Nestled in the verdant landscapes of Northern Portugal, the enchanting town of Amarante serves as a picturesque gateway to the Douro Valley, one of the world’s oldest wine regions. Sprinkled with historic mansions, centuries-old churches, and charming narrow streets, Amarante invites visitors to step back in time and soak in its rich cultural heritage. The Tâmega River meanders through the heart of the town, lending an added charm to the surroundings with its arched stone bridge – Ponte de São Gonçalo, a sight that’s as romantic as it is iconic. Amarante is a popular daytrip destination from Porto or for those taking a driving holiday through Northern Portugal. It’s also a popular stop for many walking the Santiago de Compostela walking trail, and you’ll see quite a few pilgrims (or walkers) in the town as well as the iconic seashell markers on the ground.
Amarante’s cultural significance extends beyond its picturesque setting; it’s an important hub for literature and art in Portugal. The town is the birthplace of renowned 16th-century poet Teixeira de Pascoaes and the celebrated 20th-century painter Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso, both of whom have left an indelible mark on the cultural fabric of Amarante. Museums dedicated to their works offer a deeper insight into their creative genius and contribution to Portuguese art and literature. Besides the bridge and the church, there isn’t a lot to see and do in Amarante, but it’s a beautiful day trip or half day trip from Porto or somewhere that you stop off on the way to some other nearby cities. But whether it’s taking a leisurely stroll along the historic streets, exploring the town’s robust wine culture, or hiking in the nearby Marão mountains, Amarante never ceases to enthral.
Useful Resources for Your Trip to AmaranteHere’s our top tips and tricks for getting the best deals for your trip to Amarante.
- Accommodation: Booking.com and Airbnb are the two most comprehensive websites for finding hotels, hostels, apartments, and other types of accommodation in Amarante.
- Car Rental: Discover Cars and Rental Cars are the two most useful sites for booking local car rental.
- Airport transfers: There are taxis and Ubers at Lisbon and Porto Airport, but you can also pre-book an airport transfer with Welcome Pickups.
- Tours & Things to Do: Both Get Your Guide and Viator list lots of local tours and activities in Amarante and the surrounding Northern Portugal region.
- Luggage Storage: Luggage Hero and Bounce are two great sites for finding places to store your luggage in Portugal.
- Public Transport: Cp.pt is the main website for trains in Portugal. For longer distance buses, see Rede Expressos. Flixbus.pt often has cheap tickets between cities in Portugal.
- Flights: Skyscanner and Google Flights are the two most useful websites for finding flights to Portugal. The nearest airport to Amarante is Porto Airport.
A City for Lovers
Amarante’s reputation as a city for lovers has its roots in the local culture, tradition, and the life story of its most well-known patron, Saint Gonçalo. Known for his dedication to the people and his works of love and charity, Saint Gonçalo has been popularly regarded as the patron saint of love and marriage in Portugal. This has imbued Amarante with an air of romance that’s palpable in its charming streets, poetic landscapes, and intimate cafés by the Tâmega River.
This romantic aura is celebrated every June during the Festas de Junho, or June Festivities, which are dedicated to the town’s three saints, one of them being Saint Gonçalo. During these celebrations, Amarante comes alive with music, traditional dances, and processions, culminating in a unique tradition where locals exchange phallic-shaped sweets, known as “Fogaças,” as a symbol of fertility and love. Thus, the spirit of love and romance is not just a part of the city’s history but is continually renewed and celebrated, making Amarante a beloved destination for couples and lovers of all ages.
Where to Stay
Airbnb and Booking both list plenty of places to stay, but there are a few that stand out:
- Monverde Wine Experience Hotel: For wine lovers, a stay at Monverde Wine Experience Hotel is a must. Nestled among the rolling vineyards of the Vinho Verde wine region, this hotel offers an immersive wine experience, from vineyard tours to wine tasting sessions. The hotel is situated just outside of Amarante, around 15 minutes by car.
Casa das Lérias: Set in a traditional Portuguese building, Casa das Lérias provides a homey, rustic environment for its guests. The property is surrounded by beautiful landscapes and offers amenities such as a pool and BBQ facilities, making it an ideal stay for those seeking a tranquil retreat.
Quinta da Pousadela – Agroturismo: Quinta da Pousadela is an agrotourism property set in the midst of a working vineyard and offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside. Guests can stay in beautifully restored traditional buildings, enjoy the property’s own wines, and explore the vineyards, making it a wonderful option for wine lovers and nature enthusiasts.
Oliveiras Village — Agroturismo: Nestled in the heart of Amarante’s countryside, Oliveiras Village provides a peaceful, rural experience for its guests. It offers beautifully appointed accommodations in traditional stone buildings, surrounded by olive groves and vineyards. The property also provides activities such as horseback riding and hiking, adding to its charm for nature lovers.
What to See & Do
Although small, there are a handful of great things to do in Amarante.
Ponte de São Gonçalo
The Ponte de São Gonçalo is a historical and architecturally significant landmark in Amarante that serves both as a functional crossing over the Tâmega River and as a symbol of the city’s rich heritage. The bridge was built in the 18th century, though it stands on the site of an earlier Romanesque bridge that was destroyed during the Portuguese Interregnum. Named after the local saint, São Gonçalo, the bridge’s two hump-backed arches and robust construction are testament to the skill and craftsmanship of the period.
Apart from its historical significance, the Ponte de São Gonçalo offers a beautiful vantage point over the Tâmega River and the city’s charming riverside houses. It is particularly photogenic at sunset when the warm light casts a magical glow over the river and the city. The bridge is also at the heart of the Festa de São Gonçalo, a local celebration where the townsfolk exchange small cakes, a tradition related to the miracles attributed to São Gonçalo.
Igreja de São Gonçalo
The Igreja de São Gonçalo, or Church of Saint Gonçalo, is one of the most notable landmarks in Amarante and an essential stop for anyone visiting the city. Constructed between the 16th and 17th centuries, this magnificent church and monastery complex bears a fusion of Renaissance and Manueline architectural styles. The striking façade is adorned with intricate carvings and a grandiose bell tower, lending it an imposing presence in the town’s panorama.
Inside, the church houses the tomb of Saint Gonçalo, a beloved local saint who’s known as the patron of love and marriage in Portugal. It is customary for visitors to touch the statue of the saint on the tomb, which, according to local legend, brings good fortune in matters of love. The interior also features gilded baroque altarpieces, beautiful frescoes, and an impressive pipe organ, making a visit to Igreja de São Gonçalo a feast for the senses.
Statue of Teixeira de Pascoaes
Located in the serene setting of São Gonçalo’s church square in Amarante, the Statue of Teixeira de Pascoaes stands as a notable tribute to one of Portugal’s prominent literary figures. Joaquim Pereira Teixeira de Vasconcelos, better known by his pen name Teixeira de Pascoaes, was a poet, philosopher, and one of the foremost representatives of the Portuguese Renaissance in the early 20th century.
The bronze statue depicts Teixeira de Pascoaes in a seated pose, deep in thought, as if in the midst of crafting a poem or a philosophical discourse. It serves as a constant reminder of the poet’s profound impact on Portuguese literature and the deep connection he had with his hometown. Teixeira de Pascoaes had a unique style and pioneered a movement known as saudosismo, believing that saudade could have spiritual and transformative power. Visiting this statue provides not only an opportunity to honor the great poet but also to absorb the tranquility of the surroundings, which must have been a significant source of inspiration for his poetic and philosophical pursuits. His statue is located right in the small car park next to the Convento E Igreja De São Gonçalo.
Parque Florestal de Amarante
Parque Florestal de Amarante, also known as Amarante Forest Park, is a green oasis that offers a respite from the hustle and bustle of urban life. Spanning a large area, this park is a haven for nature enthusiasts, boasting a wide variety of flora and fauna. It features well-maintained walking trails that take visitors through lush greenery, where they can indulge in bird-watching or simply enjoy the serenity of the environment. It’s the perfect spot for a leisurely picnic, a jog, or a relaxing afternoon reading under the shade of the trees. The forest park is particularly stunning in the spring when the flowers are in full bloom, adding a burst of color to the verdant landscape.
Piscinas Municipais de Amarante
The Piscinas Municipais de Amarante, or Amarante’s Municipal Pools, are a perfect place to unwind, especially during the warm summer months. These public swimming facilities, located near the city centre, feature well-maintained outdoor and indoor pools that cater to both adults and children. The complex also includes a leisure area, where visitors can relax and sunbathe. Surrounding the pool area is a well-kept park, adding to the sense of tranquility. Open from 9:30 am – 7:30 pm, this is an easy place for families to pass a few hours.
Less busy and with much more scenic surroundings is Amarante’s “praia fluvial” or river beach. Set on the banks of the river Tâmega, this river beach boasts clean, calm waters ideal for a refreshing dip on a warm summer’s day. The beach is lined with lush trees offering natural shade, and there are well-kept facilities such as a picnic area, a playground for children, and a beach volleyball court. Whether you choose to cool off in the river, soak up the sun, or simply enjoy the picturesque riverside views, the Praia Fluvial is a charming spot for a relaxing day out in Amarante.
Take a pedalo down the Tâmega River
One of the best ways to see Amarante’s beautiful architecture, and to see the Ponte de São Gonçalo up close, is to rent a pedalo or rowing boat and take it for a ride along the river. There are several places to rent them, particularly near the Praia Fluvial, but sometimes it can be hard to find the person who’s renting them.
What to Eat
Look in the bakeries and cake shops in Amarante and you might see a very rude-looking cake. Yes, it is exactly what you’re thinking: it’s a doce fálico (penis cake). It’s just not the sort of thing that you expect to find in a quaint little town that’s otherwise known for its beautiful river and church.
These crude cakes are believed to date back as far as Celtic times and were handed out in January to usher in a new and fertile year. While the people of Amarante were willing to embrace Christianity, it seems that they weren’t willing to give up their dong delicacies and it was appropriated into their new culture.
Although little is known about São Gonçalo, Amarante’s local saint, it’s possible that he was believed to be some kind of cupid or matchmaker. Every June, during the São Gonçalo festival, you’ll find stalls all over the town selling doces fálicos or bolos de São Gonçalo. If a man is interested in a woman, he’ll give her one of these cookies in what’s possibly the least subtle form of flirting anywhere in the world.
Outside of June, you won’t see these ballsy biscuits everywhere in Amarante but it doesn’t take too long to find a pastelaria or even a stall selling them. There are several different types, some hard and some softer and filled with cream. True to life, they also come in many different sizes.
Another place in Portugal with a penis obsession is Caldas da Rainha, near Óbidos and roughly an hour’s drive from Lisbon. Here, instead of cakes, they make pottery in phallic form, something which has just become a part of the region’s cultural heritage.
If phallic pastries aren’t your thing, perhaps a glass of wine sounds more appetising. Amarante is situated in Portugal’s Vinho Verde, the popular light and spritzy “green wine” from the North of Portugal.Like Guinness, people say that Vinho Verde doesn’t travel well and to really get a good glass of it you have to drink it where it’s made. So, when in Rome…
- Tours from Porto: Several tour companies offer day trips and guided tours from Porto and these can be booked through GetYourGuide.com or Viator.com.
- Car: Although you won’t need a car in Amarante, having a car does make it easier to get to and from other destinations Note: Amarante is very old and narrow so driving in the town is best avoided. Try to park outside of the historical town centre if you can (Google Map of parking spots).
- Bus: You can easily get to Amarante by bus. From Porto, the trip only takes around an hour and it’s possible to do it as a day trip. You can also get a bus from other parts of the country, like Lisbon. Bus tickets and timetables can be found on Rede Expressos and Flixbus.pt.
- Flying: The nearest airport to Amarante is Porto Airport, which is around 50 minutes by car.