Porto to Matosinhos: Camino Portuguese Coastal Stage 1

Created by Colleen Sims * 15 February 2024

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I’ve walked in Portugal many times over the last decade and one of my favourite walks remains the Camino Portuguese Coastal from Porto.  And in particular the walk along the Douro River to the Atlantic.

Stage one of the coastal route from Porto can be tricky.  The documented stage takes you from the steps of the Cathedral in Porto to the little town of Labruge.  I’ve walked this stage but it’s a long day and it felt rushed.

Read on and I’ll explain how to make the most of your walk from Porto to Matosinhos and onwards to Labruge and Povoa de Varzim.

Porto – Matosinhos – Perafita – Labruge : Where to End the Stage

Having walked the Portuguese Camino many times, I feel that Day One is such a wonderful walk that it’s better to take your time and stop earlier.  Also, doing this evens out day two, which is a shorter day.   

If you are walking the Portuguese Camino Coastal , I have five options for you to consider for day one. 

There is very little elevation today, indeed the only hill is the one you walk down, leaving the Cathedral in Porto.  For the most part the route is paved and comfortable under foot.

  • Porto to Foz do Douro : 6 kms
  • Porto to Matosinhos : 11.5 kms
  • Porto to Boa Nova : 15 kms
  • Porto to Perafita and Praia de Paraiso : 18 kms
  • Porto to Labruge : 26 kms
map showing the potential end stops on day one of the camino Portuguese Coastal from Porto
Elevation profile showing day one of the camino Portuguese Coastal from Porto

Whichever option you choose will be down to :

  • How you prefer to walk
  • The time that you have to walk
  • Your budget
  • The accommodation that is available and for this reason I recommend that you book your bed in advance to secure your choice.

I have walked all of these variations and my favourite choice would be to stop at Perafita and Praia do Paraiso.  It’s the perfect half way point BUT there is no albergue and very little accommodation so you need to act quickly to secure a bed.

Sunrise over Porto, walking to Matosinhos along the Camino Coastal

Option 1. Porto to Foz do Douro & Back to Porto (6 kms)

If you are spending a few days in Porto then make a day trip out to the Foz. It’s a lovely walk and you can spend time exploring all the nooks and crannies en-route.  Stop for coffee, explore the little streets of the Ribeira, spend some time watching the birds in the estuary and explore the little parks along the way. 

Walk out to the lighthouse and enjoy the views from the breakwater, explore the ancient Fort de Sao Jaoa Baptista and have lunch beside the sea.

When you’re done you can take the metro, bus, tram or UBER back into Porto, or if you’re feeling very energetic you can walk.  Once you start your Camino you can take the metro back out to the Foz and start your walk to Labruge from here.

the lighthouse at foz de Douro at the mouth of the Douro river in Porto

Option 2. Porto to Matosinhos (11 kms)

Spend the night in Matosinhos.  This option does allow you to take your time and enjoy your first day. 

My biggest problem with this option is that it makes for a long day two.  And if you’re unlucky, like one of my groups, you’ll be delayed by the Matosinhos moving bridge. We lost 30 precious minutes waiting for a few huge tankers to pass through.

Option 3. Porto to Matosinhos with Boa Nova Extension (15 kms)

This is a good alternative to shorten the walk on day 2 whilst still stay overnight in Matosinhos.  You can enjoy a leisurely lunch in Matosinhos and then walk on. 

The next few kilometres are wonderful with a number of things to see and at the end there’s a lovely seaside café. 

After fully exploring the Lido and Capela, we stopped for cold drinks and when we could finally drag ourselves away from the coast, we took an uber back to our accommodation in Matosinhos.  The next morning simply take an Uber back to the cafe.

Camino Portuguese Coastal marker with the bright yellow arrow, near the beach at Matosinhos

Option 4. Porto to Perafita / Praia de Paraiso (18 kms)

This is the perfect place to split your first two days but there is very limited accommodation here and few services.

I knew in advance that there would be few services so we had a good lunch in Matosinhos and took a few supplies with us.  There is a little restaurant here but it’s not always open.

If you would like to stop at Perafita then book a bed and carry a few extra provisions.

Option 5. Porto to Labruge (26 kms)

If you’re happy walking longer days then there is a nice albergue in Labruge along with a few private accommodation options.  I had an excellent meal in the restaurant here too.

My biggest concern is that the guide books say this day at around 25 or 26 kms but when I walked, it was close to 28 kms from the Cathedral.

That day felt rushed. Having walked the route again many times, I realised that I missed a lot on that first day, trying to reach the albergue to secure a bed. Another issue is that stopping here makes for a short day 2 which also isn’t ideal.

bike leaning against the fence beside the sea at matosinhos

The Route from Porto to Matosinhos

I like to start from the steps on the Holy Se do Porto.  It an excellent place to start.  However, be aware that the arrows are confusing.

Finding the Arrows from the Cathedral of Porto

You will see yellow arrows coming up from the river and pointing you behind the cathedral away from the river.  DO NOT FOLLOW THESE.

Those arrows are directing pilgrims walking from Libson to Porto Cathedral and onwards to the Central route inland. You can also safely ignore those and the blue arrows as they are for the Pilgrimage to Fatima.

Doorbells in the old town; will you decide to visit Porto?

Cathedral to Foz de Douro (6 kms)

You need to walk down through the narrow streets of old town to the Ribeiro, the old district on the banks of the Douro River. 

Once you reach the river, you just keep walking.  It’s fair to say the coastal route isn’t well marked and there aren’t many arrows but as long as the river is to your left then you’re on the right path.

You will have to leave the river edge a few times and skirt around buildings but for the most part, you will be walking on the paths beside the river. It’s very easy to navigate. 

Remember to look behind as you walk because the city views in the morning are wonderful. 

As the river turns to estuary you can pause at the Observatório Das Aves. This bird observatory and conservation project is focused on birdwatching and conservation of the sandbanks and the estuary habitat. There are information boards explaining the flora and fauna.

Walk on along the estuary until Foz do Douro.  If you are taking public transport out of Porto this would be a good place to start your walk.

It’s worth noting that in the early morning I’ve never found a great deal of services open.  If you see a café in Porto then stop if you need breakfast.  After the Foz there are more options. 

Gerry looking out across the estuary near Foz de Douro between Porto to Matosinhos

Foz de Douro to Matosinhos (11.5 kms)

As you walk towards the lighthouse, you first meet the picturesque Jardim do Passeio Alegre.  This is a popular garden with locals and worth a short visit; there are public toilets here.  Also if you have time, walk out to the lighthouse and take in the views.

You’re now at the Atlantic and for the rest of this stage you’ll follow the shoreline, with beaches to the left and seaside coastal towns to your right.  One town merges with another and there are lots of services.

Shortly after you’ve turned from the Foz you’ll find yourself walking along a promenade, a large wide pavement which will follow for most of the day. 

Top Tip : There is a turning off to your left; not so much a turning as a fork in the path through some greenery.  It feels like you’re going to a restaurant and you are, but you are also going to the lower beach path. Take this option and you’ll walk on a path beside the sand to Matosinhos.

Don’t worry if you miss the entrance to the lower path, as there are opportunities to join later. But but do make your way down to the lower path as it’s a nicer walk.

Just before Matosinhos there is a Fort on the beach.  This will be the first of many on the coast that were once part of Portugal’s defences.  There is a café inside but you do have to pay to enter the fort museum.

As you enter town, you’ll first be greeted by the enormous Anemone Sculpture; perhaps one of the more unusual roundabouts you’ll see. The sculpture, by American Janet Echelman, has been nicknamed “She Changes” and is dedicated to the fishermen of Matosinhos. 

You’re back on the wide promenade that will eventually take you to the Tourist Information office and a very nice beachfront café. You can stop in the tourist information for a Sello and the cafe serves very good food. 

It’s also worth taking a few minutes to read about the Monumento Tragédia do Mar, the incredible sculpture on the beach.

Top Tip : There are some fabulous fish restaurants in Matosinhos.  If you’re looking for some fresh BBQ fish then walk further into the town.  The Camino takes you by the fish market and you’ll see a line of hot braziers cooking the days catch.

Where to Stay in Matosinhos

There are many options in Matosinhos but for this guide I am only referencing places where I have stayed. Click the green links below to check availability and book.

  • Fishtail Sea House – Fishtail offer private rooms and bunk beds. I don’t recommend the breakfast as it’s expensive and pre-packed. There is a small kitchen to make your own breakfast.
  • O Valentim Hotel – A Very nice hotel but books quickly so book early to avoid disappointment.
  • MyStay Matosinhos Centro – Another great choice if you’re looking for a private room. It’s a little set back from the coast but not a big issue and a very lovely place to spend the night.
Matosinhos a stage on the Camino Portuguese Coastal Route where you'll find the Monumento Tragédia no Mar

Matosinhos to Boa Nova Capela and Lighthouse (15 kms)

Leaving the beach, the arrows will lead you into town.  You’ll walk by the Mercado Municipal de Matosinhos (the town market)and it’s striking white building, before negotiating the bridge over the River Leca. This section is well marked so keep following the arrows through the very nice suburb of Leca until you come back to the sea. 

Ahead you will see the Boa Nova Lighthouse but before there is a wonderful stretch of coast and partway along the Piscina das Marés a protected Lido; perfect for anyone wishing to take a dip.  If you have time I do recommend investigating. There is a little café here too.

Onwards to the lighthouse.  It’s possible to visit and climb the steps to the top but most people head instead to the old Capela on the headland. Do step off the path and explore. 

The chapel is dedicated to St. John and for many years it was associated with the Franciscan Hermits, who created a small monastery here as early as 1369. Take a wander and walk up the steps behind the chapel as the views from the top are excellent.

From the chapel, retrace your steps back to the camino and onto the boardwalks for the first time.  They lead you to a wonderful the little café, the Xiringuito Beach Club.  It is here that I recommend stopping if you plan to take the taxi option back to Matosinhos.

There is an apartment for rent near Boa Nova lighthouse : Love Sea Leca. I’ve never been able to reserve it but it’s always worth a try. It would be a good place to spend the night.

the Capela de Boa Nova on the Camino Portuguese coastal route from Porto

Boa Nova to Perafita (Praia de Paraiso) 18 kms

Not every part of the Camino can be beautiful and as you leave Boa Nova you walk by a large Petrochemical plant.  I think it makes for an interesting skyline but it can be a little smelly. 

This section is well marked and you stay on the boardwalks that hug the beach.

A few kilometres on you’ll reach Perafita, a great place to stop for the night.  This little hamlet goes by a few names, I’ve seen all of the following used :

  • Perafita
  • Cabo do Mundo
  • Aldeia Nova
  • Praia de Paraiso

If you can find yourself a bed here then it’s perfect. Failing that take a taxi from Boa Nova and head back to Matosinhos, with lots of accommodation options.

Where to Stay in Perafita (Praia de Paraiso)

Your options are limited but staying here is a good choice if you can reserve a bed. Click the green links below to check availability and book.

  • B&B Casarao Paraiso – we stayed here. It’s a good choice. Simple but clean and there is a kitchen. We were able to prepare a simple supper and do laundry here too.
  • Matosinhos – Seas Apartment- Cabo das Marés : This is a new option. I’ve not stayed here and it’s a little pricey but could work for a group.
  • Casa Velha : This is behind the restaurant. Again this is simple accommodation but convenient and clean and perfect for a night on the Camino.
sunset at Perifita on the camino portuguese from Porto

Walking On To Labruge : Where to Stay

If you know that you are comfortable walking the longer stage from Porto, there are a few accommodation choices in Labruge and a couple of excellent restaurants too for hungry pilgrims.

The accommodation and the pilgrim albergue are some distance from the boardwalk; around 900m. But if you reserve your bed you have all day to make your way there

  • Smiling Places – Guest House : If you are seeking a private room and there is availability here then just book! Don’t take my word for it; almost 1000 reviews all say it’s near perfect. Not only is it offer fabulous accommodation, they even have a pool for tired pilgrims! Needless to say this books fast!
  • 480 Liberdade Apartamento : this is a very nice apartment, recently renovated and ideal for a group sharing but a little pricey for just 1 or 2 people.
  • Casa de Praia Guest House : This is a private accommodation but their rooms have single beds with shared bathrooms, making them ideal for pilgrims looking for private bedrooms. My only concern is that it is a tad pricey for what is on offer.
  • Albergue de Peregrinos de Labruge : I have stayed here and it was a great space but it was November and the albergue was very cold. It’s a lovely building and we managed to secure beds rather than bunks! It gets busy so call ahead to ensure there is a bed free; although they don’t allow reservation. Telephone : +351 229 284 686 or +351 961 180 256

Top Tip : There is a nice bar restaurant on the beach/Camino just as you turn for Labruge. This is almost 900m from the albergue (and guest houses) so if you are hungry then stop and eat. You really won’t feel too inclined to walk back after your shower.

Potential Problems Between Porto, Matosinhos, Perafita

There are two issues that can cause you problems today

1) Finding your way from Porto Cathedral.  The arrows are a little confusing but you just need to keep heading down to the river.

2) Breaking the stage at a convenient point to allow you to enjoy the day, explore the sights and find a bed.  I recommend that you decide on your preferred option and book the bed well in advance.

My Final Thoughts on the Porto to Matosinhos / Labruge Stage

The first two days on the Camino Portuguese Coastal route are uneven.  The official day one to Labruge is a little long and the official day 2 to Povoa de Varzim a little short.

Ponder the options that I’ve given above and choose which one works best for you. Do bear in mind that the walk is glorious and one that should be savoured and not rushed. 

This is a wonderful stretch of coast and the paths are easy.  Take your time and soak up the views, stop for coffee and people watch.  There are many ways to walk the first couple of days out of Porto, so if you have the time, take it easy and simply enjoy the walk.

walking from matosinhos to Labruge on the Camino Portuguese Coastal route

Are You Walking The Camino Portuguese Coastal?

I have a series of posts that may be of interest you and help with your Camino planning :

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