If you’ve seen my posts about day trips to the cities of Santo Domingo de Silos, Burgos and Zamora, you know already that I travelled from Northern Spain to Northern Portugal with Transromanica, a network of Romanesque heritage sites.
As part of the Council of Europe’s Cultural Routes, they show us the shared cultural heritage in Europe and really take us on a journey without boundaries, through different countries and cultures, space and time and today we’ve arrived in the surprisingly lovely town of Amarante Portugal.
Amarante is a historic settlement dating back to the 4th century B.C. and is located in the Northern Portuguese district of Porto, nestled between the mountainous mass of the Serra do Marão, crossed by the Tamega River.
Around Amarante you can find the rich agricultural lands of the Minho region which is responsible for the grapes of the vinho verde that you can find everywhere here. Amarante is also a great place for foodies, because the region also produces great cheeses, smoked meats and pastries.
The town itself is lined with charming cobblestone alleys and balconied houses and other buildings in mainly the Romanesque style. Because it’s so small, it’s perfect to explore on foot, but there are also options to take a tour a bit further out of the medieval city center, which I’ll tell you all about below!
Did you know that the word ‘amar’ actually means ‘love’ in Portuguese? Well, I did fall in love a little bit with this place, so it’s a well-chosen name for sure! No wonder that it’s been the hometown of São Gonçalo, Portugal’s St Valentine who gives pilgrims the hope of finding true love here.
Also many important artists and writers have resided here in the early 20th century. In the local museum, you can see some of their works on display.
Excited to find out more? Let’s dive right in and show you the best there is to see and do in Amarante in this one-day guide:
- ONE DAY IN AMARANTE ITINERARY
- How to Spend Your Morning in Amarante?
- How to Spend Your Afternoon in Amarante?
- How to Spend Your Evening in Amarante?
- Do You Have More Time in Amarante?
- PLAN YOUR TRIP TO AMARANTE!
- Products from Amazon.com
ONE DAY IN AMARANTE ITINERARY
How to Spend Your Morning in Amarante?
Cross the Ponte de São Gonçalo
We start our day at the ‘entrance way’ to the old town: the stunning São Gonçalo bridge. It was created by the Romans to connect the town with Braga and Guimarães and unfortunately got destroyed in the floods of 1763. In 1763, a stone version of the bridge was built, with the then standard baroque and neoclassical elements.
After than, the bridge helped Amarante survive French attacks in 1809 during the Second French Invasion (there is a memorial plaque to celebrate this resistance of the town) and in 1910 it was classified as National Monument.
At the beginning of each side of the bridge you can find stone obelisks marking the entrance. Being the gateway to the stunning Igreja de São Gonçalo church, we keep crossing it, of course making a stop half-way on one of the half-rounded platforms for a quick photo.
Visit Igreja São Gonçalo
The Church of São Gonçalo (“Igreja São Gonçalo”) is definitely the most iconic attraction of Amarante and during our visit, it was full of people celebrating a local religious holiday, that started with a service and ended with a colourful parade through the old town.
For this reason, we weren’t able to see the church from the inside, but behind the massive 16th-century Renaissance doorway, you can find a monastery set in 3 tiers of granite columns, of which the lower two levels are decorated with Corinthian capitals and the top level with Solomonic capitals, as well as a massive pipe organ and beautifully painted ceiling in the sacristy ceiling.
The Saint São Gonçalo was born in Amarante the 1100s and his ability to heal the sick earned him his special status. Inside the church, you can find his tomb as well.
On his saints’ day on the first Saturday in June, the town of Amarante hosts a massive celebration (Festas de São Gonçalo), where apparently you give a phallus-shaped cake (Bolos De São Gonçalo) to the one you really want. If that doesn’t do the trick for you, you have another chance of love, when touching the statue of São Gonçalo on New Year’s Eve. Why not give it a try? Haha!
You can visit the monastery and the chapel throughout the year from 09:00 to 12:00 or from 14:00 to 17:00 during the week / 15:00 to 17:00 during the weekends.
Can’t visit like we did? Then walk the steps along the church to a viewing platform that gives you a peek in the courtyard of the monastery and a nice view over the old town.
Visit The Municipal Museum of Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso
As I said in the beginning, Amarante was home to many artists, so it’s no surprise the city now hosts a museum where you can find most of the contemporary artworks that are important for this region.
One of the most famous artists of Amarante is Amadeo de Souza Cardoso, who produced many paintings inspired by the cubist movement. Together with other modern artists such as painter and sculptor Modigliani and Acácio Lino and expressionist António Carneiro, you can see his works at the museum named after him.
There are regular exhibits of up-and-coming contemporary artists and there is also a small gallery dedicated to the region’s archaeology. Also, if you’re interested in architecture, a visit is recommended, because you can see the old architectural structure of the neighbouring São Gonçalo convent.
The museum is housed in an old church, and is open from 09:30 to 12:30, 14:00-17:30 (Winter) and 10:00-12:30, 14:00-18:00 (Summer). A ticket is only €1, so there really is no excuse for not checking it out while you are here (ok, to be fair, we didn’t visit either, but still!).
Visit Igreja De São Domingos
In Amarante, there is another church to visit, the Igreja De São Domingos. It’s close to São Gonçalo (just a little bit further uphill) and this newer church was built by the Dominican Order in 1725.
The exterior is very richly decorated in Baroque style and the interior is apparently covered in gilded woodcarving and wooden images of Christ, Mary Magdalene and John the Evangelist.
There is a small museum filled with sacred art, ceremonial items, painting and decorative arts used within the church.
See Beautiful Azulejos Tiles
You probably already know about Azulejo, the Portuguese and Spanish painted tin-glazed ceramic tile-work that can be found all over the country on the interior and exterior of churches, palaces, houses, schools, and even restaurants, bars and train stations.
These tiles are still applied on walls, floors and even ceilings these days in Portuguese architecture and in Amarante, we saw some of them as well, so beautiful!
Did you know that these tiles are not only used to decorate, but that they also help with the temperature control in homes?
Walk Along the Tâmega River
Life in Amarante revolves around the Tâmega river and there is nothing better than take a walk along the riverbank, which is lined with shade-throwing trees. In Summer, there is a regular guided river cruise and with good weather you can also rent little paddle boats or canoes.
How to Spend Your Afternoon in Amarante?
Browse the Local Shops
The old streets in Amarante are just adorable and browsing the local shops is definitely a great way to find some special souvenirs and mix in with the locals!
Indulge on Traditional Sweets
One of my favourite activities in Amarante was the small sweets workshop that we did with the Inside Experiences tour company. They run several local tours in Amarante and the surrounding area and make for a perfect way to get to know the city!
As we step into the kitchen of Confeitaria da Ponte, we are greeted by the lovely ladies that work hard every day filling the shop with the most delicious traditional Portugese sweets. The bakery has been running for more than a century (since the 1930s) and it really is a stop you don’t want to miss.
We have a go ourselves trying to assemble Brisas do Tâmega (canoe-shaped sweets filled with candied egg and almond kernels), Papos de Anjo (sweets made from whipped egg yolks, sugar, water and a thin wafer… they are roughly translated as “angel’s double chin”, haha!) and Foguetes (rocket-shaped sweets made from soft eggs and almond, rolled in a wafer and dipped in sugar syrup).
Afterwards, we also try the shops other |specialties such as Lérias de Amarante (small rounds made of dark sugar, flour, almond and water) and São Gonçalos (more egg yolk and sugar-goodness).
Visit Solar Dos Magalhães
History lovers should make their way up to Solar Dos Magalhães, an old manor house that has been in ruins since the second French Invasion in 1809. It got burned down by Napoleon’s retreating army and these days you can see the remains of the beautiful arcades of this 16th-century house.
The house was built in Renaissance style and belonged to the Magellan family, yes the family of which Ferdinand Magellan belongs to, the 16th-century navigator and first man to circumnavigate the earth!
In Summer, you can attend special concerts and other events on the lawn of the house.
Discover Nearby Neolithic Sites
Another great tour we did with Inside Experiences, was a Jeep Safari to some of the nearby Neolithic sites in the area of Amarante.
With this tour, we drove through the megalithic mountain area of Aboboreira and discovered the oldest monuments of the region. We learned all about the history of the civilizations that lived in this mountain area over 7000 years ago!
We saw megalithic monuments such as the Chã de Parada (Large dolmen made up of 9 standing stones, an access corridor and still visible engravings inside) and Anta de Meninas do Crasto 3 (megalithic set with 5 standing stones and one large headstone) and had a fantastic view over the region at the same time.
How to Spend Your Evening in Amarante?
Enjoy a Typical Portuguese Meal
Along the river in Amarante, there are plenty of breakfast, lunch and dinner options! He are some local favourites:
- Quelha Restaurant >> See on Tripadvisor >>
- Local dishes and wines from the Quita do Vallado
- Restaurante A Eira >> See on Tripadvisor >>
- Spanish and Portuguese cuisine, with outdoor seating, a bar and free parking
- Largo do Paco >> See on Tripadvisor >>
- Sophisticated restaurant with typical Portuguese dishes
- Tasquinha do Ponte >> See on Tripadvisor >>
- Northern Portuguese dishes
- Pobre Tolo >> See on Tripadvisor >>
- Dining with a view over the Tâmega River
- O Pescador >> See on Tripadvisor >>
- Taberna under an old theater with local and cheap food
- Bar do Girassol >> See on Tripadvisor >>
- Vegetarian and organic with a cheap daily menu
Make sure to taste the local wine called Vinho Verde (a crisp, aromatic white wine) and other local favourites such as Cabrito Assado (roasted goat marinated in wine, garlic, bay and parsley for a day) and Bacalhau (salted cod served with fresh vegetables and mashed potatoes).
Do You Have More Time in Amarante?
Go for a walk, hike, swim or bicycle ride
Looking to get into nature and get a bit more active? Then there are plenty of options for you close to Amarante’s center.
Take a stroll in the Parque Forestal de Amarante, a serene park landscaped in 1916, where there are several tracks through the woodland beside moss-covered rocks and a stone path will also take you to a small rocky island. This 5-hectare space was planted with hundreds of exotic trees, playgrounds and there is also a deer enclosure, so it’s a feast for the eye to walk through!
For a more serious hike, you can visit the mountains Serra do Marão and enjoy some spectacular views. To get here, go east on the A4 for about 20 kilometers until you see the massif come into view. This granite range has the sixth highest peak on mainland Portugal at 1415 meters. See if you can spot some falcons here!
Rather cycle than walk? No problem! Since 2013, Ecopista do Tâmega, became the areas go-to paved cycle path that links Amarante with the town of Arco de Baúlhe, 35 kilometers upriver. Following the old Linha do Tâmega railway line (that closed down in 1990), you will cycle through a hilly green landscape of vineyards and forest. The stations along the route provide for a nice pit stop, as they have been turned into cafes and rest stops.
For lovers of water, Parque Aquático De Amarante is there for you! This waterpark is a great family attraction. In Summer, it can get busy here, so arrive early and enjoy the slides and two large pools crowd-free. From the park, you have great views of the Tâmega and its wooded valley.
Learn More About Rota do Românico
Amarante is located on the Romanesque Route, a medieval heritage trail lined with monasteries, churches and monuments, as well as many bridges, castles and towers situated in nine countries across Europe.
In Portugal alone, this part of the route is called Rota do Românico and monuments are clearly signposted. For example, stop at Mosteiro do Salvador in Travanca, with its fortified bell-tower, or drive to Igreja de Santo André in Telões for its strange vestibule or the 13th-century Mosteiro do Salvador in Freixo de Baixo.
In the town of Lousada in Portugal, you definitely have to visit the Interpretation Centre of the Romanesque, because it will give you a complete overview of the history and route of the Romanesque. Here, you can learn all about the art, symbolism, society and monuments of the Romanesque time, in an interactive exhibition building.
Visit the website of Transromanica, which manages this network of Romanesque heritages sites and promotes education and sustainable tourism across the network.
PLAN YOUR TRIP TO AMARANTE!
I hope you enjoyed this Northern Portugal travel guide and that it helped you deciding what to do in Amarante. Here is more information to help you plan your trip:
Time Zone in Amarante, North Portugal? Western European Summer Time (GMT+1)
Currency in Amarante? Euro (EUR). Check the latest exchange rate here.
Electrical Plugs in Amarante? Portugal has plug types C (2 round pins) and F (2 round pins with two earth clips on the side). Portugal operates on 230 V supply voltage and 50 Hz. We recommend getting a universal travel adapter to never worry about having the right plug on your travels!
Languages Spoken in Amarante? Portuguese, but you can get by with English as well.
Best time to visit Amarantes Portugal? The best time to visit Amarante in Portugal is from April until October. Amarante has a Mediterranean climate with hot and dry Summers and mild Winters, but with a lot of rain. If you love wine, visiting Amarante in Fall is a great idea as well, since temperatures are still nice and the grapes are being harvested at this time.
Insurance for Amarante? Make sure to get travel insurance! We recommend checking out worldnomads.com
How to get to Amarante? Getting to Amarante is fairly easy as it’s very accessible. Close to Porto Amarante makes for a great (day) trip. There is no direct train to Amarante, so getting there by (rental) car is your best option (it’s a short detour from the A4 motorway). Try and park close to the market, which is your best option. Another way to get to Amarante is by bus. There are 4 companies operating this area, including Rodonorte and Transdev. The website Rome2Rio can give you the best tips on public transport to take!
How to get around Amarante? Amarante’s historical center is easy to explore on foot. For guided tours, we recommend checking out the website of Inside Experiences >>
Where to stay in Amarante? For Amarante hotels and other hotels in Northern Portugal check Booking.com for the best deals >> We didn’t stay in a hotel Amarante Portugal ourselves, but were in the nearby town of Lousada, which is only a short drive.
Best tours in Portugal Amarante? For the best local tours, make sure to check GetYourGuide.com for the best deals >>
Map of Amarante
See the location Amarante Portugal and find the best things to see and do in the area:
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Disclaimer: I was invited by Transromanica on this trip and was compensated for creating content on our website and social media channels. All photos and words are our own, as always.