The Sousa Valley in northern Portugal is a low-key rural town that doesn’t feature in many travel guides. But that’s not to say there’s nothing to do, as Fergueiras is on two regional routes. The Vinho Verde route passes by and stops at an estate where you can stroll through the vineyards and get fascinating snippets of how this wonderful wine is produced.
There is also a Romanesque trail and within minutes of town there are many medieval churches that have barely changed in 900 years. Last but not least, Fergueiras has been a center of excellence in lace and embroidery for over a century, and its industry is still thriving, based on Casa do Risco, which helps train people in fine needlework.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Fergueiras:
1. Mosteiro de Santa Maria de Pombeiro
Built in the 11th century, it was once one of the most important Benedictine monasteries in northern Portugal and is now a national monument.
The complex was overhauled in the 18th century, but there are still some Romanesque fragments that have existed since the 1000s.
Historians should make sure to check the apse’s radiating chapel and main portal.
This has five elaborately carved archives supported by columns with carved capitals, all below the rose window.
Among the newer elements, the most intriguing part is the unfinished classical cloister, abandoned and covered with coat of arms and roof railings.
2. Igreja de Santa Maria de Airães
Another medieval church and another national monument, this example may be from the 1100s.
Like the Abbey of Pompero, it was later updated, although these changes did not detract from the beauty of the building.
The earliest details are on the portal, which has four archives and capital letters with a leaf-like pattern.
The nave has powerful circular columns and at the end of the two external passages are retables of gilded wood.
The central altar has a beautiful vault and the walls are partly covered with patterned glazing.
3. Villa Romana de Sendim
In 1992, during the construction of the house, Roman foundations and a pile of ceramics, glass, coins and metal utensils were exposed in the parish of Sendin.
Fragments found during the excavation are placed in the villa’s interpretive centre for you to browse, and in some cases fragments of glass and pottery have been carefully pieced together.
The villa was built in the 1st century and you might be intimidated by its size.
The site is covered by a metal canopy, and you will walk through the ruins on the sidewalk, overlooking the heating system and the floor, which has opus signinum (decorative broken tiles) and colorful mosaics of geometric shapes.
4. Art House
The town’s large performing arts venue was financed and designed by António José de Fonseca Moreira, a Fergueiras native who made his Get rich in Brazil.
He came back to build an enduring monument to the town, inaugurated in 1921 with a play written by Moreira himself on opening night! Although a precious facility, it was purchased and restored by the town after falling into disrepair at the end of the 20th century.
There is a café inside, as well as lectures, live musicals and film screenings.
5. Igreja de São Vicente de Sousa
Another national monument, this church is also medieval.
Like the other products on this list, it may be modest in size, but it has many fascinating features.
You can recognize two medieval inscriptions on the wall, one from 1162, commemorating a funeral, and one in 1214, the date of the church’s dedication.
There is another Romanesque portal here, but lovers of this design will be interested in the unusual way in which the entrance protrudes from the main body of the church with its small vestibule.
Also of note are the corbels on the south façade, which suggest that the church may have once had a cloister.
The ceiling paintings, painted statues and altars on the altar are from the 1600s.
6. Vinho Verde
The Vinho Verde route passes through Fergueiras, in a hilly countryside with mosaic vineyards.
For the uninitiated, vinho verde is a wine unique to northwestern Portugal and southern Galicia.
The “verde” here refers to the age of the wine, as it is still young, producing lightly fruity reds, as well as fresh and sharp whites, often with subtle shimmers.
Around Felgueiras, you can read the full story on tours and tastings at Quinta da Lixa, or browse the shops for the agricultural cooperatives of Felgueiras, where there are plenty of wines and locally made delicacies like kiwi jam.
7. Local Attractions
While they’re not set up for insiders, there are some other great sights to see as you travel around Fergueiras.
One of them is the Casa de Valmelhorado, built in the early 1700s on a plateau above the Pompero monastery.
It is a baroque country house combined with an old medieval defensive tower.
Casa de Simães is an 18th-century mansion with ancient annexes, all wrapped in high walls and bearing the family coat of arms.
Take a whirlwind tour of the gardens with fountains and Baroque sculptures.
8. Romanesque route
The medieval architecture around Felgueiras is so rich that there is a designated Romanesque route (Rota do Românico) that leads to many towns in the Sousa Valley.
On top of the three monuments we’ve already seen, there’s a stately example in Igreja do Salvador de Unhão, built in the 12th century with its original nave intact.
Another is Igreja de São Mamede de Vila Verde, which dates back to at least the 1220s.
If this just piqued your interest in medieval architecture, you can continue to Penafiel, Amarante or Moarco de Canaveses to learn more.
Bordering the city of Fergueiras, this beautiful town is rich in history and places of interest.
Many of its picturesque vistas are on the banks of the river, where houses stick indefinitely out of the water.
The mythical Ponte de São Gonçalo also crosses here: there has been a bridge here since the Romans, but the building has 18th-century Baroque and Neoclassical architecture.
The Church of São Gonçalo (Igreja de São Gonçalo) contrasts the bridge with its terracotta dome and lavish façade.
There are also great museums, more historic churches and a designated nature trail along the rocky shores of Tâmega.
10. Traditional crafts
Known for the dexterous hands and patience of its inhabitants, Fergueiras has more embroiderers than any other town in the north.
If you like filet lace, cross stitch, etc., you have to call Casa do Risco.
It was built in a large building of the 19th century, high up in the valleys of Sousa and Tâmega.
Its purpose is to set the standard for needlework in the region and to train local artisans.
There are workshops, workshops and regular exhibitions for lovers of needlework.
Shoemaking is another Felgueiras strong point, and if you want to haggle or find out where this craft comes from, Felgueiras has ten factory shops open.
Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Fergueiras, Portugal
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