Little-known city is ‘hidden gem’ with vineyards that’s ‘mirror image of Barcelona’

By Staff

Lamego, situated in the Douro Valley of Portugal, is a short journey away from Porto yet remains largely untouched given it’s off-the-beaten-track from the usual tourist-trodden routes

A picturesque European city is a “hidden gem” with a huge amount to offer which is often overlooked in favour of bigger destinations.

Lamego, situated in the Douro Valley of Portugal, is a charming city nestled on the shores of the Balsemão River amid a famed and verdant wine-growing region. It has a history dating as far back as the seventh century.

It is a mere stone’s throw away from Porto, with travellers able to reach the city in just 1.5 hours from the Portuguese hub by car, or in just over two hours by train, disembarking in neighbouring Régua before making a short transfer by car to Lamego. Several UK airports link up to Porto numerous times a day, with flights in April available for less than £100 return.

Despite its close proximity to Porto, the city remains largely untouched given it’s off-the-beaten-track from the usual tourist-trodden routes of northern Portugal, with specialist tour operator Cycling for Softies noting it as a “hidden gem that is perfectly positioned amidst the rows of vineyards in the gorgeous countryside for a peaceful getaway”.

Despite it having kept a low profile, the city has certainly secured its place in the history books, with the first king of Portugal – Alfonso the First – being crowned here in the 12th century. Lamego is also steeped in history, featuring an array of striking Baroque architecture and structures, which creates a fairy-tale setting for travellers to explore and admire its magnificent artistic craftsmanship dating back hundreds of years.

One of Lamego’s most eye-catching sites bares more than a passing resemblance to Parque Guell in Barcelona. The green space is embellished with Baroque features and adorned with ornate structures, including its magnificent stairwell. With just under 700 steps zig-zagging up the hillside of Santo Estêvão, the staircase incorporates statues of kings, remains of beautiful fountains, and gorgeous blue and white tiled motifs, spread across several levels.

The staircase leads up to one of Lamego’s most iconic landmarks – the Santuário de Nossa Senhora dos Remédios, a shrine with a dramatic façade and two impressive clock towers nestled in the beautiful gardens at the very top of the hill.

Built between the 18th and 20th centuries, the sanctuary offers a vantage point boasting spectacular views of the city and beyond. Other than the sanctuary, Lamego’s gothic cathedral, nestled in the very centre of the city, is a symbol of its long-standing history.

With a structure blending several architectural styles – including Romanesque and Baroque – and an intricate golden altar sandwiched between characteristic blue and white tiles, it’s another beautiful historical landmark to explore.

Surrounding the cathedral, the historic streets of Lamego weave their way through the city, lined with authentic restaurants, open-air cafes, and bars, and its central boulevard – the Avenida – is filled with other impressive monuments and market stalls selling artisanal delights.

Those who visit Lamego can also make the most of its prime location near the charming, rustic church of São Pedro de Balsemão, which is said to be the oldest in all of Portugal having been built in the 7th century. Wherever visitors turn, there’s another treasure of history waiting to be discovered.

Lamego’s lesser-popular status means the city can be explored peacefully, away from the hustle and bustle of other Portuguese hot spots, making for a relaxing escape and offering an unbeatable base to explore the surrounding region.

This year Cycling for Softies the company has launched tours in the Douro Valley of Portugal, allowing travellers to explore the rural settlements and hidden gems of the country’s countryside. You can find more information about Cycling for Softies’ Portugal tours on its website.

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