Photo Post: Valença do Minho, Portugal

Valença do Minho, Portugal
Turret in the fortress-like old town

After snooping around the interesting cathedral in Tui last November, my friends and I hopped back in the car and crossed the Miño River, and in doing so also crossed into Portugal from Spain. On the other side of the river, the town of Valença do Minho sits on a commanding hilltop and is just as Portuguese as Tui is Spanish: houses are decorated with pretty azulejos or colorful tiles, the locals speak indecipherable European Portuguese, and small parish churches show off their jaunty Baroque domes and whitewashed walls.

Valença do Minho, Portugal
Spaniards with bags of linens

For Spaniards, especially those living in Galicia, the main draw of Valença is shopping. Portuguese-made linens, like sheets, towels, and blankets are both affordable and of high quality, so Spanish people dash south of the border, load up their car trunks and bus holds with bags of linens in Valença, and then head back home. It’s not uncommon for espanhóis (as they’re called in Portuguese) to pick up a bottle of vinho verde wine or a kilo of not-burnt natural, non-torrefacto coffee before returning to Spain.

Valença do Minho, Portugal
The main shopping drag

Apart from shopping, Valença do Minho didn’t really have that much to offer except for the novelty of feeling like you were in another country. (Although I’ve been told it’s a great place to try Portuguese bacalhau or cod). Northern Portugal has so much more to offer: Porto’s crumbling riverside, Braga’s stunning Baroque churches, and Guimarães’ medieval castle. But it makes a nice pitstop on your way from Galicia south into Portugal.

Valença do Minho, Portugal
A storm rolls in on the Spanish side of the border

If anything, the old town (housed in a former fortress) is a great place to get views of Tui on the north side of the Miño River (spelled Minho in Portuguese). My Spanish friends took me to the café in Valença’s Pousada hotel, a quiet retreat from the shopping mall madness outside. After finishing our sodas and teas, we watched a storm blow over before the sky turned a rich, deep blue.

Valença do Minho, Portugal
Tui, Spain

What was your favorite photo from this post? What border towns have you been to before? Tell me in the comments below!

Valença do Minho, November 8th, 2014

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