30 minutes! If you live in Porto, 30 minutes is the amount of time you will need to get to Vila do Conde!
VILA DO CONDE
A beautiful and tranquil town, it gained importance as a shipbuilding yard at the time of the Discoveries. The sea has always been important in this town and has always influenced the lives of its inhabitants. It has the designation “vila” (village) in its name, but it is a city.
WHERE IS VILA DO CONDE?
It is an important city in Northern Portugal and has about 29,000 inhabitants in its urban area (2011 census).
WHAT TO VISIT IN VILA DO CONDE?
The city of Vila do Conde has a vast number of tourist attractions. So that you can calmly enjoy everything the city has to offer, we suggest a 3 full days stay. Here is the map of attractions for you to plan your tours. We hope it will be useful!
SANTA CLARA MONASTERY VIEWPOINT
This viewpoint offers a beautiful perspective of the city and the meeting of the Ave River with the Atlantic Ocean. The viewpoint is located next to the old convent of Santa Clara.
SANTA CLARA MONASTERY
Fundado em 1318, foi um convento feminino extinto no séc. XIX. O monumento foi construído por ordem de Dom Afonso Sanches. Na sequência da extinção das ordens religiosas em 1834, o convento foi “morrendo” lentamente. Em 1892, com a morte da última freira, fechou-se um ciclo. Dez anos mais tarde, em 1902, o convento recebeu a casa de detenção e correcção da cidade do Porto. Mais tarde foi renomeado como reformatório de Vila do Conde e escola profissional de Santa Clara (depois conhecido como Centro Educativo de Santa Clara o qual fechou em definitivo em 2007). A partir do ano de 2008, o outrora convento ficou tristemente abandonado…
SANTA CLARA CHURCH
It is next to the monastery of Santa Clara and near the aqueduct. Catholic monument, with an austere exterior style. It was built in 1318 by Dom Afonso Sanches. The church has a stone interior, without great ornamentation, a bit dark but beautiful in its simplicity.
VILA DO CONDE MAIN CHURCH
The main church of Vila do Conde replaced an old construction of which nothing remains. Construction began 1496 and was strongly encouraged by Manuel I of Portugal, after he passed through Vila do Conde on his pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. The construction of the church was finished in 1515. The outside of the church is beautiful but the inside is absolutely not to be missed!
NOSSA SENHORA DA LAPA CHURCH
The church of Our Lady of Lapa dates back to the 17th century and is one of the city’s main monuments. Its facade has two beautiful and showy towers. The interior of the church is quite simple.
NOSSO SENHOR DOS NAVEGANTES CHURCH (CAXINAS CHURCH)
It is next to the famous neighborhood of Caxinas (perhaps the best known fishing neighborhood in the country). The church is shaped like a boat and is known in the area as the church of the boat. Inaugurated in 1985, it was built in place of an older one dating from 1928.
SANTA CLARA AQUEDUCT
Its construction started in 1626 and ended in 1705. The Santa Clara aqueduct connects Póvoa do Varzim to the Santa Clara Convent. It is internationally regarded as one of the most beautiful in the world. It has a Romanesque style architecture and initially had 999 arches (along four kilometers). Today many of them are destroyed. The destruction of the Arches of the Aqueduct was due to the theft of the stones by the population (to build their own houses). The magazine “National Geographic” considered it the 4th most beautiful on the planet! In the past it had 999 arches. Today there are many less and some are in a bad state of conservation.
MEMORIAL TO THE SHIPWRECKED AND MONUMENT TO THE FISHERMAN
Vila do Conde was and still is a land of fishermen. There were many who lost their lives in the performance of their work: fishing. There is not a single local family that does not know someone who lost his life at sea.
This monument was built in memory of these men. It is located on the waterfront.
Caxinas is an emblematic fishing district of Vila do Conde. Historical records indicate the presence of population in this area since the year 4000 ac (!). In the year 900 ac a name for the settlement appeared for the first time, it was called vila do farol (lighthouse village). Here maritime trade routes with other civilizations were established. Another village (or another Caxinas) arose after the Romans conquered the peninsula (around 138 BC). The Romans introduced an improvement in the organization and development of the fishing activity.
Later, during the Portuguese discoveries, Caxinas gained new prominence, as a consequence of the knowledge of its shipbuilders. In the 17th century, fish processing gained new importance in commercial transactions. Consequently, Caxinas became the most important port in the Portuguese north.
Today, a large part of its population is still connected to fishing. But nowadays it is already possible to find more people connected to other areas of activity (a trend that can be seen in all Portuguese fishing villages). Caxinas is also very popular with those who like to go to the beach. The sand is extensive, the sea is generally strong and very violent in winter. The beach is very frequented especially by the inhabitants of the northern part of Portugal.
VILA DO CONDE BEACH
The beach of vila do conde has a vast and beautiful sandy beach. The beach is very popular and frequented during the bathing season (between June and September) essentially by the Northeastern population.
VILA DO CONDE MUSEUMS
The museum has several nuclei and a permanent exhibition dedicated to the history of the territory of Vila do Conde. If you visit the permanent exhibition you will be able to “dive” into the soul of the city and understand the evolution and identity of its people. The centers of the museum of Vila do Conde are: José Régio house, Billet Lace Museum, Shipbuilding Museum and Quinhentista Ship, Firemen Museum, Museum of Ashes (located in the church of the convent of São Francisco), Agricultural Cooperative Museum, Museum of Sacred Art, House of the Boat, interpretative center of memories of the mercy of Vila do Conde.
ENCARNAÇÃO CHURCH AND CONVENT
It was built in the 17th century during the reign of Philip II. It underwent renovations after a fire in 1734 and after the great earthquake of 1755. With the end of the religious orders in 1834, the convent was once again heavily altered. The interior of the church is worth a close look. The blue and white tiles, paintings, and gilded carving in the main chapel stand out. This property bears the title of property of public interest.
REPUBLIC SQUARE – VILA DO CONDE
It is probably the most crowded square in the city of Vila do Conde. It is next to the river and the bridge that connects the city center with Azurara (on the other bank of the river Ave). The space is quite large and beautiful with gardens and flowers for all tastes. In the middle of the Praça da República you will find a sculpture by Domingos Azevedo. From here you can see the monastery of Santa Clara in all its splendor. There are some cafes and restaurants that are worth a visit. The perfect place to rest a bit and enjoy the beauty of the Vila Condense houses.
QUINHENTIST SHIP OF VILA DO CONDE
This is a replica of an old Portuguese boat from the 16th century. It is 27 meters long, almost 8 meters wide, and about 5 meters high. It weighs 300 tons. It was inaugurated in 2007 and its construction was designed as an element of promotion and restoration of the riverside area of the city. Inside the ship you will find several reproductions of life on board (as we imagine it in the 16th century). There you will see the storage spaces for materials and goods, the crew’s quarters, the navigation materials, artillery, navigation charts and much more. Don’t miss it!
FORMER CARMO CONVENT
It was in 1755 that the hospice of Our Lady of Mount Carmel of the Discalced Carmelites opened its doors.8 years later, in 1763, the chapel with the same name was built (completed in 1765). It was almost 60 years in service until, in 1834, with the extinction of the religious orders, the convent ceased activity and its administration passed to the City Council. A courthouse, a rent school, an elementary school, the post office, and today it houses the municipal services have all passed through there. The church has a beautiful portal on one of its facades (west).
The chapel is located in the center of the city, on a hill that offers a beautiful view of the Ave River. It is believed that the chapel was built in 1603 by order of Gaspar Manoel, a knight teacher of the Order of Christ. The chapel evokes Nossa Senhora da Boa Viagem and even today the remains of its founder are still on the floor of the monument. The architecture of the chapel reflects the taste of Gaspar Manuel and in it we can identify a preference for oriental architecture. On the contrary, the interior of the chapel is typically Portuguese and there we find tiles from the 18th century and make reference to the Virgin Mary.
ALFÂNDEGA RÉGIA SQUARE
The Royal Customs House was built by Dom João II in 1487, which attests to the importance of the port of Vila do Conde in Portuguese maritime expansion. During the eighteenth century, the customs house underwent several renovations to meet the intense commercial nautical traffic that was felt in the port of Vila do Conde. When it stopped working as a Customs House, the building began to deteriorate. Throughout the 20th century, it was used as a support structure for the Fiscal Guard and as a storage place for the boatyard that operated there until 1993. In 2001, the building was completely restored and converted into a museum. There we can find a permanent exhibition with 3 vectors, namely: Portuguese navigation, history of the Alfândega Régia and the history of Naval boat building in the region.
NOSSA SENHORA DA GUIA CHAPEL
The chapel of Nossa Senhora da Guia welcomes those who enter Barra do Ave. Its location and presence are a support to the northern fishermen who pray to it for their safety. It is the oldest monument in the Parish. There are documents from the 11th century that make reference to this building. Due to its location next to the river, it is believed to have been a defensive structure for the Ave estuary in ancient times.
The extreme simplicity of its exterior does not let you guess the immense wealth of its interior. Tiles, carvings, paintings and a ceiling covered with coffered ceiling are some of the elements that amply justify a visit to this chapel.
VILA DO CONDE CITY HALL
Vila do Conde’s town hall is located in the old Paços do Concelho building right in the historic center of Vila do Conde. It is a simple two-story building dating from 1543. In front of it is the pillory, and nearby you can visit the main church, the church of the misericordia, and the marketplace of Vila do Conde.
SUGGESTION FOR A PEDESTRIAN ROUTE IN VILA DO CONDE
Walking is always the best option to feel the soul of the place you are visiting. Here is a suggested walking route that will introduce you to some of the main attractions of the area. It’s a 27 minute walk on a journey that starts at the Santa Clara Convent and ends at the Chapel of Nossa Senhora da Guia,
VIRTUAL TOUR TO VILA DO CONDE
WHAT TO VISIT NEAR VILA DO CONDE?
PÓVOA DO VARZIM
The beautiful waterfront is shared by Vila do Conde and Póvoa do Varzim. For non-residents it is difficult to see where one city ends and the other begins (Póvoa do Varzim is north of Vila do Conde).
Póvoa, like Vila do Conde, is very popular with northerners during the summer. There they find a vast sandy beach and a beautiful, cold ocean. The city’s landmarks are the Casino da Póvoa, the Fortress of Nossa Senhora da Conceição and the Almada square.
Póvoa’s Casino is one of the biggest and most impressive in the country! We have already spent a New Year’s Eve there (2018) and the atmosphere was very nice and relaxed! A good option for those who like to spend a few euros in gambling and eat a magnificent hamburger in the early hours of the morning.
It is in the Almada square that you will find Póvoa’s town hall. It is a large space, with plenty of commerce surrounding the center of the square where there is a pillory. It is also in this square that you will find a memorial to the great Portuguese writer Eça de Queirós.
NOSSA SENHORA DA CONCEIÇÃO FORT
The fort is located in Póvoa do Varzim (a town contiguous to Vila do Conde). Built between 1642 and 1648 to strengthen the line of defense in the context of the War of Restoration (battles between Spain and Portugal between 1640 and 1668 following a coup d’état that put an end to the Filipino dynasty in Portugal). It stands on top of a promontory (rock formation that advances over the sea) and made it difficult for enemy vessels to approach. When it lost its military function (between 1800 and 1850), the fortress was deactivated beginning its destruction. Later, in 1868, the Duke of Palmela bought the fort and turned it into a “challet” (Palmela House, 1873).
If you have a particular interest in fishing neighborhoods and communities, be sure to read our article about Figueira da Foz.
HOTELS IN VILA DO CONDE
VILA C BOUTIQUE HOTEL
This 4-star hotel has over 850 reviews and an overall rating of 8.9 out of 10. It is located on the south bank of the Ave river (in Azurara). It has a spa, gym, conference rooms and has private parking. The Santa Clara Convent – one of the main attractions – is close to the hotel. The rooms have a balcony, minibar and a flat-screen TV.
RESIDENTIAL PRINCESS OF THE BIRD
Over 450 reviews! An overall rating of 8.8 out of 10. Very central, it is only a 5 minute walk from the beach and also from the city center. Vila do Conde metro station is 1 kilometer away and has a connection to Porto. All the rooms have a private bathroom. Near the residential, there are many services for your convenience: restaurants, bars, the José Régio museum and the Santa Clara monastery.
WHAT TO EAT IN VILA DO CONDE?
Vila do conde – and more specifically the district of Caxinas – is synonymous with good fish (including seafood). But in the North of Portugal, the meat is also of excellent quality. As such, it is difficult to recommend something very specific. In Vila do Conde, it’s hard to eat badly…
RESTAURANTS IN VILA DO CONDE
DONA MARIA RESTAURANT
131 reviews on Google and an overall rating of 4.5 out of 5. The reviews mention a small but cozy space. Quality and fast service, quality food, a great price and very good value for money. Although the prices are low, it has a good offer of fish and good desserts.
Over 750 (!) reviews on Google and an overall rating of 4.5 out of 5. There are lots of compliments for both the meat dishes and the fish dishes (especially the seafood rice). The staff also has a lot of praise. It has a view of the sea!
EVENTS IN VILA DO CONDE
Vila do Conde’s theater, auditorium, and municipal library are three important cultural elements of the city. Musicians, actors and artists from many cultural areas pass through there. It is a city with a very interesting cultural dynamic. To find out about upcoming cultural events in Vila do Conde click HERE!
VILA DO CONDE HISTORY
Vila do Conde is a very old village, even older than the foundation of Portugal (1143). The first reference to Vila do Conde appears in the year 953 and we can find it in the book of the countess Mumadona Dias. The population of Vila do Conde actively participated in the Portuguese Discoveries. Paulo Faria and Francisco Faria participated in Vasco da Gama’s voyage to India. The Praça Nova, today called Vasco da Gama Square, was built in 1538. There we can find the City Hall. In the nineteenth century, the French Invasions caused huge losses to the population of the town that would rise to the category of city in 1987.
The bobbin lace has been produced here since the 17th century. The techniques used in the production of this lace were later spread to other areas of our country and also to the North of Spain.
This magnificent handicraft work can be seen and reviewed in the lace museum. A visit to Vila do Conde is almost a must for the people of the North of Portugal, especially in the summer. But we believe that this beautiful northern town deserves much more attention than is usually given to it by most Portuguese.
VILA DO CONDE POPULATION
Vila do Conde is the seat of a municipality of about 150 km2 and has 79,533 inhabitants (2013 data). It has 22 parishes and the municipality is bordered by Póvoa do Varzim, Famalicão, Trofa, Maia, Matosinhos and, being a coastal city, it is also bordered by the Atlantic Ocean. Vila do Conde is located on the northern bank of the beautiful Ave River. It is an important industrial center and has one of the last important fishing ports in Portugal. In the summer it is sought after by many Portuguese “tourists”. The urban agglomerations of Póvoa do Varzim and Vila do Conde form the same agglomeration.
VILA DO CONDE PERSONALITIES
José Régio was the pseudonym used by José Maria dos Reis Ferreira. He was a writer, poet, essayist, novelist and historian of Portuguese literature. He was born in Vila do Conde in 1901 and died in the same city in 1969. In Vila do Conde there is a library and a high school named after him. Be sure to visit the José Régio house museum.
EÇA DE QUEIRÓS
Even today it is not clear whether Eça de Queirós was born in Vila do Conde or in Póvoa do Varzim. It is Eça himself who refers to himself as ” ‘I am no more than a poor man from Póvoa de Varzim. It is however factual that Eça was baptized in Vila do Conde and that at the age of six he went to live in Aveiro. Eça de Queirós is one of the greatest figures of Portuguese literature. Vila do Conde did not forget the origins of this master of writing and marked the house where Eça de Queirós lived the first years of his life.