19 July 2019

discovering caldas

We all go to Caldas to do the shopping and visit the market, but there’s far more to the town that that. Some facts: Caldas is classified as a city in Portugal and has a population of around 27,000 in the city itself and a further 25,000 in the surrounding areas. It’s part of the province of Leiria.

The settlement was established by Queen Leonor (you can see a statue of her on the roundabout by the park). She was passing through the area and saw people bathing in the sulphurous hot springs. The thermal hospital, is the oldest purpose built institution of its kind in the world, with five centuries of history.

The name Caldas da Rainha, translated means, 'Queen’s Spa’. Caldas is also famous for its pottery, particularly Bordallo Pinheiro. You can follow the Bordallo Pinheiro trail around the city, looking at the large pottery works placed around the city. You MAY have noticed the prevalence of phallic shaped pottery in the market and also some of the shops near the park, the story goes that King Dom Luís asked local potters to make something a little more interesting for a ball he was hosting, and so a giant penis was created, which was a roaring success!

Caldas has nine museums, covering subjects from cycling to art. As well as a plethora of secondary schools, it also has a major arts and design university and a school devoted to ceramics.

Personal highlights of Caldas for me are:

The park, particularly the boating lake.

The daily fruit and veg market, the last remaining daily outdoor fruit and veg market in Portugal.

The old part of the city between the market and the thermal hospital.

The mata (woods) behind the hospital.

Sitting in the cafés on the fruit market square, watching the people go by.

And I love the frog roundabout in front of the railway station!