How to Spend Two Days in Santarém, Portugal
Santarém, Portugal. Little did we know what it would take for us to “walk” from the Santarém Train Station to our accommodations. Geography makes a difference, it almost did us in.
From Evora to Santarém
After spending two fun-filled but exhaustingly hot days in Evora, we boarded the train for Santarém. We had to backtrack to Lisbon, change trains at Oriente Station, and then onward.
When we stepped off the train in Santarém it was just as hot as it was in Evora. Well, it was 97° in Evora and 90°+ in Santarém, but bottom line it was hot. With our packs on our backs, and each of us carrying a second smaller bag, we set the GPS for walking directions to our accommodations.
It was all going well until we realized the train station sits down in the valley, while the town center sits way up high on top of a hill. You know those medieval folks, they built their towns on hilltops whenever possible.
The Long Mile
While the city center was just a mile up a paved road, it turned out to be a very (very) steep climb. We reached a certain point when Abi turned to me and said, “I’m over this heat.” It’s always me that suffers from the heat so when he’s hot, it’s really hot. We set our bags on a rock wall, and sat ourselves as well. We were exhausted.
After catching our breath and drinking all of our water, we grudgingly picked up our bags and carried on. All we could do was laugh when it turned out we had to climb three flights of stairs to reach our guest room. We’ve never been so happy to drop our bags, crank up the air-conditioner and collapse.
Highlights of Santarém
With a population of approximately 60,000, Santarém is a fairly small city, and it’s pedestrian friendly. The streets in the city center are made of cobblestones, and they are quite narrow. We learned quickly to pay attention when walking as the cars pass by within inches.
We explored for the better part of 1 1/2 days. Once we refreshed ourselves after our arduous climb, we were ready to go. We had a walking tour map with us as we set out. Here’s a few of the highlights we took in. One thing to note is that Santarém has a low key vibe, possibly because the city center is fairly small and we saw very few western tourists. We felt very relaxed as we set out.
Igreia de Misericordia
It was quite by accident that we found ourselves stepping in to Igreia de Misericordia. We had walked past it maybe two or three times before we realized we could go in. Lucky us, we had the absolute pleasure of meeting two wonderful young docents, Afonso and Isabel. They could not have been any kinder in their efforts to show us the church, even taking us to the altar and the small museum.
I asked Afonso why there was no security for the historic treasures in the museum. He offered the perfect response; no one wants to steal from God, it’s not a good idea because it could lead to trouble. I’m paraphrasing, but the point was well-taken.
Our two new friends shared a story with us that was fascinating. The columns in the church were painted with a gold fleur de lis style pattern. I’m certain I’m missing a few details, but from what I remember of the story, the Portuguese (who were very smart and clever) melted down the gold in the church and used it to paint the columns, thus saving the gold from the Germans during WWII. If you find yourself in Santarém, be sure to visit the church and ask the docent to tell you the story.
Cathedral of Our Lady of Conception
The cathedral, which dates back to the 17th century, is one that has to be seen to be believed. When we walked in our jaws dropped as we both looked up to the ceiling. We were fortunate in that we were the only people in the sanctuary so we had the gift of time to just quietly take it all in.
- Click HERE to watch our Youtube video of Santarém’s cathedral and other highlights.
Jardim das Portas do Sol
We spent a great deal of time in the Jardim das Portas do Sol. It’s a lovely peaceful garden set atop the hill with panoramic views of the Tagus River Valley. Some of the walls, of the historic fort, are still standing and they are accessible to visitors, to glean even better views.
There is a posted walking trail with the historical points numbered. Visitors can self-guide their way through the garden. There is also a nice cafe offering snacks and drinks. The jardim is really quite lovely and it’s an easy walk from the town center.
- Click HERE to watch our Youtube video of Santarém’s Jardim das Portas do Sol, and other highlights.
Did I mention the sunsets?
If You Go
- Villa Graça – Hostels and Apartments – 5*
- Hamburgueria da Baixo – 5*
- Train from Evora to Santarém – 10,58€ senior rate, per person
- Cathedral of Our Lady of Conception – small entrance fee
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