Insider's Guide to Santiago de Compostela

Major attractions, tips and our top things to see and do.

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Valenca do Minho, in Portugal across the border formed by the Minho River, was originally a fortress town built to protect the frontier from Spanish incursion. Now, Spanish incursion is encouraged; indeed, Spaniards cross into this little town to purchase its renowned textiles, especially its terry cloth.

The fortress is one of the most popular attractions in Portugal. The old town is surrounded by its huge stone ramparts. Here you'll find narrow alleys - and the textile shops. This little market district is well known for its garments and typical Portuguese souvenirs like gold jewelry, pottery, lingerie and wine. Market fairs include São Teotónio in February, Our Lady of Cabeça during Easter, and in August, Our Lady of Health Fair and the Muncipality Festival.

Beyond the shopping opportunities, the fortress affords visitors magnificient views of the Minho River and the surrounding countryside, as well as the comparatively new part (the ramparts and old town were built in the 18th century) of Valenca.

Nearby, are two fortified villages, Caminha and Monçao. The former is still a quaint fishing village with curio shops and a bustling lace industry. The latter is known for its hot springs and accompanying health spa.

Practical Info

Valenca do Minho is a fun day trip, and it's not far from a number of wineries (in the area around Monçao) and beaches, southwest of Caminha. Another nearby village, Melgaco, is notable for its 12th century castle, Romanesque chapel and wineries.

A popular destination in this area are inns known as pousadas. Some of these are built in or near castles or other historical points of interest, and many are just as old. Others have modern accomodations. Bed-and-breakfast fans should take note.

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