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Caldas Da Rainha (Portugal)

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  • 346 Moscow St

About Caldas Da Rainha (Portugal)

Close to the coast, just an hour’s drive from Lisbon, Caldas da Rainha has been a health centre since medieval times and has the honour to be home of the very first thermal hospital in Europe, built in 1508. A popular tourist destination in the late 19th century, the town preserves today many fine examples of art Nouveau architecture, and a lush spa park full of ponds and fountains surrounding the Medieval hospital, which still can be visited.
Caldas is also home to the Bordallo Pinheiro factory, producer of a glazed ceramic pottery, commonly resembling fruits and fishes, that is almost an icon of Portugal’s culture and folklore and that can be found everywhere in Caldas’ bustling shopping district. Visitors shouldn’t miss the lively daily produce market, right in the town centre, where plenty of local produce from the area – known as “Portugal’s garden” – is available.
The area is a centre for many outdoor activities including ballooning, water sports and horse-riding, and is close to beautiful beaches, charming medieval towns and fishing villages.

Historical Background
Many historic documents from Middle Ages tell us about the springs of Caldas da Rainha, whose origins go as back as the 13th century. In 1222, nobleman Zouco of Atouguia, lord of Cornada (today, Tornado) bequeathed an important amount of money for the construction of a thermal bath upon the mineral springs located in a small area between the noble lands of Alcobaça and Óbidos -today Caldas da Rainha-, and to the local parish. His testament allowed the erection of Caldas’ first bath, hospice and two chapels, ruled by the Benedictine monks from the neighbouring monastery of Saint Mary of Rocamadour. Many commoners began to visit the baths from far away and even more prestigious guests, like the bishop of Silves, who travelled to Caldas in 1336 to treat some skin conditions.
At the turn of the 15th century, a little village was already settled around Caldas’ mineral springs, a thriving area welcoming many visitors who came to the springs. Besides their popularity, the baths fell into ruins by the second half of the century, as the monastery didn’t look after them anymore. Commoners remained to visit the springs although there was no infrastructure to accommodate them, leaving the sick ones unattended. Word of this situation reached the Court, and in 1484 Queen Leonore – who, according to the legend, visited the place and even healed in the springs – ordered the construction of a thermal hospital, the first of its kind on the continent.
The hospital gave new life to the settlement, attracting more and more visitors from all around the country. It was completed in 1508, next to a chapel built in 1488, both being dedicated to Our Lady of the People. The medieval hospital soon began to combine water cures with other medical treatments, turning into the first “modern” hospital in the country.
The Hospital, soon known after the Queen’s name, remained operating until very recently and turned Caldas da Rainha, granted the status of a municipality in 1511, into a reputed health centre in Portugal. The complex stopped its treatments only a few years ago and today is under the process of renovation.

As the legend goes, at the end of the 15th century Queen Leonore, consort to King Joao 2nd, found a group of peasants bathing in foul-smelling waters by the roadside during one of her trips across Portugal. She stopped to inquire about this oddity and was told that the waters possessed curative powers, and so she decided to try them for herself, soon regaining health.
As a consequence, the Queen ordered the construction of a thermal hospital in the area, so others may enjoy the relief that she felt. This medieval thermal hospital, the first of its kind in Europe, and the settlement formed around would soon be named after her.

The Hot Spring Waters and Spas
The waters in Caldas da Rainha are rich in sulphur and flow with a temperature around 35ºC. They are used to treat arthritis, rheumatism and traumatism through bathing therapies, including Vichy and jet showers. Respiratory conditions, like sinusitis, laryngitis, bronchitis and asthma are also treated with a range of techniques including inhalations, garglings, simple and sonic aerosols, and nose irrigation

Heritage and Culture
Caldas’ built heritage is directly linked to its waters, starting at the Hospital itself, which is home to a museum interpreting the development of the thermal hospital and the urban areas that grew up around it. Surrounding the hospital is the spa park Parque Dom Carlos I, designed by architect Rodrigo Berqueó in the late 19th century following a Romantic and Naturalist style. Its artificial lake, located right in the middle, has held boat races since 1893 and is one of the main entertainment facilities in the summertime.
Close to the Hospital district is the impressive garden of Jardim da Água, one of the greatest works of Caldas da Rainha’s artistic performance, This impressive monument built on ceramics, glass and iron it is usually considered to represent the birth of Caldas. It was designed by the prominent ceramic artist Ferreira da Silva and it is intended to allow an artistic swirl of water through various plans, quickened colour and light. It was designed to illustrate the four seasons but soon was felt that the aquifer represents the birth of the city.
A nearby aqueduct was built in 1748 commanded by King Dom João V and was a key element to supply Caldas with current water, an important episode of the development of the town which can also be traced in Caldas’ 18th-century Baroque fountains, the three of them consider cultural assets: Estrada da Foz fountain, initially placed inside the Hospital; Rua Nova fountain, and the Five Bicas fountain, the most important and monumental one.
Caldas da Rainha has a thriving arts culture, with theatre, festivals, concerts, and exhibitions being held all year round, its many museums and is world-famous for its glazed ceramic pottery, produced at the Bordallo Pinheiro factory. It is also a gourmet destination, offering plenty of traditional pastries and dishes: Cavacas, beijinhos, trouxas, lampreia de ovos,etc. In the local countryside, you can enjoy typical dishes of roasted rabbit, a grilled mix of meat, and several fish specialities directly catch on nearby beaches

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