Just 10 minutes away by car is Caldas da Rainha, the origins of which date back to the 15th century, when Queen Dona Leonor, the wife of King João II was drawn to the healing properties of its hot springs. The city’s name can be translated as ‘Queen’s Hot Springs’ or ‘Queen’s Spa’.
The thermal bath houses are still standing between the tall trees of central Dom Carlos I Park. However, these impressive buildings are sadly no longer open to the public, but are impressive protected by Unesco.
The city boasts a number of ceramic factories and museums. The Museu de Cerâmica, located in the south of the Dom Carlos I Park, includes a number of unique pieces by Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro, a famous Portuguese artist known for his ceramic designs, sculptures, illustration and caricatures. There are a number of ceramic pieces dotted around the city, including a large frog in the pond outside the train station. Just east of the park is the ‘Fabrica de Faianças Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro’ factory, which has been selling Bordalo ceramics since 1884.
The Museu José Malhoa can also be found in the park. This museum celebrates the work of local naturalist painter; José Malhoa, who was renowned for painting folk scenes with a masterful use of light.
Why not download the Caldas da Rainha ‘City Guide’ mobile App and discover the many highlights of the city. Or sign up for a guided tour at the city’s Tourism Office, which is located on the east side of the Praça da República – the central market square, where you can buy fresh fruit and vegetables at the daily, morning farmer’s market.
There are many impressive historic cities, accessible within an hour by car. Here are some suggestions for day visits.
Óbidos (20 minutes away)
A labyrinth of walkable cobbled streets wind their way through this small, beautiful medieval town. With a castle that dates from the 12th century and charming shops and cafés, the highlights can be viewed within a few hours. There are also many restaurants and bars which make it interesting to visit late in the day and stay for dinner.
Sintra (50 minutes away)
This picturesque town is something out of a fairy tale. Set amidst the pine-covered hills of the Serra de Sintra, this hilly and slightly cooler climate enticed the nobility of Portugal, who built exquisite palaces, extravagant residences and decorative gardens here. Our top tips are Palace da Pena, the Castelo dos Mouros, and the mystical Quinta da Regaleira.
Mafra (50 minutes away)
This small town contains one of Europe’s largest and most extravagant palaces, the Palacio de Mafra. This vast complex includes a huge monastery, an ornate basilica and a stunning library, that contains over 36,000 ancient books, which are protected by a colony of bats. The bats eat the silverfish that love to eat books!
Alcobaça (27 minutes away)
The little town of Alcobaça has a charming centre with a small river and bijou bridges. But the main attraction is the magnificent 12th century monastery: Mosteiro de Santa Maria de Alcobaça, one of Portugal’s memorable Unesco World Heritage sites. Make sure you enter the ancient kitchen during your visit and if you are there on a Monday, also include the town’s local Monday morning market.
Nazaré (28 minutes away)
Nazaré is famous for its beach and party atmosphere, the town centre is jammed with seafood restaurants, bars and local women in traditional dress (who are hawking rooms for rent). We however, suggest a slightly different perspective, by taking the funicular up to Promontório do Sítio, where you can enjoy the view from the cliff top and a relaxed meal in the old town. In 2011, Nazaré hit the headlines for the record-breaking feats of surfer Garrett McNamara, who rode a monster 30 metre-high wave, one of the many that hits the north of the town each winter.
Fátima (60 minutes away)
Millions of Catholics make the pilgrimage each year to this sleepy rural village – that became an important site in 1917, when three shepherd children reported apparitions of the Virgin Mary, also known as Our Lady of Fátima (Nossa Senhora de Fátima). Visit the Sanctuary of Fátima, the basilica that honours the apparition.
Lisbon (55 minutes away)
There is too much to say about Lisbon, so we leave it to you to explore. Our only suggestion is: if you don’t want to drive into Lisbon, it is possible to catch a bus from the Caldas da Rainha bus station – buses cost around €10 (each way) and run regularly throughout the day and night. There is a car park close by where you can leave your car. Check times and prices on: www.busbud.com
WINE Tasting at Vinhos Cortém (15 minutes away)
Founded in 2004 by Chris Price and his wife Helga Wagner, Vinhos Cortém is a small (4.5 hectares) organic winery producing several different red wines and one late harvest white wine, all with unique and interesting flavours. The vineyards are situated in a protected valley where there are no public roads or houses, which creates a very clean and tranquil environment for the vines to flourish. Join one of the regular wine tastings, by appointment ONLY, and enjoy the flavours of the wines with food made by Helga, a talk about wine making and a slide show of the work and life at Cortém. You MUST book in advance.