Miranda do Douro is a fortified town on the border with Spain overlooking the Douro river valley. It’s a remote, white-washed village called the Cidade Museu that sits near the border with Spain and is mostly visited by Spaniards on the weekends. But don’t let that keep you away; Miranda is a fine town with a great museum of those old-time traditions that appear so romantic to us.
The residents of Miranda do Douro speak a different language, Mirandese, and dance a different dance—to bagpipes no less. The Pauliteiro Stick Dancers celebrate the ancient traditions of the Douro valley, including the Celtic Iron Age past. You can see this dance tradition on this video.
Miranda do Douro is a picturesque village of around 7500 people with an awe-inspiring 16th century cathedral which has an interesting cultural artifact inside. Called Menino Jesus da Cartolinha (Boy Jesus of the Top Hat), the carved statue represents a boy who appeared during a 1711 Spanish seige to rally the Portuguese troops, and he’s been carved with a famous top hat and is on display in a glass case inside the Cathedral.
Folk arts are well represented in a small museum in the town’s main square at the Museu regional da Terra de Miranda ethnographic museum is housed in the 17C former town hall building. Just look for the costumed statues.
You can also go to Miranda for a traditional culinary specialty, posta mirandesa, a thick, grilled veal steak or Sopa transmontana, a soup made with chestnuts.
Getting to Miranda do Douro
You’ll need a car to arrive at Miranda do Douro, as there is no train station. Miranda do Duoro is almost a three hour drive from Porto on country roads. The closest Spanish town is Zamora.
Festivals in Miranda do Douro
Stick dances are performed to the music of bagpipes, cymbals and drums by pauliteiros. The most famous festival is Festas de Santa Bárbara which takes place on the penultimate Sunday in August.
More Things to See
The Museu das Terras de Miranda or “Land of Miranda Museum” is found in the center of Miranda in the 16th-century former Town Hall building. You’ll find the history of Miranda and the traditions of the Alto Trás-os-Montes region.
Behind the Cathedral is a section of the 16th century aqueduct of Vilarinho which supplied Miranda do Douro with water until the 20th century.
Where to Stay
The highly-rated Hotel Cabeço do Forte just might be the best place to stay in Miranda do Douro. The hotel sits pretty inside the International Douro Natural Park and has a breakfast buffet so you can get energized for all that hiking you’ll do.