In the Braga district, Vila Nova de Famalicão is an unpretentious working town. There may not be many amazing attractions, but the town makes up for it with mysterious medieval churches, houses of famous historical figures, and museums that reveal the town’s industrial past.
For a day trip, getting to cities or coastal resorts like Braga and Guimarães couldn’t be easier. The performance venue Casa das Artes in Vila Nova de Famalicão has an enviable reputation, and the town also hosts a variety of events throughout the year, with a late winter carnival that is both bizarre and fun.
Let’s discover the best things to do in Vila Nova de Famalicão:
1. Bernardino Machado Museum
Learn about a fascinating period in Portuguese history in this 19th-century Palacete Barão de Trovisqueira museum.
These galleries are dedicated to the period from 1835 to 1944, especially the First Republic period.
Bernardino Machado was its third and eighth president, and Portugal’s last democratic leader before dictatorship in 1926. He grew up in Vila Nova de Famalicão, where the museum opened in his honor in 2001. Original documents with photographs, letters and diplomas, as well as monographs, furniture, personal effects, decorative arts and paintings.
2. Casa de Camilo Castel Blanco
The adored 19th-century writer Camilo Castelo Branco lived in the house on and off from 1863 until his death in 1890. This is a beautiful building built in the early 19th century by Pinheiro Alves, who made his fortune in Brazil.
After his death, Castro Blanco moved in because of his long-term relationship with Pinheiro Alves’ ex-wife, Ana Placido, through her son inherited property.
Castello Blanco wrote numerous novels, plays and essays here, and the house is still full of his belongings: furniture, everyday objects, 787 books from his private library, private letters, news clippings , and more than 1000 ornaments, be they paintings, ceramics or sculptures.
3. Igreja de Santiago de Antas
This church was built in the 1200s as part of the Knights Templar monastery.
From the outside, it looks gloomy, but the church serves a lot more than it looks.
The nave combines elements of Romanesque and Gothic architecture, with coffered wooden ceilings, walls lined with azulejos de Tape (carpet tiles), an oval triumphal arch, and baroque gilded wood carvings in the main church.
Most attractive are the capitals supporting the arches; these are medieval and depict birds drinking from a chalice or devouring their prey, as well as geometric and botanical motifs.
4. Mostello de Landim
Now defunct as a religious building, the former monastery has been completely restored and used as a space for weekend events.
But you can still stop and visit during the week.
You’ll have reason to see Romanesque, Gothic, Mannerist, Baroque and Rococo designs all in one place.
There is a spectacular organ from the 1700s, and traces of the foundations of the monastery from the 1100s, including the blind arch with carved capitals in the main church.
You’ll also find a cloister with a Doric colonnade, and many parks with beech, oak and acacia trees, including stonework from a lost 16th-century garden.
5. Museu Ferroviário do Lousado
This railway museum is housed in the old workshop of “Companhia dos Caminhos de Ferro de Guimarães”, which operated from 1883 to 1927. If you are interested in industrial archaeology, this is the museum for you, with equipment and tools from 1875 to 1965 collected in six different countries.
Four steam locomotives keep the kids most excited, and there are also four well-preserved train cars to enter.
You can also browse tools, vintage signs, old handcarts and vintage train models.
6. Museu da Indústria Têxtil
The industrial age is also the focus of this museum, which traces the evolution of the cloth-making process in Vila Nova de Famalicão.
The displays are arranged in chronological order, and you will travel back to the village roots of local textile manufacturing before witnessing the technological and social upheavals of the industrial age.
Many machines from that time are on display, and several are still in working order, demonstrating weaving, spinning and finishing techniques.
Textiles are still part of the town’s economy, so there is also a space dedicated to the future textile industry and the social and economic challenges it faces.
7. Igreja de São Pedro de Rates
People travel long distances just to see this Romanesque church within 15 minutes west of Vila Nova de Famalicão.
You may see similarities to the Igreja de Santiago de Antas built around the same time.
This one was built on a temple used by the Romans and Visigoths.
A great deal of 12th-century sculpture has survived here; you can see it in the capital supporting the archives in the main portal, and on the stonework inside the building.
Patterned columns, a very unusual arch with figures inscribed on it, and capital letters depicting beasts.
8. Art House
Vila Nova de Famalicão is very proud of its cultural center, which has a national profile and a very dynamic schedule considering the size of the town.
It’s a stylish venue with two auditoriums, the larger with nearly 500 seats, as well as opera, live bands, dance and theatre.
There are also weekly film screenings, so if you’re in the mood for a cultural night, you can check the schedule to see if anything catches your eye.
There’s also the more personal Café Concerto, a bar for rock, blues, jazz, stand-up comedy and debate.
9. Devisa Park
Inaugurated in 2012, the 27-hectare park has been in the works for nearly 25 years.
It’s worth the walks and picnics on sunny days, and there are expansive meadows mixed with poplars, oaks, cork oaks, pines and willows.
The park contains a section of the Pelhe River, where you can take a stroll in the baths on the banks of the river.
The abundant waters have made the park a bird’s paradise, with more than 60 species registered here.
Keep an eye on the schedule in summer, as concerts are held in the park’s 1,000-seat amphitheater.
Many of the hills in northern Portugal are home to Castro ruins; these are Bronze and Iron Age settlements protected by defensive walls, often occupying the Roman era.
Some eventually became modern towns.
But many disappeared and were not rediscovered until the 19th and 20th centuries.
Around Vila Nova de Famalicão, you can find three: Castro do Monte das Ermidas, the largest and most complete in the region, Castro de São Miguel-o-Anjo and Castro de Eiras.
Finally there is a wonderful “Pedra Formosa”, a monolithic stone with intricate Celtic carvings.
11. Igreja de Santa Eulália do Mosteiro de Arnoso
The last medieval church in the area is this mysterious chapel in the parish of Santa Eulália de Arnoso.
It may be as old as the 600’s and rebuilt in the 1000’s after its destruction in the Moorish era.
At first glance, you can tell that this is a very old building, as only the original stone walls have no openings, only a few very slender windows and the main entrance.
In the portal, the capitals, arches and tympanum are geometrically designed to look almost Celtic.
The nave has newer decorations, with frescoes from the 1500s depicting the life of Mary.
12. Day out
The fabulous cities of Braga and Guimarães are both within half an hour.
Both will take you to the very beginning of the Portuguese kingdom.
Braga was the first parish in the country and has the oldest cathedral in Portugal.
Via a beautiful baroque staircase or a 19th-century funicular, one of the only things you have to do is climb to the top of the Bom Jesus do Monte Sanctuary, the good Jesus on the mountain.
Closer to Guimaraes is the birthplace of Portugal’s first king, Alfonso Henrique.
There is a fortified castle built in the 10th century and the Gothic palace of the Dukes of Braganza, the royal family since the 17th century.
13. Annual Events
One of the many amazing things about the Vila Nova de Famalicão crazy carnival celebrations every February or March is that they are a relatively new phenomenon.
It’s a mass participation event, so nearly everyone in town will be dressed in quirky costumes for ten days of themed parades and dances.
In autumn there is the Feira Grande de São Miguel harvest festival, where in early October artisans and farmers set up shop in Praça D. Maria II. At the beginning of September, you can watch Feira de Artesanato e Gastronomia (crafts and gastronomy), where 150 exhibitors will present popular Portuguese traditions and delicacies.
14. Atlantic Coast
If you take the A7 motorway, you can reach the coast in just 20 minutes, and the good news is that your first destination is the large city connecting Vila do Conde and Póvoa de Varzim.
Both are lovely towns with blue flag beaches and very different personalities.
Vila do Conde has a shipbuilding pedigree dating back to the Age of Navigation, with a superb museum and heritage ships from that era.
The lively tourist honeypot Póvoa de Varzim has its own maritime tradition as a fishing port, but also became an upscale holiday destination in the 19th century.
The Beaux-Arts casino and the poveiro sailing ship are lingering reminders of this era.
15. Local Food
One reason why Vila Nova de Famalicão hosts its annual food festival is that food is an important part of the local character.
In addition to the market in September, there are two weeks in early February (Quinzena da Gastronomia) where the town’s restaurants celebrate the local cuisine.
Some preparations to taste at any time of the year are bacalhau à lagareiro, roasted cod with sprouted vegetables, onions and potatoes, roasted goat kid or cozido à Portuguesa, a mix of meat, beans and vegetables. cooked stew.
Very satisfying in winter is rojões com papas de sarrabulho, a deep-fried pork in a rich broth.
Where to Stay: The best hotels in Vila Nova de Famalicao, Portugal
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