Porto and North

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The Green Coast  (Costa Verde)
Portugal’s Costa Verde (not to be confused with Spain’s) runs north from Porto, the country’s second largest city, to the Spanish border and is known as the Green Coast. As its name suggests, this is a region of rolling green hills and fertile valleys, where agriculture prospers. This is due to the year round heavy rainfall that makes this the greenest part of Portugal – sound familiar?

The National Park of Peneda-Gerês, with its dramatic scenery and rich variety of flora and fauna, is situated on the Costa Verde. Property prices in this region are the cheapest in Portugal, with the best bargains being found inland rather than on the coast. The country's longest motorway (A1, from Lisbon to Porto) goes up to Braga (A3), in the heart of Costa Verde. Travel to the Costa Verde is easy and relatively fast: the airport is about 15 kilometres north of Porto and underwent a major renovation to cater for the Euro 2004 football championships. It is a popular gateway city to the country, and has direct flights to many major European cities. It is served by several low-cost airlines that fly from London and Liverpool. There is also a rail service to Lisbon, and then beyond to Spain and other European countries. The major auto route, the A1, goes from Lisbon to Porto and beyond to Braga as the A3.

Investment-wise there are many international companies with offices here for those who wish to invest in full-time lets, and the area is experiencing an increase in tourism for short-term lets. There is also a wide choice of property for those who want to have a second home or live in this part of the country; from seaside villas and apartments to large homes, there is something that will appeal to everyone.

The area around Porto has the most availability, but there are also a number of properties that are available around Viana do Castelo and Vila Praia de Âncora. Inland there are more rural houses and land to buy.

The region has many picturesque fishing villages including Caminha, Esposende and Ofir, and popular resorts including Espinho (with one of the largest markets in Portugal), the once-sleepy fishing village of Póvoa de Varzim (now a fashionable resort with a vibrant nightlife), Viana do Castelo (a major cultural centre noted for its pottery) and Vila do Conde (a handicrafts centre famous for its lace). The area is also famous for its fascinating market towns which include Barcelos (noted for its Thursday market) and the romantic town of Ponte de Lima, plus its many fortified towns, such as Monção, Melgaço and Valença (do Minho).

Viana do Castelo sits along the coast at the mouth of the River Lima and is the largest seaside town north of Porto. South of Viana do Castelo, on the other side of the river, is the Praia do Cabedelo, a beach that stretches as far south as the popular holiday resort of Esposende. On the other side of the town to the north is another resort village, Vila Praia de Âncora, built near a 17th-century fort.

There are also the busy working ports like Matosinhos, with splendid seafood, or traditional fishing towns like Póvoa de Varzim, where there is also a casino - really catering for all tastes… Inland you have the quaint charm of Amarante, with 17th-century mansions overlooking the river, and many other lovely small towns filled with charm and historically interesting buildings. Many villages in this region remain lost in time, and are virtually untouched by modern developments. The people here even have their own dialect, which has more in common with the language spoken in Spain than it does with Portuguese – just to really confuse you if you are trying to learn the language! The area clings to its conservative rural traditions and many farmers still rely on ox-drawn carts to tend the fields. It is a truly lovely and rural province with many rivers, such as the Cavado, Douro, Lima and Minho Rivers.

Porto
Porto has good rail and road connections with the rest of the country, as well as an international airport. It is a working port, situated on the banks of the Douro River (or River of Gold). It is famous for its eponymous port wine, and as the birthplace of Prince Henry the Navigator, Portugal’s most famous seafarer, and in many ways is seen as Portugal’s most sophisticated, modern and best developed city. It has been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status, recognising and protecting centuries of history.

In property terms, the waterside district (‘zona ribeirinha’) is probably the most popular area, with properties in Porto generally cheaper than Lisbon. However, it is almost as easy to get here from the UK as it is to Lisbon, with several low-cost flight options in operation. There is an established UK expat community here, mainly due to the historic port wine industry.

With that in mind, you can visit nearby Vila Nova de Gaia, the lodges where Port wine is blended and aged and where you can taste the different varieties. A lovely option too is to take one of the many cruises available up the river to the vineyards of the Douro Valley, a lush and scenic region. Equally appealing is the train journey through this wonderful area - a spectacular railway (opened in 1887) runs from Porto to Pinhão (150km/93mi), following the river for half its journey.

Vila Real
Vila Real stands high between the Corgo and Cabril rivers, and is a great place to visit the valley of the river Douro – filled with terraced vineyards that produce wine and port. At the convergence of these two rivers, Vila Real is a busy commercial town, based around the wine and port trade. There are some beautiful old churches here, and it is also the place to book the boat trips through the upper valley of the River Dão.

Port wine has been produced from as far back as the 15th century, and there are some lovely hotels along here, as well as QuintasI for port tasting, of course!

Surrounding towns include Viseu, the capital of Beira Alta and the centre of the Dão winegrowing region, as well as Monsanto, which was voted the most typical village in Portugal. Nearby Brangança is known for its medieval castle and walls – particularly the Domus Municipalis, an example of civic Romansesqe architecture. There are also numerous beautiful old churches here, as well as the outstanding national park of Monteshinho that lies to the north – home to golden eagles, alcons, wolves, otters and wild boar.


Further reading for Buying In Portugal

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Viewing Guide

Finding the right property can be a challenge. What do you need to think about early on?
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Hidden Costs

The price of the property as listed is never the price that you will end up paying. There are a host of other costs.
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Legal Matters

Buying a property in Portugal has very different legal requirements to the UK.
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Currency Zone

Did you know that you could save thousands of pounds when emigrating by using a currency specialist?
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