3 Things to know about Ourense
The beautiful city of Ourense is best known to Camino walkers as the starting point of the last 100km of the Via de la Plata Camino route to Santiago.
Known as ‘Auria’ by the ancient Romans, Ourense is a wonderful place to begin your Camino de Santiago. In fact, the last 100km of the Via de la Plata is probably one of the most beautiful final sections of the Camino routes.
If you’re planning to walk the Via de la Plata or you just want to visit the city of Ourense, there are 3 things you simply must know (and many more you will discover once you arrive) about Galicia’s thermal city:
1. Thermal Waters
The city owes its name to its past as a gold mine but today, the gold is gone and Ourense’s hot springs and thermal waters remain its most unique attraction. The waters have wonderful health benefits, with mineral properties to help with skincare and loosening muscles.
Appealing to locals and tourists alike, the thermal hot springs can be found all over the city, with many available to visitors free of charge. The most iconic of these springs, however, is the thermal spring fountain of As Burgas in the city centre. With temperatures of over 60°C (Don’t worry, the water is cooled to a much more pleasant 38-40°C), it’s the perfect place to soothe your tired legs.
Within Ourense, there are four thermal areas in a stretch of merely 3km. On the right-hand bank of the river you’ll discover A Chavasqueira public pools with hot mineral and medicinal waters (41ºC). O Tinteiro hot spring (37ºC) has waters believed to help alleviate skin problems.
2km from here is Burgo do Muíño das Veigas (waters 65ºC to 72ºC) with four public thermal pools and the last one is Outariz (61ºC), with four pools recommended for sufferers of rheumatism and arthritis. The pools are open year-round, with a combination of public open-air baths and private areas.
2. City of Water and Bridges
An interesting fact about Ourense is that there are eight bridges crossing over the River Miño, as it passes through the city of Ourense. The most famous bridge is the Roman bridge, which is also known as the Old Bridge (Ponte Vella) and the Big Bridge (Ponte Maior).
The bridge was built in the 1st century and then underwent some renovation in the 12th and 13th centuries, as well as in the 17th century. Amazingly, seven of the original eleven bridge arches still remain. To help the continued preservation of the bridge, it has had pedestrian-only access in place since 1989.
3. The Santo Cristo
Ourense’s cathedral, also known as Saint Martin’s Basilica, is home to the Santo Cristo, among other things. The Santo Cristo figure was originally brought from Fisterra to Ourense in the XIV century by Don Vasco Pérez Mariños, who was the city’s bishop at the time.
Also in the cathedral, you can admire the 13th-century Pórtico del Paraíso and the permanent nativity scene in the chapels of San Cosme and San Damián.
More to explore in Ourense
Once you have visited Ourense’s three most famous attractions, it is time to discover many other things that will make you love the city. Take some time to explore the old town and walk around its charming pedestrian streets and quintessentially Galician granite squares, dotted with fountains, ‘cruceiros’ (crosses) and statues dedicated to some of Ourense’s most famous writers.
Stroll along the arches of the main square, home to the city hall and Episcopal Palace, where the main festivities in the city take place.
There are many more chapels, churches and monuments to visit in the city, such as the convent of Saint Francis and the archaeology museum, but if you are more inclined to relax in a green space or stretch your legs and watch the world go by, head for the Alameda park or the Parque do Posío botanic gardens.
Take a break to taste traditional Galician cooking in one of the many bars and restaurants in the old town, and you shouldn’t leave without having a sip of Ourense’s best juices. Ourense’s wine might not be as well known abroad as Albariño but the province has four ‘Denominación de Orixe’ (Origin Designation) wine labels of great quality: Ribeiro, Valdeorras, Ribeira Sacra and Monterrei.
Festivals in Ourense
*A handy tip for walkers is to avoid Ourense in the summer as it gets some of the highest temperatures in Europe.
Spring and autumn are probably the best seasons to enjoy Ourense. During this time of the year, you will find colourful festivals on this and other Camino routes.
- ‘Magosto’ is probably one of the most famous in Galicia. Magosto is a traditional Autumn celebration in Galicia when friends and groups gather to enjoy roasted chestnuts and welcome the winter season. Ourense’s public Magosto celebration takes place on 11th November, San Martiño’s Day, in the main square. Discover Magosto.
- Os Maios, a pre-Roman festival to welcome the spring. Held on the third of May.
- International Cinema Festival in November
- A Bela Auria festival in September celebrates Ourense’s history and traditions.
- Ourense Festival in June, starting in Corpus Christi.
- Carnival is also a very popular festival in Galicia and Ourense province is particularly famous for its ancient Carnival traditions.
For more information about the Camino’s festivals, please have a look at our Camino Festivals Calendar. If you would like more information about Ourense or help booking your Via de la Plata Camino adventure, please don’t hesitate to contact us.