15 Reasons to visit Barcelos
Located in the heart of Minho, by the Cávado River, Barcelos is the perfect combination of tradition, innovation, and nature.
Barcelos is a beautiful medieval town with a strong cultural identity and is also one of the most emblematic locations of Minho popular art.
Cradle of the famous Barcelos Rooster Legend, one of the greatest symbols of the Portuguese culture, this city is also one of the references on the pilgrimage path to Santiago de Compostela.
But Barcelos is much more than that: from the enchanting natural landscapes, the traditional Portuguese cuisine of the region to the unique historical legacy that this city has to offer.
The region is perfect for a 3-day getaway and has activities for all types of people and families, both in the city and outskirts.
In this guide we will bring you the 15 activities we did and recommend for a 3-day visit to Barcelos.
#1 Explore Barcelos Weekly Market
No visit to Minho region is complete without going to a fair, and Barcelos weekly fair is without a doubt, the fair of the fairs in Portugal.
In a town known as the Handicrafts Capital, the weekly fair is the event that sets the pace of the city. Every Thursday, a huge open-air market takes place in the largest square in the town, bringing together all the diversity of popular arts and crafts, from pottery, embroidery, weaving and basketry to wood carving. The market has a section dedicated to vegetables, where local producers sell their fresh products directly from their gardens and where you can find all kinds of foods, sweets, and traditional and regional products.
We spent around two hours exploring the market in the morning and ended up buying a few local products as souveniers
# 2 ”Galo de Barcelos” Painting Workshop
After our visit to the market we decided to do something that we consider a must in a visit to Barcelos: Paint our own Rooster.
We met with the local artisan Rosália Abreu in the Medieval tower, where we could learn and practice this art that characterizes the local craftsmanship. The workshop was about one hour long and was an excellent way to learn about the tradition and creation process of this iconic symbol of Barcelos. The craftswoman showed us, how patterns are painted on clay roosters and it was quite fun to be able to paint a rooster from beginning to end.
#3 Horseback riding through nature
Approximately 20-minute drive from the centre of Barcelos you can find the quiet village of Areias de Vilar. We headed there for a horseback adventure at the Irmão Pedro Coelho Equestrian Center. We were welcomed by Sofia who works in the center and she guided us on a horseback adventure through the vineyards of the property with the graceful mare Janete. The opportunity to ride a horse through nature was incredible and an experience that we strongly recommend even for those who have never ridden a horse before.
#4 Visit the Convent of São Salvador de Vilar de Frades
Right next to the equestrian center, it is possible to visit the Convent of São Salvador de Vilar de Frades, which has more than a thousand years of history and is currently a great example of Manueline convent architecture. The church interior is impressive and has some beautiful architectural details.
#5 Visit the Paço dos Condes de Barcelos
With over 500 years of history, this former castle is one of the best viewpoints in the region. This is undoubtedly the perfect place to immerse yourself in the history of the Barcelos Rooster legend and enjoy the views over Cávado river. In addition to the privileged views, this is where the Archaeological Museum of Barcelos is located. We recommend this place to enjoy the sunset after a day exploring.
#6 Discover the World of Chocolate
One of our biggest temptations is Chocolate and we were extremely happy to find out that one of the most iconic national brands of Chocolate had its factory and museum located in Barcelos, in the village of Durrães.
The visit includes an observation of the chocolate manufacturing process, followed by a journey through the history of chocolate and the brand, with over 100 years old. It was quite interesting to learn more about the chocolate production process and see its evolution over the years. In the end, we also had the opportunity to do a Workshop on the techniques of tempering and molding chocolate.
#7 Discovering the “Caminho de Santiago”
Barcelos is part of the traditional route of Caminos de Santiago, and one of the most beautiful and relaxing parts of the route goes through the rural areas of the region.
In Balugães, we can find the Tábuas bridge, which besides being a place with a lot of historical interest, also has a small fluvial beach that is perfect for relaxing and enjoying the sunny summer days.
For hikers and nature walk lovers, completing part of the route to Santiago can be a good activity to discover the region.
#8 Visit Our Lady Revealed Sanctuary
Less than 5 minutes from the Tábuas Bridge is a beautiful Sanctuary which, in addition to being a religious reference point in the region, also has some breath-taking views over the Neiva valley and the surrounding region.
We visited this place late afternoon and it was a calm and relaxing way to end our second day in the lands of Barcelos.
#9 Walk around the historical center of Barcelos
The city center is really well kept and its traditional touch with a medieval character took us on a pleasant journey back in time. One of our activities during the visit was to explore the enchanted streets of the city. There, we found several statues belonging to the traditional figurines that decorate the streets of Barcelos.
The gardens in the city center are very well maintained and are the perfect place to relax and enjoy one of the many traditional pastries in the region.
#10 A privileged view over the city
In the heart of the city it is possible to visit the Medieval Tower of Barcelos for free, which has one of the most beautiful views over the city and Cávado River. This tower is the surviver of a set of 3 towers that composed the old wall. Inside it is also possible to check the regular exhibitions of local crafts on the way to the top floor where the viewpoint is.
#11 A traditional gastronomic experience
Barcelos has a rich and renowned traditional cuisine ranging from roasted lamb to “cabidela” rice. But in the land of the Rooster, we couldn’t leave without tasting the traditional Roasted Rooster in the Oven. To taste this local specialty, we went to “Pedra Furada” restaurant, which has won the annual contest for the best Roast Rooster in the region several times.
It was the first time that we tried this dish and we were delighted. The rooster was tender and delicious, and its filling and sides were the perfect complement to the meal. The restaurant has a very traditional decoration for a true regional experience. If you want, just like us, to be delight with this gastronomic wonder, know that you need to call at least 2 days in advance.
#12 Discovering the Local Wine
One of the pillars of the region is the “vinho verde” and our visit to Quinta do Tamariz was an excellent way to learn and appreciate this and other regional products. We were welcomed by Mr. António Vinagre, who shared with us the history of the property and its evolution over the decades. Right after, we went for a wine tasting where we tried some local products and great wines produced at the farm. The wine tasting was very interesting, and the kindness and knowledge of the owners was an highlight of he visit. We left Quinta do Tamariz with the Minho flavour in our mouth and the aroma of the vines in our heart. This was undoubtedly a space that we loved to visit.
#13 A walk by Cávado riverbanks
Cávado riverbanks convey a feeling of tranquillity and serenity and are perfect for hiking lovers. When crossing the medieval bridge to Barcelinhos, in addition to having a superb view over the city castle, you can also enjoy the pedestrian paths that follow the river along its route.
#14 Barcelos Pottery Museum
Barcelos is part of Unesco’s network of creative cities due to popular crafts and arts, and the Pottery Museum is the perfect place to learn more about the evolution of these traditions and customs that characterize the city. The access to the museum is free, and it was a fantastic way to discover the origins of this centenary art and to appreciate the art of some of the best-known regional artists.
#15 Lunch with the best views in town
Our visit to Barcelos ended with an incredible lunch while we contemplated, what we consider to be the best views in town. We went to Turismo restaurant for lunch, and we were graciously welcomed by the restaurant’s host. From the decoration, the excellent service, to the delicious and appealing dishes that were served to us, we felt that this was the perfect way to end our visit to Barcelos. The incredible gastronomic quality did justice to the exquisite presentation of each dish, that was presented to us in the form of a menu in a very peculiar way.
This is undoubtedly a place that we recommend for anyone looking for an excellent gastronomic experience while enjoying a phenomenal view of the Cávado River.
Where to stay
Barcelos region has several options when it comes to accommodation: from hotels in the city center to the most diverse and welcoming local accommodations in different locations.
For those looking for a peaceful stay, we recommend Quinta do Convento da Franqueira, an old Franciscan convent surrounded by nature. The location is fantastic, and the pool is the perfect place to relax after a day exploring the region.
Also,If you are from outside of the European Union and planning a drive in Portugal then you should to get an IDP so you can drive around the country without any issues.
Our visit to Barcelos lasted 3 days, but the area really has a lot to offer. In addition to being a region with history and a unique personality, it has a one of a kind culture and cuisine.
Having the opportunity to make such a diverse and complete trip in a small region of Minho was fantastic and made our vacation much more relaxing and enjoyable.
We hope you enjoy Barcelos as much as we do and that the recommendations, we have shared here will make your trip memorable and unforgettable.
Our selection of the best things to do in Barcelos:
- Explore Barcelos weekly market: Campo da Feira
- “ Galo de Barcelos” painting workshop: Medieval Tower
- Horseback ride through nature: Irmão Pedro Coelho Hipic center
- Visit the convent of S. Salvador de Vilar de Frades: Areias de Vilar
- Visit the “Paço dos Condes de Barcelos”: Centro da Cidade
- Discover the world of Chocolate: Avianense, Durrães
- Discovering the “Caminhos de Santiago”: Ponte das Tábuas, Balugães
- Visit our Lady Revealed Sanctuary: Balugães
- Walk around the historical center of Barcelos: City center
- A privileged view over the city: Medieval Tower
- A traditional gastromnomic experience: Pedra Furada Restaurant
- Discovering the local wine Quinta do Tamariz, Fonte Coberta
- A walk by Cávado riverbanks: Barcelinhos
- Barcelos pottery museum: City center
- Lunch with the best views in town: Turismo Restaurant