Arcos de Valdevez is a town and municipality in the Viana do Castelo district, situated about 100 km from Porto. This means that this Arcos de Valdevez itinerary is the ideal choice for a day trip from Porto or even the perfect stop on a road trip through the Alto Minho sub-region!
The town of Arcos de Valdevez has an impressive historical, artistic and cultural past. And, on this Arcos de Valdevez itinerary, you’ll have the opportunity to prove it in monuments such as the Baroque Interpretive Center, the Town Bridge, or the Manor House of Giela!
So, do you want to know more about 2 Days In Arcos De Valdevez: The Perfect Arcos De Valdevez Itinerary? Keep reading!
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- Brief History of Arcos de Valdevez
- Visiting Arcos de Valdevez
- Arcos de Valdevez Itinerary – Day 1
- Arcos de Valdevez Itinerary – Day 2
- Other Places in Arcos de Valdevez
- Map of the Arcos de Valvedez Itinerary
- More Posts about Portugal
- More Posts about Travel Itineraries
- What Photography Gear Do I Use?
Brief History of Arcos de Valdevez
The history of Arcos de Valdevez dates back to an episode linked to the foundation of the Kingdom of Portugal as an independent and sovereign nation, which was named the Battle of Valdevez or the Tournament of Arcos de Valdevez (in Portuguese, Recontro de Valdevez or Torneio de Arcos de Valdevez).
The historic event carried out by Afonso Henriques and Alfonso VII was not only the antecedent of the signing of the Treaty of Zamora (on October 5th, 1143) but also the origin of the expression and tourist slogan “Arcos de Valdevez, Where Portugal was Made” (in Portuguese, “Arcos de Valdevez, Onde Portugal se Fez”)!
Other than that, it’s impossible to separate Arcos de Valdevez from the Peneda-Gerês National Park, the only Portuguese national park. With more than 70 thousand hectares, it extends from the Serra da Peneda to the Serra do Gerês, covering also the Serra do Soajo and the Serra Amarela.
This protected area has been part of the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves since 2009!
Visiting Arcos de Valdevez
In my opinion, the best way to visit the town of Arcos de Valdevez is on a day trip from Porto. And to get there from the city of Porto, you have two options: travel by car (about 100 km) or by public transportation (2h by bus).
However, Arcos de Valdevez is also an excellent stop on a road trip through the Viana do Castelo district! In that case, I suggest you explore other destinations in the vicinity: Ponte da Barca (5 km), Ponte de Lima (22 km), Paredes de Coura (24 km), or Monção (34 km).
Arcos de Valdevez Itinerary – Day 1
Himalaya Creativity Workshops
The first day of this Arcos de Valdevez itinerary begins at the Himalaya Creativity Workshops (in Portuguese, Oficinas de Criatividade Himalaya), a space dedicated to the life and work of Manuel António Gomes, better known as Father Himalaya. Born in Arcos de Valdevez, this Catholic priest was a renowned scientist, inventor, and pioneer in the field of solar energy.
The Himalaya Creativity Workshops are open from Monday to Friday, from 9:30 am to 12 pm and from 2 pm to 6 pm, and on Saturdays from 10 am to 1 pm and from 2 pm to 8 pm. From June 15th to September 15th, the opening hours are from Monday to Saturday, from 10 am to 1 pm and from 3 pm to 7 pm. And entry is free for everyone!
The next stop on this Arcos de Valdevez itinerary is the Misericórdia Church (in Portuguese, Igreja da Misericórdia), one of the various Catholic temples that you can admire in the historic center. Its construction began in 1595, the year in which the Santa Casa da Misericórdia of Arcos de Valdevez was created.
Originally, the Misericórdia Church of Arcos de Valdevez was in the Mannerist style, both architecturally and decoratively. But in 1710, the monument was rebuilt in Baroque and Neoclassical styles. The cross that is located right in front of the building dates from 1751.
Doçaria Central & 25 de Abril Street
This Arcos de Valdevez itinerary continues at the Doçaria Central, a house founded in 1830 by Francisca Doceira. Here, some of the most appreciated delicacies of traditional Portuguese sweets are made, such as Pão de Ló, Doce Sortido, Rebuçados dos Arcos, and Charutos dos Arcos – the latter elected one of the “7 Sweet Wonders of Portugal”!
The Doçaria Central shop is open every day from 9 am to 7 pm. However, if you want to buy sweets (especially the Charutos dos Arcos), I recommend that you stop by the bakery first thing in the morning, or place an order the day before. This is because it’s rare they have sweets left over at lunchtime!
Afterward, you can walk to 25 de Abril Street (in Portuguese, Rua 25 de abril) – a street in the historic center of Arcos de Valdevez that is almost always adorned. Other streets where it’s common to see colorful decorations are General Norton de Matos Street (where the Doçaria Central is situated) and Cerqueira Gomes Street.
Water Clock & Lapa Church
The next stop on this Arcos de Valdevez itinerary is the Water Clock (in Portuguese, Relógio de Água), a fountain located in Lapa Square. Each of the 48 jets of this “living structure” marks the passage of a 15-minute interval and each of the 12 stone blocks represents 1 hour!
Still in Lapa Square, it’s impossible not to stop to admire the Lapa Church, whose official name is the Church of Our Lady of Lapa (in Portuguese, Igreja da Lapa or Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Lapa). Designed by renowned architect André Soares in Baroque and Rococo style, this oval-shaped Catholic temple was completed in 1767.
This Arcos de Valdevez itinerary continues at the Pillory (in Portuguese, Pelourinho), a Manueline-style structure built after King Manuel I granted the town’s Charter of Foral in 1515. With a singular appearance, it’s one of the rare examples that includes the name of its author (the mason João Lopes) engraved in the stone.
Its current location in the Municipality Square – in front of the City Hall building – is the original one. But the truth is that the Pillory was transferred in 1800 to the riverside and in 1895 to the square next to the south façade of the Parish Church of Arcos de Valdevez!
The next stop on this Arcos de Valdevez itinerary is the Parish Church (in Portuguese, Igreja Matriz), erected by the order of King Pedro II between the years 1690 and 1700. As far as is known, there was a primitive church in this same place, probably built in the Middle Ages.
Inside the Parish Church of Arcos de Valdevez, visitors’ eyes are divided between the fabulous gilded altars and the exquisite paintings from the late 17th century and the second half of the 18th century. The patron of this Catholic temple is the Saint Saviour.
In addition to its rich interior decoration, the Parish Church of Arcos de Valdevez is famous for its Calvary Chapel (in Portuguese, Capela do Calvário). Installed on the south side of the monument, this Rococo-style chapel was designed by André Soares in 1765.
Garden of the Centenaries & Children’s Pillory
This Arcos de Valdevez itinerary continues in the Garden of the Centenaries (in Portuguese, Jardim dos Centenários), a public garden that honors three fundamental dates for the history of Portugal: 1140 (year of the Foundation of Portugal); 1640 (year of the Restoration of Independence); and 1940 (year of the Centenaries Celebration).
It’s precisely in this green space that you can find the Children’s Pillory or Youth Pillory (in Portuguese, Pelourinho das Crianças or Pelourinho da Juventude), whose tiles were created by children from kindergartens in the municipality of Arcos de Valdevez. The monument was inaugurated in 2015, on the occasion of the 500th Anniversary of the Valdevez Charter.
Baroque Interpretive Center (Church of the Holy Spirit)
The first day of this Arcos de Valdevez itinerary ends at the Baroque Interpretive Center (in Portuguese, Centro Interpretativo do Barroco), a religious art museum based in the Church of the Holy Spirit (in Portuguese, Igreja do Espírito Santo) since 2018.
And despite the Portuguese sacred artworks from the 17th and 18th centuries on display, what distinguishes this museum are the interactive screens, video mapping projections, and augmented reality glasses!
During the Baroque period, the Alto Minho sub-region was the protagonist of a very intense artistic and architectural activity. And this Interpretive Center serves as a “gateway” to the cultural heritage of the ten municipalities in the Viana do Castelo district:
- Arcos de Valdevez
- Paredes de Coura
- Ponte da Barca
- Ponte de Lima
- Viana do Castelo
- Vila Nova de Cerveira
The Baroque Interpretive Center is open every day (except on Tuesdays), from 10 am to 1 pm and from 2 pm to 6 pm. And admission is free for everyone – including access to multiple technological and digital resources!
Arcos de Valdevez Itinerary – Day 2
Parish Church of Saint Pelagius
The second and last day of this Arcos de Valdevez itinerary begins at the Parish Church of Saint Pelagius (in Portuguese, Igreja Paroquial de São Paio), on the east bank of the Vez river. This Catholic temple began to be erected in 1781, even though works only ended in the 19th century.
The main façade of the Parish Church of Saint Pelagius is covered with blue and white tile panels, also from the 19th century. These also adorn the bell tower, which rises from the center of the façade and is topped by a pyramidal spire.
Cross of Our Lord of Miracles
The next stop on this itinerary of Arcos de Valdevez is the Cross of Our Lord of Miracles (in Portuguese, Cruzeiro do Senhor dos Milagres), situated a few meters from the Parish Church of Saint Pelagius, still on the east bank of the Vez river. In fact, you can find it right next to the Town Bridge!
The Cross of Our Lord of Miracles was conceived in neoclassical style in 1831, at the request of the population. Interestingly, this religious stone structure is crowned by an image of Jesus Christ on the cross of great expressive quality and reliable anatomical proportions!
This Arcos de Valdevez itinerary continues on the Town Bridge or Bridge over the Vez River (in Portuguese, Ponte da Vila or Ponte sobre o Rio Vez), one of the most recognizable postcards of the town. Dating back to the end of the 19th century, the Town Bridge was started in 1876 and completed in 1880, as indicated by a plaque affixed to the bridge deck.
Nevertheless, the current bridge is not the one that always existed here, but a replacement for a medieval structure from the late 12th or early 13th century. This would be in Romanesque style and would also have four arches, as well as two access ramps.
Campo do Trasladário & Recontro de Valdevez
The next stop on this Arcos de Valdevez itinerary is the Campo do Trasladário, a public garden next to the west bank of the Vez river, which served as a fair space in former times. And legend has it that it was in this same place that the mythical Recontro de Valdevez took place!
Created in cast bronze by the sculptor José Rodrigues, the Monument to the Recontro de Valdevez recalls a historical moment that opposed Afonso Henriques (the future first king of Portugal) and Alfonso VII (Emperor of Leon and Castile and his cousin), in 1140.
According to the story, Afonso Henriques conquered a series of castles in Galicia, which were under the protection of his cousin. In response, Alfonso VII invaded the County of Portugal, starting a peaceful “battle”, which was nothing more than a medieval tournament!
This Arcos de Valdevez itinerary continues on the Vez Islet (in Portuguese, Ínsua do Vez), a peaceful island formed in the middle of the Vez river. And to access it, you just have to choose one of the two staircases installed next to the Campo do Trasladário – more precisely, before and after the Monument to the Recontro de Valdevez.
In my opinion, the Vez Islet is a kind of city park, or even an extension of the Campo do Trasladário. The island is endowed with spacious lawns for picnics, stone paths for walks, and even a circular stage at the south end, where concerts and shows take place!
Open Air Water Museum of the Vez River
The next stop on this Arcos de Valdevez itinerary is the Open Air Water Museum of the Vez River (in Portuguese, Museu da Água ao Ar Livre do Rio Vez), a reception and information center for a 20-kilometer route along the Vez river. Along the same route, several interpretive panels and observation posts aim to enhance the natural heritage of the region.
The Reception and Information Center of the Open Air Water Museum of the Vez River is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 am to 1 pm and from 2 pm to 6 pm. And entry is free for everyone!
River Beach of Valeta
This Arcos de Valdevez itinerary continues on the River Beach of Valeta (in Portuguese, Praia Fluvial da Valeta), the busiest riverside leisure area in Arcos de Valdevez. And a large part of this demand is due to the fact that this river beach is right in the center of the town!
The River Beach of Valeta is served by free car parks and lawn areas where you can spread your towel and have picnics. During the bathing season – roughly between June 15th and September 15th – the river beach is guarded by a lifeguard.
Manor House of Giela
The second and last day of this Arcos de Valdevez itinerary ends at the Manor House of Giela (in Portuguese, Paço de Giela), an old manor house built mostly between the 14th and 16th centuries – although its origins date back to the 11th century and are linked to the foundation of the “Land of Valdevez”!
Classified as a National Monument in 1910, the Manor House of Giela was acquired in 1999 by the Municipality of Arcos de Valdevez, which carried out a profound work of heritage recovery and enhancement. Nowadays, you can visit the various rooms of this medieval and modern residence, including a three-story exhibition space inside the tower!
The Manor House of Giela is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 am to 1 pm and from 2 pm to 6 pm. And from June 15th to September 15th, the monument closes at 7 pm. As for tickets, they cost €1 – but children up to 12 years old don’t pay admission!
Other Places in Arcos de Valdevez
If you like military architecture, then you have to add the Extremo Forts (in Portuguese, Fortes do Extremo) to your Arcos de Valdevez itinerary! Built during the War of Restoration between Portugal and Castile (1640-1668), these two border fortifications opened for visits in the summer of 2021.
The Bragandelo Fort is the best preserved of the two, but both it and the Pereira Fort were made up of a place-of-arms, bastions, a moat, counterscarp, etc. On top of that, the forts were connected by a trench of almost 850 meters!
EcoVia do Vez
The EcoVia do Vez is a 34 km long trail, which lasts about 9 hours and has a cumulative elevation gain of 700.20 meters. And if you like hiking but don’t want to do the full trail, you can choose one (or two) of the three available stages:
- Stage 1 – Jolda S. Paio – Arcos de Valdevez (distance of 14 km, duration of about 3 hours, minimum altitude of 10 meters; maximum altitude of 39 meters, and cumulative elevation gain of 129.28 meters)
- Stage 2 – Arcos de Valdevez – Vilela (distance of 1 km, duration of about 2h30, minimum altitude of 30 meters; maximum altitude of 70 meters, and cumulative elevation gain of 108.16 meters)
- Stage 3 – Vilela – Sistelo (distance of 10 km, duration of about 3 hours, minimum altitude of 68 meters; maximum altitude of 278 meters, and cumulative elevation gain of 462.76 meters)
Whether you hike the complete EcoVia do Vez or opt for a single stage, you’re gonna have the opportunity to observe the local fauna and flora – some of which are indigenous and form part of the Gerês-Xurés Transboundary Biosphere Reserve. So don’t forget the camera!
Village of Sistelo
The village of Sistelo is as picturesque as it’s tiny. Known internationally as “The Little Portuguese Tibet”, because of its verdant terraces, Sistelo was elected one of the “7 Wonders of Portugal – Villages”, in the category of “Rural Villages”!
Of medieval foundation, the Cultural Landscape of Sistelo was classified as a National Monument/Site of National Interest in 2017 – a unique case in the country at that time, as this title is normally attributed to built heritage and not to landscapes.
The best things to do in Sistelo include:
- Capela de Santo António do Barroco
- Casa do Castelo de Sistelo
- Ermida do Senhor dos Aflitos
- Espigueiros de Sistelo
- Igreja Matriz de Sistelo
- Jazigo do Visconde de Sistelo
- Largo do Visconde de Sistelo
- Parque de Merendas do Senhor dos Aflitos
- Passadiços de Sistelo
- Ponte da Veiga
- Ponte Medieval de Sistelo
- Zona de Lazer do Senhor dos Aflitos
If you want to add a walk through the Peneda-Gerês National Park to your Arcos de Valdevez itinerary, I suggest you watch the sunset at the Mezio Swing (in Portuguese, Baloiço do Mezio). Located in the parish of Cabanas Maior, this attraction offers breathtaking views!
At 7.60 meters high, the Mezio Swing convinces mainly because of its location at an altitude of 900 meters and, consequently, for its photographic potential. Furthermore, from here you’re just a few meters from the Porta do Mezio – another place that you can (and should) visit in Arcos de Valdevez!
Porta do Mezio
Did you know that the Porta do Mezio is one of the five official entrance “gates” to the Peneda-Gerês National Park? With about 3 hectares, this property has facilities for all kinds of activities and experiences related to the region:
- Adventure Park, where recreational and adventure activities such as Tree Climbing, Slide, and Climbing take place
- Picnic Park (Leisure Spaces)
- Swimming Pool (Leisure Spaces)
- “Aldeia dos Pequeninos” or Children’s Village (Leisure Spaces)
- Exhibitions at the Ethnographic Museum, the Interpretative Center of the Mezio/Gião Archaeological Area, and the Garrano’s Playful-Pedagogical Workshop (Leisure Spaces)
- Mezio Gastronomic Center, one of the restaurants where I had dinner
- Reception and Information Center
- Children’s Spaces
- Avifauna Observatory
- Biodiversity Park
- Fitness Park
- Stargazing Park
The Porta do Mezio is open every day from 9:30 am to 5 pm (from October to March), from 9:30 am to 6 pm (from April to June and in September), from 9:30 am to 8 pm (from July to August, from Monday to Friday), or from 10 am to 8 pm (from July to August, on weekends).
The ticket costs €2, despite the fact that children up to 5 years old don’t pay admission!
Town of Soajo
The town of Soajo is one of the largest parishes in the Arcos de Valdevez municipality in terms of area and one of the most visited destinations in the Peneda-Gerês National Park. And do you know what its main attraction is? A community threshing floor made up of twenty-four granite raccards!
The parish of Soajo is equally visited by nature and adventure lovers, due to its high number of waterfalls and lagoons along the Adrão river. The most famous are those of Poço Negro, Poço do Bento, and Poço das Mantas.
The best things to do in Soajo include:
- Antigo Tribunal
- Casa do Povo
- Centro Interpretativo e Etnográfico de Soajo
- Espigueiros de Soajo
- Igreja Paroquial de Soajo
- Largo da Feira
- Miradouro de Cunhas
- Miradouro do Coto Velho
- Miradouro dos Cruzeiros
- Parque de Autocaravanas
- Pelourinho de Soajo
- Poço das Mantas
- Poço do Bento
- Poço Negro
- Ponte da Ladeira
The Tibo Viewpoint (in Portuguese, Miradouro de Tibo) is one of the many viewpoints spread throughout the Peneda-Gerês National Park, where you can admire the mountainous landscape – in this case, the Serra da Peneda. Part of the parish of Gavieira, this was my favorite viewpoint on the road trip I did in Arcos de Valdevez!
From the Tibo Viewpoint, you can see (from left to right):
- Lugar de Rouças
- São Bento de Cando
- Lugar de Igreja
- Lugar de Tibo
- Penameda Pequena
- Lugar de Beleiral
- Santuário de Nossa Senhora da Peneda
- Pena Calva
- Fraga das Pastorinhas
Sanctuary of Peneda
The Sanctuary of Peneda or Sanctuary of Our Lady of Peneda (in Portuguese, Santuário da Peneda or Santuário de Nossa Senhora da Peneda) is situated in the heart of the Peneda-Gerês National Park. Dedicated to the Virgin Mary, it was built during the 18th and 19th centuries, inspired by the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus do Monte.
Just like in the Sanctuary of Bom Jesus, the Sanctuary of Peneda has a Staircase of Virtues with figures representing Faith, Hope, Charity, and Glory. And you’ll also find a hotel and a boulevard punctuated by 20 chapels, which portray episodes from the life and death of Jesus Christ.
Not everyone knows, but it’s believed that a place of worship has existed in this area since the 13th century! These days, the Pilgrimage of Our Lady of Peneda is celebrated by Portuguese and Galician devotees, in the first week of September.
Read my complete guide to the Sanctuary of Peneda, a must-see tourist attraction on any Arcos de Valdevez itinerary!
Map of the Arcos de Valvedez Itinerary
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