Matosinhos - Portugal

Situated on the River Leça just north of the city of Porto, Matosinhos is a bustling beach town mostly famous for its large port and high-quality fish and seafood restaurants.

Very much the beating heart of Porto’s fishing activities, its port at nearby Leixões was constructed in 1884 to the plans of Nogueira Soares and greatly enlarged in 1932. It soon became the hub of the region’s sugar refining, textiles, fish canning, leather and ceramics industries, as well as a wharf for tankers and a dock for smaller vessels.

Past the port and situated on a hill close to the motorway, the remarkable church of Bom Jesus (also known as the Igreja do Senhor de Matosinhos) contains a wooden statue of Christ on the cross, which famously washed up on the beach in the tenth century minus an arm. Legend has it that 50 years after its discovery, an old woman looking for firewood found the wooden arm and took it to the shrine, where it miraculously attached to the statue.

Each June, pilgrims visit the church to honour the statue allegedly carved by the disciple Nicodemus. Largely rebuilt by the Italian architect Nicolau Nasoni in 1743-50, the church itself is an absolute marvel featuring a striking Baroque façade and a panelled ceiling depicting scenes from the Passion.

A short way along the coast road towards the city of Porto stands the Castelo do Queijo (Cheese Castle), a 17th-century garrison erected to commemorate Gonçalves Zarco, discoverer of Madeira, who reputedly came from Matosinhos. Built on boulders resembling holey cheese (hence its name), the fortress contains an ancient sacrificial boulder used by Celtic druids in the 6th century. 

The castle’s presence is a reminder that for centuries the coast and ships were under constant threat from the Spanish and pirates, and the views from its robust walls stretch right along the shoreline as far as the eye can see.

Where to go near Porto

At Foz, Porto’s most fashionable beach resort area, visitors can see the 16th-century fort of St John the Baptist (Forte de São João Baptista), which was built on the site of 13th-century Benedictine monastery.

A couple of kilometres inland from Matosinhos lies the monastery of Leça do Balio, a 14th-century Gothic church crowned with battlements in the old monastery of the Order of Hospitalers. In 1372, King Fernando I married Leonor Teles inside the church, a match that was to end Portugal’s first royal dynasty.

One of the glories for visitors staying in Matosinhos (indicated on the Google map below) is the chance to savour the best of both worlds by relaxing on some of Portugal’s best beaches whilst having quick and easy access to Porto, one of the most historic and fascinating cities in southern Europe.

From Matosinhos, Porto’s many ancient attractions such as Clérigos Church, Sé Cathedral, the outstanding Soares dos Reis Museum and the ancient Ribeira district etc. are just a short metro ride away on the Blue Line, making it the ideal base from which to explore the city.

Once all the city sightseeing is done, Matosinhos is also very well placed for visitors looking to explore the long sandy coastline of northern Portugal’s idyllic Minho region, including Vila do Conde, Póvoa de Varzim and Viana do Castelo, all of which are easily reached either by car, train or metro.

 The ancient market town of Barcelos a short distance inland from the coast is another major attraction for travellers staying in the Matosinhos area.

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