In the Porto District, Paredes is a town and municipality on the edge of the Sousa River Valley. It’s a picturesque rural corner of northern Portugal, with vine-covered hills, and farms growing succulent casca de carvalho melons. Cutting through this region is the Romanesque Route, so there are some atmospheric monuments from the medieval period: You can seek out two majestic churches and the ruins of a castle caught up in the conflict with the Moors in the 10th century.
Spend a carefree afternoon sipping vinho verde wine at a romantic old estate, tour palaces converted into museums and venture into the ruins an ancient town that may once have ruled all of northwest Iberia.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Paredes:
1. Igreja de São Pedro do Mosteiro de Cete
Easily distinguished by its fortress-like quadrangular tower, this medieval church is a National Monument and an integral stop on the Sousa Valley’s Rota do Românico (Romanesque Route). Work started in the 1000s, and there were reconstructions up to the 1300s, leaving us with a fusion of Romanesque and Gothic styles.
Avid historians have a lot to keep them engrossed here, in the cloister from the 1500s, which has stone sarcophagi in its garden, or the funerary chapel for the monastery founder Gonçalo Oveques.
This holds his decorative 12th-century tomb and is festooned with Mudéjar tiles from the 1500s.
2. Pelourinho de Paredes
A “Property of Public Interest”, Paredes’ pillory was brought to this location in front of the former town hall (now music academy) in the 1600s.
At this time Paredes was chosen as the seat of the local government because it was on the road from Vila Real to Porto, and had evolved into the largest town in this neck of the woods.
The pillory was taken down at the end of the 19th century but soon restored in the 1930s.
It’s a grisly thought to consider what this monument would have looked like 400 years ago: Criminals were publicly humiliated here and after executions body parts would have been draped from this pillar as an example to others!
3. Casa de Cultura de Paredes
In the 19th century the Joaquim Bernardo Mendes, born nearby in Penafiel, returned from Brazil a wealthy man and commissioned this extravagant palace.
The Palacete da Granja has a few of the Neoclassical hallmarks of “Brasileiro” architecture, with a balustrade along the roof, a regal pediment and a facade coated with yellow geometric tiles.
These were hand-painted at the Fábrica de Massarelos in Porto.
The house was grand enough to receive King Carlos in 1895, and in 1997 was turned into the cultural centre with an auditorium, outdoor amphitheatre and temporary art exhibitions.
4. Quinta da Aveleda
More than a simple winery, this estate a couple of minutes outside Paredes has enchanting gardens and whimsical house clad with ivy.
Wine almost takes a back seat when you’re touring the grounds.
These have a free-flowing English style, with fountains, waterfalls, ponds, moss-covered stairways and a set of follies and monuments dating back 300 years, each with a tale to tell.
There’s even a stone tower for the estate’s goats to climb.
Now, you wouldn’t expect to tour an estate and winery without getting to taste some vinho verde, but Quinta da Aveleda also makes first-rate cheese, as well as brandy, all stocked at the shop after the tour.
5. Mosteiro de Paço de Sousa
Back on the Romanesque Route you’ll discover another medieval monastic church not far south of the town.
This was established as a Benedictine community in the 900s, and was a refuge for local clergy when the armies of Almanzor, the Muslim ruler came through in 995. It’s a deceptively large Romanesque-Gothic church, with three naves and a fine rose window in the facade.
Don’t leave without seeing the amazing 12th-centuy tomb of Egas Moniz, who was the preceptor (a senior official in Christian military orders) for Portugal’s first king, Afonso Henriques.
6. Circuito Aberto de Arte Pública
Recently Paredes launched a scheme regeneration scheme, rebranding itself as a creative kind of town.
And now 17 quirky and innovative public sculptures by respected artists like José Pedro Croft and Rui Chafes infused a little whimsy into the townscape.
Many of these installations encourage people to interact with them, like “Funny Games”, a swing set that looks a bit like gallows, or “Vaso”, which is a giant vase around the trunk of a tree with a bench and a message about sustainability.
7. Torre do Castelo de Aguiar de Sousa
In the parish of Aguiar de Sousa there used to be a powerful medieval castle, constructed around the ninth century.
In 995 it was attacked by the fabled commander Almanzor, on his advance towards Braga and Compostela.
But due to the almost impassable topography and the taller hills nearby the fortress was eventually abandoned.
What stands today is the ruins a single tower encircled by the ruins of a wall.
This monument is on the Romanesque Route, and was renovated in 2009, with steps guiding you up to a viewpoint over the Sousa Valley.
8. Aqueduto e Tanques de Cimo de Vila
In Vila Cova de Carros, this aqueduct has an ancient look about it.
Its supporting pillars are blocks of deeply etched granite, holding up a channel that crosses a valley for half a kilometre.
The aqueduct carried water from two wells to a set of tanks that you can also admire.
It’s a style of architecture that is unique to the Paredes area, and is only as old as the first decades of the 19th century.
Check out the stone carvings of gargoyles on one of the tanks.
9. “Canhão” da Senhora do Salto
By the village of Aguiar de Sousa the waters of the River Sousa have sliced a deep canyon through the stone.
These are some of the oldest rocks on the Iberian Peninsula, dating to the Precambrian and Palaeozoic Eras.
The shale and quartzite faces are rough hewn, and their resistance to erosion has formed vertical walls far above the river.
The craggy walls are a hit by climbers, with lots of grips and footholds.
But if you just want to admire the landscape there’s a small picnic park at the top of the cliff, partnered with a cute old chapel.
10. Castro de Monte Mozinho
“Castros” are Bronze Age hilltop citadels and they litter the northern Portuguese countryside.
Not far away is the Castro de Monte Mozinho, outside the village of Galegos.
Taking up 20 hectares, it’s the kind of site that can spark imaginations, with a network of paved streets and the dry-stone walls of dozens of buildings, all defended by ramparts well over 2,000 years old.
There are Celtic, Roman, Visigothic and Moorish remains here, and there’s a theory that this castro was once the capital of the Galician tribe.
At the highest part of this village there’s a strange, oval-shaped space left completely, and this might have been some kind of public space for ceremonies.
Right next door, the town of Penafiel warrants at least an afternoon.
The first thing you’ll notice is the Santuário do Sameiro, a 19th-century chapel resting on the tallest hill in the town, with a dignified stairway conducting you to the top through a park.
If the Castro of Monte Mozinho caught your imagination Penafiel’s award-winning municipal museum has coins, pottery and utensils from the site.
The museum is in a 17th-century mansion that was given a modern extension designed by the well-regarded architect Fernando Távora in 2005.
Once you’re on the A4 this World Heritage City is under 20 minutes away.
It’s am excursion you won’t soon forget because Porto doesn’t just have something for everyone; it has may things for many people! If you’re out for heavyweight sights the image of the Dom Luís I Bridge.
This traverses the Douro, with wooden rabelo sailboats on the water below and is as recognisable as any in Portugal.
Epicureans can get refine their palate for port, the sweet fortified wine, while art and culture-lovers can size up the Art Deco house and art museum at Seralves, or the landmark Casa da Música by Rem Koolhaas.
There are also beaches, happening neighbourhoods like the Foz and Ribeira, and world-beating seafood in Matosinhos.
At five kilometres from Paredes, Magikland is a diverting day out for families with kids up to 10 or so.
It’s a small theme park with fairground amusements like bumper cars, a Ferris wheel and carousels accompanied by a few larger permanent rides: There’s a log flume, rollercoaster and a train that trundles through a forest.
On baking summer days you’ll be glad that the park has a pool for youngsters paddle in.
For meals there’s also a family restaurant in the park, or you could bring your own picnic to the tables in cool pine woodland.
14. Vinho Verde
Quinta da Aveleda is the region’s largest vinho verde producer.
If you’ve never encountered this drink be sure to order a bottle at some stage on your travels.
This is a young wine, which can be red, white or rosé and spends only a few weeks maturing.
Often it will have a light sparkle: Whites are tart and crisp, while reds are light and easy to drink.
Vinho verde pairs very well with white meat, fish and seafood, but is just as good on its own and poured as cold as possible (even the reds!).
A go-to meal for traditional celebrations or family get-togethers is roast kid goat.
This is cooked in a wood-fired oven with potatoes, and with orange zest and coriander to add some flavour.
Summer means Melão casca de carvalho (“oak bark melon”), which you’ll know by its rough skin, and wonderful on its own or with presunto ham.
Broa de milho (corn bread) is big all over Portugal, but is a Paredes signature and an essential item to pick up at the local bakery.
A much-loved dessert in the Porto district is sopa seca doce (dry soup), normally enjoyed on public holidays and a kind of bread pudding with leftover bread, cinnamon and sweet wine.