Caldas da Rainha: Fit for a Queen

Travel — 10.09.18

Words by Desislava Todorova
Photography by Kerr McIlwraith

One step in from the coast of Portugal, Caldas da Rainha is a spa town founded by queen Eleanor of Viseu. This western coastal region is a hidden gem between Lisbon and Porto and is also known for the production of cherry liquor called “Ginja”, a widely appreciated and bittersweet summertime drink.

In the 15th century, the queen discovered locals bathing in the nearby springs, and so began Europe’s first hydrotherapy resort since Roman times. As a place where nobility and the bourgeoisie gathered in the summer months, Caldas da Rainha has lots of distinguished architecture from the Baroque to Art Nouveau.

I embarked on an improvised trip to the rural region of Portugal where art and culture are embedded into its natural landscapes and lagoons foster the surfers’ dream rocky beaches.


If you’re keen on testing traditional food at medieval markets and staying in a fortress hotel with a view overseeing the region, you’d fall in love with Óbidos. Get a shot of “Ginja” cherry liquor in a dark chocolate cup while strolling down the streets of the village and don’t forget to buy some of the locally woven souvenir bags which would look more authentic than your friend’s Dior backpack.

Nascer do Sol

You haven’t been to Portugal until you have eaten some of the local meat dishes (sorry fellow vegans!)

Situated off the main road from Salir do Porto to Caldas da Rainha, this all-you-can-eat restaurant has an authentic atmosphere with Moorish tiles and only serves dishes with locally sourced ingredients. Go there with the family and have a feast to remember.


This coastal village is the mecca of surfers and the embodiment of modern age escapism. Up to 30-metres high, the waves there supply a killer view.

If you’re not keen on queueing for a crêpe at the beach, walk back up to the church square where you can buy nuts from the local saleswomen wearing dozens of traditional dress skirts. They’ll also tell you some good stories to take back home with you.

For more information on Caldas da Rainha and Portugal, visit the Portugal Tourist Board website.