The beautiful Douro Valley is one of the most magical areas of Northern Portugal. Heading up the valley from the bustling city of Porto, you enter a rural land of steep, green hills, punctuated by sleepy historic villages and, of course, mile upon mile of vineyards. You’d be forgiven for thinking you’d stepped back in time when you see the old steam train making its winding way along the river banks, just as they did in the early 20th century to deliver port and wine.
You wouldn’t be the first to be dreaming of a home here – and the good news is that property is eminently affordable. But where are the best areas to live?
Before venturing upstream into the countryside, we can’t not mention the second city of Portugal – and the one from which the country derives its name. It has the most buoyant property market nationwide, and prices are climbing rapidly. Its bustling centre is full of beautiful 18th- and 19th-century architecture, with spacious, light apartments dominating the market. The hilly terrain provides beautiful views, while the influx of tech workers and so-called ‘digital nomads’ have helped to stimulate the local economy.
This elegant Baroque town owes its beautiful architecture and art to the riches of the port trade. The stunning church is accessed via almost 700 steps and nine landings, all decorated with religious scenes in stunning azulejo tiles. The castle, a classified National Monument, overlooks the old town, where you’ll find charming old properties along narrow streets. Of course, the wine caves are a must to taste not only local port but also the town’s speciality fruity sparkling wine.
Pinhão enjoys an enviable setting on a beautiful bend in the Douro River, surrounded by terraced hillsides producing some of the best port in Portugal (and the world!). The azulejos on the train station show scenes of the grape harvest, and, everywhere you look, you’ll see advertisements for its fruits. The region enjoys 306 dry days a year on average – more than you might think for northern Portugal! Thanks to the hillside location, most houses enjoy commanding views over the river to the Santa Barbara hills.
Just up the road from Pinhão is Favaois, slightly inland from the river. Known for its trigo de favaois bread and sweet wine, Favaois is the perfect place to experience the lifestyle the Douro Valley is known for. The town is somewhat less clustered together than your average rural Portuguese settlement, so you have great, green views from most streets. Most homes are, unusually, detached houses.
Covelinhas has stunning views over the river and terraced hillsides, and yet the property prices are surprisingly low, perhaps because it’s relatively less touristic, with the train station a bit of a walk from the main village. It’s a good place for a quiet lifestyle, with some fantastic spots for fishing (or just relaxing and enjoying the views!).
Figueira de Castelo Rodrigo
Now to the south banks of the Douro. Figueira de Castelo Rodrigo is a beautiful medieval town, which has still kept some of its old walls built under King Don Dinis. The historic centre is relatively well preserved, with more modern 1980s developments on the outskirts. Although there’s no train station, the N332 and N221 both pass through. It is a relatively well off area, with all the services you need within its boundaries.
Find out everything you need to know about the buying process in Portugal, from choosing your area to when to involve a notary and how to make an offer, with our free Portugal Buying Guide
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