The Old Town
Amarante's old town is what attracts most visitors. A beautiful granite bridge dating back some 300 years, the massive roundish walls of the monastery, lots of old houses and a lively plaza with some nice shops and cafes - all of this make it very inviting. Amarante is said to have been founded by São Gonçalo in the 13th century. The monastery which bears his name is home to his grave, a popular pilgrim's destination. São Gonçalo is the patron saint of marriage, so those looking for a partner (and believing in the magic powers of graves and depictions of people dead for 800 years) come here to kiss his toes. I'm not sure why this should help you in finding the man or woman of your dreams, but having come here married, I didn't need to try it out. Apart from the lovely ensemble of buildings around the monastery, there are two more places that you should visit when in Amarante. The first is accessed via the steep steps at the rear end of the plaza - they lead up to a nice viewing platform. The second is the other end of Ponte de São Gonçalo. While most people would just stroll over the bridge to take in the panoramic views, you should go down to the river and enjoy the view upwards - the bridge in the foreground and the old town in the background make for a few nice photos.
View from the bridge
Easily the best thing to do in Amarante is taking in the view from its main car bridge. Our guidebook described it as a picture-perfect panorama, and it didn't exaggerate. Try to ignore the cars racing past behind you and enjoy the view as much as possible. To the left you'll see Amarante's sea of houses (well, quite a small sea, to be honest), then its old stone bridge Ponte de São Gonçalo and finally the actual old town core.
Sorry this was a complete ripp off.
Costs 17 € for an adult and 8,5 € for a kid up to 11 years old for a water theme park... well, there was (not so clean) water ....3 different slides (okay, they all had about 4 lanes) and a few pools for very small kids, for small kids, older kids and regular people... but that is about all you can say about this "fantastic" waterpark...
- Theme Park Trips
Igreja de Sao Goncalo
Igreja de Sao Goncalo, is of course the main reason for arriving at Amarante, I have added a link to a panoramic view that I enjoyed at (http://www.panoramio.com/photo/13688854).
These other sites explain the history and have some amazing photos, much better than any that I took and were part of the reason we decided to visit.
- Religious Travel
Inside the Monastery
Nowadays is hard to find a Monastery, Basilicas, Mother churches where you don't pay to visit them, well this one the entrance was free (in 2004).
You can admire a magnificent two-storey Renaissance cloister.
- Historical Travel
- Religious Travel
- Castles and Palaces
When I was wandering around I started hearing a beautiful voice singing Gregorian songs. I looked inside a room and there was only a priest singing. The acoustic interior was incredible, it seemed there was a group of people singing.
- Castles and Palaces
- Historical Travel
- Religious Travel
On this museum, situated by the Monastery, you may find some interesting pieces dedicated to São Gonçalo (patron of the city) and to the fertility cult (it is said that St Gonçalo made several festivities to make married couples and prevent that man and woman lived in sin).
But my favourite pieces (paintings) on this museum are the works of cubist Portuguese painter Amadeo de Souza Cardoso (1887 – 1918), after whom this museum is named.
More historic centre to discover
But the historic centre of the city isn’t limited to this bank of the River. Crossing the Bridge to the opposite side (opposite to the Monastery) there are more narrow cobbled streets to discover and get lost in. Be sure not to miss it!
The French invasions took some of Amarante’s beautiful houses that were burnt down during the attacks, but there are still plenty nowadays to discover. Some are very well kept but I also came across some abandoned manor houses and buildings which showed a decayed appearance and some of them were covered in vegetation.
As you leave the Monastery you cross the square and you may explore part of the historic centre from there on. Going up the street there are some pleasant houses with interesting architecture as well as nice manor houses. Also to mention that some services are situated on nice styled and well kept houses as is the case of the post office and some banks.
The hustle and bustle of a city doesn’t show in this area of Amarante and one feels as if living in a traditional neighborhood of some quieter village – the traditional commerce, the balconies decorated with flowers, a belvedere with a nice panel made in azulejos (traditional Portuguese tiles) all add up to the lovely ambiance of this beautiful northern city.
Once you arrive in the historic centre of Amarante you cannot miss the Roman Bridge. It crosses the River Tâmega and most certainly you will be crossing it by foot. Beware that traffic is allowed on this stone bridge (one way only) so watch where you are walking.
Along the Bridge there are some kind of “larger” areas – I will call them balconies as they resemble one and I don’t know the exact term. There are about 3 balconies on each side of the Bridge and there is a kind of bench surrounding them. It is no doubt the perfect place to stop and admire the River, its banks and the nice architecture of the city. Also, they are a great place to stop for photos.
Igreja de S. Pedro
The church of S. Pedro is situated near the Monastery. It is a 18th century church and it is opened for visitors only between 2pm and 5pm, every day.
While it may resemble a “regular” church on the outside – a belfry and clock on the tower – but it is beautiful inside. You may visit both the church and also the adjacent room where priests keep their vests and materials.
When we visited in May 2004 there was a helpful lady inside who would accompany the visit and highlight some details while telling some interesting stories about it.
Igreja de S. Tiago
On top of a stairs next to the Monastery we may find the Church of S. Tiago. The belfry and clock tower rise high in the skyline of this side of the River bank; it is also visible from the Monastery’s cloisters – actually the only “visual” contact we may enjoy with the exterior. However both times I visited I never found it opened for a visit inside. There wasn’t also any information on the door about hours or about being opened or closed for visitors or Mass.
Mosteiro de S. Gonçalo
On the side of the church there is a door leading to the cloister. It is a peaceful arched cloister with a fountain in the middle where pigeons play and fly. There are usually few visitors around so enjoy the place and take some time to observe the vanishing painted ceilings and carved stone works.
One thing that caught my attention on the cloister was the confessionary. They are situated on the cloister’s wall against the church, and they situated a bit above the floor level – as if one has to go up one step into a niche on the wall.
Igreja de São Gonçalo
The main monument that dominates the historic centre is the Monastery of São Gonçalo. It consists of a beautiful church – named church of São Gonçalo – and also the Monastery’s cloister.
Once inside the church, the altarpiece catches one’s attention – it is a fantastic work of elaborate carvings on wood, painted in gold and with dark red details.
The church is opened for free visits, which may be done any period of time during the day, except during Mass. Every time I visited this beautiful church there were people praying inside, so you should be silent and avoid using flash if photographing (although I don’t recall any sign forbidding it).
Perhaps this bridge is the most beautiful bridge i ever seen. This impressive bridge was built in 1790.
You can take amazing pics over the river Tamega and the beautiful buildings on the banks of the river.
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