Travel Guides Crafted by Experienced Archaeologists & Historians

Northern Portugal
Art, History & Archaeology Sites & Museums

The mountainous, northern most region of Portugal, Região do Norte, has everything for those who travel for history, culture and gastronomy. From Ice Age, Palaeolithic art in the Côa Valley to Iron Age and Roman settlements, early Medieval castles and fortifications such as those at Guimarães to the elaborate Baroque Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte in Braga. And, it is here that port, a fortified wine, is produced and exported around the world. Northern Portugal is where the modern nation state of Portugal was founded. First, following the reconquest of Portus Cale (the Roman name for present-day Porto) from the Moors by Vímara Peres in 868. And again in 1143, when the king of what is today Spain recognised the independence of Portugal and Alfonso I as king of Portugal in the Treaty of Zamora.

Archaeology & History Sites in Northern Portugal

Citânia de Briteiros

On top of a small hill with views over the Ave River valley is a large stone-walled Iron Age settlement; one of the most important prehistoric sites in Portugal. The hill-top town is surrounded by three dry-stone walls up to 3 m thick. Within the ramparts, paved roads roughly laid out in a grid pattern divide up blocks of stone walled structures that archaeologists believe formed the focus of individual family units. There is debate whether or not the urbanised nature of the settlement has been influenced by Romans.

Côa Valley Archaeological Park

During the construction of a dam on the Côa River at the end of the 1980s rocks engraved with Palaeolithic imagery were discovered. A new government elected in 1995 stopped the construction of the dam and an archaeological park was established in 1996. Today there are over 70 known locations with some 1,000 engraved rocks and over 5,000 depictions, dating to the Upper Palaeolithic, Iron Age and historic periods. Guided tours to selected rock art sites are arranged by the museum or designated tour guides.


From Roman Portus Cale to the founding of Portugal in the 12th, Porto has played a significant role in the history of the country. Graceful bridges and diverse architecture, from historic churches to modern museums, many decorated with exquisite blue azulejos tiles, it is not surprising that the historic city is now a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. And for a taste of tradition, sample the port wine at local cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia.

Roman Thermae of Maximinus

On one of the higher points within the city of Braga are the extensive archaeological remains of a large, civic complex, the oldest sections of which date back to the 1st century BC. Although only partially excavated, the complex is thought to have included the public baths and theatre for the Roman civitas of Bracara Augusta then the capital of the Roman province of Gallaecia. Parts of the public baths have been covered with a protective shelter, with walk ways that allow visitors to walk above the ruins.

Trajano Roman Bridge, Chaves

Built towards the end of the 1st century AD and the beginning of the 2nd century AD, the bridge crossing the Tâmega River in the town of Chaves in far northern Portugal is named after the Roman Emperor Trajan, known locally then as the Ponte de Trajano. Still in very good shape, the bridge is 140 m long and has 12 arches – earliest drawings of the bridge show 14. Despite being restored over the years, two of the columns are original and have inscriptions detailing honours bestowed on locals by the Emperor.

Foz Côa Rock Art & Douro Valley Day Trip

Take the opportunity to create a personalised tour of the Foz Côa area and Douro Valley. Start with a guided tour of the restricted, UNESCO listed rock art site in the Côa valley. The area is also known for its wine production, and you have the choice of visiting two of the best farms in the Dour Valley. Take a picnic lunch, or choose the option of a meal in a local restaurant.

Museums & Art Galleries in Northern Portugal

Côa Rock Art Museum - Museo do Côa

The Côa Museum was opened in 2010 and is one of the largest museums in Portugal. Blending in with its natural surroundings, the museum is dramatically situated above the Côa Valley, where it joins the Douro Valley – looking on to the rock art sites of this area. A series of well ordered displays and wonderful multimedia applications and exacting replicas cover the various aspects of the rock art’s archaeology in the valley and often turbulent history in Portugal since it was discovered.