Ourense Guide Galicia Spain | Portugal Visitor
Ourense (Galicia, Spain)
Ourense (Orense) is the provincial capital of the province of Ourense and lies on the River Minho which divides the city in two.
North of the river are the bus and train stations while the main attractions of this city of over 100,000 people are on the south side.
A spa town, Ourense draws visitors to its healing waters and merits a stay of a day or two to dine in its fine tapas bars and restaurants as well as wander the pleasant streets around the cathedral.
The city is on the Camino Portugués (Portuguese Way) path of the Camino de Santiago and the La Ruta de la Plata (Silver Route) from Sevilla. It is the third-largest city in Galicia after Vigo and A Coruña. Ourense has done much to beautify its urban environment over the last few decades.
The area around what is now present-day Ourense was occupied by the Romans. The Romans were drawn by the hot springs As Burgas – which still survive today. The Romans founded the settlement of Aquis Aurienses. The Emperor Augustus built a bridge over the River Minho but not the Ponte Vella (Old Bridge), though its foundations are believed to be Roman. In the medieval period the heat and hot water from the springs attracted trades to set up shop here – first bakeries then butchers and tanners.
The Moors destroyed the town in the 8th century and Ourense only began to grow again as an urban center from the 12th century.
The main attraction in Ourense is its mainly Romanesque and Gothic cathedral and the surrounding streets. It was founded in the 6th century and rebuilt in the 12th century. It is one of the oldest cathedrals in Galicia.
Highlights of the interior include the superb main altarpiece and the Portico of Paradise (Pórtico del Paraíso). The Museo Catedralicio de Ourense opened in 1957 in a cloister and exhibits a variety of liturgical clothing and objects in addition to pieces from the former Monastery of Celanova and the oldest tombstone in Galicia.
Other churches in Ourense include the 18th century Iglesia de Santa María Madre, the historic Iglesia de la Santísima Trinidad and the 16th century Iglesia de San Francisco.
The Ponte Vella (aka Ponte Romana or Ponte Maior) dates from the 13th century. In 1230 Bishop Lorenzo constructed the bridge on Roman foundations. The bridge was rebuilt again in 1679 after the main arch collapsed in 1499.
Several other more modern bridges now span the river including the Ponte Nova and the Pasarela do Río Miño – a footbridge.
Altogether there are six bridges over the river including the spectacular Ponte do Milenio (Millennium Bridge) that opened in 2001. It is noted for its pedestrian walkway that surrounds the entire bridge, in the form of a ring, rising to 22 meters above the bridge.
The city is also known for its many public statues both old and new that dot the city. Some of the most photographed are The Chestnut Seller by Xosé Cid and the tribute statue to Estanislao Reverter Sequeiros and Antonio Coleman by Ramón Conde. Reverter designed the Renault Alpinche and was the founder of the Rally de Ourense. Also by Ramón Conde is A Leiteira (The Milkwoman) which was placed in 1999.
Other contemporary sculptures include The Naked Woman by local sculptor Luis Borrajo at Alameda Park and The Owl by Xaime Quessada.
The As Burgas hot springs district is an attractive part of the city with fountains dating from the 17th and 19th century, pretty flower beds and an Interpretive Center explaining the history of the baths from Roman times to the present day.
Museums in and around town include the Museo Reverter dedicated to rally driver Estanislao Reverter Sequeiros, the quirky Bagpipe Museum (Museo de la Cornamusa) on the university campus and the Museo Municipal which opened in 1987 in a restored 16th century building. The Museo Municipal exhibits mainly contemporary paintings and sculptures and hosts temporary exhibitions as well.
Plaza Mayor is the center of town centered around the Town Hall. The square is ringed with pavement cafes and becomes an event space in summer with a stage.
The town and surrounding area has some great places to stay mainly clustered around the cathedral.
The Oca Imi Hotel & Spa offers 4-star accommodation with a spa & wellness center as well as a buffet breakfast.
The Hotel NH Ourense is a popular hotel in the city set in an historic restored, early 20th century building. Highlights include a fitness center, Italian furniture and modern design.
Hotel Princess offers four-star accommodation and a pleasant cafe.
Other places include Hotel Miño on Rúa Papa Juan XXIII, which has more affordable lodgings.
Albergue Augas Quentes is another budget option close to Ourense bus and train stations.
The train station and bus station are both north of the river.
There are trains to Santiago de Compostela (40 minutes), Zamora (1 hour, 20 minutes), Vigo (1 hour, 40 minutes), León (3 hours, 40 minutes) and Madrid (2 hours, 15 minutes from Chamartin).
There are buses to Santiago de Compostela, Lugo, Pontevedra, Madrid and Vigo. Local buses connect the train station and Parque de San Lazaro.
Ourense is 70 kilometers northwest of Verín, about an hour by car. From Tui it is 100 km east on the A-52. Ourense is also a 100 km drive north of the Portuguese spa town of Chaves also on the A-52 highway.
Eat & Drink
Some recommended places to eat and sample the local wines are the many tapas bars near the cathedral. Lovers of steak should head for Rio on Rúa Ervedelo. Mesón O Comellón on Rúa Lepanto is popular as is Nova on Rúa Valle Inclán.
For imaginative vegetarian food visit Shangri La on Rúa de Reza.