There are certain images you always associate with Portugal. Cristiano Ronaldo scoring another hat-trick, trams running through the cobbled streets of Lisbon and, most of all, the sun-drenched beaches of the Algarve. Many of us happily follow the crowds to the sun-drenched south of Portugal without giving the more verdant north-west corner of the country a second thought. Many Brits are concidering buying a property in northern Portugal.
Just because overseas property buyers don’t know the country north of Porto as well as the tourist hotspots down south, doesn’t mean we should disregard this beautiful part of the country. It’s time to wander, to channel your inner Vasco da Gama and explore the north! Head up to Viana do Castelo and Braga on a viewing trip and you will discover that there’s more to Portugal than just the Algarve. You’ll find plenty of sun, sea, sand and beautiful, affordable properties in northern Portugal too.
Viana do Castelo
You can’t head any further north in Portugal than the Viana do Castelo district, which borders both the Atlantic Ocean and Spain. Those with an adventurous spirit can easily enjoy the north-west corner of Portugal’s Iberian neighbour too.
Look at the map and you will see the landscape is dominated by a great swathe of green; you can see why the local coastline is called the Costa Verde (green coast). A healthy amount of rainfall (by Portuguese standards) means that lush forests and thriving vineyards compliment the dramatic mountain scenery. That’s especially true in the Peneda-Gerês National Park – Portugal’s only national park – around half of which is located in Viana do Castelo.
Don’t let a spot of precipitation rain on your parade; Viana do Castelo experiences an average of just 115 days of rain a year compared to a whopping 170 in the UK’s wettest city, Glasgow. While the climate means that Viana do Castelo’s countryside can look more like Austria than the Algarve, it also has its fair share of long, white, unspoilt sandy beaches to enjoy on the many warm summer days.
Property buyers here have a choice of rural retreats in the towns and villages dotted throughout the mountainous interior, or more urban offerings in various small cities. The largest of these is the eponymous Viana do Castelo. Often considered the jewel of the Costa Verde, visitors and residents can enjoy an attractive medieval centre, 19th century boulevards, narrow lanes and convenient local beaches.
While Viana do Castelo doesn’t have an international airport of its own, it’s well serviced by Francisco de Sá Carneiro Airport in Porto, which is a 45 minute drive to the south, and Vigo Airport, which is about an hour’s drive across the Spanish border. property in northern Portugal. Viana is a very good option for buying a property in northern Portugal.
Immediately bellow the Viana do Castelo district is Braga, which also shares a border with Vila Real in the east and Porto to the south. Another valid option for buying a property in northern Portugal. The luscious shores of the Costa Verde stretch down within its boundaries, where attractive towns such as Esposende attract water sports enthusiasts of all persuasions – surfers, kite surfers, scuba divers, paddle borders, jet skiers and kayakers – who come to enjoy the wild Atlantic surf and laidback vibe in town.
Porto – Portugal’s second city – and its international airport is just 25 kilometres from the southernmost reaches of the Braga district, making trips to this must see city a breeze wherever you choose to live around here. Once there you can enjoy a glass of the city’s world-famous port wine, marvel at the towering banks of the Douro River and wonder through historic hilly backstreets. If work commitments take you there, the commute won’t be an issue.
City-loving home hunters need look no further than the district capital and Guimarães. Braga, the local seat of government, is Portugal’s third-largest city with a population of over 121,000 – making it around eight times larger than Viana do Castelo and about the same size as Watford but a lot sunnier. Narrow, traffic-free lanes, elegant plazas and splendid baroque churches are around every corner. There is more to it than old-world charm; there’s a vibrant cultural edge too and a relaxing café culture – you’ll love sipping coffee or Sagres in the lively cafes and bars in the old centre. The city’s international airport is well served with regular flights from London, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol and Edinburgh.
While modern day Guimarães is very much a university town, which always tends to liven up a city’s social life, its rich history is the main draw. The city’s status as one of Portugal’s 11 UNESCO World Heritage Sites is a reminder of its importance in the formation of Portugal. This regal significance is perfectly characterised by the 1,000-year-old castle and 15th century palace, which tower over the city on adjacent hills. You will be able to experience all this by either taking a flight to Porto (55 kilometres) or Braga (31 kilometres). So, would you consider buying a property in northern Portugal.
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