Day 7. A day in Vila do Conde, Portugal

We decided to spend a day along the coast in the town of Vila do Conde, a seaside resort 25km north of Porto.  It’s a town favoured by locals though perhaps not on the day of our visit as it was cool and overcast.  Lying at the mouth of the Ave river, it was historically a centre of shipbuilding and seafaring.  Getting to Vila do Conde by public transport couldn’t be easier as it’s accessible by metro on Red Line B.  From Trindade station we bought tickets to Santa Clara station (Zone 6 single fare €2.80).

The Santa Clara Monastery, Vila do Conde
The Santa Clara Monastery

Visitors to Vila do Conde have the option of taking the express metro route to Vila do Conde or the slightly slower regular service which calls at each stop.  Both are the same price with the express route reducing the one hour journey time by fifteen minutes.  The town has two metro stops and as we wished to view all of the town’s main sights we opted to take the slower train to Santa Clara station as the express train does not stop there.  Almost the entire journey was above ground so we gazed out of the windows at the passing views.

Views from the Monastery of Santa Clara, Vila do Conde
Views of the River Ave from the Monastery of Santa Clara

On arrival at the station we followed a signpost leading us up a steep cobblestone hill to the Monastery of Santa Clara.  The imposing monastery is closed to the public but it is definitely worth the exertion of climbing the hill to enjoy the panoramic views of the River Ave below from its viewing terrace.

Aqueduto de Santa Clara, Vila do Conde
The Aqueduto de Santa Clara

Running alongside the convent is the Aqueduto de Santa Clara which was built between 1704 and 1714 to carry water a distance of 5 km from the north of the town.  Of the original aqueduct 99 of the arches remain intact and it’s an impressive sight to see.

Aqueduto de Santa Clara, Vila do Conde
Aqueduto de Santa Clara

Facing the monastery is the church of the Santa Clara convent, which seemed to look even more photogenic viewed through the arches of the aqueduct with its large bells on display.

Church of the Monastery of Santa Clara, Vila do Conde
Church of the Monastery of Santa Clara

After the strenuous effort of climbing to the hilltop we then wandered down a steep, narrow lane that brought us out into the centre of town.  On reaching the high street we were surprised at how busy it was with so many people about and passing traffic.  The reason for this soon became apparent as we had timed our visit on a Friday when a vast weekly market takes place.

Entrance to the Vila do Conde Market
The market entrance gate

I love a stroll through a market so we were delighted to have the unexpected opportunity of experiencing it for ourselves.  A stone archway leads into the outdoor market which is divided into two large sections.

The Vila do Conde Market
A typical vegetable stall

The first was the most interesting with its huge number of stalls selling fresh produce, salted fish and flowers.  Judging by the number of visitors and the small size of the town, visitors must come from far and wide for a trip out and to stock up on fresh market produce.

Vila do Conde weekly market
One of the many plant and flower stalls in the market

The second section contained stalls selling locally made lacework and embroidery alongside general household goods and textiles.  Despite it being a well attended large event, the market was well organised with a separate entrance and exit to help with social distancing.

Azulejos outside the Vila do Monde Market Hall
Azulejos (blue tiles) outside the market hall

Spots of rain could be felt so we decided to have a slightly earlier than usual lunch and my cinnamon crepes served with a dollop of cream might not have been good for my waistline but they certainly tasted delicious!

Statue in the centre of Vila do Conde
The statue of three men in the main square

After our lunchtime break the rain clouds had eased so after taking a look at a statue of three men across the road from the cafe we set off towards the seafront.  It was quite a distance away but an easy, level walk to the old port.

Nau Quinhentista replica boat, Vila do Conde
The Nau Quinhentista replica boat in the harbour

There was little evidence of activity with several small fishing boats tied to the bank with their nets drying along the sea walls.  A 16th century replica sailing ship, the Nau Quinhentista is moored in the harbour.  Closed temporarily, this museum ship can usually be visited at a bargain price of only €1.

The fisherman's Wife, Vila do Conde
Sitting next to to a statue of the Fisherman’s Wife

We continued slightly further along to a small boat harbour before turning around and exploring in the opposite direction along the Avenida do Brasil promenade.  The numerous beaches form an almost continuous stretch and are sandy and interspersed between rocky outcrops.  It appeared that we had the coast to ourselves and we enjoyed watching the powerful waves from the Atlantic Ocean crash onto the rocks.

Vila do Conde Lighthouse
The Vila do Conde lighthouse

Further on we reached the Vila do Conde lighthouse and the former chapel of Our Lady of Guidance with its terracotta coloured roof tiles.  There’s a viewing platform next to the chapel which we carefully climbed to the top of, but with only a handrail to one side it wasn’t all that safe.

Chapel of Our Lady of Guidance, Vila do Conde
Chapel of Our Lady of Guidance next to the lighthouse

Moving on further still we had arrived at the Fort of Saö Joāo Baptiste which has been restored and is now a luxury hotel.  From there we turned inland and made our way back to the centre of Vila do Conde to take the metro back to Porto.  As this was the main station we were able to return in 45 minutes on one of the express services which made limited stops.

Fort of Saö Joāo Baptiste, Vila do Conde
Fort of Saö Joāo Baptiste

Do remember that after purchasing tickets they then need to be validated on one of the platform readers before boarding.  Do also allow extra time for buying tickets on the Porto metro as annoyingly multiple tickets cannot be added to a basket and we had to make separate transactions for each one which seemed to take ages.

Igreja da Lapa, Vila do Conde
Igreja da Lapa very near to the Vila do Conde metro stop

It was late afternoon when we arrived back in Porto following an enjoyable day out. After visiting the tourist hotspots of Guimarães, Braga and Coimbra it made a pleasant change to visit Vila do Conde as it is less developed and has a very authentic feel giving us a taste of the local way of life.  On checking my phone, I noticed that our walking tour of the seaside town had exceeded 9 km’s so it was a good excuse to pop into the local bakery for another box of the delicious Portuguese Pasteis de Nata custard tarts.

If you have enjoyed reading this post you may also be interested in the following:

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35 thoughts on “Day 7. A day in Vila do Conde, Portugal

  1. This was one of our overnight spots on the Portuguese Camino. It looked like a beautiful town, but we were just way too tired to explore further … but you’ve now showed us all the stunning places, thanks!
    Oh yes, and I also have a photo of me sitting next to the statue of the Fisherman’s Wife … seems she is quite popular 😁.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m beating myself over not doing any day trips from Porto when I was in the city over four years ago! Vila do Conde looks grand, and the dried-out aqueduct reminds me of the one in Segovia, Spain. I’d love to see more of Portugal, and I’m using your posts as reference for my next trip over!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I had the joy of spending 2 nights and a day in Vila do Conde on my 2017 Camino. It was my 1st stop after leaving Porto and I fell in love with the place. I remember the sculpture of the fisherman’s wife that you’re sitting next to 😃 I was lucky as we had the most amazing weather and when I left early in the morning to continue my journey, I caught an exquisite sunrise. The aquaduct was awesome and I had the crazy idea of walking to the end of it, but after about 40 or so I ran out of energy 🤪🤪 The monastery was awesome and I remember seeing it as we crossed the bridge. Just a shame it isn’t open for visitors. Thanks for the reminder of one of my favourite places along the route.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Reena Deshmukh

    I ve been reading all your posts from Portugal. Such a beautiful place. Looks calm, peaceful and tranquil.
    However, I am wondering, whether the streets look just like a regular pre-pandemic crowded or is the low population over streets due to pandemic.

    Liked by 2 people

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