Mateus Palace
Mateus Palace / iStock / Csaba Vanyi
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Régua, Portugal

Our Review
Deal Expert / Travel Blogger

Located in the heart of Portugal's Douro Valley, this port town draws an interesting mix of local and international tourists — luxury river ships and day cruisers, automobile tourists, train travelers, and members of the wine trade. The main town is dusty and unlovely, but the riverfront area is lively, with several dining and drinking options. Really, though, Régua serves mostly as a starting point for wine country exploration.

What We Love

Museu do Douro: This museum housed in a landmark building provides a comprehensive lesson in regional history — centered around wine, of course. It ends with a port tasting, which can be stretched out to a leisurely couple of hours on the terrace sipping vinho verde.

Wine Ride: Not to be confused with the Douro River train, this funky and tiny open-topped yellow train is similar to the kiddie trains that chug through community parks. It seats about a dozen people and departs from the riverfront for a one-hour trip up to a panoramic vineyard overlook and then back down into Régua.

Best Known For

Mateus Palace: Mateus is spectacular. The fountains at the entrance are breathtaking, with mirrored glass reflecting the towering trees and ornate 18th-century Baroque palace. The interior is beautifully preserved, housing a priceless collection of art, antiques, and historic documents. While the formal gardens are floral perfection, the wine is only so-so — you can get it in any U.S. liquor or grocery store — but that hardly matters because you’ll be gobsmacked by the setting.

Lamego­: This is another outstanding excursion from Régua, but on the opposite end of the experiential spectrum. Lamego is famed for its hillside shrine, the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Remedies. Hundreds of broad steps wind from town to the sanctuary, all beautifully landscaped, with garden landings for stopping to catch one’s breath. Pilgrims have been making the climb on their knees for centuries. Cruise excursions bring guests up to the sanctuary and let them walk down the steps to town if desired.

Who It's Best For

Wine Enthusiasts: Before arriving in Régua, you'll cruise through wine country, surrounded by hillside vineyards with buildings proudly bearing the name of the “quintas” (wine estates). Once docked, you can spend all your time — and really not much money — tasting your way through the best table wines of the region. 

Sacred and Religious Tourists: Lamego is a very special religious site — all the more so for being relatively unknown to mainstream travelers.

Don't Say We Didn't Warn You

Group Touring Has Its Drawbacks: You won't get the intimate family-owned Douro Valley winery experience on a river cruise excursion. Those wineries do exist, but they don't have the capacity to handle a dozen people, let alone 50. Only a few major houses do — and they tend to keep crowds moving through the program, on to the tasting room, and out the door.

Lena Katz
Deal Expert / Travel Blogger