Pousada de Valença do Minho – Modern Hotel Surrounded by Historic Fortifications
Sitting on the highest point of the old fortified area of Valença, the Pousada de São Teotónio boasts incredible views over Spain and the River Minho. The location, on the Spanish-Portuguese border makes the Pousada an ideal rest stop for those travelling en route to or from the Santander ferry.
The Pousada itself is surrounded by a fortress of Gothic and Baroque military architecture based within the ancient São Teotónio fortress where guests can marvel at the impressive fortified walls which form part of the Pousada’s magnificent views. The entrance to the fortress is via crenellated gates and cobblestone streets, flanked by lively stalls and tourists, and the Pousada is located towards the far end in a haven of peace and tranquility.
With only 18 rooms, this is one of the smaller Pousadas, offering guests an opportunity to relax in intimate, historic surroundings. Twelve of the bedrooms rooms have balconies overlooking the spectacular Minho Valley and Spain, whilst the other six rooms face inwards greeted with a view of the fortress. The bedrooms are decorated in a classic, yet comfortable, style with much of the furniture reflecting the Pousada’s historical roots.
The public areas are warm and welcoming, with plenty of comfortable seating and large grand fireplaces creating a cosy retreat. Although modern in architecture, the Pousada strives to emulate its historical surroundings through its furnishings.
The Pousada de São Teotónio’s restaurant serves many of the typical dishes found in the Minho region. Whilst enjoying the spectacular views the Pousada is renowned for, guests have a whole host of delicious options to choose from such as char-grilled cod with roasted ‘punched’ potatoes and sautéed sprouts, mountain kid goat with golden potatoes and fresh vegetables, and typical Portuguese rice pudding. In addition to all of these delicacies, the restaurant has a selection of some of the region’s most popular wines.
There is a public parking area for guests near the entrance to the Pousada.
Standing tall on a mount over the River Minho is the 17th and 18th century double rampart of the fortress of Valença do Minho, marking the end of the Portuguese territory on its border with Spain. The fortress played a prominent role in protecting Portugal from various French, Spanish, and Moorish invasions, and as such has been destroyed and rebuilt several times over the years. Some of the original 13th century walls are still standing, whilst the majority of the rebuilt architecture dates back to the 17th and 18th centuries.
The fortress dominates Valença do Minho, occupying the majority of the town. Within its walls, its popularity amongst tourists is evident with cafes and shops lining the main entrance, however visitors are never too far away from the majestic fortified walls which enforce the sense of history.
The São Teotónio Fortress is named after Portugal’s first Saint. Theotonius was an Augustinian canon and advisor to the royals during the 11th and 12th centuries. After becoming a priest in Viseu, Theotonius’ devotion to his religion led to him becoming the first prior of the Monastery of the Holy Cross in Coimbra, a position in which he excelled and led to him being offered the post of Bishop on countless occasions. The Saint is best known as a royal advisor to Afonso Henriques, the first King of Portugal, who fought and achieved independence for the country in 1139. Saint Theotonius’ influence over the King during his battles makes him a fitting namesake for this ancient military property.
The main attraction of the surrounding area is its incredible natural beauty. The river, along with the flora and fauna reserves, the Veiga de Mira swamps, and surrounding forests provide a refreshing escape from urban living. The nearby Cristelo Natural Park is the ideal location for water sports enthusiasts, and streams filled with a wide variety of fish supply many of the region’s typical dishes.