Whilst students studying in Caldas da Rainha will have no shortage of things to occupy their downtime, the city is also a top ranked destination for education – the city is home to six higher education institutions including a major art and design school which stays true to its hometown’s ceramics legacy, and five institutions offering professional development and vocational education.
Caldas de Rainha came into existence when Queen Leonor built a thermal hospital at the site of the springs in the 15th century, but the surrounding region’s rich clay has been harnessed since the Neolithic era - today ‘the capital of Portuguese pottery’ is famed for its louça das Caldas (ceramics). Opportunities are rich and forthcoming in both the educational sector and thereafter – the city is stronghold for commercial establishments and has been dubbed Capital do Comércio Tradicional (the capital of traditional commerce). For a modestly sized town, Caldas boasts a dynamic multiplicity of things to do and see, from the bustling Centro, where most of the city’s shops, eateries and businesses are concentrated, to the blue-tiled streets of Barrio Azul, which is has recently become an innovative center for startups.
Things to do in Caldas de Rainha:
Art and Culture
The Museu de Cerâmica is a particularly brilliant collection owing to the city’s masterful reputation in ceramics, housed in a delightful 19th century estate built for the museum’s patron. Caldas is also known for its Museu do Ciclismo, a gallery of all things bicycle-related chronicling models from the vintage to the cutting edge as well as shining moments in Portugal’s competitive cycling history. The museum is managed by the city and therefore free – great news for the budgeting student!
The church of Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Pópulo is worth a visit for its intriguing agglomeration of styles, including walls bedecked in atapete (carpet-patterned) tiles, and a show-stealing Renaissance marble altarpiece. Another must-see is Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro’s ceramic factory shop, which has been producing beautiful tiles for more than 130 years – the designs are replete with references of Portuguese heritage such as the national motif of leaves and corn.
Places of Interest
Praça da República is the town’s epicenter – a large rectangular plaza flanked by majestic townhouses and embellished with colorful ceramics. The 18th century Baroque style city hall resides here, but arguably the main event is the ground – the plaza is tiled by thousands of calçada portuguesa unfurling in a mesmerizing checkered pattern. For a leafy respite from the hustle and bustle of the city, the romantic gardens of Parque Dom Carlos I offer ample opportunities to stroll, recline or picnic at your leisure.
Sunseekers are truly spoiled in Caldas. Praia da Foz do Arelho is a picture-postcard sandbank where the Obidos Lagoon meets the ocean, featuring the waves of the Atlantic as well as the serene waters of the inward facing beach. Mere minutes away is another of Portugal’s best beaches, São Martinho do Porto. The bay is a unique geological formation, taking the shape of a perfectly symmetrical, near-full circle.