Vila do Conde is both seaside resort and important shipbuilding town that hasn't lost all its local charm giving it a calm and peaceful atmosphere.
It is within easy reach of Porto (27 kilometres) particularly since the new Metro stops at Vila do Conde along Line B (the red line) which ends at Povoa de Varzim. The beach is 3 kilometres of white sand with the fantastic Atlantic Ocean crashing on its shore.
It's a popular beach for surfers and sun-worshippers alike. Praia da Forno and Praia de Nossa Senhora da Guia have calm seas suitable for children while the swells near the castelo are favoured by surfers. Most accommodation, cafes and bars are around Praca da Republica a stone's throw from the little harbour. There is a broad promenade lining the beaches for the most part making it easy for all to get good views of the beach which is accessed by various slipways.
Tourist Information at Vila do Conde is at Rua 25 de Abril, 103, 4480-722 Vila do Conde. Tel: 351 252 248 473. Fax: 351 248 422. Email: email@example.com
Many of the older buildings in the town have been sympathetically restored. Mosteiro de Santa Clara is the imposing sight that towers over the beachfront. The 14th century gothic church is open to the public in which are two Manueline tombs.
Running from the north side of the church and convent is the early 18th century aqueduct that used to bring water to the convent from Terroso 7 kilometres away! It is the country's second longest aqueduct and originally had 999 arches, these are not all intact today. Both church and aqueduct are national monuments. You can t help but notice it as you enter the town from the main N13 road.
Next to this is Casa de Jose Regio which displays popular art collected from Vila do Conde's famous writer and poet Jose Regio.
Near the Metro station there is a Living Science Museum with exhibits in English and Portuguese on a variety of natural systems like tidal systems, life cycle of water and the food chain. Open Tues-Sun 10 am-6 pm. Check the English version website for more information.
The lace made here is also a local speciality and in July/August Vila do Conde hosts the National Handicraft Fair, one of the most important craft events in Portugal. The museum, Museu de Rendas de Bilros, displays examples of Vila do Conde's lacework and embroidery. The Museum is open Mon-Fri 9 am-12 noon and 2-6 pm. Sat-Sun 3-6 pm. Admission is free. Check their website for some fantastic old photographs of lady lacemakers and examples of the lace on display.
As it's also renowned for being home to the oldest shipbuilding industry in Europe, it's no wonder there is a museum dedicated to it. Museu de Construcao Naval is housed in the former royal customs house, Alfandega Regia, displaying replicas of old ships and artefacts from the golden age of Portuguese Discoveries. Alfandega Regia de Vila do Conde, Rua do Cais da Alfndega. Tel: 351 252 240740. Fax: 351 252 240741. Admission is free.
The European short film festival is also held here beginning on the first Sunday in July and a nine day food fair is laid on in August in he gardens on Avenida Julio Graca. So there's a lot going on for what at first appears to be a small coastal satellite to Porto.
The Porto Metro connects to Vila do Conde on the red line, Line B. The journey takes just under an hour.
Buses also run from Porto to Vila do Conde and takes a little longer.
Check the respective websites for times and fares.