In a fertile valley in the Douro River region’s Port wine area sits the little town of Lamego. It’s famous for its proximity to one of the most important shrines in all of Portugal, the church of Nossa Senhora dos Remedios, which has been challenging pilgrims with its 600-step staircase since the 12th century. The Gothic cathedral at the top of the shrine’s hill was built in 1129 by Afonso Henriques, who would be crowned Portugal’s first king a decade later.
While the shrine and cathedral are magnificent and tied to Portugal’s growth as a sovereign nation, Lamego itself is captivating by nature of its quaint, quiet charm. Its central square is laid out as a public garden, bordered by elegant, Baroque, 17th-century buildings.
When visiting Lamego, you’ll want to see the ruins of the 12th-century Moorish castle that overlooks the city. All that remains are its keep and a few walls, but the view of the town from here is striking. The same might be said of the other hill that overlooks the town, site of the aforementioned shrine. The climb up the shrine’s double-staircase is broken by nine terraces decorated in blue-and-white ceramic tile.
About 3 kilometers (1 mile) from Lamego is little church at São Pedrode Balsemão which is said to be the oldest church in Portugal. Prior to the Moors’ invasion, this church was built in the 7th century by different invaders, the Christian Visigoths. It remained in a state of increasing disrepair until the 17th century, when it was finally restored.