A day out in chaves

    The spa town of Chaves grew up in a fertile valley between mountains. An abundance of archaeological remains points to the various peoples who have occupied the site since the most far-off times. It was the Roman legions however that left the most visible evidence of their passing, in the form of Trajan’s bridge – known locally as the Roman bridge – an imposing structure that has become the town’s emblem.

    The town’s civic centre is where the main cluster of monuments is to be found today, in the area around the main church and the Torre de Menagem (Donjon), or keep, where the most significant archaeological remains have been found. For that reason also, it is there that the various regional museums are to be found: the museum of archaeology and prehistory, the military museum and the museum of religious art. Outside the Torre de Menagem lies the garden, bounded by walls built when the town was fortified, from which there is an excellent panoramic view across the whole of the Chaves valley.

    Continuing along narrow streets that give a good idea of what the old walled quarter would have been like in medieval times, visitors can pause for a while and reflect on the museological and cultural experience over a delicious lunch of typical regional dishes, carefully prepared with the skill of former times, in one of Chaves’ many fine restaurants. After lunch, to digest the delicacies sampled, there is nothing like a visit to the Caldas area. This is where the thermal springs of Chaves are to be found and where visitors can take its thermal waters, which run directly from the ground to the glass at a temperature of 70º.

    The thermal springs are situated in a pleasant riverside area by the River Tâmega. The path along the banks of the Tâmega makes for a peaceful stroll; it leads to the Roman bridge and across the river to the church of S. João de Deus.

    Returning to the right bank of the River Tâmega, the twin defensive points of the Fort of S. Francisco and the Fort of S. Neutel provide a stern reminder that we are in a frontier town. The former dates back to the early days of Portuguese nationhood, while the latter is an example of 16th century military architecture. Beside the Fort of S. Francisco stands another historic building, the 18th-century chapel of Nossa Senhora da Lapa.

    Returning to our starting point after visiting the town’s most notable sites and monuments, we cannot leave without trying some of the fabulous local products, from cured ham to Chaves’ famous pastries, including the traditional bread known as "Folar”.
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