9 Must-See Places On The Caminho Portugués
The often overlooked, hence much quieter Portuguese Way - or Caminho Portuguése - to Santiago de Compostela in Spain offers travellers a wealth of history and enjoyable landscapes to discover. Here are nine places along the trail you simply cannot miss.
The route that is known as the Camino Portugués begins in Portugal’s capital Lisbon. It then goes north via Porto’s grape district and crosses into Spain, at the border town of Tui, before reaching St James’ final resting place in Santiago de Compostela. Along the way there are several fantastic cities and other places of interest. Below we have listed nine of the highlights.
In Pontevedra there are some interesting sites to be explored including the Santuario da Peregrin chapel and the Convento de San Francisco. The medieval town centre is a maze of cobbled laneways with tapas bars and cafes.
When walking the international bridge from Valença do Minho between Portugal and Spain, you arrive in the border town of Tui. Construction of the city’s fortress-like cathedral started in 1120 and it was completed 100 years later. With its Romanesque and Gothic influences, the city promises to give you a variety of exciting experiences. In the evenings the Paseo de Calvo Sotelo street has a lively atmosphere.
Ponte de Lima
Ponte de Lima is the oldest town in Portugal and also the oldest village you’ll encounter when walking the Portuguese Camino. The village’s cobble stoned streets are a delight to walk through and there are many points of interest including museums, historic houses, a prison tower (now a library) and the main square, Largo de Camoes. The medieval bridge spanning the Lima River has Roman foundations but was rebuilt in 1368. Many festivals also take place here including Vaca das Cordas in June (the day before Corpus Christi), medieval markets in August, and Feiras Novas on the third weekend in September, a party that goes on for three days.
The market town of Barcelos is bound to surprise first-time visitors. The city is treasured for its history and legends such as the Barcelos Cockerel. Every Thursday the Campo da Feira, or market square, becomes one of Portugal’s most atmospheric market places. When staying here, make sure not to miss Barcelos’ impressive medieval bridge. The town is so charming, that it’s well worth spending an extra day or two here.
Located on the banks of the Douro River, Porto is a city full of maritime legacies. Its importance as a New World trading port shaped Porto into a proud city, with an impressive cathedral and many other cultural sites. Of course sample the local port wines in one of the port wine lodges you can find all over the town.
Coimbra is a lively university town situated on the Mondego River. Enjoy exploring this beautiful and historic city, its churches and museums and don’t miss the university itself, especially the library Biblioteca Joanina.
Once an administrative centre of the Romans, the town of Santarem was settled by the Moors and considered unassailable until its recapture by the Portuguese in 1149. The beautiful main square is surrounded by churches. One of these churches we advise to have a closer look at is the Igeja de Marvila church that is widely decorated with the typical azulejo ceramic tiles. When in Santarem, make sure to enjoy the view from the Portas do Sol park.
In the late 12th century, Tomar’s castle was the headquarters of the Portuguese Templars and the town remains an archetype of Templar layout and architecture. In Tomar’s old town, visit the richly embellished Charola or Round Church in the Convent of Christ. There is a lot more to see and the town’s positive vibe make Tomar an ideal place for an extra rest day.
Lisbon is the capital of Portugal and one of the world’s oldest cities: known as Olispio by the Romans, settled by the Visigoths and the Arabs before becoming the base for the “Discoveries’ (Columbus, Magellan and Vasco de Gama all set sail from here). An earthquake in 1755 destroyed many buildings and dramatically brought an end to this powerful empire. The UNESCO-listed monastery in Belem still stands and is definitely worth a visit, as is the Alfama district for ‘fado’ (traditional music) – or simply enjoy a stroll through the streets of this beautiful city. You will find the first way-mark of your Portuguese Camino at the Cathedral.
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