Visiting Northern Portugal's Minho Region - Arcos de Valdevez
My boyfriend Jorge hails from Arcos de Valdevez, a charming and ancient little town by the banks of the River Vez, at the foot of the Peneda Mountains. Located in Northern Portugal, with 2200 inhabitants, the town is worth a mention. Actually, a Portuguese novella called A Vida Inteira ("A Lifetime" in English) recently put the traditional Portuguese town with winding streets, medieval towers, old castles and churches on the minds of many Portuguese people but this town has been around for many hundreds of years and is rich in history.
Located in the district of Viana do Castelo in northern Portugal, it is a sub-region of Minho-Lima - a region known for rolling hills, green scenery, and fresh crisp air. Arcos de Valdevez borders with Spain to the East, just 18 miles (29 km) away.
Arcos de Valdevez (translation literally meaning "arches of the valley of the River Vez") has been Inhabited since prehistoric times, with burial sites you can visit yourself which date back 5,000 years and Roman bridges you can still cross by foot that date back a millennium. Rio Lima, another river in Arcos de Valdevez was thought to be the mythical River Lethe, the river of forgetfulness. In 137 BC, Roman soldiers, when on the way to conquer Northern Portugal, imagined that crossing the river would cause them to forget who they were and where they came from and so they refused to cross Rio Lima. Their leader, General Decimus Junius Brutus Callaicus crossed the river himself and called out each soldier’s name from across the river in order to prove that he didn’t lose his memory before his army was convinced that it was safe to cross the river.
During the summer of 1140, a significant battle took place in Arcos de Valdevez between the Kingdom of Portugal and the Kingdom of Leon. Portugal won, ending the war for independence. The area where the battle took place became known as Veiga or Campo da Matanca, or "Killing Field".
During the 1700s, there was a large fire that destroyed most of Arcos de Valdevez’s important buildings.
What to See in Arcos de Valdevez
- Ponte de Arcos de Valdevez (Bridge of Arcos de Valdevez) - a bridge constructed in the late 19th Century to substitute the medieval Roman bridge. Nowadays this bridge is one of the most photographed sites in the town.
- Ponte Medieval de Vilela - a medieval Roman stone bridge.
- Pelourinho de Arcos de Valdevez (Pillory of Arcos de Valdevez) - A stone structure built in 1515 to mark the settlement in Arcos de Valdevez.
- Water Clock Fountain - a new water jet starts up every 15 minutes on this clock fountain.
- There are over half a dozen religious sites in Arcos de Valdevez, built after the great fire of the 17th Century which destroyed the ancient religious sites. Churches and chapels are decorated with Portuguese azulejo and religious images of the 17th Century. Sites include: Capela da Nossa Senhora da Conceição (Chapel of Our Lady of the Conception), Igreja da Nossa Senhora da Lapa (Church of Our Lady of Lapa), Igreja da Misericórdia e Cruzeiro (Church of Mercy and Cross) Igreja de São Bento (Church of Saint Benedict), Igreja do Espírito Santo (Church of the Holy Spirit), Igreja de São Paio (Church of Saint Paio), Igreja Matriz de Arcos de Valdevez (Matriz Church of Arcos de Valdevez), and Mosteiro de Ázere (Benedictine Monastery of Ázere).
What to See Nearby
Arcos de Valdevez is conveniently located near some remarkable attractions like prehistoric archeological sites, ancient traditional villages, old abandoned towers, and Portugal's only National Park.
- Núcleo Megalítico do Mezio (Megalithic Nucleus of Mezio) is a prehistoric burial site located just 7 miles (14 km) from Arcos de Valdevez. Also known as Antas da Serra do Soajo, the site was used by local shepherds and farmers about 5,000 years ago and contains a dozen graves on a plateau. It’s really interesting to see this site and get a unique sense of prehistoric funerary spaces.
- Parque Nacional da Peneda-Gerês (Peneda-Gerês National Park) is Portugal's only National Park and Arcos de Valdevez is an ideal gateway to it. Peneda-Geres offers 270 square miles (700 square kilometers) of unspoiled wilderness to be hiked through valleys, rivers, waterfalls, and to see wild horses and tiny traditional villages.
- Paco do Giela is a spectacular abandoned tower and former noble residence that offers fabulous views of the landscape. It is built in the Gothic style, incorporating some traditional Portuguese “manuelino” style. It’s been classified as a national monument since 1910.
- Soajo is a traditional village located on the way to the National Park that has extremely unique tomb-like granite structures topped with crosses called "espigueiros" that were used to store corn.
Where to Eat
For traditional Portuguese food in a beautifully decorated restaurant adorned with ajulezos and local china, Costa do Vez is an excellent option. If you want to taste regional food, try the Cozida a Minhota and definitely drink the Vinho Verde (young green wine). It's a Michelin Guide restaurant.
Address: Estrada de Monção P - 4970-483 Arcos de Valdevez
Telephone Number: 258-516-122