Vila Nova da Barquinha (or Barquinha, as it’s popularly nicknamed) is a town in the Santarém district, situated less than 130 km from Lisbon. This means that this Vila Nova da Barquinha itinerary can be used both for a day trip from the Portuguese capital and for a road trip through the Médio Tejo sub-region (in the Central Region)!
Despite not being as touristy as Fátima or Tomar, Vila Nova da Barquinha has a unique millenary past, thanks to the evidence of Neanderthal occupation discovered in the region. Conducted in 2007, archaeological excavations found remains dating back 300,000 years, from the Lower Palaeolithic period!
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Brief History of Vila Nova da Barquinha
As a municipality, Vila Nova da Barquinha has only existed since 1836, the year in which the former municipality of Atalaia was extinguished. The latter, of Arab foundation, became part of the Kingdom of Portugal in the mid-twelfth century, during a historical process known as the Christian Reconquista of the Iberian Peninsula.
As he did with other former Moorish territories, King Afonso Henriques handed over this region to the Order of Solomon’s Temple, as a way of thanking them for their help in combat. In response, the Knights Templar built the Almourol Castle, today the main tourist attraction in Vila Nova da Barquinha.
Apart from that, Vila Nova da Barquinha developed river trade and transportation as its main economic activities, as a result of its strategic geographical location, on the north bank of the Tagus River. Nowadays, it’s a peaceful and picturesque town, especially visited by lovers of the great outdoors and history buffs!
Visiting Vila Nova da Barquinha
As I mentioned earlier, the best way to enjoy this Vila Nova da Barquinha 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 Barquinha station.
TIP: This trip has a minimum cost of €9.25, but check all prices, timetables, lines, and services on the official website of CP – Comboios de Portugal.
However, you can also visit Vila Nova da Barquinha 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: Entroncamento (5 km), Constância (10 km), Golegã (10 km), Torres Novas (12 km), Chamusca (17 km), Tomar (22 km), Abrantes (26 km), Alcanena (28 km), Sardoal (32 km), and Alpiarça (33 km).
Vila Nova da Barquinha Itinerary
Almourol Templar Interpretation Center
This Vila Nova da Barquinha itinerary starts at the Almourol Templar Interpretation Center (in Portuguese, CITA – Centro de Interpretação Templário de Almourol), which opened to the public in November 2018, in the building of the Cultural Center of Vila Nova da Barquinha. Comprising a permanent exhibition room, a space for temporary exhibitions, and a screening room for movies and documentaries, it’s the first museum in Portugal entirely dedicated to the Knights Templar.
The Almourol Templar Interpretation Center is open every day from 9 am to 12:30 pm and from 2 pm to 5:30 pm (Monday to Friday), or from 10 am to 1 pm and from 3 pm to 6 pm (on weekends and holidays). Nevertheless, the museum is closed on Mondays, between the months of October and April! Tickets cost €4 per person and include the entrance to the Almourol Castle and the respective boat trip (round trip).
EXTRA TIP: In the building of the Cultural Center of Vila Nova da Barquinha, you can also visit the Templar Library – Archive and the Vila Nova da Barquinha Tourist Office!
Almourol Park of Contemporary Sculpture
The Almourol Park of Contemporary Sculpture (in Portuguese, PECA – Parque de Escultura Contemporânea Almourol) was inaugurated on July 6th, 2012, in the riverside area of Vila Nova da Barquinha. Consisting of eleven large structures, this “open-air art museum” brings together the creations of some of the best artists of contemporary Portuguese sculpture.
This contemporary art project, installed in the seven hectares of Barquinha Park, was also extended to the rehabilitation of a building in the historic center, which now houses an exhibition gallery, an educational center (where painting, drawing, and photography studios operate), and a temporary residence for artists.
Accompanied by informative and descriptive signs, these are the eleven works of contemporary art that can be admired, free of charge, at the Almourol Park of Contemporary Sculpture:
- “Casa no Céu” (2012), by Xana
- “Casa Quadrada com Árvore Dentro” (2012), by Carlos Nogueira
- “Castelo” (2012), by Pedro Cabrita Reis
- “Concret Poem” (2012), by Fernanda Fragateiro
- “Contramundo” (2012), by Rui Chafes
- “Linha da Terra e do Rio” (2012), by Zulmiro de Carvalho
- “Rega” (2012), by Ângela Ferreira
- “Rotter” (2010-12), by Cristina Ataíde
- “Sem Título” (2012), by José Pedro Croft
- “Sobre a Floresta” (2012), by Alberto Carneiro
- “Trianons” (2012), by Joana Vasconcelos
The Almourol Park of Contemporary Sculpture and Barquinha Park are two mandatory stops on a Vila Nova da Barquinha itinerary!
Barquinha Park (in Portuguese, Barquinha Parque) was inaugurated on July 2nd, 2005, seven years before the Almourol Park of Contemporary Sculpture. Also free to enter, this extensive green space by the Tagus River is equipped with cafes and terraces, playgrounds and swings, paths and trails, sports equipment, and even a futsal and basketball court!
Designed by Hipólito Bettencourt and Joana Sena Rego, Barquinha Park won the National Prize for Landscape Architecture 2007, in the “Outdoor Spaces for Public Use” category. These days, it’s the place of choice for locals and tourists alike, to have picnics, relax, socialize, exercise, and spend their free time!
The Park Gallery belongs to the Almourol Park of Contemporary Sculpture, although it’s established on the ground floor of the building of the Vila Nova da Barquinha City Council. The small museum hosts contemporary art exhibitions by several national artists and mainly displays paintings, sculptures, photographs, and videos.
The Park Gallery is open every day (except on Sundays and Mondays), from 11 am to 1 pm and from 3 pm to 6 pm (from Tuesday to Friday), or from 3 pm to 7 pm (on Saturdays). And, like most points of interest on this Vila Nova da Barquinha itinerary, admission is free for everyone!
No Vila Nova da Barquinha itinerary is complete without a walk through the streets of its historic center, looking for works of urban art!
In total, there are eleven artistic interventions present in the four parishes of the municipality of Vila Nova da Barquinha: Atalaia, Praia do Ribatejo, Tancos, and Vila Nova da Barquinha.
They all belong to the ARTejo Project (2018-19), a public art program promoted by the EDP Foundation, in partnership with the Vila Nova da Barquinha City Council.
One of them is “Vertigo”, a mural by the artist João Maurício, better known as Violant. It’s not difficult to see it in Travessa de Angola, a few meters from Barquinha Park and the Park Gallery!
By the way, these are the eleven works of urban art that you can visit in this Vila Nova da Barquinha itinerary:
- “Ausência”, by Violant – in the parish of Praia do Ribatejo
- “Mãos de Arrais”, by Carlos Vicente – in the parish of Tancos
- “Mayday”, by Violant – in the parish of Vila Nova da Barquinha
- “Nau Catrineta”, by Carlos Vicente – in the parish of Vila Nova da Barquinha
- “Noa”, by Carlos Vicente and Violant – in the parish of Tancos
- “O Campo”, by Carlos Vicente – in the parish of Praia do Ribatejo
- “Oleiro”, by Vhils – in the parish of Atalaia
- “Pan” & “Thetis”, by Violant – in the parish of Praia do Ribatejo
- “Quase, Banda Desenhada”, by Manuel João Vieira – in the parish of Vila Nova da Barquinha
- “Sophia”, by Violant – in the parish of Vila Nova da Barquinha
- “Vertigo”, by Violant – in the parish of Vila Nova da Barquinha
Santo António Church
Santo António Church (in Portuguese, Igreja de Santo António) is the current parish church of Vila Nova da Barquinha. Built between 1801 and 1874, it was founded on the site of an old hermitage from the 18th century, also dedicated to Santo António (the town’s patron saint). Inside, the decoration is strangely simple, as there are no altars in gilded carving – contrary to what’s usual in Portuguese churches.
Perhaps because of this lack of exuberance, many tourists end up skipping Santo António Church for the Parish Church of Atalaia. And, if you have time, I recommend that you add the latter to your Vila Nova da Barquinha itinerary. This is because this Catholic temple in Manueline and Renaissance style was designed by João de Castilho and João de Ruão, two architects who worked on iconic monuments, such as:
- Braga Cathedral
- Convent of Christ, in Tomar
- Jerónimos Monastery, in Lisbon
- Old Cathedral of Coimbra
- Monastery of Alcobaça
- Monastery of Batalha
- Monastery of Santa Cruz, in Coimbra
- Viseu Cathedral
This Vila Nova da Barquinha itinerary ends at the famous Almourol Castle (in Portuguese, Castelo de Almourol), a monument built on an islet in the Tagus River, which became one of the greatest symbols of the Christian Reconquista.
When Afonso Henriques conquered the place in 1129, he handed over the Moorish fortress of Al-morolan to the Knights Templar, who built a medieval castle with military functions here.
Despite that, the extinction of the Order of the Temple caused the Almourol Castle to lose importance and to be progressively abandoned.
Besides, the Templar structure was badly damaged by the Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 – even though it was restored and adapted to the romantic taste in the 19th century!
Almourol Castle is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 am to 1 pm and from 2:30 pm to 5:30 pm (from November to February), or from 10 am to 1 pm and from 2:30 pm to 7 pm (from March to October). Nevertheless, the monument can be visited on Mondays, between March and September.
A car is required to reach Almourol Castle, as it’s located about 6 km from the historic center of Vila Nova da Barquinha. And, as I mentioned earlier, the ticket costs €4 and includes the boat trip (round trip), the entrance to the Almourol Castle, and the visit to the Almourol Templar Interpretation Center.
Read my complete guide to the Almourol Castle, a must-see tourist attraction on any Vila Nova da Barquinha itinerary!
Map of the Vila Nova da Barquinha Itinerary
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