Fafe is a rural town in northwestern Portugal, not far from the city of Guimaraes. This is a land of tall granite hills, dense forests and vineyards that produce vinho verde wines. The town’s recent history has been affected by immigration, especially when locals left Brazil in the 1800s to make their fortunes.
Many of these immigrants returned and displayed their newfound wealth, building lavish residences and monuments that can be seen throughout the town. Here’s a photo of the storybook Casa do Penedo, which is making waves online, built from granite boulders, with lakes, golf courses, water parks, wineries and Iron Age archaeological sites on the agenda.
Let’s explore the best things to do at Fafe:
1. Casa Penedo
On the towering and desolate hillside above Faffey, battered by wind and rain, is a house from the realm of fantasy.
With four huge granite boulders supporting it at every corner of Casa do Penedo, it can be tricky to figure out where the solid rock ends and the walls of the house start.
The environment is exposed, blown by the wind, and the house has only electric wind turbines.
This strange building is the work of a Guimaraes designer in the 1970s and was originally intended to be used as a holiday home.
It’s now closed to the public after hosting the museum for a while, but it’s worth a walk for photos and romantic views.
2. Brazilian Architecture
The 19th century was a time of change for Fafe, when many citizens traveled to Brazil.
Those who made their fortunes in the New World often returned to build luxurious homes and facilities in the town.
The building is now one of Fafe’s most striking features, some of which have become public property over time.
They’re usually ostentatious, and you can add the best sights to a small stretch of town.
Make time to visit the San Jose de Fafe Hospital, Municipal Archives, Sanctuary Nova, Caldim do Calvario and Theater Cinema, which we will visit later in the list.
3. Igreja de São Romão de Arões
The church is the only building around Fafe to be awarded the prestigious “National Monument” status.
Small but striking, it has a Romanesque style that dates back to the 1200s.
As in the style of the time, the granite walls are bare with minimal openings, more like arrow rings than windows.
Some extensions and changes were made during the church’s lifetime, with an adjoining bell tower and some baroque gilded wood in the sanctuary.
But there are also some medieval decorations to be seen, such as the Agnus Dei carved in the tympanum and the frieze and capital letters of the choir.
4. Attractions in Fafee
Fafe and its surroundings have many places to remember: Casa do Santo Velho is an elegant mansion built in the 1600s that still bears the family coat of arms.
The Igreja Matriz has been the core building of Fafe since the Middle Ages, although it was enlarged in the 1700s when it was given two towers and an ornate Rococo interior.
Igreja de São Gens is located in a fantastical setting that appears to have grown from granite boulders.
There are sarcophagi cut from the exposed stone outside, and behind this former convent church you can overlook the lush valley at the foot of the Serra da Lameira.
Finally, in the parish of Golães there is a small bridge, Ponte do Barroco, in a beautiful rural setting, the date of its construction (792) is engraved in its stone.
5. Museu da Imprensa
One of many museums exploring Fafe’s past, this attraction is associated with a local newspaper founded in the town in the early 1900s.
Both O Desforço (1892) and Almanaque Ilustrado de Fafe (1909) are long gone, but the equipment used for composition, printing and finishing has been restored and is on display in this museum.
You can check out steam-powered cast iron printing presses and their wooden plates from the 1800s.
Moving on, there are more sophisticated typesetters that have replaced them.
6. Museu das Migrações e das Comunidades
Fafe was more affected by immigration than most Portuguese towns, and this museum looks at the impact of immigration on the community and culture.
It was mainly used in the 1800s and early 1900s, when large numbers of people traveled to Brazil.
It’s part of a cycle as many of them come back, often with money, new styles of music, architecture and ways of thinking.
The museum explores this feeling of cross-pollination and examines the economic, social and cultural impact of mass evacuations in the post-war years and today.
7. Theater Cinema
One of Fafe’s “Brasileiro” monuments is this performing arts venue that opened in 1923. The original façade is beautiful, with horns and filigree patterns in the corners and a winged cupid printed in gold.
Before becoming a cinema, it was originally a dramatic theatre until it became dilapidated in the 1980s.
Then in the 2000s, the grounds were refurbished, with a modern glass extension and a majestic Beaux-Arts hall restored to its former glory.
Check to see if there is a movie or concert you want to see as the building is well worth the entrance.
8. Barragem da Queimadela
A peaceful meeting place in summer when the sun is too hot, this is a forested dam and reservoir.
You can swim at the small beach, walk the woodland trails along the shore, or just relax on the grass.
There are lifeguards on duty and in summer you can rent a kayak or rowing boat for a few hours.
You can also enjoy refreshments at the café, as well as a picnic area with BBQ facilities.
There is also a small but picturesque waterfall not far from the shore.
9. Complexo Turístico de Rilhadas
Another way to get in touch with nature at Fafe is to come to this outdoor tourism complex in the city.
It is Portugal’s first rural resort, located in 5 hectares of high country countryside surrounded by rivers.
The main attraction is a nine-hole golf course, but there are also facilities for tennis, swimming, canoeing, cycling, football and even a go-kart track.
Kids can attack the woodland adventure track by climbing obstacles, rope nets and rope bridges.
10. Wine tourism
In Fafe, you are on the east side of the Vinho Verde region, which occupies the northwest corner of Portugal.
The “verde” here does not refer to the color of the grapes in these wines, but to their young age, as vinho verde is intended to be drunk immediately after bottling.
This leaves white wines fresh and refreshing, while reds and rosés are light and fruity.
If you want to witness this wine being made first hand and get fascinating informative tidbits, your best bet is Quinta de Santa Cristina, a few minutes from Fafe.
You’ll hike through the vineyards with a guide, learn about the inner workings of the winery, and taste and buy a vinho verde that suits your taste.
There are harvest days in the fall and winemaking workshops throughout the year.
11. Parque Aquático de Fafe
Fafe doesn’t leave out the kids either, as there’s a nice water park in town, and a full-day family pass costs just €25.00.
The park has nine slides, including a multi-lane racing car and some slower spinning halfpipes.
There are three swimming pools, one for adults and older children to bathe, and two wading pools especially for the youngest members of the family.
Also distracting for the kids are the costumed characters who roam and interact in the park.
For a day of culture and history, you can’t do better than this UNESCO World Heritage city just 10 minutes west of Fafe.
Guimarães is often referred to as Cidade Berço (Cradle City) because it is believed that Portugal’s first king, Afonso Henriques, was born here in the 12th century.
Later it was the seat of the Dukes of Braganza, a line that produced many Portuguese kings, and you can potter around their gothic palaces.
The old town of Guimaraes is very pretty, with its intricate cobblestone streets that will take you to historic squares such as the unforgettable La Gorda Oliveira.
Like something out of Game of Thrones, there are ancient olive trees and a Gothic war memorial that have stood here since the 14th century.
13. Santuário da Penha
On the way from Fafe to Guimarães, you will pass a morbid (Monte da Penha) where there is a religious shrine.
The entire summit of Monte da Penha has been reserved as a nature reserve, with campsites set against a backdrop of woodland and huge granite boulders.
If you’re starting from Guimaraes, you can take the cable car to the top, where there are many scenic lookouts, walking trails, picnic areas and mini golf.
The Temple Church is worth seeing, built in the 1930s and designed in an Art Deco style using local granite.
14. Castro de Santo Ovídio (mentioning Citânia de Briteiros)
The most striking archaeological site in the Fafe area is the remains of Castro de Santo Ovídio, an Iron Age settlement (more than 2,500 years old) overlooking the Vizera River Basin.
The walls of several buildings have been excavated, and even though the site is not large compared to other “castros” in the area, it is known that people were in these buildings long before the arrival of the Romans in the 2nd century BC Life and parties are still exciting. For something bigger, the Citânia de Briteiros is an easy drive from Fafe and covers 24 hectares with well-paved streets and some stunning Celtic carvings in the stone.
It’s almost a Portuguese cliché, but the perfect pairing with the local vinho verde is an old favorite, grilled sardines or grilled salted cod.
But there are also plenty of meat-based fillings that fit the Fafe’s rustic character.
One is rojões, a type of pork belly served with potatoes, roasted baby goat, and roasted veal.
At the same time, Guimaraes preserves the tradition of Portuguese convent sweets, special sweets first made by nuns in the Middle Ages.
The same goes for Toucinho do céu, a sponge cake sold at local bakeries consisting of egg yolks and almonds.
Where to Stay: The Best Hotels in Fafe, Portugal
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