Ourense is the city of water. Here eight bridges cross the Miño river, which in Roman times was a gold mine. Today there is no gold, but very valuable waters: thermal spring waters.

They are all over the city and many are free. Such as the hot springs of A Chavasqueira by the river's edge. The waters spring at 65°C in the very centre of the city, in the thermal spring fountain of As Burgas, which, together with the  Santo Cristo and the Roman Bridge, make up the city's symbols.

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But in addition, Ourense has an original Main Square... that slopes, and a historic quarter that is rich in churches and chapels. The Cathedral´s Pórtico del Paraíso still preserves its original polychromy dating from the 13th century.

And in the chapels of San Cosme and San Damián, a curiosity unknown to visitors: all year round the most amazing nativity scene is exhibited here. And if you seek animation, don't worry, because if there's one thing that the people of Ourense really enjoy it is going out in the street.

Essential

Visitors to Ourense should take the plunge and feel the true essence of the city, the element that led to the original settlement: its thermal waters.

The thermal area of A Chavasqueira-Outariz offers an unbeatable opportunity to enjoy all the advantages of the hot medicinal waters that flow from the different springs around the city. A tour of the 'Thermal Walk' is highly recommended, running along the right-hand bank of the river Miño, starting in the Campo da Feira and ending in Outariz.

A total of four thermal areas may be enjoyed along the three-kilometre route. The first is A Chavasqueira, with pools of hot mineral and medicinal waters (at 41ºC), for public use, with the Japanese-styled private area of the Termas da Chavasqueira. Five hundred metres further on is the thermal spring of O Tinteiro, with excellent qualities for sufferers of skin problems, at 43ºC. Continuing along the pathway renovated by the local council, two kilometres further on from O Tinteiro, is the Burgo do Muíño das Veigas, with waters at between 65ºC and 72ºC, with four public thermal pools. The route ends in Outariz, with four pools similar to those at A Chavasqueira, with water at 61ºC, recommended for sufferers of rheumatism and arthritis.

The route passes through a magnificent natural setting, along the recovered banks of the river Miño. The pools open all year round, with a combination of public open-air baths, and more private areas.

Recommended route

Around the Praza Maior Square...

We begin our tour of the city of Ourense at its most well-known identifying feature, the springs of As Burgas, with mineral waters that emerge at a temperature of 67ºC, and which favoured the first human settlements in the area. We then head up Barreira Street and arrive in the Praza Maior Square, centre of the old city, which includes the Town Hall and Archaeological museum (also known as the Pazo do Bispo). We are in an area with a truly mediaeval atmosphere, in which we seem to step back in time. If we walk up the staircase to one side, we find the church of Igrexa de Santa María Nai, which contains sixthcentury columns in its portal, remains of the ancient Suevi cathedral that stood here when Ourense was capital of the Germanic kingdom. We then cross Magdalena Square, observing its beautiful roadside cross, and then head towards Trigo Square, where wheat was once sold, surrounded by archways and stately mansions, and the 'Fonte Nova' or new fountain in the middle. We continue into the Damas Square, which was once the orangery of the Cathedral.

The Cathedral...

We have now reached the Cathedral, dating from the transition between the Romanesque and Gothic styles of architecture, fortress-like in appearance. It is worth making a detailed visit, especially of the Main Chapel, the chapel of Santo Cristo, the Dome, Pórtico do Paraíso, clearly influenced by the portal of the cathedral in Santiago by Mestre Mateo, and the Cloister (known as the Claustra Nova), which contains the cathedral museum. A visit to the cathedral, with its interplay of light and darkness, numerous chapels and ever-changing styles, surrounds us with a truly magic atmosphere.

Church of Santa Eufemia...

We continue our route around the back of the cathedral, then following Juan de Austria and Coronel Ceano streets until reaching the church of Santa Eufemia, with a beautiful concave façade in the so-called Compostelan Baroque style. Here we may take a break and enjoy what is the most traditional district for wine bars in the city, as well as containing a number of old-fashioned cafés. This is a very lively, bustling district, especially attractive in the early evening.

From Pazo Oca-Valladares to Alameda park...

When we return to our route, we continue along Lamas Carvajal Street, passing in front of the Pazo Oca-Valladares, a Renaissance mansion from the sixteenth century, home of Ourense's Lyceum. Visitors must ask permission to visit its patio surrounded by columns, with a beautiful fountain in the middle. Once we have passed the building we then turn right along Pontevedra Avenue and then reach the Alameda park, surrounded by magnificent examples of Modernist buildings. Next to the Alameda is the traditional Mercado de Abastos or marketplace, which we may visit to observe the to-and-fro of the most traditional side of local life.

To the Miño river...

We then head towards the river Miño, along Progreso Street, where we may see the transition from the old town to the first area of expansion of the city (known as the Ensanche). Here we may visit the Cultural Centre of the provincial administration and the train museum, then continuing along the street until reaching the chapel of Nosa Señora dos Remedios, originally Renaissance in style but greatly reformed, close to the river itself. On reaching this point we may walk down to the river bank and continue along the recently renovated pathway until reaching the Millennium Bridge, which we should walk over and take advantage of the pedestrian walkways offering fantastic views over the river and the city as a whole, at a height of 22 metres. We then cross over the bridge, and close to the old fairground head towards the Pozas da Chavasqueira, a series of thermal springs also known as the Baños do Bispo, reconditioned as open-air swimming pools, free to use and set in very peaceful surroundings. After the visit, we return along the righthand bank of the river until reaching the district of O Ribeiriño, where we find thePonte Vella or Ponte Maior, the original Roman bridge which underwent major reforms in the thirteenth and eighteenth centuries; we then cross over the bridge and head through San Xoán Bosco gardens and Concello Street towards San Lázaro Park, the green heart of the new part of the city, where we may also visit the Gothic church of San Francisco, transported here stone by stone from its former position overlooking the city from a high point we will visit later on.

Through the Old City...

We continue our route along Santo Domingo Street and visit the church of the same name, well worth a visit to admire its Baroque altarpieces and excellent paintings. This leads us into FerroSquare, one of the most typical parts of the city, despite being small in size. Here we return to the old town, and walk through Viriato, Pizarro and Correxidor streets, to then climb up a staircase leading along Estrela Street to the Convent of San Francisco, once the site of the old church we visited before in San Lázaro. It still contains an exceptional Gothic cloister, and it is well worth strolling through its cemetery with a romantic atmosphere, declared an element of Cultural Interest in 2000. We then continue on to the final part of our route, along Monte Pena Trevinca, Monte Seixo and Cabeza de Manzaneda streets, until reaching the square of San Cosme and San Damián, where there is a hermitage with the old hospital alongside it, both of which are built in 'Plateresque' style. We then continue along Julio Prieto Nespereira Street until reaching the traditional park of O Posío. We then walk along Padre Feijoo Street, where the church of the Santísima Trinidade is situated, from the transition between the Romanesque and Gothic periods, with towers giving it the appearance of a fortress. This is the point at which our route comes to an end, next to where we started, at the hot springs of As Burgas.

Where to eat

Ourense offers visitors the typical foods of the interior of Galicia, mainly meat and fish caught in rivers. One famous dish is carne ao caldeiro, stewed beef accompanied by potatoes from the area of A Limia, which accompany most dishes, with garlic, paprika and olive oil.

Pork dishes include stewed ears and heads (cacheira or cachucha). As far as wines are concerned, Ourense lies to the east of the O Ribeiro region, with exceptional wines found on every table, together with others from protected geographical indications in the region,  Valdeorras, Ribeira Sacra and Monterrei.

For dessert we may try any of the local specialities made with chestnuts, together with licor café, a coffee based liquor made with grape spirit. The city has a large number of restaurants where these delicacies may be savoured, although the highest concentration is found in the area between the old town and the new town (in Progreso, Paseo, Quiroga Palacios, Capitán Eloy and Buenos Aires streets, San Lázaro Park, etc.). Outside the city one of the most typical dishes is the elver, prepared in different ways, such as fried in oil or in empanada pies.

Don't miss

  • FESTIVAL OF " OS MAIOS"
    Held on the third of May. An ancient, pre- Roman festival to welcome in the Spring, declared as a festival of Galician Tourist Interest. A series of conical wooden structures are built, covered with moss and decorated with flowers, oranges and eggs. The participants then stand around them and sing songs poking fun at local customs as well as different events that have taken place during the year.
  • FESTIVAL OF OURENSE
    During the month of June, starting on Corpus Christi, a widely-celebrated date. Includes a wide variety of events, such as descending the river Miño in canoe, a floral "battle", concerts and street entertainment.
  • INTERNATIONAL CINEMA FESTIVAL
    Firmly consolidated independent film festival, now in its eleventh edition (in 2006). The most important event of its kind held in Galicia, it was named as the official event for the cities of the Atlantic Axis. Held in November.
  • FESTIVAL OF  "OS MAGOSTOS"
    Held on 11 November, on San Martiño's day, the traditional magosto has ancestral roots, with roasted chestnuts as the point of reference. A hugely popular event, which takes place in the park of the Alameda do Concello.
  • CARNIVAL
    A long-standing and popular festival, in the city as well as the rest of the province. Carnival Sunday features a procession of floats and street musicians. Ends on Ash Wednesday with the "Burial of the Sardine". Dates vary.
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