If there’s a time to go to Águeda, it’s July, and the town is enveloped in the colour, creativity and fun of the AgitÁgueda festival. This three-week event transforms the center into an artistic wonderland, with spontaneous performances and extraordinary art installations. The rest of the time it is a peaceful rural settlement, with the coastal plain of north-central Portugal broken up by low-lying mountains.
Pateira de Fermentelos, the largest freshwater lake in Portugal or Spain, is only moments away from towns and villages that hide a wide variety of mansions, art galleries, museums and historical sites.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Agda:
1. Agit Águeda
A huge tent in the Zona Ribeira Park is the base for the annual vibrant cultural event, even now more than a decade old.
The concerts and workshops were packed for three weeks in July, with events coinciding with blockbuster public art installations.
The most iconic is the Umbrella Sky Project, in which a kaleidoscope canopy of some 3,000 umbrellas line the streets of the city center.
Day or night, there is always something going on, whether it’s urban art that transforms lampposts, store facades, benches and stairs, or impromptu concerts, pop-ups, parades and nightly concerts.
2. Igreja da Trofa
The best heritage of the city of Agda is the Portuguese National Monument.
The parish church of Trofa has medieval origins but was rebuilt during the Renaissance in the 1500s.
Around this time, the French master sculptor Jean de Rouen was commissioned to build Panteão dos Lemos, the burial site of the ancestors of Lord Trofa.
The Pantheon has two monuments opposite the nave, frieze, pilasters and arches carved with surprising skill from soft limestone.
On the monument on the right, there is a sculpture of the king of Tropha with his armor at his feet.
3. Pateira de Fermentelos
The largest natural lake on the Iberian Peninsula is just seconds away from the centre of Agda.
The coast of Pateira de Fermentelos is marshy, which is just what its healthy inhabitants and migratory bird populations like.
There’s a pedestrian bridge and a wooden gazebo where you can wait for a black kite to circle overhead or a red heron or red heron to pop out of the rushes and reeds at the water’s edge.
You’ll also see locals on the shore with fishing rods trying to catch carp, mullet and bass, and picnic greens shaded by willow, spruce and aspen trees.
4. Museu Ferroviário de Macinhata do Vouga
The Linha da Vouga railway, which runs through the Vouga Valley, was opened in 1908 by King Manuel II and is the last remaining meter-gauge railway in the country.
At the old station of Macinhata do Vouga, there are many paraphernalia that preserve the heritage of the Vouga Valley line.
You can see the ticket office from 1914, the carriages from 1942 and the interior of a postal train dating back to 1954. But inevitably there are eight restored steam locomotives, the oldest of which is from 1886.
5. Cabeço do Vouga archaeological site
In the hilly, wooded countryside of Águeda, on a sandstone outcrop are the remains of a nearly 3,000-year-old fortress that was reused by the Romans.
Its walls are 3.3 meters high and more than 40 meters long.
Among the ruins of dwellings and fortifications, you will observe the difference between the circular primitive architectural style of the Iron Age and the more complex rectangular buildings brought by the Romans, using squared stones.
At the time of writing, the archaeological site is temporarily closed to the public for renovations, so please check the municipal website before you come.
6. Casa Museu Cancioneiro de Águeda
One of Agda’s grandest properties, this 18th-century townhouse was rescued from demolition by the municipality.
It is filled with furniture, art and china from another historic estate, Casa da Alta Vila, which gives you an idea of the life of the wealthy in Agda in the early 20th century.
Each room has been carefully designed to showcase dining etiquette, religious practices or handicrafts, and some feature mannequins in costumes of the time.
In the kitchen, you’ll find the only piece of furniture that the house already has; a beautiful lacquered pine cabinet.
7. Museu da Fundação Dionísio Pinheiro e Alice Cardoso Pinheiro
Dionísio Pinheiro and Alice Cardoso Pinheiro are a pair of art collectors in Agda who established a foundation in 1969. Its job is to preserve and care for the vast amount of art the couple has collected over their lifetimes.
In 1985, the collection of paintings, sculptures, porcelain, silverware, jewellery, furniture, musical instruments, clocks and ivory was displayed in the museum’s six galleries.
Most of the works are from the 1300s to the 1900s, but there are also works from antiquity, such as magnificent ancient Greek ships.
8. Ponte Medieval do Rio Marnel
In a picturesque landscape surrounded by woodland and the wide, slow-flowing River Manel, this is a bridge that has been around since the 1200s.
The bridge has five arches and if you look closely at the second arch you will see the remains of a niche.
This was for the Marian statue of the Rosary, which was moved to a lecture hall at the north entrance of the bridge.
The whole site is a park with a wooden walkway that gives you a better view of the bridge, which connects to a small river island with picnic tables if you want to spend a little more time in this romantic spot.
9. Aliança Underground Museum
Entrepreneur, vintner and art collector Joe Berardo has built a remarkable museum in the cellars of Aliança, a 10-minute drive from Águeda in Sangallios.
In these long tunnels, minerals such as archaeology, African art, contemporary Zimbabwean sculpture, giant geology, fossils, ceramics from Caldas da Rainha and antique Portuguese tiles are displayed.
Some of these works are of high cultural and historical value, while Berardo chose others for more sentimental reasons.
This applies to the exhibition about Mahatma Gandhi at the end of the tour.
These are cellars with detailed information on how Aliança’s sparkling and aguardiente spirits are made.
10. Parque da Alta Vila
In the mid-19th century, the town’s top property owner, Dr. Eduardo Caldera, set out to transform his land into a romantic English garden.
Over the next few decades, he planted exotic trees, built a chapel, false medieval ruins, bridges over miniature lakes, winding paths, greenhouses, grottoes, hunting lodges and log cabins.
The 3-hectare park eventually became public property in the 20th century, and now you can escape to Dr. Caldeira’s little world for an hour or so.
11. Walking and horseback riding
Águeda has invested heavily in a network of small road signs, six of which start near town.
From the town you can head to Pateira de Fermentelos, stroll along the banks of the Águeda river, follow the historic railway route, or head east to where the mountains are covered in dense pine forests.
The idyllic setting along the Vouga River is a horse-riding paradise, and the stables at Abrigo d’Aventura can tailor rides to suit you, from lessons to learn the basics to tricks and treks through wooded valleys.
These horses are easy-going and responsive, and your owner speaks fluent English.
12. Praia Fluvial do Alfusqueiro
The Atlantic Ocean is about half an hour west on Praia da Barra.
But if that feels too far, you can choose the beach near Águeda.
Praia Fluvial do Alfusqueiro is the closest and sits on the meanders of the Afusqueiro River.
The river meanders down from Serra do Caramulo, and at the edge of the mountains, you are in a deep valley covered with hardwoods and evergreen forests.
There is a large sandy area, pool-like water for swimming and playing, and grassy areas with umbrellas.
In summer, there are makeshift kiosks at the beach if you need some refreshments.
There’s a lot going on in the city, 20 minutes east.
You can cruise Aveiro’s canals on a wooden moliceiro boat, which looks a bit like a gondola.
The Aveiro Museum is located in the convent where Princess Joanna, daughter of King Alfonso V, abandoned her proposal of marriage in the 1400s and lived the life of a sister.
Her tomb is a Baroque marvel, hewn from polychrome marble.
Aveiro also faces the lagoon of the same name and covers an area of 75 square kilometers.
The lagoon’s salt deposits made it a center for bacalhau (salted cod), which were brought back to Port Ilawo in large quantities by Portugal’s “White Fleet” in the 1900s.
There is a maritime museum from this period and you can board a giant trawler by the canal of Gafanha da Nazaré.
14. Wine Tourism
Águeda is located in the Bairrada DOC and most of the vineyards are located on the coastal plain west of the town.
The mild maritime climate, abundant rainfall and sandy soils are ideal for Fernão Pires grapes.
This is mainly used for spicy and sharp sparkling wines from the region.
If you want to go on a wine tour, Águeda borders the wine cellars, Caves Primavera and three wine estates.
In addition to white sparkling wines, many of the red wines produced are usually made from Baga grapes, which are used to make full-bodied, full-bodied and fruity wines.
Quinta da Aguieira, Quinta do Ferrão and Quinta Vale do Cruz all welcome guests.
If you want to eat like “aguedense”, you better bring an appetite.
The town’s signature dish is roast suckling pig, usually served with oranges.
There are also baby goats and rabbits in the oven.
“lampatana” is a slow-cooked stew in special earthenware pots, usually cooked with lamb or goat, while rojões is pork belly sautéed with potatoes.
The Old Cod Harbour in Ílhavo is not far away and there are plenty of salted cod recipes: you can order it grilled, fried in onion sauce or deep fried in batter.
Check bakery windows for sweets made from almonds, eggs and sugar originally made in convents or broa do milho, a bread baked with rye and cornmeal.
Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Agda, Portugal
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