Bom Dia from Portugal’s fortress town – Valença do Minho, or just Valenca in short. This unique town’s history goes back up to Roman times. Over the years Valenca do Minho played an important military role in defending the Portuguese northern border. Nowadays only friendly invaders, mostly from Galicia in Spain, peacefully invade this fortress town in order to buy some good local Portuguese products. However, we won’t take you shopping… we’ll show you the best things to do in Valença do Minho, Portugal. Vamos!
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Discover Best Things To Do In Valenca do Minho, Portugal
Valenca do Minho is located in Northern Portugal in the Alto Minho region and Viana do Castelo District. It lies on the left bank of the Minho River, which is the only thing that separates Portugal from Galicia in Spain. Valenca is also in close proximity to Portugal’s only National Park – Peneda-Geres National Park.
Valenca is a very unique town in Portugal definitely worth visiting, even if only for a short while. After all, in how many places in Portugal can you see still functioning towns within 5km of well-kept defensive walls? We don’t know but it’s definitely not a common sight. What’s more, Valenca fortress also offers great views over the Minho River and the neighboring Spanish town of Tui.
Valenca do Minho Fortress (pt. Fortaleza de Valença do Minho) is without a doubt the most recognizable highlight of the town, and one of the most popular tourist attractions in North Portugal. Its history starts in the 13th century when the first fortifications and strongholds were built on the privileged hilltop position overlooking the Minho River and Spain. In order to provide even better protection of Portugal from invasions, during the 17th century the fortress we see today came to life. Over the years Valenca fortress walls were destroyed several times, but always restored thanks to which now we see it in very good shape.
Valenca Fortress sits on two small hills separated by a ditch and connected with a bridge. The main entrance is called Porta do Sol (eng. Sun Doors). Before you’ll enter the fortress be sure to wander outside the walls in order to admire these impressive fortifications from the outside and discover why it was so successful at resisting attacks. There you’ll also get fantastic views over the Minho River and the Spanish coast.
Now that you’ve seen Valenca do Minho Fortress from the outside, it’s time to go through the gates and let’s discover what’s inside… Let’s go!
Inside the walls of Valenca fortress
Inside the Valenca fortress, among its narrow stone-paved streets, you’ll find many beautiful old buildings, some churches like Igreja de Santo Estevão or Igreja de Santa Maria dos Anjos, historical landmarks, and of course many restaurants, cafes, and small shops selling various products like souvenirs, Portuguese wines, towels, or clothes.
Unfortunately, you’ll also find plenty of cars there, which is quite a shame in our opinion. Nevertheless, it’s worth a visit so let’s take a closer look at some of the most important Valenca do Minho points of interest.
Valenca history goes back up to Roman times, and Roman Milestone is proof of it. It dates back to the 1st century when Emperor Claudius ordered its construction. It marks the distance of 62km of the old road leading from Braga to Astorga in Spain. Currently, you can find Roman Milestone in front of the Igreja de Santo Estevão, it’s quite easy to miss so have your eyes wide open.
Valenca do Minho Churches
As befits a real Portuguese town, you’ll also find several churches and chapels in Valença. Here are the most important and interesting ones:
- Igreja de Santo Estevão (eng. Saint Stephen’s Church) was built in the 13th century and later rebuilt in Neoclassical style at the end of the 18th century. Inside you can take a look at 16th-century panels showing scenes of St. Stephen’s life and a 16th-century portrait of the Virgin Mary. Also, in front of this church, you’ll find a Roman Milestone.
- Igreja de Santa Maria dos Anjos (eng. Church Of Saint Mary Of The Angels) was built in the 13th century in Romanesque style, and currently serves as Valenca’s main church. A tiny chapel, also dating back to the 13th century, is attached to its back. Just to the left of the church is the Capela da Misericórdia (eng. Chapel of Mercy).
- Capela Militar do Bom Jesus (eng. Military Chapel of Bom Jesus) is a small 17th-century chapel built in Baroque and Rococo styles, with a single nave. In front of it, you’ll find a 20th-century Statue of São Teotónio, the first Portuguese saint who was born in 1082 near Valença, in Ganfei.
If you’re into visiting museums, Valenca has two to offer:
- Núcleo Museológico de Valença (eng. Municipal Museum Centre of Valença) where thanks to various exhibits, photos, weapons, models, or documents you’ll be able to relive the most significant times of the history of the town. The entrance is free.
- Museu do Bombeiro Manuel Valdés Sobral (eng. Fireman’s Museum) is a small museum completely dedicated to firefighters. Inside for example, you’ll find a great collection of fire helmets and lots of miniature cars. The place is great for visiting with children. The entrance is free.
Valença-Tui International Bridge
Just a few steps from the fortress you’ll find Valença-Tui International Bridge (pt. Ponte Internacional Valença-Tui) that connects Portugal with Spain. This 318m long bridge, inspired by Eifell’s works, was built between 1882-1884 and opened in 1885. The bridge is still in use by trains, cars, and pedestrians. Due to the fact that a new bridge from 1993 is nearby, it’s often called the “Old International Bridge”.
Fun fact. Pilgrims walking Camino Portugues, one of the spiritual routes leading to the famous Santiago de Compostela in Spain, have been crossing the bridge since 1884.
How to get to Valenca do Minho, Portugal?
Where to park in Valenca do Minho, Portugal?
Remember to leave your car outside Valenca fortress. To do that you can choose one of a few parkings, for example this one, where you can leave your car for free.
Airports near Valenca do Minho, Portugal
The closest airport to Valenca in Portugal is located in Porto (115km away). Other ones are located in Spain, in Vigo (30km away) and Santiago de Compostela (130km away). From each airport, you can get to Valenca do Minho by bus. To check the connections that interest you please visit rome2rio.com website.
To Valenca do Minho by bus
You can quite easily get to Valenca by bus. For example, the journey from Porto will take about 2.5h (€6-29), from Viana do Castelo 1h (€3-11), and 1h from Ponte de Lima (€8-11). To learn more about bus connections that interest you visit rome2rio.com website.
To Valenca do Minho by train
From some places, you can also reach Valenca do Minho by train. There are connections available from cities like Lisbon, Porto, Viana do Castelo or Caminha. Here is a map of Portugal train connections.
Best Things To Do In Valenca do Minho, Portugal – Summing up
Hope that you enjoyed this blog post about Valenca do Minho, a unique Portuguese fortress town and that we encouraged you to go and see it with your own eyes. For many, it’s still not a well-known North Portugal destination but it has its own charm and huge defensive walls worth seeing!
Restaurants, accommodations, and map
Check out various recommended places below.
Where to eat in Valenca do Minho?
Here are your best, high-rated options in Valenca do Minho:
Where to sleep in Valenca do Minho?
Pousada de Valença
Pousada de Valença is a charming hotel located in the historic center of Valenca do Minho, offering comfortable rooms, a cozy lounge, and a beautiful courtyard with stunning views of the city's fortress and the River Minho. With its rich history and traditional architecture, this pousada provides a unique and unforgettable experience for visitors exploring the beautiful region of Alto Minho.
Hotel MABI is a modern and stylish hotel located in the heart of Valenca do Minho, Portugal, offering comfortable and spacious rooms, a restaurant serving delicious local cuisine, and a rooftop terrace with panoramic views of the city and the river. With its contemporary design and excellent location, this hotel provides a comfortable and convenient base for visitors to explore the charming town of Valenca and its surroundings.
Quinta do Caminho
Quinta do Caminho is a rustic guesthouse situated in the countryside of Valenca do Minho, Portugal, offering comfortable rooms, a large garden with an outdoor pool, and a restaurant serving homemade traditional dishes made with local ingredients. With its peaceful location and warm hospitality, this guesthouse provides a perfect retreat for travelers looking to relax and unwind amidst the beautiful nature of Minho.
Residencial Portas do Sol
Residencial Portas do Sol is a charming guesthouse located in the heart of Valenca do Minho, Portugal, offering comfortable rooms with balconies overlooking the town's historic center, a cozy lounge, and a bar serving refreshing drinks and snacks. With its excellent location and stunning views, this guesthouse provides a delightful and convenient option for travelers looking to experience the beauty and charm of Valenca do Minho.
Residencial S. Giao
Residencial S. Giao is a cozy guesthouse located in the center of Valenca do Minho, Portugal, offering comfortable and affordable rooms, a shared lounge area, and a restaurant serving delicious regional cuisine. With its central location and friendly staff, this guesthouse provides a convenient and welcoming option for visitors exploring the town and its historic landmarks.
Accommodations photos source: booking.com