Caldas da Rainha

Caldas da Rainha is a city in western Central Portugal, about 10 km from the Atlantic Ocean. Absent from most international visitors' itineraries, but charming nonetheless, Caldas da Rainha is an excellent place to experience the real Portugal without hordes of tourists. Caldas offers visitors countless experiences to savour: a lovely park, a bustling farmers' market, museums, shops, appetizing dining, and nearby beaches.

Caldas da Rainha is an artistic city, and artworks aren't confined to its several museums. Caldas's main park contains many statues and sculptures, as do most of the city's roundabouts. The city is home to a college of art and design, as well as a vocational school devoted to ceramics. Caldas's centre has many excellent examples of Art Nouveau architecture, with beautiful titled exteriors. You can even take art home with you, in the form of world-renowned ceramic creations from the Bordallo Pinheiro factory.


Statue of Queen Leonor, founder of Caldas da Rainha.

The city of Caldas da Rainha has 27,000 residents and serves as the seat of a municipality of the same name with a population of almost 52,000. Caldas is also the seat of the Comunidade Intermunicipal do Oeste, made up of twelve municipalities with over 362,000 people.

For centuries, the sulphurous curative waters of Caldas were its main draw. The city's name can be translated as "Queen's Hot Springs", "Queen's Spa", or "Queen's Baths". Locals, known as caldenses, usually refer to the city as simply "Caldas".


Caldas da Rainha was founded by Queen Leonor, wife of King João II. One day in 1484, while traveling from Óbidos to Batalha, she found a group of peasants bathing in foul-smelling waters by the roadside. She stopped to inquire about this strange sight, and the bathers told the queen of the waters' curative powers. She decided to try the waters for herself and was pleased to find that she was quickly relieved of some affliction she had been suffering. The queen ordered a thermal hospital built on the site of those waters, so that others may enjoy the relief that she felt. Construction began the following year, 1485, and the first patients were admitted in 1488. Work continued until about 1496 or 1497. To pay for hospital and its adjoining church, the queen sold her jewels and used income from her landholdings. The spa hospital still stands to serve those with certain medical conditions.

In 1511, King Manuel I, brother of Queen Leonor, declared Caldas da Rainha a town. In 1821, the town became a municipal seat. Caldas was elevated to city status in August 1927.

During the twentieth century, Caldas served as a refuge several times. In 1901 and 1902, the city welcomed 350 Boer men, women and children escaping the devastation of the Second Boer War in South Africa. During World War I, in which Portugal fought alongside the Allies, German men of military age were interned in Caldas and released after the end of the war. During World War II, when Portugal remained neutral, Caldas housed hundreds of Jewish refugees, as well as 230 Britons who had been living in Axis Italy. Also ensconced in Caldas were British and American airmen who crashed or landed in Portugal or off its coast.

Before dawn on 16 March 1974, in a prelude to Portugal's Carnation Revolution, a group of 30 officers and 300 enlisted soldiers from the army base in Caldas attempted a coup d'etat. Upon reaching the outskirts of Lisbon, the nation's capital, they found that the other units that were supposed to revolt had not made it. The men returned to Caldas, locked themselves in the base, and awaited the consequences. They were surrounded, arrested, and sent to various military prisons, and were released 40 days later on 25 April 1974, when Carnation Revolution came.



Map of the municipality of Caldas da Rainha, showing the 12 freguesias as of the 2013 administrative reorganization.

The municipality of Caldas da Rainha comprises sixteen freguesias (civil parishes). The contact information and coordinates provided below are for the junta de freguesia (parish council).

Nossa Senhora do Pópulo and Santo Onofre, which are separated by the railway tracks, make up the city of Caldas da Rainha. The other fourteen civil parishes, each with multiple separate named settlements, contain mostly rural and seaside communities.

To get technical, there are now only twelve civil parishes, following a 2013 national law that merged smaller parishes to save money on administration. The merged parishes are: Nossa Senhora do Pópulo, Coto & São Gregório; Santo Onofre & Serra do Bouro; and Tornada & Salir do Porto. Residents, however, still refer to their pre-merger parishes.


Although not a large city, Caldas da Rainha does have several distinct neighbourhoods.

Nossa Senhora do Pópulo

Nossa Senhora do Pópulo is the freguesia (civil parish) that forms the eastern half of the city.

Santo Onofre

Santo Onofre is the freguesia (civil parish) that forms the western half of the city.


 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Daily highs (°C) 15 16 18 19 21 24 25 26 25 22 18 15
Nightly lows (°C) 6 6 8 10 12 14 15 16 15 12 8 7
Precipitation (mm) 88 51 55 69 54 16 10 16 72 101 80 92
Sunshine (hrs/day) 5 6 7 8 10 11 12 11 10 8 7 5
Sea (°C) 15 15 15 15 16 18 19 20 20 19 18 16

For Caldas da Rainha, "Daylight" figures are the average number of hours that the sun is visible (unobscured by clouds), not the hours between sunrise and sunset.

Caldas da Rainha experiences a "warm-summer Mediterranean" climate (Köppen climate classification Csb, if you're into that sort of thing), sometimes called "cool-summer Mediterranean". This is the same climate as in Porto, San Francisco and Cape Town, with lower temperatures than those experienced in "hot-summer Mediterranean" cities such as Rome, Los Angeles, or Perth.

Visitor information

Get in

Caldas da Rainha's location within Portugal.

By plane

The nearest airport is in Lisbon (IATA: LIS), about 85 km (53 mi) south of Caldas da Rainha. There are several options to reach Caldas from Lisbon Airport:

By car

Caldas da Rainha is served by two autoestradas (motorways or expressways):

Several national roads (estradas nacionais), which are not grade separated, serve the city and municipality:

Routes (itinerários) run over several numbered motorways and roads, rather than being their own roads, at least those which serve Caldas.

By bus

By train

Get around

On foot

Caldas da Rainha is a compact city. Most locations of interest are within 10–15 min walking distance. Although Caldas is in a hilly region, most of the hills within the city are manageable by people of moderate fitness. In the city centre, sidewalks tend to be very narrow, sometimes close to nonexistent.

The city centre offers several car-free streets, usually with shopping opportunities, including Rua Almirante Cândido Reis (Rua das Montras), Rua Alexandre Herculano (Rua do Jardim), Rua da Liberdade, Praça 5 de Outubro (Antiga Praça do Peixe), and a block of Rua Miguel Bombarda.

By bus

By taxi

Taxis in Caldas da Rainha have a creamy beige color. Other jurisdictions may have black taxis with a minty green roof. There are two taxi stands in the city and two elsewhere in the municipality. If you are not near one, call the number for the nearest one, and the next available taxi will come pick you up.

By car

Driving in Caldas is not recommended. The central areas of the city have many narrow one-way streets. On-street parking is difficult to find near popular destinations. Given the compact nature of the city and the proximity of the sights, it is easier to park for the duration of your visit and get around on foot or on TOMA. In addition to various open-air parking lots (some free of charge), the city has three centrally located paid underground garages:



A statue of José Malhoa stands before his namesake museum in the Parque D. Carlos I.
A royal palace now houses a museum dedicated to the thermal hospital and the city.


Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Pópulo, with the thermal hospital directly behind.
Interior of Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Pópulo.

Outdoors and architecture

Hospital Termal Rainha D. Leonor, the spa hospital responsible for the existence of the city.
Chafariz das Cinco Bicas, a baroque water fountain.
Jardim de Água.



Centro Cultural e de Congressos.

Sport and outdoors

The beach at Foz do Arelho.




The Bordallo Pinheiro factory, source of Caldas's world-famous ceramics.

With more than 600 commercial establishments, Caldas da Rainha calls itself the "Capital of Traditional Commerce" and offers many shopping opportunities. The centre of town has several streets lined with stores, many of which are mom-and-pop shops and boutiques, with a smattering of chains. Main shopping streets include Rua Heróis da Grande Guerra, Rua Almirante Cândido dos Reis (Rua das Montras), Rua Capitão Filipe de Sousa, Rua Miguel Bombarda, Rua da Liberdade, Rua de Camões, and surrounding streets.

If you're looking for a souvenir of Caldas, you should buy some of the famous local ceramic pottery. The factory of Raphael Bordallo Pinheiro produces useful and decorative pieces. For those who enjoy naughtier mementos, Caldas is noted for its ceramic phalluses, which like the real thing come in various sizes and can be found all over town.

Caldas has a tradition of embroidery (bordado) of molasses brown thread on white linen. Legend holds that Queen Leonor's handmaidens, seeing the monarch without her usual brilliance after selling off her jewellery, embroidered her cloak so that it appeared to have golden threads. Common themes include arachnids, spirals, angles, birds, hearts, crowns, and shrimp nets.

If you're on a tight budget or enjoy bargain hunting, head for one of Caldas's several Chinese-immigrant-owned shops (lojas chinesas). Merchandise at these cheap stores includes housewares, small appliances, cleaning supplies, clothing, toys, decor, and more. The emphasis is on price, not quality. Don't expect familiar brands.

Malls and Markets


Gifts and Other


If you have a sweet tooth, don't miss out on cavacas das Caldas. These sugar-encrusted confections are the approximate size and shape of a small bowl. They can be found throughout the city, but especially on Rua da Liberdade and in the farmers' market. They come in a smaller spherical version called beijinhos das Caldas. Other treats include trouxas de ovos (sweet poached eggs), lampreias de ovos (egg lampreys), and pão-de-ló do Landal (Landal sponge cake). Savory dishes typical of Caldas include ensopado de enguias da lagoa (stewed lagoon eels), bacalhau à lagareiro (cod in olive oil), polvo à lagareiro (octopus in olive oil), and fatias de carne frita à moda do Landal (Landal-style sliced fried meat).


This page uses the following price ranges for a typical meal for one, including soft drink:
Budget Under €10
Mid-range €10 - €20
Splurge Over €20





Whether to stock up your pantry during an extended stay or just to see what the typical Portuguese buys during their weekly grocery shopping, you should stop by a supermercado (supermarket) during your visit. Some larger stores that carry merchandise beyond basic groceries are referred to as hipermercados (hypermarkets).



Stay safe

As in the rest of Portugal, the emergency number for police, fire, and medical assistance is 112.

Police and fire

Hospitals and clinics

In addition, each of the following rural civil parishes has a health clinic: A dos Francos, Alvorninha, Foz do Arelho, Landal (Rostos), Salir de Matos, Santa Catarina, Tornada, and Vidais. You can find details on the Health Ministry's Portal.


There are seven pharmacies in the city of Caldas da Rainha. They take turns being open 24 hours. You can find the current farmácia de serviço listed under Permanente here. This information is also posted on the door of each pharmacy, on municipal electronic signs in the city centre, and in the local newspapers.

In addition, the each of the following rural civil parishes has a pharmacy: A dos Francos, Alvorninha, Foz do Arelho, Landal, Salir de Matos, Santa Catarina, Tornada, and Vidais. You can find details on the Health Ministry's Portal.


The city dialing code for Caldas da Rainha is 262 , which must be included for local calls. To call Portugal from abroad, dial country code 351 before the city code. To call abroad from Portugal, dial 00 before the country code.

The postal code for Caldas is 2500.



Caldas has two weekly newspapers covering local happenings and events.

Laundry and dry cleaning

Religious Services

Nossa Senhora da Conceição, a Roman Catholic church in the heart of Caldas.


Assemblies of God



Jehova's Witnesses

Maná Christian Church


Roman Catholic

Refer to the See > Churches section.

Russian Orthodox

Seventh Day Adventist

Universal Church of the Kingdom of God

Go next


With its central location and excellent transport connections, Caldas da Rainha can serve as an excellent home base for exploring other places on Portugal's west coast (Oeste), including:

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Friday, March 04, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.