Barcelos’ best attraction is probably its weekly market, but mention to Barcelos to most people and they’ll probably say “rooster.” The “Cockerel of Barcelos” is definitely a big part of this small city’s identity. Everywhere you look, whether that’s the roundabout on the way into the city or in the little shops around the city, there’s something rooster-related.
Naturally, there are a fair few souvenir shops selling cockerel keepsakes – aprons, towels, figurines, you name it – but Barcelos doesn’t have an overly touristy feeling. It does get its fair share of tour groups coming from nearby Porto (60 km away), and it’s also a popular stop on the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage, but, even still, Barcelos is still quiet in comparison to other destinations in Portugal.
The story of the “Rooster of Barcelos”
Once upon a time, a long, long, time ago in the town of Barcelos, there was a wealthy landowner. One day, the wealthy landowner noticed that some of his silver was missing and he set out to catch the thief.
Now, it just so happened that a pilgrim was walking the camino to Santiago de Compostela at the same time. He was considered a suspect and, even through he protested his innocence, he was arrested and condemned to death by hanging.
The pilgrim asked to be taken to the judge who had sentenced him to hanging. The authorities honoured his request and took him to the home of the judge who was hosting a banquet.
The pilgrim pointed to a roast rooster that was on the table and said, “If I am innocent, that rooster will get up and crow.” While the judge didn’t let him go, he also didn’t eat the rooster.
The pilgrim was taken to the gallows but, just as he was about to be hung, the rooster stood up and crowed. Realising his mistake, the judge rushed to the gallows and “luckily” found that the rope had not been properly tied and the man was still alive.
Years later, the pilgrim returned to Barcelos where he sculpted a cross dedicated to the Virgin Mary and to Saint James. That cross can still be seen today at the Archaeological Museum of Barcelos.
Interestingly, and ironically considering its role in saving a pilgrim’s life, one of Barcelos’ main regional dishes is Galo Assado à moda de Barcelos (roast rooster, Barcelos style).
Photos of Barcleos
Supermarkets & shopping
Barcelos’ Weekly Market is the largest in Portugal and one of the largest markets in the whole of Europe. It attracts traders from all across the Minho Region and beyond and is a fantastic place to pick up some pottery, handicrafts, souvenir roosters, or just your fruit and veg for the week. It’s located at Campo da República, Barcelos (map).
Barcelos is in Portugal’s Minho district, so you’ll find plenty of regional Minho dishes like caldo verde and arroz de pica no chão (also called cabidela). It’s hard to find specific dishes that are completely unique to Barcelos, but there are quite a few dishes that, although found elsewhere in Portugal, have a Barcelos style or take.
- Galo Assado à moda de Barcelos
- Rojões à moda de Barcelos
- Papas de Sarrabulho à moda de Barcelos
Public transport & getting around
Barcelos is situated north of Porto and close to Braga. It’s roughly 60 km from Porto and 22 km from Braga. It has both a train and a bus station, so it’s easy to get around by public transport.
Barcelos is well-connected to the rest of Portugal by train: the journey from Porto takes around 45-60 minutes on average while the journey from Lisbon takes as little as 3.5 hours. Train tickets can be purchased on cp.pt. Discounted tickets may be available if you book in advance (see here).
It’s possible to get from Barcelos to just about anywhere in Portugal (and internationally) by bus. The journey from Barcelos to Porto takes around 60-90 minutes, while the journey to Lisbon is longer – roughly 4.5-5 hours on average.
Despite the public transport options, the easiest way to get around most of Portugal is by car, although it isn’t essential for Barcelos as it has good public transport links. It’s normally easy to park in the Campo da República in the town centre, except on market days (Thursdays).