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Vila do Conde is a likeable resort town that is 25km to the north of Porto. The town offers glorious beaches, interesting sights and bags of Portuguese charm, but surprisingly Vila do Conde is often overlooked by foreign visitors.
Vila do Conde is situated at the mouth of the Ave River, and was historically a centre of shipbuilding and seafaring. Today, the main industry is tourism, and the town is a favourite with the Portuguese, who are drawn by the beautiful beaches, good food and relaxed ambience.
The Mosteiro de Santa dominates the skyline of Clara Vila do Conde
For a day trip, Vila do Conde makes for an enjoyable excursion from Porto, either as cultural trip exploring the numerous historic attractions or simply for a chilled day on the beach. It is very easy to travel to Vila do Conde from Porto, as it is connected to the regular and inexpensive metro network. This article will provide a tourist introduction to Vila do Conde, one of the most underrated destinations of northern Portugal.
The Forte De São João is on the edge of the main beach
Vila do Conde makes for a good destination for a day on the beach. Vila do Conde is one of the most scenic beaches that can be easily reached by public transport from Porto, and is much more appeal than Matosinhos (which is the closest beach to Porto).
Espinho, Aguda and Povoa de Varzim are all good beach towns, with regular public transport connections to Porto, but they do not have the same characterful and historic town, as with Vila do Conde. A beach day to Vila do Conde could combine beach time with sightseeing.
North of the Ave Rive the beaches have rocks and coarse sands, but are stunning
During the summer Vila do Conde’s beaches are supervised by lifeguards and the whole region is popular with Portuguese families. For more details about the best beaches, please see later in this article.
Do Note: It is a surprisingly long walk from the main metro station (GPS: 41.35930, -8.73997) to the closest beach in Vila do Conde (GPS: 41.35778, -8.75573). This walk is around 1.5km and 20 minutes.
Vila do Conde is a small town, and realistically the entire town can be seen within half a day of sightseeing. Vila do Conde does not have the breadth of attractions or single standout monument as with some of the more famous day trips from Porto. This is lack of tourist notoriety is partially the appeal of Vila do Conde, there will be few other foreign tourist and exploring the town is a chance to experience the authentic and real side of Portugal.
For a conventional holiday to Porto we would suggested this order for day trips:
1) Braga 2) Ponte de Lima and Ponte da Barca* 3) Guimaraes 4) Viana do Castelo* 5) Douro Valley* 6) Aveiro and Costa Nova 7) Vila do Conde
* A rental car is need for these day trips either due to the distance or to lack of public transport.
The Ave River, as viewed from the Mosteiro de Santa
Vila do Conde would make a great choice for a low-key and personable beach holiday destination. It would perfectly suit families with young children or more mature visitors who are seeking somewhere calm, personable and with a bit of charm. From Vila do Conde, Porto, Braga and Viana do Castelo could all be visited as day trips, and there is the metro connection to the airport.
The Costa Verde coastline has beaches which are as good as the Algarve’s, while the region still retains its traditional Portuguese atmosphere. The north of Portugal does experience more rain than southern Portugal, but the weather is suitable for spending time on the beach from May until September. For a guide to the best hotels in Vila do Conde please click here.
The Aqueduto de Santa Clara aqueduct comprises of 99 stone arches
Vila do Conde is easily accessible from Porto as it is connected by the Porto metro system. Vila do Conde is on the red line (line B), which heads north from central Porto and the Trindade metro station. The journey takes around an hour and it always ideal to catch the faster express service.
Porto metro has an over-complex fare system, but a single from Trindade metro station to Vila do Conde requires a six zone (Z6) ticket and is only €2.80. When entering the metro always remember to activate/swipe the ticket.
There are two metro stops in Vila do Conde; Vila do Conde (GPS: 41.35911, -8.73988) and Santa Clara (GPS: 41.35386, -8.73544). Santa Clara metro stop is closer to the Mosteiro de Santa Clara but is a lesser stop and is not served by the express services.
The express metro service to Povoa de Varzim is the fastest way to Vila do Conde
The two resort towns of Vila do Conde or Povoa de Varzim are both served by the northern branch of the Porto metro and they may be next to each other, but they are very different in every way. Povoa de Varzim is a modern and developed resort town, but is without the history or sights of Vila do Conde.
The decision on which destination is better for a day trip from Porto, is based on what you want from the excursion. If you wish to spend the majority of the day on the beach, then the bustling resort of Povoa de Varzim is the better choice. If the day trip is to explore a new town, see some sights and spend a little bit of time on the beach then Vila do Conde should be visited.
For a holiday we would always recommend Vila do Conde over Povoa de Varzim as it has more character.
The Igreja Matriz de Vila do Conde church
The coastline of Vila do Conde comprises of glorious sandy beaches, which are buffeted by the powerful waves of the Atlantic Ocean. There are two distinct beach styles, which are separated by the mouth of the Ave River. The majority of the beaches are to the north of the Ave River and are interspaced between rocky outcrops and are formed of coarse-grained sand.
The beaches include the Praia da Senhora da Guia (best for children), Praia do Forno, Praia da Ladeira and Praia Azul, but they form an almost continuous seafront, which is served by the Avenida do Brasil. These beaches are close to the main town of Vila do Conde and tend to be more popular, and are suitable for families.
The entrance to the Praia Azul beach
The beaches south of the Ave River are technically in the village of Azurara and differ from the northern beaches as they are surrounded by sand dunes. These sands are finer (and do not continually pedicure your feet) and are without the jutting rocks, making them ideal for surfing or body boarding. The Azurara beaches have a more pristine appearance (once past the shipyards), but it is a much longer walk from the metro station. This southern beach extends for almost 3.5km and the northern section closest to Vila do Conde is known as The Praia da Azurara. Behind the beach is a massive campsite, the Parque do Campismo de Arvore.
The vast and sandy beach of Praia da Azurara