Caldas da Rainha, located in the western part of central Portugal, is a lively and picturesque city known for its rich history, artistic traditions, and therapeutic hot springs. Nestled in the heart of the Costa de Prata, or Silver Coast, it is an ideal destination for those interested in cultural experiences, thermal spa treatments, and beautiful landscapes.
Founded in the 15th century by Queen Leonor, the city’s name translates to “Queen’s Hot Springs.” Its origins are closely tied to the thermal hospital Termas da Rainha, which continues to draw visitors seeking the healing properties of the sulphurous waters. Caldas da Rainha is also a thriving center for traditional ceramics and pottery, particularly the whimsical and colourful creations of artist Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro — as well as few more risqué creations from other local artists.
With a charming blend of old-world elegance and contemporary amenities, Caldas da Rainha offers a diverse array of attractions, including museums, parks, shopping areas, and a daily fruit market. Its proximity to stunning beaches and historical sites like the medieval town of Óbidos makes it a strategic base for exploring the surrounding region. In recent years, Caldas da Rainha has also become a popular place to live thanks to its charm and proximity to the coast and Lisbon.
Useful Resources for Your Trip to Caldas da Rainha
Here’s our top tips and tricks for getting the best deals for your trip to Caldas da Rainha.
- Accommodation: Booking.com and Airbnb are the two most comprehensive websites for finding hotels, hostels, apartments, and other types of accommodation in Caldas da Rainha.
- Car Rental: Discover Cars and Rental Cars are the two most useful sites for booking local car rental, particularly in Caldas da Rainha and the surrounding Central Portugal region. There are normally cheaper deals at the airport.
- Airport transfers: There are taxis and Ubers at Lisbon and Porto Airport, but you can also pre-book an airport transfer with Welcome Pickups.
- Tours & Things to Do: Both Get Your Guide and Viator list lots of local tours and activities in Caldas da Rainha and the surrounding Central Portugal region.
- Luggage Storage: Luggage Hero and Bounce are two great sites for finding places to store your luggage in Portugal, and are a good place to look for luggage storage in Caldas da Rainha.
- Public Transport: Cp.pt is the main website for trains in Portugal. For longer distance buses, see Rede Expressos. Flixbus.pt often has cheap tickets between cities in Portugal.
- Flights: Skyscanner and Google Flights are the two most useful websites for finding flights to Portugal. The nearest airport to Caldas da Rainha is Lisbon Airport.
What to See & Do
Parque Dom Carlos I
Parque Dom Carlos I is a charming and tranquil park situated in the heart of Caldas da Rainha, Portugal. A true urban oasis, this park was designed in the late 19th century and named after King Carlos I. The park offers an enticing blend of art, history, and nature, boasting beautiful sculpted gardens, picturesque ponds filled with swans and ducks, and ornate statues that pay homage to Portugal’s rich cultural heritage.
Visitors to the park will find a multitude of paths winding through well-maintained lawns and flower beds, perfect for leisurely strolls or jogging. The park also houses the José Malhoa Museum, dedicated to one of Portugal’s most renowned painters, offering art enthusiasts a glimpse of his works and local art history. Children can enjoy the playground areas, while families and friends often gather for picnics by the water or enjoy a meal at the on-site café. The park’s bandstand, with its ornate ironwork, hosts regular concerts and events, adding to the lively and community-centred ambiance of this beloved green space.
Parque Dom Carlos I is not just a place for relaxation and recreation; it is a cultural and social hub that reflects the artistic spirit and historical significance of Caldas da Rainha.
Shop at the Daily Market
Caldas da Rainha is renowned for its vibrant daily market, known locally as “Praça da Fruta.” This bustling market is held every morning in the town’s central square, Praça da Republica, and offers a sensory feast for both locals and visitors alike. The air is filled with the heady aroma of fresh produce, and the colourful displays of fruits, vegetables, flowers, and local delicacies create a visual spectacle that’s hard to resist.
Igreja Nossa Senhora do Pópulo
The Igreja Nossa Senhora do Pópulo (Church of Our Lady of the People) is one of the significant landmarks in Caldas da Rainha, Portugal. Located near the thermal hospital, it was built in the late 15th century and showcases a stunning blend of Gothic and Manueline architectural styles. The church’s exterior is marked by ornate Manueline motifs and intricate stonework, while the interior houses beautiful azulejos (traditional Portuguese tiles) and an impressive altar.
The church is dedicated to Our Lady of the People, the patron saint of Caldas da Rainha, and plays an essential role in the religious and cultural life of the town. Its rich history, fascinating architectural features, and spiritual significance make it a must-visit site for those interested in exploring the region’s heritage.
Buy Some Pinheiro Pottery
Pinheiro pottery is an essential part of the cultural fabric of Caldas da Rainha, Portugal. This artistic tradition was founded by Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro, a renowned artist and ceramist, in the late 19th century. Known for its whimsical designs, vivid colors, and naturalistic forms, Pinheiro pottery often depicts common themes like fish, cabbage leaves, and other flora and fauna, interpreted in a unique and playful way.
The tradition of Pinheiro pottery continues to thrive in Caldas da Rainha, with several local artisans keeping the art form alive. The ceramics are recognized for their quality, creativity, and distinctive characteristics. From decorative pieces to functional dinnerware, Pinheiro pottery offers a wide range of options for collectors and enthusiasts.
Buy Some Phallic Pottery
Caldas da Rainha is famously known for its unconventional and often humorous ceramic tradition, particularly the production of phallic-shaped pottery. These distinctive ceramic pieces, often created with exaggerated features and bright colors, have been a part of the local culture for generations. The tradition is linked to the town’s rich pottery heritage and represents a unique form of folk art that captures the playful and irreverent spirit of the community. Visitors to Caldas da Rainha can find these quirky ceramics in local markets, galleries, and workshops, and they often become conversation-starting souvenirs for those looking to take home a piece of this unique artistic tradition.
Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Conceição
The Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Conceição, located in Caldas da Rainha, Portugal, is an architectural marvel that pays homage to Our Lady of Conception. Built in the 17th century, this church is renowned for its stunning Manueline-style portal and beautiful ornate interior. The facade of the church is quite modest, but once inside, visitors are greeted by an intricate altar, adorned with gilded woodwork and delicate azulejos, traditional Portuguese ceramic tiles. The church has undergone various restoration works over the centuries, maintaining its charm and historical significance. It stands not only as a place of worship but also as a testament to the artistry and craftsmanship of the period.
Museu de Cerâmica
The Museu de Cerâmica, or Ceramic Museum, in Caldas da Rainha, is a treasure trove for anyone interested in the art of pottery and ceramics. Housed in a beautiful 19th-century mansion surrounded by lush gardens, the museum showcases a wide array of ceramic works, ranging from ancient artifacts to contemporary creations. A significant portion of the collection is devoted to the works of Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro, the mastermind behind Pinheiro pottery, including his distinctive pieces inspired by natural motifs.
Visitors to the Museu de Cerâmica can explore the evolution of ceramic art, with displays featuring different techniques, styles, and cultural influences. Interactive exhibits and educational programs make it an engaging experience for all ages. The museum also regularly hosts temporary exhibitions, giving a platform to emerging artists and contemporary ceramicists.
Visit Nearby Óbidos
Obidos, located just a short drive from Caldas da Rainha, is a charming medieval town that offers a delightful day trip for those exploring the region. Enclosed within well-preserved castle walls, the cobbled streets of Obidos are filled with whitewashed houses adorned with vibrant flowers, quaint shops, and inviting cafes. The town is famous for its rich history, stunning architecture, and picturesque vistas.
A walk through Obidos’ narrow alleys transports visitors back in time, where they can explore the impressive castle, the beautiful Church of Santa Maria, and various art galleries. The town is also renowned for its traditional cherry liqueur, Ginjinha, often served in chocolate cups, which visitors must try. Hosting various festivals throughout the year, including a renowned chocolate festival, Obidos provides a unique blend of cultural experiences that make it a perfect complement to a visit to Caldas da Rainha.
Although it’s possible to get around this part of Portugal by train and bus, having a car is always going to be a lot easier – especially if you want to visit nearby beaches like Praia da Foz do Arelho or the Serras de Aire e Candeeiros Natural Park. If you’re travelling by public transport from Lisbon, it’s usually faster to take the bus rather than the train.
- Flying: The nearest international airport to Caldas da Rainha is Lisbon Airport, located approximately 90 kilometres away. From the airport, visitors can take a taxi, rental car, or public transportation to reach Caldas da Rainha. Several shuttles and airport transfer services also operate between Lisbon and the city.
- Train: Caldas da Rainha is accessible by train from Lisbon and other major cities in Portugal. The train station is situated within walking distance of the city centre, and the journey from Lisbon takes about 2.5 hours, with regular services operated by Comboios de Portugal. For tickets and timetables, see cp.pt.
- Bus: Several bus companies run regular services between Lisbon and Caldas da Rainha, as well as other regional towns and cities. The journey from Lisbon takes around 70 minutes. The bus station is centrally located, making it convenient for travellers to reach their accommodation or explore the city. For tickets and timetables, see Rede Expressos or Flixbus.pt.
- Driving: If you prefer to drive, Caldas da Rainha is easily accessible by car. It’s connected to Lisbon and other major cities by the A8 motorway. The journey from Lisbon takes around an hour, depending on traffic conditions. Rental cars are widely available at the airport and in major cities, providing flexibility for those wanting to explore the region at their own pace.