Constância is a small town and municipality in the Santarém district, situated near the confluence of the Zêzere and Tagus rivers, about 130 km from the city of Lisbon. This means that this Constância itinerary is the ideal choice for a day trip from the Portuguese capital!
Constância is mainly known for being the place of residence of Luís de Camões – the greatest figure in Lusophone literature and author of the epic poem “The Lusiads” (1572). Originally, the riverside town was called Punhete, a toponym with Roman roots, but with very obscene connotations in Portuguese. For that reason and at the request of the local population, Queen Maria II changed its name to Constância, in the year 1836!
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- Brief History of Constância
- Visiting Constância
- Constância Itinerary
- Map of the Constância Itinerary
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Brief History of Constância
The history of Constância (or rather, Punhete) is closely linked to its strategic geographic location, which from early on allowed the development of river activities such as fishing, shipbuilding and repair, and river transportation and crossing. Even so, Punhete only gained town status in 1571, by the action of King Sebastião.
In 1836, in the aftermath of the Portuguese Civil War (1832-1834), Queen Maria II granted the request of the inhabitants of Punhete and changed the name of the town to Constância. The new designation is a reference to the “constancy” shown by the population in supporting the constitutionalist liberals, during the conflict.
As I mentioned earlier, the best way to enjoy this Constância itinerary is on a day trip from Lisbon. For this, you can travel by car or, if you don’t have that possibility, you can travel by train on the Beira Baixa Line (a historic railway line that connects Entroncamento and Guarda).
First, take the train (Alfa-Pendular, Intercidades, InterRegional, or Regional) at the Lisbon-Santa Apolónia or Lisboa-Oriente stations and get off at Entroncamento. Once at that station, you have to take another train (Regional) and get off at Praia do Ribatejo station (2.5 km on foot).
TIP: This trip has a minimum cost of €9.65, but check all prices, timetables, lines, and services on the official website of CP – Comboios de Portugal.
However, you can also visit Constância on a road trip through the Médio Tejo sub-region or the Santarém district! In this case, I suggest you explore these towns and cities in the surroundings: Vila Nova da Barquinha (9 km), Abrantes (16 km), Entroncamento (17 km), Golegã (19 km), Torres Novas (20 km), Sardoal (22 km), Chamusca (24 km), Tomar (26 km), Alcanena (32 km), and Ferreira do Zêzere (35 km).
TIP: Combine your Constância itinerary with a visit to the nearby Almourol Castle (6 km), one of the most beautiful castles in Portugal!
This Constância itinerary begins at the Misericórdia Church (in Portuguese, Igreja da Misericórdia), a small Mannerist-style temple that was erected between the end of the 16th century and the second half of the 12th century. You can find it less than 100 meters from the second point of interest: the Monument to Camões.
Inside the Misericórdia Church of Constância, it’s possible to admire the covering with tile panels in shades of blue and yellow, which form mesmerizing geometric patterns. And of course, the magnificent main altarpiece in gilded carving, a very characteristic element of Portuguese churches of that time.
Monument to Camões
The Monument to Camões (in Portuguese, Monumento a Camões) is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Constância (if not the most famous of all).
Comprising a group of structures, it includes a statue of the poet Luís de Camões seated (of course, admiring the river Zêzere) and a panel with a chronology of his life and excerpts from his work.
Sculpted and donated by the Portuguese artist Lagoa Henriques, the statue of Luís de Camões is installed at the entrance to the Horto de Camões Garden, the third stop on this Constância itinerary.
The Monument to Camões was inaugurated on June 6th, 1981 by the then President of the Republic, General António Ramalho Eanes.
Horto de Camões-Garden
The Horto de Camões Garden (in Portuguese, Jardim-Horto de Camões) is a themed garden dedicated to the life and work of Luís de Camões – in particular, to the epic poem “The Lusiads”, where he recounts the sea voyage of Vasco da Gama to India. Besides gathering more than 50 botanical species mentioned by the poet, this green space is composed of structures alluding to places in Africa and Asia.
Designed by the Portuguese landscape architect Gonçalo Ribeiro Teles and inaugurated in 1990 by Casa-Memória de Luís de Camões Association (the tenth stop on this Constância itinerary), the Horto de Camões Garden is located a few meters from the exact point where the Zêzere river flows into the Tagus river!
Read my complete guide to the Horto de Camões Garden, a must-see tourist attraction on any Constância itinerary!
The Zêzere Viewpoint (in Portuguese, Miradouro do Zêzere) is a modern structure built a few steps from the Monument to Camões and the Horto de Camões Garden. As the name implies, it’s a viewpoint overlooking the river Zêzere and the River Beach of Constância (also known as the River Beach of the Zêzere).
Despite the panoramic views being limited by the large trees in the riverside area, it’s possible to take good photographs of the surrounding green landscape. And I decided to add a photo of this same perspective at the beginning of this Constância itinerary (in the “Brief History of Constância” chapter), so you can prove it!
The Neptune Panel (in Portuguese, Painel de Neptuno) is an impressive panel of Portuguese tiles measuring 27 square meters, which depicts Neptune (the god of the sea in Roman mythology) riding the waves of the ocean. Like many Roman gods, Neptune was inspired by Poseidon (the god of the sea in Greek mythology).
This public fountain was completed at the end of the 20th century and is located on a lower level than the Zêzere Viewpoint. Interestingly, the chosen decoration honors both the town of Constância (for its long tradition linked to water) and Luís de Camões (for the various references he makes to Neptuno in his masterpiece “The Lusiads”)!
Boat from “The Lusiads”
I think you’ve already realized that it’s impossible to create a Constância itinerary without referring to the life and work of Luís de Camões, who brings so much pride to this small town. Therefore, I suggest you take advantage of this “forced immersion” in “The Lusiads” and view this day in Constância as a history and culture lesson!
The Boat from “The Lusiads” is a bronze sculpture that has adorned the Riverside Park of Constância since 2001, together with other structures mentioned here. All this green space that joins the bank of the river Zêzere to the bank of the river Tagus resulted from the POMTEZE – Planning Plan for the Banks of the Tagus and Zêzere project.
The Rivers Amphitheater (in Portuguese, Anfiteatro dos Rios) is, in my opinion, the best place in Constância to observe the confluence of the river Zêzere with the river Tagus. In addition, it’s the perfect place to have a family picnic, a drink with friends, relax for a few moments alone, or watch the sunset as a couple!
As an open-air amphitheater with a considerable audience, the Rivers Amphitheater is used for events, especially in the warmer months of the year. If you visit Constância in spring or summer, you’ll likely have the opportunity to attend concerts, shows, or book presentations in this space!
Porto da Cova Park
The Porto da Cova Park is the natural continuation of the Riverside Park of Constância, more specifically the green area along the banks of the Tagus river. Here, it’s natural to find people walking, running, or cycling, as this is where the “Grande Route 12/E7 — Caminho do Tejo” begins, a hiking route with almost 45 km!
The “Caminho do Tejo” is divided into two stages of 22 km, the first connecting Constância to the city of Abrantes and the second connecting Abrantes to the village of Alvega. But if you’re like me and prefer to skip the hiking, you can always sit on the grass to admire the Bridge over the Tagus, a railway and highway bridge!
Alexandre Herculano Square & Pillory
Alexandre Herculano Square is the “heart” of the town of Constância and the place where Saint Julian’s Church, the former Parish Church of Punhete, once stood. The building was demolished in 1833, as a result of the degradation and destruction caused by the constant flooding of the Zêzere and Tagus rivers, as well as the French Invasions of 1807.
First called New Square, it was renamed Alexandre Herculano Square in 1910, thus honoring the first Portuguese modern historian.
Another structure ruined by the Peninsular War was the old Punhete Pillory, replaced in 1821 by the current Constância Pillory. Classified as a Property of Public Interest, it’s crowned by a wrought iron armillary sphere.
The Camões Memory-House (in Portuguese, Casa-Memoria de Camões) is a building facing the Tagus river where, according to the inhabitants of Constância, Luís de Camões lived between 1547 and 1548. Nowadays, little remains of the ruins of the original 16th-century house, to which a modern structure designed by the Faculty of Architecture of the University of Lisbon was added.
No one is sure whether or not the greatest Portuguese poet lived in Constância (or rather, Punhete). But the truth is that the story was passed from generation to generation and gave birth to an institution that celebrates the life and work of the Portuguese poet: the Casa-Memória de Luís de Camões Association!
Museum of Rivers and Maritime Arts
The Museum of Rivers and Maritime Arts opened to the public in 1998, with the aim of showing the history of Constância as a prominent port town on the Tagus River. In other words, the various exhibition rooms address the different river activities that I mentioned at the beginning of this Constância itinerary: fishing, shipbuilding and repair, and river transportation and crossing.
There’s also another room entirely dedicated to the Feast of Nossa Senhora da Boa Viagem, the main popular festival in Constância, which takes place every year on Easter weekend. The Museum of Rivers and Maritime Arts is open from Monday to Friday, from 2 pm to 5:30 pm, and the ticket costs only €1 per person.
TIP: If you want to add other museums to your itinerary in Constância, I suggest a visit to the Foz do Zêzere Environmental and Interactive Park (better known as the Fluviário de Constância), the Centro Ciência Viva of Constância – Astronomy Park, and the Tropical Butterfly Zoo (in the Santa Margarida Environmental Park)!
Church of Our Lady of the Martyrs
I chose to end this Constância itinerary the same way I started it: with a church. In this case, with the Church of Our Lady of the Martyrs or Parish Church of Constância (in Portuguese, Igreja de Nossa Senhora dos Milagres or Igreja Matriz de Constância, respectively). And as it’s located in the highest part of the town, you’re likely to pass by another very photogenic religious temple called Chapel of Saint’Anne (or Capela de Santa de Ana).
The Church of Our Lady of the Martyrs took several centuries to be built – although most of the elements are from the beginning of the 18th century (such as the bell tower and the sundial, on the exterior; or the statues, the tabernacle, and the pulpit, in the interior).
The altar of Nossa Senhora da Boa Viagem – as well as the figure that leaves in procession at the popular festival – was executed in the second half of the same century and promoted by the fishermen and sailors of Constância. On the ceiling, an allegory by the painter José Malhoa, dating from the end of the 19th century, stands out.
Map of the Constância Itinerary
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