North of Portugal conquered Brussels

Portugal’s tourism boom has made the industry one of the biggest contributors to the national economy and the largest employer, with almost 1 million direct and indirect jobs, said Gloria Guevara, head of the World Travel & the Tourism Council (WTTC). The data showed that the total contribution of travel and tourism to Portugal’s GDP reached 17.3 percent, or 33.5 billion euros, last year. It is forecast to reach 20.5 percent of GDP in 2018.

In this framework, a delegation from the North of Portugal came to Brussels in order to present to the capital of the European Union the tourism assets of the Douro Valley and Trás-os-Montes region.

“AETUR is a private association gathering over 200 businesses from the tourism sector. We aim to promote the North of Portugal as one of the main destinations of our country. “ explained Luis Marques, AETUR President at the opening of the conference Discover the North of Portugal, that took place at the Portuguese Permanent Representation to the European Union, with more than 100 participants. “In 2016, we had a 10,7% growth in overnight stays compared to 2015, reaching 6,8 million tourists! Which was in fact our goal for 2020.” he emphatised.

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Luis Marques, President of AETUR – © Aris Setyanto

The cradle of Portugal

“Northern Portugal is the cradle of our country. Our history started here. Guimarães is the birthplace of our first King, Dom Afonso Henriques. The Castle of Guimarães – a magnificent fortress from XI century – is one of the greatest and most beautiful monuments of the country.” explained Alberto Tapada, Secretary General of AETUR.

Since 2001, Guimarães’ city center is listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site  thanks to its “exceptionally well-preserved and authentic example of the evolution of a medieval settlement into a modern town” in Europe.

In this region, history is seen as important asset for both tourism and identity, insisted Alberto Tapada.


The Douro Valley

“The Douro Valley could as easily be called the enchanted valley, such is the beauty and magic that its landscapes offer. “ explained Joana Duarte, winemaker from Bulas.  As Guimarães, Douro has been also since 2001 listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, thanks to its majestic wilderness, one of the oldest demarcated wine regions in the world.


The Douro Valley is mainly known for its wine. 1756 is an important date for the sector. This year was established the oldest demarcated region in the world: DOC – Douro Demarcated Region.

In the evening at the Portuguese Permanent Representation to the EU, multiple wines from the region were presented. Exclusively Port wines. One caught my attention: the Port Vintage 2016 from Bulas.

“The production of wine is made in small batches, seeking to capture the specificities of the different vineyards and varieties, using traditional techniques combined with the latest technological knowledge and innovations, in order to guarantee a continuous increase in quality and to future sustainability” stressed Joana Duarte, from Bulas. “By producing wines of exceptional quality, which capture the essence of the Douro in a sustainable way, the Bulas family keeps the tradition and preserves the culture and heritage of this extraordinary and unique wine region” she concluded.

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Bulas Port Vintage 2016 © Aris Setyanto

Last but not least, the food. Portugal is also known for its delicious smoked pork ham. The Bisaro House, from Bragança, brought the missing flavour for a perfect evening : smoked pork ham with a glass of port wine.  Divine!

Smoked pork ham – © Aris Setyanto

Nature, heritage, history, wine, and food are the ingredients from this region. One should definitely consider the North of Portugal as a 2019 destination.