Located on the Tagus River, Póvoa de Santa Iria is a municipality surrounded by wetlands, about 20 minutes by train from central Lisbon. The water’s edge, once a gathering place for fishing and industry, has been transformed by a “linear park”, a boardwalk that takes you through the marshes and fantastic views of the estuary and its abundance of birds.
Póvoa de Santa Iria is a predominantly residential city, but has mysterious castle ruins and exquisite Renaissance palaces. The hills to the west have vineyards and stables for the Lusitano horse breed, while in the neighbouring city you can see how people used to navigate rivers or make Portugal’s iconic ceramics.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Povar de Santa Iria:
1. Riberinha Park
The banks of the Tagus River in Póvoa were nearly inaccessible until a project planned an 8-kilometer trail through marshes and old fishing piers.
This is done via a raised boardwalk, which allows joggers, walkers and cyclists to enjoy the privileged views of the wetlands, river and wildlife returning to the banks.
Launched in 2013, the project focuses on sustainability; even the Interpretation Centre is housed in repurposed shipping containers.
This tells the history of fishing along the river and the wooden “Varino” sailboats used for freight.
2. Quinta Municipal da Piedade
Owned by the town, this lovely 18th century manor has a surprising amount.
If you get the chance, the property itself is worth checking out as the rooms used for functions are lined with period tiles.
The grounds of the estate have been transformed into parks, scattered with chapels and chapels.
There is a pine forest to stroll through and the kids will love the zoo.
There are domestic breeds such as cows, sheep, goats, donkeys and poultry, kept in healthy, spacious pens.
3. Castelo de Pirescoxe
Not far from Tahoe are the ruins of a castle in a modern residential development.
Although the walls look tough, the building is more of a manor than a fort.
It was built for the nobility in 1422, but when their lineage died out in the 17th century, the property was abandoned and had decayed for hundreds of years.
The ruins are “property of the public interest” of the state and there are many details for enthusiasts to peruse, there are serrations and towers, and you can still make out the remnants of the chimneys where the hall once stood.
4. Valflores Palace
At the time of this writing, scaffolding is being erected for this magnificent 16th-century palace, and efforts are underway to restore it.
In 2015, the building was named one of Europe’s Threatened Historic Treasures, so it’s worth checking out if you’re nearby.
Because there is no denying the beauty or significance of this building.
It was commissioned by João de Barros, steward of King John III and in charge of the Portuguese trading post in Flanders.
It has beautiful loggias and is one of the few remaining Renaissance residential buildings in Portugal.
The site is currently owned by the City of Lores and is another public interest property.
A 15-minute train ride takes you to Estação do Oriente, from where you can get around the city on the Lisbon Metro’s red line.
Alternatively, you can stay on the train and continue to Santa Apolónia, where Alfama’s charming labyrinth of ancient streets puts many sights and attractions at your fingertips.
Much more than one sentence can sum it up, but you have to see the stately Praça do Comércio and compare it to the young and chaotic Bairro Alto.
Be sure to get in some fado too, take at least one tram or cable car and head to one of the world-class museums.
For those cutting into the heart of Portuguese design and culture, try the National Tile Museum.
6. National Parks
Expo ’98 presented Lisbon with a brand new neighborhood in a part of the city that was in decline following the industrial development of the riverside.
Parque das Nações is the crowning glory of the project, a vibrant urban environment with towers, shopping malls and tourist attractions.
At night, it feels very urban, just 15 minutes from Póvoa de Santa Iria, ideal for dinner.
During the day, you should take a walk along the river, take a scenic trip by cable car, and visit several attractions, one of which will be covered later.
7. Lisbon Oceanarium
The second largest aquarium in Europe is located in Parque das Nações and was one of the exhibits of Expo ’98. Simply entering the attraction is an epic experience, as the building is actually located on the Tagus River and is connected to the river by a bridge.
The protagonist of the show is an awe-inspiring ocean tank 7 meters deep, where eels, barracuda, sharks and rays all coexist.
But it’s one of many environments, containing a total of 16,000 animals from 450 species.
Spider crabs, seahorses, jellyfish are all here, along with many amphibians, penguins and sea otters.
8. Museu de Cerâmica de Sacavém
Driving or taking the train south of Póvoa de Santa Iria, the museum opened in 2000 to critical acclaim.
Received the Luigi Micheletti Award for innovation in 2002.
The museum was built exclusively on the site of the legendary pottery factory of Sacavém, which at that time was one of the reference points of the East Lisbon industrial belt.
The factory closed in 1994, but Sacavém’s pottery heritage lives on in the museum’s galleries.
You’ll gain personal insights into the people who work at the factory, peruse the fine ceramics it produces, and admire the impressive kilns preserved in the center of the museum.
9. Vasco da Gama Bridge
If you include the viaduct that extends to the river bank, Ponte Vasco da Gama is always present on the southern river, it is the longest bridge in Europe.
It meanders 12.3 kilometers at the mouth of the Tagus River, and it took just over three years to complete nearly $1 billion.
It was ready in time for Expo ’98, which transformed the northeastern region of Lisbon.
If you don’t mind paying the toll on the way back, you can drive through Alcochete and Montijo on the opposite bank and back to see the Lisbon skyline in a whole new way.
10. Museum of Neorealism
An academic museum, this museum about Portugal’s 20th century Neorealism movement is about 10 minutes on the Linha da Azambuja train.
Neorealism began in the 1930s, just before Salazar came to power, and continued into the 1960s.
It was a left-wing social realism whose many writers, like Alexandre Pinheiro Torres, were forced into exile during the regime.
The museum started out as a simple archive but has since grown into a major attraction with first editions, works of art, imagery collections and a large library of print and audiovisual materials.
11. “Liberdade” Tour on the Varino River
The Municipal Museum of Vila Franca de Xira restores an old wooden Varino and organizes sailings on the Tagus River from May to October.
Vessels like the “Liberdade” were once a feature of the mouth of the Tagus, with their flat hulls and high bows allowing ships to navigate the shallower parts of the river safely.
You’ll get an up-close look at uninhabited river islands, see beautiful waterfowl, and get a feel for river life before the 20th century.
The boat docks at the marina in Póvoa de Santa Iria, so you can take the train to Vila Franca de Xira and return using this unique form of transport.
The vast marshes across the Tagus become a breeding ground for bullfights and agile Lusitano horses.
This breed is essential to the identity of the region, and if you want to see it in action, you can drive to the Lezíria Grande Riding Centre.
Here, riders and horses are trained and participate in international shows several times a year, as well as a history-themed equestrian show at the center.
If you want to ride a Lusitano and take equestrian lessons, there are stables within ten minutes of Póvoa de Santa Iria.
13. Local festivals
The main annual festival of Póvoa de Santa Iria is in honor of Nossa Senhora da Piedade (Our Lady of Mercy) and takes place on the first weekend of September.
There are also many small ceremonies such as flag raising, sardine grills and solemn parades.
These are interspersed with parties, rock and electronic concerts, and fado shows.
Then the whole festival ends with a fireworks display at midnight on Sunday.
14. Wine Tourism
Despite being close to Lisbon, just minutes from Póvoa de Santa Iria, there is an array of rural activities to choose from.
One of them is a tour of the winery, as the hills inland are dotted with vineyards growing the red Tempranillo and domestic Doriga grapes, as well as the white grape arinto variety.
Even if you’re not a wine connoisseur, it’s enough to be able to visit some of these ancient estates dating back to the 1700s or earlier.
Quinta das Carrafouchas with its tiled courtyard and Quinta de São Sebastião are baroque gems.
15. Vasco da Gama Center
A 15-minute train ride takes you to the large shopping centre on Parque das Nações by the Tagus River.
If you need an activity on a rainy day, or just want to browse some high street shops, you’ll have everything you could hope for in this airy, modern mall.
In addition to 170 stores, there are 33 restaurants and a multi-screen cinema.
If you have nothing to do at night, most movies in Portugal use subtitles instead of dubbing.
Where to Stay: The best hotels in Povoa de Santa Iria, Portugal
Lowest price guaranteed.