Lourosa is a small town in northern Portugal, just a short distance from the Atlantic coast and Porto. Lourosa’s zoo attracts many day-trippers, and it’s the only attraction in the country devoted entirely to birds. The countryside is rich in cork oak trees, and the birthplace of this natural wealth is Corticeira Amorim, the world leader in cork production for 130 years.
The company’s 20th-century owners have a museum in Santa Maria with peculiar cork sculptures and more depth on this Portuguese industry. You can also step back in time at the majestic medieval castle of Santa Maria da Feira, or head to Espingo’s hollow surf is a surfing dream coast.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Lourosa:
1. Rorosa Zoo
Portugal’s only bird park is Lourosa’s star attraction.
More than 500 birds from 150 different species are preserved in vast and humane habitats, both native and exotic.
In their ranks are flamingos, ostriches, emus, peacocks, owls, storks, macaws, pelicans, kookaburras, toucans, the list goes on, and birds from five continents.
In some enclosures, you will find yourself in the middle of the habitat and can watch the birds from the log cabin.
There’s a pelican flight and feeding show, and you’ll have the chance to hand-feed flamingos.
2. Santa Maria da Feira
In the same city, you must plan to visit the Castle of Santa Maria da Feira, one of the most complete military heritage sites in Portugal.
The bloodiest fighting in the Reconquista took place in this place, which for 200 years has been on the front line between the Portuguese county in the north and the Islamic caliphate and emirate in the south.
Later, in the 12th century, the castle became the site of a battle between the future King of Portugal, Afonso Henriques, and his mother, Queen Teresa.
The castle has been inhabited for 500 years and has been continuously improved to meet the needs of the earl who controls it.
The chronology of defensive buildings we have left is almost unparalleled in the country.
Come here in July for the Viagem Medieval em Terra de Santa Maria, an incredible medieval fair that employs hundreds of volunteers.
3. Parque das Ribeiras do Uíma
Uíma is a small tributary of the Douro River, which originates in Santa Maria da Feira and winds its way through the countryside to Vila Nova de Gaia.
Near the centre of Lourosa is a park where the river flows through a small floodplain of wetlands and farms.
There are some unusually beautiful scenes, such as a water meadow with greenery reflected in a large expanse of water.
The wet area is crossed by a wooden footbridge with information boards detailing the history of the site and its wildlife.
4. Museu do Papel de Paços Brandão
Portugal’s first museum on the history of papermaking, this attraction covers more than 300 years of papermaking in the Lourosa region.
The museum is housed in a complex of three 19th-century paper mills (one of which is in ruins), both original artisanal factories and machines taken over in the 20th century.
You’ll learn about the raw materials of each sheet and see how recipes have changed over time.
There is a collection of vintage watermarks, as well as equipment and paper from historic factories across Portugal.
5. The Virgin Mary Museum
Lourosa is often touted as the “City of the Three Cs”, the “Cidade Capital da Cortiça” (Cork’s capital). The cork oak is Portugal’s national tree and its natural abundance in Lourosa has been exploited by the cork industry for hundreds of years.
20th century cork industrialist Henrique Amorim did a great job in this business.
At his estate five minutes from Lullosa, he has amassed a large collection of religious and secular art, china, antique weapons and furniture.
There are marvelous church interiors, wholesale reconstructions in museums.
But cork is the big story: you’ll get an inside look at the material and Corticeira Amorim.
Some Portuguese landmarks, such as the Belém Tower in Lisbon and a 15th-century sailing ship, are also made of cork.
6. Casa da Cultura de Lourosa
On a rainy day in Lourosa, you can see what’s going on at the town’s Casa da Cultura.
The facility is located in Lourosa’s historic schoolhouse, a striking whitewashed building with gables and wooden beams.
The space is a venue for lectures and seminars, as well as art and photography exhibitions.
If you want to investigate Lourosa’s past, archival photos are regularly displayed here, documenting past lives and industries such as cork manufacturing, which was once the livelihood of the entire town.
7. Termas de São Jorge
Less than 5 km away is the São Jorge hot springs, which have sulphurous water.
These are said to have therapeutic effects, especially for skin, musculoskeletal and respiratory problems.
In the past, it was normal to book sessions that lasted several weeks, and perhaps people still do.
But it’s more fashionable now to only show up for a day or two and be pampered.
“Termalbreak” offers Vichy shower massages, dips in thermal pools, nutritional advice and gym workouts.
8. Convento dos Lóios
The proper way to approach this Mannerist monument is from the grand staircase below the west façade.
On the street, there is a Renaissance fountain with an armillary sphere, a symbol of Portugal’s maritime power.
On the platform in front of the church is a stone cross carved in 1746. Go inside and admire the gilded wooden altar and the stone statues of the saints in the niches.
The secular building of the monastery is the museum of Santa Maria da Feira, which showcases traditional costumes and handicrafts from sites around the area, such as the Castro de Romariz, which we will cover next.
9. Castro de Romariz
You can contact Convento dos Lóios for a guided tour of this Iron Age village that has existed for almost 2,500 years.
“Castro” is a fixture in the landscape of northern Portugal, usually at the top of a hill.
Since the villages were built of stone, the first floors of their huts and meeting halls left a mysterious pattern on the top of the hill.
Inhabited until the 1st century, Castro de Romariz has a typical matrix of circular and rectangular walls flanking paved streets.
The monastery’s museum displays urns, coins, glassware and inscriptions from as far away as Middle Eastern Phoenicia.
10. A day on the coast
Take the A41 and you can reach Espinho Resort in 10 minutes.
The resort’s beaches, like Praia da Baia, are great for sunbathing, building sandcastles and gazing in awe at the roaring ocean.
A stroll along the wash area is enough, but you can also tame these waves on a surfboard.
Espinho is full of surf camps, where you can spend a week-long vacation mastering the art or learning how to stand on a surfboard for the first time.
There is a long promenade next to the beach lined with seafood restaurants and bars, many of which are open to surfers during the off-season.
Also in Espinho is the second oldest golf course in continental Europe, Porto Golf Club, a true links course opened for the British in 1890.
Take a break from the traffic jams and be in the northern region capital in 20 minutes.
At that distance, there’s no reason not to check out this UNESCO World Heritage city at least once.
Postcard-like views such as the Douro River between two high banks, the Riberia district on the right and the historic wine cottages of Vila Nova da Gaia on the left.
If you like modern art and culture, the magnificent Casa da Música concert hall and Serralves’ contemporary art museum will amaze you.
You can sit in the bomb shelter and museum of the Estádio do Dragão, home of FC Porto, cruise the Douro on a ravelo boat, climb the baroque tower of the Clérigos church, and be blown away by the majestic architecture of Plaza Liberty.
12. Food and drink
One delicacy found around Lourosa is fogaça, a sweet pastry shaped like the tower of the Santa Maria da Fira castle.
It’s baked with butter, flour, and sugar, and then adds cinnamon, coffee, and lemon for extra flavor.
The story of Fogaça is rooted in the Middle Ages, when it was baked to protect the town from plague.
A celebration is held every January when hundreds of young girls from different parishes line up and march down the streets with pastries overhead.
On the coast you can indulge in seafood, Espinho is famous for its prawns.
Order caldeirada (classic Portuguese fish stew), arroz de marisco (paella) or the tried and trusted grilled sardines.
Where to stay: The best hotels in Lourosa, Portugal
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