48 hours in Santa Maria da Feira

Words: Cláudia Pinto
Photos: João Saramago

Gastronomy, culture, nature, and history are some ingredients that make the city of Santa Maria da Feira a national and international success. Located in the district of Aveiro in the north of Portugal, the city has undergone a veritable metamorphosis and today excels in the realms of culture, gastronomy, and history. Follow its journey with us and let yourself be charmed by its mysteries in this 48-hour tour. But first, a disclaimer: 48 hours will never be enough time to see all there is to see in Santa Maria da Feira.

Our journey begins at the city’s most iconic (and probably highest) point: Santa Maria da Feira castle, with its four unusual towers. Here, on the slopes of this landmark, at Quinta do Castelo and at Mata das Guimbras, a treasure trove of biodiversity waits to be discovered. Take a look at the iconic trees that have countless tales to tell. You can either follow the Castle Guardians’ interpretive route or simply wander at will. No need to bring a map or keep track of time.

The next option is to head down to the historical centre, where you will find the Convento de Loios Museum, which explores the identity of the Terra de Santa Maria and houses a priceless collection, part of which was recovered from the fortified settlement at Castro de Romariz, one of the most important archaeological sites in the region. You must also pay a visit to the parish church to appreciate its architectural beauty. Stay in the historical centre and be captivated by the beauty of the small alleys that will lead you to the Igreja da Misericórdia.

If museums are on your to-do list, then head over to the Terras de Santa Maria Paper Museum, which was voted the best Portuguese museum in 2011, and enjoy some unique sensory experiences in the spaces used for artisanal and industrial paper manufacturing. Meanwhile, the Santa Maria de Lamas Museum invites you to discover an extensive collection of genuine art works, including sacred art, statues, iconography and much more.

If you have time, you can stop at the S. Jorge thermal spa, which offers a unique atmosphere of serenity and well-being, essential for relaxing the body and mind. A moment of peace and relaxation provided by nature. With a long thermal tradition, the spa is recognised for the therapeutic qualities of its sulphur waters in the treatment of respiratory, skin and musculoskeletal diseases. A true haven of well-being!
If your trip is business-oriented, then you need to visit the Europarque. Covering an area of more than 78 hectares and located strategically on one of the country’s main roads just 20 minutes from Porto, the Europarque has unique capabilities and features and more than 20 years’ experience hosting and organising essentially corporate multidisciplinary events. It promotes and attracts new investments and business to Santa Maria da Feira, northern Portugal and across the country from the most diverse fields of business, enhancing the entrepreneurial skills of those who wish to demonstrate, promote and enhance their brands and institutions in this space. Surrounded by an area of business expansion and industrial clusters, from education, health and the food industry to, more recently, information, communication and electronic technologies, everything happens around this facility. With unique spaces of unparalleled scale in Portugal, both indoor and outdoor, Europarque is the “City of Events” brand.

In Santa Maria da Feira, gastronomy, art, and creativity are intertwined. Inspired by local and seasonal products, gastronomic creations reveal the clear influence of the region that offers the wines and fish farming of the Douro in the north; the seaweed, salt, fish, cockles and crab from the Ria de Aveiro to the south; the quality and diversity of Atlantic fisheries to the west; and the high-quality arouquesa meat from the east. This range of produce and its proximity results in a traditional, rich and differentiating gastronomic offer. A member of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network (Creative City of Gastronomy) since November 2021, the region presents a genuine and irresistible Crossroads of Flavours.

Another of the wonders you can find in Santa Maria da Feira is its sweetmeats, and particularly the traditional sweet bread, the Fogaça, the format of which is a stylistic representation of the castle and its four towers. A certified product with Protected Geographical Identity, the bread is baked every day in establishments across the municipality, and is distinguished by the manner of its preparation and how it is placed in the oven. No visit to Santa Maria da Feira is complete without trying this local delicacy, which is available in the local pastry shops, some of which will even let you get involved in making the bread.

However, fogaça is not the only typical sweetmeat you can taste in Santa Maria da Feira. Baking sweet regueifa is associated closely with Easter because in days of yore, when sponge cake was considered a luxury only accessible to the rich, sweet regueifa was a rare delicacy for the common people of Feira. Throughout the municipality, you will find pastry shops and confectioners that produce sweet regueifa during the year. On this route, Santa Maria da Feira introduces us to this famous delicacy, offering the experience of enjoying it with butter, cheese, ham, jam or even olives, all washed down with red wine or port, or with tea, coffee, or barley. Sweet regueifa goes well with almost everything!

After enjoying the sugary treats, we suggest going for a walk. And Santa Maria da Feira has a number of hiking routes to enjoy. You can choose the historical route, a self-guided and free route through the historic centre of Santa Maria da Feira you can take by simply following the tourist signs. Ten information posts provide information in Portuguese, English and Braille, and have QR codes that will take you to the city’s web portal, where you can find out more. Feira Castelo, Quinta do Castelo, Loios Convent Museum, Parish Church, Praça da República, Praça Gaspar Moreira, Igreja da Misericórdia, the municipal market, Counts of Fijô House and Rossio are the 10 places that make up this “Route with History”.

You can also choose one of the hiking trails. The informal sport of hiking provides unquestionable mental and physical health benefits, which combined with contact with nature, the discovery of local histories and heritage and new nooks and crannies, can lead to unique experiences. In a region like Santa Maria da Feira, covering about 214 square kilometres, there is a lot to take in, so the City Council offers a number of trails that can be explored on foot or by mountain bike.

Zeen is a next generation WordPress theme. It’s powerful, beautifully designed and comes with everything you need to engage your visitors and increase conversions.

Top 3 Stories