Things to Do in Valenca, Portugal

things to do in Valenca Portugal

Located on the border of Portugal and Spain, Valenca is a unique hilltop town with huge defensive walls. The city offers a wide range of things to do that are sure to make your trip special.

The fortress was originally built in the 13th century and then upgraded in the 17th and 18th centuries forming a pointed bulwarked system. You should not miss the Coroada and Gaviarra Gates as well as the Chapel of Sao Teotonio.

1. Visit the Fortress

The Fortress of Valenca is one of the most impressive defensive structures in the country. Its 5 km of walls invite visitors to discover true gems of military architecture.

The best way to visit the fortress is on foot. From the central square, you can walk towards Coroada Gates to admire a beautiful Manueline window. You can also stop at the 13th-century Igreja de Santo Estevao and its tiny chapel.

From there, head to the 17th-century Capela Militar do Bom Jesus. This small chapel has a single nave and is dedicated to Sao Teotonio, Portugal’s first saint. It was commissioned by King Afonso Henriques in honor of his confessor. This was an important time for the kingdom as it was at war with Spain.

2. Visit the Sao Teotonio Square

Within the huge walls of Valenca you’ll find beautiful old buildings, churches like Igreja de Santo Estevao and Igreja da Santa Maria dos Anjos, and a couple of museums. In particular, the Firefighter’s Museum with pieces of equipment from firefighters around the world.

You can also visit the Chapel of Sao Teotonio. It preserves a Roman Milestone, an obelisk dating back to the 1st century and that marks the distance of the old road between Braga and Santiago de Compostela in Spain. It was a road that the pilgrims used to walk to get their Compostela certificate.

3. Visit the Firefighter’s Museum

The firefighter’s museum (Museu Bombeiro Manuel Valdes Sobral) within the walls of Valenca is a fascinating place to visit. Here you can see various weapons and equipment from the fire services in Portugal and the rest of the world. The highlight of the museum is its huge collection of helmets.

There are many other attractions in this walled city. For example, the old international bridge is worth seeing. It connects Portugal with Spain and was built in the 19th century. It is also used by pilgrims who are walking the famous Camino de Santiago. Other highlights include the Igreja da Misericordia Church and its neoclassical style, and the Chapel of Sao Teotonio. This unique fortress town is best reached by train. There are connections available from Lisbon, Porto, and Viana do Castelo among others.

4. Visit the Republic Square

During the Middle Ages Valenca’s hilltop position and privileged view over the Minho River helped it to resist invasion by Spain and France. Today the impressive fort complex and charming historic centre are a great reason to visit Valenca, even though it is a smaller town than most.

You can easily explore the city on foot or rent a car. The driving into the fortress town can be a bit of a challenge, as you have to drive through narrow ancient archways in the fortress walls. Choose a small vehicle and don’t forget to tuck the wing mirrors in.

The Republic Square is the heart of the old town and home to a unique group of cafes and restaurants. Make sure to check out the Chavarez Fountain and also admire the houses that are lined with beautiful tiles.

5. Visit the Municipal Garden

Valenca is a unique town within its 5km of well-kept defensive walls and offers a wealth of historic buildings like churches, museums and houses. The main sights can be seen in a day trip and early mornings or dusk are ideal.

The central gate is a good bikeable entry point and once inside the fortress the cobbled streets are quiet. The central square is home to Casa do Eirado with Manueline touches and a Jewish inscription under one of the windows, and Igreja de Sao Teotonio.

A short walk from here is the Capela Militar do Bom Jesus, a 17th-century chapel in Baroque and Rococo styles, dedicated to the first Portuguese saint and patron saint of enslaved Christians. This chapel is a reminder that religious and secular traditions have long coexisted in Portugal.

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