Monção is located between cliffy mountains and curves over the magnificent river Minho! Once a place of bloody battles, today it is a village of stunning natural scenery! Come with us to discover Monção!
The valleys are perfect for agriculture and the mountains are excellent for pastoralism (breeding and keeping livestock). The walls of Monção protect the historical centre where we can visit several centenary monuments such as the main church and the church of Santo António dos Capuchos. Beyond the walls, Caldas de Monção (with its medicinal waters) is a strong attraction that you cannot miss. Throughout this article we will tell you everything you should visit and know about Monção.
WHERE IS MONÇÃO?
If you live in Porto and will travel by car, you will need only 1h32 (134 kilometres) to make the trip. If you live in Lisbon, get ready for a journey (by motorway) that will take 4h24 (442 kilometres). An effort that will be amply rewarded!
WHAT TO VISIT IN MONÇÃO?
The list is long because the village is very beautiful. We have prepared a map to help you plan the sequence of your walks.
It is located in the village of Lapela and was erected on the left bank of the river Minho. The Lapela tower is what remains of an ancient castle which defended a shallow place on the Minho River. There is much doubt as to the date of construction of this fortification. Some sources say that it was built before the reign of the first king of Portugal. Other references point to a construction taking place during the time of Dom Afonso Henriques.
The castle was destroyed in 1709 to provide material (stones) for another defensive structure built in Monção. What remains of the original fortification is a 35 metre high tower, with 4 storeys, 3 metre thick walls and a square structure 10 metres wide.
In 1940, the Estado Novo restored the tower as part of the nation’s commemorations. In 2016, the keep was rehabilitated. A year later, it opened its doors to the public and there we can visit the museum nucleus of the Lapel tower.
VIRTUAL TOUR OF THE LAPEL TOWER IN MONÇÃO
It has been a national monument since 1910 and was probably built during the reign of Dom Dinis (1305-1308). It should be noted that there is no unanimity about the origins of this fortification. Some historical references point to the existence of a fortification from before the reign of Dom Afonso III (1248-1279). What we can visit today is the result of a change made in the second part of the 17th century. This alteration allowed for the construction of the railways, Avenida Caldas and the requalification of a road. If you visit the fortress, save a few minutes for a relaxing walk with your eyes set on the wonderful Minho River.
It is located in Pinheiro, 6 kilometres from Monção. It was built at the beginning of the 19th century as part of an enormous property where you can find 8 hectares of woods, 3 hectares of garden and 18 hectares of vineyard. The imposing and luxurious palace was a residence of the great Portuguese noblemen. In 1901 the palace was restored and enhanced with the construction of a chapel, a lake and a theatre. The walls of the staircase were lined with tiles. Nine years later, in 1910, the palace was given the title of national monument.
If you visit the palace of Brejoeira, don’t forget to take a few minutes to calmly contemplate the beautiful artificial lake that you will find there. The lake is part of an enormous 18-hectare park of vineyards, woods and gardens. A mirror of greenish water embraced by abundant vegetation. An idyllic setting not to be missed!
BREJOEIRA PALACE GARDENS
The gardens are luxuriant and in English style. A design from the early 19th century where you can see a lake, various sculptures and fountains. This combination of elements gives this garden a romantic and tranquil atmosphere. The best time to visit the Brejoeira garden is in spring, the time of year when the vegetation is at its most luxuriant.
MONÇÃO MAIN CHURCH
It was erected in 1308 during the reign of Dom Dinis. The architecture of the monument is the result of Manueline, Gothic, Baroque and Mannerist styles. The portico of the church is Romanesque in style and is the great attraction of the church. In its interior is the funeral chapel of Deu-la-Deu Martins, the most famous historical figure (legend) of Monção to which we will refer in this article. The temple has the title of Property of Public Interest.
MISERICÓRDIA (mercy) CHURCH
Located in the Praça Deu-la-Deus square, the misericórdia church features transitional architecture from Mannerism to Baroque. The first written reference to the church dates from 1576. Its exterior is beautiful but the interior is also very beautiful! Inside the temple we can admire the nave, a chancel and a very interesting and well-preserved collection. Visiting the church of mercy is a trip back in time.
SANTO ANTÓNIO DOS CAPUCHOS CHURCH
A convent church with an architecture similar to other churches in the city of Monção. It was built in the 17th century and has an interior that mixes neoclassical, rococo and baroque styles. Inside one of the walls we find a 20th century chapel in honour of Our Lady of Lourdes (the chapel recreates the apparition of the lady). Well worth a visit!
The Capuchin Convent was built in the 16th century. Initially it housed nuns and later friars. In 1834 the religious order of Monção was extinguished and the old convent has been many things since then: school, court and place of habitation. In 1905 it was bought by José Rodrigues (grandfather of the current owners). At the beginning of the 21st century, the space gave way to a rural hotel that maintained the features of the old convent adding the comfort of a 4-star hotel.
The building was built in the 17th century and renovated in 1984. Nowadays, Casa do Curro is a place of culture hosting several cultural initiatives and activities. If you like green wine, you will like to know that Casa do Curro often hosts tastings of the famous Alvarinho wine from the Monção region.
It is in the aforementioned Casa do Curro that the Alvarinho Museum is housed. A space that aims to show the environment, the region and the people who make this vinho verde different. A “living” museum that divulges and promotes the present without ever forgetting the past. If you visit the Alvarinho Museum, you will better understand how knowledge and traditions have passed between generations and how important this knowledge was for the development of the region.
Let’s start by mentioning that the fountain was built in 1837. Some people call it Danaide and others call it the statue of Deu-la-Deus Martins, the great figure (legend) of the city. Curiously, at the bottom of the figure we find the name Danaide and soon after Deu-la-Deu Martins on the coat of arms of Monção (1869). But after all who does the statue represent?
Although we are in the middle of Deu-la-Deus Martins Square, the figure we find there is in fact Danaide, a Greek mythological figure. Since 2016, the statue has been illuminated.
CALDAS PARK, MONÇÃO
When the temperature rises, the Caldas park in Monção is the perfect place to cool down, take a walk and have a picnic. A cool, beautiful place on the banks of the river Minho. It has a children’s playground, restaurants, swimming pools and stunning views. Absolutely not to be missed!
INTERPRETATIVE CENTRE OF CASTRO DE SÃO CAETANO
During the 80s (of the last century), three castros (old settlements of houses and fortifications) were recovered. The São Caetano fort was one of them. It is located in the village of Outeiro (Longos Vales) and today houses the Interpretative Centre of Castreja Culture. The centre opened its doors in 2009 and makes an important contribution to all those who want to know more about the castros and the São Caetano fort in particular.
MINHO RIVER ECOPISTA
The Ecopista do rio Minho follows the old railway track that used to link Valença to Monção, running parallel to the river Minho for a total length of 40 km. An opportunity to link health to pleasure and which will give you the opportunity to get to know vineyards, agricultural fields, beaches and absolutely paradisiacal views of the Minho River. It is also worth mentioning the richness of the fauna and flora that you will find along this stretch. Beautiful!
PONTE DE MOURO VILLAGE
12 minutes and 8,6 kilometres separate the village of Monção from the village of Ponte de Mouro. A village full of history and beauty! In Ponte de Mouro we can find a very old medieval bridge over the river Mouro, whose first written reference dates from 1386. We are talking about an impressive construction that is located at a high altitude making the connection between two rocky structures. The village’s river beach is another attraction. Perfect to spend an afternoon at the beach and take a dip in the crystal clear waters of the river Mouro!
LONG VALLEYS MONASTERY
The exact date of construction of this monument is not known. It was one of the most important monasteries in Alto Minho during the Middle Ages, having achieved great relevance in the 12th and 13th centuries. From an architectural point of view, neoclassical, mannerist and romanic elements can be identified. It was declared a national monument in 1926 but is still abandoned…
MONÇÃO TOWN HALL
It is a beautiful building that we can find in Camões Square. It would have been built and belonged to a wealthy family (judging by the grandeur of its layout). Like several other buildings in the historic centre of Monção, it was recovered, restored and later occupied by the Monção City Hall.
The Minho River has always been a natural element that attracted ancient settlements to its banks. Throughout time, several archaeological objects have been found that prove the presence of man since prehistoric times (early times up to 3500 BC). The higher (and consequently safer) places in Monção were, at some points in history, also sought after by settlements. Traces of ancestral settlements have been found in the Antas Mountains dating back to 8000 – 3000 BC. It is known that between 500 and 100 BC, there was a demographic growth throughout the north-eastern Iberian Peninsula. This phenomenon resulted in several Castro settlements (agglomerations of stone houses and fortifications in high places). Around the town of Monção, numerous vestiges were found (in the 1970s and 1980s) that prove the occupation by the Romans. The Roman bridges and cemeteries are the most relevant structures of the passage of this people.
Later, it was the Nordic peoples (the Suevi) who occupied the region and extracted the metals necessary for their armament. The village would have appeared in medieval times (the exact date is not known). Some historians point to the reign of Dom Sancho I as the one when this agglomeration of houses and fortifications that was later called Monção began (the first known written reference dates from 1258).
He is a legendary figure in the history of Monção and has a statue in the town. According to legend, he deceived the Castilians during the Ferdinand wars (conflict between Dom Fernando (then king of Portugal), and Dom Henrique of Castile in the 14th century). Legend has it that the Castilians mounted a long-lasting siege of the town of Monção. Inside the defensive walls food was becoming scarce. It was then that Deu-la-Deu gathered the scarce flour and made the last “panitos”. He then climbed the wall, threw the loaves of bread at the Castilians and shouted:
“To you, who, not being able to conquer us by force of arms, have wished to surrender us by hunger, we, more humane and because, thank God, we find ourselves well provided for, seeing that you are not satisfied, send you this aid and we will give you more if you ask!”DEU-LA-DEU MARTINS
The Castilians, believing there were still many resources inside the fortification, decided to lift the siege and returned to Castile.
OTHER ATTRACTIONS NEAR MONÇÃO
Monção has a huge list of attractions to visit. Three days is an adequate amount of time to take your time and get to know the most important things there. If you decide to spend more time in Minho, then we suggest you also visit two other small towns near Monção: Valença and Melgaço.
From Monção to Valença is only 17 kilometres away, a distance that can be covered in 20 minutes by car. The town of Valença is especially famous for being the departure point for those who take the Santigo route. Valença offers superb views of the River Minho, which forms a natural border between Portugal and Spain. The historic centre, the chapels and churches are other elements of great touristic interest in Valença. A town worth visiting!
23 kilometres and minutes separate Monção from Melgaço. It is said that Melgaço is far away, almost in Spain… So we postpone our visit to one of the most beautiful villages in Portugal. It is part of the national natural park Peneda-Gerês and its natural landscapes are obviously one of its major attractions. But there is much more to see and discover in Melgaço: archaeological ruins, the historical centre, the mother church, the church of misericórdia, the alvarinho manor house, the cinema museum, the thermal baths and much more. If you accept our suggestion and visit Melgaço you will be surprised!
The town of Monção has a large number of typical dishes to offer those who visit. If you like fish, try the shad, the lamprey rice from the Minho River and the salmon. If you prefer meat, then try the roast lamb (famous as “foda à Monção”). It should be noted that this last dish (named after a pun), holds the award of one of the “7 gastronomic wonders of Portugal”. If you like sweets, don’t miss the “barriguinhas de freira” and the “roscas de monção”.
At the end of February a gastronomic initiative takes place promoting “lamprey rice” and “barriguinhas de Freira”. The event attracts a lot of national tourists who can enjoy the gastronomy and the car skills event that takes place in the town’s historical centre. October is the month for promoting lamb à Monção (the famous “Foda à Monção”).
MURALHAS DE MONÇÃO
If you like Vinho Verde wine, you know “Muralhas de Monção”! A famous and recognised wine not only in Portugal but also in other countries in Europe, Africa and the American continent. A nectar that results from the combination of the quality of the region’s grapes and modern winemaking technology.
RESTAURANTS IN MONÇÃO
RESTAURANT RUA D
Small and cosy restaurant. Over 150 reviews, one cifron (price reference), over 155 reviews on Google and an overall rating of 4.4 stars (maximum 5 stars). Serves typically homely food accompanied by efficient service.
BISTRO DON GENARO
Over 750 reviews and an overall rating of 4.5 stars (out of a maximum of 5). It presents itself as a 1 cypher restaurant only. The complimentary comments refer to the atmosphere and ambience of the restaurant which transports customers into an Italian setting (think of the movie “The Godfather”). The burgers and desserts are highly praised.
HOTELS IN MONÇÃO
HOTEL FONTE DA VILA
This hotel offers the best value for money in the area. A 3-star hotel with over 230 reviews and an overall rating of 4.2 stars (out of a maximum of 5). It has a great breakfast, clean rooms and a lot of friendliness.