Located 120 kilometres (75 miles) upstream from the bustling city of Porto, Peso da Régua (more commonly known as just Régua) is a charming port town idyllically situated on the banks of the River Douro in northern Portugal.
Overlooking the wide valley of the Douro backed by the mountains of the Serra do Marão, this charming place is the perfect base for travellers looking to explore Portugal’s demarcated Port wine region.
Portugal’s officially demarcated Port area is divided into three main regions – Baixo Corgo, Cima Corgo and Douro Superior – with Peso da Régua located in the former where dozens of estates are open to visitors looking to taste and buy their respective wines.
This peaceful town deep in the heart of the country’s interior complements the stark beauty of the River Douro and its surrounding countryside with several sights to see and visit relating to its core product – Vinho do Porto.
A key feature for tourists is the Casa do Douro, the official headquarters of the Port Wine Institute which was founded in 1932 to establish better quality control of the wine in general.
Containing a register of tens of thousands of local vineyards, the building is most remarkable for its enormous triptych of medieval-style stained glass windows on the theme of Port wine. At the Casa do Douro you can also find out about the Port Wine & Douro Wine Route (Rota dos Vinhos do Douro e do Porto) which involves the collaboration of dozens of wine-related establishments all over the region.
Régua’s other star attraction is the excellent Douro Museum (Museu do Douro) which tells the fascinating story of the river and its people. Housed in a grand mid-18th century building typical of the region, this award-winning complex comprises a restaurant, shop and a wine bar with an outdoor terrace affording head-spinning views of the River Douro.
If you are visiting the area in midsummer, you cannot miss Peso da Régua’s annual festivities which take place on the 14th, 15th and 16th of August. The highlight is a religious procession through the town in honour of Nossa Senhora do Socorro (Our Lady of Assistance) followed by much communal feasting, dancing and general merry-making.
Railway enthusiasts will be very happy to know that Peso da Régua (indicated on the Google map below) is an important stop for the Douro Historical Train (Comboio Histórico do Douro) which follows an 80-kilometre stretch of the river hugging the riverbank most of the way. This nostalgic train line operates between Régua and Tua on Saturdays and Sundays from early June until late October, with a round-trip taking around 3 hours.
Peso do Régua is also a major disembarkation point for some of the many cruise lines operating on the river. The boats heading upriver treat their passengers to a privileged view of the terraced vineyards covering the fertile hillsides of the Douro Valley where some of the best-known Port wine estates exist.
Climbing steeply from the river, the hills overlooking the Douro are home to many of the world’s most famous Port wine estates bearing familiar names such as Offley, Noval, Fonseca and Sandeman. Keep an eye on the river and you might see one of the square-rigged vessels known as barcos rabelos that used to sail downriver laden with oak barrels full of Port wine to complete the fermentation process in the famous lodges of Vila Nova de Gaia.
Whether travelling by boat, train, bicycle, car or even on foot, the journey through the Alto Douro (as this part of Portugal is known) is absolutely spectacular at any time of the year, with panoramic vistas awaiting visitors along the entire course of the river.
This dramatic landscape has been shaped by winemakers for over 2,000 years, with evidence of viticultural activity dating back to the 3rd and 4th centuries AD. The further east you go, the craggier and more striking the scenery becomes, with the softer hills of the interior turning dark green far into the distance.
It’s worth noting that many of the vineyards offer accommodation, thus giving visitors the chance to further immerse themselves in the local wine-making culture and even take part in some of the activities, such as the annual grape-harvesting ritual known as the vindimas when the region bursts into life during a frenzy of wine-making activity in late September/early October.
Approximately 8 kilometres east of Peso da Régua lie the excavations of an old Roman settlement at Canelas near Covalinhas, featuring the remains of some 2,000-year-old villas.
Other places well worth visiting within easy reach of Peso da Régua include Lamego (famous for its 600-step staircase), Pinhão, Amarante, Sabrosa (birthplace of Ferdinand Magellan, the first man to circumnavigate the world), Vila Real (home of the famous Mateus Rosé wine) and Foz Côa where some of the world’s most primitive rock art can be seen.
Need more inspiration for your next visit? Why not listen to or download the Portugal Travel Show, the podcast for people planning a trip to sunny Portugal…