penafir is a medium-sized town with a lot to do. It’s a landscape you have to explore on two feet or two wheels, and there’s a lot of historical and cultural help.

You can wander the streets of the former Roman city or choose the Romanesque trails built before the founding of Portugal. The scenery is enchanting, from the lush banks of the Douro and Sousa rivers to the idyllic vineyards and pine forests that cover every hillside.

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

1. Santuário do Sameiro

Santuário do Sameiro

Rising east of the town centre is a hill that has been turned into a park, topped by a 19th-century sanctuary.

The church has a fairy-tale quality to it, and its massive white dome might remind you of Paris’ Sacré Coeur.

But the best part of this location is the park, with taiga on the hillside, leading you to the charming formal gardens by the stairs below the church.

From the higher platform, there is a view of Penafiel and its outlying villages, which are situated on tall cork hills.

2. Castro de Monte Mocinho

Castro de Monzinho

In northern Portugal, “castros” are Bronze or Iron Age hilltop villages.

Many of these were excavated in the 20th century, when entry systems for dwellings and defenses were unearthed.

Many were also inhabited during Roman times, and this applies to Monte Mozinho, which is over 400 meters above sea level.

The 22-hectare walled city is known for its various architectural styles, from the original circular structures to the more complex rectangular houses used by the Romans.

The open space at the top of the hill also stands out as a large plaza for markets, public gatherings and games.

3. Museu Municipal de Penafiel

Penafiel Municipal Museum

The town’s museum is housed in a 17th-century mansion with a modern annex and innovative 2000s interiors.

It was all designed by the precious architect Fernando Tavola and was his last work before his death.

The gallery deals with Penafiel’s history, cultural identity and archaeology.

Many artifacts found on Mount Mozinho were brought here, including a pair of statues of Galician warriors.

You’ll learn about Penafiel’s natural history and the area’s traditional techniques, dress and customs.

Peek at houses rebuilt in different periods and examine the wooden boats that once sailed on the Sousa and Douro rivers.

4. Mosteiro de Paço de Sousa

motello de paso de sosa

This Benedictine monastery dates back to the 900s.

See also  15 things to do in Fatima (Portugal)

It trended downward during the Reconquista before recovering in the 1200s.

The result of these two phases is a fusion of Romanesque and Gothic architecture.

The façade is a marvel, with a portal beneath the archives of five capitals with intricate carvings.

Above is a striking rose window with simple circular tracery.

The most important story, though, is in the grave of Egas Moniz.

He was the mentor (religious teacher/tutor) of Afonso Henriques, the first king of Portugal.

The tomb is flanked by high reliefs showing Moniz’s journey to the court of Leon Alfonso VII.

5. Quinta da Aveleda

Quinta da Avileda

Quinta da Aveleda is a step above most wine estates, and it’s worth a try even if you don’t like vinho verde.

However, if you are a fan, it makes more sense to visit this beautiful estate as it ends with a tasting.

Quinta da Aveleda has belonged to the Guedes family since the 1870s, although the estate dates back to the 17th century.

Painted in the English style in the late 1800s, the gardens are full of eccentric folly, one of which is a stone tower where the estate’s goats play.

There are other antiques, such as the mullioned window arch from the house where the navigator Henry was born in the 14th century.

As for the wine, this estate produces one of the most famous export vinho verde brands, Casal Garcia.

6. Well-preserved villages

Quintandona

Penafiel is also on the tourist map for its lovely old villages, which are like time capsules of life.

Quintandona (Lagares) and Cabroelo (Capela) are two excellent examples, both worth a visit.

Cabrolo is a lovely little settlement perched on a pine-covered hill, built of granite, with beautiful wooden granaries, water mills and windmills.

With only 60 inhabitants, Quintandona is equally charming.

The appearance of the village is very different because its buildings are made of dark slate and shale.

There is a 200 year old chapel, a laundry room, more wooden granaries and several vantage points with highland views.

7. Grand Broja Museum

Grand Broja Museum

In picturesque Cabrolo, you can gain an in-depth look at Penafil’s bread-making tradition at six ancient mills, all in a dream setting next to a waterfall.

These small granite buildings are back to work, and you’ll be transported back to a time when cornbread was crucial to the survival of the village.

They mill flour 24 hours a day and now there is a footbridge across the Tranqueuira River between each mill.

When you go there, there are panels explaining each step of the process of turning corn into cornbread, from sowing to threshing, grinding and baking.

See also  15 things to do in Beja (Portugal)

8. Jardim do Calvário de Penafiel

Jardim do Calvário de Penafiel

This garden is also called Jardim Egas Moniz, named after the mentor of Afonso Henriques.

Here’s a bust of him with a rope around his neck, linked to a legend that Moniz walked to Toledo, Spain with a boulder to show his loyalty to Alfonso VII of Leon.

If the park has an elegant vibe, it’s because at the turn of the 20th century, Penafil’s upper classes would relax here.

Iron pavilions and tall century-old trees echo this era.

There are also camellia beds, palm trees and noble avenues, while in front of the town hall is the main gathering place for festivals, concerts and fireworks.

9. Museu de Arte Sacra da Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Penafiel

Sacra Art Museum

Opposite the town hall is a museum of sacred art attached to the church.

Like most churches of the Portuguese Misericórdia Fraternity, this magnificent 17th-century building with some annexes was converted into a museum-gallery in 2004.

The museum begins with the sacristy and includes the meeting hall, the sacristy residence, the interior of the church and its high choir.

Divided between these spaces are extraordinary storerooms of paintings, ceramics, sculptures, furniture, vestments and ceremonial objects from the Middle Ages to the 20th century.

10. The Wizarding World

Magic Paradise

Children under the age of 10 will make the most of this small theme park on the outskirts of Penafiel.

The park has splash rides, several roller coasters, bumper cars, and carousels of different sizes and speeds.

Magicland is divided into six areas: Far West, Pirate Sanctuary, Medieval Village, World of Chaos, Africa, and Souks.

There are rides and playgrounds in every area, and very few hands-on activities.

For example, at the open-air market, children can learn how to make handmade soap, and on the hottest days, the park’s large swimming pool is always a hit.

11. Termas de São Vicente

San Vicente Spa

In the parish of the same name, these springs flow out the most mineral-rich water in Europe.

They were discovered by the Romans in Lusso in the 4th century, and right next to the current spa, you can find the remains of this ancient bath.

The spring water is alkaline and rich in sodium, sulfur compounds and fluoride.

Claims this makes the water more effective in treating musculoskeletal and breathing problems.

If you only have a few hours to spare, you can take a short dip in the Jacuzzi and whirlpool in the thermal pool and spa.

See also  15 Best things to do in Vila Nova de Gaia (Portugal)

12. Romanesque route

Roman route

The Sousa Valley has a large number of Romanesque churches and monasteries, which have recently been turned into tourist trails.

It goes right through Penafiel, so if you like medieval religious architecture, you can jump from wonder to wonder.

There are 21 vehicles on the route and 6 at Penafiel. After the monastery of Paço de Sousa, another important church is the Igreja de São Gens in Boelhe.

A national monument built in the 12th century, it is striking with its Romanesque baptismal font and the numerals etched into the façade’s capitals and corbels.

13. Outdoor recreation

Entre-os-Rios

The landscape of Penafiel is very idyllic, especially in the south, where the Tâmega River joins the Douro River at Entre-os-Rios.

Between the green banks of the river, there is a new pier to receive Douro cruise ships.

In steep valleys and forested areas, the prevalence of mountain biking in Penafiel is not shocking, and if you need a tip, there are dozens of trails and five clubs to contact.

You can also take a class at the two equestrian centres (Casa de Gatão Morada and Centro Hípico de Penafiel) or walk out through the network of signposted paths.

14. Endoenças de Entre-os-Rios

Endoenças de Entre-os-Rios

Penafiel has a rich calendar of religious and secular events.

But if we could only choose one, nothing beats the atmosphere of the candlelight procession that takes place every Easter in Entre-os-Rios.

On Holy Thursday, around 50,000 candles are lit along the Tâmega and Douro rivers in a solemn ceremony for at least 300 years.

Small balls of light are seen almost everywhere, even illuminating boats on the river.

15. Local Food and Drink

Vinho

Vineyards grown for vinho verde are all over Penafiel.

The wine is not named by its color, but by its age.

Vinho verde is picked early and does not mature for long.

This gives it a tart taste, and even red wine is best served cold.

The rivers of Penafiel are the source of lampreys, which are cooked with rice, while in the mountains, stews, roast lamb and baby goats are kept warm in the wet winters.

Dessert sopa seca (dry soup) is the most typical dish, a bread pudding with cinnamon, lemon zest and a dash of wine.

Where to stay: The best hotels in Penafir, Portugal
Lowest price guaranteed.