Porto is the closest major city to the Douro Valley. Villa Real is another important city between Porto and the Douro Valley. In the valley, the towns of Lamego and Peso da Régua are the most notable.
From my experience visiting the Douro Valley, the best is to be based in Porto, visit the Mateus Palace near Vila Real, stop in Lamego, visit wineries near Lamego, Peso da Régua and Pinhão and stay at one of the vineyard hotels.
2. Vila Real
Vila Real (Real stands for Royal) positioned as the capital of the Douro sub-region, rests on a plateau encircled by the Alvão and Marão mountains. The famous wine country of the Douro Valley is located in the Vila Real district.
With around 180,000 residents, the Vila Real district is home to the University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro. The town is modern and industrial with a some old buildings in the center dating back to the 16th century.
Situated along the route connecting Porto and the wine country, Vila Real is often overlooked by tourists, making it a genuine hidden gem. A visit to the iconic Baroque mansion, Mateus Palace, or Palácio de Mateus in Portuguese, located near the city of Vila Real, is highly recommended.
Vila Real can be a good base for visiting the Alvão Nature Park.
However, staying in Vila Real for visiting wineries may not be the best option, since a trip from Vila Real to the Alto Douro wineries would take 20 to 50 minutes.
3. Péso da Regua
Peso da Régua, commonly known as Régua, is in the heart of the Douro Valley located at the confluence of the Douro and Corgo rivers.
Although Régua is home to only around 15,000 inhabitants, it holds significant importance as the “capital” of the Douro Valley. Serving as a key transportation hub, the town provides regular train and boat connections to Porto,
While the town itself may appear unremarkable with limited tourist attractions, its surroundings boast numerous quintas (wine estates) and vineyards, making it an ideal destination for wine enthusiasts.
Most wineries are easily accessible by car or taxi from central Régua. Various restaurants in the town center serve traditional Portuguese dishes, but notable recommendations include exploring the gastronomic offerings of the Old Train Station Warehouse (Armazém da Estação Ferroviária de Peso da Régua), such as Aneto & Table, the River, or Castas e Pratos.
Visitors to Régua can partake in a range of activities, including wine tasting tours at local wineries, boat excursions on the Douro River, and scenic hikes or drives through the picturesque hills covered with vineyards. The town serves as a departure point for several wine tours and hikes in the Douro Valley.
Lamego is a small historic town with roots tracing back to the Roman era, Its rich heritage can be explored through historical landmarks. Lamego Castle perched on a hill offers panoramic views of the town below.
On the other hill of Lamego, there is an essence of Portuguese baroque architecture—the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Remedies. The grand staircase embellished with traditional azulejos and ornate fountains leads to a breathtaking panoramic view.
Lamego is surrounded by terraced hillsides adorned with vineyards, contributing to the production of the famed Port wine.