Now you’re really in the Minho, where all is green, fertile and rustling in shared Spanish–Porto winds and waters. And no place has a better view of it all than this atmospheric fort village occupying strategic heights above the picturesque Rio Minho. Valença do Minho (Valença) sits just a cannonball shot from Spain, and its impressive pair of citadels long served as the Minho’s first line of defence against Spanish aggression. But history insists on repeating itself, and these days the town is regularly overrun by Spanish hordes. They come armed with wallets and make away with volumes of towels and linens from the high stacks that line the cobbled streets.
The good news is that on even the busiest days (which tend to be Wednesdays and weekends), you can sidestep the towel touts and discover that these two interconnected forts also contain a fully functioning village where locals shop, eat, drink and gossip among pretty squares and narrow, medieval lanes. And when, in the evening, the weary troops retreat to Spain with their loot, the empty watchtowers return to their silent contemplation of their ancient enemy – the glowering Spanish fortress of Tui just across the river.
Visitors can easily see the sights of Valença as a day trip, but there are two atmospheric places to sleep within the fortress walls that allow you to see and feel peaceful Valença when it empties at sunset. That’s when you can hear the footsteps of kittens in the laneways while birdsong echoes off ancient stone walls.
An uninspiring new town sprawls at the foot of the fortress. From the bus station it’s 800m north via Av Miguel Dantas (the N13) and the Largo da Trapicheira roundabout (aka Largo da Esplanada) to the turismo. The train station is just east of Av Miguel Dantas.