Pinhão is a hidden gem only a few hours from Porto. Pronounced ‘Pin-yow’, it’s a tiny town with calm, relaxing village vibes and a handful of restaurants, mini-markets, bakeries, cafes and places to stay. It is a place for relaxation; sleeping in late, taking long walks, enjoying locally-produced wine and port, chilling on boats and appreciating the gorgeous scenery that surrounds you. The perfect antidote to a few busy days in nearby Porto, and well-deserving of a spot on your Portugal itinerary. Most people visit as a day trip from Porto, via an organised tour or independently. However, I really recommend staying for at least one night to experience the calm and tranquillity of the town after the day-trippers have left.
How to get there
It is easy to reach Pinhão in under two and half hours from Porto. We caught the train from São Bento station, but it also stops at Campanha. You can buy tickets on the day, or in advance via cp.pt. You should note that stops are not announced during the train journey, so keep an eye out when you reach each platform so you don’t miss your stop.
The scenery along the Douro river is beyond stunning! Green hills dotted with vineyards as far as the eye can see, alongside the deep blue river. Sit on the right-hand side of the train for the best views. Photos just don’t do this region justice; you must see it for yourself.
Where to eat
My boyfriend and I didn’t have high expectations for our meals in Pinhão, as the town is so small and some of the restaurants we researched had negative reviews. However, we were pleasantly surprised to find O Porco for our first lunch. It’s a one-man show and the owner/chef/barman happily explained the very limited menu to us in English. There were a few choices of salads on the menu, along with a platter of locally-sourced meat and cheese. We went for the latter and really enjoyed it. O Porco is a popular place day and night, and only has enough tables for twelve diners so get there early to grab a seat.
We ate dinner in the same places two nights in a row, which is very unusual for us. Churrasqueria (on R. António Manuel Saraiva 22) is very popular with locals and based on the quality of food and low prices, it’s easy to see why. Our first evening we shared fried chicken, a whole sea bream, chips, salad, rice, a half litre of white wine and a generous slice of port cake (think rum baba, but made with port). The price for all that? Only €29.50! The second evening we spent around the same on a salmon dish, a whole sea bass, wine and salad.
Did you know that port-style fortified wine is produced outside of Portugal, but it can’t be labelled ‘port’ unless it’s produced in the Douro Valley in Portugal? That’s just one of many things I learned about port while in Pinhão. You can visit different vineyards to do guided tours, sample their port and wine varieties and learn about the production process.
We went to Quinta de La Rosa for a one-hour tour and tasting. The tour & tasting cost €21 per person and we were able to try two five-year-old ports, along with two of their wines. Quinta de La Rosa has a popular on-site restaurant, as well as a shop to take a bottle or two home with you. Before visiting Portugal, I knew nothing about port and now know I’m a huge fan, especially a well-aged tawny!
If you don’t have the time to visit a vineyard, you can still try local wine and port in bars around Pinhão. We really liked Quinta do Noval where we tried a 20-year-old tawny port, a Noval Black port, a 1996 vintage and a porto tonico (port mixed with tonic water).
Pinhão is a great destination for hikers and ramblers, as it’s surrounded by stunning hills and vineyards. We did a 9.8km hike “Trilho de Pinhão – Casal de Loivos”, which took almost four hours and went in a circular loop. You can find information about the different hiking paths in Pinhão on a large display board across the road at the train station. There is a lot of useful information including the altitude, distance, duration, type of trail and the signs and signals you will see along the way indicating if you are or aren’t going the right way.
We were there in April, and it was warm and very sunny, so I imagine in the summer months it’d be very tiring. There are no water taps along the way so make sure you bring plenty with you. Also remember a sun hat or sun umbrella as there are no trees or covering. Once you reach the top of Casal de Loivos, you should stop off at D’Origem Vinhos for a refreshing, well-earned glass of wine (their rose is crisp, fruity and delicious) and a plate of meat and cheese produced by their farm. The views across the Douro Valley are stunning from D’Origem.
One of the most popular things to do in Pinhão is take a river boat trip along the Douro river. You can choose a one or two-hour ride, which go in different directions along the river. It costs either €10 for an hour, or €20 for two. The boat trip includes an audio guide that can be accessed from your phone (via the free Magnifico Douro app, multiple languages available). However most of the people on our boat struggled to get the app to work so the one member of staff on board had to rush from person to person, getting them set up. The audio guide lasts for about 10-15 minutes, describing a few vineyards on the river bank as you pass them.
Is it worth doing? I’m not sure. The views are undeniably spectacular as you can see from these photos. However, you can also enjoy the same view on foot, by renting a car or by taking the train from Pinhão to a neighbouring town. If you’re on a tight schedule, I’d prioritize doing a wine/port tasting or going for a hike instead.
Where to stay
We really liked our hotel Dois Lagares House, which is around 15 minutes away from Pinhão train station. The accommodation is on the Quinta de Santo António vineyard and guests can take tours through the vineyard and sample their wines. Dois Lagares House is cozy, comfortable and stylish, and we particularly enjoyed the private outdoor seating area. Even though it is next to a road, we slept very well both nights. They also offer a continental breakfast of croissants, ham, cheese, cereal, coffee, juice and yogurt. It would be a great place for groups to visit, as there’s a communal living room on the first floor, along with tables and chairs.
All too quickly it was time for us to leave Pinhão. However, as you can tell, I really liked it and would love to return one day. If you have been to Pinhão, or elsewhere in the Douro Valley, please feel free to share your suggestions and tips in the comments below.
Ciao for now
The Curious Sparrow