The charming Galician town of Portomarin is located in the province of Lugo. This small village born at the foot of the Miño river, preserves in its history and origin truly curious and remarkable events. Besides, it is a very outstanding place of the French Way, which has only 1.500 inhabitants and is visited by thousands of pilgrims every year. It takes on great importance within the Jacobean route, as it is the end of the first stage of the French Way from Sarria.
In this post we tell you everything about Portomarín: curiosities, origin and a lot of things to see and do. If you are thinking of doing the French Way, take note so as not to lose any detail of this beautiful place.
Origin of Portomarin
The town of Portomarín developed during medieval times, at the foot of a Roman bridge over the river Miño. The most curious fact related to this town is that it had to be moved in the 20th century. In 1962 the Belesar reservoir was built on the river Miño, which meant that the original site of Portomarín was flooded with water. For this reason the civil and religious buildings of the town were literally moved to a new location. The place chosen for the new location was a little higher than the original site, on the Monte do Cristo.
We say that it was moved “literally”, because there were cases, such as the church of San Nicolás, where the stone blocks were marked in order to be able to recompose the church in the new location with all the pieces in place. If you look closely, you can still see the inscriptions on the stones of the church walls.
Today it is considered a young town with barely 50 years of history, but which hides a past full of stories and legends. Depending on the time of year when we visit Portomarín, or the weather on that day, if the day is clear we can see the remains of the old Portomarín at the bottom of the valley.
What to see in Portomarin?
Although we are in a small town with few inhabitants, Portomarin offers a wide range of cultural activities. We assure you that it is worth visiting it, both on your own and by doing the Camino de Santiago. Every corner of this village tells a story and its surroundings give us a dreamlike landscape.
Church of San Nicolás
Built in the central and spacious square of the historical centre of the village, it is a church that dates back to the 12th and 13th centuries. It is also known as the church of San Juan. It was built in the Romanesque style, and its covers and the decoration of its interior capitals are remarkable. The large rose window that presides over the entrance to the temple is an example of the transition to the Gothic style that was experienced at the time of the completion of the church.
Staircase and Chapel of the Snows
The staircase is a curious staircase made of granite stone that leads to the Chapel of the Snows. This staircase draws an arch in its profile, located above the road. From it you can see an unbeatable view of the Portomarin reservoir. It was built using the old medieval bridge, and it leads to the town centre.
The Capilla de las Nieves was the chapel of the old hospital. It is said that anyone who stops to rest in the middle of the steps will be cursed and punished with many years of bad luck in love. So you know, despite the accumulated tiredness, especially for visitors who come walking from Sarria, we recommend not to stop to take the picture in the middle of the staircase because of what might happen.
Pazo del Conde de la Maza
Also known as the Pazo del General Paredes, it was owned by the Count of Taboada with the surname of La Maza, a descendant of a large military family. This building, along with others, was one of those saved from the Belesar reservoir to be relocated to the new site of the village. It dates from the sixteenth century and currently serves as the town hall building. It is situated in the same square as the church of San Nicolás.
The old town of Portomarin
If you are doing the route during the autumn months, you are in luck, as you will be able to see the remains of the old village flooded by the reservoir. The remains of the dynamited houses, the remains of the old Roman bridge and the original music box evoke nostalgia. You can also see the famous “caneiros”, V-shaped stone buildings that were used for traditional eel fishing. We invite you to cross the river over the old bridge to enjoy the spectacular views and recreate in your imagination what the village might have looked like today, if the reservoir had not been built.
Where to eat?
After walking the streets of this town and discovering its corners and stories, you may have worked up an appetite. We recommend the following places to enjoy the best gastronomy of the place:
Restaurant O Mirador
This restaurant has two floors, where there is a cafeteria and restaurant service. It also has two large terraces, one of which is covered, with unbeatable views of the Miño River. On the upper floor there is a restaurant service, with a menu based on typical Galician dishes. Restaurant O Mirador specialises in meat and fish, but also offers the possibility of eating from the daily menu for only 10 euros. This place is especially recommended in good weather to enjoy a meal in one of its wonderful terraces.
Restaurant Meson Do Loyo
It is a family business that is almost four decades old and whose experience and close and familiar treatment make it one of the highest and most valued gastronomic offers in the area. An extensive menu of home-made dishes will leave us fascinated when visiting this inn. Among all the menu we can highlight the eel and the churrasco, since we must not forget that Portomarin is an outstanding enclave within the eel fishing, a delicacy that you cannot leave without trying.
Casa Cruz Brewery
If what we want is good music, good atmosphere, a quality treatment and a wide menu based on rations and tapas with which to try various dishes economically, Casa Cruz is a good place. It is very famous for its after-dinner meals, accompanied by the best homemade eau-de-vie in the whole village.
More things to do at Portomarin
As in every corner of Galicia, the heritage offer as well as the wide gastronomic menu is one of the tourist attractions. Portomarín also stands out for its terrace over the river Miño, in its Nautical Club. For lovers of water sports and the outdoors we recommend a stop at Casa Santa Mariña. There you can practice some of the many water and outdoor sports on offer, such as boating, horse riding, driving a quad or taking a relaxing kayak trip. A good option for the more adventurous.
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